Yay! For us…

A common phrase I use and have heard many others use and seems ubiquitous in many conversations within ourselves or with others, friends or strangers. It’s often an attempt to describe the condition of not being able to understand some concept, activity, situation or personal hopes and fears and their mingling.

“I’m crazy.” is a rather bold statement to make and is often a bit over-the-top in relation to what’s really going on, but in general I see it as an assertion that something in my personal world (which includes all of The World), is making me uncomfortable, creating confusion, fear, doubt, worry or a dream-like quality in my life that seems apart from my usual understandings.

It is not a condemnation, rather an understanding that much of the time my view of the world does not comport with reality across a broad spectrum of potentials. Recently, I’ve come to an understanding with those words that has turned them into the beginnings of an actionable clarity. To see that the statement is the beginning of an ultimate compassionate diagnosis that my mind is often slightly askew; hence “I’m crazy.”

Gently whispered, not yelled.

I have the tools to look at things more clearly and assess the “problem” and see where help is needed or called for or if things should just be left alone. Most troubles of the mind heal by leaving them alone. Not discarding or dismissing but setting them gently down, not in anybodies way, and then letting them be.

After some time, our view about them changes, and that changes them.

For the last few weeks I’ve become somewhat overly concerned about the seeming rapidity of a cognitive diminuendo I’ve observed within my daily activities. That, coupled with a lot of old habits in thinking from when I was young, angry, fearful and prone to misunderstanding all of life returned with a vigor that was troubling because I had thought for some time now I was past all “that”, and had become a mellow Buddhisty kind of guy. Yet, there it was all coming back and I was troubled and thought, “I’m going crazy!” (a trifle loudly), and left it at that in an attempt at resignation in place of examination.

Then, a couple of days ago I got a message from a good friend asking me for some help/advice and perhaps zoom-time to discuss some real on-going health (physical and emotional) concerns, within the context of our Zen practice. I’m no teacher by a long shot, but I feel comfortable enough to talk about solutions that have worked for me, in the same way that I can talk to a recovering alcoholic about practical ways to approach that difficult process of actualizing (making real), change within one’s habits and world outlook. In both instances the answers are almost always practical things we can set into motion to put us into a better position to see the problem /issue more realistically.

I’ve been sober almost 38 years after having ended up in the gutter begging for 85 cents for a bottle of wine (Short-dog of Thunderbird), and with help I was able to access more help and then participate in myrecovery. Alcoholism, like most issues in life is a spiritual problem as well as a habit/addiction, and just the tip-of-the-iceberg once we get serious in matters spiritual and life-affirming.

What I realized, once again, as I was talking and texting/e-mailing with my friend that I was having a problem that would be helped with the same advice or thoughts that I was offering. I was actually talking to myself also and a clarity was glimmering as a sense of hope and it was all actionable.

In other words, I could move from the stuckness in Wrong View to seeing how I could actively participate and transform that slowly but surely, over the ensuing period of time, into Right View.

Nothing fancy, no big concepts. Just being aware of how the body and mind are reacting to the same feelings, thoughts, emotions and memories (some completely false), that used to move me into discomfort and trouble- resulting behaviors, responses and reactions to daily life when I was young and ‘out amongst em’. As a young man I’m the one who excluded me, cast me out, made me feel the outsider.

Nobody did that too me. If they did it was a response to my own choices/actions, not the Universe having me as little being to bat around with Its Paws just for fun.

So, it was just a re-hash of my old (younger)self that was re-appearing for more consideration to allow a deeper cleansing to take place, when I participate; and allowing (allow, allow, allow) things to find their own peace within my effort to not be moved but rather remain calm within unfolding of old karma.

It turns out that is my purpose in life. Not to sit around and ask why me? But to investigate why not me? I’m not special, nor is anyone else. Yes, we all have an opportunity to learn, re-learn and re-re- how to change by trying to be more still than not, and allow a natural process of continuous Good to arise within us at all times. The inherent willingness we all have to help others is intertwined with an innate ability to help ourselves simultaneously, maybe not even knowing we had needed or gotten help; probably an aspect of synchronicity etc.

Yay for Us, we’re not born to

Be condemned from the

Start. We come to

Life to learn How to Be

Kind, first to our selves

Then to others and All

Living things. All of

Them, and we are Part

Of that Too.

Yay! For Us.

participating, ending, and…

I am having a “slow morning” as they say. It’s been a busy few days, A large Buddhist burial for a young man in Marin County who was run over and killed by a car as he was out celebrating a new job, plans for marriage, and house-hunting to have begun this week. He was run over by a teen-aged woman who stopped immediately and called 911 but it was too late. He was dead and she lives with the fact of having directly participated in someone’s death. Both sides just out for an evening with a life and future opening up in some fashion.

From a Buddhist point of view it’s one more instance of something being played out that is a result of actions set into motion in the past, and the resulting feelings now engendered become part of future actions, and so it all goes on and on.

There would be no teaching or learning happening if there were not an apparent and actionable solution for cycles set into motion. The teaching for this is what a lot of Buddhist practice points to. We can learn to respond and react to the world carefully, considerately and compassionately. We can practice this by being still within, and watching and observing through self-awareness, over time, that our feelings come and go and can influence our actions and responses with seemingly irrevocable consequences.

Yet, anything can be amended over time; with care, with love, with good-will and intention. To amend just means to make something better than it currently is. We can actively participate in changing how we view the world and its conditions and our place in it. This takes time, effort and patience and the result tends to be that we can be softer and easier on others and ourselves. In other words, we can live more carefully and put fewer future consequences into motion for ourselves and others. Now and in the future.

That funeral was a teaching for everyone who attended. After it was over, people went on and got lunch, bought gas or groceries and watered their garden and loved and fought and talked and thought and got brought back in to the swirl of life that seemingly has lots of time for feeding good feelings, as the antidote for bad feelings, and the cycle continues. That life is a constant and not episodic teaching isn’t readily apparent often because we seem to prefer and respond to events, rather than flow.

I am the only one who can interrupt this cycle of being moved by feelings and thinking that is all there is, and wondering why there doesn’t seem to be more. I am the only one who can do that for me, and I can’t do it for anyone else. I am the solution to the problems of life and the “world”. My life, my world.

Yikes! Often I’m just not ready for that; but it seems very true.

It is not a gigantic enterprise but it has huge impact in the same way that raindrops, when joined by others, can change the world in creating life, habitat, sustenance, growth as well as floods, droughts and various lacks depending on conditions that change constantly.

We, individually, can change the world, this one and a future one by how we are in it.

It doesn’t’t require heroics or drama, rather small efforts to be still and to see, to listen, to do, to not do, to help, to offer love, compassion and sympathy, for others and to ourselves, because we aren’t lost we are just little bewildered at times.

A burial on a hillside into hand-dug hole

Wrapped in a cotton sheet with

Hundreds of friends and family

Positioned, once again, to examine

The great question for all of us. Why?

drip drip flow…

We apparently are all going through a time of uncertainty, according to the various info-media I choose to encounter. A lot of that blather is about why we are uncertain, how we experience it, how much we don’t like it and what the prospects are of it changing through time and various conditions. My observation and experience so far is that the ‘going through’ is extending and we are seeing that this may never substantially revert back into the dream we’ve been having. The former Normal.

We may be waking up a little from some of those expectations and starting to see the possibility of settling into a world where nothing is guaranteed. Nothing can be promised that is of any real value. Which is what the former “Normal” was, we just haven’t had  an all-inclusive wake-up call like Covid/Climate change since WWII…So, this time around we may be able to achieve various things that seem to be stubbornly elusive.

Kingdom of Heaven? Pursuit of Happiness? Freedom from Hunger? Equality of Races, of Sexes, of Genders, of Opportunities? A Fair Trial? Good Education for all? A Roof Over our Heads? Safety?  Freedom from Fear?  Of disease? Of dying before ‘our time’?…Freedom from Suffering and Discomfort? 

I’m not holding my breath on any of the above becoming a general reality in any foreseeable future that I can envision, although the arena of ‘Freedom from Suffering and Discomfort’ is kind of an encapsulation of all of the others and I believe that is achievable and possible for us individually.

The problem with the solution is it involves letting go of our most cherished beliefs, ideas and concepts. Those are the very things that define us. Raise us above…My beliefs, ideas and concepts define me. They make me real. So, this Me has to change.

Not us, not you. Me! I’m the only thing I can change. I can influence a lot of things and some people and I’d rather do that than change me

If you have a few minutes, hours, days, weeks months years, aeons, I’ll tell you all about how real I am by telling you about my ideas, beliefs and concepts. All that stuff is like a giant block of granite. its taken ages to form and now, it seems, I’m stuck with me.

Self-awareness is like a constant dripping of water on a block of granite. It changes it by diminishing it. Slowly.

Like all metaphor, the granite only works for the first iteration, so I’ll jump on to awareness. (The granite slinks away:)

By stopping for a few moments throughout my waking time and assessing what’s going on around me and what’s going through me (thinking/feeling), I can begin to take a position of being at a remove from my Self as a sometime unattached observer. I find that very interesting and sense that it may have huge possibilities and implications. Drip.

To be aware of what’s going through my mind in thinking and feeling and allowing it to just pass through (drip drip), and not worry where it’s going or came from (drip drip) takes a lot of effort and time (drip drip). Yet, at some point I can see this is a more Natural state (drip drip drip), than believing every little thing that my mind and feelings latch on too.

So, the solution to my problems seems to be becoming familiar and at ease with my own thought and feeling processes by just being still and allowing; quietly observing the mind as it goes on with its chatter and, after some time, it Naturally quiets down. Flow…

Seems like an opportunity for something and I still have to go about the daily business of living and helping myself and others. There seems to be plenty of time for all of it if I just allow things to be, to develop.

After some time there seems to be less worry and stress and fear and more sense of gratitude and a sort of ease. The key words being; After some time (and effort).

 

Interrupting the flow

Through curves and rocks

Creates the sound of

Life and chatter of an

Eternity. Murmurs of

Contentment follow.

 

12 years ago…

Going through old files, I found three years worth of a daily blog I did in ’09. ’10’ and ’11

MONDAY, MAY 18, 2009

Education (T.S. Elliot?)

I read somewhere that T.S. Elliot said/wrote something to the effect that, a truly educated person is someone who learned things they didn’t want to. Presumably this refers to folks churning through Latin or Greek grammar classes thinking they’d rather be at a pub. It certainly points to a quandary for the autodidact of my type.

I was never disciplined enough to follow the regimen of classes, schools and teachers, but I was curious and blessed with an ability to see connections that were more intuitive than intellectual. This is a reasonably good method to get an education if you keep at it for a long time, read continuously, and have a variety of things you find interesting and take the time to pursue them.

Sometimes though, I sort of wish that I had followed directions a little better.

Then again, I’m glad I didn’t, and gotten bent and stuffed into a niche that left me “productive” and “contributing” and facile in the ways of “going along to get along”.

Of course that could also be a good description of a fool (the nail that sticks out gets hammered down).

I find it ironic that today, by choice, and the absolute result of my contrary ways, I follow a path that asks me to discipline myself. As I go along this path I find more real freedom and openness than I ever could have imagined possible left to my own devices.

It seems that it is good to learn in structured settings and it is also good learn by jumping into the deep end.

Today I had a short conversation with a college student between freshman and sophomore years and was happy to hear his enthusiasm for college, but sort of uneasy when he described the reading program he had for the Summer. I thought , “That’s it? For a whole Summer? Three books? Yikes!”

To this young person I would suggest that he goes to two people he respects and two people he doesn’t, and ask each one to recommend three books to read. Get those books and read them this Summer.

I would recommend a book by Louis L’Amour titled “Education of Wandering Man”. I’ve never read any of his westerns but this memoir of his self-education as a itinerant worker and wanderer is a inspiring look at an independent thinkers approach.

We are truly fortunate to live in a time and place when literally all of the worlds written/gathered knowledge is accessible to anyone with a library card. WoW!!

…therefore I am.

A morning at California DMV and I am officially back in California. License plates and a new driver’s license. When the new license came in the mail I first thought, “Oh no! Wrong picture. That’s some old coot!” Then I remembered. It was a picture of an old coot.

So, I have slowly come to ease with my new (to me) status, Californian and Old Coot. And I like it just fine. When I first got here in 1970 it was to get relief from problems back in D.C. and Virginia where I got involved in a lot of stuff and things which were just the natural result (karma) of all the stuff I had been doing and become. In San Francisco they hardened into a personality and a life and a way of seeing the world that would be difficult to overcome. Nevertheless, at some point around age 35 I started to change. Not because I wanted too but needed to, if I wanted to live.

So, here I am in Bay area again, and again no plan and also not a getaway. I’m not running. I’m meandering because that is, it turns out, part of my path. Not seeking, not looking; more allowing and trusting that this life, the one I’m in, is sufficient and adequate to the purpose that I’ve assigned to it.

To reach out, yet not stretch. To yearn and not crave, to touch and not grasp, to release and not discard, to understand rather than insist. Participating in the inevitability of change in a way that right intentions tend toward the good.

To give my passions and indifference a rest, to let my knowing become love.

All those good folk at the DMV showing up for work every day to face a series of people who are anxious and needy and want to hit the road ASAP, and some of them will in ways they hadn’t anticipated. The confluence of everyday people going about the basics of modern life and doing the best they can within the parameters of their lives (karma) and their ideas, wishes, dreams, plans and designs; fears doubts and worries. In that DMV office every individual was related to all the others in basic hopes, dreams and worries. Some worked there, others came to get the service provided and all moved in and out of awareness and the wishes and actualities that came to their minds.

And, then its was lunchtime for some but not yet for others. This was all of humanity in one building at 5300 Claremont, Oakland, CA

A wonderful day. Some nice short conversations with neighbors and then on-line-paying toll-charges from my “Lap Around the US” almost 10,000 miles in six weeks last Fall. Pictures of my truck in some unremembered stretch of Highway in North Texas and a bridge in California taken by a camera along a road and now sending me a bill for $7.53

Life life life. It goes on until it doesn’t anymore. What beauty and grace there can be in not knowing and yet still caring.

The past and the present a

Seed on the ground next to a

Broken dried old twig. Which

Came first, yesterday or a

Hundred years ago? I can’t really say.

‘Cause I just don’t know.

…drive us mad

It’s not other peoples opinions that drive us mad, its our own. The ones we dwell on, cherish, nurture, groom, pet and take to the doctor when they get weak. We take our opinions to the hospital(ity) of our like-minded friends and family and build up their strength, ’til we can feel assurance, once again, of our rightness and insight.

We treat our opinions like our favorite dog. We take them to the public park (let’s call it the Agora just for fun), and we see lots of other dogs and wonder sometimes how people can love a dog like that; we wish they were kept chained up, or at least not brought out in public. Many opportunities for WTF moments. Oddly, that often actually makes us feel better. It’s good to have a well behaved dog that’s clean and friendly yet barks when there is danger or worry of upset nearby, like a different opinion.

I’ve been investigating my opinions in general and more specifically this weekend as an aspect of a “retreat” mind, for a few days. There’s lots of good Buddhist Dharma in regard to that general topic especially as it relates to meditation and actual mindfulness.

One can see meditation as a way to gain peace and comfort and ease for the mind, and that is a major side effect yet it is kind of not the purpose at all. The purpose, as I see it today (around noon), is much larger than that. It’s so large it contains all the dogs in the universe and lets us know that dogs will always be dogs and to expect them to be something else is a waste of time and effort, and the “training” of them has to be scrutinized as to why are we training a creature to behave the way that makes us comfortable with them, but often goes against their own true nature. (As the Dog simile starts to crumble like a stale cookie in an earthquake?:)

Anyway, I was connected to a new medical provider which is really a helpful resource. They’ve done loads of tests and co-incidentally also arranged for a Covid Vax appointment. The place for the appointment was in east Oakland in a small shopping center with a spot tucked into the back part of a parking lot and it was raining and the two tiny little tent-like structures were sufficient to handle three people at a time. A staff of about four people checked me in and moved me over to the other tent, thirty feet away, all the time holding umbrellas for all us folks, coming and going, because of the drizzle that started up. The whole process took less than ten minutes and it seemed like all low-income folks. After the injection the lady told me that I would have to wait for 15 minutes to see if there was any adverse reaction and could I please do that in my vehicle if I came in one, and if there was a problem to honk my horn and they would come and check on me.

I sat in my vehicle and just watched their operation from about twenty-five yards away.

My heart opened up and I was filled with gratitude for this effort of so many people in a tiny little corner of this Universe to help others with courtesy and dignity. Then a larger UPS van pulled up and the driver ran around to the back of the truck and lifted 3x3x3 box out and rushed into the clinic, and I like to think he was bringing more Vaccine but it could just as well have been any box of stuff that a clinic would use in their daily activity.

Around all of that reality there could be clouds of opinion, yapping, barking and whoofing, what with the times and all; yet all I saw was humanity at its actual purpose.

Caring, helping, giving, respecting and offering help.

One could weep at the wonderfulness of it all.

The great and wonderful

Things we dream when

Internally empty are

Nothing to what we can

See within gratitude for

Life as a human being

Willing to help,

Rain or shine.

There we sat…

Six or seven laypeople and the monk who is the teacher at the Temple we were attending this morning, sitting scattered around a bit of yard and the garage parking area where a simple and beautiful altar had been set up in front of the garage door. Because of Covid regulation in California we could not meet inside, so we sat in the chilly overcast for two periods of meditation and then a Dharma talk (better attended because of Zoom link-ups).

Its a back yard I’ve been used to for about 30 years now and have spent a lot of hours enjoying and working on. It has changed, as have I and so has the monk and the people who attended today.

One thing that was interesting to me was the Ivy “wall’ I was facing instead of the usual walls of a temple or monastery or in the places I’ve lived. The ivy was lively.

Busy squirrels and birds and from the street busy cars and motorcycles and the rush of BART trains in the near distance and jet planes not too far above, as I asked “What is listening and hearing these sounds?” the wonderful reality of the history of humanity encompasses the actual development of the human brain as our ancient ancestors heard rustling of leaves and the noise of other lives in a quite different way and adjusted their responses to the world as the sounds changed with days and nights and years and millennia and then Ages. We developed into a being that is unique in the history of the world (as far we can ascertain), in that we have adapted to have a range of about 20,000 feet, some of it underwater when necessary , and we can roam across the whole globe with a little preparation within those 20,000 feet.

But to choose to sit still, not to hunt, nor set a trap or to watch or observe comings and goings of other creatures; rather for the purpose of allowing something to appear to us that we cannot see, even when we strain to see it. When we don’t strain it may show up or just skitter through the branches above us or zoom along a track or in the sky or just be always available should we wish to be still and nod hello, without moving our heads rather our hearts.

A good day in an old world.

By a thread I cannot see, a bit of bark

Is suspended and twirls, clock-wise

Then counter, slowly then quickly then

Stops and swings and is Still just for

Some time and there I was privileged to

See it act like a mighty ocean, yet

Way way smaller. More like a drop in

One.

Happy Tomorrow, today…

New Year. Sheesh! I’m just glad the days are getting longer.

I left Walla Walla with my last load of stuff to cart to Alameda, CA where, as far as I can tell, I may be at my last address, or there’ll be more. When I got near the end stretch of my drive around the perimeter of the U.S. last Fall, I stopped to visit with the Abbott of the Berkeley Buddhist Priory since I spent quite a few years in attending at that Temple and he has been a strong influence on my Buddhist (Zen) training; and told him that I had kept my eyes open for a place where I might settle for good since Old-Age is becoming more real for me. So he made a suggestion about a place that would be affordable for me and I thought, “elegant solution” (Which is an engineering term for fixing a problem so that the mechanism is optimized beyond its original design and expectations). I was looking for a setting with good public transportation, walk-ability and a major airport nearby. Alameda has all that and some of our Sangha members live next-door and I’m 15 minutes from our Temple in Berkeley.

The doing of the move and the details and all the help from friends in Walla Walla to get going before Winter became the ongoing obstacle was quite draining, so the day I decided to go into motion was the 21st of December. My favorite day of the year because the days start to get longer about then, a brightening that continues until June 21st and then suddenly a pall is cast over my favorite time of year (early Summer) by my liking the 21st of December so much, because the days then get shorter, at the beginning of Summer. It ain’t fair, somehow.

Which brings me to Happy New Year!

Most of us have have not enjoyed 2020 very much even though those four numbers are very pleasing in their appearance and order. And, many people, myself included, hope that this coming year is better than the previous; within which there is a hint of hope that a lot of stuff will be in “turnaround ” and consequently 2022 will be really great (Be aware) because those numbers are pleasing also.

The problem lies in trying to get a grasp on what the heck was going on today. Where was I? Did I try to see where I stand or was being physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in relation to myself in all those categories?

Yeah, I know! Big Hairy-Question. And then, where is all that in relation to all those other Beings and the World, and Life in general?

One may ask who’s got time for that kind of stuff when I can’t pay rent, don’t have a job and my kids and spouse and friends and neighbors are all turning into concepts that have to be set aside while We All have to prepare for a world that may not be amenable to any of our Wills and Ways anymore

Yeah. I know! lots of Extra-Capitalization going on in this here rumination.

I suspect we are being given a chance as a society, a culture and individually, to see how we respond when massive and real dire problems face all of us. All of us. If all this keeps up for the next 30-40 years; not even Billions of Dollars, or Whatever, will make you feel comfortable about you and your’s or anybody else’s future.

Given the opportunity to change

Will I look at changing me, or will

I look at changing you, or your

Mind and how you act and think.

Maybe its better to work with the

Material that’s at hand and accessible.

Fish need water





Daniel Boone said, “I’ve never been lost

but I have been bewildered a few times.”

An arrow flying past a window is how

Fast time flies, a drop of dew on morning

Grass is quickly gone. We breathe because

The air pressure of the world is higher

than that of our lungs. The air naturally

Forces its way into us and we think

We are the ones breathing it, when it

Is the world breathing us. Air, and its’

Pressure, came before mammals,

We evolved into It.

The Way was, the way Was;

Before we appeared and

Here is “I”…What a gift?

What are the odds of us Being,

Just in relation to other known

Life forms? Astronomical? Yes.

I don’t want the Wisdom

I can imagine. I don’t want

The Peace I can feel. I want to

Not differentiate between

Wisdom and everything else

And, I want a Peace that is

As water and I’m the fish.

Nothing special, just life.

I was asked to write something, anything that came to mind, during a retreat exercise. That was it. Just re-arranged a little and typed, I’m losing my handwriting skills. Old age and disuse, another old-coot baying at the moon.

Ahhh, Helmut…the moon is thataway.

I knew that! Harumphhhh!!

Truth, facts, observations

And opinion

Random Thanksgiving thoughts. A holiday created to celebrate the beginning of two centuries of extermination of the North American natives by an Empire that has done more murder, violence, theft and damage to the world than any other in human history and left a legacy of strife in almost all former colonies that still costs thousands of lives to this day.

The world as constituted, is violent, greedy, unforgiving and molded by passions that seems insurmountable. 10,000,000 to 17,000,000 minks “culled” in a country the size of Massachusetts. Those mink were destined to die anyway for coats and ‘accessories’ that cater to barbaric fashion habits and the common delusion that the world is purposed for our personal whims and desires. The numbers are actually doubly depressing.

Slowly and surely we are becoming more humane on the side of compassion and understanding. The world is a better and safer place than it has ever been (for people), and since our violent and greedy natures are often driven by ideologies and commerce we will all pay a steep price for being ignorant and sometimes deliberately blind when it suits us. It is too late to mitigate certain ecological upheavals that are imminent and neither the Moon nor Mars, will be of much help.

My opinion in regard to the above intertwining categories is that there actually is much to be thankful for which can hold all of the above. Chiefly, my gratitude is for the basic human quandary that since we can and have gotten up to all sorts of mistaken, unhelpful, greed-driven and destructive behaviors; there is an other side of that ‘coin’ which is our inherent love, caring, helping, building and creating an actual tenderness towards others and our-selves, which can embrace, and hold, all of those contradictions.

We can look up and see that there is more. A softer human aspect that can listen to the Quiet that shapes the music of life, and love; and quietly know what we are ultimately about.

We may not clearly see all

Ways we all gain clarity

Seeing-Listening quietly,

Rather than looking-hearing in

That acquisitive fashion.