Weed revealed as ordinary flower…

Nessuno e Sagia da maggio, a maggio. No one is wise all the time.

Today walking along the Vallejo waterfront in a cool sunny day I realized once again that the keys to happiness are to allow it to arise naturally.

I must prepare my ground.

Not tilling. Not digging. No furrows. No trellises. No rows to hoe. Just leaving things be until the time and place are ripe for seeds to be scattered.

The seeds I want to scatter are;

Contentment: Being aware that everything in my life is given or presented to me for my own good.

Sufficiency:    I lack nothing. I am bidden to accept my life as it is.

Adequacy:      As I stand on the earth today I am able to see that the above two views are the opportunity (The Field), for me to practice being still, and seeing things as they really are. All is One. All is Different.

Within those seeds are the potentials within me to help or to hinder. The more I help, the more fertile the ground the above seeds are sown on and a beautiful weed (It’s a weed because I didn’t deliberately plant it.)  sprouts and starts to grow with pleasing flowers and fragrance. That weed is Happiness.

I notice that Happiness is not composed of The Most Beautiful Flowers in the World, or the Headiest Fragrance Ever.

Rather, it is just pleasing; all the way around. In every aspect and facet.   It is Contentment, Sufficiency & Adequacy…

A revelation that keeps on giving and if I can view it correctly; enough.

Word power…

The power of words and the ideas they impress on us.

We use all sorts of words and combinations thereof that are unique to each of us. Like a fingerprint. However, unlike a fingerprint, words not only define us individually, but they also describe us and often form us.

(Disclaimer: I have an ongoing challenge with using certain words under the guise of “punctuation” or mimicry (me me cry) of ostensible past self, or others. So, a work very much in progress.)

Words form us because with each use we channel deeper the rut of some thought-life-pattern. We don’t do this consciously. It’s an deeply ingrained aspect of our consciousness.

It’s very hard to think or see clearly when we are bogged down in words, and its very hard to think or see clearly when we are afraid of words. But the words we use, and their context, are really much more windows to our “soul” than the eyes.

We lay ourselves bare while reinforcing the “self”.

We all know people who use their words in terrifically facile ways and can obfuscate and misdirect and hide with them.

Usually not for long though. We see through most things except when we are in a fog ourselves. Angry, happy, despairing, in love, out of love, in yearning, in despising, in grasping after, or pushing away; in any number of mental conditions that cloud clarity.

We rarely know when we are using words in wonderfully facile ways to delude ourselves, because when we are angry, happy, despairing, in love, out of love, in yearning, in despising, in grasping after, in pushing away; the nature of this fog is to build that false sense of the “self” (i.e. ego) and take it for the truth and purpose of life.  At the cost of not being able to see that other people are just as deluded as we are. Mostly because of the words we cling to. They are the expression of habitual patterns of seeing ourselves in relation to the world outside of us.

Quite a muddle.

Seemingly.

The value of being still, deliberately still, for a period(s) of time. Perhaps each day, but certainly on a regular basis really is profound. It is through these moments of agreeable stillness and quiet that we can begin to glimpse past the habit patterns, and sometimes see how we construct them.

And then comes the mystical part. We don’t have to do anything. We can just see them.

And then comes the practical part. We can change in small ways how we repeat (or refer to), these patterns.

Between the above two “and’s” is a transformation in how we do and how we think.

“I can’t breathe!” means a lot of different things to different people at different times. But we know it can’t be good.

 

down and out?…

In the early evening last night after I had unloaded some groceries and had come back downstairs to to move my truck back into the public parking lot across the street, I heard a loud bang/crash.

I looked into the parking lot and saw a small beat-up little formerly sporty car had backed into a parked car, a young man was outside the car and the driver’s door was open, he seemed to have come out to inspect damage; but I had a sense that something wasn’t quite right, it all looked sort of jumbled. So I hurried over towards them and the young guy jumped into his car and took off in a hurry.

When I got to the spot where they had been I saw someone laying on the ground. I went over to see what the problem was. It was a young woman about 14 or 15 just laying there and then starting to get up, she seemed to be somewhat dazed. I looked at her carefully as she was sitting in the ground to see if there were any signs of trauma evident (EMT training kicking in:), her jeans were ripped around the knee, but that could just as easily have been fashion.

She was a young black woman with hair nicely done with extensions, very elaborate fingernails, a nice purse, and a pink iPhone. She looked like she was going out for a Saturday night special date. One that appeared to have already turned out rather badly. I asked her if she was OK, or needed any help. She just shook her head. My best guess was that she was in shock, not from trauma but from having been some sort of victim who was left laying on the ground, in the dark part of a well lit municipal parking lot. As she stood up I asked her if there was anything that I could for her? Anyone I could call on her behalf? Was there any injury? She shook her head and started to walk off towards the street. I watched her go, my heart was sad.

I was sad for the world, the people in it, and the delusions that put us into untenable positions often times in our lives; and how we become hard and distrustful as just one negative result.

Dashed hopes, dashed dreams.

A tough lesson perhaps. An episode that will inform this young woman about the type of company she keeps, and perhaps seek alternatives. O,r an episode that will have that girl feel she did something wrong, and needs to alter her behavior to be more in line with the wishes of the people who left her laying in the dark. Or somewhere between those two possibilities.

It caused me to reflect back on the kind of person I had been when I was was young and the great mistakes in perception and action that I made. And that, actually, gave me hope. Because today I’m not that person anymore. Lord knows I still make plenty of mistakes in perception and action but they are much less extreme and hurtful than in the past. So, everybody has a chance to take in negative experiences and turn them into teaching. Maybe not all at once, or right away, but at some future time.

The future starts now, what a blessing.

Asking for guidance…

In the last few days I’ve had several interesting encounters that I would put under the heading of asking for guidance. In one instance someone asked me to be their mentor/sponsor in the spiritual realms of working a 12-step recovery program. Here I encounter the two fold issue of my learning to temper my input and make it suitable to the situation and the person, while at the same time being a little challenging, in the sense of there may be resistance to what I offer or suggest, because the person has some ideas that they cherish and want to hold on to. This usually takes the form of glib, well-worn stock phrases like “I’ve always felt, (thought, said, etc.), that…Or, “I’ve never heard of anything like that (in Buddhism in this case)…” Both of those attitudes are not the best for the ostensible “student”. Oh, how many times have I said or thought those things in my own process of learning. But, what I know today is that if I’ve said or thought things like that 1,247 times, then I have had to drop those opinions and be willing to learn; 1,248 times.

In the other case, an old time trainee and friend in our sangha called to ask for some advice regarding some family dynamics involving issues with which I have a raft of experience and training. Most of what I said was boiler-plate type of insight, but a few things were of direct experiential content. My friend listened to all of it and, I’m sure, was able to use some as new info, take some as reinforcement of his own knowledge and experience and incorporate it into his decision/action process.

In both of the above instances it was my opportunity to grow and learn. Even as I’m formulating what I’m saying I realize I’m formulating it for the purposes of my own clarification and learning, and whether someone else profits from it is strictly up to them. That, in turn, gives me more information in how very cautious I must be when proffering solicited advice/opinion.

I of course have a lot to learn in the unsolicited advice/opinion part of my interactions with people, but that’s the topic for a gigantic book I should be working on. Thank god for “Maybe tomorrow?”…

The day after…

In every conversation I engaged in today people expressed that they were very glad the holiday was over and that they hadn’t enjoyed it.  At all!  How did we end up at that point?

Presumably it has to do with expectations. Casinos and expectations and most hope in general is/are based on a false premise.

Every time I’ve tried this it turned out THAT way. This time it will be different; it will turn out THIS way.

As an old Irish acquaintance used to say, “You can’t have every which way!” Still we try.

Oh, well. Maybe next year will be different.

I was at an AA meeting today and heard a young woman talk about the experience of having her first sober Christmas since her early teens twenty years before. She was so grateful for having socialized with people and family as a sober responsive person. One who didn’t drown all her, mostly self manufactured (she has now realized), sorrows in a bottle or drugs. It was a really wonderful thing to witness. I hope she’s around to say the same thing next year.

As I walked along the Vallejo waterfront this afternoon there were several groups of kids with their parents on new bikes(the kids, not the parents), and scooters that Santa had brought them. In kids their wish for gifts is still natural and their joy (mostly) at getting something is quite intense, although usually short lived. Perhaps there is something we can learn from observing this yearning and wishing for things that make us feel better; and relatively soon the feeling vanishes with familiarity. We’re all that way. We can see it in the children and call them childish when they behave this way. Yet we do the exact same thing. For essentially the same kind of stuff. Anything new. Anything is better than the old. Anything.

Happy New Year! All beginnings are new.

Lots Of Capitals…

For the last five days I had been sitting with a friend who was on his deathbed. He died peacefully Saturday night. It was an honor and a privilege to be in his company; to watch and be with someone whose spiritual life and outlook informed his final days (informed, as in map and guidebook) was a great teaching and example.

Yesterday at the temple we included him in the Sunday service and then our monk and several lay trainees went to sit with the body and offer scriptures, incense and meditation. A fine day.

I am ever more grateful for all the opportunities in my life to learn. The man who died was a committed Catholic and yet helped, and practised with, our Buddhist Sangha for about 45 years. He helped our founder find a foothold when she came to the Bay area after nine years of monastic training at a Zen temple in Japan. One aspect of true teaching is to embody it and show it in one’s actions and way of life. Our friend never had a conflict between Catholocism and Buddhism. He concentrated on the teachings of love and compassion in both religions and tried to implement them into his daily life. The epitome of a life well lived. May you be at complete peace wherever you are Larry Donovan; Bodhisattva.

I am spending the Holy Days rather quietly. Going through the process of experiencing them alone, going through so many “firsts”.  It is just fine.

I am blessed with so many good friends and my heart is full of thanks and open to whatever unfolds.

A Heart at complete rest and stillness

Comes from Somewhere.

Has journeyed from afar and

Goes, Still, Farther; to No

Thing.  Set it in Motion

Originally through being

That Which Is.

The Eternal. Now!

At rest. Now! Moving.

leaves and grass

A nice day yesterday talking to an old friend who is going to his son’s graduation from nursing school. The same school my friend went to and the same school his mother went to. Three generations of helping people. The last two woud not be possible if my friend hadn’t gotten sober because of a bad mistake on his part while drunk. Because of his vow to change, a lot of good has been done and another generation is launched on the same path. A good example that the potential for good exists in every seemingly bad situation. Maybe not right away, but eventually.

Of course the reverse holds true also. What seems like a good thing turns out not to be so. We live in a world kept in some sort of balance by the ambivalence we experience through observation and our daily life experience. Yet it is hard to see eventual outcomes because we usually loose sight of these ships of activity we have launched when they clear our horizon of interest.

I find myself rushing headlong into something that seems good to do, and then when I see I was wrong; (in the reverse as well). I can sense that the problem often lies not in my intention, but in the “rush” part of the action to do good.

I’m trying to develop the habit of looking at things as neccessary to do, rather than good to do; and then wait and look again. Very difficult, but if I lessen a mistake inducing habit by even a little, that’s good.

Brown and Golden leaves

Glistening wet on Shiny

Green grass. Life and Death.

Coming and Going. A White

Owl flies across the Full

Moon. It appears Black.

Where’s the source of Light?

floating leaves

I was with myself today.

Apparently sufficient time has passed for me to begin becoming comfortable that not only am I alone, have always been that way and, will continue to be that way.

I have been very fortunate in that I have had good companions along the way; A couple of good relationships, a good long-term marriage and a variety of good friends and acquaintances. So today, having lunch with some good friends I could enjoy it and then go to the store and shop for one.

I still linger at the pet food aisle wondering for a moment whether the cat or dog need anything. Nope. No cat or dog. I am by myself. For some time now I have been surprised at the lonely and needy feelings that came up for me, but I think they are starting to morph into the “What Needs Doing and How Can I Do It Within the Precepts and Zen”? category.

And that’s good.

I am starting to explore, at the request of others (and that means I really have to go carefully because my head swells with even minute caloric changes in ambient temperature of the Self, the possibility of starting a meditation group in Napa. I’m told there is a lot of interest and several people would like me to sort of lead/start it all. That means getting a lot of input and suggestions to see if it is do-able. My first thought is “Non-religious Zen based meditation technique rooted in group discussion centered around essential religious concepts that lean slightly to the Seeking and Recovery modes identification”. I suppose the first thing would be to try and figure out what the previous sentence means. Anyway, lots of questions will arise for me and whether anything gets off the ground is not really the important thing. That will all unfold as I deal with my own intentions and whether or not I am being true to the spirit of my own training as it has been offered to me by my teachers and good spiritual friends.

I hope that anyone who may be reading this (all eight of you, and that may be a wishful number:), would feel they can chime into that field of inquiry and exploration by e-mail, phone or, if proximate, personal conversation.

It’s been raining all day and there’s lots of problems being caused, but nothing that a rich idle society like ours can’t cope with. Most of us seem to encounter gold-plated problems in our lives and we indulge in unhelpful reactions to things that 95% of the world wishes were their privilege. Our problems. Our problems.

The leaves fall from the trees

In the Spring new ones will

Surely grow. Yet, yet; There

Is sadness. Compounded it

Seems, by the sound of rain.

Float, Spin, Twist, Land.

(a)nough…

A long walk along the Vallejo waterfront. Blustery and intermittent sunshine kind of a day, only encountered five people in about four miles. Two had dogs.

I suppose I left myself out of the count of encountering. I keep encountering myself, in various guises, but generally I end up in the same spot.

Right here. There is only me.

I text-ed on my walk, I talked on the phone on my walk, I connected with others and made some big decisions. A meeting tonight in Napa. Then a light snack and some reading and into tomorrow on the overnight slow train to and from Helmutsville;  pop.1; Founded 1947. (Currently undergoing redistricting and renewal). “Watch us Grow!”

Must go and grow…or maybe just settle  down a bit.

Good friends are hard to find and life is long.

Antipathy…

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the unrest and demonstrating and rioting and general misguided behavior that has accompanied the turmoil surrounding the death of the young man shot by a police officer. I don’t watch or listen to a lot of news but it’s been difficult to not be aware of the situation. A few thoughts come to mind.

The officer and the police and the media have a hard time dealing with one simple fact. That officer reacted out of pure fear and lost his composure and control and did indeed feel that he was in grave danger and had only one solution at hand. A gun. Often a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Ask the survivors of attempted suicide by gun if they would do it again? Obviously not, or they wouldn’t remain survivors. No one wants to talk about acting out of fear. We have a warped image of police. We have a warped image of courage. We have a warped image of how our police and soldiers should act. We forget, they are human and therefore inconsistent, and when they make a mistake it can be fatal. Acting out of fear is not a mistake. It is human.

Can we find room for mistakes in a culture that insists there are bad  people and there are good people? My experience is that we all have good doses of both bad and good in us and a huge portion of ambivalence and just plain old not-knowing.

How about those media-fed marches? The coverage of the mindless violence generated by groups of aimless people; black, white and brown just venting a huge array of justified, and in some cases manufactured, grievances.

Whenever people; singly, in groups, in mobs or in armies, set out to right wrongs, bad shit follows.

If not right away, pretty soon. Righteousness is the root of more mistakes than ignorance because it is ignorance compounded by insistence. A bad combination for sure. How many times have I indulged in that myself? A few too many, and I’ve probably got some more in me. We all do.

A tragedy is, when a righteous or sincere wish to do something good, either for oneself, or family, or country, turns on the instigator of the process and demolishes them. Who started all this discontent?

We did.

We are human and our intentions are good,

“Oh lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood!”

as the old blues song goes…