Category Archives: Photo/Poem Series

Contemplations (two)

Do beings want to be alone to pass away? Our family dog did, he took off one day when he was sick and never returned, and was never found. My mother would call to him. Simon! But each time she realized it was not him, but another dog like him. Eventually we gave Simon up for dead. We mourned him, my mother particularly did, however in time he faded from memory. Although the sight of a liver and white Springer Spaniel can still catch me with my heart thumping. Creatures die but are not gone, is that an expression of clinging? Not necessarily I feel.

My mother died alone, in hospital with no nurse beside her bed. My dad and I had left an hour before. As my mother died, we were at home cooking Christmas cake. For the most part religious practice is like this, one just gets on with life. When life comes, step out into life. When death comes, step out into death. There can be no calling back of the past or calling for the future. Sitting a meditation retreat, you just sit, you’re willing to die to your entire world of experience. Which is the world of, arising and passing, appearances.

My mother appeared ordinary, bent over and white. She was however a woman of great dignity, born out of a natural pride. For too many years I judged her by appearances. I appreciate her more fully now, and understand a little of the source from which she drew her vitality. While sitting a sesshin, with less sleep than usual, sitting multiple periods of meditation each day, the question of vital energy comes to the fore. Just what is right effort, when formal meditation is deliberately deciding to do nothing? Put plainly, how do you keep your eyes open when everything in you wants them closed? At one point during the retreat I thought the lights had gone out. No, just my eyes snapping firmly closed! Somehow the where-with-all to open them is there reflexively. I’d not call that energy so much as merit. The collective merit flowing from meditation in groups, is greater than the sum of individual efforts. Everybody helps each other, in an unseen way, to keep going.

More tomorrow.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Contemplations (one)

I’ve been around a few people while they are dying. In each case I remember their world shrank to what they could literally reach out for. A cup of water, their bedding, maybe reach for friends hand. But more often than not even the family around them recede in importance. The world slows down too. A finger raised ever-so-sloowwwly to attempt to adjust an oxygen line or scratch an itch, just the eyes track around the room, and talking, if at all, comes in halting gasps. The basics of bowel movements, liquid and food intake, medication for pain relief are what matter. Medical staff matter, even if it is to reject or fight them. People continue on in this way for days, even weeks. My mother, who died 12 years ago on the 11th December, went quite quickly. Bless her. Bless all mothers.

Sitting a meditation retreat, as we have just done, has its parallels with dying. Ones world contracts, movement is slower and more considered, concerns become basic and immediate. For example getting settled for the next meditation period, taking care with that. And there is fine attention to sensations too and of moving inwards while at the same time being finely aware of rain and wind crash about outside, the drip drip of water inside the hall, the birds striking up their song in the early morning. We sit with eyes neither closed nor fully open, we sit facing towards a plain wall. There is looking out from behind ones eyes. Who is it that sits? For 35 mins there is sitting still, if there is movement it is done ever-so-sloowwwly. Strictly speaking there is no physical moving at all, just the rise and fall of the breath. There is an awareness of that.

And what of the mind of a dying person? Or of the meditator for that matter. I’ve seen people go back and forth over their lives, remembering yesterdays far gone, as if they were right now. Images from childhood, happy times on holiday, and past regrets, streaming into the present. I have seen dying people in distress both physically and mentally and it is clear we die as we have lived. No judgment, no right or wrong death nor right or wrong thoughts-emotions-sensations. Nothing to add or remove. And if in the living there has lain hidden, in some dark recess a secret, now is when it may come to light. Or not. So it is sitting a sesshin, one enters the private recesses of ones being, seemingly utterly alone and yet infinitely not alone.

More contemplations tomorrow. It’s good to be back.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Moon Watching

I contemplate the moon
through the night.
Human beings will gaze
upon it for eternity.
The Sermons and preaching
of the Buddha
Surely occurred under
the same kind of moon.

Zen Master Roykan

I’ll be back after the week-end, perhaps with my own photo of the moon in a night sky.
Happy New Year.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email