Real, live, refuge…

So, on my walk this evening I was, as usual it seems a bit crabby, whiney and snivelly with myself and sort of complaining about aging, yearning, wanting friendships, being useful, losing interest in everything, yada-yada-yada-yaaah. On and on! And, during this little pity-pot-ensconcement ( I write, and I make ’em up:), I ran across a thought that had been eluding me.

It was in reference to some conversations I had with friends as recently as today, from a past that was a completely different life than the one I’m in now.. They both know me very differently than anyone else I know or am friends with today; because they have seen me at my worst. Today when we talk we just compare old coot kind of problems, and in both cases my two friends hate their lives and growing old. Also, in both cases they have no spiritual belief, or active component thereof in their lives. One is very rich, and alone and worried even though he has lots of everything. Everything, he’s ever wanted. The other is broke and doesn’t worry about it but he doesn’t worry with a lot of vigor, you know kinda assertive about the no worry. Like an echo chamber effect when he tells me he doesn’t worry. Always sounds empty. I love these guys and both have or helped save my life, but I wouldn’t want to trade any aspect of our various lives, they both have very enviable and positive qualities, but…

Here’s what I realized during my walk. We are three older guys who have lived through some very rough and dangerous lives, can still talk about it, in one case maybe a little too much; and resent that the world is not exactly the we way want it to be.

Of the three of us, as far as I can tell, I am the most fortunate because I have a real, live refuge that I can access anytime, anywhere; and can experience a relieving and easing of my fears, doubts and worries.

I have those fears doubts and worries because I earned them the hard way through a reckless, careless approach to life in the past. Now, because I found a refuge (For the record: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), and accept full spiritual responsibility for my past, I can get a measure of relief and sometimes, a sense of a deep contrition that may be the key to everything. Every thing.

Within my gripes, doubts, fears and worries there is medicine for what truly ails me.

Me.

I am the problem and the solution.

I just have to find the courage to see the one and seek the other.

Decisive sum total…

One way that I can take fuller responsibility for my life, my past and my present is to acknowledge the fact that the being who is sitting here writing this, is the composite total of all the decisions I’ve ever made in my life. My decisions. My life.

There’s no way around that. I’ve tried. What about all that stuff that just happened in my life; that I had no control over? That just happens?

Nothing “just happens”. Everything has a cause and there is an effect or consequence for every cause. Inescapable. Action results in a consequence. Actions of thought, speech and body. Everything we do produces a consequence. Our intentions may be good, but the consequence is bad. Our intention may be bad but the result primarily, or secondarily, is good and everything in between.

We are now living in a world of consequences that are the results of many people agreeing that certain actions were good to do at some time in the past. That we could not foresee the future result of our actions does not erase the consequence.

Good for everybody. Good for the company. Good for the country, the team, the group, the farm the town, the family, the kids, dogs and cats…Blah, blah, blah…

And now we say, WTF?…Who started all this mess?…They did it!!

No! We did it.

We set things in motion and when there are consequences we feel that those are disconnected from out original plans, schemes and designs, and especially intentions.

That’s why I say we are the result of choices we have made throughout our lives, but we’d rather not acknowledge that our poor choices (decisions), in life put us where we are today. And, our good choices and decisions also put us into the life we live. The hard part is being honest about our recollection regarding our motives and intentions when we set stuff in motion.

So, how does that bit of news become an actionable aspect of our spiritual and mundane lives?

It allows us to have perspective on how we fit into this design or constant flow.

A friend of mine calls the law of karma a form of original sin. That’s like saying the law of gravity is like original sin because it restricts out ability to just fly whenever we want to. Not quite.

The law of gravity is a teacher. BTW, no one in any science knows what gravity is. They know how it behaves and its effects, but they don’t know what it is. Magnetic force   describes what it does but not what makes it be the way it is. The same is true of regular glass, to call it anomalous liquid is a description of some behaviors and properties but doesn’t actually say what it is in relation to everything else. There are huge mysteries in the everyday, yet we feel we need to know whether the universe is actually expanding, and if so, is it at the rate currently popular most circles? I know, different branches of enquiry, but…

The behavior of gravity compels us to pay attention to what it does. I’m careful going down the stairs and I don’t step off a two (or one), story roof. The behaviour of karma is similar in a sense. It may be too complex to diagram just how it works, collects and distributes; but I can see, if I look carefully, when I set anything in motion there is a result/consequence. I should therefore bring a heightened awareness when setting things in motion. Actually that’s not a bad description of Buddhist practice.

So, I’m still having to see the past things I’ve set into motion producing consequence in my current life and I have to see the patterns wherein I can help actively and those where I can stay still, and just observe and see the rising and falling of things.

The universe doesn’t sit on my shoulders, but I do have shoulders. Heck, there’s probably a mini-religion based on that concept(?).

So, if there is any point or purpose to the above it probably has to do with everything is in flux and we can participate because it is a flow. Not chaos. To participate is to ease the flowing by creating less impediments (negative karma created by flawed views of reality).

A paraphrase of Nagarajuna, sent to me some years ago by a monk friend/teacher out of compassion for my confusion at that time (my wife’s dying), was this…

“Everyone dislikes suffering, yet fools that we are, we rush towards its source.”

 

The listening machine…

Its become a bit of a custom to walk around the cemetery here in Walla Walla most days and babble into a small recording device. I actually have babbles from almost ten years ago walking around Tekoa Cemetery. It’s been very instructive because all that talking was nibbling at the edges of the same Koan of insecurity that has been ripening and unfolding for me, now blossoming, in a very deliberate way. And, it’s quite uncomfortable. I know pretty soon (September?), I’m going to need to do a small private retreat somewhere really quiet and just allow some time for non-judging, just looking at this very old structure of my insecurities that are just showing up. Like blowing sands in a desert uncovering a shrine that once was sacredly used but fell into disuse and then, became visible again. Perhaps to be re-purposed, as they say.

The use of the babble is that I have no expectation of anyone ever listening to it.                  It’s not super private or anything but it does reveal the slow appearance of an insight.

What it really shows, I think, is that we are all instruments for our own awakening and nothing is ever wasted or too late or not perfect for the moment. Since the babble is not for consumption as such, its a bit more introspective than if produced for the audience of another person. It slowly touches on, and then begins to embrace, the difficult karma that has been so shy. like a lost dog overcoming caution and fear in favor of the food being offered by the kindly voice.

As an old AA friend used to say about the 12 Steps. (And is true of all spiritual effort.)

“It’s a process, not an event!”

Amen.

The Universe is as…

The Universe is as the boundless sky,

As Lotus blossoms above unclean water,

Pure and beyond the world, is

The Buddha Nature of the trainee.

Oh, Holy Buddha we take refuge in Thee.

The above is a version of the Meal-ending verse that I learned through the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, the organization that I’ve been training with for about thirty years and as a member of since ’97. We practice Soto Zen (Serene Reflection Meditation), in the lineage of Dogen and Keizan. I like to think I’m a reasonably good trainee in that I seem to persist in the practice and generally have the Teachings inform my everyday life. Except for those times that I make the decision to take the karmic hit (consequences), when I deliberately stray from the 16 Precepts which I formally took in ’92. Or, just go SPLAT, and then see that there will be consequences.

So, life has been very good for me because I have a basket into which I can put my “troubles” and then do the sometimes very hard work of just abiding within the conditions of my life, and try my best to view everything as a teaching for my own good. Reverend Master Jisho Perry has a line from the teachings that he offers in some of his Dharma talks. Most people just know the first two lines, which are true; but it’s the last two that make it Truer.

“Sometimes I raise the eyebrows of Shakyamuni (the Buddha),

and sometimes I don’t.

Sometimes it is good to do,

and sometimes it isn’t.”

Which, among other things; can mean that it is always good to act like a Buddha, but sometimes, because of that moment’s conditions and elements, we should look twice or more deeply at what is really being called for in the given situation.

Spontaneity is not all that it is cracked up to be. Neither is intuition. Especially where the Self nudges its way into the picture.

This morning as I was finishing a well prepared, simple and late breakfast and reading a bit from Andre Iguodala’s recently published “Sixth Man”, a book about his life as an NBA player; I was having one of those “little moments” where it was not a matter that I liked how I felt about my conditions, and the life I’ve lived; but merely that everything as constituted right now, is perfect and cannot ever be any other way.

I am usually the interjection into this perfection. And, that too is O.K. …Here’s what popped out of my mouth, as best as I can remember, ’cause I said it so quick.

In a torrent. Torrent’s are good at times.

Thank you for the food, its spices and butter and skillet and jam; this plate this spoon this chair this cup my life my worry my doubt and joy and this table and chair and back and feet, all this and my life and friends and all that is given too This. Oh, holy Buddha I take refuge in thee.

Tomorrow, probably some snivel or doubt or worry or some thing. No problem, I’ve been there; and I’ve been Here.

Prometheus mewling…

Sometimes a man’s gotta do what man’s gotta do. 

So, getting over a kittenish mewling session after a friend of the female persuasion, didn’t respond in a timely fashion to some super-dynamite babble I had sent in the texting form (always while complaining in the texting form, that I hate texting because it stifles my natural freedom of artistic expression in ways that the mere mortal cannot hope to comprehend:( ?), and I got worried that I wasn’t liked, for sure mis-understood, after all not everybody “gets” me, and had been abandoned and left to die on a cliff face while carrion-birds were doing their C-B thing on my liver and sweetbreads. All that after a full day of uphill Rock n’ Roll (not as glamorous as it sounds to the non-martyr).

Also, I was worried because this friend had a Summac-rash on her fore-arms (the part just after the wrist and before elbow), that I imagined had probably been mis-diagnosed by her and that she was in a hospital and I would never hear about her dying in agony from flesh-eating bacterialistic-virii 🙂 (smiley face for invented word not agonal etc:), while I was suffering from neglect by her unintended and unforeseen (one could only hope), death. (That sentence may need a little work. I’ll get back to it, for sur

Some people only think of themselves when consumed by B-V. Maybe its natural?          There are a lot of selfish people out there who can only think of themselves, not mentioning any names, because I am, above all, a gentleman of the Olde-School.

Anyhoo, I had a problem on my rig that required me to get under the hood and get some grease on my hands and draw some knuckle-blood. After only four or five hours, I had changed out the lamps in my headlights (“Man, that’s confusing enough to “f…” up an iron ball.”, as we say down to the garage).                                                                                                   One day I may take on the muffler-bearings the seasonal mechanic did for me last year, when their tune-up time rolls around in October. This fellow comes through seasonally, I was told by him, so perhaps I’d better wait for his notification of when tune-up of afore-mentioned muffler-bearings comes ’round, because I did pay three years in advance to qualify for the “Trio-Discount on M-B Tune-up”.

I was going to include some shots of my “mitts” and let you see the grease on them, but it just sort of went away on the paper napkin I used at lunch. Oh, well. Must soldier on. 

Sometimes when the big Heartaches, Abandonments and Potential B-V Deaths threaten or loom; a real guy (A Guy’s guy, but you know not That way), will find some manly endeavor to take his mind off his need to be chin-scratched and fussed.

Whose the nice little Helmut?

Yes! Who’s the big truck fixer? 

That’s right?  It’s you!!! 

Wabble dee, babble dee, cootchie-cooo!!!!!

Yay!!!!

Life…

I love life. Everything comes and goes. Nothing stays the same and nothing changes into exactly what I want it to change into. 

I don’t even change into what I want to change into. What a blessing.

All of my little schemes and plans and designs in my life have always been more worry, more distraction, more moving away from my center.

Every time. I mean every time I allowed life to proceed and I dropped my wants and purported needs, or vice versa; and just accepted what was being presented in my life, things tended to not only be less worrisome but also had less complications downstream.

I do forget that at times.

Sometimes I have wanted something for a long time and when I finally gave up, it appeared in a slightly different form and became part of my life.

I had a nice talking and walking time with a friend this evening, and we were able to reach an accommodation regarding a personal issue that was not only satisfying but conducive to future conduct that eases the Way. We spoke of and could agree on the view that when we all take more care and see things just a little below the obvious, we can act truly and leave less karma behind (after death), that other beings will have to deal with.

Less is more, turns out to be truer than ever for me. I have had several new areas open up in my personal training the last few days. Things that had been blind spots, became clear and after the initial upset it also became clear that the training we are engaged in when we seriously take the Precepts to heart, works at its own pace, but is always reliable. Especially if we take Refuge with good spiritual friends and essentially, just get on with it.

I was very disturbed, when the little being I have been harboring and nurturing within during my whole adult life, and throughout my sobriety and Zen practice, turned out to be a sort domesticated weasel. Cute, but still sort of like a weasel. (I don’t actually want to vilify the Weasel, because they are truly fine creatures to which we have assigned human failings so that we can feel better about ourselves. Sort of finger pointing and not noticing that what we are pointing to is us).

So, I found a great blind spot. And it was me. Whoda thunk?

I’m glad I am me (hmmmm?) and, a slow learner. I’m deeply grateful that I’ve been blessed with a long life despite my best efforts to the contrary, so that I can learn slow. Then again, what’s a couple of Kalpas for a sincere trainee?

Nothing, that’s what.

Life is short and

Life is long.

Lightning is neutral

In response to a friend who texted me this morning regarding a very difficult part of life which was being experienced, and the mixed feelings that arose, unbidden, and seemingly deep and simultaneously weird and shallow and practical; I wrote the following italicized text. I’m not a good texter, yet the format sometimes forces a clarity with a deep sense that there is more arising in me, that I need to look carefully with open heart and eyes. We teach each other and ourselves in so many ways, some sudden and unexpected. Below is what I wrote and then a further reflection on texting exchange.

I wept a bit last night while eating raspberry pie that the monks had given me. I wept because I was grateful and because I felt no one really knew me or actually cared. Despite all the good people in my life. Yes, it was just a feeling but it felt real. That’s the problem with feelings. The actuality of them is; they are real and they never last. They just point to some thing deeper.
We are just soft mushy things that don’t quite see that in true vulnerability there has to be pain that is almost too much at times. Not a cause for despair, but gratitude. With love.”

 

The arising of unexpected feelings or thoughts are akin to lightning in the night.

The flash appears and we have a momentary clarity about where we are and the view around us. Then dark again. Our regular view was presented in a completely different context. Our mental/emotional landscape is familiar most of the time, until an unbidden feeling arises and we aren’t really ready for it. So we are surprised and react instantly, and the feeling itself takes on a reality to which we assign an astounding amount of meaning and import. Right away!

Like lightning, the feeling is the product of a weather pattern, one that’s within us. Our internal weather depends on the climate of our Selves; that Being, we live in.

The climate of the Self, is naturally subject to change and we can influence those changes by how we respond to the world around us. When we’re able to influence our climate and therefore the weather (feelings and thoughts), we may see our personal “lightning” as a one-time disturbing event, which we need not worry about, or perseverate within

The feelings are real. And, they are temporary, i.e. subject to the law of change. They are as “real” as lightning and the feeling itself just lights up an aspect of our inner/outer life that probably needs some careful looking at, or tending too. So, feelings even when they seem to insist on permanence, are merely a lightning event in our own ecosphere. They exist temporarily, therefore must be useful for our own better purposes (spiritual).

My personal lightning flash last night while eating a slice of raspberry pie was not a problem, it gave illumination and context to that moment, in my time. And came in handy the next morning.

Up to me how I look at it. My choices create my climate and all my weather.

 

 So you should view this fleeting world
 A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
 A flash of lightening in a summer cloud,
 A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

Lotus Sutra