Spiked helmets buddhist temples

In the Bay Area for a few weeks. “Temple-sitting” while the monk is at a conclave. I get to engage in a little spiritual belt tightening by helping to keep up the basic schedule of our little temple here (Berkeleybuddhistpriory.org). I started coming here over 25 years ago and took the Precepts with this bunch in ’92 in a weeklong series of ceremonies, called Jukai in Japanese, at Shasta Abbey. We are in the Soto Zen tradition based on monastic teachers and priests; we have a number of temples in the US and Europe and two training Monasteries (England and US). My life has completely changed over the years by training in this tradition. I’m a different person but I’m still the same. I’ve had to actively participate in this change but a lot of that activity has been learning how to be more still, more often. Simple yet difficult.

On Mondays the temple is closed so I had some time to visit with friends in Bay Area; Napa, Alameda, Berkeley and renew ties with people who are fellow practitioners here at the temple, as well as friends from the recovery program that initially saved my life in ’83.  Next year I’ll have been clean and sober and engaging in Buddhist practice for half my life.

Two lives.   One life.

What’s next? I have no idea. In a few weeks I’ll be back in Walla (It’s so nice, they named it twice) Walla, WA, and I’ll turn seventy (70) and look forward to what appears next.

I have a degree of competency in an uncertain world and take little for granted. The uncertainty of this world is not about me, it is the operative description of life. The one we all share, until we no longer do.

I have photos in my possession of people I never knew. People in WWI German Army uniforms, in WWII German Army uniforms, photos taken of people astride horses with plumed and spiked helmets with swords at their side, ladies with long frilly white dresses and parasols posing in front of staged painted backdrops. They were the parents of my grandmother the one who came with us to America in 1956 at age 66.                    I’m connected to these people, yet never knew them and when I die these pictures will end up in a trash can most likely.

I think of the “Cloud”, that mysterious preserver of all memories we hold dear; cats and kids and events and dogs, the odd goldfish and state secrets and personal secrets and shames, regrets, hopes and worries. That will also disappear at some point.

Those old German officers sitting on the horses were probably younger that I am now  They were lucky to be alive when those photo’s were taken and I’m lucky to be alive to think these thoughts and feel these feelings and be moved by the beauty of it all.

Yes, life is hard and then you die. 

Yet, you lived and breathed in

Relief, in exhaustion, in exhilaration,

Joy and cry and sigh. And,

Something moved forward,

Toward what? It

Doesn’t matter.

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