Sun-Face Buddha, Moon-Face Buddha
This practice is inspired by the equinox, and also by a well-known Zen story. In that story, a Chinese Zen master was near the end of his life, and a young student asked him how he was doing. The Zen master replied, "Sun-Face Buddha, Moon-Face Buddha." There are many ways to understand the meaning of this teacher's words. Here, we'll see it as expressing the truth that any answer which excludes the dark or the light is incomplete.
We frequently ask others, and are frequently asked, "How are you?" The tricky thing is, our answers are usually non-committal or habitually "sunny". "I'm good! How are you?" or "Great!" Rarely do we answer honestly ~ and there are plenty of reasons for that. Maybe we're in a situation where we don't feel comfortable talking about how we're really doing. However, we can get into the habit of censoring ourselves to the point that we lose track of how we're really doing.
So, here's an opportunity to check in; to recognize the ways that you feel uplifted, and the ways that you feel in the dark ~ the ways that you feel a sense of confidence and knowing, and the ways that you feel in touch with mystery and what is hidden. In this way, a fuller range of your experience is given attention and respect.
To try this practice, find a time and place where you won't be disturbed. You'll want, at minimum, 30 minutes. You'll also want a notebook/paper and pen. While it may be easier to focus by using paper and pen, you can also use a computer/tablet/phone.
1. Begin by taking a few deep breaths to release any unneeded tension, and to allow yourself to bring your attention more fully into this moment.
2. Start with one sheet of paper and write the words "Sun Face Buddha" or draw a sun, or in some way signify that this page is about the light aspects of your experience. Then reflect for a moment on the things that you appreciate about where you are in this very moment. Write them down. Maybe the sun is actually shining and you feel appreciation for its warmth on your skin. Maybe you are sitting in a comfortable chair. Maybe the room you are in is quiet and warm. Perhaps your belly is full. See if you can tap into the things you appreciate about this place and time, wherever you are. Include seemingly small things, such as the buttons on your shirt, your shoelaces, the paper and pen, the light bulb in your lamp, the open widow that lets in the light and breeze. Fill the entire sheet of paper, either one side or both.
3. Next, shift your attention to a fresh sheet of paper. At the top, write "Moon-Face Buddha" or in some other way signify that this page is for the darker, more challenging aspects of your current experience. Then reflect on the things that are difficult in this moment. Maybe you feel worried about the state of the world, or you have a family member who is ill. Maybe you have health concerns or financial worries. Give them space and write them down. However much you wrote for "Sun-Face Buddha" ~ either one side or both ~ fill the same amount for "Moon-Face Buddha."
4. Look at the two sheets of paper side by side. At first, no need to focus on the words, just take in the way that you have these different dimensions to your current experience ~ some joyful, some difficult. This is all part of you ~ neither one eclipses the other. Today, they exist side by side. Once you have looked at these two pages together, read what you have written, reminding yourself of your own complexity, and the ways that you can feel both sun-faced and moon-faced in the same moment.