Oh boy! Friday I start a retreat at Insight Meditation Society. Because we need to bring all our bedding, I’ve been rubbing the twin-sized sheets in our closets to see which are softest, and glad that my stepdaughter Chloe favors pretty, floral patterns. And worrying about my outfits (true confession — I caught myself checking how certain pants will look from behind in the lunch line). This sweet, silly human mind is hoping that I’ll be feeling happy and comfy protected while I’m there. I’m going to miss David and lots of things.
I guess I will have to rest right within whatever happens. Here’s the kind of instruction I find so very comforting. I borrowed it from Thubten Kway, a Facebook practitioner.
“Obsessive use of meditative disciplines or perennial study of scripture and philosophy will never bring forth this wonderful realization, this truth which is natural to awareness, because the mind that desperately desires to reach another realm or level of experience inadvertently ignores the basic light that constitutes all experience. ” “Let go of what has passed. Let go of what may come. Let go of what is happening now. Don’t try to figure anything out. Don’t try to make anything happen. Relax, right now, and rest.” — Tilopa
I’m sharing this link to a wonderful Spanish language video because it lit up my heart with understanding. I’ve been more and more depressed about global warming. This winter has been so cold and after watching video of polar bears drowning I realize the cold should be up there, not down here. In this video, Marcelo Mosenson interviews the Argentine teacher and translator Gerardo Abboud. Gerardo talks about the attitude of patience and a systematic development of equanimity, love and empathy that come up naturally, removing the toxic forces of hate and despair. Sustaining a clear heart seems to me the only way through intractable conflict and seemingly desperate situations.
My father and mother in law died this winter within weeks of each other. My husband, David, and his family and I buried Sylvia in New Jersey on Sunday. I have been imagining us as orphaned little kids holding hands by an open grave, trying to carve out a little piece of happiness for ourselves as we transit through this life.
For no apparent reason, I feel closer to everyone and I believe it’s the impact of watching these two powerful beings disappear. I feel bonded with David, and my sisters, and stepmother, and somehow closer with this moment. It feels more vivid, naturally focused and undistracted. Sometimes I look at people in the street and think — Oh my god, you are going to have to die too! It’s an image-laden thought about the physical process. What I saw looked like hard work for the ones who were dying.
I want to get up the steam to write about these events a bit more — later. But for now, I will speak from a tired, stunned, soft and somewhat foggy-feeling space. There was terrible beauty. A kind of deep celebration, holding each dying person’s life in its wholeness. The completion of their process made it impossible to continue blaming them or doubting the value of who they had been — seeing them in all their facets, with the life of joys and pains and all the events they faced. Then the the mystery of contemplating the process of death itself. Why? There is no answer, really, only that it is this way.
This season has felt transforming for me, although I can’t help wishing these people had not been constrained to die. But it is the same force as living. As Dylan Thomas said, “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower/drives my green age.” And the brown age, and the stark black and white.
My new friend Sarah S. from Jackson Hole offers this link Perpetual Ocean
to a simulated animations of the ocean currents. Scroll down to the second image and run the video–it’s short.
The curlicues are lovely.
About Sarah — she just meditated for a month at Spirit Rock in Marin, CA. When I heard that her job was ‘remote cook’ I hardly imagined she gets helicoptered in to Greenland to feed scientific expeditions.
“Through compassion the Bodhisattva shakes with sympathy for all”–from a medieval Sri Lankan text.
One of our neighbors is insisting that our other neighbor must cut down two beautiful pine trees because they drop sap on her car.
These two trees are my friends. Calming, darkly beautiful, needled and bushy. The birds all hide in them. They shield a house that is basically a simple gray box that will be ugly without them.
Why aren’t homeowners required to get a permit or pay a huge fee before they can kill a tree above a certain size?
Those white pines are surely older than any of us.
Some of the biggest trees in neighboring gardens have died of disease or old age lately and only one neighbor (Felicitas!) cared enough to replace elm with sycamore.
Our sky is bare and stretched, the un-beautiful stands revealed. Sagging tarps and chain link and asphalt.
While I’m weeping here let me also tell you how on the other tiny street that feeds into ours, really a one lane alley, 15 new condos have been approved for construction. 15!!!!
There is just not enough space for that much building. The houses are already side by side with only driveways between.
Our street is a lane and a half, and I dread 30 new cars barrelling around that corner every day.
We already have no parking places left on the street. Thank god for our own driveway, though it’s already impossible to back out of it without endangering ourselves.
The homeowners greedily build till there isn’t a blade of grass visible.
Profit, greed and escalation rule our world. I’m sad, obviously, and feeling helpless and angry.
The local officials just handed out these permits indiscriminately. At meetings with neighbors, planners said they wouldn’t consider the overall neighborhood, just each project on its own.
My friend Steve Boyd sent me a link to this animated wind map of the US.
Interactive Wind Map
Here is what the site says when you first view the map. “An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us—energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future. This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US.”
The map looks like moving hair, or grass blowing in the breeze. It made me feel more connected to the rest of the country, imagining breezes in Idaho and what look like pretty strong winds going up the center of the country. And also more sensitive to all of the different energies moving around and through me (through everybody) at all times, including the energies of my body, emotions and thoughts, which never really stop–even when I’m sleeping. These energies have nothing to do with “me”, except that I am generated by them.
It’s good to acknowledge — and thank — the energies that sustain me.
On a list of tips for increasing your happiness instantly by 10%–visiting a farmers’ market. Sounds shallow, completely absurd, defeated in advance by ‘gaining mind’, but the notion is that it makes us happy to be doing healthy and wholesome things with other people. After biking to our very own local farmers’ market at Union Square in Somerville today I must give resounding support to the suggestion. Sunny and bright, fall light. Live music and fresh vegetables, people and dogs, babies playing on a giant green tractor parked in the middle of the square. David and I ran into his friend Signe Porteshawver, and we had a heart to heart talk. Came home safely with organic green beans and a free radish which had fallen on the ground.
Afterwards I was standing in our driveway, trying to isolate the relevant key to unlock the garage and put my bike away, when a moment of awareness descended upon me. Nothing other than what was there, the green garage door and black asphalt. I’d found the true key and secret to living (I was convinced, with a certain amount of proselytizing energy). An ordinary instant went from zero to amazing. Life out of time in an equanimous intensity.
Awareness feels thick today, thanks to the students, fellow teachers and staff at the two meditation retreats that I just taught in a row. (One at Southern Dharma Retreat Center in NC and the other at Cloud Mountain in WA). Every nudge that has kept me on the path and the (figurative) meditation cushion and shown me how to live in the heart. Kilung Rinpoche, all friends, David who lets me out of the house. It all goes back and back to the Big Bang I suppose.
This is Dodrup Chen Rinpoche, a Buddhist meditation master who lives in Sikkim. I want to share this photo with any blog visitors because I think it conveys something of his profound presence.
Better not to describe it or my words will get in the way.
The Buddha’s Fire Sermon is one of the most compelling and profound poetic instructions ever given.
“Friends, all is burning,” it begins.
But what the Buddha means is the experiential world, as he goes on to explain, sense door by sense door, in the remaining body of the Fire Sermon. The world of our senses and perceptions is all we will ever know and strictly speaking from this perspective there is no outer world.
This morning I’m attempting that flip of perception, dropping out of dualism. Sitting in the panorama of senses and mind, a panorama of glittering change, like fire.
Sitting in LAX in the odd limbo state after teaching a meditation retreat. There were nearly 150 people meditating at the Institute of Mental Physics in Joshua Tree, CA. Now they have all dispersed, gone back to their homes with tenderer hearts and minds charged up by 9 days of intensive attention. Drove to Palm Springs through the Joshua Tree National Park, an otherworldy landscape of searing heat, psychedelic piles of boulders that resemble mummies and potatoes and dinosaurs and skulls. On the flat areas there are Joshua Trees, which have a surprisingly intelligent look–like Doctor Seuss characters or bonsai–and are extremely slow growing, individual plants 300 years old.
At the moment I feel drained and tranquil, listening to noodly guitar music and watching James–who must be the cutest baby in the world, play with his family. It is a touching scene. James is about one and a half and he is wearing a striped onesie and his pacifier. He can kind of walk–holding onto the edges of the chairs. In this manner he has managed to make a tour of the waiting area, although it is a good thing there’s plate glass in the window or he would have lurched out onto the runsay. He’s been flirting with me, shyly visiting and then running away. I envy his loving parents. I have fallen in love with him! He occasionally laughs for no other reason than pure delight, and even more frequently suddenly finds himself sitting on the ground with a bump instead of walking. But he just gets up again and keeps exploring.
James just boarded his flight for Tucson in the arms of his pierced, tatted dad. The noodly music continues.