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!

Journey begins with…

I’m in Berkeley, CA after driving up Hwy 99 in Central California and visiting with friends in Fresno, probably California’s most important city after after Sacramento. Fresno, is the epicenter of all of California’s agriculture and the heart of the formation of Ag practices in the Western United States.

Water distribution, dispensation and use are the powerful keys that actually unlocked the door to California’s growth and prosperity over the years and all the world has been influenced, one might say negatively, by how the stage has been set for the modern industry and destruction that is Big Ag. No, its not an evil scheme. Its humans beings human full of potential which always contains the seeds of arising and falling.

So, traveling through much of the US on mostly secondary roads is astounding in the display of how we get things right and how they can go wrong. Everyone with an opinion has some true insight into our shared reality and it’s certainly not manageable in any real sense of that word which is a huge contributing factor to the ecological impasse we seem to have reached, and are still ignoring, because of the appearance of a virus. We can’t agree what a virus is or whence it arises and while we work on that we have taken our eyes ‘off of the ball’ and the World is in real danger. Our Eco predicament is ours; we own it whether we want too or not.

In the meantime, across the world, humans individually and in various sized groups, clans, tribes, nations and affinities, etc…continue to do their best each day within the increasing worry, fear and doubt, doing what they can for themselves, their families, community and others with generally speaking, good intentions and hearts.

Because of News, we get the impression that the world is falling apart and which is the result of evil-doing by, you know, Others.

My observation is that the world has reached a point of unintended consequences because we are human and we are, by that fact, fairly deluded and follow our noses and eyes and ideas and make many mistakes.

This not an insurmountable problem if we approach it directly by trying to see where we can participate and act to change how we do things in this world and not worry so much about what other people think.

I need to stop pointing fingers and look at How I Am and How I Do in this world, and get on with the hard work of investing time and effort in allowing myself to participate in changing the world by starting at the source most convenient; Me.

Journey means the

Span of a day as

The Sun travels across

The sky and as thoughts

Move through my mind

I travel away from here

And end up going There.

How it is…

Beautiful day yesterday going through South Carolina and Georgia mostly on State highways. Georgia is beautiful and as I went through a long stretch of small towns I was struck with the variety and mixture of races and economic circumstances along the way. The poverty is staggering, as it is in all of the U.S. that I’ve seen along the minor highways. Yet in the South it doesn’t seem as crushing because it is so deeply institutionalized that the “Haves” don’t even notice the “don’t haves”, because so often they appear to live in third or fourth generations of housing with the two or three previous ones deteriorating along a line to the current habitation; in the line of sight of the moderate/middle class next door. It is apparently “just how things are”.

In most of the U.S. the poverty is kept in distinct neighborhoods with traffic routed around it; in the South its just next door and it is declared ok because that’s how things have always been, and course there are plenty of ‘neighborhoods’ where for long stretches of road its all just poor. When half the population is in poverty it must actually be hard to be aware of, let alone address, the concomitant issue of race and slavery as an institution.

The really crushing part is the de-humanization that apparently can’t be addressed directly, because, “…that’s how it is…”.

In the face of that reality, the world as constituted, is still an astoundingly beautiful place because it is within all of our natures to smile and to laugh within a mostly even mix of deprivation and pain in the heart.

In the hotel parking lot desperate pimps and their prey, the prostitutes, are trying to look confident while they prowl the parking lot of a working-class hotel that caters largely to construction related business and has lots of personal working “rigs” parked there and underfoot are fast, small, subtly colored lizards skittering and dodging about, while a bird I’ve never before heard, is whistling a cheerful tune and in all that moment, lives go on in a desperate struggle and dance through the one molecule thick veil of Ignorance. Just not knowing.

We are all doing our parts to help

clarify the world to ourselves,

not really out of despair but because of a

longing we may not even know is there.

The sun is nothing but the Sun.

Roads Wet Virginia…

In Northern Virgina, Fairfax County, a major suburb of Washington, DC. The local industry has been Government for many decades. In the 60’s I went to High School in Arlington and Alexandria. In ’63 the Martin Luther King speech at Mall, the Kennedy assassination, in ’67-’68 weeks of rioting with maybe 8% of the city burned to the ground during it. US Army jeeps patrolling streets with mounted 50 Cal. machine-guns, just like Saigon, except its our Capital. Two machine-gun emplacements, in front of the Lion statues at the start of the Memorial Bridge facing into the City towards Lincoln Memorial only two hundred feet away. Our Capital was in extreme distress, nobody could really understand it.

Just like today, but we think we are having a unique experience. To us, yes. In history? Hardly. The basic world just keeps going on, it too is changing, but when hasn’t it?

In the midst of change, as I travel and change moment by moment, I marvel. This is a fine world as constituted. Greed, Hate and Delusion. You betcha. Can I notice it in myself? Oh, yeah! Can I mitigate it within myself through effort and allowing? Sure! If I’m willing.

So many variations of people in the world and on the way and on the road. Can I change them, inform them, wise them up, or tell them they are not seeing things clearly and I’m willing to straighten them out? Loud Nope!

I need to contain My Self. That, it turns out, is the only arena where I can observe, reason, allow, and be willing to learn and respond, sometimes all at once; and change is taking and finding its own place.

I’m finding great peace through just asking, “Who is having this difficulty _________________(fill in as appropriate)?”. The answer seems to generally present either a reasonable view of ‘who’ is in fact having a difficulty, or the degree of perceived difficulty. This is not just an easy-fix thing, it seems to merely be a way of viewing Trust at work.

My little local roads and ways of

Getting around have changed to

Toll and EZ Pass’s that lead to High

Rise towers that dwarf the mighty

Pentagon and make it seem like an

Old beat-down shopping mall. I can remember

When the Pentagon Parking lot

Was named ‘Midnight Auto’ by High

School car-buffs on limited budgets.

Adirondack Schroon Moon…

After ten days of little and big motels and Interstate Highways, but mostly on State highways, usually within 20 miles or so of the Interstate, weaving in the same direction but through endless little towns, villages and hamlets; I ‘m finally spending three days visiting with friends. Schroon Lake in the Adirondack Park ( First and biggest in lower 48 States) is glistening in the full moon of October 2020 and three miles up from the lake we sit outside and enjoy a great vegetarian meal and have stimulating and mostly gentle conversation as the temps drop just enough to warrant a coat, and the moon and the light of one lantern are sufficient amidst the shedding Maple trees.

The trip is interesting in that it has no real purpose or intention other than to deepen refuge in the Dharma, a sort of pilgrimage by trying to expect nothing but being willing to accept the unexpected, which it turns out is really just another way of saying trying to live a daily life.

Wherever I go there I am, and in unfamiliar settings that has proved to be unexpectedly challenging, which, it turns out, allows me to see that the practice is everywhere and available; I merely have to turn towards it and suddenly strange places are no longer strange. It’s up to me to remember that the practice and the teachings and the existence of Sangha are with me in my travel. Wherever I go, there it all is.

Including the guy sitting now outside in the motel courtyard lit by blazing barbecue pit, talking to someone on the phone about a recent traffic stop ending up with him being convicted of eight violations and having to do six months in jail, and pay a lot of money in fines. He feels he really messed up this time and something has to change.

I know the feeling. Something has changed but change is not a one time transaction; it’s a process not an event.

Here’s your change sir,

Thank you stopping in.

Have a nice trip. Bye!

Bodhisattvas every where…

Middle America. For a couple of hundred miles, both on the Interstate Highway and the secondary State and County Roads, as far as the eye can see, it is mostly corn, unharvested and rotting; thousands of square miles (?) of food is rotting because of politics, greed, corruption and an old boy network that says the American farmer is going broke. No. Our taxes in the from of subsidies make sure there are very, very few going broke. The old joke about how can you tell whose the richest farmer in the local area? The one that’s got two mailboxes in order to hold all the subsidy checks.

Even farmers laugh at that but in a funny kinda way.

So, this is not meant to be a screed against farmers, they are just regular folks, and like most of us if you luck into a system by birth, marriage or schooling connections, that caters to you, why would you want to investigate that morally or ethically, obviously you are one of the chosen or the blessed,;and that’s that.

That’s one corner of the picture of Middle America, the other parts show kindness, consideration, deeply-rooted conventions of fairness and deep belief in a system that works. The sheer hard work and industry of coming across all that distance and then usurping the folks already there, which never makes you popular with them, and the dang cussedness of staying in place just to show you can. It is worth all the agony and effort and blind willpower to make the desert bloom, and the land of plenty become fruitful and give even more than you can use or sell or just give away; then again that would devalue the thing, So, no. Anyway…

Most of the other corners of Middle America are on the Dow Jones 500.

I am ambivalent when I take great joy in aspects of our history and settlement and cultivation and building and invention. At some point, probably the year 1927 (or so), when Henry Ford built a car on a the assembly line that basically sold for a 1/5 of the price of his early models because he could, and still make a handsome profit. Of course wiser and greedier heads prevailed and that was the last time a product was sold for less when it could be made for less.

In Middle America I was 84 mph on I-90 in South Dakota and the speed limit was 80 and, I was just trying to get past that little gaggle of potential bottleneck traffic when I encountered a Bodhisattva, one of millions and billions,.

This one was parked in his State Police car in the median and I saw him and looked at speedometer and saw I was 4 miles over the limit and hoped/assumed it was going to be a pass…but it wasn’t.

I saw him in my rearview mirror jump onto the road and with no lights come up behind me a couple of miles down the road and just stayed for a bit and then hit his lights and we both pulled over, very safely, to show that I was responsible.

The Bodhisattva was Officer Johnson, and he politely asked if I knew what speed I was doing when I passed by him. I said, “84 maybe 85” raised eyebrows and small friendly shrug; basically totally in the wrong and I had no story. It was what it was.

He then explained that in South Dakota they allow 2 miles above speed limit as a cushion but after that they ticket. He then asked for my license, the whole time scrutinizing my rolling habitat, obviously an elder-coot on the road. I even had a Rand McNally 2020 Road Atlas of the US (A modern artifact/specimen of a bygone time).

He asked me where I was going and I said I’m driving ’round the whole country. He then asked, very astutely and correctly, where I was the day before and where I was going, and when I told him he asked what about the day after that? and I told him I hadn’t decided yet, it was an open ended trip. He gave me back my license, asked me to be cautious with my speed limit awareness and wished me a good trip.

I thanked him and we went our separate ways. He taught me things I need to know about what traveling with Right Mind and Right Effort and Correct Aspiration might be about.

In gratitude to Jizo, Guardian of the Vulnerable (including travelers).

To Kanzeon, Regarder of the Cries of the World.

To Officer Johnson of SD State Patrol, Re-Alligner of the Errant.

Winding roads everywhere…

Today, a long meander through the Black Hills and visiting the Crazy Horse Monument after a night in the shale-oil production center of America, Gillete, WY.

Yesterday I drove through a beautiful 110 mile stretch alongside winding rivers running past little farms and large holdings, horses and cattle mostly, and a 75 mph speed limit on a well-constructed and maintained two-lane State road. In one 20 minute period, I never saw another car, it was very refreshing.

As one approaches Gillete, a prosperous and busy little city, things started looking rather bleak with the vast pits of the mines and huge slag piles in many dozens of places as far as the eye can see. That’s the source of a thriving economy in that area with no thought or realistic memory of the former mining towns whose remains were turned into “Trading Posts” that now cater to tourists by selling fake Western and Indian clutter-stuff. Those new housing developments closer to the slag-piles than the towns won’t last more than another few years. Economic success and lots of new trucks and new stuff, and some price is just now being tabulated for some final total bill due sooner than later.

Just humans going about their lives in a culture that needs some help but is too busy to notice. That includes all of us. That special coffee from that special place in some impoverished country where coffee bean cultivation is destroying useful habitat, and yet it’s so delicious when it is ground and roasted and done in a “pour-over” (hmmmm,,what a concept:) Where people and the earth are mined for the profits and we assert our inherent right (It might be in the Constitution through the Foresight of The Founders), to enjoy on every street corner a Latte or a Cappuccino. We are all doing similar stuff with very similar intentions. Momentarily feel good while dreaming of contentment.

Simultaneously, we point fingers at each other and cannot see that the problem is not an us or a they, it’s merely that we are all just-a-little off in how we view the relationship of the World to Us and especially to the Me.

And, this is a beautiful country.

All these well-paved roads. I bet we have more well paved roads by milage than the rest of the world. I know, but look at all the State Highways and County Roads all of it?

Anyway, we can build just about as good as we destroy, we are adept at both. It’s the wrong kind of balance but it does point directly to something. What is that some thing for me?

Then again, we can’t really judge a balance as such, maybe it is merely choices we are trying to balance?

How do I actually

Be more mindful

Look for proper place

Rather than discarding,

Including all Things

Kalispell Mount Anna…

I left Walla Walla Friday 18th to Joseph, OR and in the afternoon went to St. Maries, ID in both places there are temples of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives within which I do my Buddhist practice. I hope to visit the seven other temples of our Sangha as I criss-cross the U.S. and turning this trip into a form of pilgrimage as well. That is to say, I sense there is a deeper purpose to this trip and am sort of following little prompts that seem to indicate this is a good thing to do. Of course following little prompts that “feel right”, is also what many people do and end up making big mistakes, but all-in-all its generally a learning experience for ones own good. I’ll see; I don’t really have any expectations but some hopes of at least getting a little distance/perspective of my current life/situation and see what is the next good thing to do. I’m getting old, no longer getting older. I’m there, so…

This hotel in Kalispell I’m in has paper thin walls and is three stories of busyness. This morning at 5:30 the folks next door turned on a preacher of some sort and it was astounding the anger and disturbing takes this speaker had on life etc. I felt deeply sad that these folks who listened to this, were making this the first thing they started their day with. Then I realized they were playing the same thing over and over and the logical conclusion I could come to was that the man of the couple was either studying the style and cadence of the speaker, or it was him listening to his own talk and figuring out how to hone his craft. Whatever the case there sure are a lot of different people in this world. Sorts and types.

In a few hours I’m going to have a cup of coffee with a fellow Buddhist trainee, who after years of hard work by herself and her husband, are both experiencing some of the challenges that Life throws, or places in front of us especially as we get older and our realities become accommodations, rather than the fruition of goals.

Grace, and confusion all to be encountered by me this morning in the world that I act in, and the world that I live in. Life is only wonderful because it can be so sad.

Things sure change as they

Get old and comfortable and

A little dusty with a Sprung

Spring showing in memory.

Wonder fully sad and real.