Are you skeptical about amateur fireworks? Worried you or a loved one under the age of five will step on a hot sparkler, or worse, landing you in the ER, or worse? Think propane torches and road flares should be outlawed for use in amateur fireworks set aflame five feet from your face? Do you wish the Consumer Product Safety Commission would just ban fireworks once and for all?
Well, maybe stop being so judgmental. With a little open-mindedness, you too can appreciate these potentially deadly consumer explosives for what they are: a natural augmentation to your meditation practice.
Broaden Your Definition of Incense: A stick of bamboo is the most obvious connection between fireworks and meditation. You call it “incense,” and it has an aroma. They call it a “punk,” and it’s used to light a device capable of permanent bodily destruction in a matter of seconds. Before your next meditation session, why not light a punk? Notice what smells are missing. This is a great opportunity to remind yourself that nothing and no one lasts forever.
Pivot Your Candle Practice: As you know, many Buddhists light a candle before meditating. The pyrotechnic version of this is called a Roman Candle and should never be held in your hand. You can, however, insert a few Roman Candles into a 5-gallon bucket of kitty litter and light them up. Now, return to quarter lotus pose and notice the balls of fire shooting every which way, threatening to take down your house in flames. Try not to like or dislike the balls, just be aware they’re there. And maybe back up a tad.
Expand Your Intention: Pause for a moment to recall why you’re meditating with consumer explosives today. Recognize and release any desires, say for safety or well-being, you’ve brought along. Remind yourself there’s nothing to “do” here. No one, and no limb, to save.
Ignite Your Senses: Notice anything you can smell. Sulfur gas from the explosions? Maybe some smoke. Or fear. What can you hear? Not much? Give your Noise-Induced Hearing Loss a few days to wear off. Your eyes are probably tightly, rightly, closed. This is good. One in five backyard firework-related injuries are to the eye. Do we need to see, really? It’s our mind’s eye that does the real seeing. Even so, if you’ve got protective eyewear, go ahead and put it on.
Intensify Your Silence: If you normally meditate in silence, consider supplementing your Zen with bottle rockets. Ignite a handful of the tiny, whistling explosives in the middle of your session and see where your mind goes. Don’t chase it, or try to change its path. (Your mind, that is, not the bottle rocket.) Observe what’s happening. Are you seeing yourself in the Emergency Room across town? Maybe you lost a finger. Or your whole hand. The goal is not to figure out why you lost what you lost, but to simply observe.
Enhance Your Physical Awareness: Notice where your feet meet the ground. Feel the occasional poke from broken casings and other debris in the soft grass. Become aware once again of the explosive of your hand – the one that could literally rip the nose off your face if used incorrectly. Has your mind started to wander? Just notice it, and direct it, gently, back. Notice where you have tension. Are your shoulders hunched? Fists clenched? Legs poised to run for dear life? Now let it all go. Simply be. Remember hands, houses, lives – these are all ephemeral. Amateur fireworks are but a reminder of that.
Reach for Greater Enlightenment: Consider the shape of the explosions in the sky. In pyrotechnics, they’re known as “peonies,” “dahlias,” and “falling leaves.” Be aware of how that feels. Is it even a contradiction? These exploding plants and their environmental debris can produce serious, penetrating insights and/or injuries within a wide radius. The explosions could bend a steel plate and hurl it a large distance, burn down an entire house, or remove the hand or arm from a child nearby. Or, they might be just what your meditation practice has been missing. During this summer’s 4th of July celebrations, wait for the bang. Then say to yourself, “Whoa, quite a boom on that. I didn’t like or dislike it, I just am.” This is mindful. We are one with the universe and our time here is but a speck. Our survival, and that of our neighbor, her child, her home, belongings, or sense of security, irrelevant.