Unapologetic Discriminator

As with dogs, so with us humans? I’m prepared to run with this.

Attention is an intentional,
unapologetic
discriminator.
It asks what is relevant
right now,
and gears us up to notice
only that.

Alexandra Horowitz
Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know

Horowitz introduces the reader to dogs’ perceptual and cognitive abilities and then draws a picture of what it might be like to be a dog. What’s it like to be able to smell not just every bit of open food in the house but also to smell sadness in humans, or even the passage of time? How does a tiny dog manage to play successfully with a Great Dane? What is it like to hear the bodily vibrations of insects or the hum of a fluorescent light? Why must a person on a bicycle be chased? What’s it like to use your mouth as a hand? In short, what is it like for a dog to experience life from two feet off the ground, amidst the smells of the sidewalk, gazing at our ankles or knees?


With a hat tip to Frank whose emails end with the Attention quote.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Our Bowls Are Empty-Fullness.

My email this evening brought news of three people close to or having just died. This post is for them, and for all who are grieving, caring and letting go. Which includes me too.

There are few things in life more inconstant and more elusive, both in the fist of language and in the open palm of experience, than happiness. Philosophers have tried to locate and loosen the greatest barriers to it. Artists have come into this world “born to serve happiness.” Scientists have set out to discover its elemental components. And yet for all our directions of concerted pursuit, happiness remains mostly a visitation — a strange miracle that seems to come and go with a will of its own. “Those who prefer their principles over their happiness,” Albert Camus wrote in contemplating our self-imposed prisons, “they refuse to be happy outside the conditions they seem to have attached to their happiness.”

The following poem titled happiness is copied from Brain Pickings where you can read the full post that came with this poem.

HAPPINESS
There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep mid afternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket-maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
Jane Kenyon

Many thanks to Mark for the photograph.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Endless Training – Peaceful Life

25th October, 2017 at Shasta Abbey. As it would happen tomorrow is the day the community settles down for a ceremony called  Renewal of Vows. Part of it is to recite the Bodhisattva Vows, and there are bows and the reading of the Precepts too.

I’ve been thinking about vows, in particular the Bodhisattva Vows. (See the formulation we use within the OBC at the end of this post.) Looked at in a certain kind of way they are an expression of the aspiration to continue practice and to make one’s life, all that one does, an offering for the benefit of the world and all beings. BIG vow.

While looking for references to the Bodhisattva Vows I came across this poem, below, by Katagiri-roshi. The final words of the poem This is living in vow. Herein is one’s peaceful life found are touching and telling. Endless training, living by vow/religious commitment is where fulfillment can be found. The poem is part of an article titled, Living a Life of Vow By Zenkei Blanche Hartman. It is well worth a read.

In 1988, two years before he died, Dainin Katagiri-roshi, founder and abbot of the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, wrote this poem:

Peaceful Life

Being told that is impossible,
One believes, in despair, “Is that so?”
Being told that it is possible,
One believes, in excitement, “That’s right.”
But, whichever is chosen,
It does not fit one’s heart neatly.

Being asked, “What is unfitting?”
I don’t know what it is.
But my heart knows somehow.
I feel an irresistible desire to know.
What a mystery “human” is!

As to this mystery:
Clarifying,
Knowing how to live,
Knowing how to walk with people,
Demonstrating and teaching,
This is the Buddha.

From my human eyes,
I feel it’s really impossible to become a Buddha.
But this “I,” regarding what the Buddha does,
Vows to practice,
To aspire,
To be resolute,
And tells myself, “Yes I will.”
Just practice right here now,
And achieve continuity,
Endlessly,
Forever.
This is living in vow.
Herein is one’s peaceful life found.

The Bodhisattva Vows
However innumerable beings may be, I vow to save them all
However inexhaustible the passions may be, I vow to transform them all
However limitless the Dharma may be, I vow to comprehend it completely
However infinite the Buddha’s Truth is, I vow to realize it.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Moving On – The Great Matter

Some years ago a woman shared an insight she had on the day she moved house. This is the gist of what I remember she said. I watched the removal van disappear out of sight at the end of our road. I felt calm. The van was filled with all my possessions, all that had been my life up to then. My life with my late husband for so many years, my life bringing up two children and much more. It contained our memories. At that moment I knew it didn’t matter if I ever saw the contents of that van again. On the brink of a new life, always a potent time for insights, she saw into the fundamental impermanence of existence. And most importantly, I believe, she saw past or through impermanence as it was impacting her, to know a peace that comes from acceptance – while at the same time she was preparing to follow the van!

In this post titled Slow Change I talk about feeling oneself to be up against the wall, stuck and unable to move on. Of necessity, and the way things seem to work, times of turmoil, tears and self-doubt (to mention but a few emotions) often precede changes that can be seen and known. As is the case when deciding to and then preparing to move house. But that’s not the end of it. After a brief respite to unpack and settle in the fact that tears and turmoil re-emerge should not be seen as a mistake or a wrong direction taken. Anybody who has navigated the complex network of footpaths in Britain will know there are an infinite number of options to choose from and most paths will take you to more or less where you intended. Which one was the RIGHT path?

Birth and death, the Great Matter, or the truth of impermanence is ever-present. It is however easy to take this truth personally because it impacts us so very personally. The very understandable and human response is to think, Life is doing this to me and it hurts, Q.E.D. I need to solve this problem so my life becomes stable and fulfilling (again). The temptation to rush to solutions and in so doing miss the steps in between, is huge. Most often what is called for is to sit out the bumpy ride and allow what’s next to show itself. For most of us what happens in practice and what makes the road bumpy is second guessing oneself. By that I mean getting caught up in mental turmoil while at the same time lurking in the dark is a ripe knowledge of what’s right…but, but, but… Is it? The solution? Mentally step away from the wall, whatever that might mean in any particular moment or circumstance. Remove your back from what is known. This is a constant movement.

The Bodhisattva Vows are coming to mind so that’s the next thing to think/write about. And with that thought I’m removing my ‘writing back’ from against the wall where it has been resting for far too long.

This post, the merit of writing it, is offered to several people I am in touch with who have made huge changes to their lives in the past couple of days, and for those who are about to make a move. Oh, and not to forget the woman mentioned at the start of this post. Last time we met, and I saw into her current life circumstances, I said ‘you are indeed a Bodhisattva’.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

There’s more to silence

With memories of
a rule of silence
(self-imposed).

Sealed lips.
Exposed
rowdy mind!

Few mention advanced silence.

Silence while talking
singing, writing.
Laughing, sculpting.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Practice Within The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives