Six long quick years…

Six years ago my wife Linda died. We had thirty years together, about 28 of them married. When we decided to to cease dialysis for sudden onset of acute renal failure, she was told rather curtly by her PA, “Well, you’ve got 6 to 8 day to live” we were prepared. Or so we thought. She had spent a lifetime struggling with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and the last two years with the renal failure added, it had been a long haul for her physically.

We met in AA, she had a year sober when I walked through the doors of my early sobriety. She always like to say at the meetings that she waited a year for me in sobriety (an AA trope as regards early relationships for those new to sobriety) and then she pounced. That always got the laugh she expected for this good natured ribbing that is part of the culture at AA meetings.

With 6 to 8 days having been pronounced; a Buddhist Monk friend who lived just over the border in northern Idaho moved into our house. We had made all the arrangements some time in advance, she was prepared. Three weeks later he moved back to his temple, she lived another 15 months and had a few months of resurgence and a lot of time for spiritual flow. I think she died relatively peacefully, some mistakes in her care were made and I made some mistakes in my care for her. I was sitting beside her when she died while a nurse who was changing her catheter bag was telling about a close relative of his that had died while he was young. I almost interrupted him when I realized she had just passed, but he too was in an important part of his story.

All human stuff, but one always has regrets and a wish for things to just not have been so Human. Among all the positive things for her and myself, was to be able to spend so much time in conversation. It of course took on a different tone altogether within the situation, knowing that time was short; on the last Christmas day I realized I could no longer care for her. It was not physically possible to move her by myself from bed to toilet etc: So, we arranged for her to be just five minutes away in a care facility. It was a very small town we lived in that was filled with good hearts and kind people, what a blessing. Thank you, Tekoa, Washington; Jewel of the Palouse.

One of conversation dwelt on the realities of our union. Out of 30 years we had an aggregate total of about 2 years of bickering and ill-will; about 4 years of bliss, and all the rest was in the reasonable middle. We realized that was probably the national average. Not bad for a couple drunks who had done their best to throw their lives away in their early years.

I loved her. I love her. She was a good woman, a good friend, a good partner and a good hearted human being. What more could I have hope for?

Today is not empty. I was so fortunate to not throw my life away and to encounter such a good friend. May you be at peace my love.

Raindrops keep falling…

Raindrops falling on trees drop

Platform to platform, leaf to leaf

Then the ground, and drop slower,

Slower so they seep and enter. We

All rise in a way, platform to

Platform ever upward, slowing

Up as that, we seep and enter

The clouds embrace, so soft

So very soft and see clear

Mystery so ordinary. So very.

Some times the clouds come down,

Meet us or we rise to meet. Snow

Ice, fog, puddle, river, stream on

We go, changing and changing, yet

At heart true heart, we remain the 

Same. There is that which is Un-

Changing, were it not so, there

Would no be that which is 

Constantly changing.

I lean into

Structure and 

Melt.

 

Freedom of self…

Went again today to the local State Prison for one the small Buddhist groups that meets on a bi-weekly basis.

Today we talked a little about the Eightfold Path. I mentioned that my own experience of that included some years of my thinking  the first step of the Path (Right View/Understanding) seems to logically belong as the last of the Eight Steps, not the first. My presumption being that through taking the path, Right Understanding would develop last, over time, and be the culmination of all previous effort.

Today, I spoke about how the Right View now seems to be a logical first step by virtue of the fact that ‘Buddhism’ doesn’t ever ask me to believe in anything merely posited or proposed. From the very start, Right View enjoins me to question, to consider and to examine how to process my feelings, decisions, opinions, presumptions and assumptions and then, how I can use reasoning in order to approach the unknown through my personal observation and experience of my inner self.  The idea of Me. Is it reasonable?

I sense there are as many differences between reasonable and rational, as there are between meaning and purpose.

Not rational? ‘fraid not

Rational is something

I arrive at for my own little

comforts and understanding.

Rationalize is what I do when

I add 1 & 1 and get two.

Reason,

is when I see that there are

many other ways to get to 2.

And then over a period of

time I have to allow more

Ways to get to Three, than is 

comprehensible to me. So,

Holy Buddha, I take Refuge

in Thee. That’s a good start…

 

The Prison of Self…

I went yesterday into the large State Prison located in the community where I live, as part of a meditation group that is sponsored by a local group of good hearted folks, who are Buddhist-leaning and took on the project about 8 years ago. I have attended with these prison meditation groups on and off for most of the three years I’ve been living here. It’s been on and off because I was, and still am, somewhat conflicted about what  was being offered to the inmates at these meetings. My main quibble had to do with the fact that they are  called Buddhist even though  there was very little actual Buddhist teaching going on, It was more of what I have encountered in the American Buddhist world in general which is a hodge-podge of quasi-Buddhist, part new-age, feel-good pop psychology, and loads of personal opinions about what religion, philosophy, life style, and activities might be more or less grouped under that sort-of-Buddhist umbrella.

So, I have recommitted, to working with these good-hearted folks when I realized that this was indeed an opportunity for me to help, as well as having lots of opportunities for me to look at all of my own opinions and positions that I take in regard to the above activities, which appear in such great variaty in the American/Western Buddhist world.

My biggest problem is reining in my own talkativeness and enthusiasm while trying to encourage, over time, a structured approach and a sort of syllabus that follows and hopefully flows from some basic Buddhist teaching/concepts; i.e. TheFour Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path, The Precepts, Karma, Rebirth, and yes, meditation). Keeping in mind that each groups attendance varies depending on what is going on for the attendees in their prison life and what is going on in the Prison itself. Some days they are on Lock-down (no prisoner movement outside of their cells), or a Section is in a Lock-down that may have a lot of our attendees in it. Also, our “groups” vary in attendance from two to twenty on any given day, depending on a huge variety of conditions; such as actual interest in Buddhism, just getting out of one’s cell and willing do anything to get out for a change of scene, or a gathering of prison-gang elements to be able to exchange information or just meet quasi-socially. Also, there are quite a number of attendees who have cultural heritage of Buddhism and are pursuing or taking up afresh a part of their families history and so forth and of course just pure curiosity.

Another difficulty is that we see these groups, at best, twice a month and once annually for a half day “Buddha” celebration. The prison offers all sorts of religious activities, as attested by the various lockers for the groups at the prison Chapels, but Christian groups of every stripe are the dominant influence and they inform a lot of the policy decisions just by the numbers of attendees for their activities. It makes sense that little splinter groups have to scramble and try to fit in where they can.

Yet, within all that, it is an offering and there is a need and there is accommodation. So, how to proceed within the Actual, rather than some Ideal is really the “koan” encountered. Which reminds me that there are a lot of variation that attendees have experienced as Buddhist practice and teaching; so how be inclusive and relevant and at ease with all is one of the main concerns.

So, yesterday was day of three groups, one in the morning and two in the afternoon. The process of going from place to place within the prison is of course daunting in its own way, and then learning to keep adapting to the various cultures that exist within the prison, the administrators, the chaplains, the guards, the vast variety of prisoner cultures that it is good to be aware of ,and the general energy/karma that is omnipresent and especially noticeable, for me, the night and day after having spent about 6 hours there.   It certainly makes me aware and naturally brings up compassion for all the people involved in that system. Everyone that is in the prison for any extended period of time, prisoners, employees, volunteers and so forth; experience an astounding amount stress and frustration day-in day-out. And, I suspect the ways of dealing with it for all involved are not always skillful, in terms of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.

Sadly, that process as we experience it in U.S., is what it is, and won’t be changing anytime soon. And, to know that in most of the rest of the world it is even worse in terms of conditions, is even more sobering.

Then again, from a Buddhist point of view there is no problem, as such. It is just conditions within the world as constituted, and the resulting karma, working itself through. To be in the position to bring little bits of the Dharma into that setting is a pure gift and an honor.

The questions and small discussions that come up at group level, or as short side-conversations, are remarkable. More than a few of these seekers have an intuitive understanding that the Prison, as a place of Dharma practice, is no different than the prison of the ‘Self’ that we all have to become aware of, and learn to train within..

I’ll write a bit more about this adventure in the next few blatherings.

A great teacher of my

acquaintance spoke once of

the caged bird that does not

know the bottom has fallen

Off, because it flies up

to the top of the cage

looking for an escape

 

Between the Sun and Moon…

On State Hwy 82 in Northeast corner of Oregon, coming from Wallowa Buddhist Temple and heading for Walla Walla, WA. About 4-5 miles before Elgin, OR, I was riding into the setting Sun beyond the Blue Mountains which I would have to cross to get to Washington.

I looked into my rearview mirror and saw, above the Wallowa Mountains to my rear, that a 3/5th’s -moon had risen and was brightly reflecting the Sun. Both about the same distance above two separate small mountain ranges that sit about 40 miles apart, with me between them scooting along at 65 miles per hour.

Distance and time traveling, and milage being eaten by trusty truck heading me home. Moon and Sun greeting each other, or so it seemed to me and it isn’t ’til later I realize they see each other so often they probably don’t even bother to say hello. Maybe in the morning, but the morning where?

What I did discover though is something very important. Two things actually, one a deep insight into astronomy, the other something I never knew before about math. I know very little of either subject but because of the the unique situation of time and place and angles and speed and me with eyes and a rearview mirror, I found out this; There is more to the moon than meets the eye. We hear a lot about a Full-moon, A Half-moon, a Quarter-moon and No-moon. I discovered the 3/5th’s-moon.

I know it was all situational, but so was Columbus landing in the New World. Like him, I’m taking the credit. If not me who? If not then, when?

Then, there’s the Math Discovery.

One (1) is an even number! Therefore, all fractions are even numbers! Ha! Take that, all you teachers who flunked a certain German immigrant, repeatedly, in math and other subjects. I best be humble though, the Media is sure to get wind of this.

Anyway, it was a really nice moon and I enjoyed it while it lasted. Safely glancing, not staring. (65mph).

 

The Sun is there and the Moon is over there and

I am here heading there and came from over there

And looking for Nothing everywhere and, not Anywhere.

1st dream of the year…

I dreamt that I was losing control over situations that I used to manage without a thought; it got so bad that I lost all connection with that reality, within that dream.

Then I dreamt that I realized with great relief all my control and loss were about things that didn’t matter, not only in the big picture, but at all.

I awoke bemused and puzzled over a dream concerning nothing really important having mattered much. Then I remembered it was the first day of the New Year and I had committed to having a couple of real New Year’s resolutions concerning my spiritual path and training, all ready to go. But, I hadn’t even one.

Then I realized. That is, made real; the true meaning of that dream. Worry, fear, doubt and anxiety cannot exist simultaneously, let alone singly within a mind that is gathering itself home. Which, it seems also means that while gathering home, the mind lets loose. The mind at work is the mind distracted. Confusion depends upon distraction.

So, I’m not that confused any more, although I still forget stuff.

The waking day was spent handing out some money, having brunch with a good hearted friend who hasn’t realized her natural good heart fully and thus is prone to worry. My observation is that most people are a molecule thick membrane of pixie dust separated from care and freedom because of positions arrived at. Positions are the problem yet we all take them and believe we are bound by conditions outside of us. A pesky problem indeed. Somewhat like those trick problems posed in riddles where simple  plus and minus math computations are offered in posing the question, while the questions actual answer is not one of computation but seeing a problem clearly, directly.

You are the bus driver, at the first stop 3 passengers get off and 7 get on, at the next stop 5 get off and 3 get on, at the next stop 12 get on and 3 get off and the last stop 13 people get off and 4 got on, but 1 of those gets off because they changed their mind before the bus departed. How tall is the bus driver?

(You are the driver)

How can anyone sit still in the midst of a world of constant busyness and distraction?

(You are anyone)  First sit still ,and then you’ll see what the problem actually is.

My mind wanders…

Recently, last 6-7 months, my mind is really changing. Much more scattered and memory becoming more of a thing of the past, if you know what I mean. While I’m becoming even more loquacious than usual I’m also becoming more abrupt and short with people. So, not a good mix, as such.

However, there is a compensatory factor in that I’m going through some newish, although seeming so ordinary after the fact, spiritual awareness. That in itself is refreshing, but apparently not a big deal. It used to be a big deal. Currently it isn’t, it’s just ordinary.

One thing that is clarifying is that I can worry if I want to, but there isn’t much purpose or usefulness in long term worry, as such. I had always assumed it was at least a mildly fundamental aspect of general mentation. Now it seems merely functional and has some use.

It (worry) is a by-product and also a functional indicator more similar to the road-side billboard that alerts a traveler to something down the road that may be of use or interest. It’s an aspect of mental traveling, when I worry I’m on the road.

There are many by-products in the varieties of manufacturing anything, and most by-products are not useful unless they can be converted through a further process, into something usable.

My basic internal process seems to consist largely of my personal will going hand-in-hand with letting go (I know, image-wise that’s little outlandish, but I like it), and apparently some smallish effort is required.

The small effort of Letting

Go is  just Un-clenching the

Fist made by too much Will.