Polishing the Mirror

It was crowded. Two trains went by, out of service. Everyone looked straight ahead while a man further down facing perpendicular to the bulk of the crowd was yelling something political.

I decided to walk towards him. I’d been thinking about how scared people are now. Nobody is talking but there are ‘crazy people’ yelling all over the place. I didn’t know if he was one of them but I walked towards him passed all people with earbuds in, attached to iPods and smartphones listening to what they chose instead of this man yelling.

The train came before I got too far along the platform and I joined the throng getting on the train. I don’t know if he got onto another car. I put my earbuds in and selected the e-book I had downloaded from the library. It is called “Being Mortal”.

I wrote the above a long time ago. I was afraid. I don’t know what would have happened if I had gone up to him. Do people who yell in public places want to be heard? Do they even believe that they CAN be heard? But I was frightened and even a bit angry that he was subjecting us all to his ranting.

I am still learning how this machine that puts itself together as ME works and one of the cogs is anger, another is fear.

I have written many angry entries in journals and diaries and then made a ritual of blacking them out or deleting them. But I have missed the point of my own life in doing so because I was afraid my anger would turn me into a weapon, some sort of terrible uncontrollable force.

But I am not a weapon. A weapon is something you pick up to do harm to others. A human being is a Buddha whether or that human being is suffering due to contracted emotions, habitual behaviours or galling misunderstandings, regardless of whether or not they have realized it.

I like to think that I have always run from confrontation, but I have at times in my life become so angry that I have put myself in the path of confrontation even knowing I would probably suffer harm. But I was never a weapon and neither was the person who harmed me. It is a delusion to think that we can become weapons or targets or hammers or nails, but it is true we can suffer and cause suffering and in that state of congealed anger, pick up a weapon.

Anger comes as energy that can turn into action but if I try to delete it or deny it, the whole machinery of my being becomes stuck in all sorts of physical problems or worse, it gives rise to dangerous exchanges that benefit no one.

The purpose of Zen practice is to realize awake awareness as oneself and this includes being aware of anger and fear.

If we are aware we can make choices.

Being a student of Soto Zen Buddhism I can choose to direct that energy into compassionate action. If i recognize that I am afraid I can also recognize others who are fearful and in loosening its hold on myself open the possibility of the same for others. If I am angry, I can learn to see it arising and to appreciate its energy and learn how to direct it towards polishing the mirror, exerting myself to examine delusions and to realize compassion, to lean into actions that build instead of actions that destroy.

But to ignore or suppress fear and anger rather than taking each moment of recognition as an opportunity is an impediment and can only lead to more suffering. (This can be applied to all emotions that cause us to hide or become deluded as in  “Love Hurts”, love that is misdirected or misunderstood.)

So I will endeavour to be aware of what I would rather not realize within myself and not let anything fester or congeal into a sense of problem that gains momentum.

And even in realizing all of the above, I must sit zazen, every day and not fall into thinking that dust will no longer accumulate on the mirror.

And even after all that:

https://youtu.be/8T-Z1WoFXkk

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Poem

Possibilities

by Wislawa Szymborska

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the river.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the colour green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cypher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

From “Nothing Twice“, 1997
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh

 

Sandy

  • My friend Sandy died on December 29, 2018.
  • My grandson turned three on the 27th.
  • Sandy and I had in common a grandson and a granddaughter.
  • The grandson’s birthday party was yesterday on the 30th.
  • Sandy’s funeral will be on January 12th.
  • We are all of us, living and dead on the third planet from the sun in a galaxy on the outer edge of the Milky Way; Though we hardly ever think about it.

Our grandson’s birthday party was at one of those community spaces you can rent. It was wild and crazy, kids running around shrieking. It put me in mind of how human beings at a certain age can be dropped into a group and create culture and language and despite differing vocabularies and maybe appearances “fit in” by just joining the fray. As they went screeching about I thought of them rushing through the tall grass to flush out foul or careening to an undiscovered country while chasing something, or fleeing something.

So, I find myself, in all my sadness and in all my joy, thinking:

What blame is there in this life when we are all tumbling through space and time only trying to find a hand to hold?

But also:

What praise is there when all our consequences are rendered into nothingness except for this:

We have loved and been loved.

nick's 32 b'day 022

I Said it Out Loud: I am hanging up my red rubber nose.

wilftiger

ROAR!

I was out in a social environment, drinking a beer, chatting. In reference to something, someone said, “Oh yes, you are a clown aren’t you?”

Having said out loud that I was retired made it true. But it has been a long time coming. First off the fact that parents started telling me that clowns were “scary” and they would prefer that I not dress up. (I think I am way more scary without my clown makeup but hey, if they don’t want clown face I don’t do clown face.)

But I also started to notice how physically demanding it was. I love talking to the kids about what they imagine they are becoming as I paint their faces, or just seeing their level of commitment as they patiently wait as I apply the paint but there are many younger people who have steadier hands and stronger backs.

And I have grandchildren now. I am so lucky to get to see them as they grow into this world. I think now I need to spend my time doing what I can to see they continue to have one.

Clownlaughing

It’s been fun.

I broke my promise. I am saying it again.

I promise I will only say this once, holding on to anger we can’t see our way and nothing can change. Engaging in conflict is never pro-active.

  • open acknowledgement of all beings,
  • exerting oneself towards understanding,
  • sustained commitment to the ending of all suffering

These things don’t get the blood boiling, don’t get the clicks or reactions on public media but nothing else matters. It is that simple. But in truth I say it everyday.

THE THREE GREAT JEWELS

This is Buddha

This is Dharma

This is Sangha

 

I Find Reading About Neurology Helps Me Feel Better About Myself.

I just finished “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande and now I am reading, “The Man Who Wasn’t There, Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self”  by Anil Ananthaswarmy. The first made me feel a lot better about my mother’s death, which was a “good death” all in all. He makes reference to several other books which put me on another path of reading, hence “The Man Who…”

“Thinking Fast and Slow” is the next one I hope to get from the library although I am 369th on a waiting list.

I have had a few experiences and I possess a few patterns, at times frightening and other times  wonderful . But I have never enjoyed being “odd” or “weird” except perhaps when I finally gave up trying and just practiced Zazen and Tai Chi a lot. It is exciting for me to learn that neurology is coming up with some very neat connections; New ideas that sometime sound like Buddhist psychology, Zen, Shinjin.  🙂