Disturbance, discomfort and dis-ease…

Within all the disturbance and discomfort and dis-ease and disease we are currently experiencing, I have become increasingly grateful for having found a path of spiritual life that gives me not only a context and a basket that holds everything, a basket I can put fear, worry, doubt and apprehension in; and from which I can take out the solution to those same worries, etc.

A mystical basket that has great depth and is also a very practical one because it offers refuge, understanding and a way to be with what I may perceive as negative aspects of life. Seen from a distance that allows some space between my feelings and reality. That space is impartiality.

I don’t have to choose a position on anything. Although I always have choices. Hmmmmm? When I take a position my view is altered and my choices biased.

When I try to stay closer to the middle (center) I can see situations and life in a more balanced way and perhaps be more reasonable in my relation to the day to day activities of life. Certainly not always, but way more than I used to be before I started on this path.

If I lined up all the Buddhist practitioners in the world and asked them to write a two hundred word description of meditation, no two would be alike. Neither description, nor practitioner. Buddhism allows wide latitude in how we go about gathering our faith together, not as a belief system but rather a system of core behavioral advice that will over time change how we are. Buddhism is a process, not an event.

Currently with the world situation being what it is, we think we are experiencing something new or novel, well we are, but most of the world has been in greater discomfort for many centuries than we have ever been. In my lifetime in U.S., we have lived at the height of Empire while 80 % of world was used by our educational system as proof we are special and that others need to be exploited so that we can grow stronger, and then help them. If we don’t stampede we have tremendous opportunities facing us

Here we are. Life is and always will be uncertain, if not now, later for sure.

So, here we are.

Our current big choice is how we look at the discomforts we are experiencing? I choose to see them as a teaching for my own good, whether I live or die, everything in my life is always being presented to me as a teaching for my own good and consequently for the good of all beings. I can choose to look past the end of my nose and look up, rather than down.

How can I help? What can I do? Please allow me to see and act clearly, and if unclear to refrain from acting ’til I know what is good to do! That is today’s prayer and deep wish.

 

Today is a beautiful Spring day, its not always

Rainy and dark when the Mongol Horde, or the

Einsatzgruppen, or British East India Co., or

“Go West young man” starts, or Bubonic

Plagues and Chinese famines and Vietnamese

Invasions commence or 9/11 just happens.

It’s never just one cause for anything, rather a

Chain of causation that stretches way back

Beyond the thought of man. Here we all are.

Yes, we can, we can change and accept and

Lean into the Sunset and welcome Sunrises.

After we ask, can we stay still long enough 

To hear the answer and then, see what is

Really needed,         for the benefit of all?

Fear, worry, not new…

Interesting times. The news narrative, the political narrative, the economic one, the medical one, the mental distress one and the ‘subtle understanding shift’ one.

We have a strong sense that something is going wrong, that there is a New Normal.

Nothing is going wrong, this is all normal.

The world, as constituted, is woven through with danger, unpleasantness and fear. As Buddhism points out, there is birth, disease, old age, and death. The last three don’t occur without the first, or in a predictable order.

The world, as constituted, is also filled with compassion, understanding, co-operation and sympathy and empathy and love; endless amounts of all.

None of us can point to anything for sure happening tomorrow. You may say, “Of course I can, there will be a sunrise.”. Not if you die before then.

Yet, we live in a dreamworld that whispers to us that if we just follow our passions we can derive satisfaction, if our kitchen pantry is full and an array of exercise equipment is available we are on the right track. We really feel (justifiably we insist), that is the way things should be for everyone, we chant inclusively, but even in this dreamworld, unrealistically.

We’ve lived at the height of the greatest and richest Empire the world has ever known and we felt it was our due and rightful inheritance, and now it falls apart and not so slowly, but surely; and we struggle. We’ve lived the lives of ‘The Gods’ of just 2000 years ago (or way less) and we called it normal. Whoops!

Every human is born as a result of good past karma, but unless we comport our lives to reality, that karma wears out, often early in life. Certainly towards the end, unless we change how we live them.

It is never, ever, too late. Every human can individually change their range of choices to better ones, refine already good ones and start to refrain from poor ones. Just effort required.

Easy? No. If it was easy we would have been doing it all along. And, we haven’t.

Yet, here we are.

There are still birds and the trees,

the flowers and the bees; for real,

in our hearts and minds, for real.

We are not doomed, we have just painted ourselves into a corner, after all we are the ones who created the condition for this virus to be successful. Migrating birds interact with animals kept in close proximity of human habitation and raised for food and viruses, (science doesn’t know for sure whether they are a ‘real’ life form?) move from the birds to farmed animals to humans. Whoops! (Polite puzzled laughter.)

Somewhere within all of this is an opportunity and it is not of the narrative qualities  we’ve assigned to our Interesting Times. It’s in a very personal waking up to the possibility of co-operative change.

Co-operating with the world as it is; not how we have insisted it be.

We have a New Normal forming in the alternatives we choose to see, not the one’s we’ve picked in search of constant comfort.

Hope for the best

Expect nothing

Do the possible

 

Winter, Frog, Spring and Autumn…

A very mild Winter, a frog outside my window has been croaking daily. I answer him; might be a her for all I know. It is is just one frog calling, I thought heard another, a different croak, answering about a month ago and then it sounded like they came together, but parted shortly and now the original has moved to another side of house and we still talk. Sometimes when it gets chatty, I start to go very quietly to the front door and think about sneaking around to see where and what kind it is, and as I start to quietly turn the latch it gets super quiet again.

I realized this morning when I understood the croak, that we all want to connect with something and affirm our existence. Me and the frog quietly alone and chirping and croaking to see if there are are others like us and there are. Different, but wanting answers that require hopeful croaking, sitting, reading, doing ceremony and things congruent with our natures, and being wistful as mild Winter turns into Spring.

Pizza and Knife Throwing…

My days just seem to unfold, no development or discernible direction nor plan. Just that which seems to need doing getting done, more or less. Sounds sort of Zenish but it ain’t, its a fraying of mind that seems to be the way things are at the moment. I can’t tell if it’s a real ‘thing’ (i.e. losing it), or a phase of spiritual wandering that will sort itself out at some future time, sooner than later I hope; I think.

It doesn’t really matter what it is. That it even is, has some relevance that needs awareness and attention at some level, yet generally it seems what is needed is a way to just be with it. How does one be while not totally being, with it? I can’t hope for a formula or directions. Time for some faith and maybe bumbling.

It seems that getting right down to the X Y Z of it and solving the mystery of it is not the way to be with it. My focus currently is to be less annoying to others, although I do seem to have gotten even more talkative and spiraling in my expression yet I also feel as if I’m speaking more truthfully, although to no particular effect.

I don’t think I’m outcast material or require avoidance and certainly not less strange than I’ve ever been. Although Today, was good day.

After doing laundry and having a nice Cappuccino at the local Pattisserie, nicely the friendly young barrista wrote ‘HELMET’ in the foam as a friendly and humorous gesture. After that I drove to the cemetery for an early afternoon walk, temperature in the sixties, with just a T=shirt on to get vitamin D and revel in the Spring buds. Last year on this date we started four weeks of snow storms that took ’til May to finally ago away.

At about halfway through my walk I approached a couple that seemed to be throwing something towards some of the graves next to a very large tree and there was metallic “clinking” involved. They had a truck and a car pulled up nose-to-nose on the grass, and I could see that they were throwing long dagger looking knives, the kind of phony throwing-knives they used to sell on the back pages of hunting &fishing magazines, or nowadays presumably on sites for ‘warriors and stealth defenders of whatever’; phone but probably dangerous in the right hands, not theirs obviously from all the bouncing-off-the-tree efforts they were engaged in. As I approache my old hyper-alertness mechanism appeared and as I looked in their direction, just across a single-car-width road,  the guy turned towards me with three of these large goofy throwing-knives in one hand, and brushing his teeth, yes foamy toothbrush, with the other; and said, “Yeah. Looks weird I know.” He was about 6’5″ tall and his girlfriend, also holding three long throwing-knives, just grinned at me in agreement and I said. “That’s cool, you’re just multi-tasking.” and passed them.

I admit there were about five steps where I was hype- alert when my back was to them, but it was nice day in the Spring and everyone enjoys them differently.

I ended up at my favorite, Sweet Basil Pizzeria, where I get two slices (Margherita and Basil-pesto), every week. I always sit a tiny counter-ledge for one person, that is near the counter but faces into the bigger dining-area where I can watch the giant TV always tuned to sports, and in the Season exclusively on the Baseball Channel. I have my two slices and am halfway through one, when I realize I forgot to get my Coke ( a treat and maybe why I eat pizza, just an excuse to drink the vile but tasty, soda:), so I go to get it and coming back I see that some kid has set down a soda he was drinking right between my plate of pizza and my napkins, like really in personal territory, as I sit down next to my obvious “somebody’s food”, he seemed to realize that he had encroached, he apologizes and pick up his drink and my used napkin, gets his to-go slices and heads out; with my used napkin wrapped around his drink.

I was amused at his obliviousness and furthermore took great comfort in the fact that maybe I’m not that far gone yet. Schadenfruede? Not quite, but a bit of a boost.

Alighting the Bus…

Every morning on the first run of the day

Jim jumped on the bus in a sprightly way,

Announcing. “I’m alighting the Bus.” With a

Grin and a satisfied “Good Morning!” he settled

Into the seat by the window and started to tell

Stories about his life, his day, his plans, regrets and

How things were on this day. Fifty years driving a

Big rig delivering big equipment to construction

Sites all over the USA. When young he was quite a

Dancer and could swing to any beat. I asked him

Once what he thought of the Rap sounds we heard in

Vallejo coming from cars. He said with relish, “I

Love it it! ’cause you can dance any style to it, and

I surely would if I could,” He had bright blue eyes was

Over eightyyears old and wavy white hair that his wife

Permed for him very month, so he could look clean, he said

It was important to him. One day, a beautiful bright Spring day,

We were coming back from the last stop in Vallejo where

I picked him up ( WALMART 3:50 p.m.) and we were alone on the bus,

Not unusual for that time of day, he was looking out the window

In a dreamy way and said “It was a day just like this and we were marching over a bridge in Okinawa and when I looked over the side a valley full of dead dead people piled up and a lot of them had their eyes open and looking at the sky, and I knew from that day on, I could never kill anything again.”

In my big bus driver mirror I watched Jim cry on a beautiful

Spring afternoon in California. He rode the bus almost every

Day, and one day, and the next six, I didn’t see him and

Then I heard, the week before, he sat in his living room late

In the evening and shot himself in the head with a .357 while

His wife of almost 50 years was in the bedroom. Spring is not

A happy time for everyone. He was so alive, then made a choice

That the pictures in his wallet of the rigs he drove all his working

Life, and his wife, and the perms, and Okinawan eyes, and with the

Music stopping, were all, too much? Or not enough? He’ll never know.

Adapting to conditions…

About a year ago I committed to a local program that brings Buddhist meditation and teachings into the large State Prison that is located in my community. It is the largest Prison in the State of Washington and like all such facilities has a huge infrastructure with many rules and conditions. After going to about 100 of these groups in the past year and a half, I had come up with an idea that it was good to come from the principle that I picked from a Dharma talk by Reverend Master Daizui, that there are many kinds of pickles on store shelves, but irregardless of their differences in brand or type, they all have one main thing in common, they taste like pickles, and Buddhist teachings are the same. So, I took this approach in looking at how to present a vast array of the basics and variations that are present in Buddhist teachings across the vast swath of cultures it has landed and developed in.

I decided to stick to core teachings of The Buddha; The Four Noble Truths; The Eightfold Path; the truth of Dukha, Anicca and Anatta (i.e. Suffering, Change and no abiding Self); and exploring some aspects that are rarely mentioned in a lot of American/Western Buddhist settings because many are lay oriented and guided, and tend to reach out to psychological language and proclivities when confronting the teachings regarding Karma, Rebirth. As well,  the fact that Buddhism is profoundly experiential in practice (Meditation), and that requires effort and practice or training. It’s not a belief system.

My personal experience regarding ‘change’ was enhanced by the simple facts of prison life, whoever comes to any of these meetings at the Prison and their various interest, commitment and intention levels, no group ever has the same people or numbers of them from week to week It depends a lot on what is actually happening in the Prison, or to the individual prisoner as regards their current state of incarceration. That can vary from obstacles like a general or specific Unit lock-down when prisoners can’t move out of their immediate Cells, Units or Areas, or have been transferred, or gotten a job, which are highly coveted and often superscede more ‘leisure’ activities like religious programs.

So, it dawned on me recently that I was in the Prison for three groups that for  various reasons were rather intense .The time spent in the midst of all that swirling Karma of confined/confiner usually requires a day after to allow ‘things’ to settle down within myself, and I was creating conflict within myself by having too much of a plan.

So, I’ve decided to just go with a one word topic each day for all the groups and bring small bit of Buddhist writing as a resource that prisoners can take with them to help as a reference point to what the general topic was. For instance, if the topic is “Anger”, there is sure to be good participation in discussion and various ways to present some useful tools to use with the on-going engagement of the actuality of anger arising, and its eventual passing. There are many verses and Sutras and useful teachings in written form that reference engaging with one’s feelings in much the same way we learn to engage with our ‘thinking’ processes. In daily anywhere and certainly in this setting, the subject of anger naturally leads to feelings, their arising and their passing, and how feelings point to our own Karma. How does one constructively engage with the simultaneous reality of the feeling of anger and its ephemeral non-substantial nature when we don’t act on it.

I’m learning, that one Big Subject suddenly has me at the door to another Big Subject, and the difficulty of not going too far  from the given topic into the allure of another, is difficult for me, since that actually addresses one of the core aspects of my own personal training, my own opining and talkativeness. So, this truly is a combined learning experience.Life is short. And, it is long. 

Like all things of actual value I seem to learn them slowly, by myself, with the risk of making mistakes, sometimes serially, and in no particular order.

I know. And, it is possible. Oh, well.

 

May I know what is good to know

May I say what is good to say

May I know what is good to do

May I do what is good to do.

If I err

May I know what is good to know

A spiral circles openly…

Past, Present, future and…

Here, where I am right now, wishing the past had been

different or at least responded to differently.

Here, where I see only swirling hopes for a future that has a

completion from the hopes that I have now, based on the

hopes of the past, which didn’t eventuate at all.

Here, where I am not seeing clearly, because of rush of the past and the

yearning for a future of some other way or other time.

Life is not composed of discreet segments,

nor a flow, nor blocks of experiences stacked together.

Life is not predicated on wishing,

wanting, hoping, nor striving.

Life is not a journey to some

destination or place or way of being.

It is not for my benefit

it is for the benefit of all others.

It is a swirl. Clockwise.