Matchbox Buddha with blue background

Matchbox Buddhas

I meditate for 30 minutes every morning. Well, most mornings. Though I’m not religious, I’ve created a short ceremony for the beginning of my practice, a pre-sitting ritual that helps me settle into a groove. I drag my cushions out from under the bed, start a timer, and light a votive candle on the small altar I’ve created on top of a bookcase.

I’m fond of fire, verging on borderline pyromaniac. Lighting a match provides a moment of focus. All senses are involved: the feel of the wooden match gripped between thumb and index finger; the sound of the match scratching against the side of the box; the Tada! sound of the spark igniting, which sounds like a one-second rain shower; the smell of sulphur and burning wood; the sight of the white-orange flame rising upward; the faint taste of smoke on the tongue.

A small act to pay attention to.

I use wooden Diamond matches that come 32 to a box. After I’ve lit a match, I place it in the glass that’s become my match wastebasket.

Flower Matchbox BuddhaBecause the benefits of meditation often seem elusive, even after years of practice, and the thought “Why do I even bother?” is not uncommon, I document the days I meditate. I used to count the matches in the glass, once the glass was full and needed emptying. A while ago, I stopped counting matches and started keeping matchboxes, turning each one into a tiny altar. I was inspired by the Thousand Buddha Temple in nearby Quincy, Massachusetts and other collections of Buddha icons around the world.

I now have 12 matchbox Buddhas, a year’s worth. Each box, when empty, contains about 16 hours of meditation. Strike, ignite, sit. Who knows what will come of this practice?