Category Archives: Overcome Difficulties

The Cherry Blossom Blooms….

Cherry Blossom blooming.
Cherry Blossom blooming.

The kind woman who made it possible for me to stay on Cortes Island left some twigs of Cherry Blossom in a vase. She said, ‘I hope they bloom by the time you leave’. They have as you can see. And the sun shafts in the windows of the house by the beach while I pack to return to Victoria via Gabriola Island.

Rev. Alicia is on the move too. 24 years ago she came to Throssel to be a monk. I admire the Reverends up-beat optimism conveyed in this post. I’m glad you became a monk and glad to be part of your journeying onwards.

Good fortune to all on this lovely day as I look out on Desolation Sound. So named by a George Vancouver. Reflecting on his sailing through these waters, “there was not a single prospect that was pleasing to the eye”. One sea sick sailor I’ll be bound! Just shows you how the body influences ones outlook on life don’t it! Oh and how the condition of ones body can impact ones outlook too. So easy to miss in the rush to go places and do stuff.

Words In Repose

Words sing from my heart
Unformed.
Like air in the feathers
of a bird in flight.

What Joy!

Words can land
Take form.
You said where there’s wind
there’s ‘hot air’.

Hum, what’s that mean?

The bird folds
her airy wings?
Hot air condenses
Onto the cool page?

Ah! Rest, repose.

Anyhow
This is a start
standing in the kitchen
making marks.

Need, lunch.

This is for Gerry with unbounded gratitude for your writing encouragement. Yes. OK. You said I have an ‘ear’ for words, I bow to your long life experience. I heard you, every word. And saw your smile too. Thank you. No ‘landing’ is every happy (for long), just presents new challenges. Good fortune.

A Place To Sit

[The following article first appeared in the Spring 1992 (volume 19, number 1) issue of The Journal of Throssel Hole Priory. Used with permission.—ED.]

21st February, 2015. Now I’m republishing this post again. My thoughts of gratitude to all those who have hosted me in Victoria, B.C. Canada these past two weeks.

The place in which we truly sit
Is within our own body and mind.
Since body and mind embrace the Universe,
Nowhere can this place be found.

When we approach our sitting-place we do so as we would the altar, with great reverence and respect. We bow to it, turn, and bow to the room. This bowing can merely become a form, the meaning lost in yet another point of etiquette—at first to try and remember and later, after much repetition, to forget. Entering the meditation hall at Throssel Hole Priory while there on a visit, I found my usual sitting-place occupied; and in addition, through an oversight, a alternate place had not been allocated for me. When the indignation (I regret to say) had died down, I began to view my sitting-place in a new light: namely, that it is not there as of ‘right’ and not to be taken for granted. It is offered and received with gratitude in the place where giving and receiving come together.

Immediately after a monk is ordained, there follows a Meditation Hall Entry Ceremony. The new monk is welcomed by the community into the hall and shown to his or her seat where three bows are made. Welcoming a new person to the group or priory, showing them where they can sit, how to bow to that place and how to regard it, is less formal and yet is essentially the same in spirit to the above monastic ceremony. It is welcoming a being into the embrace of the Eternal where, together, we come to realize the Truth of this embrace. This sitting place is offered to those who agree—albeit tacitly—to keep the Buddhist Precepts. The identity of training and enlightenment is very clear here. In order to be Buddha, we do our very best to act like a Buddha. It is false to imagine it can be otherwise. Everyday life and meditation (training and enlightenment) are not separate, they are identical when the Precepts are taken to heart and lived. Great Master Dogen states in Rules for Meditation, ‘…pure meditation must be done’1—the longing to do this takes expression in the incredible pains some people are prepared to go to in order to get to a meditation group meeting each week or to attend regularly at a priory, monastery or temple of the Order. Here, at least, there is a place and the time to sit still in meditation along with other like-minded people. The function performed by both temples and meditation groups in offering a place to sit with other trainees is, perhaps, their prime and most immediately valuable one.

One lay trainee told me of her struggle to find a place to sit while living in temporary accommodation. So much did she long to sit in formal meditation that on one occasion, having cleaned the room thoroughly, she set up her portable altar in the bathroom, offered incense, and meditated there. Often I hear accounts of how people skilfully weave in a few minutes of meditation whenever they can—for example, before the children awake, or sitting for a moment or two on a park bench at lunchtime. So often group members become over concerned about the numbers of people who attend the meditation group. If there has to be a measure, it is the willingness to welcome openly all who wish to meditate and train in the Buddha’s Way: to offer them a place to sit.

When bowing to our place
Gratitude knows no bound.
The longing to be as Buddha strengthens
And our True Place is found.

Notes
1. Rev. Master P.T.N.H. Jiyu-Kennett, The Liturgy of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives for the Laity, 2nd ed. rev. (Mt. Shasta, California: Shasta Abbey Press, 1990), p. 99. Also Rev. Master P.T.N.H. Jiyu-Kennett, The Monastic Office, (Mt. Shasta, California: Shasta Abbey Press, 1993), p. 77.

Motivation

Talking to a chap on the phone this morning he gave me the other part of that well known quote:

You can lead a horse
to water
but you can’t
make her drink.

The second part of this Cowboy logic is:

You can add
salt to her feed
and make her
thirsty!

What is your ‘salt’?

Appreciating The Impact of Words

Visitor

Words cannot express things;
Speech does not convey the spirit.
Swayed by words, one is lost;
Blocked by phrases, one is bewildered.

Mumon’s Verse for Chao-chou’s Oak Tree, Case 37
– Two Zen Classics: Mumonkan & Hekiganroku, p. 110
Translated with commentaries by Katsuki Sekida

A word came my way the other day and looking into it’s meaning one could understand it in two, or more, almost completely opposing ways. A shadow side and a non shadow. Positive or negative, or somewhere in between. As children in the playground when a child was ‘calling somebody names’ which nowadays would be classed as bullying we had a well-worn retort. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Of course they hurt but to tackle the name caller was to court more than nasty names. See, Sticks and Stones: When Words are Used as Weapons, By Miriam Adahan There are some wonderful teachings from the Torah on right speach in the link to the book.

Words or phrases applied to oneself or to others can have a devastating and have a long-lasting impact especially on the young. Words stick and if they come with the background intent to hurt they can stick for a life time. Choosing words and phrases carefully is obviously important however even with the best of intentions people grasp the wrong end of the stick! I’m eternally sorry for all those who have found themselves hurt by words and phrases I’ve written or uttered.

What was the word that came my way the other day? Insouciant. Meanings listed as follows: showing a casual lack of concern; indifferent.
synonyms: nonchalant, untroubled, unworried, unruffled, unconcerned, indifferent, blasé, heedless, careless; relaxed, calm, equable, serene, composed, easy, easygoing, carefree, free and easy, happy-go-lucky, lighthearted, airy, blithe, mellow;
informal: cool, laid-back, slaphappy.