Some people are able to focus, laser-like, on one thing—athletes, musicians, scientists.

For Chris Wallach, it’s mindfulness.

It’s a gift. It’s a talent she’s deliberately cultivated over the last several years. It’s a whole set of skills that she practices, like  smiling, speaking, teaching, noticing. It’s a good kind of passion—healthy, robust.It’s unifying her consciousness (both mind and store).  Mindfulness, it’s one thing, yet it connects her to everything and everyone.

I’ve had this fantasy about her—I’ve been in many scores of demonstrations, vigils, marches, and protests—and I’ll be marching with her, Carrie, Lily, and our friends, walking calmly, inviting our various bells to sound, maybe using Japanese drums in downtown Saint Louis or out on Lindbergh approaching Monsanto, and Chris would be our roshi, our thầy, our guide—no anger, no snarkiness, no jaws clenched when we approach the non-enemy, no venom pouring out, no harm wished on a  single being:

Gaté, gaté, paragaté, parasamgaté, Bodhi svaha!
Gaté, gaté, paragaté, parasamgaté, Bodhi svaha!

I can see her the embodiment of equanimity … and then it occurs to me (I forget over and over) … I am and could be that Chris Wallach walking, I could march that way. I, too, have Buddha nature or Chris Wallach mindful nature. I could be serene and determined like Chân Không and I’d be able to notice  my mind getting impatient with serenity and wanting to rage against  the filthy, rotten system and its minions and lackeys and reach into my ancient-like-Allen-Ginsberg-Russian-Jewish-past — “Moloch the Congress of sorrows!”—and just at that instant, I would look on all beings in front of me with the eyes of compassion … Present moment, wonderful moment … the eyes of Chris, the eyes that cherish two young women, the eyes that have beheld hundreds of first-grade-bodhisattvas-in-training.

The eyes of the Buddha can be our eyes.

Namaste forever, Chris.


–written in Dear Layla Writing/Reading class, Wednesday 23 February, at home of Patrick O’Neal and Matthew Hyde

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