These stairs. We all know them. They are the welcome we see when we open the doors to leave the world behind for a brief moment. They are the lions at the gate to our temple, reminding us that we are entering sacred space. “Pay attention” they say “or you may stumble here”. They tell us that when we open the door to this practice, there are stairs to climb; work to do. We ask our gross bodies to raise our whole selves up, and up again and again, one small lift at a time.
We pause part way up to take off our shoes and shake off the dust of the world. We greet other students returning back to the world again, sweaty, calm, loose, alive. We hear the creaks and groans and pops of a building that has held seekers for close to a century, and we are reminded to adjust our volume; adjust our speed.
These stairs seem to go on a little longer than they should. Did I just climb one story above the street? Two? We can’t really see the top when we first enter in. And when we reach the top, the street outside is blocked from view. It’s a little disorienting. These are not common stairs.
Sometimes I wonder about the laborers who built these stairs when the world was slower. Who built the supports beneath that have held thousands of students waiting for the doors to open to their practice? Who cut each board to exact measurements, rounded their edges and laid them in place for 100 years of service? Who stained them and polished them and stepped back to check them again and again to make sure they were perfect? Did these unknown artists know how we would come to love their work?
We long to open the door to see our stairs again. We long to climb them and disappear into the cavernous rooms above. We long to see the smiling faces at the top who have the job of greeting us, resetting our energy if needed, ushering us into our practice, gentle directing the colliding waves of seekers coming and going.
Imagine opening those doors and seeing your stairs again. Listen to your longing. It’s time to return to our stairs. Return to the center.