Across the country…

Next Friday I plan to start a drive around the U.S. Basically starting out from St. Maries, ID on the 20th of September after a Segaki (Feeding of the Hungry Ghosts) Ceremony, in the forest on Lotus Mountain above a stretch of the St. Maries River. I’ll be participating in this with the Sangha of the Benewah Buddhist Temple (Sandpoint Meditation Group). It’s one of the most important ceremonies in Buddhism and the only one I’ve heard of that was initiated by the Buddha to help one of his main disciples; so it goes way back.

I’m looking forward to my little adventure and at this writing I feel a little “privileged”, because I’m in a position to undertake an activity like that in times that are fraught with astounding instability from a human point of view, and all sorts of downsides looming for all of us.

I’m in Walla Walla, WA and it is midnight and the air quality index is officially 451, out of a possible 500 (Hazadous) and it’s not expected to lift for several days. I was walking through the Walmart store earlier and it looked like it had a fog in it from all the smoke which out of doors has a visibility factor measured in hundreds of yards, not portions or increments of miles. It looked grim and forboding.

I realize I have choices that many people in that store do not have. There were families with loads of kids,  groups of teens just flocking around the Walmart on a Friday night; it’s the first weekend of the school year, but of course they’re not going to school; they’re Zooming or some sanctioned equivalent. Everybody except the teens looked pretty miserable and harried; I certainly felt that way, and I wanted to move next Friday’s departure date up to right-now but I have some precluding obligations.

It strikes me that we are in this mess because we have entangled ourselves in “ideals” that are not actually real, they seem to be merely functions of various greeds; others and our own. That’s uncomfortable and perhaps something to work with, in the sense that we need to identify the real problem before any lasting change is envisioned. After identifying the cause of our sickness perhaps we can determine if there is a cure and what that would consist of. and require of us.

We are past the stage of any sort of new Normal thats comfortable or a return to a former Normal. The shit is hitting the fan, and we are the one’s who plugged-in the fan, set it on high, pushed Start and are flinging stuff; all the while looking around and wondering who started all this mess.

We insist this is not what we asked for or ever wanted to happen. Yet, here we are. While we are scrambling for solutions and context and understanding and others to blame, we will need to get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, and do something, or some things. Not big things, maybe smaller things in smaller groups, maybe not as Nations? Everything will be on the table? Maybe.

The worst part of this evening’s trip to Walmart was to see the teens and young kids getting a taste of the world we are leaving for them. Yes, at some level we’ve all been blind. The majority of the herd has run over the cliff. Now what?

This Reality.

The New

Reality.

We have to change.

We have to. Change?

Will we? Sure!

Why not? Maybe

Then we’ll have an 

Other opportunity.

walk among stones…

img_20200906_111553

I walk in the cemetery most days; just a loop around the outer paved area with meanders into various other sections. I have made that a part of my practice that started after we moved to Tekoa,WA from Bay Area in ’05. I was the caretaker of the Goldenrod Cemetery in Tekoa for a couple of years and it turned out to be one of the gateways into that small community for a couple of left-wing Buddhists from the Center of Hell known as Berkeley, or so I was informed:) I learned the history of the community and became a fairly visible presence in that town of 800+. Those who know me would not be surprised at me being visible or heard, for sure, in a town that size. That experience gave me great respect and deeper understanding of the burial ground as one center for a community. Later when I became the P/T janitor at the Elementary School, another center, I got a 3-D impression of the history and culture of the town because the kids, the teachers and the Principal all had families in that cemetery.

At this cemetery I have gotten to know the nice lady that is supervisor of crew there and she had told me about a little initiative a young new employee had undertaken to replace fallen head stones, placing them in new cement bases, so their original intent would remain honored and respected. They do this when all the basic stuff, mowing etc: is taken care of. I loved that idea and offered a small donation towards cement mix and some other folks have heard about that effort and also contributed. It’s become a bit of a “thing”. (Donations welcome To Mountain View Cemetery, Walla Walla, WA 99362  attn; Joanna, Headstone Restoration Project:)

The one pictured above appeared a couple of weeks ago, it had fallen/broken off at some point and been covered over by dirt and grass for many years. I was quite taken with the wonderfulness of life and death.

130 years ago, a baby was born and named Demaris, I assume a girl, but have no basis for that assumption and choose not to research it because its not important. A child was born and seventeen days later died. In the 130 years since that birth all of that baby’s molecules have been recycled, some of them many times, and now they will also be converted to electronic signals that go on infinitely into endless space. Life is brutally short sometimes and there is always a purpose and reason for that; naturally opinions vary as to details, Often a desirable reason is hard to formulate in regard to a short, painful or tormented life; yet we bear with the perhaps greatest difficulty life presents a parent because it’s not uncommon.

I look at the stories in the cemetery written on the headstones and the wishes and dreams within those stories and on a windy day they blow by more quickly.

Life is short and

It is long. One step,

No step, millions of

Them, and here we

All are as a group,

Wondering how

Can I help? Yes, that

Is the purpose and

The opportunity

All in One.

other thoughts? (shrug)…

If light travels at 186,000 miles per second then that seems an incredible enough speed for me to try and make a point about “the present moment”. Lets say that time travels at 186,000 units, of whatever, a second; then the absolute present moment moves so quickly that it can’t be seen to exist; i.e. Practically, there is no such thing.

So, it may be much more useful to think of a wider (or longer) swath of time that we can designate as Discernible Present Time (DPT). I will posit that this time frame be the period between the last thought, action, or feeling that passed through you completely, in other words, that you were aware of, and involved in, to the exclusion of all else and then the next thought, action, or feeling that you are completely aware of in noticing, doing, precipitating, or participating in.

That opens up the DPT to seconds, minutes, hours, days, ad infinitum; depending on the conditions that present.

When we are paying attention and aware of the conditions around us, and the conditions within, we can see the flow of time, which is very good and helpful and sometimes amazing, but we will never see the real present because it is part of the flow. 

Seeing a drop of water in a huge waterfall is not experiencing the waterfall. 

Same with trying to see a discrete moment in time while missing the activity of time. There may be lots of application for seeing the one drop or the tiny moment but we’ll likely miss the awe of its All Someness.

I sense within myself that when I have spent a lot of time trying to be “in the now”, I was somehow instinctively afraid of being overwhelmed by the torrent.

I needn’t have worried, that sense of separation and falling and being alone, only lasts for a moment and the drop rejoins the flow of the Fall into the River and on to the Ocean.

Everything is fine just the way it is. When I am aware of the loneliness of the drop or the despair of the moment or the exultation of the Fall or the depth of the Moment, it all passes rather rapidly and I usually can’t remember 99% of it as I flow into the ever Present emptiness of all that there is and has ever been.

I‘m never really sure if I’ve

Wasted time and sometimes it

Surely feels that way but who

Am I to say;

Quickly gone

Another day.

choice or decision…

I sit in a tiny cottage about ten miles west of the Blue Mountains on the Eastern border of Oregon and Washington and live a very quiet and quite simple life, and have sufficient time to reflect and think about the ways and means by which I got into this position. Old, comfortable, relatively healthy and relatively sane with a religious and spiritual practice that informs and confounds me and holds me up. It doesn’t hold me way up. It holds me like the YMCA pool water held me up when I didn’t struggle as I learned to swim. A balance of understanding had to be arrived at which included fear, doubt, worry, trust, faith and courage or willingness. And, some effort at something I had never done before, but knew from the evidence of my eyes was possible.

Similarly, a baby partakes of all these elements when it takes that first step. It doesn’t take the first step in order to walk, it takes it because it wants to get from where it is, to there. It keeps falling down, and one day it moves a foot forward in order to not fall down, rather quickly, often that same day, it learns to not fall and the byproduct of that is walking. Immediately the baby’s Universe, as it knew it just moments before, is forever altered.

Some part of the inborn nature of the baby bade it to decide/choose an action and it became a toddler.

As I write, all of me is the sum-total of choices/decisions that I made throughout my life and that “me” was set into motion, initially, by other choices made by beings connected too me. Most of my life I had no way of seeing that I was making choices and decisions because I was busy looking for outcome, results, eventuation, gratification; or avoidance. I was living life as it presented itself and made lots of very hasty decisions, some even in panic, and the outcomes were mixed in terms of my approving or disapproving, and always they engendered another decision or choice. That’s how I spent, dispensed or squandered many years of my life. There was joy and fear doubt and loads of worry and everything glazed over with optimism and hope.

At about half-way through this life (so far), I encountered the Buddhist teachings and started to become aware that nothing is permanent or stays in a fixed state; so if I carved a statue out of marble I could change it by using the same tools with which I carved it. Will, effort, persistence, repetition and stepping away from the work often to see if I’m doing the right thing. It turns out the stepping away from the work is the most important part. It gives me perspective. Some days I work hard at it, other days hardly at all.

I step away and see what is possible.

Seeing is the important part. Open eyes. Allow.

The string on a bow is the only purpose of a bow.

Then I decide or choose or not.

some stray thoughts…

Many viruses that are harmful to humans are carried by migratory birds that come into contact with pigs which were usually and historically kept in close contact with humans. All little villages in the world used to have pigs in daily contact with humans. Not so much anymore thanks to factory farming and the slaughter of our fellow beings on an incomprehensible scale…If we didn’t eat animals at the rate and the way that we do we would not have a corona virus, or most flu’s and all sorts of other consequences which we choose to not examine too closely.

If you eat animals on a daily basis you are in a rich, compared to poor, country or society where its difficult to eat meat regularly; although insects are a staple in many cultures and that is a type of necessity. Eating animals for protein is not necessary, its a habit. In order for anyone to be rich in this world a number of people have to do without.

If you eat foie Gras you are eating the liver of an animal that was tortured to death over its long painful life by having grain forced down its throat through a two foot long tube/funnel and its beak/bill wired shut so that it can’t regurgitate the overstuffing and consequently develops a fatty live for which it is then killed and the liver shipped off to fancy restaurants which cater to the rich…That’s life.

The have’s have their way with the world and and the don’t have’s; not so much. Is there anything new going on in this world where that hasn’t been the case since the strong ate better than the weak (i.e. forever) ? Nope!

Is this liable to change anytime soon? Nope!

Can I change how I see things and learn to behave differently? Yep!

Why does it feel like I can’t change and I need to accept the inevitable and nothing will ever change?

It’s how Things Are and, that feeling is just a feeling.

Feelings drive, pull and push us as if they had a power over us because we think feelings can make us do things that, at some level, we know aren’t right.

That’s not true. Any feeling can be examined, looked at calmly (maybe not right away but over time spent trying, as in practice…) and seen for what it is, and it usually is a demand for something to be different in the world so that I am not displeased or uncomfortable or offended.

So, I’m the big problem. Turns out I’m the only one who can help change me.

Who am I helping in this

changing of the me that I

hold so dear and am afraid of

loosing if I let go of it. Who?

Shadow go ‘Click’…

Photo taken at top-secret U.S. installation even as guards were looking on. Bwuaha-ha-aha-ha-aha-ha-ha!!! (US Post Office:)

Proof of America imprisoning and dis-appearing our rebels.

There is no justice for the Comfortable Many.

No wonder we riot to show our standing in-solidarity with the oppressed and then go home after ‘secret’ police hold us for a couple of hours and wring our hands. It can’t happen here they wailed throughout history.

We stand at the barricades and then, when its time for some other diversion, we go home; having done what we can, we insist.

We can skateboard on ramps with impunity. We are white Americans fed up with the status quo. Hear us grumble for Organic Chamomile Tea and coffee that is made from beans that have passed through the digestive system of Civets in Viet-Nam. Haven’t the Civets given enough of themselves to support Fine Perfumes? We are White America (or wanna-be-white america, ouch!) and we have a ‘Heart’! Look at this nice wooden one I bought at Target, it hangs over the couch next to the other wooden ones that say ‘Family’ and ‘Love’ Not that there is anything going wrong there, it’s just that the deep need to express love is the same for all of us.

And, the saddest part is that we do care, we have just never developed a language or system or cultural/social ways to show this in the more personal ways. We buy the expression of feelings from others so we can display them and wonder why we feel just a tad empty. It is what poetry, writing, art and music and such are used for, yet they are in a way an impediment to feeling the real thing when that is what is called for. Like now.

It takes time to feel and be still.

It takes great effort to be still and feel.

To be still within effort and feel that perhaps

Stillness is sufficient on too itself

And, there is more…

two way streets…

Quiet helpers in the world

Quiet helpers in the world

just sitting there apparently doing

nothing, the quiet helpers of our world

just rest and wait until called upon to

hold some thing, to shed light on another,

to unfold and to support out activities;

a little stool to sit on while sorting, or

to lay a book up on, so we can get on

with the day. Someone, somewhere,

helped to build and assemble, box and

ship, then deliver all these helpers to us,

for us. We don’t consider them often

enough, all the helpers. It’s easy to

believe we really matter and are all

alone. Gaze around and see,

don’t just look. Eyes are

Two-way streets

next rant (ish)…

American

American male

American anglo male

American anglo male heterosexual

American anglo male heterosexual boomer

American heterosexual ….lefty-anrcho-liberal, semi-conservative, vegetarian, Buddhist, autodidact, pro-socialist-anti-communist jazz-fan and movie-buff and reader of history and religion and art and fan of noir movies who thinks Woody Allen is an asshole who should by now have gotten over himself; and who thinks that John LeCarre and Phillip Kerr are great modern writers and who hates the Washington Post and Fox News with equal vigor because they get paid by the same ad agencies; so they can’t be really (I mean Really!) That Different and thinks that SNL is a poorly re-constructed hash of the original subversive and bright Show of Shows, and that SNL is racist and bigoted in its presumptions that its ok for Black comedians to make fun of Latinos and if Blacks portray themselves as stereotypes that only whites laugh at, its ok; because “we are all in on the joke”and we are hip…not so! Not even close.
American….blah blah blah, who in conversation with others that he feels kinship with, realizes they have some very strange takes on reality and can’t really be trusted.

American…blah etc; who thinks we should make like Woody Allen and get over Ourselves. Maybe examine our presumptions and ideas about what the real world is when all we’ve ever done is lived at the Height of Empire and guzzled and eaten the world while politely discussing that it is a shame how the world is not being treated right.

Oh, Mother Earth! Where are you going? I want to neglect you more! I promise to change tomorrow. Not just yet though, but tomorrow for sure! Right now I just need little time to myself. To, you know, gather in and reflect and see where I can really make a difference; maybe more than half-assed recycling and carrying my Trader Joe’s bag to Whole Foods (a whole other order of American schweinerei, I actually don’t shop there. One must have some standards, plus they are to expensive for me. My personal Class War is giving Whole Foods store’s The Finger when I drive by one; below the dashboard off course. Standards. Are they still in business? Anyway…

American…blah…ad nauseam. I want to explain to you how if you changed a few of your views we could all prosper and be comfortable. I want to explain to you that all people and all cultures and all thoughts and all behaviors and all actions are ultimately just an expression of our deep need and wish for Oneness. But, I gather it is best if I do as I say do rather than I do, do. so…

American blah…bull-shitter; who is so wrapped up in his explanation of himself (or her explanation of herself [Inclusiveness Double Paranthetical],), that he can’t see beyond his (like opinion) nose and when he does is, all he sees is you, which which happens to be a pair of ears that connect to a brain and now needs brand new information about the actual reality of life and what you need to know in order to change, if certain parties are ever going to have a chance at happiness. You know who I’m talking about!

I think a ventricle just cleared up a bit.

Wine of Delusion…

Through much of the Buddhist world, practitioners of its’ teachings take a series of guidelines for the conduct of their daily lives called “The Precepts”. They are not a big deal in an astounding amount of  Buddhism in the West (The Americas), because we don’t like ‘rules’. Several other teachings that are at the core of Buddhism are also ignored or hushed up because so much of Buddhist teaching has been ‘improved’ and ‘made more accessible’ to the western mind/psyche by our Base Religion of Therapy/Psychology. (Mandatory disclaimer coming up.)…Of course Therapy and Psychology help an astounding number of people with problems they (the number of people), can’t quite describe or put their finger on, so to speak.

Whoops, digression zone ends in several inches, with any luck………here.

So, the Precepts that are commonly taken by Buddhist lay practitioners (non-monastics), throughout much of the Buddhist World are typically called ‘The Five Precepts’.

  1. Refrain from the taking of life.
  2. Refrain from taking that which is not given.
  3. Refrain from saying that which is untrue.
  4. Refrain from indulging mere desires.
  5. Refrain from using, selling or causing others to use the Wine of Delusion.
    (The refraining concedes that we are human and will at least try.)

# Five, at its most coarse level reminds us that alcohol and drugs distract us from our natural minds and we can’t think clearly when under their influence. At a bit more subtle level we also can’t think clearly when we have strong opinions, or strong beliefs, or varying degrees of certainty about any personal mixture of ideas regarding life, society, science, politics, religion, morals, behaviors, etc. And, when we want to talk to other people about our ideas etc; and convince them they are missing something in their views and ideas; And we can help point out those shortcomings etc. AND, Yes you are welcome.

Most standard conversations whether in a bar, at an event, in church, over family dinner being consumed on the ride home from a long day of family stuff, are variations of consuming, selling, encouraging others to imbibe our own delusive ideas about reality and join us; as we join others in their views of Life and its little Realities.

All news, all TV, all reporting, all discussion in public spheres, all opining, all insights and for sure all Expert Views are absolutely wines of delusion; Because they decrease clarity and fix our minds and hearts into a Certainty, of some sort And, then we are off to the races.This is the condition that makes us human and worrisome and wonderful as a life form.

So, there’s no way any of this is going to change measurably for quite some time is my guess. But, and this is a But and an AND, we can, each of us, cut back just a little from the habits/addictions to using of the wine of delusion, and maybe refraining just a tad when we want to convince others, or ourselves, about some insistence regarding some thing that we believe to be true. Just cut back a little.

Ease on up.

Relax once or twice a day and not indulge ourselves in the stuff that we know to be True. Let’s just keep it to ourselves, once in a while on most days. Gotta start somewhere.

I’m going to start my little effort at the end of this sentence. I am too!