Sunday, August 28, 2011
These little fellows pop up in my yard every morning. Then when the sun hits they shrivel up. What I have not investigated yet is whether or not the ones that pop up every morning are the same as the ones that shriveled up the day before.
I'll check that out in the morning.
Anyway, a cool little event right before my very eyes.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
I have spent the last 15 years doing this practice on my own, not by choice but by necessity. I live in the deep south and there are no sitting groups close enough to connect with on a regular basis. About 8 years ago I took the long journey to Mt. Tremper in New York and spent four days sitting with the Mountains and Rivers order. That has been my only first hand exposure to any formal sitting.
Prior to this I did some formal sitting and study in centering prayer.
About three years ago I had the great fortune to encounter Dosho Port online. This has really been my connection. I communicate with him on occasion about different matters and know he is there for however I want to delve into this practice with him via the internet. I am thankful for his compassion in that way.
This is the form of my formlessness.
I am a monk in the world.
I am alone, not lonely.
And this is my practice.
I will continue to nurture this practice the best way that I can with great faith and great doubt.
Sentient beings are numberless,
I vow to save them.
Desires are inexhaustible,
I vow to put an end to them.
The Dharmas are boundless,
I vow to master them.
The Buddha Way is unsurpassable,
I vow to attain it.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Saturday, August 6, 2011
When Francis Harwood, an anthropologist, asked a Sioux elder why people tell stories, he answered: “In order to become human beings.” She asked, “Aren’t we human beings already?” He smiled, “Not everyone makes it.”
(Taken from David Loy’s The World Is Made Of Stories
Some of you know what my vocation is but for those of you who don’t, I’m the chaplain for a private oncology practice. I have been doing healthcare chaplaincy now for twenty-two years. Eighty percent of that time has focused in the area of oncology. Needless to say, I have dealt with a lot of death and a lot of dying.
There are times when I recognize that this has changed me in good ways and there are times when I realize it has changed me in bad ways.
Just this week my wife had to make a return trip after her regularly scheduled mammogram but turns out the radiologist is not concerned but will see her again in six months just to be safe. It also turns out that my wife did not tell me she had to make a return visit until after the visit was over and after she got what seems to be good news. She said she would have been more anxious about it if she had told me because I would have over reacted and run the anxiety meter up significantly, just because of what I do every day.
I hated she did that alone but truly understand what she was saying. She was right!
So that is one of the bad ways that this vocation affects my life. But this is not what I wanted to write about today.
For the past five to seven days I have been dealing with a young person who is presently in the process of dying. I have made contact with the spouse and the rest of the family at least three or four times a day, as they sit vigil, waiting for the inevitable but somehow hoping this “thing” does not take place. I have become really close to the father of this young person, more so than the spouse, probably because the patient is in the same age bracket as one of my children.
Leaving the room yesterday afternoon and heading back over to the office, I realized how perfunctory I felt in my presence at times. It’s true you have to carry somewhat of a professional presentation into these situations but you cannot let the human slip away.
I’m not saying in all this that the folks did not feel me truly caring for them. My presence was and is much appreciated. My recognition of some distancing was an internal thing.
Here again is one of the bad things you may come away with in this work I do when you do it day in and day out. You can shut down. You know all the right words that are helpful and the ones that are harmful. You know when to step in and you know when to step out. But all of this must be done as (what the Native Americans might call) a true human being. And sometimes we lose that way of being because we shut down in a protective way, unaware or we get too caught up in our “roles”. It may feel like true compassion to those who are receiving but if the person offering this is in any way aware, they know there can be a more opening of the heart in these situations. They know the “true human being" is still holding back, sometimes for the right reasons but sometimes for the wrong reasons.
This is where my spiritual practice saved me yesterday.
I stopped myself on the way back to the office, after a visit with the patient and the family. I made myself sit down in a chair in one of the lobby areas and contemplate this situation in a more personal way, realizing that my emotions needed to be expressed. Alan the human being, not Alan the chaplain, needed to be expressed.
So I began to place one of my children in that bed with a tube stuck down their throats, seeing their spouse standing by that bed, just waiting for the unbelievable to happen. I tried as best I could to become the father in this situation. Within seconds the tears flowed and what had been stuck (the true human being) poured out in the form of tears and sobs. I continued to sit there with this practice for about ten minutes.
Bearing witness to these kinds of events also means bearing witness to our own participation in them.
If I don’t pay attention like this, I can also become very needy because I have not taken care of my own stuff.
What does this have to do with zazen?
Everything, I think.
I visited the family this morning (8/6/11) as a true human being.
(I'm not sure if I have used the "true human being" within a right context here, so I apologize to my native american friends, if this is so)
Alan (working on being human)
Thursday, August 4, 2011
THE KEY TO DOGEN'S SHOBOGENZO
BY SHOHAKU OKUMURA
FORWARD BY TAIGEN DAN LEIGHTON
When the Dharma is correctly transmitted to the self, the person is immediately an original person- Dogen
"Original person" is a translation of honbun nin, a reference to the self living in the network of interdependent origination. Hon can be literally translated as original, true, root,or source, bun means part or portion, and nin is person. So this word, which has the same meaning as "original face," refers to a person who is one with the original source that exist before karmic conditioning. This original person is actualized when we sit zazen and let go of thinking. When we open the hand of thought, in a sense we negate everything within our karmic consciousness, even the aspiration to become a Buddha. Thoughts well up even when we let go, but we just keep releasing them without grasping. We are also in a sense accepting anything that springs up from our consciousness; in zazen we neither negate nor affirm anything. We don't control the mind; we just sit. We really do nothing. We just keep sitting upright and waking up, breathing naturally, deeply, and quietly from the abdomen as we let go of thoughts. this is why Dogen says, "zazen is non-doing"; I do nothing. Sitting is no longer my action anymore. The entire universe is sitting, using this body and mind; that's all. In so doing, we put our entire being on the ground of interdependent origination, on the ground of impermanence and lack of independent existence that is the original source. This zazen is itself dropping off body and mind.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Reading in The Book Of Mu, chapter by Roko Sherry Chayat, Turn the Light.
Found some words by her that point to this "seamless". She even uses this word later on in her chapter.
"My teacher has said that there are three essentials of Zen practice: cleaning, chanting, and zazen. Just as the story about polishing the tile points out, most of the time we clean with the idea of getting something. We clean so that we can get through with the job and go on to do something more enjoyable, like taking a walk, or something more important,, like sitting down for the next period of zazen or chanting sutras. And then, of course, we find out that the presumed satisfaction in the projected next thing is lacking; that our absent-minded preoccupied cleaning has carried over to the way we take that walk, the way we sit: lackluster.
When we clean with buddha-cleaning-buddha mind, something very different takes place. With this mind, anything---the sound of the drum at lunchtime, pebble hitting a bamboo stalk in the story about Kyogen raking at the National Teacher's grave site, the sudden glimmer of a rainbow in a puddle at our feet--anything can be the trigger that brings us to the sudden recognition of wordless truth. It's never elsewhere. Then we might rephrase the koan: does a buddha have buddha nature or not? Buddha-cleaning- buddha is Mu, nothing more, nothing less. The Book Of Mu, Pg. 218.