a strategic withdrawal…

I yelled at some poor dithering and confused old coot to ‘Shut the fuck up and sit down!”, at a noon meeting I go to. He was interrupting my flow of wisdom as I was sharing on a topic which I can’t remember, but was probably something like “Peace and Ease Within”. It didn’t feel good to do something like that to someone else who is trying to stay sober and has long-term sobriety and is just another old guy at the meetings who is starting to unravel a bit at the ends. Like certain parties of the first part.

So, I needed some spiritual belt-tightening; I’ve had other signs of that need in the previously, yet decided I could coast my way through; i.e. neglect the basics and presume achievement. Yay! Verily what mortal Schnooks and Schmoes we be!

So, I went to the Monastery where I took my ordination as a lay Buddhist thirty years ago and the Sangha within which I’d been training in Soto Zen for a bit longer than that.

Refuge. The Three Refuges of The Buddha, The Dharma and The Sangha.

12 Steps and Zen, a combination I’ve been practicing in tandem and am deeply grateful for. Still, I forget. I misplace, neglect and presume, and then, I suffer and cause others discomfort and suffering. At some point, usually sooner than later, I get back to the basics and find my real way back again. To the person that wants to change for the benefit of all beings, that wants to help, not improve, rather than hinder or bind.

I drove through the gates and joined the community of Monks for two weeks as a visitor and worked, ate, slept and meditated and participated in all activities according to the daily schedule. Reciting and doing the ceremonies and recitations that go back 2,500 years to the time of the Buddha. Watching the monks, many of whom have been training there for 30, 40 even 50 years; day in and day out doing the quiet difficult work of transforming their lives and ways of being for them selves and for all others.

The principles of Buddhism and 12-Step recovery are based on doing and participating in learning how to “be” different, not think different, but change how one does things, and over time the thinking changes. In both setting one learns how to live one’s way into another way of being, rather trying to just think one’s way into another way of living.

As my memory and mind are starting to make mistakes in perception and “…where the hell was I going?”, some things remain familiar. I can sit quietly, and I can participate in practicing these principles in all my affairs (as a goal:).

I can be still within

Turbulence and discomfort.

I can put my hands

Together; look up and

Ask for guidance.

May I Know what is good to know.

May I Do what is good to do.

Please help!

Unclutching the hand…

unclenching the hand, the mind and heart,

loosening the grip of opinion and knowing

doing what needs doing and is good to do

at times staying in place and holding open

hands that receive as well as bestowing

a letting be, as prompting, allowing a trust

to grow. The road is dusty and clogged with

chariots and donkey carts, electric luxury-cars

Datsun pick-up trucks and no dividing lines or

direction signs. It all looks aimless and the result

of chance, and I may make my way, direction

not clear; destination will appear when time

place, heart and mind plus this little wanting

are willing to receive and give as needed and

useful. Distinction between near and far

allowed to arise and pass to go on and on,

those are my thoughts as I grow and shrink and

change and learn to stop and go, not wander

nor wonder, just doing as is good to do, in

gratitude to all who point and mind the Way.

Dithering; Unconsummated efficiency…

I sure have been crabby lately.

A deep need to scuttle along ocean floor, searching and seeking and looking just not very patiently.

And, I have no idea what I’m looking for. So, a good clue that I need to take refuge in all the things I’ve set aside to make room for worry and doubt and hesitancy. Later this week I’m going up to our Monastery at Mt. Shasta to spend a little time with the monks in their daily activity and let things settle down a bit, within.

These past two years have been variously difficult for everyone I know or have come into contact with, and my presumption is that many people just didn’t have the necessary tools at hand to help them cope with change, pending disaster, upheaval of the norm and all the ‘usual’ unpleasantness. What I didn’t notice was that my presumption of having tools nearby and at hand did not mean that I was reaching for or using them in a useful way for my circumstances.

I recognize that approaching life and its offerings as something to be manipulated by tools one has acquired, is pretty shallow, yet can be useful and necessar, although a bit like driving with one flat tire because three can still get you there, and when things get worse, fix it all. That feels like a strategy, almost a solution, albeit temporary; yet it is merely avoiding. Compounding delusions later on by following hope.

Even so, we can acquire skills, outlooks, practices and ways of doing, being and thinking, that may move us in the right direction when distracted, lost or dreaming. Help and outlook can provide us with practices and ways of doing that influence our being and thinking into more kind and helpful lives. Helpful and kind to others and ourselves, perhaps in equal measure.

I have noticed and it has come to my attention (subtle differences in applicability), that when one of my tires gets low I will adjust my driving for a time out of compensatory driving habits, but at some point I continue as it gets more noticeable and just hope it gets better, or there is a gas station/service center ahead…The tire may then go flat and my choices are still the same and have greater probability for real disaster, if I continue on in just pure hope and a sense of luck.

Better to stop and wait for some help. I have been down this road before…There’s a fair amount of local traffic.

I wait by the roadside, a warm evening

Ticking sounds as the engine

Cools down and I remember

A bottle of water I have and

Go and check the Owners Manual

And “How to Fix a Flat”

Old Growth Sentients…

Hope for the Best. Expect Nothing. Do the Possible.

Almost half way through the first half of the last third (with any, luck?) of my life and some of my views have changed.

Most days are a bit overcast, with some drizzle or showers in the morning, the setting Sun a relief of another day and cautious expectations of the next.

Clouds, some small and scudding along, others slow, growing and gathering only to disperse as they move along, rather than across, the horizon.

Weather in the Fall, predicable within the context of the climate I am in. Four seasons and the world is changing. It would be changing without the drama too, but it sure is easier to apprehend the impermanence of life from my multi-directional vantage point. Earth in upheaval. Cognitive re-ordering and memory/truth re-ordering some becoming more clear some more fixed. And, still the ability to not only learn new things but to help the new re-order the old. That’s a good thing.

There’s no bad thing. There are uncomfortable things and things I wish were different, yet all things either come to me as teaching or as some perceived reward or punishment. Of course reward and punishment are teachings, but only if I don’t take them personally. The Good and Bad are merely opinions that I tend to cherish, if I’m not careful.

I am not the problem. I am the opportunity to see things differently. I have an array of choices.

At some point I chose to change my life by letting go of the problems that alcohol and drugs caused in my life. As I started out on that process I thought if I stopped drinking and drugging my life would get better and I would see with more clarity what I needed to do. Yikes! Did I ever.

I saw that I had to change everything about me, and lot of it in tandem (A type of simultaneous but different.), between what I thought, believed, and what I did. Inwardly and outwardly.

Turns out, that’s a lifetime process and a purpose.

Here I sat last night, after some months of spiritual, mental and physical discomforts; listening to the Giants vs. Dodgers, Giants lost:(There’s always tomorrow), and reading TYRANT Shakespear on Politics by Stephen Greenblatt; a terrific book that gives a deeply historical, literary and understanding compassionate view of modern times which seem to have many of us befuddled and at odds within and without, as of old. There is nothing new under the Sun.

It struck me as as contradictory with what I espouse as a way of being, but when have any of us never been full of contradictions which tend to resolve themselves by their very existence? Never, that’s when.

Choosing to be and to try and

See contradiction within and

Without, between you and me,

All is One, All is Different.

So plain, so close, so far, so me.

…has come too..

It has come to my attention that my mind is starting a process of being a bit of a bother to me personally.

Formerly I took a bit of pride in being able to see situations and their context clearly (for the most part, also some huge mistakes), and to be able to formulate a view of the world that seemed informed and rational (me being the rationalizer of course), and that clarity was present except for those years when I chose to not accept its presence.

These days, in the last year especially, there is a decline in memory and energy which often results in a type of lassitude that I’m not entirely comfortable with since it is not in my control, yet I am aware when it arises of itself.

I use all the usual strategies that aging folks do and like to talk about how those strategies don’t work so well because I forget to implement them in a timely fashion. As in beforehand.

So, this morning while musing on this, a new possibility opened up for me in how to see this situation as opportunity rather than an encroaching problem. It’s probably a combination of both aspects.

The way my mind is worryingly presenting itself of late is actually my seeing for the first time, on an on-going basis what my mind has been doing forever, its just that I’ve never noticed it before except during the process of mediation.

Through meditation I saw my awareness of the chattering mind as a plus, in order to orient me towards a different way of seeing what my thinking and mind really are, and that I have choices I hadn’t previously been aware of. Choices in how to think, what to think, what to believe when I’m thinking or what I believe without thinking. As well as the astounding number of different ‘minds’ that exist within me, which often don’t really communicate so much as just natter on and on.

So, I see my current/encroaching predicament as an opportunity to investigate and incorporate (mind/body), this awareness as a prompt to explore more thoroughly the place and use of this mind in positing spiritual questions, awareness and activity within the context of a more vibrant awareness that forgetfulness and sense of less-ness can offer.

It’s a matter of perception and choice, and I suspect I’ll have to learn, and see, if I can manage a consistent intention to view this process as a natural outcome of old age. One that has natural possibilities with positive outcomes being offered and which may just be mis-understood in our culture and society.

Anyway, that’s what’s coming to mind today. Everything in our lives comes to us a teaching if we make small shift in orientation and attitude and intention.

Columbus apparently was searching for India and got lost, said that he didn’t, and then realized he’d stumbled on to something quite unexpected that might useful. He wasn’t a genius he was someone looking for a place he’d heard about and was told it was “thataway” and found some support and went. We still don’t know the end of that story, because we are still living it.

Life is a journey

Destination inexplicable

Purpose difficult to see

Meaning hard to assign

Every day we wake up and

Wonder why where when

Loading the horses, camels,

Boats, carts and bags or

Pockets, look ahead and go.