What’s going on

I think it is an upside down world where extreme poverty is often treated like a mental illness and yet extreme wealth involves a pathological disregard for the suffering of others and is thought of as something to admire.

I am ashamed. But not paralyzed.

I owe a lot to many black people. In the last century, the one I grew up in, some of the greatest writers, activists and leaders, political, artistic and religious, came up against the odds and made us better as a species. Made me a better person.

It hurts to learn how black people have suffered and continue to suffer in ways I can barely comprehend.

Sure I had my troubles, I had to learn to swim hard but it wasn’t always against the current day after day. And I was so ignorant that at times I thought myself better, stronger and braver than I really was. I really was not aware how my white skin was the current carrying me.

So it hurts and some of that hurt is shame.

And that’s okay. Being ashamed of privilege is point of attention. As humans we should always be thankful for these reminders to pay attention.

It’s how we learn to live in a world worth living in.

Awareness is always an opportunity. When you see this you can see that it is continually arising As Your Life.

And all fabrications will wear out.
There is no separation between self and other that is not a fabrication. All separation is a lie, a covering, an obscuring of the essential truth.

So what are we humans to do?

Don’t hide in a comfy nest of made up stories of us and them. Answer all suffering with compassion and continue to practice. Do what ever you can when you see an opportunity to end suffering.

Easy huh?

This is the Last Day of April is Poetry Month!

I sat “virtually” with the sangha last night. It’s becoming a regular Wednesday night   thing with the Oak tree in the Garden.

A “sangha” is a gathering of Zen practitioners.

I am finding myself slipping in to some very dark places, and not the actual ones that  I should, like the one under the stairs that could use some cleaning and reorganizing. Instead I am slipping into a place where I get lost in thoughts that propagate really paralyzing inertia and despair.

It is good to commit to practicing with others. I doesn’t matter the context. The important thing is to just sit practicing Zazen.  Which is the context of ‘NO CONTEXT’, (forget about getting your intellect around that!)

I’ve done a lot of sitting lately, lounging actually.

But sitting Zazen we gradually gain (or regain, again and again) the ability to see thoughts arise and dissipate.  We learn how to return to this breath and this moment.

And you can also clean out the space under the stairs this way, although, dust bunnies, spiders…that homemade mask is going to come in handy.

Here is one last poem for the month, rewritten.

Sadness Haiku

Awakening
the jeweled dew glistens
in the morning light.dew-on-grass-janet-rockburn

 

 

Boy is it Hard not to be Grouchy

baloney

So, we made it through the month, I have followed advice on Facebook and marched around my two room apartment like a F—ing Champion. I have kept some sour dough starter alive for two weeks, I have no idea what to do with it but it is alive and I have already made arrangements for it should I die…

There’s talk that enough is enough. Freedom and blah blah blah, lets get back to “normal”. Normal like baloney and American cheese!

Right so, Should I die? YOU TELL ME.

I am past my “best before date” and except for making a bunch of masks (by the way I have run out of t-shirts to re-purpose for ties) I am pretty useless… I am not THAT OLD, but I have had cancer twice, I have asthma after having bronchitis last winter and now use a puffer and I have a blood disorder that they haven’t figured out yet, so I am a pretty good candidate for not surviving if I get this Covid19.

Maybe you don’t like clowns?

Call me the Grouch

April is a Poem a Day Month!

Smack Between the Eyes
Where do we put the poems
as hard as stones and as fragile as robin’s eggs?
Do we nestle them in skulls
laid in tidy rows on shelves
or do we push them
with bulldozers
into mass graves?

Do we wrap them lovingly in cotton and hide them beneath the floor?
Or
do we
lean from our balconies as Rome burns
And toss them to strangers?

Do we give them away with sex?
allow any act and
ask only that
our audience refrains from applauding
until we are done?

And all the poems still being written,
shitting like dust mites under the furniture,
gnawing like rats in the middle ages,
dealing Like brokers on Bay Street,
Growing like multiple embryos
in our wombs,
what do we do with them?

While waiting in a bus shack
I had my nose twisted by this Haiku:
A poem sleeping
Like a fawn in the woods
Wrapped in a sleeping bag.

This one I retrieved and rewrote, finally understanding the answer.

This is not new except in its present form. I am afraid if you compare writing poems to making bread I’d say mine is never actually past the “I’ve got the ingredients!” stage.

how to write a million dollar story

At one really difficult point in my life I read Cat’s Cradle. I fell in love with Vonnegut. He had characters that were people I had met, crazy people like the ones I grew up with. So after reading Cat’s Cradle I read everything he wrote. Then I read everything that Kilgore Trout wrote. Then I read other science fiction authors and even tried to write a bit.

He was a true human being. He is not unaware of the cruel, and stupid in humans, but he is himself neither cruel nor stupid. He lets us sigh as we acknowledge the damage we have done as a species and laugh at our own folly as we stumble towards kindness. And laugh.  And laugh.

Check out the Shapes of Stories a hilarious lecture on how to write a million dollar story: http://youtu.be/oP3c1h8v2ZQ
Dr. Suess made me want to read. Vonnegut made me want to write.

The Four Great Vows

All beings without number I vow to liberate

Endless obsessions I vow to release

Dharma gates without measure I vow to penetrate

Limitless awakenings I vow to unfold!

 

I have this so ingrained that I find it really difficult to chant anything else.  It is very grandiose isn’t it? But I think that is the point of Vows. I think we might be embarrassed to make Great Vows  but for fear of what? Of seeming egotistical? Of failing? What?

And this is one of those times when we are exerting ourselves for all beings aren’t we? It is a big deal. Nevertheless even when we do something that is just an everyday sort of thing, like when we pick up after ourselves it is a big deal too, because we are liberating ourselves from the conceit that anyone else should have to clean up after us, and from the idea of our own permanence by remembering we might not have a better time to do so. To open our awareness of what is arising within the space that somehow we have the shear luck to occupy and that we are not alone even when we are alone.

The next vows all follow fairly seamlessly if we get the first right, or even if we don’t, even if we fail when trying hard enough to say “I vow” and then blush to be so bold.

People are dying and even small efforts are of benefit, not the least because we care.

 

 

The Value of Letting Go

There is a difference between “JUST GET OVER IT!” and letting it go. It’s weird but one is a problem and the other is a strategy.

“Get over it!” is a very industrial revolution era type suggestion. This was a time when changes were brutal and corporal punishment was the way of the world. Any one who cared about you would caution you against any action you might take with the fire of injustice your belly.  After  all life was cheap, your life actually. Your only hope was to some how move on, get over it. This is a very toxic thing to have to do but probably not much worse than the air you had to breathe, the water you had to drink and the hunger and cold you had to endure.

“Get over it” was something I did hear often enough and young enough that I thought it had some validity. The trouble was there were too many indications that real justice could exist and maybe life wasn’t about just enduring shit. I was born in the 50’s, by the time I was an adult I didn’t believe it and  society didn’t either (although there are indications it has made some major losses in this area recently).

Next: Probably too many words about forgiveness

Forgiveness is central to the Christian faith. But so is hypocrisy and we have learned enough about that in the last century or so that the one thing that made forgiveness possible, namely faith is really hard to maintain, if not just plain crazy. When faith was strong and instead of streaming t.v. shows the only stories you had for entertainment were ones where faith conquered over the bad guys EVERY WEEK, I think people might have actually managed to believe in forgiveness. (Lets not hasten a return to the Dark Ages okay?)

I myself have never been good at forgiveness. Forgiveness arises when I am lost in the delusion that I am some sort of ENLIGHTENED SAINT floating in my PERSONAL NIRVANA. It can happen. I might believe I am actually forgiving someone until I wake up from my spiritual revelry and I find am still pissed off. That’s not to say that someone else can’t manage forgiveness*.

As for “crazy” some Christians might tell me it is my faith in science that is crazy. I’d say fair dignum.  I have actually had experience with how limited my understanding of science is and how weird my ideas are so I leave lots of room for possibility, and geez, won’t I look dumb on judgement day!**

But for most people Christianity just isn’t the Kool-aid that makes forgiveness possible any more, myself included.

So Finally “Letting It Go”

The advantage of Letting it Go is two fold. It doesn’t negate the injury you have suffered AND it doesn’t lead to you thinking you have a right to do something equally heinous to the person or persons who made you suffer.

Letting it go requires practice. All of the people who seemed to have the skill for moving past personal injury to address injustice had to work at it. So whatever it is you need to do to let go of the pain, you need to do it over and over. And OVER.

Every time the congealing of space around a thought or feeling arises come back to the breath, wiggle your toes and do your zen practice. You will eventually see this dense emotional state get thinner and more transparent and less of an affliction. It doesn’t mean you will lose your motivation to address injustice, but you won’t be suffering and communicating from a point of anger. Whether you call that “True Nature” or whatever it’s a lot like how it always is before a human gets messed up.

Life! Sheesh!

And you will have information that you can use to address social change and the strength to make real choices in your response to all the stupid stuff people do and say.

*obligatory disclaimer

**you had to be there