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.