Category Archives: Overcome Difficulties

Gifts

Barb and Barb with loaves.
Barb and Barb with loaves.
Where I am staying two woman friends are baking bread to give away as gifts to just about everybody they know in the area. They started early at around 7.30 am and now at midday it’s looking like all the dough has been made and most of it baked. They are obviously enjoying each others company and there’s much laughter and reminiscing. It is quite a production and they have been doing this faithfully for 24 years!

They have kept a diary which includes news of who’s around, children and then later as they have grown to adulthood, their boyfriends. Recorded – the cat eaten on the porch by a Mountain Lion, their resolutions which have remained much the same. More laughter and merriment. Their highs and lows shared in diary form now read aloud and remembered with sometimes laughter and sometimes serious and thoughtful silences. One woman remembers with a wistful glance. Not many birthings, lots of deaths though.

I’ve been reading a book recommended to me some time ago called The Gift by Lewis Hydes. Of course the ‘holiday season’ is a time of gift giving. I’ve been looking at ‘things’, gloves, boots, coats and the like and imagining letting my parents know what I’d like for Christmas. With no present giving parents alive now I may well purchase a few things on their behalf, with the money they left me. I’ll give myself gifts. I think that counts as gifts.

Now the gift tags are being written and the loaves bagged…Remember when I made my (very elderly) mother seal all of the bags?. The whole process is obviously brings so much for these two women before the bread reaches receiving hands and anybody and everybody in the house gets drawn into the process. Perhaps I’ll venture into the kitchen and start the clean-up. By the end of the day all the loaves have been delivered.

How to…..

Talking to somebody the other day. Talking about being the best person one can be. How do you do that? she asked. Off the top of my head, which is where so many of my responses come from, I replied – Well it has to do with intention, doesn’t it? Our intention to exercise compassion, unconditional love and matured wisdom in our daily dealings. Best we can. Sounded OK at the time anyway.

It was the first time somebody had asked ‘how to….’ which was a good question.

Soon (the 11th November) it will be the twentieth anniversary of my mother’s death. Just having a thought for her, a grateful thought.

Canine Friends and Human Enemies

Well, it turns out dogs are not just our best friends they, at least, regard us as their relatives. Closer to humans than their own kind! Link.

And:

Cats feature in most charming ways in the film, The Cats of Mirikitani. Another story of rescue and transformation in this case of an elderly Japanese man found on the streets of New York drawing cats for a living. A talented artist discovered, his story told including an insight into the Japanese Internment camps in America during WW11.

So much suffering and SO hidden from view, then and now. Jimmy Mirikitani at least ended upright and walking forward. We can do that too.

More to death than dying

Faith traditions invariably have teaching, based on faith/belief, around what happens when somebody dies. Hopefully such teachings bring comfort to those who are grieving as well as strengthened faith in those approaching death themselves. Buddhism has a number of schools or traditions with similar yet different teachings around what happens. Personally I don’t feel a need to know!  However I’m able to offer meaningful thoughts to the grieving which tend to focus on living and the departed persons life.

I was out walking just now pondering on this whole subject. It would seem we (in the West) are held in a dynamic tension between verifiable scientific proof as to what happens and real-time imaging/the visionary (including visionary dreams). My experience around death, which I do not take as fact, tends towards the visionary. This all is coming to mind since there seems to have been a lot of death in the family lately.

Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett, my teacher, died eighteen years ago on the 6th November 1996 here at Shasta Abbey. She’d had a really bad cold for three days and finally on the third day around 2.00 in the afternoon her system gave out. On that day and generally around that time a number of us noticed how up-beat we seemed, joyful even. We refer to one who has died such as Rev. Master Jiyu as entering Eternal Meditation and in a certain way we all joined her there. How could there not be collective joy and celebration?  Yes, and at the same time there was sadness at the person of our Masters’ leaving us.

Around this time of year there are ceremonies held within our religious order remembering Rev. Master Jiyu and Shasta Abbey was no exception. Invariably memories of that time are very personal as is the case around any death of somebody close, or one of our animal companions too for that matter. These are my memories.

Last Sunday morning a Memorial was held for Rev. Jiyu which included a separate ceremony at the site where she is buried, marked by a majestic white stupa with a smooth paved area  surrounds the stupa. Everybody present, lay and monastic, went out in procession to the stupa site and sang scriptures as we walked around (circumambulated) the stupa a number of times in honor of the one interred beneath. As we sang together in the crisp sunny morning air I was taken back to the actual burial ceremony, eighteen years ago.

I was one of the two officiating monks for the burial and chose to wear the black novice monk kesa Rev. Master wore when she was a novice in Japan. It was a huge honour to wear her robe and of course being asked to be one of the celebrants. It was freezing cold, I had a well developed cold as did several other monks. I felt like death! A monk stood close by with extra tissues and cough sweets as we stood on the uneven newly dug earth facing the end of the ceremony hall with Mt. Shasta behind. The ceremony went on for perhaps two hours with scriptures being repeated over and over as everybody, quite a crowd, put a spade full of earth on the coffin. I might have been a bit delirious by the end of it all, possibly during the ceremony as well! Was I seeing things?

Returning now to last Sunday. I was standing in much the same place I’d stood at the burial with the tip of Mt. Shasta white with snow peeking out from behind the meditation hall building with blue sky above. Around me I sensed a crowd gathering among the surrounding trees, larger than the one physically present. In the sky there appeared a lively sense of beings riding on large birds, flying freely and joyfully. I didn’t look up. Didn’t feel the need to. Didn’t concern myself as to whether or not I was seeing things, again.

Yep, there is more to death than dying and I guess we will all know what that is when our time comes. Until then let us fully appreciate the lively sense of being physically alive while going about our day, and when in repose too.

This post is for the brother of one of the monks who is getting closer to death by the day. May he find true peace.

Audio Recording: Rev. Master Koten Prior of Lions Gate Buddhist Priory British Columbia, Canada gave a talk after the ceremonies last Sunday. The title of the talk is: To View The Morning Star. The Reverend speaks about Rev. Master Jiyu; giving teaching about training with a master and about training generally. It lasts just over one hour and rich with Dharma and best listened to while sitting quietly. Not for example when out jogging or driving or while doing the dusting or washing the dishes! Just a thought.

Living in Books – getting lost

On display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent Belgium. Functional books!
On display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent Belgium. Functional books!

Here I am again quoting from a post in Brainpickings. Yet again. This quote comes from an essay called “Flight” by Rebecca Solnit, in her collection of essays “The Faraway Nearby”
The following is taken from A Book Is a Heart That Only Beats in the Chest of Another: Rebecca Solnit on the Solitary Intimacy of Reading and Writing

Like many others who turned into writers, I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods. What surprised and still surprises me is that there was another side to the forest of stories and the solitude, that I came out that other side and met people there. Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working. Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone.

Well, I have been thinking of my own reading habits as a girl and teenager. OF COURSE I read books, how could I have NOT done so. The thing is I got lost in them to such a great extent – I ran into the woods alone with them, so to speak – that I quite forgot I’d had them in my hands. Such was the level of my intense level of connection with story I lost contact with everything around me.

Malcolm Saville wrote children’s adventure stories set in the area of East Sussex where I lived. I read them all probably. There were many other authors I favoured too. However everything changed one day while in Spain in my early 20’s when re reading a Daphne du Maurier. I realized the English images from the story were layered on top of what was coming into my eyes! Worse, I was an actor from the book, in costume, walking along a harbour in Santa Cruz in the Canary Islands! Clearly things had gone too far. I cut back drastically on reading from then on mostly because I started to study for a degree.

One can get lost in stories, one can become lost anywhere with anything that takes a grip. Even good and helpful pursuits.

Thanks to Cliff for the photograph.