Lightning is neutral

In response to a friend who texted me this morning regarding a very difficult part of life which was being experienced, and the mixed feelings that arose, unbidden, and seemingly deep and simultaneously weird and shallow and practical; I wrote the following italicized text. I’m not a good texter, yet the format sometimes forces a clarity with a deep sense that there is more arising in me, that I need to look carefully with open heart and eyes. We teach each other and ourselves in so many ways, some sudden and unexpected. Below is what I wrote and then a further reflection on texting exchange.

I wept a bit last night while eating raspberry pie that the monks had given me. I wept because I was grateful and because I felt no one really knew me or actually cared. Despite all the good people in my life. Yes, it was just a feeling but it felt real. That’s the problem with feelings. The actuality of them is; they are real and they never last. They just point to some thing deeper.
We are just soft mushy things that don’t quite see that in true vulnerability there has to be pain that is almost too much at times. Not a cause for despair, but gratitude. With love.”

 

The arising of unexpected feelings or thoughts are akin to lightning in the night.

The flash appears and we have a momentary clarity about where we are and the view around us. Then dark again. Our regular view was presented in a completely different context. Our mental/emotional landscape is familiar most of the time, until an unbidden feeling arises and we aren’t really ready for it. So we are surprised and react instantly, and the feeling itself takes on a reality to which we assign an astounding amount of meaning and import. Right away!

Like lightning, the feeling is the product of a weather pattern, one that’s within us. Our internal weather depends on the climate of our Selves; that Being, we live in.

The climate of the Self, is naturally subject to change and we can influence those changes by how we respond to the world around us. When we’re able to influence our climate and therefore the weather (feelings and thoughts), we may see our personal “lightning” as a one-time disturbing event, which we need not worry about, or perseverate within

The feelings are real. And, they are temporary, i.e. subject to the law of change. They are as “real” as lightning and the feeling itself just lights up an aspect of our inner/outer life that probably needs some careful looking at, or tending too. So, feelings even when they seem to insist on permanence, are merely a lightning event in our own ecosphere. They exist temporarily, therefore must be useful for our own better purposes (spiritual).

My personal lightning flash last night while eating a slice of raspberry pie was not a problem, it gave illumination and context to that moment, in my time. And came in handy the next morning.

Up to me how I look at it. My choices create my climate and all my weather.

 

 So you should view this fleeting world
 A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
 A flash of lightening in a summer cloud,
 A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

Lotus Sutra

Indeterminate life sentence…

Spending a day each week going into a large State Prison supported by a local meditation sangha.  Theres are five groups within the Prison system and they vary in attendance depending on what type of security they are under, and the type of sentences individuals are serving. This activity gives me an ongoing sense of how Buddhist training appeared in my own life, in contradistinction to an imposed confinement setting.

I was moved recently when an inmate who attends one of the groups, was referencing the long amount of time he had already done in prison and had to look forward to another ten years, and that he hoped his mother and his only aunt would live long enough to see him free. He  had talked about about being a 16 year old who came to prison as a crazy and violent criminal, but that time and the conditions he lived in helped to mold him into a person with a spiritual outlook. He also said that was not a universal experience within the system, but that he was fortunate and grateful it had been for him; he also happens to be a very important and powerful figure among the inmates and seems to wield a lot of power with confident authority.

Of course there is a substantial literature around the conversion type of experience or the spiritual growth factors that can arise from enforced confinement, but to encounter them personally and repeatedly is quite another thing.

We are all serving an indeterminate life sentence. We are all in some kind of setting wherein we have limited control, limited movement, limited resources and an unknown amount of time before we die, and no idea of how we will die.

A prisoner at the top of the prison food-chain may have a lot of seeming freedom and movement, power, treats and services available to him, but he can’t go anywhere he wants. He is confined.

A wealthy, smart, healthy and educated person outside of prison has many options as to what, where and when they can go too, or come from, get something or discard some aspect of their lives; yet they too are restricted by their own class and culture and connections, because they can only be comfortable around people similar to them. When they are around people unlike them it’s an adventure,  and that too soon pales into discomfort; It’s  called a vacation. Vacating lives for a moment into another setting feels like freedom, but one can’t stay there because soon enough it just becomes another place to vacate.

Prisoners, and free people, are bound by life, health, awareness, circumstance and result of a life of previous choices, and all are hemmed in by the Great Wall of death.

It may actually be easier for an incarcerated individual to attain freedom spiritually than someone in regular life who may have a seemingly endless variety of distractions to divert them from those big questions/options. That is one purpose of a monastery. a place of rules and schedules, prison-like when viewed from outside, except you can leave anytime.

There is nothin about the prison life or experience that is a metaphor to “real” life. It is a real life.

 

The spiritual yearning, quest, need or inquiry

Is not a metaphor (I never metaphor, I didn’t like.),

and doesn’t need a place or a special condition.                                                                                

It is already a place and a condition within

every being; as in Every Being.

 

If wishes were fishes, we’d all…

I want too much. Then I wish.

I want people to be better, to be happier.

I want to be a better person, to be content.

I want to be at ease with myself and others.

I want others to be at ease with me and each other.

I wish I had been a better husband, son and brother.

I wish things would be easier to understand.

I wish we could understand each other.

I wish we could explain ourselves to each other.

I wish I could be nice to myself and all others.

 I want this and 

I wish for that and 

I realize, that

I want for nothing. That

I wish for peace, for

Good 

Sufficient and enough.

Not this, Not that.

Ramble in the bramble…

Nothing exists by itself. There is no such thing as “stand alone”.

Inter-dependence is often used in a context of one thing helping another, this can certainly be true, perhaps there is a slightly deeper meaning which relates to more than just helping but the necessity of things just plain old depending on each other.

We can look at a pile of stones at the bottom of a cliff and think something akin to inter-dependence, but it’s easy to leave out the water that coursed through for perhaps millennia and created the cliff. That water has changed into vapor and dew and lakes and ponds and even an ocean or two,  while the cliff and its rocks transform a tad more slowly, not one atom in the water, or the cliff, leaves the Universe. 

Depending, over time? 

Nature isn’t There. 

It’s Us.

Moving at the speed of light.

prognostication? you guessed it…

Just a brief thought that arose in answer to an inner question I’ve had off and on for many years.

So, I like to look at Chinese Feng-shui, Lunar Calendar, Birth Charts and their implication. I am a Fire-Pig (I know:), and enjoy seeing that personal aspects assigned to that birth sign are very much in line with my own estimation of my basic character. No, it ain’t all good, but comports and fits. So, obviously that can be a real rabbit-hole one can go down and therein get lost, especially if intending to see about others, or to get “clues”, (re; vis-a-vis, etc:) in relation too.

Now, all of that kind of stuff, no matter what its origin, is not considered as relevant or worth pursuing from a Buddhist training perspective; nevertheless, it does crop up in some cultural and religious practices. Not especially as a part of the general practice, but more a personal adjunct activity.

So, I’ve been musing with that a bit lately and I realized this, almost classically, while doing the dishes. It’s not deep insight, just a good view from Zen as I know it.

I do not need to know what other’s proclivities, shortcomings or strengths may or may not be. If I’m aware of my own motives, follow the basic Precepts and compassionately look within, then chances are pretty good that, in any given situation it is just daily life. Things open, close, drift or stay and they always change.

Something always needs close attention, awareness and more than a tad of control and willingness to be willing, and that Some Thing is me.

The rest of the world will always be what it is.

My response is the only thing I have any degree of control over. If I’m aware of my tendencies and see them as teachers I can learn and then things don’t happen so much, as appear. Not magic, viewpoint and preparation.

If I’m aware of my part in all the stuff that ever supposedly “happened” to me, I can learn.

I’m learning right now. Will I use what I’ve learned, effectively and compassionately?

I have to try. What if I fail, or my attempts aren’t perfect?

Try again! Dang, is it that easy?

Again and again, try.

What if I go SPLAT? One

More time. Again. Stand

Up and Step forward and

Look Up and ask only for

What is good to know?

What is good to do?

Please help.

Vivid colors and grey…

Where Buddhist training and the regular world meet is right here because there is no difference.

It takes a regular world to have room for a “spiritual” life, it also has to have room for the variations of, un, anti, quasi, semi, and faux;  affixations to that word.

It takes the development of a time-tested spiritual outlook, and practice to realize that it needs to be firmly rooted in the “regular” world. Because without the mundane, there is nothing to sanctify and nobody to do it and then no need for any of it. But there is a need, it seems.

Much of the last five years I’ve been uncomfortable, seven addresses during that time is a sound indicator of something; However with the discomfort there has also been fair amount of facing, and bare looking at, those discomforts. All in all, a vital time.

The other day, all I did was take a walk with someone that became friend during the walk and the talk. Some ideas and ways of looking at things were brought down from some shelf and let out for a little air.

Why store stuff if you ain’t gonna use it again? I think we all know that one pretty well.

It was a good thing to do and I didn’t plan it. Some other small coincidences have started cropping up in my life and there’s a small sense of freshness in outlook and karmic unfolding. Very curious. Also curious is an opening up and something taking root more firmly in an understanding of some basic everyday verses and teachings that we use in Zen.

The Kesa Verse:

“How great and wondrous are the clothes of enlightenment, formless and embracing every treasure. I wish to unfold the Buddha’s teaching that I may help all living things”

The Three Pure Precepts:

“Cease from evil

Do only good

Do good for others.”

 

 

Ahhh, did you catch that…

I can remember Summers as a kid in New York, people sitting outside in the warm Summer nights, us kids running around sometimes stopped in mid-career by the wonder of lightning-bugs=blinking; and sometimes an adult might say to another. “Ahhhhh! Did you catch that little breeze that just came through?”

Enjoying respite or mild change in current condition and not complaining.

And that brought me to this.

Prediction of super-hot-life-threatening weather covering most of the country. 

Various species are dying off and the ecological balance has shifted away from being rectified, ever. Extinction can’t be undone.

We have poured poisons into and onto the Earth in such quantities that the destruction set into motion cannot be undone. Cannot be undone! 

The science is solid and provable, although open to theoretical/religious quibbles. 

Sadly, it’s real hard to find evidence pictorially on mainstream media, not because it doesn’t exist, but because making people uncomfortable is not the way they earn their money. 

We have created the beginning of a new darkness and are being enjoined by the perpetrators (that includes us all at the levels of greed and an insistence on comfort and ease), to just kind of trust them and science to get us out of the mess, we’ve created.

If we took out all the stuff under our kitchen sinks, and out of our garages and workshops, and add all the pesticide and herbicide stored by all the various means and poured them onto the earth next week all at once, within a year America would begin to turn visibly into a vast wasteland. Since we’ve already poured that much, X50, or more in the last 70 years, the processes are happening a tad slower because when we started our chemical warfare, life was still cyclical.

That former cycle has transformed into downward spiral.

All the kids entering Elementary School this year will be adults in an un-sustainable world more like a Hell than what we can all remember of nice Summer evenings.

What prompted the above was a series of FB posts I saw from folks that live in rural communities, stating how grateful they were that those communities poisoned the air and environment around sufficiently (City truck spraying), so that they won’t be bothered by a few mosquito bites while they enjoy a Summer’s eve in comfort. 

Sadly their grandchildren won’t have that same joy, because the delicate balance that we exist within requires and has a “use” for all living things and in twenty years we will have killed off 25% (give or take) of life on the whole Earth because we insisted on being comfortable and efficient. 

 

Cheerfully apprehensive that

Things Will Work Out

Eventually; we stagger about

Delirious from our insistence

That things will work out. As

They say in advice circles,

Good luck with That…