DRE Column for January – Rev. Cynthia Westby

The Hidden Treasure In Change

Rev. Cynthia Westby, Director of Religious Exploration

Transition shakes up most of us. Change messes with the order of things we’ve gotten used to, feel comfortable with, and prefer to see remain the same. Change is often not pleasant or agreeable.

There is, however, hidden treasure in change. I’ve discovered that if I hang in there and observe myself and the situation, I may learn something. For instance, I may realize the new circumstances give me opportunities to offer a new way of thinking about things that is refreshing or interesting.

One of my favorite stories about a shift in perception is “No Water, No Moon.”  In the story Chiyono is awakened to understand the nature of reality. Her awakening happens because of change. And her story is a lovely one to chew on in thinking about change. This story is in “Zen Flesh Zen Bones” compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki.  Zenshin Florence Caplow and Reigetsu Susan Moon also reflect on this story in “The Hidden Lamp: Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women.”

In “No Water, No Moon,” Chiyono is a nun in a Zen convent who is devout but frustrated by her inability to awaken despite all her efforts in meditation. One full moon night she is carrying water in an old pail held together by bamboo when the bamboo breaks and the bottom falls out of the pail.  Up until that moment the moon’s reflection was in the pail. But once the water drops out of the pail, there is no moon in the pail. At that moment Chiyono is awakened. She realizes something profoundly important about life and writes:

“With this and that I tried to keep the bucket together, and then the bottom fell out. Where water does not collect, the moon does not dwell.”

Wonderful! Chiyono practiced wholeheartedly and suddenly one night the container holding all her thoughts and images about reality fell away. She stopped holding it all together and experienced reality directly instead of through the screen of what she thought about reality. She directly understood something true about life.

What a great description of how change can be positive because I see things in a whole new light and realize something very different about myself, life, or the situation. In resisting change, I’m struggling to keep the bucket together and see the moon in its water rather than realizing the moon is up in the sky. Life is a sequence of change and a string of broken buckets. Welcome them. Let them break! What an amazing surprise it is to stop focusing on the reflection and turn to see a truth. This is the challenge of change: to see other ways of perceiving a situation. When we do, we discover hidden treasure – the beauty of a new moment with all its possibilities and gifts.

Print your tickets