S’no worries…

An interesting week. Last Sunday at the Wallowa Buddhist Temple; after meditation the monks and lay practitioners in attendance conducted and participated in, a Memorial Service for my wife Linda. She died on the 29th of January, 2014 and since the dates coincided with the last day the temple was going to be open before the monks went on their own retreat for the month of February, it seemed good to offer this service. A nice discussion followed along with tea and some goodies and a delicious pot-luck lunch. A nourishing day for many of us, and Linda too.

Went north for a few days and returned very tired from trip and visiting with friends in Tekoa. It’s taking a few days to get back into retreat mode and am a little sick but encouraged because its almost 40 degrees outside.  Spring!  But not, Sproing!!                     That will probably come around March/April.

Part of my personal winter retreat is reading, slowly, the collection of poems titled “The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse” a Chinese hermit/recluse/monk/poet from the 14th Century, translation and commentary by Red Pine, who has done many fine translations over the years. I read a few each day and in a couple of weeks I’ll have gone through the book and then plan to go through it again, writing my own notes relating to the poems and my personal journey along the roads/trails and thickets of Zen.

Also, just finished a nice novel titled “Dictator” by Robert Harris its about Cicero the Roman statesman who was instrumental in various ways (and the recorder) of the changes that took place in The Roman republic from roughly 65 BC to the Triumvirate that ended in the Octavian elevation to Caesar. It’s politically understanding, in the sense that there is nothing new in politics and everyone scrambles, all the time, and they never really know what they are doing. They are just driven by the karma for power and success, and in those days things rarely ended in peaceful retirement. Its based on reality because Cicero left huge quantities of writings and letters. In a way it’s like Procopius’ “Secret” History, or the “Secret History of the Mongols” they  give us a look at reality not legend.

So, in light of todays political angst, the histories and the views of a recluse monk I seem to be landing squarely on the side of stillness. Lord knows I’ve done my share of creating karma that needs help. I’d better get to it and quit all the worry. I do have to remember that worry is also information and teaching, pointing me too…

The snow is so white and furious in its calmness

Just laying there, perching here, sitting on a stump

Quiet and very present. My squinting is making me

Tired and the tension in my eyes is hard to separate

From the worry even though the worry is much,

Much older than the snow. No, no that’s not so…

Snow and worry, water, ice, ocean, accepting, peace. 

Time to feed the donkeys…

And now it’s the 25th of January and the level of fear and worry has risen for many people, and a sense of hope has appeared for many others.

The fear and worry is all about a sense of something entirely new going wrong and this can’t happen here. There’s nothing new, and yes, it can.

The sense of hope has to do with people thinking that finally things will go their way. It may, for a while, but then they won’t like it when it changes, and yes, it will.

I am affected and my feelings are arising in a number of ways, yet my question is always the same.

Since the world is the world and I like it when it comports to my expectations, and I don’t like it when it doesn’t, what can I actually do?

For me, this retreat I’m on gives me the opportunity to look at my reactions physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Quite a mixed bag. I’m grateful that this country and society has given and allowed me the time and freedom from want and worry, to sit quietly, and quite comfortably, and try and see what I can let go of. Let go of, in terms of fear, doubt, worry, remorse, regret, guilt and the consequent anxiety of the future.

My process seems to partake more of seeing where I can loosen my grip* on deeply imbued and settled habits of fear and tension. That loosening is letting go. When I loosen my grip those feelings have a chance to move and wriggle about and then, maybe, I can loosen the grip a little more and those feelings can go out for some air (Yes, torturing the metaphors; Oh, how they wish they could get out of my grip.), and maybe never return, and if they do they’ll not be as close to me as before.

My experience is that to the degree I can let loose on my grip on life the easier things seem to get, and then,the more readily ideas about what I can do to practically help the situation I’m fearful of, or anxious about. Then, I can act more clearly and from a place a little quieter than the fear based presumptions my habitual mind would present as Reality.

The donkeys need some hay and cats are cold and hungry

Each day a little more snow seems to creep onto the scene

Making it beautiful, and fresh, and cold, and I long for Spring

It’s a little too early to yearn too hard for that change, plus 

I can’t bring it about anyway, but it will come on its own

Good time and bring relief and an inner,

I told you so. I just had to stay at peace and throw some hay.

*Grip loosening can consist of merely not believing that something has to be held so tightly.

Alright view…

So far so good.

Slowly starting to adapt to the pull of stillness and meditation. Through a not particularly thorough investigation of what is arising, (The purpose of meditation is not to dissect or scrutinize the the things that arise, rather to just let them be, and look, and let them move on.), I can see the layers of worry, fear, doubt, anxiety, despair, planning, wishing, hoping, and thinking-things-through-to-no-conclusion; just lift off and dissipate to return whence they came. Nowhere. Now here.

Always interesting, that, because I do invest much time in my life dealing with all these feelings and thought processes as if they were extremely important and need my complete belief and attention. Most of them are, in a way, “Fake News! Not Good! Not Fair!”.  It is good to notice them and those that recur frequently (Frequent Flyers, I call them), can be looked at and examined in other contexts but are merely distractions in formal meditation. They do deserve perusal, after all they are coming up for a reason; they want attention because they are trying to teach me something for my own good.

Also, I’m realizing  again (ad-nauseam), that I have no idea of what I’m doing, there’s no real plan here except to see what arises and what my next step in life may be, mostly regarding location. I’ve been unsettled for the last three years. The 29th will be the third anniversary of Linda’s death and it feels like a time for making some decisions. Since I have nothing to base any decision on, i.e. no strong desire to live in a particular place or engage in any particular activity, nor do I have hobbies or any interests that depend on location. I’m fungible (I like the word), I’m inter-changeable with me.                               There are a couple of things that I wouldn’t mind happening in my life but they are completely out of my control so they may happen, or not.

Ultimately I have absolutely no idea where, how, or what, I’ll be doing or thinking after these two months are up, but I’ll see things differently than I do now and I may make decisions that aren’t on the radar right now. I remember that in April of 1967  I was in Basic Training with the Army at Fort Bragg, N.C. Before I went there I had a plan for my life, sort of. Be somebody. That notion has no relevance in my life today.

I’ll never forget the impact those eight weeks had on me. They weren’t among the biggest experiences off my life but they informed a huge portion of it afterward. These super-cold mornings, after feeding the horses I’m sort of looking out for; I run up a small incline, below zero through lots of snow and I chant cadence-counting running songs learned in Basic. “I don’t know but I’ve been told…”  “I want to be an Airborne Ranger, I want to lead a life of danger” “You had a good home and you left…Right!” 50 years later?

All of it had to do with choices. I made many choices based on my very best thinking. That I’m around, healthy, and relatively sane is pure good fortune, good karma. Today, this very day, I am aware of the forces that, despite my best thinking, got me into the position I am in now.

I’m in a smallish cabin in Northeastern Oregon, which I rented with the thought that here I could challenge myself and see if I can come up with twelve little poems worth a gnats fart. But, my being here is not the culmination of a plan or wish. It is the result of actions I undertook as part of getting and staying clean and sober, now almost a half a life-time ago. Previous plans and many of my wishes and actions were completely about me and what I could wrest from, or should be given in life, to make me happy. Those plans and wishes that developed slowly over time in sobriety which coincides with my Buddhist training, seem to have put me into this place, at this time, in this position.

In this cabin by myself, content, sufficient, healthy (ish), sane (ditto), and have the golden opportunity to sit still be quiet and just look at self, the scenery of life, the scenery of the location.

Gratitude!

Just abiding, waiting to see what or which alights next,

Coming to the earth or descending from the vehicle; to

Settle and stay in the place where the opposites may

Arise, yet not confound.

What can be greater fortune than to be aware of

Coming and going, neither ascending nor

Descending, yet finding that seat from which the 

View is all encompassing and disturbing too. Yes,

Is always the right response

No boundary.

Waiting for Winter…

Went to a nice little event in Joseph last night, a presentation of some local musicians,; Mandolin, Dulcimer, electric Cello, etc; and nice vocals of mostly original good folk music rooted in this area. The show was at the Hurricane Creek Grange hall and there was a good turnout of local folks and some nice little snacks during intermission. I left after gobbling some goodies. 8:15 is late for me in the Winter. Anyway, it was a nice way to get a sense of the community here and just meet a few folks.

One of the results, currently, of having moved up here is that I am becoming bit more inward and hope to explore that more as Winter deepens. There seems to be a lot going on in my life and all of it feels like aimless beginnings of something, a slight portentousness to everything. That combination of change, aging, approaching senescence and various infirmities, and a plain old “not Knowing”. Yet, it all feels exactly like it’s what is natural at this point and the teaching with in it all will reveal itself in due time. Or, not.

This morning the Extreme Feral Cat, Quattro, was actually on the edge of the front porch with two of the Breakfast Cats looking on, basking and cleaning himself. Don’t know if that speaks to future harmony, or not.

I’m planning on visiting back East for a week over Christmas with family in Washington D.C. and looking forward to trip. New baby nephew to be viewed and groundwork laid for future spoiling of said child. In case two complete sets of Grandparents fall short of that goal.

So, waiting for Real Winter to arrive and see how that all goes.

Flowing Clouds

Drifting Cloud

Here today,

Here tomorrow.

Thunder, rain

Lightning, snow.

The lake and

Puddle reflect and

Produce them

As the result

Of each other.

We are alike,

Differing forms.

108 solid…

The swirl of youth

great fear and bravado

intermingled. In

side this very being

contemptuous of life

committed to no

thing or any one or two.

single action twenty

two shorts sub sonic

everyone a danger and

no one or thing safe

from this fear.

Oh, dear that never

was or could be. Me,

only means world

alone and no end in

sight. So.

Now, gratitude flows

no source or reason

for, just naturally

appearing at time

and situation with

no co relation but

connections deep to

fear drives aimlessly

in youthful night.

Now, know still, and solid in

this dream, molecules are

universes drifting

in purpose, fully.

 

 

Unmoored in a good vessel…

So, apparently I write a new post on this blog every five months whether I need to or not.

When I restarted this blog I was moving to the Bay area in June of ’14 Now it’s almost May ’16, and I’m going to move back up North in September. Lots of movement, lots of changes and lots of hecticity on some levels but mostly leveling out.

 

This time of actually re-entering the world since my wife Linda’s death in Jan.’14, has been very rich and discomfiting, things are always like that when I have to face uncomfortable aspects of myself. My childishness, my yearning, my unwillingness, my being stuck; and the dichotomy that exists in that I also contain the exact opposites of those aspects of my Self. The serious grown-up who accepts his age and place in the culture and is comfortable in his own skin and sees those yearnings as the old habit patterns of a lost boy, the Zen practitioner who is sometimes so willing that he feels almost completely un-moored and drifting in concert with That Which Is.

All those seeming opposites just part of the whole. All is one. All is different.

I’m going to get back in the habit of writing for my own pleasure and practice  the Way of Being Teachable. There are so many things and people in my life that teach me constantly, I just have to remember that a good student can see connections that hint at meaning; that point one in a direction where there is no solution, no closure, no surety, no “I’ve got it.”; but rather to “That’s interesting.”

An old friend told me she had read all of my posts on this blog, so I reread them myself and was surprised what a shallow self-involved twit I can be, but also somewhat relieved to see that I was trying to Reach Out from that Self. And that’s OK.

I was sitting in meditation in the little Meditation Hall

At Kanzeon Home, where I live; and offering my practice

For the benefit of all beings because

I don’t know what else to do.

Everyone has to be somewhere, and

Everyone has to be doing something.

 

5th of the Five Thoughts

This last of the Five Thoughts sort of roll together all of them and the key word is acceptance.

“We accept this food so that we may become enlightened.”

I think the basic premise in this thought is to remind ourselves as to our real purpose in life. What could be more important than to become aware of our True selves, our actual purpose for life; to really come to know a peace and depth that we did not know was possible.
We accept this food so that we may stay healthy and continue our training and practice to become as the Buddhas and Ancestors, for they were once as we are now, and we will become as they are now.
We accept this food so that we may become more than the small roles we have assigned (or resigned), ourselves to.
The Truth is never far away, it just seems that way because we can’t imagine it.
We accept this food because we intuitively know that the whole of life is contained in our attitude towards sustaining all of life and seeing the inevitable end to that condition. If we can accept this we can get at the root of our own suffering.
We accept this food because there is more and we want to see …

It is good to remember that these Thoughts are just helpful pointers to keep in mind during our daily activities. I have tried to substitute these Thoughts when engaging in a variety of human activities, and they have the same use as before a meal.
Stop and look!
Stop and see!

Accepting this food and linking it to “becoming” enlightened is the big hint towards the Truth that we already are Enlightened, we just may not be aware of it because we are hampered in our awareness by how we act.

These Five Thoughts can be the beginning on how we act, interact, look at, see, treat and allow the various conditions in our lives to be our teachers. They can be the beginning because we have a consistent opportunity to practice and look at them every time we eat.
Accepting is accomplished with hands and heart open, and trying to see that everything in our lives is a gift.
Accepting is not receiving, getting, or acquiring something.
It is acknowledging a gift with small smile and a slightly bowed head or sometimes, with a full prostration and an aching heart; and all the various possibilities between the slightly bowed head and the full prostration(with or without aching heart); depending on the situation or circumstance. 

Acceptance and Gratitude….Horse and Carriage.

3rd of Five Thoughts…

The excluding greed part may initially just consist of cutting back a little on our greeds and indulgences. We are trying to change in accordance with Right View and Right Understanding and Right Effort. This means being practical and not harsh or extreme in our efforts to change. I like to formulate it as refraining from doing something and then using restraint and then after some effort the activity or greed is naturally excluded.

“We must protect ourselves from error by excluding greed from our minds”

This third thought, at its most basic level addresses our attitude towards that food and eating in general.
Wanting too much. Wanting only “good” food. Wanting food we like. Wasting food when we have put too much on our plate. To make eating a central part of our daily existence, etc;
Lots of mistakes come from being greedy about food and drink.
This thought also questions our other desires; i.e. wanting approval, sex, relationships, money, status and the myriad other natural inclinations that can tip into greed or overindulgence.
Many mistakes come from being greedy in those areas.
So, greed is a problem; but also our trying to exclude greed from our minds can be problematic.
Some examples are the alcoholic, the over eater, the sexual compulsive, and those other categories where we overly and overtly indulge, often to our detriment. Ask anyone with those issues how easy they are to control, even when they are aware of them.
In Buddhist practice the way we can approach these “greed” aspects of ourselves, is to be willing to look at and try to change the behavior, without being harsh and judgmental to ourselves, by attempting to actively refrain from indulging in them.
When we make these efforts over a period of time we often find some relief. Willingness seems to be the key.
There are other greed’s that can be very tricky because they seem to be good greed’s.
Spiritual greed. Do-gooder/helper greed. Greed for justice and fairness, etc;
We have lots of historical examples of those greed’s getting out of hand.
In the Five Thoughts, we are looking at greed’s that cause personal difficulties. Those greed’s that come between us and a healthier body, a healthier mind, better relations with other people and with our families.
The greed’s that come between us and The Eternal, or our higher sense of purpose.
Like the previous two “thoughts” there is a whole range of meaning and fruitful endeavor to be considered in the activities of our lives.
These “Thought” questions bring up feelings of insurmountability at times, but in the greater context of “Today I undertake to train myself to refrain from…..”, they are logical challenges to be faced and they become part of the woof and warp of daily life; just like getting gas for the car, tending to plumbing problems, brushing my teeth and generally “getting on with it”.
Within all of these daily efforts moments of pure joy can just arise.

Through these mundane small endeavors a sense of sufficiency, adequacy and contentment can appear, and those three results are a more stable base from which to approach daily life rather than seeking mere circumstantial happiness.

 

wisp of fog and compassion…

Just spent a few days very busy with our Sangha, a retreat day of meditation and dharma talk/discussions. The next day a well attended Festival of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion; one of Mahayana Buddhism’s primary figures in regards to the teachings on compassion and what that word means, how to access it and make it real in our lives for ourselves and for others.

The name Avalokiteshvara, translated from the Sanskrit means Regarder of the Cries of the World. The aspect of listening deeply is as important as the wish to help beings, including oneself, in skillful ways that are conducive to any one’s spiritual needs being met.

Yesterday was a day of helping a Sangha member do some garden irrigation and move some items to a new abode. 105 steps up a hillside, steep too.

Old coot mountain goat,

Breathless. The view of

San Francisco. Distant

Between the Mountains

Glistening  between the

Sun,

The water bright as the 

First wisp of fog

Eases

Over the nearby hillside.

Old coot mountain goat,

At rest, breathing in

Distant fog, shimmering

City, Bay of Light.

early morning exchange…

“Sometimes I get these feelings of being completely out of place. Distant from understanding anything. Then they pass. I don’t get them often. I kind of like them because they help to re-order my thinking. Regain some perspective. Yet, they have an undefinable wistfulness them that seems important. So I try to honor the feeling because it seems like a type of teaching I am being given.
Actually the above paragraph (?) is truer than I thought it would be. I think I’ll use it as a taking off point for my blog and personal writings. I always feel truer around you . Weird, huh?….”

Isn’t that how the mind works? Thinking, feeling, assessing, worrying, and then revisiting some more and, sometimes, sharing. In the sharing the process changes from being inwardly convoluted (bound), to outwardly expository and revealing (loosening). A shedding of light by exposing intimate process to another. Similar to the experience one can have when involved and concentrating on a task at hand that has a private aspect to it; (Drawing, creating, sanding some wood to good finish, sewing, assembling something intricate and useful, any activity that draws us into it.) and, while we are in the activity we sense another person watching us intently. If we are connected in some way to the watcher it is slightly different than if the watcher is someone we either don’t know very well, or not at all. In either instance we get a heightened sense of awareness of ourselves, the activity, and the presence of the watcher. A fuller view of something.
This is the process of sharing.
When truly done, it has transformative potential for the doer, the observer, the exchange between the two, and the activity (the doing and the observing thereof), itself.

Yep, the above is how the mind works. One of them anyway.

The quote is from a text I sent to a longtime friend at 6:00 a.m. after I had texted earlier that I was feeling out of sorts and, in response, was asked, “Why out of sorts???”

That’s what friends do.

They ask?

We ask.

They respond.

We respond.

The small exchanges.