Journey of a lifetime…

The distinct aroma of the Autumn is already apparent in this Inland Northwest area. I was gone three days visiting further North and in three days the foliage in this area of high plateau surrounded by 8,000+ foot(feet?) high mountains, was changing. We’re in that time of year with the rapid shortening of the days (2-3 minutes less daylight each day), for a while, which then levels out for the Equinox, then  plummets for another while, and then, finally, my favorite day of the year; the first day of Winter and days start getting longer again.

The original meaning of the word journey had to do with the travels of the Sun across the sky. Every morning the Sun was released from the captive grip of darkness and travelled on only to return to its captor the God of darkness. Maybe the original Good news/Bad news scenario as it was played out by the Gods of Greek and Roman myth.

In any case, the word addresses several formulations of thought, belief and actuality.

Each day begins anew , yet returns to its source.

It, the day, begins in the East and ends in the West;

Constant movement that even to the most

Unsophisticated observer had to induce a 

Sense of circle or cycle. Continuity.  All is one, and yet,

All is different.  The Sun rises and we may see this

Yet, we may not see it set. It moves, we may not stay.

We may see it set, but never again see it rise.

We move, it stays.

Did the sense of time begin while waiting in

A tree for daylight to arise and the wolves below to dis-

Appear? In the journey we get both closer and

Farther, to and from, the place we’re going and by

Which we come. Each days’ evil is sufficient

There onto, and the good we do lives on.

Walk,

Care fully!

 

Flickering Candles…

In the past when I had a more stable home life ( more fixed in place and circumstance), we had a family altar whereupon I had glass candles fueled by paraffin based oil and with woven wicks . The oil was pulled to the top of the wick by fire. The oil, the wick, the fire work in conjunction to produce one effect; a flame and consequently light.

Today on the same altar in my temp setting of a small cabin on a horse ranch, I have fake candles run by batteries, and LED lights that flicker. Because of safety concerns I don’t want to use open flames with a liquid fuel source in easily breakable vessels as part of my expression of religious practice. In this case the battery can be switched to “On”, “Off” or the “Timer” which shuts off the lights after four hours. Very safe and the batteries last a really long time. After my evening meditation the lamps stay lit as I go to sleep and offer a nice background for my nightly wish to be in meditation. As I retire I ask for help for the benefit of all beings, which includes me.

The candles of either kind are a good example of the use of images, statues, phrases, altars, wall hangings, objects and such, in religious practice.* Their purpose is just to serve as reminders of basic teachings; irrespective of what the religion is, they are handy tools for ones “profession”. In the case of the candles they teach me that for anything to occur there has to be a cause and from all cause there arise consequences.

There is usually a combination of things for a consequence to occur.

In the case of a candle there has to be fuel (battery or liquid), ignition (flame or “on” switch), and supply channel (wick or electrical wiring), and there has to be an active participant in bringing these three independent conditions into operation.

Cause and effect. Karma.

The conditions as they separately exist (fuel, vessel, wick) are just that they depend on an outside force (me), to produce an effect of their combination.

A light on an altar in a small cabin is the result. If some of the conditions are altered slightly, then the potential effects can also include a fire in a wooden cabin, on a dry grass prairie, near a huge forest.

Open flame.

Tiny lightbulb.

Choices.

Those candles remind me that I have a huge array (infinite at times), of choices of how I go about conducting my life. Seeing the influence I have on the conditions of my life and the results brought about by my acting on, or not, the combination of conditions in front of me at any given time. Heady stuff indeed.

Slowly, very it seems, through this practice; I become more contained.

 

*Below from the “Questions of King Milinda”

“The king asked: “Venerable Nagasena, is it so that one does not transmigrate and [yet] one is reborn?”

“Yes, your majesty, one does not transmigrate and one is reborn.”

“How, venerable Nagasena, is it that one does not transmigrate and one is reborn? Give me an analogy.”

“Just as, your majesty, if someone kindled one lamp from another, is it indeed so, your majesty, that the lamp would transmigrate from the other lamp?”

“Certainly not, venerable sir.”

“Indeed just so, your majesty, one does not transmigrate and one is reborn.”

 

 

 

Human beans on the trail…

Time to start thinking seriously about starting in on a pile of firewood, chopping and stacking is in order; it was very brisk this morning. One of the things I like about this region is that at some point in middle August the first big hint of Autumn is literally in the air. Lots of things need to be organized, in a few days I’m going north to St. Maries, ID to attend a Renewal of Vows ceremony with the sangha from Sandpoint and other parts of Idaho Panhandle.

That ceremony is just as the name indicates. The Vows are those of the Taking of the Precepts at Jukai, a weeklong retreat with 5 ceremonies that culminate in a lay person’s formally vowing to try one’s best to live through the guidance of the Precepts,  and the Ordination vows of the monks.

It’s a time to look carefully at how one is doing with the Precepts in one’s daily life. That can be and, perhaps should be, discomfiting when one sees where improvements can be made either by seeing some habits that are unhelpful for the first time or, for the 5,000th time. Habits that need some attention or change of outlook, or restraint and refraining from indulging in some thoughts, speech and actions.

My definition of unhelpful is any mode of thought, behavior or activity, that causes  separation from oneself and other beings, or from that which I sense to be at the Heart of All.

In the monasteries the monks do this ceremony every two weeks!

I was so glad to hear that, because it seemed to bring into perspective that the training done by either lay people or monks is very difficult. It may appear different in circumstance but it is the same for all classes of Buddhist (Female and male monks, and female and male laypeople, in no order of hierarchy), trainees/practitioners. If this Zen Buddhist activity were easy, if any deep spiritual searching were easy, there would be standing room only at all places where meditation is practiced.

That is not the case though, because many good-hearted people approach religious practice with good intentions, it’s very difficult to sustain the effort. Our energies get diverted in a variety of ways, and it’s natural to stop doing things that don’t have a fairly quick result to show for effort.

Oh, well. Human beans.

I’ve had my own struggles with consistency in my practice and will have them again. That is not a problem, because I can start afresh every day.

Nothing is lost when I start afresh, 

A journey is not hindered because

I rest and gather my self in.

Look at the map and directions, 

Re-pack my load, discard the

Unnecessary; wait for the storm to

Clear and, just get up, and go. Again.

 

Below is one formulation of the Precepts that I like…

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Hi!

Hi!

 

A small prematurely born foal, now five days old, is starting to connect and interact with

The world around it.

Born in a stream of cold water in a pasture at 6 a.m. barely able to hold his head up out of the Water, he had a rough beginning.

He’s so small he often walks under his mother and while looking for milk he is sprayed by it, sooner Or later he finds the source.

Today he finds the source readily and is poised for good things to happen to him; perhaps they will, Perhaps not.

But, he will fulfill his purpose irrespective of what his future life is like. His purpose was to come Into being, and that he has done.

The same holds true for all of us. at some point millions of years from now a small striation of Carbon based material will be all that is left.

All our efforts, civilizations, striving, straining, losing, attaining, loving, hating, being loved, being Hated, and all the spaces between those seeming opposites there will be no trace and 

Earth will Be just a little older, continuing on. So why even try?

Well, because its what we do. It is all very simple. Born in order to clarify a small movement 

Made aeons ago that set into motion, This.

Yet, I have to floss.

It’s very helpful if I pee, eat, digest, divest, breathe and speak and care and go

And walk, and sit, and stand as occasion may demand.

This eating and digestion are as great as the miracle of

Birth Itself, because without the eating and

Digestion there would only be birth.

No poems. No laughs, no tears, no little foals born in dire straits pulled from water and nurtured outside the

Womb by beings who just Care.

Big picture future has no regard for humans, yet we must go and

Care Fully.

 

presumptions preclude compassion…

Getting to know the ranch a little, the horses are becoming a bit individuated to me, even though most of them are in pasture or paddock and I don’t really have a lot of contact with them.

There is one parked right outside my door in a little holding area where she is waiting to be picked up for transport to Canada where her new owners live. I hope she gets to go soon. She’s lonely and it is interesting how acutely aware she is of every nuance of activities within her sight and hearing, and that seems to extend pretty far. We’ve connected in a small way and she comes up and engages with me. I assume it’s because I think I have some heretofore undiscovered talent for communicating with horses, in a minor fashion I do, but I think that mare  is just hustling me for a handful of grass.

I’ve been hustled for more. I’m a Boar in Chinese astrology, (some would say a bore in general), and that makes me a person that is easily fooled and taken in. I’m now old enough with some ability to see myself clearly and I think that is generally true. However, I actually like the fact that I’m open and sort of naive and can be taken advantage of, because the other side of that coin is that I also have lots of luck and good friends.

For a couple of days I’ve been bothered with some back muscle spasms that made me appreciate again the position I’ve put myself in. Older, alone, living at some remove from others and trying to get settled in for the Winter. I haven’t had to think about a lot of practical things for the last 2 years while living in the relative comfort and amenities of the Bay area, but a lot of those practical habits are coming back, and I do look forward to getting more or less quiet and out of touch with those other habits of urbanity, socializing, and distractions disguised as culture, or at least the access to it.

I’m hoping the Winter will show me a little balance and I can see and respond to it. One hinderance to balance for me is presumptions, in general. For instance, recently I was talking about of politics with a very good friend and had the occasion to image something I hadn’t seen before.

Which was, that when I watch certain politicians speak, I might turn off the sound and watch their expressions and body language and all I would probably see is a being that is in excruciating pain, confusion and torment. This is like watching someone suffer with no awareness of the origins of their pain and confusion; and that can certainly result in a lot of lashing out, creating more discomfort while trying in some inchoate fashion to comprehend what is going on.

To be aware of ones suffering as the result of the pain is the first step. Seeing the solution for ones suffering and being willing to participate in that resolution is another step in the process of healing and growth. The being I was watching writhe on the hot griddle of their own karma and delusions in front of millions, seemed to be in the first stage of their own process, so how can I respond?

One would not hate, or be mad at, a child that was experiencing some pain or fear which it has no control over and was causing it to lash out.One would feel empathy and want to help. Yet, because it’s politics and composed of “grown-ups” (Who have, for the most part, no idea of the laws of karma and consequence), One may feel free to disapprove, dislike, or even hate someone that is in the grip 0f painful emotions and old habitual patterns of view and action. A being that one can see is acting deludedly is not a reason for condemnation or disgust; yet one wants to be careful that the being’s lashing out doesn’t hurt themselves, or others. That is compassion by extension and now one would have to go very carefully because the helping hand can be delusional too.

So, sometimes we can just scale back our views and judgements and just be willing to see what may really be at work, it may be as simple as this:

We are all deluded in our views of ourselves and our understanding of life.

Being able to scale back and see this, for me, is allowed when I create a little space. In this case I can turn off the volume and just see the pain in the expression, literally, of the speaker; and that creates an opening for compassion for another human to arise and a deeper understanding that we are all pushed and pulled by forces within ourselves of which we are not always aware.

The hating or disapproving of someone because we think they should be better at something, does not a peaceful heart provide.

This is a lesson I am shown almost daily, because my dis-approvals run wide and they run deep.    A   little   space   seems   to   be   the   answer.

Slow stroll through time…

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A couple out for an evening stroll,

A slow stroll, an old stroll. Ancient;

Rooted in the firm place of older age;

Elements and conditions of life no

Longer have capacity to surprise, yet

Joy is found in the simple things. Still.

The movement is slow, as I watch them

Seemingly standing still, I see the motion,

A tango with aeons and kalpas of practice.