Bodhisattvas every where…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Kanzeon, Regarder of the Cries of the World.

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

Winding roads everywhere…

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

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

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

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

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

And, this is a beautiful country.

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

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

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

How do I actually

Be more mindful

Look for proper place

Rather than discarding,

Including all Things

Kalispell Mount Anna…

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

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

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

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

Things sure change as they

Get old and comfortable and

A little dusty with a Sprung

Spring showing in memory.

Wonder fully sad and real.

Its all practical…

Getting ready to leave on a trip on Friday morning and drive around the US, literally, with a few diversions inland. I’ve got family in Virginia and some friends scattered along East coast  and will let whim and conditions guide me as to where to go and what to see. I’m not one to go some place just to say I’ve been, or for the “view” or scenery, so to assign some meaning to this other than ‘old coot wants to ramble’,  I’ve decided to turn it into a bit of a pilgrimage and visit nine of the temples of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives in contiguous US. I know all the monks at those temples for about 30 years and it will be a treat to just touch base, have a cup of tea, do some bows and move on.

I see this little adventure as a gathering-in occurring during a time when I sense very strongly that I’m getting much more scattered hither and yon mentally. So a weird combo of me in a motion within some fear of my going Goofy, while simultaneously deepening the unformed spiritual space within and learning to trust that it is all for my own good. My only ‘job’ is to see that and allow things to flow out/in from that unknown place.

The last week with its fluctuations of the AQI smoke index has gone from several days of deep purple and lighter purple and my hope tomorrow  to be firmly in the Red Zone, under 200 of the possible 500, and in a few days of heading east will start to encounter the Old Normal with particulate matter not being a health concern.

When I was young I wound up in a variety of interesting and quite dicey situations, sometimes clumped together and overlapping so that I thought that’s what normal life was like, since almost everyone I knew and considered friend or partner lived just like me. The culmination was several years of scrambling towards my personal ‘bottom’ and then having to make some choices, actually one choice with various strings of effort attached to it. Was I willing to change completely and allow for the possibility that there might be more to life than waking up, more like coming too, and starting the recapitulation of the night or days before to find out if I made any new enemies, or worse.? And then it got worse; the last several years were a swirl of recklessness and a sort of trepidation and ultimately a willingness to give up and die in the streets. Something changed and I started to participate in the change and then I changed.

I encountered Buddhist training at a real practical level and I’ve had several rearrangements of my body and mind at kind of a molecular level, and this little late life jaunt seems to be an extension of that motion and seeking in the direction of that Stillness which can hold everything equanomously and with very little intent.

So, I’m curious how this will eventuate, it may die on the vine or it may be a loosely reordered life based on the Precepts and whispering the ongoing question within which is built the answer.

May I know what is good to do, may I do what is good to do.

Maitraiya, Buddha of the future; We are all part of becoming you.

Too cease from evil, to do only good, to purify ones Heart.

I don’t know who wants these answers. How can this being help?

I bow in gratitude and talk nonsense to the animals and they listen, a rabbit on a lawn at midnight listening an old fool natter on about the common language having no words. Or was the rabbit saying that to the fool. 

Hard to tell sometimes if we are talking or speaking, hearing or listening.

Across the country…

Next Friday I plan to start a drive around the U.S. Basically starting out from St. Maries, ID on the 20th of September after a Segaki (Feeding of the Hungry Ghosts) Ceremony, in the forest on Lotus Mountain above a stretch of the St. Maries River. I’ll be participating in this with the Sangha of the Benewah Buddhist Temple (Sandpoint Meditation Group). It’s one of the most important ceremonies in Buddhism and the only one I’ve heard of that was initiated by the Buddha to help one of his main disciples; so it goes way back.

I’m looking forward to my little adventure and at this writing I feel a little “privileged”, because I’m in a position to undertake an activity like that in times that are fraught with astounding instability from a human point of view, and all sorts of downsides looming for all of us.

I’m in Walla Walla, WA and it is midnight and the air quality index is officially 451, out of a possible 500 (Hazadous) and it’s not expected to lift for several days. I was walking through the Walmart store earlier and it looked like it had a fog in it from all the smoke which out of doors has a visibility factor measured in hundreds of yards, not portions or increments of miles. It looked grim and forboding.

I realize I have choices that many people in that store do not have. There were families with loads of kids,  groups of teens just flocking around the Walmart on a Friday night; it’s the first weekend of the school year, but of course they’re not going to school; they’re Zooming or some sanctioned equivalent. Everybody except the teens looked pretty miserable and harried; I certainly felt that way, and I wanted to move next Friday’s departure date up to right-now but I have some precluding obligations.

It strikes me that we are in this mess because we have entangled ourselves in “ideals” that are not actually real, they seem to be merely functions of various greeds; others and our own. That’s uncomfortable and perhaps something to work with, in the sense that we need to identify the real problem before any lasting change is envisioned. After identifying the cause of our sickness perhaps we can determine if there is a cure and what that would consist of. and require of us.

We are past the stage of any sort of new Normal thats comfortable or a return to a former Normal. The shit is hitting the fan, and we are the one’s who plugged-in the fan, set it on high, pushed Start and are flinging stuff; all the while looking around and wondering who started all this mess.

We insist this is not what we asked for or ever wanted to happen. Yet, here we are. While we are scrambling for solutions and context and understanding and others to blame, we will need to get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, and do something, or some things. Not big things, maybe smaller things in smaller groups, maybe not as Nations? Everything will be on the table? Maybe.

The worst part of this evening’s trip to Walmart was to see the teens and young kids getting a taste of the world we are leaving for them. Yes, at some level we’ve all been blind. The majority of the herd has run over the cliff. Now what?

This Reality.

The New

Reality.

We have to change.

We have to. Change?

Will we? Sure!

Why not? Maybe

Then we’ll have an 

Other opportunity.

walk among stones…

img_20200906_111553

I walk in the cemetery most days; just a loop around the outer paved area with meanders into various other sections. I have made that a part of my practice that started after we moved to Tekoa,WA from Bay Area in ’05. I was the caretaker of the Goldenrod Cemetery in Tekoa for a couple of years and it turned out to be one of the gateways into that small community for a couple of left-wing Buddhists from the Center of Hell known as Berkeley, or so I was informed:) I learned the history of the community and became a fairly visible presence in that town of 800+. Those who know me would not be surprised at me being visible or heard, for sure, in a town that size. That experience gave me great respect and deeper understanding of the burial ground as one center for a community. Later when I became the P/T janitor at the Elementary School, another center, I got a 3-D impression of the history and culture of the town because the kids, the teachers and the Principal all had families in that cemetery.

At this cemetery I have gotten to know the nice lady that is supervisor of crew there and she had told me about a little initiative a young new employee had undertaken to replace fallen head stones, placing them in new cement bases, so their original intent would remain honored and respected. They do this when all the basic stuff, mowing etc: is taken care of. I loved that idea and offered a small donation towards cement mix and some other folks have heard about that effort and also contributed. It’s become a bit of a “thing”. (Donations welcome To Mountain View Cemetery, Walla Walla, WA 99362  attn; Joanna, Headstone Restoration Project:)

The one pictured above appeared a couple of weeks ago, it had fallen/broken off at some point and been covered over by dirt and grass for many years. I was quite taken with the wonderfulness of life and death.

130 years ago, a baby was born and named Demaris, I assume a girl, but have no basis for that assumption and choose not to research it because its not important. A child was born and seventeen days later died. In the 130 years since that birth all of that baby’s molecules have been recycled, some of them many times, and now they will also be converted to electronic signals that go on infinitely into endless space. Life is brutally short sometimes and there is always a purpose and reason for that; naturally opinions vary as to details, Often a desirable reason is hard to formulate in regard to a short, painful or tormented life; yet we bear with the perhaps greatest difficulty life presents a parent because it’s not uncommon.

I look at the stories in the cemetery written on the headstones and the wishes and dreams within those stories and on a windy day they blow by more quickly.

Life is short and

It is long. One step,

No step, millions of

Them, and here we

All are as a group,

Wondering how

Can I help? Yes, that

Is the purpose and

The opportunity

All in One.

other thoughts? (shrug)…

If light travels at 186,000 miles per second then that seems an incredible enough speed for me to try and make a point about “the present moment”. Lets say that time travels at 186,000 units, of whatever, a second; then the absolute present moment moves so quickly that it can’t be seen to exist; i.e. Practically, there is no such thing.

So, it may be much more useful to think of a wider (or longer) swath of time that we can designate as Discernible Present Time (DPT). I will posit that this time frame be the period between the last thought, action, or feeling that passed through you completely, in other words, that you were aware of, and involved in, to the exclusion of all else and then the next thought, action, or feeling that you are completely aware of in noticing, doing, precipitating, or participating in.

That opens up the DPT to seconds, minutes, hours, days, ad infinitum; depending on the conditions that present.

When we are paying attention and aware of the conditions around us, and the conditions within, we can see the flow of time, which is very good and helpful and sometimes amazing, but we will never see the real present because it is part of the flow. 

Seeing a drop of water in a huge waterfall is not experiencing the waterfall. 

Same with trying to see a discrete moment in time while missing the activity of time. There may be lots of application for seeing the one drop or the tiny moment but we’ll likely miss the awe of its All Someness.

I sense within myself that when I have spent a lot of time trying to be “in the now”, I was somehow instinctively afraid of being overwhelmed by the torrent.

I needn’t have worried, that sense of separation and falling and being alone, only lasts for a moment and the drop rejoins the flow of the Fall into the River and on to the Ocean.

Everything is fine just the way it is. When I am aware of the loneliness of the drop or the despair of the moment or the exultation of the Fall or the depth of the Moment, it all passes rather rapidly and I usually can’t remember 99% of it as I flow into the ever Present emptiness of all that there is and has ever been.

I‘m never really sure if I’ve

Wasted time and sometimes it

Surely feels that way but who

Am I to say;

Quickly gone

Another day.

choice or decision…

I sit in a tiny cottage about ten miles west of the Blue Mountains on the Eastern border of Oregon and Washington and live a very quiet and quite simple life, and have sufficient time to reflect and think about the ways and means by which I got into this position. Old, comfortable, relatively healthy and relatively sane with a religious and spiritual practice that informs and confounds me and holds me up. It doesn’t hold me way up. It holds me like the YMCA pool water held me up when I didn’t struggle as I learned to swim. A balance of understanding had to be arrived at which included fear, doubt, worry, trust, faith and courage or willingness. And, some effort at something I had never done before, but knew from the evidence of my eyes was possible.

Similarly, a baby partakes of all these elements when it takes that first step. It doesn’t take the first step in order to walk, it takes it because it wants to get from where it is, to there. It keeps falling down, and one day it moves a foot forward in order to not fall down, rather quickly, often that same day, it learns to not fall and the byproduct of that is walking. Immediately the baby’s Universe, as it knew it just moments before, is forever altered.

Some part of the inborn nature of the baby bade it to decide/choose an action and it became a toddler.

As I write, all of me is the sum-total of choices/decisions that I made throughout my life and that “me” was set into motion, initially, by other choices made by beings connected too me. Most of my life I had no way of seeing that I was making choices and decisions because I was busy looking for outcome, results, eventuation, gratification; or avoidance. I was living life as it presented itself and made lots of very hasty decisions, some even in panic, and the outcomes were mixed in terms of my approving or disapproving, and always they engendered another decision or choice. That’s how I spent, dispensed or squandered many years of my life. There was joy and fear doubt and loads of worry and everything glazed over with optimism and hope.

At about half-way through this life (so far), I encountered the Buddhist teachings and started to become aware that nothing is permanent or stays in a fixed state; so if I carved a statue out of marble I could change it by using the same tools with which I carved it. Will, effort, persistence, repetition and stepping away from the work often to see if I’m doing the right thing. It turns out the stepping away from the work is the most important part. It gives me perspective. Some days I work hard at it, other days hardly at all.

I step away and see what is possible.

Seeing is the important part. Open eyes. Allow.

The string on a bow is the only purpose of a bow.

Then I decide or choose or not.

some stray thoughts…

Many viruses that are harmful to humans are carried by migratory birds that come into contact with pigs which were usually and historically kept in close contact with humans. All little villages in the world used to have pigs in daily contact with humans. Not so much anymore thanks to factory farming and the slaughter of our fellow beings on an incomprehensible scale…If we didn’t eat animals at the rate and the way that we do we would not have a corona virus, or most flu’s and all sorts of other consequences which we choose to not examine too closely.

If you eat animals on a daily basis you are in a rich, compared to poor, country or society where its difficult to eat meat regularly; although insects are a staple in many cultures and that is a type of necessity. Eating animals for protein is not necessary, its a habit. In order for anyone to be rich in this world a number of people have to do without.

If you eat foie Gras you are eating the liver of an animal that was tortured to death over its long painful life by having grain forced down its throat through a two foot long tube/funnel and its beak/bill wired shut so that it can’t regurgitate the overstuffing and consequently develops a fatty live for which it is then killed and the liver shipped off to fancy restaurants which cater to the rich…That’s life.

The have’s have their way with the world and and the don’t have’s; not so much. Is there anything new going on in this world where that hasn’t been the case since the strong ate better than the weak (i.e. forever) ? Nope!

Is this liable to change anytime soon? Nope!

Can I change how I see things and learn to behave differently? Yep!

Why does it feel like I can’t change and I need to accept the inevitable and nothing will ever change?

It’s how Things Are and, that feeling is just a feeling.

Feelings drive, pull and push us as if they had a power over us because we think feelings can make us do things that, at some level, we know aren’t right.

That’s not true. Any feeling can be examined, looked at calmly (maybe not right away but over time spent trying, as in practice…) and seen for what it is, and it usually is a demand for something to be different in the world so that I am not displeased or uncomfortable or offended.

So, I’m the big problem. Turns out I’m the only one who can help change me.

Who am I helping in this

changing of the me that I

hold so dear and am afraid of

loosing if I let go of it. Who?

Shadow go ‘Click’…

Photo taken at top-secret U.S. installation even as guards were looking on. Bwuaha-ha-aha-ha-aha-ha-ha!!! (US Post Office:)

Proof of America imprisoning and dis-appearing our rebels.

There is no justice for the Comfortable Many.

No wonder we riot to show our standing in-solidarity with the oppressed and then go home after ‘secret’ police hold us for a couple of hours and wring our hands. It can’t happen here they wailed throughout history.

We stand at the barricades and then, when its time for some other diversion, we go home; having done what we can, we insist.

We can skateboard on ramps with impunity. We are white Americans fed up with the status quo. Hear us grumble for Organic Chamomile Tea and coffee that is made from beans that have passed through the digestive system of Civets in Viet-Nam. Haven’t the Civets given enough of themselves to support Fine Perfumes? We are White America (or wanna-be-white america, ouch!) and we have a ‘Heart’! Look at this nice wooden one I bought at Target, it hangs over the couch next to the other wooden ones that say ‘Family’ and ‘Love’ Not that there is anything going wrong there, it’s just that the deep need to express love is the same for all of us.

And, the saddest part is that we do care, we have just never developed a language or system or cultural/social ways to show this in the more personal ways. We buy the expression of feelings from others so we can display them and wonder why we feel just a tad empty. It is what poetry, writing, art and music and such are used for, yet they are in a way an impediment to feeling the real thing when that is what is called for. Like now.

It takes time to feel and be still.

It takes great effort to be still and feel.

To be still within effort and feel that perhaps

Stillness is sufficient on too itself

And, there is more…