Encounters on the cloister

Pause awhile to take it in.
Pause awhile to take it in.

The cloister, a third of a mile long covered walk way holds many a charmed moment. Cats disport themselves in the heat of the day and hunt by night. Sometimes there are clashes however for the most part peace reigns. It has not always been so. Max and Tom were both un-neutered toms and thus could not share the cloister. Max was caged by day and Tom by night. I wish it had been the other way around! Max who I cared for every summer in the 1980’s would appear in the morning in the garden beside ‘his house’ battle worn from a night out in the neighbourhood. Congealed blood mixed with dust matted into his long coat – he gazed out of his  crazed battle worn eyes saying something like: Don’t ask! Just let me in and feed me. I really didn’t need to ask. Long haired, champagne coloured and handsome. The old reprobate. We love those cats. I think he died in battle. One time he just didn’t make it home and was never found.


This morning walking to breakfast having received a couple of emails from readers saying how they appreciated the teaching in the recent Fire! Fire! post I was thinking I could give a talk based on it. No sooner had I thought that thought than the Prior caught up with me on the cloister! Had you thought of doing this Sunday’s Dharma Talk? She asked. I had to say yes because it was the truth and knowing full well that with my yes came the commitment to do it! So be it.

Part of my pondering on doing a talk was the wish to offer something into the merit pot for all those caught up in the fire that sprang up yesterday afternoon very close to the monastery. Mt. Shasta power was shut down for awhile and aircraft were coming in low over the property heading towards the fire to let loose water or fire retardant to save what ever was still not burnt. 150 structures or more were lost or damaged in a very short time, flames were fanned by a strong wind. The monastery was never under alert to evacuate, a community in the path of the fire did have to evacuate.
Update on the Boles fire Weed issues 15 mins ago.

Thoughts for the people of Weed and all who were involved in fighting the fire. And thank you to the monk now returned to her temple in Canada and once living close to Weed for her contribution of photographs.

Mountain High Valley Deep Challenge

The other day I was talking to a sangha member in England. Turns out her younger sister Anne Bates is, maybe as I write, swimming across Ullswater (a deep and cold lake in the English Lake District) then climbing a mountain (she doesn’t say which one but they are all quite lofty in those parts.) She is raising funds for pancreatic cancer research. Anne writes:

Last year, my very good friend – Lisa Wilson died from pancreatic cancer. I need to play my part in raising awareness and vital funds for research into this vile disease.

On September the 13th/14th I will be climbing a peak and swimming across Ullswater to raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Charity.

This will be a huge challenge for Anne and I wish her all the good fortune in the world as she swims and climbs today in memory for her good friend Lisa. Having recently witnessed somebody coming to the very end of the process of dying from this form of cancer I can only say that any and all efforts to raise awareness and generate funds for research is laudable. And essential. Anne has raised over £500 and the amount is increasing.

This lunchtime we had a memorial meal here at Shasta Abbey for Grant who died recently of pancreatic cancer. RIP Grant, you are well remembered. The meal featured a traditional Ukrainian dish called Pierogies. We probably made enough to last us into next week! There was chocolate cake too.

Memorial meal
Memorial meal

Fire! Fire!

There was a lot of smoke in the air yesterday wafting from the Happy Camp Complex fire which is not so far away from Mt. Shasta, as the smoke blows! Mt. Shasta was hidden from view, the tree tops where holding a bit of smoke and you could smell it in the air. As the day progressed I noticed various physical symptoms such as dry eyes and nose, sneezing, headache, skin feeling creepy and my breathing becoming laboured. But what I didn’t connect with being a consequence of the smoke was a growing sense of anxiety and worry. Anxiety can attached itself to anything handy and yesterday it connected to an area of garden and the non functioning of the automatic watering system. The worry grew and grew and by the end of the day, projecting forward into the future I could see dried up azaleas on their last legs getting ready to die. All because the automatic watering system wasn’t working correctly.

By late afternoon I realized I was well out of balance. My level of anxiety was out of proportion to circumstance. I eventually said to one of the monks, I think I need to be locked up! I’d been trying to mobilise help from various monks connected with the watering system and noticed they were looking at me in a kind of ‘patient’ way! Anyway the kind and very wise monk said, Well there IS something wrong! The ancient part of your brain is registering danger. Get away, fight the fire. So with the realization that the smoke was the trigger for the over the top anxiety about the watering system and that the fires were not a threat and was being dealt with I relaxed. I let go of the near death bushes and got on with the rest of the day.

Interestingly as we all sat in the meditation hall this morning I noticed a level of internal buzz in myself. Reflecting, I realized that the fire, the burning up of vast acres of forest and the efforts of the firefighters relatively close was in some subtle way resonating in me.

Where ever one is and what ever the conditions internally and externally we will resonate with those conditions. More often than not it’s not possible to find causes to the way things are within oneself, as I did with the smoke and fire. The basic training instruction is to ‘sit still within the midst of conditions’. This does not mean one FEELS still, far from it. Sitting still is an intention not a standard to live up to and something to feel badly about when it seems we are falling short.

You might want to listen to the Dharma talk given last Sunday at Shasta Abbey called Searching For Safety given by Rev. Master Serena Seidner.