Category Archives: Teachings

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.

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.

Lost and Found

Hand Phone
Hand Phone

Where ever I am there my hand phone is also. It is there in my pocket when I go for a walk, when I go on a trip. Just about any time of the day or night my phone is beside me, it is there even as I sleep. However when I’m in the monastery it is switched off since there is a pager system so one is always reachable. While I was ‘on call’ for Rev. Master Jiyu during the last three years of her life I had taped my pager switch to ON. Twenty four hours a day. Sometimes she would think about paging me but not actually press the necessary button to call me and sometimes I’d turn up anyway and she would wonder why it had taken me so long! But you can’t rely on intuitive means to be reached 100%, I carry my hand phone (as they are termed in East Asia) for much the same reason I carried my pager taped to ON for Rev. Master Jiyu. It was my device to aid my listening mind to ensure I’d always turn up when needed. I can’t remember ever misplacing my pager although, I do remember it dropping into a toilet! But that’ another story.

You might say I’m attached to the phone or that it is attached to me. Which ever way around it doesn’t really matter. Items of constant personal use do seem to become part of oneself and I can’t imagine it would be any other way. So when one becomes detached the personal meaning of the lost item, the level of the attachment becomes very clear. So it was when the other day I mislaid my cell phone just as we were about to set off to drive to Mt. Shasta. I knew it was somewhere close, that it could not have been stolen (a concern when out and about) and that I really needed to find it before we drove away. It goes without saying that a wave of worry and anxiety flooded through me with the usual, What if I can’t find it, what if…? internal questioning.

Thankfully the flood of anxiety subsided quite quickly and having done all the sensible things such as search my luggage (several times), called the number of the phone (which was switched on!) I sauntered around the small house and garden mildly wondering where the phone might be. Then without any kind of prompting that I can remember I walked into my host’s laundry room, opened the door of the washing machine there to find the phone mingled in with my yet to be washed (thank goodness) sheets and towels I’d used during my stay!

Like it or not items we use regularly are as close to us as our skin. Thank goodness.

Contemplating Certainty

SAMSUNG

Doubt is not a
pleasant condition
but certainty
is absurd.

Voltaire

Sometimes the way ahead is clear cut more often
it isn’t.

Walking into mist not knowing if there is a way is more
the way it is.

Sometimes certainty trumps faith when certainty has an object and
faith does not.

Sometimes faith wins out when the objects of certainty
evaporate.

I’d go for faith every time, the sort that only knows there IS a next step.

That takes faith!