Good looking out and Buddhism…

Encountering one of those delightful periods when I seem to be in a perfect storm of the kind of books that inform, move, inspire, and settle me, into areas of an ancient comfort.

I’ve been restricted in my movement for a few weeks and expect to be for another few, due to an old flare-up of an achilles/foot problem. So, no deliberate long walks and restricted general movement. Lots of time down. Reading time. I was a bit surprised at how stingy I had gotten with time to just sit and read for an hour or two. My habit has been to read while snacking/eating, mindfully of course (Ahhem!); or whilst ensconced; and what with legs falling asleep during ensconcement, and all, I got a fair amount of reading done but I hadn’t allowed myself the deliberate luxury of sitting and just reading.

Treasure, pleasure, regained.

I just finished up the two Hillary Mantel books about Thomas Cromwell and Anne Boleyn’s rise and fall, and bumped into a terrific book called Poets on the Peaks  Gary Snyder, Phillip Whalen and Jack Kerouac in the North Cascades by John Suiter. An account of the formative years and connection between three important figures in modern American poetry (and the “Beat” era, precursor to the counter-culture and progressive movements of the 60’s). The connections that they made through working at Fire Lookout stations in the Cascade Mountains of the Northwest in the early fifties, and their individual formative experiences. A beautiful recounting via personal writings, their published writing, and the reminiscences of the hardy folks they encountered and worked with.

Like trees, their creative roots are widespread and varied in the soils they burrowed through for nourishment; often intertwined for mutual growth and individual benefit. They are trees of a certain type that are similar for the climate conditions, but vary somewhat in their habit. Fir. Ponderosa. Cedar.

The photographs of the then, the now, the areas, the lookouts, and the poets, intertwined with Suiter’s keen observations and suitable (almost a good pun there), writing style; offers a comfortable feast for those acquainted with their work, and of nourishment to anyone interested in modern western history, ecology, the culture of post WWII America, plus a  beautiful scatter-shot view of how life and art intertwine when seen with just a bit of distance. It’s all about outlook and the varieties of doing.

The other book I’m reading is A Concise History of Buddhism by Andrew Skilton. I’m not sure if it is for the casual inquiry into Buddhism, a bit “full” for that, but certainly for anyone who wants to take a serious look at Buddhism and very informative for the practitioner, irrespective of which of the “paths” one follows. Skilton is skillful (into pun potential again), in presenting the tapestry, willing to explain some of the details and history, but does not engage in any bias that I could detect. Straightforward and informative, a slight slog (many Sanskrit and Pali terms), for the student and casual reader, but a nice laying out of the course of events and views that made Buddhism into a world religion. That may be this books strongest point for me, there is no confusion about what Buddhism is. Skelton does a nice succinct job of showing what differentiates Buddhism from Hinduism (a general term for thousands of variations of spiritual practice in India), in fact makes short work of it, and then moves on. He nicely shows that Buddhism was just one of many spiritual paths, and the Buddha one of many teachers roaming India at that time. How it gained traction and then moved into almost all the various cultures and societies of the world (without fire and sword, but sometimes because of them), is what the book is about. It also takes on the difficulty of how good honest practitioners can have differing views on aspects of training yet not differ on the core teaching. The Buddha in his lifetime tailored his teaching to the ability and propensity of each individual, yet never compromised on the core teaching, knowing that we are all capable of training because we are all alike.

Of course that is the basic problem; we are all different and cultivate those differences, and since that is part of how we are all alike, the problem is hard to see. But, I digress.

So, today; laundry, kitchen cleaning (all 70 sq. feet), an AA meeting in Napa, and hopefully a good playoff basketball game tonight.

Oh, another aspect of being engaged in personal mind and heart nourishing reading, is a bit of a vacation from the constant flow of “ME”…I suspect others feel that at times too; and that can be taken both ways.

With a grain of salt or not.

I go in and out of the Door.

Do I want to be here, or

There?

Like a cat.

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