The quote below by Wendell Berry echoes a recent text conversation with a friend. The texts referenced a decision I’d made while on an early visit to Throssel in around 1979. I’d decided I would take the steps to become ordained as a monk. My decision was set in the context of a life which had hit against a wall. And I was open. To make sure I didn’t go back on the decision I’d written a note with ‘I Know’ confirming what I ‘knew’ and put it with my toothbrush. It would be the first thing I’d see in the morning – the best of us go back on decisions especially ones which are life changing. More than one bride/bridegroom has been left standing at the altar!
The Wendell quote came recently in an email from a chap I’d met at Throssel. He was telling me about developments in his life since coming on an Introductory Retreat. Last year I believe. The words summed up an understanding he had come to.
It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
Friend: Your phrase ‘I know’ has been burning into my brain since I heard you say those words! Incredibly powerful and helpful. 6.20 pm
Me: Errm, in what context did I so impress you with my words ‘I know’? 8:56 pm
Friend: We were talking about the note you left for yourself about deciding to become a monk. It was so powerful and decisive. 10:17 am following day.
Me: Now I remember. In a sense I think one always ‘knows’ and the stuff of life is sifting through ‘the rest’! And allowing that to fall away, recycle etc. My ‘I know’ was life changing and the rest did fall into place. Magic! And still does, given patience. 10:37 am
So, The impeded stream is the one that sings. How amazing is that?
Yes, once again this Sunday I was out on the fell-tops where indeed ‘spirit meets bone’! Do I need to say more?
Once, over twenty years ago now, I mentioned to Rev. Master (Jiyu-Kennett) I’d been up on a Tor on Dartmoor in Devon while back in England to visit my family. She paused and smiled and said ‘you like being up high don’t you’. To which I replied, ‘Yes’! Up on the South Downs was about as high as she would have probably reached. But who knows. What I saw in her was Mudita, sympathetic joy. She shared in my obvious love of being out, looking out, on the vast landscape. Sunday was the perfect day to sit quietly up high and allow the majesty. A slight difficulty in my bones (ankle) a blessing, causing me to turn around before reaching Bowfell, the destination, and make a slow and careful descent, pausing lots.
My intention in sharing with you some of my ‘up high’ adventures is for you to join me in the joy.
How like life!
To move forward?
To tackle the obstacle?
To turn back?
Largely out of
we face the obstacle
Or do a little dance
wonder and stall
in the end we move.
These large lambs in the Langdale Valley – wandered off to graze on the abundant green grass that is all around them. We say in one of our scriptures that the obstacles dissolve and in a fundamental sense they do. The point is being awake and notice what’s in front. And for that matter what’s all around and within – unimaginable to behold. There is no stationary place we inhabit. Not even when sitting still!
In her last couple of weeks, when my mother’s mind seemed to be floating off somewhere else most of the time, she would sometimes lift her arms into the air, plucking at invisible objects with her fingers. Once, I captured her hands in mine and asked what she’d been doing. “Putting things away,” she answered, smiling dreamily.
This half-dreaming, half-waking state is common in dying people. In fact, researchers led by Christopher Kerr at a hospice center outside Buffalo, New York, conducted a study of dying people’s dreams. Most of the patients interviewed, 88 percent, had at least one dream or vision. And those dreams usually felt different to them from normal dreams. For one thing, the dreams seemed clearer, more real. The “patients’ pre-death dreams were frequently so intense that the dream carried into wakefulness and the dying often experienced them as waking reality,” the researchers write in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.
Seventy-two percent of the patients dreamed about reuniting with people who had already died. Fifty-nine percent said they dreamed about getting ready to travel somewhere. Twenty-eight percent dreamed about meaningful experiences in the past. (Patients were interviewed every day, so the same people often reported dreams about multiple subjects.)
For most of the patients, the dreams were comforting and positive. The researchers say the dreams often helped decrease the fear of death. “The predominant quality of pre-death dreams/visions was a sense of personal meaning, which frequently carried emotional significance for the patient,” they report.
The predominant quality of pre-death dreams/visions was a sense of personal meaning, which frequently carried emotional significance for the patient Seems to me we are given what we need in a form, scientific/religious/mystical, which eases our way, be it near death experiences or approaching actual death. We will never know what happens at these times and no explanation will ever, I believe, be enough to explain that which at base is a mystery.
Time to inject some formal Buddhist teaching while I’m out and about appreciating this ‘warm snap’ we are having here in the North West of England. Nothing lasts though! And thank goodness for that!
Rev. Master Koten of Lions Gate Buddhist Priory has recorded five talks giving instruction on how to meditate . (Don’t get confused about the numbering of the files. They skip from #4 to #6 and there isn’t one missing.) You will find all of the Dharma Talks on this page, all good, and the ones I’ve referred to are at the bottom of the list. The first one takes us back to the time of the Buddha and his Enlightenment. It was not all plain sailing either. Struggle and letting go were as much part of the picture for him as it is for us. The details are different, the ‘path’ is fundamentally the same.
Many thanks to Rev. Master Koten and his disciple Rev. Master Aurelian up there on Dragon Flower Mountain British Columbia, Canada.