Monday, January 26, 2015

No way, Jose!

Prompt: “Coffee Break,” by Kwame Dawes

No way, Jose!
Is life
this short?

Yesterday I had
my yearly checkup
with the eye doc.

And then
today
had the next one.

I don't think
we had aged, either
he nor I.

The balloon man
waited for coffee,
and it was too late.

First time I read it as
he'd skipped out, which
I guess he did,

in his own way,
leaving his balloons
on his still chair.

Was his lap his lap?
Does condensed or whole milk
even matter.

In retrospect,
we'd do
things so differently.

Much differently!

I did something
bad
almost 50 years ago.

If only I could go
back in a
time machine,

slightly wiser,
and make some
better choices.

What was I
thinking?
Or was I?

It would have
been so easy just to
choose cow's milk.

Who would complain?

I could have just thought
a little of the consequences
of my actions.

Or, to save a dime,
I wrote instead of called...
and it was too late.

When you are on
a speeding train,
it doesn't take long to be late.

The eye doc said,
which is better,
a or b, and I'd blink,

and ask him
to show me a and b
over and over again.

Life is that
short.
Isn't it?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gifts


Gratitude hasn’t been a good word for me. It, like giving, had some bad implications. But lately I’ve been aware of some phenomenal gifts I’ve been receiving when taking a picture.

Something will catch my eye and I’ll go to take a picture. Most of my pictures are done with an iPhone. When I look on the “ground glass” I usually see something that hadn’t caught my eye but becomes part of the picture. In fact, here it was my shadow, which wasn’t even there until I stepped towards the table. “Oh, a gift!” I’d say to myself. But like most gifts, I'd have to “put it away.” So the composition has to change a little to accompany the shadow.

Then there are gifts when I view my picture in an editing program. First I see the blue cloth, then the styrofoam cup and container. Lastly, I see the little blue doorway under the table.

I suppose a good photographer might have seen all these in that moment where she saw something to photograph. But I did not.

There are gifts in all areas of my life. As much as we appreciate those whom we love, they do things time and again that we don't expect. My daughter wrote a beautiful poem the other day about her childhood. It was a gift to see what she remembered and what shaped her into the beautiful person she has become. Over and over again, gifts are falling from trees and sprouting up from the ground. Just now, I’m looking at the shutters in my window and seeing how this soft gentle light is coming into my room, and into my life so peacefully and perfectly.

Yes, I feel gratitude for these gifts.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

God

Why is it that we talk about belief in God as a yes or no? I used to think it was some gauge of whether a person had a brain or not. Most of us believe in love and beauty, yet they may not "exist" in a physical sense. So to with "God." As we acknowledge that God is a belief, we put her in the box with love and beauty. She is real in that sense, because she is in our minds as a belief. When she did this or that, it might just be an ancient way of saying that this or that occurred. And no more than that.

The Disease of Evil

There was a movie called the making of Schindler's List. In it (or maybe it was in Schindler's List itself) we see a released one from a concentration camp giving his boots to one of the guards who had no boots.

Yesterday I heard the term "the disease of evil" as a better way of talking about people who do bad things. The rabbi said that in the same way we don't use the word "drunk" anymore, but rather alcoholic, we should recognize evil as a disease.

I think that this is helpful for two reasons. For one, it might create an opening for a relationship with those that do evil things. And maybe more importantly, it opens our heart. I don't believe we can have hatred in our heart and love at the same time. Evil eats at love. We can have compassion for those purveyors of evil.

I realize that this is not only difficult but disgusting to some. I'm sorry. Separating the doer from the action might be one means of coming to terms with the enemy. In the enemies' eyes, we are the purveyor of evil as well. But we are right, we say. Maybe so in the grand scheme of things. But in the meantime, the disease of evil is eating away at our love.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

5 Stories

1. Gas leak.
Daughter moves
Home,
With little ones.

Daughter goes for
Happy hour. Kids cry.
Right pacifier? No dice,
Called daughter.

2. Lover of cranes.
Metal ones, not bird ones.
Critical to modern buildings,
Temptation arises.

She sneaks into construction site
Photographs one. It preens
Against a sky,
Displays a long thin cloud.

3. Massage today.
Who is your trainer?
You're a walking
Testimony.

Reflections on her glass table.
I liked better the
Reflections under her table
...Last month.

4. New battery, old laptop.
Less ump than the ancient
Battery.
Needs returning.

New glass for sunroom,
Fogged just after
Warranty ended.
Bad luck/planned obsolescence.

5. See art tomorrow.
Eat Indian food.
Stupid to plan.
Maybe gas leak again,

Maybe crane will eat the Indian food up,
Maybe reflections will become the object,
Maybe the sun will end the fogged glass,
Maybe tomorrow will go as planned...not!

Inappropriate Thinking

Chomsky once wrote the introduction for a book on denying the Holocaust. He defended the writers on their right to free speech. Later he regretted what he had done, not that he reversed his position, but rather that he learned that we can not be rational about certain points of view.

Yesterday I met a Frenchman from a Torah group who lived near the area in Paris where the terrorism had occurred last week. Inappropriately (for the same reason that Chomsky “wised up,” I said something to the effect that our God in the Torah seemed to perform such terrorism over and over again, like in the story of the Golden Calf.

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.” —Exodus 32:27-29

In Torah group, one of the more vocal members spoke about the recent terrorism in the last week in France and Nigeria. He spoke of the how the fundamentalists had a world vision, and we (Reform Jews) did not. He was proposing that we develop one. World visions to me, no matter how altruistic, are scary. They are based on knowing what is best for someone else.

Then I started flinching over statements about fundamentalism and rationality. Can we really say that fundamentalism is not rational. As I remember from early math classes, we make axioms and prove theories. That is using logic to understand behavior. If we assume that there are two worlds, this one and the next one, and that our success in the next one depends on certain actions in this world, then aren’t we being rational? We may disagree with their axioms. But axioms, by definition, aren’t provable. The are assumed so we make conclusions.

The lovely lady sitting next to me in the Torah group said that she wanted a world where diversity can occur. Though I share that thought, I’m not sure it is more rational than the opposite viewpoint: that the best world is one where my way is everyone’s way.

My point is that we don’t make much progress in embracing our enemy with name calling (i.e. fundamentalist or irrational). Calling your wife irrational because she has a different view of where the dish towel should be hung doesn’t help a marriage. Figuring out how your axioms vary can inform us to understand the other side of the coin, and maybe even to shift our thinking a little.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Moments Are Treasures That Need to Fly Away

The photographer, Wynn Bullock, said that photographs aren’t frozen moments, but rather they are events. I heard that about 50 years ago when he came to visit at the University of Illinois.

The idea in Zen of things being “as it is” (in Suzuki Roshi’s words to indicate that there is only one, not many, thing) led me down the wrong path, in a sense. This was entirely my own doing. The moment is not fixed but changes now and now and now.

The challenge is to not realize that only this moment exists (whatever that might mean), but that if we attach ourselves to this moment, we’ll lament that the next moment is not as the last moment was.

What we touch is very very sticky!

William Blake wrote:
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the wingèd life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise.
Once I was drilling a hole in the sheet metal of my van and my pant leg got caught in the drill bit. Time stopped. I realized I had to hold onto the drill, but release the trigger. Metaphorically, the drill is the moment, which needs to be a point of focus, and the trigger is an object of release, both being done at once. This is not a matter of doing one, and then the other. Both have to be done simultaneously. Kisses aren’t perpetual, but temporal.

I woke up a little with this stupid accident.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Entertainment...Not!

Today I was shopping again. It was New Year’s Eve and Central Market was crowded. So much so, it was a war zone and I couldn't think much about right action. It was just a matter of moving forward and not hitting anyone. But I realized that what I could choose was not how I acted, but how I felt. Was I going to be fraught with “sizzling electrodes” or was I going to a “quiet creek.” Somehow I felt mostly peaceful, though my wife wanted me to get her a Divine Chocolate bar and Central Market appeared to not be carrying it anymore. I felt a little stupid that I could not find it. They have so many kinds of chocolate it often is hard to find the divine.

I had two ideas for writing today. One is “to what extend are our actions governed by law,” and the second was “what is entertainment?” Both of these topics are weighing on my mind. I wanted to write them both, but while navigating the crowds at the grocery, I could not figure out how these two topics were connected.

Then as I loaded the groceries into my car, it came to me. I have the same emotional response to both topics. I'm the least fun person I know, other than my wife (and maybe my son). We aren't much into entertainment. We are staying home New Years eve and will enjoy our highlight of the year at 11pm—the ball in Times Square hitting falling down (which they didn't show on TV after all). That seems something that we've shared for 45 years. Entertainment? Not really. I like to figure things out. I've never wanted my art to entertain, and I've never enjoyed “being entertained.” I think I'm a genuine “bump on the log” as my sisters called me. Fun for me would be if something broke, and I could fix it. No champaign, but I did buy a jar of crunchy peanut butter. Will that count?

As a kid, I would watch the neighbor kids play cowboy and Indians and I couldn't get that at all. How do you pretend to be something you aren't? Seems like a giant leap. (So my daughter, when I told her this, said I must have Aspergers. I took an online test and scored pretty well. When I told my wife, she said I needed to get out of my head.)


I haven't dealt with the question of “govern.” It is a big one and I’ll look at that tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Rat and Sudden Enlightenment


Have you heard the saying, “Make a plan and watch god laugh?"

Every day I was going to do accomplish five things.

Today I had the whole day, which means I'll waste more time. Someone in the neighborhood said he'd loan me a cable for a network experiment that I was doing. I hadn't been to his house, so I drove to his street and got out of my car and walked across the street to see the house numbers.

The next thing I know I kicked something laying on the street. I was surprised because I thought there was nothing on the street. I looked down and there was a dead rat.

I've been trying to be mindful of my actions. Here was such a simple task. Walk across the street. Find the house and get the cable from the porch.

And then the rat. It is always a rat that goofs up plans. The rat just wasn't supposed to be there. He wasn't part of the world I had constructed.

Last night I was reading about the debate between sudden and gradual enlightnment. This was certainly sudden enlightenment. But what did I learn?

This is not my world. It belongs to all of us, and what happens is the result of many paths crossing. There is not one story, but rather, all these stories intersect. The rat had a story, perhaps that it had been poisoned. I had a story—my computer network wasn't behaving well. And you had a story, doing what you do. But these aren't independent stories. They intersect, sometimes with a thump. Kicking a rat is a unique experience. For a moment, my foot felt this rather plump fellow.

My day continued, with time flying out the window and I still hadn't done my five things. Then a friend called and I knew he'd be out of touch for the next three months so we talked for over an hour.

I still had time. Lots of time. Then Sarah called about the prompt. Oh, I needed to do that. An easy job... just print it out. Then Bill emailed about the prompt... now I needed to do a little research. And then my printer wouldn't work so I had to mail the document to another computer to get it to print.

Still a couple of hours left to do my five things. And then my son called. He was very excited to talk about his new project, so we talked a long time. And the clock ticked and the rat lay in the street, and the intersections were all there teaching me how interconnected we all are.

Have you heard the statement, “Make a plan and watch God laugh.”

I did and he did.

Monday, December 29, 2014

On the Wagon

I’ve been on the wagon for two days (counting today(. I posted pictures on Please No Words, I did a Torah post on Kenshin’s Bar Mitzvah, I wrote something for everyday I think (this for today), and I logged my food. In addition, I’m supposed to do some medical stuff which I did too (mostly(. I was good, so to speak. Better, at least.

It has been since Nov. 11 since I did this. Amazing how seven weeks can fly by.

I did accomplish some stuff in the meantime, but not stuff that prevented me from doing the stuff that is important. I wanted to set up a computer with linux and ended up putting it on two computers. I have an old G4 laptop that will become the next recipient, though it works so well now after I did a clean install of an old operating system.

I’ve become interested in resuscitating old technology. I’m starting to like my iPhone 5S better because it isn’t the most recent model. “New” can become a disease. I once hear a great lecture on “new” by a photography critic. “New” can be an insidious virus.

I’ve been dealing with waking up (Zen talk). That for me is to realize the consequence of my actions. It is my Zen “practice period” focus for the next three months. Of course, if I beat myself up for being asleep it will not be fun. I want to improve my practice of archery, so to speak. I want to hit the target more often. Yet archery may not be about hitting the target as suggested in Zen in the Way of Archery.

We think of tests, like the SAT or the GRE. But what about the simple task/test of washing one’s hands. How well can that be done? Do we get our hands clean? Do we love our hands? Or even typing one character on a keyboard. Is there time in our life to touch everything as if it was very very special? I think so.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Choices

TS Elliot wrote in the Wasteland,   
“What shall I do now? What shall I do?   
I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street   
With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?   
What shall we ever do?”
This is the dilemma we have every moment—What shall I do (and how?). Supposedly a teacher makes 1500 educational decisions every day.

A driver can make 250 conscious decisions every mile.

I’m tired just thinking about it.

I tried to make conscious decisions as I went shopping yesterday. At the grocery store there was a white woman with a little black boy. Her love for the boy was obvious as she kissed and hugged him. He seemed about three and she held him in one arm, with a satchel of groceries in the other hand. She was behind me in line. I told her she could go in front of me. At first she politely hesitated, but then she accepted. I was aware that my decision made her life a little easier. I was also aware how my action made me feel so good.

Then the cashier asked if I was having a good day and I said, “yes. How has your day been.” I looked him in the eye and cared for that moment who he was and how he was feeling. Again I felt good.

It was not my intention in doing either of these “mitzvahs” to feel good. I was still recovering from someone butting in front of me a week ago. I didn’t say anything to them.  I just felt pushed aside for a week.

At Costco, they check your membership card as you enter. For those, like myself, who frequent the warehouse store, most of the checkers just let you by. A new checker was there, and asked for my card. I decided to just walk by, with the defiance that Michael Brown may have felt when the cop asked him to get off the street.

The checker yelled after me, “may I see your card, please.” But I just kept walking. And then I felt bad the rest of the day.

That was yesterday. Today I made another trip to another grocery. I played a little game where I’d focus my awareness and then grade myself for how well I did the job. For example, after “checking out” I decided that I didn’t have enough groceries to use a cart to to carry them to my car. I first thought I would just leave it in front of the store as people often do. Then I decided to return it to the other carts. I had a minute pang of guilt wondering if I was costing anyone a job, but I proceeded anyway. When I pushed the cart into the other carts I surprised myself that I had not done it very gently. I started feeling bad for how I had treated the cart. Why was I angry at it? I gave myself a “B-.”

You might think I’m being very rough on myself. Actually I'm just trying to see the effect of my actions.

My father always complained that I did the wrong things. So I’m thinking...could I do the right thing if I really tried. I don’t mean almost the right thing...but really really the right thing. Could I return a grocery cart to its resting place as if it was a super thin egg shell? Could I set a tea bowl on a table so softly that I wouldn't wake it up?

Let’s see how I do tomorrow.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Random Meanderings

Lunch today at Casa de Luz. I was offered an opportunity to choose my piece of pie. My first thought was to take the biggest piece. I eyed a big whopper that had no pie shape whatsoever. It must have been the last piece in the pie pan. But it was behind the others, and actually did not look that appetizing. It was more of a garbage heap than an appetizing dessert. Then I eyed a pretty miserable little piece in the front row. It wasn't much bigger than the others and was poorly formed, but it spoke directly to my heart. “No one will choose me,” it cried. “I will,” I answered. And I did.

At the park yesterday I came upon a broken and decayed limb that must have fallen from some height in that it had shattered into many pieces. I eyed the arrangement of the pieces and commented to my friend that this arrangement was anything but random. Just because there was no apparent pattern, the arrangement of the various splinters of the limb seemed determined conditions—primarily by the fall.

Similarly, I eyed my plate after I scarfed down that piece of walnut pie. The arrangement of the remains was impeccable. No skilled set designer could fabricate such an authentic configuration of crumbs. “Is anything random,” I remarked, looking at the beautiful swirls that moved in a figure 8 pattern.

Supposedly computers can't generate random numbers. The numbers can be random enough to be useful, but not truly random. “Is anything random?” I asked.

“But we aren't computers,” my friends at lunch suggested. To which I responded, “Oh, I think we are. We have input and output.” Then they started to talk about their friend who was an astronomer. They suggested that he would agree, adding that they were on one side, the astronomer was in the middle, and I was at the other end (wherever that might be).

If “God doesn't play dice with the universe,” as Einstein famously said, then I wondered “is anything not the result of conditions?”

I mentioned my fixation on randomness to a Zen teacher yesterday and she replied that it didn't matter whether randomness existed or not, but what mattered was how I worked with it.

If the universe is the result of conditions, are my actions also the result of conditions? Today I wondered if everything but people is a product of conditions. Am I really free to do as I please? What will I do next? Will I go home after Zen writing tonight, or will I go by Walgreen's and pick up a prescription? Will one choice be the right one, according to my programming, and the other...well...wrong? Will I get an error message?

Now I'm feeling a little self-conscious about believing I'm making decisions. Did the branch decide how it would splinter after the long fall? Did the pie maker orchestrate how the piece of pie looked, shoveled onto a plate?

Am I free at all? Some believe that our unconscious mind (our computer?) decides things before our conscious does. Are we just on autopilot? With enough knowledge, could we have known that there would be an Einstein who would preach that the universe behaves according to its laws?​​​

Sunday, December 21, 2014

North Korea/Sony incident

I wrote this as a comment to the North Korea/Sony incident. I try to see the other side of things. It is too easy to take pot-shots from the peanut gallery.

Perhaps in some of these instances the threats remind us that we aren't being kind. Maybe Sony learned that they can't make fun of world leaders and call it entertainment. I understand that the cost of caving in to threats, but I think that the benefit of such actions is that they makes us reflect more on how we are treating others.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Dukkha

Dukkha (Pāli; Sanskrit: duḥkha; Tibetan: སྡུག་བསྔལ་ sdug bsngal, pr. "duk-ngel") is a Buddhist term commonly translated as "suffering", "anxiety", "stress", or "unsatisfactoriness".

I sit quietly in my chair, thinking how I attach myself to the renegade thoughts floating through my head. Some are easy to resist. I watch them come and go. Others seem to “get me,” kidnapping me until I can escape back onto my seat.

These thoughts that wait around in my head are not strangers. They seem to reside in me, and jump into my conscious mind whenever I pause from the busyness of life. I'd like to call them “old friends,” but, honestly, they are kind of boring.

I hear an airplane overhead. Forgetting where (or who) I am, or what I'm doing, I eagerly board the plane. I scold myself for doing so, but still, I find myself sitting in my favorite aisle seat. Soon the plane noise stops, and I return to me and my seat. And then, just as I congratulated myself for jumping ship and returning to my chair, the noise starts again and I'm back on the ship, looking at the clouds passing by.

Finally the plane quiets down, and other noises in the temple start appearing. They are not so seductive as the plane. I worry that some might not like these noises, calling them distracting. I try to think of them as opportunities for practice. But actually, they were fairly easy targets as they are unenticing, unlike the plane that buzzes through the sky.

I wrote the other day about how active meditation can be. Will the timer go off? Will people be irritated that our environment isn't perfect, devoid of all stimuli? Why do we call it meditation, anyway?

Perhaps crossing a busy street in the city should be called meditation and sitting quietly should be called crossing a busy street. Perhaps I should “just sit.”

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Independent Spiritualist

Robert Hutchins, the architect behind the Great Books, and president and chancellor of the University of Chicago wrote "read critically, think independently, discuss good naturedly the issues of the day."

My classmate from over 50 years ago at the U of C Lab school responded to that quote:
“Problem is that is an impediment to military, group, spiritual situation or condition

Academics have a monumental problem with belief in God because they see surrender to a higher power as weakness. They cannot
accept His teachings as the complete & final word. They cannot accept mankind as flawed…

Academics are roadblocks to group action, unity, because the individual in each questions everything, and yet groups are run often by the dyslexic (legions of history here), the average (Woody Hayes), the mundane, and the sinners, the flawed…”
I can’t say much about the military since my experience was so brief (one semester in ROTC because it was required at U of I). I did ride on the plane with a student from West Point and was questioning him about what he’d do if his sergeant told him to do something that seemed wrong. He said that he’d been taught to do what is right, not what he was told. That’s what we learned from the Nuremberg trials.

Going back to the Garden of Eden, I think that eating the fruit was the beginning of independent thinking. I would like to believe that independent thinking is a prerequisite toward finding and following a spiritual path. That is what Christ, Buddha, Moses and all the other leaders did. And Gandhi as well. Buddha said that if he says one thing, and your teacher says something different, you should follow your teacher. Judaism is not founded on belief but rather on action. It is about humans discovering what is human. What Linji was talking about was that mindlessly following a path is no different than being a prisoner, shackled and bound.

I wouldn’t be pursuing a spiritual path if I thought that meant losing my independence. The fact that paths are ultimately unique means that we must, yes, must, be independent. Otherwise we are simple sheep, doing the right thing, not as humans, but rather as animals.

The surrendering, for me, is seeing our interdependence. When a gear shift grows up, it stops thinking of itself as a gear shift, but rather thinks of herself as an integral part of a car. In the same way, we surrender minute by minute. When we drive in traffic we can choose to be part of the dance of cars, or to drive in our own direction which will likely lead to an accident. Choosing makes us human. But following the crowd blindlessly will lead to a pile-up. We have to be ready for independent thought.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Qi and Air

The Prompt: Mark Strand, Poet Laureate

It is hard to be nondualistic when doing qigong, or when thinking about being separate from the air we displace. We have stale qi and fresh qi. We move out the stale and move in the fresh. I doubt that one qi is better or worse than the other. It is more like how we get hungry or tired.

In Strand’s poem, he ends with, “I move to keep things whole.” In fact, we do the same in qigong, moving qi to keep us energized.

The air moves as the man moves. They switch places for a moment until the air is returned. Is it the same air, having been displaced by a man? It now has been stirred up. It has a little tale to tell its grandchildren.

“I move to keep things whole.” I thought in college sometimes that I’d learn something and then I could ride in this sweet Cadillac and not have to struggle one bit. Ha Ha. That was a joke.

Even a poet laureate needs to move to stay alive. Even the Dalai Lama needs to meditate four hours a day. Is meditation and moving much the same? I think so. And what is movement? When I am still, I really move. My thoughts can be as chaotic as Niagara Falls. And when I move, I am still—busy but somewhere else. Is one better than another? Or are they brother and sister—one complementing the other.

Wordsworth wrote that “Art is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, recalled in tranquility.” It is one action for a man to walk around displacing air, and a much different action, after the fact, to remember and admit that one had done such an interaction with the world. It might be a obvious to a very precocious third grader, but not one ordinarily observed by an adult, unless, of course, they were a poet laureate… and a meditative one at that.

Friday, November 21, 2014

All Roads Lead to Rome.

The Romans were great road builders. They saw Rome as the center of the universe, and wanted to make sure that the little towns didn’t gang up against Rome, so made the roads so that they’d only go to Rome. You couldn't go from one little town to another.

Jim Jordan wrote about religions that there were many comic books and they all said the same thing.

Thoreau wrote, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

I think I mistakenly misunderstood each of these maxims. I heard them say that any-which-way is fine.

If you’ve been in a forest you know that there are paths and there is getting lost. There are “not paths” so to speak.

Thoreau talks about “hearing a different drummer.” He’s not saying that you don’t need a beat… a path. You need to step to the music you hear. But you need to hear music.

Jim Jordan said that there are comic books. Which implies that there are also “not comic books.” Buddha’s enlightenment provided for Buddha (and others) a new comic book.

Rabbi Baker said the other day that we pick our road depending on where we are born and who we are. Roads are paths, and they have the three jewels of Buddhism: sangha (others), dharma (teachings), and Buddha (a sense of the infinite). Without the three jewels, one doesn’t have a compass.

Emerson wrote, “…and the great man is he, who in the midst of a crowd, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude,” he wasn’t advocating for walking alone (which he did not do), but rather about not being swayed every-which-way by the crowd. He heard a beat. It reinforced the path that he was on.

It is not our challenge to walk alone. It is not to head off the path and get lost. It is to find our road, lined with the three jewels.

And that road will lead to Rome, which is our center—our Buddha nature, our Atman, who we were meant to be, etc.

I believe Baby Boomers were mistaken that any-which-way was a path. We were wrong and lost.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Camas Lilies and Jerusalem

I'm not into lilies today. I moaned that would be the prompt as I drove here.

Earlier I had heard that the fifth person had died in the attack at a synagogue in Jerusalem. A vicious attack, where their shawls were lying in the blood, like the Holocaust, one of the victims said.

Lilies in the field. Are there any such things? The other day someone was telling me that heaven was on earth, and, gazing out on the lilies, we might believe that. But then this or that happens, and... where is heaven?

I did mention to my heaven on earth friend that the idyllic heaven would be boring. Where would the challenges be? Where would the opportunity be to bloom, if everything were already bloomed like the lilies?

Such contrast. A pristine field of lilies, blooming their hearts out, and the shawls, laying in blood, telling a story we don't want to hear.

Do we walk in the fields and feel the wind caress our faces? Do we watch the news with a box of tissues to catch the tears?

My mom didn't want me to see the hellish side of life. She thought the challenges were enough without the sad. She hid an obituary of someone I admired so it would interfere with my schoolwork. We never went to funerals. She always maintained she lived on “heaven on earth.” After she passed, we read in her diary how depressed she actually was. But she didn't want to share that amongst the lilies. We needed our opportunity to bloom, she thought.

Prompt: lynnungar.com/camas-lilies-2/

Fracking Fracking

Maybe I shouldn’t write about fracking because I know nothing about it. But I’m fascinated how with this and a myriad of other subjects, people take sides. And they often think that those who take a different position are stupid and evil.

Like the other subjects, there are costs and benefits to fracking. The costs are the danger to the environment and the benefit is the cheap oil. Joe might see the environment as the most important value, or Mary might see getting oil or gas for cheap as the most important value.

Saying “I support fracking” at a gathering might get you hugged or stoned. The subtext might be a statement about your values. Is it independence from the Arab nations? Is it cheap oil? Is it the preservation of the water table?

We feel anger or love, depending on how our preferences align with one another. We’ve made a decision and, despite our limited information, attach that decision to who we are. I’m a fracker, or I’m an anti-fracker. And if you aren’t as I am, then I’ll befriend you.

I heard about a tribe of Indians. When there was a disagreement, the elders would sit around a table with a pumpkin in the middle. They’d all work to understand the problem they were facing, represented by the pumpkin. They wouldn’t try to convince others of their point of view. They’d work together to understand all sides of the issue.

Socrates disliked the Sophists because they practiced debating to win rather than as a means to find the truth. It seems when we are convinced about something, we forget the other side. We become irrational in that we insist that the pumpkin is only what we see from one vantage point.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Give Yourself a Break

”Life Goes On Here. I sit as often as possible and attempt—with somewhat limited success—to make mindfulness a part of my daily life.” —from a prisoner I encourage in their Buddhist practice.

Some of the challenging words in his statement, which may be just an expression of his humbleness, are “with somewhat limited success.” If one is aware that they are not being mindful, then they are being mindful of their mindfulness. And if they aren’t aware, they are not aware, but they are still on that continuum of degrees of mindfulness. They are perfect, so to speak.

Dogen wrote: If you wish to practice the way of the Buddhas … you should expect nothing, seek nothing. Cut off the mind that seeks and do not cherish a desire to gain the fruits of Buddhahood. – Zuimonk (trans. Cook, How to Raise an Ox, p24)

Wanting success in our mindfulness takes our eyes off the path and lets the peak of the mountain distract us.

Sometimes we gently put down the tea bowl. Other times we set it down less gently and make a noise. In the former case, we are mindful when we set it down. In the latter case we are mindful of how we set it down. Beating ourselves us because our mindfulness came a little late is not only non-productive but wrong. As I read the other day, we are both the bull and the china shop in the phrase, “like a bull in a china shop.”

We rock! My friend might have said “I sit and make mindfulness my daily life.” In some more challenging words, “as often as possible,” I sense a tang of guilt that he doesn’t make mindfulness a practice often enough, so an excuse is warranted. Again, now pain has entered the picture. Pain of not doing it always. What is creating the pain? An anxiety about not being perfect.

Yet Suzuki Roshi said that we are perfect just as we are, and we could stand a little improvement.