horses running with two-wheeled carriage running fast in black in white photo

There is an expression from the Zen tradition: 

“Behind each jewel are three thousand sweating horses.”

During these extraordinary times I’ve been even more aware and appreciative than usual of the jewels in my life as well as reflecting on the sweating horses, all those that support me and have supported me from the past. 

There are jewels everywhere, beginning with things that are easy to overlook and take for granted, like my ability to see and think and smell and hear. I’m having more time to recognize my family and friends as jewels. This is not something new, but now accentuated through the lens of uncertainty. Looking out my window I see jewels, pretending to be leaves on trees, shimmering in the wind and the sound of a misty rain. Everything is shiny and alive.

The sweating horses in some way are also the jewels, just looked at from a different perspective; from the perspective of support, commitment, and hard work. These days, weeks, and months of sheltering-in-place provide more space, more stillness, to recognize the many sweating horses – the doctors, health care workers, cleaning and support crews working tirelessly around the world. As well as those growing, moving, and delivering food and other essentials. 

“Sheltering-in-place” allows for more spaciousness to reflect on all the support I’ve gotten in my life. I hate to think of my parents as sweating horses, but I’m sure there was a good deal of sweat and tears and effort to guide and support my education and my life. I think about my many teachers, in school, and college, and graduate school, and the various mentors I’ve had in many parts of my life.

I think about and recognize all the support I’ve head in my Zen training. I’ve had some exceptional teachers, starting when I was in my early 20’s till the present. And those Zen sweating horses go back in time thousands of years. For me, from the early days of the San Francisco Zen Center, to the rich traditions in Japan, China, and India – to the historical Buddha more that 2,500 hundred years ago.

And I think about all the support, all the sweating horses from my business life. From NYU business school, to investors in my companies, to employees, and customers, and vendors. So much sweat! So much support. All jewels.

I know these times are uncertain, filled with stress and challenges, sometimes bringing up dread and fear; often longing for something that feels more normal. 

This is also a time to reflect on the jewels in our lives and the sweating horses. What do you think? What and who are the jewels in your life? What and who are the sweating horses?

This topic reminds me of part of a poem called, You Reading This, Be Ready by William Stafford

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world

than the breathing respect that you carry

wherever you go right now? Are you waiting

for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this

new glimpse that you found; carry into evening

all that you want from this day. This interval you spent

reading or hearing this, keep it for life.

What can anyone give you greater than now,

starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?