Thanks, but no thanks…

This day is one of gratefulness and reflection.

Today I reflect on all the things I’m grateful that I either no longer have or have to hold on too.

All the things that have changed for me, from being impediments to being  channels for spiritual growth.

All those restricting views of life and others and my relationship to them.  Those fears of not getting what I want.

Those fears of old age, disease, death and of life itself at times.

That fear of  something being wrong and it will never get better.

That fear of things going well, but that it won’t last.

Those fears of not living up to the story I have concocted about how life should be.

Those doubts that I do not measure up to a full human being.

I am also grateful for the things that are in my life today.

The appearance of choice in how I view the world and my place in it.

The knowledge that I make mistakes, the part where I see the mistake and want to do better is the part that makes me human, and that is not a mistake.

I offer merit and good wishes to all beings, especially those raised and killed for the purpose of pure indulgence, and all others who are in circumstances they would rather not be in, if they had a choice.

The Five Thoughts From Zen Mealtime Ceremony:

  1. We must think deeply of the ways and means by which this food has come.
  2. We must consider our merit when accepting it.
  3. We must protect ourselves from error by excluding greed from our minds.
  4. We will eat lest we become lean and die.
  5. We accept this food so that we may become enlightened.

But even then, it’s never…

Rainy Tuesday. Did some writing on something I’m working on and had to clarify a memory for myself and realized, one more time the depth of the teachings which I try to take to heart. A friend sent a text with a photo of a page from one of our scriptures, a writing by Zen Master Dogen, founder of the Soto Zen sect in Japan in the early 13th century.

Time flies quicker than an arrow and life passes with greater transience than the dew. However skillful you may be, how can you ever recall a single day of the past? Should you live for a hundred years just wasting your time, every day and month will be filled with sorrow; should you drift  as the slave of your senses for a hundred years and yet live truly for so much as a single day, you will, in that one day, not only live a hundred years of life but also save a hundred years of your future life. The life of this one day, to-day, is absolutely vital life; your body is deeply significant. Both your life and your body deserve love and respect for it is by their agency that Truth is practiced and the Buddha’s power exhibited: the seed of all Buddhist activity, and of all Buddhahood, is the true practice of Preceptual Truth.”

She was on her way to work and was struck by that passage in her morning reading and shared it with me.

I try to keep that thought in my heart all the time. I also engage in a recovery program that helped start my journey in Buddhist training 32 years ago, and one of its slogans is one-day-at-a-time. Today this is one of the deepest spiritual principles (and very practical too), I know. So every day when I set forth on whatever I have to do outside of my residence and living space, I say goodby to it, because I realize that the sunrise does not guarantee the sunset. I may never return.

I feel a freedom in that activity because it connects me to the reality of life itself. We are astoundingly vulnerable creatures; another creature (microbes), we cannot see without a microscope, can kill us, and, they do kill all of us eventually.

We call it dying, they see it as continuing their lives.

Of course they will then cede the territory they have inhabited to other small creatures who will feed on our bodies (and theirs), in various ways and the circle does indeed remain unbroken. The understanding and acceptance of this basic fact ( Which is very difficult to do, especially in our modern mighty-medicine-can-conquer-all, times), is very freeing.

The leaves have fallen. Let the raking begin. Don’t discard the leaves. They are food for the trees growth in the next new cycle.

Every moment is significant.

The only ones we waste are the ones we haven’t learned from. We can still learn from the ones we may have wasted in the past. It is never too late.

Until, of course, it’s too late…

 

Small corns are funky.

Sitting in an artist’s apartment eating Pho noodles with those funky (Yeah they literally are, funky: as in the old school Black inflected Ameri-speak that connoted an odor/taste that partook of particulate matter in the air generated by past body odors generated by different body parts unwashed and bodily fluids not completely rinsed off and left to molder in a room, an apartment, a car, on a person or items of clothing. A smell. Earthy, the natural left-over effluvia of lives lived close. The smells of human life and activities. Real. Funky.), little corncobs that seem to appear only in Asian food mixtures. This was a rice noodle Pho with some weak broth and few  veggies including those little corn cobs. They, funky small corncobs, will fuck up a nice little noodle stew or any other dish. What’s up with those little corn cobs?

I say don’t shrink corn!  It makes it funky. I’m sorry, but funk has no place in a soup. Period.

Anyway, in the conversation I was mentioning that during a previous days discussion I was having with someone else about some aspects of Buddhism, that person had asked a very good question; and the young artist I was sharing noodles with, asked, “What’s a good question?”

What a good question.

Turns out I have no answer that’s actually worth noting, but I’m gonna, because all good questions end in nowhere. A good question can either be answered yes or no: or, they provoke such a flurry of mental stimulation that no conclusion worthy of the name is ever reached. A good question begets more questions.

Before I digress, I just want to say that…(many hours pass)…Little corn cobs should be outlawed, or at least be a controlled substance out of reach of the hands of those who don’t know Funk does not belong in soup.

It ain’t right.

Then again, who am I to judge those little corncobs? Don’t they have Buddha Nature too?

The questions are proliferating like little corncobs. And that ain’t right neither.

 

Comma entry…

This little mind leaps and plays and, jumps and whoops and hollers, and goes wandering and wondering about this, and that;

encountering joy and grief and, contentment and sorrow, with and without understanding and swimming in, yesterday and tomorrow; at times the play leads to the edge and there are slips and falls, and landings, that hurt and break, yet teach, and on it jumps, and whoops and hollers;

the process of reform, unrefined and unbound and, knowing and not knowing, coming and going standing and sitting sleeping and, tossing and turning crying and laughing, affirming and, negating knowing the seeing of wish, and dream and the real and the apparent are, like a belt being cinched in its buckle;

necessary and practical, and useful, effort required, but with repetition the habit takes no real energy away, from any other doing’s that things, require.

shoe, plane, canoe, train…

I was sitting in a meeting the other day and was once again moved by one simple fact. That everyone who was in attendance had an intention at some point during their day to come to that meeting. Whether they arrived by plane, shoe, train, canoe, camel, car; from near or afar; through snow, rain, heat or cold, healthy or infirm; nuts or not so, they came.

With the express purpose to share their hearts and listen to others do the same. To attempt, to the best of their individual abilities, to speak the truth about themselves. Their past, their present and their futures. The fears and doubts and worries and conflicts; the dread, the grief, the joy, the crushing of hope, the release from despair, that they experienced that day, or the one before, or expect to experience tomorrow or days to follow.With any luck and a variety of efforts.

They come to commune in the ways of the heart and mind and the expectations of hope and the profound mystery of trying to re-connect, to bind on to the thing that they feel disconnected from, somehow, and they have no real idea of what That is. Oh, they do have ideas but they question them and doubt them and want to believe and ascribe magical powers and mysterious ways and unknown guiding hand properties to that from which they feel disconnected.

And yet, not knowing what that it is, they sense that, if they come together, and speak of this life and the crushing beatings they administered to themselves in the mistaken idea that they could connect to that from which felt separated from, by using alcohol, drugs, sex, money, power, fame, and all the distractions and diversions that keep us in a state of ignorance, yearning, and bewilderment. Those states of mind where we have no sense of the present, know only regret and remorse over past time wasted, and a fear of the future based on that misappropriation of time already spent.

There we all sat and talked of the past and the present and the future and our current places in that journey. The whole human form (forum), and diversity thereof; sitting and talking and listening and hearing and communing and distracting and attending and drifting in and out mentally, emotionally and physically during that hour of trying to touch one and the other, heart to heart, feeling to feeling, mind to mind, aspiration and desperation, contentment and fear, hope and despair, attempt and resistance, reaching for and pushing against; each other and ourselves. To continue this puny and wondrous intent to connect with each other and to connect to that which we know not what it is but never the less, we feel separated from. Is it inside or outside of us? It is both?

Discussion to be continued on another day in another room. In another town, city, village or neighborhood. Another church basement or venerably scruffy hall, rented or owned, sometimes with good coffee, sometimes not so, often with cake, cookies, donuts. Folding chairs and beat up couches and other stationary conveyances for seekers of a truth that will begin the journey of freedom from the bongage of the Self. A journey to another shore. Across oceans, rivers, lakes, and sometimes just a ditch. A journey in the true sense of the word. Ask the Sun.

Leaf piles…

A lot of things are swirling about including some maple leaves out front. Autumn in Bay Area (Doesn’t quite have the same romantic note as “Autumn in New York”) is quite invigorating. We’ve had a couple of days of rain and it’s very interesting to see the impact the environment has on our mental and emotional structure. Yes, a bit of a “Duh?” moment there; never the less, to wake up at 2:30 in the morning and hear rain falling and spouts gurgling is quite an uplifting experience when the drought specter had infused the daily atmosphere with the tiniest hint of dis-ease.

Waters gurgling,

Hisses of tires

Dusts to muds

Ants saying, via

Antennas;  Finally, there

Is something to do.

Moving stuff.

Re-placing.

In the body and mind, also swirls of movement. Potentials and possibles are appearing then flipping and dragging in the wind and becoming something else then reappearing and shifting direction yet again. I’m much closer to creating/finding a landing place for myself in the Inland Northwest next Summer or Fall. I have plenty of time to move my little project in Alameda along and seem to be learning how to live a singular life without this constant neediness as part and parcel of my aloneness (I actually wrote “alonemess”; a bit of Freudian-slippage-truth.)

Entering the Fall seems to be a time of renewal for me, things are so different from a year ago, let alone two years ago, when Linda was entering her final decline and I was lost in a cloud of desire and wish for things to be different. Where did all that confusion and anguish go? Where did all that wanting go? Where did it come from? Those are the leaves that are falling from this tree. I don’t need to tidy up and rake them so that everything looks clean. It’s best if I let them lay and decay and return to the earth and transform into future nutrients for growth. Although some neighbors may disapprove.

The most delicious meal  we’ve ever had, or has been written about or glorified in film or photo, will be turned into a compost substance in a day or two. And the memory of it will provide no nourishment whatsoever, it will become a mental artifact, thankfully artifacts have a use. They can  teach. What we learn from them depends on our point of view. My viewpoint is being re-oriented.

I see somewhat more clearly now. The result of that is added responsibility. With a mixture of reluctance and avidity I take it on because I know it is for my own good. And, if I continue to grow in my newly glimpsed reality, that means I will do things differently and that is good for everything.

My spiritual teacher has for many years told me that I dwell too much on how I feel and how I am, and that the only thing that matters is what one does and how one does it. How we feel about it is not the important thing. I’m finally catching on to that.

I must say, it feels good.

 

A seasonal paraphrase from the Dhamapadda:)

By one, mistakes are repeated and consequences pile up like leaves.

By one, mistakes are avoided and the pure wind blows unimpeded.

By one’s self, mistakes are avoided.

No one can avoid mistakes for another.

 

 

 

Home is when you have to…

…go there, they have to take you in.               More or less a quote from from Robert Frost

A long lay-off. Living in Alameda and waiting for Winter.

My days are taken up by small projects around the property I’m living on, preparing for the (hopefully), rainy season and trying to set the stage so that next year everything is in place and prepared for the eventual use of these houses as affordable-living space in the Bay Area. Fulfilling the wishes of the generous donor who left this property to our Sangha with a specific charitable purpose in mind.

I have also been rather busy with a few personal projects that are in the arena of my own looking ahead (and out), for the declining( and increasingly, shorter), years, and trying to suss out where, how and why to allocate dwindling time, health and practical resources. In other words, a closer examination and more preparation for the inevitable. Being practical.

Recognize that the only real important preparation is in spiritual/religious practice, but that does not stand against being practical and relatively comfortable in how the last weeks, months, years may be spent. I’m in relatively good health and fairly sane so I’m not being morbid or anxious; just realistic.

At this point I’m mostly inclined to move back up to the Inland Northwest next Summer/Fall. A few things need to be sorted out and re-aligned but nothing to complex. Things having to do with stuff, and eventual landing site. I can even see a few scenarios where I may be able to be in Bay area part of the year (Winter-ish, I would think, but not exclusively or extensively). All that will depend on a few things sort of falling into place. So, as has been true for most of my life, I have no idea exactly where I’m going, or why, or when; but I’m pretty sure there is some movement in my future, and I suspect perhaps the last move. But I thought that when Linda and I moved to Tekoa.

I was in Tekoa last month for a couple of days and was able to visit with some old friends, but not nearly as many as I wanted to see and spend a little time with. I miss those good folks and the sense of community they offer and exemplify in their daily lives.

I remember driving to Tekoa from the airport on this last trip and seeing those several places that Linda and I though of as special and made us proud that we were so darn smart to have found it and moved there (When point in fact it was stumbled upon and decided in an hour or two because it felt right. Sometimes the Intuition is 100% right:). As I passed those points I realized they were no longer as special. Because when Linda was in the car (It was always at least hundred mile round-trip and often had to do with medical things, but certainly not always.), and we were headed home, they were landmarks. They are no longer special even though I have a house there that can no longer be home; Linda’s not in it.

We fixed up that house for her. It was the way she wanted it and she worked hard on many details that pleased her. I put in a few hours too:) but now its just a house and cannot be home. A nice house, but full of things that also are merely memories of a past that cannot be anymore or again.

Thankfully it is home to a friend of long standing at this point and hopefully that will become a permanent thing for her and her family.

The bittersweet joy of life is always at its fullest as the Autumn passes and we settle into Winter.

My Winter is here, a necessary

Aspect of mundane existence which

Allows for the gathering of energy with

Complete renewal as the object and

Intention of that Process we call

Creation. Coming into being again and

Again, always Becoming that Which we

Know Not the reason for appearing in

This Life. Over and over&over and changing

Again. Yet again, something more than familiar.

Is it Home we come in the Spring? In the

Fall? In the Summer? Ripening. The

Growing resting. Stopping.

Reaping. Returning.

Decaying. Renewing.