…drive us mad

It’s not other peoples opinions that drive us mad, its our own. The ones we dwell on, cherish, nurture, groom, pet and take to the doctor when they get weak. We take our opinions to the hospital(ity) of our like-minded friends and family and build up their strength, ’til we can feel assurance, once again, of our rightness and insight.

We treat our opinions like our favorite dog. We take them to the public park (let’s call it the Agora just for fun), and we see lots of other dogs and wonder sometimes how people can love a dog like that; we wish they were kept chained up, or at least not brought out in public. Many opportunities for WTF moments. Oddly, that often actually makes us feel better. It’s good to have a well behaved dog that’s clean and friendly yet barks when there is danger or worry of upset nearby, like a different opinion.

I’ve been investigating my opinions in general and more specifically this weekend as an aspect of a “retreat” mind, for a few days. There’s lots of good Buddhist Dharma in regard to that general topic especially as it relates to meditation and actual mindfulness.

One can see meditation as a way to gain peace and comfort and ease for the mind, and that is a major side effect yet it is kind of not the purpose at all. The purpose, as I see it today (around noon), is much larger than that. It’s so large it contains all the dogs in the universe and lets us know that dogs will always be dogs and to expect them to be something else is a waste of time and effort, and the “training” of them has to be scrutinized as to why are we training a creature to behave the way that makes us comfortable with them, but often goes against their own true nature. (As the Dog simile starts to crumble like a stale cookie in an earthquake?:)

Anyway, I was connected to a new medical provider which is really a helpful resource. They’ve done loads of tests and co-incidentally also arranged for a Covid Vax appointment. The place for the appointment was in east Oakland in a small shopping center with a spot tucked into the back part of a parking lot and it was raining and the two tiny little tent-like structures were sufficient to handle three people at a time. A staff of about four people checked me in and moved me over to the other tent, thirty feet away, all the time holding umbrellas for all us folks, coming and going, because of the drizzle that started up. The whole process took less than ten minutes and it seemed like all low-income folks. After the injection the lady told me that I would have to wait for 15 minutes to see if there was any adverse reaction and could I please do that in my vehicle if I came in one, and if there was a problem to honk my horn and they would come and check on me.

I sat in my vehicle and just watched their operation from about twenty-five yards away.

My heart opened up and I was filled with gratitude for this effort of so many people in a tiny little corner of this Universe to help others with courtesy and dignity. Then a larger UPS van pulled up and the driver ran around to the back of the truck and lifted 3x3x3 box out and rushed into the clinic, and I like to think he was bringing more Vaccine but it could just as well have been any box of stuff that a clinic would use in their daily activity.

Around all of that reality there could be clouds of opinion, yapping, barking and whoofing, what with the times and all; yet all I saw was humanity at its actual purpose.

Caring, helping, giving, respecting and offering help.

One could weep at the wonderfulness of it all.

The great and wonderful

Things we dream when

Internally empty are

Nothing to what we can

See within gratitude for

Life as a human being

Willing to help,

Rain or shine.

There we sat…

Six or seven laypeople and the monk who is the teacher at the Temple we were attending this morning, sitting scattered around a bit of yard and the garage parking area where a simple and beautiful altar had been set up in front of the garage door. Because of Covid regulation in California we could not meet inside, so we sat in the chilly overcast for two periods of meditation and then a Dharma talk (better attended because of Zoom link-ups).

Its a back yard I’ve been used to for about 30 years now and have spent a lot of hours enjoying and working on. It has changed, as have I and so has the monk and the people who attended today.

One thing that was interesting to me was the Ivy “wall’ I was facing instead of the usual walls of a temple or monastery or in the places I’ve lived. The ivy was lively.

Busy squirrels and birds and from the street busy cars and motorcycles and the rush of BART trains in the near distance and jet planes not too far above, as I asked “What is listening and hearing these sounds?” the wonderful reality of the history of humanity encompasses the actual development of the human brain as our ancient ancestors heard rustling of leaves and the noise of other lives in a quite different way and adjusted their responses to the world as the sounds changed with days and nights and years and millennia and then Ages. We developed into a being that is unique in the history of the world (as far we can ascertain), in that we have adapted to have a range of about 20,000 feet, some of it underwater when necessary , and we can roam across the whole globe with a little preparation within those 20,000 feet.

But to choose to sit still, not to hunt, nor set a trap or to watch or observe comings and goings of other creatures; rather for the purpose of allowing something to appear to us that we cannot see, even when we strain to see it. When we don’t strain it may show up or just skitter through the branches above us or zoom along a track or in the sky or just be always available should we wish to be still and nod hello, without moving our heads rather our hearts.

A good day in an old world.

By a thread I cannot see, a bit of bark

Is suspended and twirls, clock-wise

Then counter, slowly then quickly then

Stops and swings and is Still just for

Some time and there I was privileged to

See it act like a mighty ocean, yet

Way way smaller. More like a drop in

One.

Happy Tomorrow, today…

New Year. Sheesh! I’m just glad the days are getting longer.

I left Walla Walla with my last load of stuff to cart to Alameda, CA where, as far as I can tell, I may be at my last address, or there’ll be more. When I got near the end stretch of my drive around the perimeter of the U.S. last Fall, I stopped to visit with the Abbott of the Berkeley Buddhist Priory since I spent quite a few years in attending at that Temple and he has been a strong influence on my Buddhist (Zen) training; and told him that I had kept my eyes open for a place where I might settle for good since Old-Age is becoming more real for me. So he made a suggestion about a place that would be affordable for me and I thought, “elegant solution” (Which is an engineering term for fixing a problem so that the mechanism is optimized beyond its original design and expectations). I was looking for a setting with good public transportation, walk-ability and a major airport nearby. Alameda has all that and some of our Sangha members live next-door and I’m 15 minutes from our Temple in Berkeley.

The doing of the move and the details and all the help from friends in Walla Walla to get going before Winter became the ongoing obstacle was quite draining, so the day I decided to go into motion was the 21st of December. My favorite day of the year because the days start to get longer about then, a brightening that continues until June 21st and then suddenly a pall is cast over my favorite time of year (early Summer) by my liking the 21st of December so much, because the days then get shorter, at the beginning of Summer. It ain’t fair, somehow.

Which brings me to Happy New Year!

Most of us have have not enjoyed 2020 very much even though those four numbers are very pleasing in their appearance and order. And, many people, myself included, hope that this coming year is better than the previous; within which there is a hint of hope that a lot of stuff will be in “turnaround ” and consequently 2022 will be really great (Be aware) because those numbers are pleasing also.

The problem lies in trying to get a grasp on what the heck was going on today. Where was I? Did I try to see where I stand or was being physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in relation to myself in all those categories?

Yeah, I know! Big Hairy-Question. And then, where is all that in relation to all those other Beings and the World, and Life in general?

One may ask who’s got time for that kind of stuff when I can’t pay rent, don’t have a job and my kids and spouse and friends and neighbors are all turning into concepts that have to be set aside while We All have to prepare for a world that may not be amenable to any of our Wills and Ways anymore

Yeah. I know! lots of Extra-Capitalization going on in this here rumination.

I suspect we are being given a chance as a society, a culture and individually, to see how we respond when massive and real dire problems face all of us. All of us. If all this keeps up for the next 30-40 years; not even Billions of Dollars, or Whatever, will make you feel comfortable about you and your’s or anybody else’s future.

Given the opportunity to change

Will I look at changing me, or will

I look at changing you, or your

Mind and how you act and think.

Maybe its better to work with the

Material that’s at hand and accessible.

Fish need water





Daniel Boone said, “I’ve never been lost

but I have been bewildered a few times.”

An arrow flying past a window is how

Fast time flies, a drop of dew on morning

Grass is quickly gone. We breathe because

The air pressure of the world is higher

than that of our lungs. The air naturally

Forces its way into us and we think

We are the ones breathing it, when it

Is the world breathing us. Air, and its’

Pressure, came before mammals,

We evolved into It.

The Way was, the way Was;

Before we appeared and

Here is “I”…What a gift?

What are the odds of us Being,

Just in relation to other known

Life forms? Astronomical? Yes.

I don’t want the Wisdom

I can imagine. I don’t want

The Peace I can feel. I want to

Not differentiate between

Wisdom and everything else

And, I want a Peace that is

As water and I’m the fish.

Nothing special, just life.

I was asked to write something, anything that came to mind, during a retreat exercise. That was it. Just re-arranged a little and typed, I’m losing my handwriting skills. Old age and disuse, another old-coot baying at the moon.

Ahhh, Helmut…the moon is thataway.

I knew that! Harumphhhh!!

Truth, facts, observations

And opinion

Random Thanksgiving thoughts. A holiday created to celebrate the beginning of two centuries of extermination of the North American natives by an Empire that has done more murder, violence, theft and damage to the world than any other in human history and left a legacy of strife in almost all former colonies that still costs thousands of lives to this day.

The world as constituted, is violent, greedy, unforgiving and molded by passions that seems insurmountable. 10,000,000 to 17,000,000 minks “culled” in a country the size of Massachusetts. Those mink were destined to die anyway for coats and ‘accessories’ that cater to barbaric fashion habits and the common delusion that the world is purposed for our personal whims and desires. The numbers are actually doubly depressing.

Slowly and surely we are becoming more humane on the side of compassion and understanding. The world is a better and safer place than it has ever been (for people), and since our violent and greedy natures are often driven by ideologies and commerce we will all pay a steep price for being ignorant and sometimes deliberately blind when it suits us. It is too late to mitigate certain ecological upheavals that are imminent and neither the Moon nor Mars, will be of much help.

My opinion in regard to the above intertwining categories is that there actually is much to be thankful for which can hold all of the above. Chiefly, my gratitude is for the basic human quandary that since we can and have gotten up to all sorts of mistaken, unhelpful, greed-driven and destructive behaviors; there is an other side of that ‘coin’ which is our inherent love, caring, helping, building and creating an actual tenderness towards others and our-selves, which can embrace, and hold, all of those contradictions.

We can look up and see that there is more. A softer human aspect that can listen to the Quiet that shapes the music of life, and love; and quietly know what we are ultimately about.

We may not clearly see all

Ways we all gain clarity

Seeing-Listening quietly,

Rather than looking-hearing in

That acquisitive fashion.

Interesting times, now…

There is supposed to be a Chinese saying that is described as a type of curse one may utter, probably more so than yell, which translates as “…may you live in interesting times…”. The implication being that ‘interesting times’ are usually fraught with all sorts of potential downsides that make life uncertain which can be uncomfortable. Sounds like every day, at any time, anywhere.

Certainly our times are interesting right now, and my observations of myself and people I have regular conversations with, seem to have a similar sense in that, even though there’s a lot of stuff going on with extra noise, fear, doubt and worry thats more pervasive; I notice that I’m much more in tune with my response to the extra that’s going on, and I have a strong sense that this is an opportunity for many of us to look at our own inner lives and responses now that there’s a bit of an edge to everyday life in social and cultural interactions.

To believe the media is to think that we are all in a major crisis of great variety and complexity and the best thing we can do is somehow get back to our comfortable and normal ways of the past. I don’t remember those days. Maybe if I took a stack of newspapers from the last 100 years and just randomly selected 200 headlines they would paint a picture of normal and a “good old days” that sadly is no longer within our reach. Probably not.

Life has always been difficult and messy and scary and painful and confusing; were it not so, there would be no ease and order and comfort and joy and understanding.

Somewhere between these seemingly opposing ideas or possibilities is where we all have to live. The best we may be able to do is to be aware when those different aspects arise and then try not to make too big a deal about any of them; knowing that stuff happens and stuff changes is actually a huge wisdom that encompasses everything.

As in every Thing, real or not.

The more I change the

More I remain the

Same, seeing only

Aging and opinions.

There’s way more

Going On if I’m

Participating in

Reality. As in

Being part of.

Not merely viewing,

Comparing

Contrasting, which

Are bondage,

Not release

Or ease.

Wind and me…

The Chinese word for Emptiness is not easier to deal with when exploring the mind, than it is in English. All words are maps, some more precise than others. Even with maps lots of explorations have gotten lost and wandered until they found something new to the explorer, then the wandering was suddenly ‘successful’. What we discover is not new to the beings/things that live/abide there, or to others that have passed through, even once.

We are stuck with words and languages. Things get lost in translation, or so it seems. I wonder if they don’t get lost in exploration.

How many things in this world were discovered when explorers, scientists, investigators, curious and wondering folks set out to see what’s over that range of mountains, or over that range of science or thought. Often the wondering turned into wandering and the unexpected appeared as something new. There’s nothing ‘new’ as such, there’s Hoped For, WTF? and Interesting! and Wow! In most instances things are discovered when we wander of the path that we had intended to keep and then came to an unexpected cliff, or bear.

My mind goes off the path a lot from what I intend for it, more so and differently now that Age is a real thing. Nevertheless, I set out to explore my mind some time ago when I wanted to change Me. I didn’t have any idea of what I was doing or very clear on why, it just felt urgent.

So, I’m here on a computer, noodling.

And, its been very interesting and the longer I travel in that vast field, of meadows and mountains and forests and rivers and lakes and oceans of this little mind; I often find I’ve gone around some sort of circle because things seem familiar and known, yet different and knowable.

As I go on and my dreams change and gratitude just appears and my fears always become my teachers not friends, yet familiar.

In meantime, I also have to learn my new cell phone, sew a button on a favorite shirt, reheat some food so I can watch The News and realize everything is not comfortable for most, but that’s part of any journey or exploration whether we know we are on one or not.

Often I see that I’m an oarsman on some vessel of discovery and exploration and am grateful for the wind, and the wind has nothing to do with Me.

wandering lost I find my way

lost in the way I find the

ordinary. Looking for my glasses.

note to friend…

Below is a Text I sent to a friend this morning who asked me for my thoughts on how to get a little perspective on today, Election Day in the U.S.

First off, we are no longer able to go back to any kind of normal. Varieties of turbulence will influence the rest of our lives. We are not really, for some time into the future, able to just navigate through some sort of seasonal storm. The whole world is facing a Climate crisis. The actual “climate” and the social climate will alter slowly for the most part but us comfortable one’s will feel the change more deeply.
So we have navigate through New changing conditions that will resemble our former comfort zone less and less.
Yet, here we are. This has happened to many societies in the past, we can read about that, it’s kind of banal big-picture wise, but with real climate change happening behind the scenes, so to speak, because we’re so fixated on politics and social/cultural conditions…

The only way out is the way in.

These are the times when we have to be very practical and along with that explore what may be the meaning of a True Refuge. Maybe it’s time to see what’s past/beyond, ‘Oh, God! Help me get through this year/election/relationship/ skin infection blah blah blah…’ And, participate in changing how we look at the world, because obviously if we saw things more clearly we would not be as frightened.
So, I recommend trying to sit still several times each day and when the fear and tension arise, notice it; look at it and ask. ‘What is there to learn from this?’ Its actually not fear, it’s an uncomfortable pointing to something that is inevitably a teaching for our own good.
God is not fucking with us. He/She is just asking that we try to look without our personal interests being the main objective of our daily life.
Quit asking why you’re not happy, start examining the nature of your dissatisfaction with the World, as constituted.
I’m not being mean here, that’s how I have to talk to myself in order to begin to clear up the fogs caused by the Universe not being answerable to my deepest wish for me not to be uncomfortable..

(Although I am offered the choice of trying to be still. slight addition for blog)

I hope that parses ok, cause I ain’t re-reading it. It’s too long”

Life is hard and then we die

Life is easy and then we die

We are born and then we die

We make choices and decisions

And then we die. The choices and

Decisions are what we leave behind, so

It seems they often need some help,

The kindness of strangers.

I’m the wall…

And, the wall is me but the space between is not. If the wall falls down its just a seeming separation of space that is eliminated. A cup holds tea but when it breaks the space is still there, and so forth. The ideas and teachings about spaciousness have been part of Buddhist teachings since the Buddha’s time and they are almost ubiquitous to the point that we don’t often actually explore some of the applications of that teaching in our practice.

All that our, or any, practice consists of is trying to do it. To live it. To see and understand it and make it part of our lives to the point we may no longer think about it too much. I’m not at that point, but I do get some glimpses at times of how things are.

(BTW, great article in current issue of Berkeleybuddhistpriory.org Newsletter by Reverend Master Kinrei on “Spaciousness”)

This morning as I sat still, facing a wall and realizing once again the only real control I have over my own mind is to refrain from digging into any thought too much, and to try and let them pass through me without handling them as items of possible interest, as if in some second-hand store.

This morning’s theme seemed to be about the difficulty of my believing that things running through my mind were important and others should have a chance of being exposed to them in order to enrich their lives.

Try this one, loosely recapitulated.

If Feminists really cared about females, they would care about every female of every species and how they are being used to gratify many delusions regarding the human role on earth. We breed dogs and have killed billions of them through the centuries developing different breeds with characteristic we find useful including just plain old cuteness. It’s the same with cattle, horses, sheep and loads of creatures we eat or use in any fashion. We eat cows. we eat chickens and their eggs, and so forth and all of them have to be bred to suit us. We don’t eat dogs in our culture but many others do. Most dogs have been bred to suit some purpose for us that results in either food, pleasure, or working them ’til they drop dead. Why can’t we see that within the structure of seeing animals as only for the purpose of our use, in any fashion we choose, no matter how much suffering it causes them, may not be Ethical. I suppose they study or touch on this stuff in Ethics Studies, or whatever its called, but it never comes up in cultural or social medias as a “Thing”

So that was the type of thinking that tried to capture me this morning and I had to leave loose of it, and apparently it ain’t gone away. It is just a thought, and we do have to start somewhere.

I was thinking I could

Change the world if

Only it would listen to

Me and then ask for

Instructions as to How.

However, it seems that

The world’s a busy place

And, I’m really not sure

I know enough. It’s not

Doubt but Reality that

Eases the clawing Need

To make things Better.

Ahhh, home again…

I’ve had seven addresses in the last 7 years. After my wife Linda died in January of 2014, I’ve moved regularly and at one point kind of frantically, trying different situations and it looks like I’m going to go back to one of those. So, another move seems imminent. I’ll have to rest a bit though after an almost 10,000 mile road-trip around the U.S.

One of the things that I am very grateful for is that I can do this sort of thing. I live very modestly and have a little stream of income to live on; so after I couldn’t go and visit Germany where I was born and haven’t seen since 1956 when we immigrated and I was 9 years old. I decided it was going to be a month-long driving trip and just look at people and places. No Views, unless I passed one accidentally.

Covid had cancelled the German trip and I thought that at my age (73), there’s no guarantee I’ll ever get back there, so I used that ‘Germany’ money to spend 5 1/2 weeks just driving around this country I live in.

Its a great country, with an interesting and violent history and a seemingly precarious present. If I pay too much attention to the news it seems there’s huge factions of violent yahoos with opposing views running around and doing all kinds of stuff that just ain’t right. Well, I’m sure some of that is actually going on since they keep repeating the same footage, or similar; and yes we do have systemic problems and they won’t be solved by violence but rather by time, and the slow ongoing efforts of good-hearted people.

My observation of this country, mostly along its side roads and State and County highways and its people, is that we are not only fortunate and everyone I encountered was polite, friendly and going about their business in an astounding doing of work that was by and large, helpful to others. The clean-up efforts all along the Gulf Coast from a handful of storms over the last three years goes on and on and people just do it and then get on with their lives.

That is the real Way of the world. Destruction is real and Re-construction goes on, and on. It’s what we do.

There are more pictures of people doing good and helping within the whole spectrum of photography than there are of people doing harm, and people with cameras tend to cover disaster more thoroughly yet still most photos are of good things going on. That reflects the reality.

People are by their very natures good-hearted and willing to help others; give rather than steal, accept rather than take, while simultaneously acting inhumanely and cruelly and selfishly and being unkind, stingy and hateful.

All of those attributes exist in all of us and for the most part (Most Part), we tend towards the good. That’s an observable phenomena. So, yes, it will take a long time before there’s a Heaven on earth and and a Peace in the hearts of all. The probability is evident that eventually we will obtain.

And, we all have to do our little parts and be willing to do the right thing, especially when its convenient and also when it isn’t. It all counts.

We are essentially a mixture of impulses with choices. That’s our Great Gift!

Today, I can decide

Whether to turn towards or

Away. To look up or to look down.

I, we, you, alltogether, yes there

Is a choice

We can make, All together,

You, we and I. Yes.

Yay! Yep! Gonna!