Category Archives: Overcome Difficulties

Living Patiently

Anna, who is a Jade reader and long time practitioner within our Order, wrote me an email which I am sharing here, with her permission. The reason I’m doing so is because it offers a window on a reader’s world. Through this window we find one who overcomes multiple great difficulties with dignity and within them finds the time to express gratitude as well. Thus, as far as I am concerned, she offers spiritual encouragement. Thank you, with bows.

Reverend Master Mugo,

For days…weeks probably…I’ve had a list of topics from your more recent blog entries by my computer, entries that somehow live in my memory for a variety of reasons. Then this morning, when I read your blog’s history I realized that I wanted to thank you for taking the leap whenever you initially began this project. I always appreciate people in the culture, and in this case, monks in our Order, who are willing to walk outside the box and take us to the Dharma in a less obvious way. So, thank you for your innovations and openness and I applaud their growth and your wisdom in guiding readers through new Dharma Gates. There are so many ways in, aren’t there.

About this list next to my computer. When I first saw the green handicap parking sign and Towing Enforced I laughed aloud. For anybody who used to walk and has now periodic experiences in a wheelchair, you may not realize how relevant Towing Enforced is. I suddenly found in that sign a description for what happens on my ride from the Buddha Hall up to what a certain Reverend calls my horse barn when some brave soul–did you push me when you were here, I forget–has kindly given me a ride. I’m heavy in the chair, so nobody dawdles, but rather gains momentum and we move at quite a speed. No stopping to exchange the time of day with a pedestrian, no social exchanges, just enforced towing in reverse. And suddenly it’s all over. It’s like a major experience in impermanence–and I realize how much I enjoy walking slowly and taking in all the crinkles in the wood siding and the views out one or two windows– when I am strong enough to walk. The object of my appreciation must change quickly, and I get more and more practice in that marvelous teaching…detachment. Always letting go, always letting go.

I remember the question from students about increasing their vocabularies…how???? Read, I always answered them, read. That’s the only real way to let words learn to live inside of you. I wish I had thought of the inhaling/exhaling image. Really fine.

Somewhere in some blog about who knows what now, you ended with one of your pithy last lines…*”let go of loneliness.” Well, I still haven’t and create suffering for myself because of it and the line went like a knife straight through. There’s a blog “format” that you employ sometimes, and I admit it’s one of my favorites: some daily life story, perhaps pithy, perhaps simple [remember your vacuum cleaner duty at Throssel?], but it ends with a one liner of teaching that zaps the heart. You’re really good at that and I am always grateful for it. Like the fine Dharma talks from some weighty piece of scripture that illustrate what’s so true about the Dharma…it certainly understands the human heart.

Your recent discussion about trains and the points about excitement…I appreciate a teacher who doesn’t tell me never to get excited, although I will bow to the idea, but I like being lassoed with the responsibility to walk the middle path. In that piece I saw, or “felt” in a visceral way, the loss of true excitement when it lacks limits. Experiencing the joy is one thing…then letting it go and going on, always going on. I don’t have your text in front of me, but somehow it balanced excess while allowing some true pleasure. Ways and ways…you said….

I am so happy you went to Washington and I hope at some point you will indeed have some time in Ryokan’s hut. I found Reverend Eido’s talks renewing for me in a couple of ways. I was too ill to go to the retreat, so I missed the hands-on parts, and the parts one only really “gets” if one is present. But (a monk) recorded the Dharma talks and when I got my copy I sat in front of my computer here in my town hermitage and listened to one talk an evening. I realized that given the state of my body now, I got more out of the talks by listening to the mp3 than I would have if I’d had all the chemistry of adrenalin –both mine and other people’s–to deal with if I’d been strong enough to be present. Her greatest gift to me was to open my heart again to what is innately true for my path: art, music, language do not take one away from the Great Silence of Spirit at all, but they can be Dharma gates and reflections of our Buddha hearts. I have heard some denials of that–perhaps I misunderstood–and I was so grateful to have what is true for me affirmed.

and stone walls…they are etched inside this damaged head of mine and I go to them sometimes for solace. No special ones, just visions of photographs that offer me quiet. Thank you for it all.

Travel safely and I hope I will see you in September, or at some point. Care for your heart, gently.

Bowing, Anna

Thank you Anna for the feedback and for giving me the opportunity to try out the Search feature on the blog. I was thus able to briskly find the articles you mention and then link to them.

This is the actual quote from the article Lonely Moon.
*Perhaps it is good to remember not to abandon ourselves to loneliness.

Here are some (un-lonely) pebbles on a lakeside beach in Idaho. Nature has done a perfect job of arranging them; like so much in this world should one choose to take the long, and un-lonely view.

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For the Love of Lucy

I hear that Lucy arranged herself just so.
Just as if she knew it was time to go.
And finding a position for her limbs, she passed.

The posting titled Animals and End of Life Issues, has stimulated quite a bit of feedback. The following letter is from a former congregation member in Edmonton and I know just how hard it was for her during and after the family dog Sandy died. So I was especially pleased to receive this letter. I believe it is not uncommon for this kind of resolution to come via a dream. Some dreams have a particular quality to them and can convey a teaching or, as in this case can console and help set grief and loss to rest.

Dear Reverend Master Mugo,
I caught up on your website and enjoyed your recent postings about animals. I especially appreciated the writing about Peter the cat and the kind act that the neighbor performed. I was holding onto a little regret and self-blame with Sandy’s death – it really hurt to think of the suffering she endured near the end. About a week ago, she appeared to me in a dream. I gave her a meal and she stepped up to place her paws in my hands- we were standing face to face. She was completely content and joyful and communicated the utmost gratitude towards me. It really helped me to start to let go of those feelings of regret and guilt.

On this note, could you please offer merit to Jasper the dog? When Chris was here last, we happened upon a dog that had just been hit by a car. It was in front of a neighbor’s house and the dog was just a pup. It was really admirable how Jasper’s person handled the unfortunate situation. I could tell that she was upset but she remained calm and was most worried about the woman who hit Jasper who was very shook up. She consoled the woman and tried to assure her that it was not her fault. I ran into my neighbor last night and she informed me that Jasper had been put to sleep. His leg was broken in two places. She thinks that Jasper was chasing a butterfly when he got in the way of the van driving by.

I last saw Lucy in Montana four years ago when this picture was taken with one of her loving companions. The list is long. Leo and Buddy come especially to mind this evening. Perhaps we will all meet in our dreams.

I’m in Whitefish Montana.

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The Peace of Wild things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come to the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry

The following is part of a comment left on a previous posting titled Animals and End of Life Issues.

The situation of Peter Cat reminds me that, just as for humans, it’s helpful to have written Last Wishes for one’s animals in case they die while under the care of another person. Continued…

Be it forethought of grief or afterthoughts of grief, rest in the grace of the world. In wild places.

Many thanks to Nic for another great poem.

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Up For Adoption

Today I wrote the following in an email to a sangha friend. She is readying herself to part with her dearly beloved cat companion. Life circumstances have configured in such a way that having the cat adopted is the only real option. They have been together for many years and the parting, like any parting, is heart wrenching.

Hang in there re the cat adoption. If you would like to write about the whole business please do. I ask that because I’m starting to publish material from readers. You have a way with words and letting go of a cat for adoption, or animal of any species for any reason, is a major life event. I still think of my pony who had to go and live at a riding stable when I left home. And I wonder if he is alive or not, probably not. I wonder where is he buried and how did he die, I’ll never know? I still don’t like to think of him as dead even now. As a matter of fact I had a dream about a gray pony last night and we were having a fine old time getting to know each other. My pony was gray.
I guess our animal friends never leave us and yet all relationships must end, sooner or later.

In gassho,

The email has been slightly edited and additions have been made.
For those who adopt, are adopted or will adopt in the future. Animal or human.

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Animals and End of Life Issues

Dear Reverend Mugo,
I wonder if Peter could feature on your blog as part of my asking for merit for him? He was an old boy of around sixteen. A friend adopted him when he was about seven and had him for nine years. She moved away four weeks ago and he stayed with me (much to Matthew Cat’s disgust). Sadly he passed away on Saturday with the help of the vet. His body was in a parlous state and I feel very sad for him. I would like to celebrate his being with us and share his picture (with others).

Dear Friend,
Sure I’d be glad to publish the photograph and may I publish the information in your email please? Mugo
Absolutely. It may give others confidence to do what seems crazy but was so the right thing!
Best wishes and love xxx

Photograph of Peter the cat, recently deceased.

Reverend Mugo,
The actual process was awful. I could tell you the details if you want. It isn’t nice and easy at all. I felt bad that I hadn’t handled it well. Because the cat had only been with me four weeks I hadn’t thought about what I would do re burial etc. When the vet said “shall I take him?” I didn’t know what to do as my garden is too small and my friend suggested it would be better to let the vet take him for cremation. She was trying to be kind to me as I was distraught and traumatised. This was Saturday evening. I woke in the early hours and thought I could have buried him in the allotment and imagined him all uncared for being put in a pile of animals and treated not kindly (although the vet had said they do it sensitively). I felt he was just as important as my own cat and I wouldn’t have dreamt of letting Matthew go to be cremated without a proper send off.
Then this morning (Monday) I sat with it and asked (in meditation) if I really should ask for the cat’s body back from the vet – and the answer was ‘yes’. They were great, acted like it was a perfectly normal request. He was wrapped neatly in the red blanket I had given to the vet as he left and Peter was curled up inside like he was asleep – quite stiff so had obviously been put like that before this morning. I was able to say goodbye properly.
And strangely, I saw a neighbour as I was setting off to fetch him. When I got Peter I began to go to the allotment and something said – that neighbour lives next door to where Peter lived and perhaps he would be willing to let him be buried in his side garden. I went home and asked and he came straight out and found a lovely spot by bushes, against the wall, dug the hole for me, filled it in. Came to my garden and collected a large thin piece of stone to put on top of him and made it the right size. All this with no big fuss and a kind hand on my shoulder because of my tears.
So Peter is buried properly in a place he used to hang out in and I can say hello to him as I pass by.
What a lovely man. He loves birds and isn’t fond of cats but he did that. He knew Peter and had asked about him when his person left the village and the cat came to live with me. He said it was fitting Peter was buried there because he spent a lot of time in his garden and he had even been found once asleep on this man’s bed.

Recently I’ve been witness, indirectly via email, to a number of animal deaths. All came about through the intervention of the vet administrating a lethal injection. Anybody who has ever been in the position of having to make that decision will know how difficult it is. There are Preceptual issues. There are personal ones both practical and emotional. And there are the other people surrounding the animal and their fears, desires and issues to take into consideration.

When possible we perform a funeral for animals. This can be a simple ceremony or a more elaborate one as circumstances allow. However an animal goes be it by lethal injection or otherwise the important thing is to love them with all of ones being. And in their passing it is important not to harbour regret or self blame.

Published for all those who have been in similar circumstances.

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