Buddha Belly

This little Buddha and his round belly called to me in an antique store in a tiny mountain town in Arizona. I laughed when I saw him, how could I resist?

When I got home, unwrapped and held him in my hands my first thought was, “Your thumb is broken! I am such a dummy for not noticing. Or maybe I broke him in transit. I suck!’ This judgy voice- I call her Bernice— is lightening fast in my head, zero-40,000 in a nanosecond. I am beginning to love Bernice, so I sighed and reset. Another breath. I hear you Bernice. Take a nap, Bernice.

Now I was ready. I listened, Buddha whispered, “Broken is good. It is my brokenness that makes me uniquely human and beautiful. I love sky broken thumb and maybe you have room to love it too.”

I kissed his smooth bald head.

So on the altar he went. Every morning I look in his joy filled face and hope for this joy to infuse my days and nights. Hope is hard when Bernice is in charge, yelling at me about the carbs I am eating and the Netflix I am binging. My own belly is starting to look like my statue.

Big Belly Bad

Guilt does nothing to build joy, so I committed again to meditating, listening to Deepak Chopra’s calm voice. I was staring at Buddha’s big round belly. Being an 80’s aerobics devotee, big belly is wrong, bad, a clear sign of laziness and general bad character. Kind of like how I felt about myself right now.How, I wondered can carvers create a ridiculously big belly on a Buddha, the example we follow as a wise light in the darkness? I thought of hot summer days in southern China and the middle aged men who pulled up their shirts and exposed their equally round bellies as they stood in the sun. Is this a cultural thing? A big belly showing you eat well, and therefore must be healthy? Or it’s just too damn hot to matter? Maybe. But there was more to this, I could feel it.

Dan Tien: Golden Ball of Qi

I sat there looking at the roundness of his belly. I am learning qi gong, an ancient Chinese healing movement practice, and my teacher talks so much about the ‘lower heaven’ dan tien, the golden ball of qi energy resting between the hips. A dan tien is an energy center— there are three, one at the belly, one at the heart center of the body, and the upper dan tien at the crown of the head. Interesting that these locations in the body are also the centers of nervous system activity. It is focusing on these energy centers that strengthens focus, balancing, grounding, uplifting, centering.

As my teacher brought his hands down to his belly he said, “Imagine with each exhale, the dan tien glows with golden light, full and bright.” Everything about my Buddha statue is a metaphor, not actual. His grin, open and full, his raised arms, his open palms, his open confident stance, his round earth belly— full of positivity, joy, health, vibrance. This little Buddha reminds me that I can have that round ball of joy in my belly too- and then maybe everything flows in health and vitality. And Bernice will take a happy nap.

Strike a Pose

So I stood in the mirror and took on his pose. I spun my thumbs out, noticing tugging on my belly, the skin, muscles, tissues expanding generously. I’ve always tried to pull in my belly, hide it. Torquing my forearms required strength, there was nothing silly about this pose. Strength, balance, an open heart, strong back, and open belly all at the same time. The crown of my head lifted, I imagined sun warming my uplifted head. I smiled. I imagined a golden ball, my lower dan tien expanding. Maybe someday to the full possibility of my Buddha’s belly.

I felt beautiful, strong, centered and grounded. If every shape I make with my body informs my energy, my compassion, my strength, my clarity of thought, my abundance, then this little guy with his lovely buddha belly is truly leading my joyful way.


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