The Moment Before The Question Arises

Our rooster crows early. I would say at the crack of dawn except that here, on the north coast of California, dawn doesn’t crack. Here, where the mountains meet the sea, the sky is trapped low, a dimmer switch of cloud or fog elongates the dawn and smudges the distinctions that sharp shadows would bring.

It can make me feel dimwitted that way. I leave a warm bed, a night owl in diffuse light fumbling with jeans and shirt to free a rooster and chickens from their roost and coop.

Recently, though, I’ve noticed some advantage accumulating in this arrangement. Some value slowly showing itself as an unintended consequence of indenturing myself to the needs of chickens. Actually, I think that advantage may be the wrong word here. The emphasis is more on the noticing itself.

I notice, for example, that it’s hard to think. I notice that my senses don’t mind that a bit. There is the caw-caw, tsk-tsk, and bubbling tweet of the morning chorus free of the need to name the birds. There is the traceless, sweeping arc of bird flight. There is the unencumbered quench of cold well water on the tongue. There is the dew seeping into my clogs. And, then, there is the noticing of the noticing.

That’s not to say that thoughts aren’t arising. Somehow, though, the usual foreground importance of concepts popping up takes a back seat to the simple neural activity of all thoughts – thoughts making themselves known by their activity, like the sound of waves on the beach, rather than by their meaning.

I also notice the perfect ordinariness of all this. The just-letting-it-be-ness. Aliveness without add-ons. Just this….

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2 thoughts on “The Moment Before The Question Arises”

  1. Jim’s lovely post brings to mind something that struck me during the June retreat at Shasta on the Shobogenzo. In the “Zazen Shin” chapter there is a story about Yakusan’s reply to a monk’s question. The monk asked: “How can what anyone is thinking about be based on not deliberately thinking about something?” The Master replied: “It is a matter of ‘what I am thinking about’ not being the point.”

  2. Margaret,

    Thank you for your kind comment and to pointing to the heart of my post. I find a warmth as we share ways in which we are “struck”.

    In gassho, Jim

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