spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily
Part of a mural at Balmy Alley / AlisonR.
I’m surprised Ehipassiko, a Pali word from the Sanskrit phrase ehi, paśya “come see,” isn’t spoken more often. From Buddhism, it means to see for yourself, to not believe the Buddha’s teachings without trying them out for yourself.

Ehipassiko in my own life does not just apply to Buddhist teachings but is an invitation to see everything freshly, to be curious and open to life without expectation or needing things to be a certain way. Ehipassiko reminds me to trust my own experience. And it goes without saying that experiences change, so each new moment allows for fresh curiosity. What is now? How is this new?

I took that invitation on November 2nd, when I chose to celebrate Día de los Muertos by revisiting a place I had been once before under quite different circumstances. My once-girl friend, Corky, invited me to go with her to Balmy Alley to look at murals.

The two of us, faces whitened, eyes blackened, tips of the nose black so our faces resembled skeletons, took the 48 Quintara to the Inner Mission to walk along the street lined with murals celebrating Central America and Latino/a culture. Looking fashionably dead with flowers in our hair, Corky and I revisited this site, which had been one of the first places we went when we began to see each other as possible romantic partners. On our first visit to Balmy Alley I saw less of the murals and more of the possibilities I imagined, focused as I was on my expectations of a possible relationship.

This time in Balmy Alley as we waited for a new mural to be unveiled, I appreciated the humor and art inspired by a culture well-represented in this city. One of the artists who had contributed to the mural pointed out to us that she was the one who had painted the purple roses along the side of the mural. She said she paints roses partly because she is Patricia Rose. At the end of the alley one painting is filled with roses, and we knew she had painted it. Having met her, it mattered more than before.

Ehipassiko! I am standing in the bathroom at Corky’s house half an hour before we are to go, and I am slathering on white face paint and then I am applying black to my eyes and the tip of my nose. I make a scar on my cheek and neck. I am acting as if it is the most natural thing in the world to look silly when in fact it has been one of my fears to appear a fool. In the past, I have avoided dressing up for Halloween although once I wore green and brown and put twigs in my hair to trick or treat as a tree. But I am risking discomfort to go along with Corky who is comfortable in costumes. Indeed, she is more attractive dead than I am. But I am okay with that, it’s an experience I can enjoy. On the crowded bus ride, we drew wide-eyed stares from children as well as appreciative smiles from Latinas going to the Mission. Ehipassiko. Venga y vea. Dos viejos las mujeres celebrando el día de los muertos!

Ehipassiko! Come and see this movie with me, grandma. My granddaughter, who has just turned five, wants me to watch “Tangled” again. She saw it once over breakfast. We watched it the night before. Now we are back from the store and she wants to see it again if Daddy will say yes. In one day she would watch a movie starring a princess or mermaid in purple and pink five or six times and not be bored or think it strange. Each time the familiar film is a fresh experience. Each time she points out something new. Take her word for it!

Is it excessive to apply Ehipassiko to everyday life? Wouldn’t “Hey look at this” work as well? Or “Take a look!” I like Ehipassiko because it reminds me of Buddhism and the need to embrace the current moment. It is my delight as well as hard work to seek the holy in the daily and to look for meaning in the menial. Looking with reverence at the ordinary enhances my life.

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