Lean into the mountain…

A week of snow, on and off, and some single digit temperatures. A taste of Winter. Just enough to get me kind of excited. I’d forgotten how the Winters up here can be an ongoing challenge. All modes of transport involve extra care. Walking is most dangerous in town, because most places don’t shovel their sidewalks, either correctly or at all and no parking lot or street parking is safe; once your out of your car, walk mindfully.

Modern times add a few extra concerns. When the Wi-fi broadcast signal goes out on Sheep Ridge, it may not come back on for the rest of the day or tomorrow. Arhggggg!!! Can’t access Facebook! Missing out on pictures of casserroles,  grandkids in school plays, and that newfangled dessert they’re offering at TGI-Fridays, and those cute  cat-videos. What amused us before cat videos?

Anyway, enough of a preview to make me look forward to Jan. Feb. and March. I plan to make those “retreat(ish)”months where I can hunker down and look at  my spiritual life in terms of meditation and being still. Spiritual belt-tightening as Reverend Alden used to call it.

In the meantime, this week I’m getting ready to go back to D.C. over Christmas and just relax, having gotten into the swing of things here on the ranch, I can see myself holding forth on the plane to the poor unfortunate sitting near me, how it’s good to get away from all that jus’ plain ol’ ranchin’; even though I’m just a Ranch Finger, part-time volunteer at that. Like the ladies at the Hospital gift-shop; helpful and necessary  but not vital to the operation, yet certainly to their own well-being.

The bulk of the herd is out to Winter pasture and there is only an Old Mare and a One-eyed Stallion to feed on the lower pasture and two nice Donkeys in an upper paddock who are not too happy to be there because they have no cover; but I bring them some carrots twice a day along with some alfalfa and go and break up the ice on the water trough they share with the horse herd, which also gives me a chance to yack and pet with them for a bit; sometimes one or two of the Breakfast Cats come along and and make nice with the Burros too. I named them Lewis and Clark, because they are so intrepid and can-do.

Also, four  Pack-Mules and Luna and her Colt, Roscoe , who was born one morning in a ditch of water in pasture below my cabin. That morning I felt I was in a movie, I milled around as he was being helped to drink milk, taken from his mother because he was too small to stand and get his own, and after four hours he stood up and he found the nipple. He survived after couple of other drawbacks and is now a rambunctious little colt who already acts like a Future Stallion. Those four mules will help keep him in line as he goes through his first Winter.

There are also two Elk carcasses down by the river that had been butchered and are now in the capable hands of the Magpies, Coyotes and a Golden Eagle who I have seen fly above.

I went by there the other morning to do a short Buddhist Funeral service for them and chant some bits of scripture that I felt appropriate while circambulating them in the snow. Magpies waited patiently. One line goes “…the things that are eaten, and those doing the eating are universally void of Self…”. There is nothing to judge, in any fashion. Everything has a reason for being the way that it is. There is always a “before”

The past is Prelude.

The question for me is, “What am I building Now and how does it influence the Future?” , and that is part of that looking within and seeing where I can do better; that this Winter will be partly focused on, the other parts are doing the things that need doing and those that are good to do. Hopefully, they combine more often than not.

Ascending the mountain I lean into

It for help and, it is given.

Standing in the stream I look up and 

See the water flowing towards and away,  down 

Behind me.

Yet, there I am.

 

Never metaphor I…

Last week a resentment swarmed up the stick I was using to poke at all the little ways the world and the people in it were not behaving in ways that pleased me.

At first, of course, justifications took precedence and those lasted for a good couple of hours; then the niggle that perhaps I was wrong and not seeing clearly arose and that took a couple of days and a sleepless night to become apparent as true. I also had to do some things. Sit still. Examine. Open my heart. Be willing. Be teachable. Give myself the Dharma. Accept the teachings as they came. Two dreams. One, pulling a large wooden splinter out of my right eyeball with tweezers in the bathroom mirror. The other, walking next to my teacher, and he, uncharacteristically, putting his hand around my shoulder as we walked and I felt only Love being transmitted.

He was one of the objects of my resentment because sometimes I don’t like the way he does things.

Almost twenty years of my accepting (haltingly and with bristling, carping and grousing at various times), this student/teacher- master/disciple intention experiment (“We’ll see how it goes…”) and having to remember my part. To examine, to accept; to make the teaching true for myself. That truth which transcends teacher and student, peasant and sage; and does not stand against itself.

My former father-in-law, a true Irish self-made-man, Joe L. used to say “You can’t have it every-which-way!” The truth.

Anyway, it takes what it takes and I have to remember that “one should always be disturbed by the truth”, because otherwise it’s just an agreement between what I know, what I think I know, and how the world appears in relation to all that, to me. Dead end.

Resistance is a many-headed dragon. It doesn’t need slaying, just some good nourishment and a safe place to rest and enough comfy pillows for all its heads. Luckily I have Resistance Whisperers in my life.

 

This Moment. No Worries…

” To be without a reference point is the ultimate loneliness. It is also called enlightenment. The mind with no reference point does not resolve itself, does not fixate or grasp. How could we possibly have no reference point? To have no reference point would be to change deep-seated habitual response to the world: wanting to make it work out one way or the other. If I can’t go left or right, I will die! When we can’t go left or right, we feel like we are in a detox center. We are alone, cold turkey with all the edginess that we’ve been trying to avoid by going left or right, That edginess can feel pretty heavy.”

The above is a quote from Pema Chodron in a portion of one of her books where she writes about the Six Kinds of Loneliness (or Aloneness, as I like to think of it).

She writes about the process of becoming unstuck and how difficult that is. Unstuck from our dependence on always trying to find relief, comfort, cessation of of dis-ease and generally trying to avoid “yucky”, and all of those consternations that can range from a Pimple on the Nose on Prom Night, to Nuclear Holocaust, to This is Not What I Ordered, to Diagnosed With About Two Months To Live, etc:

The question of how to come to terms with all our discomforts. When we desperately want a reference point. That reference point usually partaking of some relief or dissociation from the perceived “problem”. This last Saturday at a day long retreat at our Berkeley temple we spend time in meditation and discussion about cultivating the 6 Kinds of Aloneness ( formulation with word “aloneness” being one that I find more resonant than the “loneliness” referred to by Pema Chodron, but that’s a personal thing, we all have to work with certain concepts for a while and allow our own minds and hearts to address a teaching in our own way). Pema Chodron offers the Six Kinds as being states that we can cultivate within ourselves, they are;

Less desire; contentment; avoiding unnecessary activity; complete discipline;; not wandering  in the world of desire and, not seeking relief from ones own discursive (rationalizing), thinking.

I found all of these aspect very challenging. I won’t go into the heart of her writings here, they can be found through a simple Google search and in her books. She is a profound teacher and a perfect example of a committed trainee who continues to explore the Dharma despite daunting obstacle. A true profile in courage.

What I found most challenging, as usual is the simple fact of the matter, that once I get through reading, meditating with and discussing and ruminating over these concepts, they are nothing until I try and try, and try again, over and over, to apply these teachings, even in the smallest way, to my daily life. That is where the challenge lies for me. I am so conditioned to experience Big Ideas, Big Movement, Big Shifts, Big Drama, Big Finish, Bigger is Better in Everything, that I forget this most basic and useful little idea.

The longest journey begins with one step. Then continues with another. Then another, and so, forth…

I have to remember that change takes

Place at the imperceptible level.

The Big is always comprised of

Many Smalls bound Together in a

Concert that has Objectives that are

Not Apparent within the Thing Itself.  

The White Snow in the Bright Moon

Hides. Resemble’s each the other,

Yet these two are not the same. 

(D)construction

A lot going on, as in a variety of things, forces, karma’s, opportunities, opening doors, doors closing, new doors and, some windows I hadn’t noticed before; Appearing.

It looks like it will be a busy year.

I expect to be involved in trying to set up a small retirement/affordable-housing community for serious religious (probably Buddhist but not necessarily), people who would like to live in a quiet setting in an urban environment, and are physically well enough to not require a “care” or medical living situation. So, a potential for doing good with lots of complex issues that would have to be resolved beforehand and with many unforeseen complications inherent.

I am also getting involved in trying to set a meditation group with a general orientation towards those people involved in 12-Step type of programs. This group would be under the auspices of a Buddhist group that is already organized and well attended in Napa. The view is that it may be good that the more secular or non-religious 12-Step folks can avail themselves of a meditation practice that is not presented as religious (i.e. Buddhist, or other), but has overt implications for the practice of the conscious contact with a power greater than themselves, component of the 12-Step process. So, this too has potential for good but, like all things, contains within itself the potential for the opposite, having within it room for a paralyzing array of opinion and mindsets.

Also, I am hoping to resolve the divesting of my house and property in Tekoa this year. I am (as I suspected) not really willing to be a “landlord”. I worry too much. Fortunately, the person who is renting the house wants to buy it and is a good friend who seems to feel very at home there.

I have made the decision to stay in the Bay area for at least for 2-3 years to work on the above endeavors and see what unfolds in terms of my spiritual life and training. I went to a serious Taoist practitioner of acupuncture the other day for a treatment and was a bit startled by the effects. I will go twice more to try and triangulate my experience and then decide whether to go on with this particular practitioner or explore others. This is all in conjunction of my ramping up of my Wushu Chi-gong practice. The ramping up is actually a refining, but I want to find the right person to guide me in that; Ive been at it for many years but I think I need to get a little more age appropriate.

In the meantime the feeling if gratitude continues to grow. To be alive and aware in a world that is presented to us for our own good is a miracle on the one hand, and oh so ordinary, on the other hand. The gratitude takes in and reflects both the everyday and miraculous aspects; and, here’s the beauty of it all.                                                              The common, and the miraculous, are one and the same.

                                                      The human body   is   85%

Water.  90%  is composed of

Bacteria, viruses, microphages

And little beasties that are not

Us, we, or me, or you. Without

 Them  there is no We, Me, You, I, 

Or Thou. Or It.

       Only ten percent of our body is our very own DNA.

 Within the common

 Miracle of existence  there  is  only  this

 Life.  For now.  Nothing special.  Yet,

  Something,  Is going on,  will always  go

   On,  and On;   and gravity is explained by

   What it does,   yet   no one knows  How  it, or

   Love,   for that matter,  works.

    What is the Mystery?    

  Why?   Why not?   I ask.

 

mixing pounds and sense…

A manager learns how to do things right.

A leader does the right thing.

In the spiritual life the above principles

don’t stand against each other.

They depend on a good teacher.

An encounter with the truth.

First we learn how to do things. Not think things.

Then, after a period of time of trying to do things right we naturally become able to Lead a good life.

Like a simple recipe.

One Pound of Butter.

One Pound of Eggs.

One Pound of Flour.

Those ingredients do

Not a cake Make.

Unless Mixed and put

In the Oven to Bake.

Weed revealed as ordinary flower…

Nessuno e Sagia da maggio, a maggio. No one is wise all the time.

Today walking along the Vallejo waterfront in a cool sunny day I realized once again that the keys to happiness are to allow it to arise naturally.

I must prepare my ground.

Not tilling. Not digging. No furrows. No trellises. No rows to hoe. Just leaving things be until the time and place are ripe for seeds to be scattered.

The seeds I want to scatter are;

Contentment: Being aware that everything in my life is given or presented to me for my own good.

Sufficiency:    I lack nothing. I am bidden to accept my life as it is.

Adequacy:      As I stand on the earth today I am able to see that the above two views are the opportunity (The Field), for me to practice being still, and seeing things as they really are. All is One. All is Different.

Within those seeds are the potentials within me to help or to hinder. The more I help, the more fertile the ground the above seeds are sown on and a beautiful weed (It’s a weed because I didn’t deliberately plant it.)  sprouts and starts to grow with pleasing flowers and fragrance. That weed is Happiness.

I notice that Happiness is not composed of The Most Beautiful Flowers in the World, or the Headiest Fragrance Ever.

Rather, it is just pleasing; all the way around. In every aspect and facet.   It is Contentment, Sufficiency & Adequacy…

A revelation that keeps on giving and if I can view it correctly; enough.

Word power…

The power of words and the ideas they impress on us.

We use all sorts of words and combinations thereof that are unique to each of us. Like a fingerprint. However, unlike a fingerprint, words not only define us individually, but they also describe us and often form us.

(Disclaimer: I have an ongoing challenge with using certain words under the guise of “punctuation” or mimicry (me me cry) of ostensible past self, or others. So, a work very much in progress.)

Words form us because with each use we channel deeper the rut of some thought-life-pattern. We don’t do this consciously. It’s an deeply ingrained aspect of our consciousness.

It’s very hard to think or see clearly when we are bogged down in words, and its very hard to think or see clearly when we are afraid of words. But the words we use, and their context, are really much more windows to our “soul” than the eyes.

We lay ourselves bare while reinforcing the “self”.

We all know people who use their words in terrifically facile ways and can obfuscate and misdirect and hide with them.

Usually not for long though. We see through most things except when we are in a fog ourselves. Angry, happy, despairing, in love, out of love, in yearning, in despising, in grasping after, or pushing away; in any number of mental conditions that cloud clarity.

We rarely know when we are using words in wonderfully facile ways to delude ourselves, because when we are angry, happy, despairing, in love, out of love, in yearning, in despising, in grasping after, in pushing away; the nature of this fog is to build that false sense of the “self” (i.e. ego) and take it for the truth and purpose of life.  At the cost of not being able to see that other people are just as deluded as we are. Mostly because of the words we cling to. They are the expression of habitual patterns of seeing ourselves in relation to the world outside of us.

Quite a muddle.

Seemingly.

The value of being still, deliberately still, for a period(s) of time. Perhaps each day, but certainly on a regular basis really is profound. It is through these moments of agreeable stillness and quiet that we can begin to glimpse past the habit patterns, and sometimes see how we construct them.

And then comes the mystical part. We don’t have to do anything. We can just see them.

And then comes the practical part. We can change in small ways how we repeat (or refer to), these patterns.

Between the above two “and’s” is a transformation in how we do and how we think.

“I can’t breathe!” means a lot of different things to different people at different times. But we know it can’t be good.

 

Things are settling down internally and in general. The continuous contact with fellow trainees and constant exposure to the dharma and the sangha are just what the doctor ordered. Being in a structured environment of this type is being in a constant learning mode because the whole point of the practice is to examine one’s self in detail. At this point I’m in a bit of a “limbo” because after next week I go and house sit for two weeks for some friends who are experiencing for the first time the prime imperative of all grandparent.

“MUST SEE AND CUDDLE NEW GRANDCHILD ASAP: COLLEGE LOOMS!”

After that I’ll be back at temple and probably have a different take on things just because of the proximity to old friends and the newness of the sensory overload will have worn off a bit. So many details left undone.

Thank you good friend who is renting my house for being patient with the things I left undone.

It’s also been fun seeing and working on repairing and replacing things I helped build or install twenty some years ago.

Life’s a journey

And we don’t go very far;

Not as far as we think.

Then again there is no

Limit to the space we

Occupy. Just us. Just This.

push/pull

I arrived in Bay area Saturday afternoon. I’m settling in slowly to the pace and activity of the temple. This week I’ll get up to speed on day to day doings and remembering various aspects of ceremonies and such, things we didn’t practice at home. But, like bicycle riding its in the memory somewhere. In my last minute rush of course I forgot some things and left a few things undone, luckily my friend who will be living in that house is helping to tie up loose ends, plus she was willing to take on the dog and cat care as well. She’s not  huge fan of cats but I’m sure will learn to love my adorable feline.

Moving from a small town in a rural setting into the Berkeley hub-bub is a bit of culture shock to say the leas,t so I think it will take a few weeks to settle in to the pace of everything; one block over is Solano Ave., and I would guess there are 30-40 restaurants in a ten block stretch. Only one of each Subway and Starbucks and the rest are just small enterprise. Everything from Nepalese/Tibetan, to Chilean, to Afghan/Cuban, and then there are some unusual ones. Same with stores, and the people. Any five people you see are all from different places in the world. A rather heady experience for this re-transplant.

I will be posting more often and get back to my previous blog’s practice of posting daily in a week or so, once I’m settled in physically and mentally (spiritually). I must say that when the time comes to make some choices in a year, that little town sure has lots of good memories going for it. I feel so fortunate to be able to have this type of quandary in my life, and even more so because any choice I make will be informed by the practice and training in Zen that keeps straightening my path, spine and convictions when I wander, feel weak, or am confused.

Propelled or pulled

No difference at all

When in motion trying

To be still, and at rest.

Finally pulled out of Tekoa at 3:30 this afternoon. Some things left undone but mostly everything is finally in motion.

I had terrific experience of being the pleasantly surprised victim of a surprise going away gathering at local coffee shop “Eclairs”. So many kind people that have become friends in my time there. I was really moved. The word community has taken on a much deeper meaning in the last 5 or 6 weeks. More is being revealed. I’m so happy to be 66 years old and still discovering new depth and experience about people and life. True joy.

I did make the first leg of my journey, only four hours and I’m in Boardman on the Oregon side of the Columbia River in very nice, reasonably priced hotel with a good restaurant and great view of the setting sun on river. The first time in my life I just sat and enjoyed a setting without thinking about journey. I’m on one and have no worries, a very good friend is living in my house and taking care of it and my dog and cat. I have opportunity to practice full and complete trust. My life is so rich, good friends and on my way to reconnect with the sangha in Bay area and deepen my Buddhist training while not having any outcome in front of me. Yes, there are some things I would like to happen but I’m really tired of wanting outcomes, so I think I am finally ready to accept what is brought into my life. I’ll accept. I’ll allow, I won’t preclude or exclude. I want to help and to be helped. I bow in gratitude.