Riding Metro North. And Brooding.

6:16 am train to Grand Central. No seats, need to stand. I wait until the first stop at Stamford and then shoe horn myself across from a lady in a bright, pumpkin colored dress.  In order to fit, I need to sit on a diagonal with my knees in the aisle. Pumpkin shifts her knees to the right to avoid contact. The top of her left knee has a deep burn mark, her right knee is clean. Listen, in these close quarters, it’s impossible not to notice. I shift uncomfortably. Personal space inadequate, we’re bordering on claustrophobia here. It’s the trade you made friend, stand for an hour or this…so this is it.

The Suit to my left is asleep. Meaning, like dead to the world. Rip’s hands hug a hard cover book against his chest; a monogrammed cover, title unknown.

I turn to my morning reading. A blog post by Beth @ Alive on All Channels: “These People Are Not Drowning Today.” Pacino in Taxi Driver pops to mind: You talkin’ to me?She’s certainly is not talkin’ to me. My eyes flick down the page and catch a passage from Zen teacher Barry Magid: “Leave Yourself Alone“:

The paradox…is that the most effective way of transformation is to leave ourselves alone. The more we let everything be just what it is, the more we relax into an open, attentive awareness of one moment after another. Just sitting leaves everything just as it is.[Read more…]

Feeling Trapped

spiritual-board

When William Campion was in the intensive-care unit (ICU) this month after a double lung transplant, he felt nervous and scared and could breathe only with the help of a machine.

Joel Nightingale Berning, a chaplain at Mr. Campion’s hospital stopped by. He saw that Mr. Campion had a tube in his neck and windpipe, which prevented him from speaking. The chaplain held up a communication board—not the kind used to check a patient’s physical pain and needs, but a “spiritual board” … The board also lets patients rate their level of spiritual pain on a scale of 0 through 10, from none to “extreme.” Mr. Campion, a 69-year-old Catholic, indicated his spiritual pain was acute: 8. Using the picture board, he signaled that he wanted to pray. The chaplain recited the Lord’s Prayer as Mr. Campion followed silently.

ICUs have evolved in recent years and even the critically ill are being sedated less than before. As doctors came to believe that heavy sedation—once the norm in such units—could be harmful, many patients are now breathing with the help of machines, and are conscious…more ICU patients (are) awake and alert.  The fact that these patients can’t communicate adds to their frustration…many patients on these machines feel “trapped.”…They have been intubated, meaning they have a tube in their throat, attached to a machine that is breathing for them….

The 32-year-old chaplain, who is nondenominational, persuaded a fellow chaplain—Seigan Ed Glassing, a Zen Buddhist monk who had studied art—to help illustrate the board. The two included a range of faiths and belief systems, including Christian, Jewish and Hindu, as well as New Age, Pagan and agnostic. Colorful icons offer patients the option of a prayer or confession, or simply to have someone hold their hand. Chaplain Glassing said he loved figuring out “what would a blessing look like,” or how to draw “make [me] an altar.” A favorite: depicting someone asking to be read a poem.

The study, with results published last August in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, looked at 50 ICU patients who were offered spiritual care through the board. Researchers measured patients’ anxiety before and after the chaplain came, concluding that “anxiety after the first visit decreased 31%.”

Among patients who survived, 81% “felt more at peace,” while 71% felt “more connected with what is sacred.”

~ Lucette Lagnado, excerpts from A ‘Spiritual Board’ Brings Comfort to the Critically Ill


Post inspired and triggered by two of my favorite movies: The Bell and The Butterfly and The Sea Inside.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call (Draw Water. Carry Wood.)

firewood

The ordinary moments of our daily life may appear commonplace, but in reality they are not so; they carry enormous significance. To polish a pair of shoes, to serve a helping of apple pie, to break bread, to chop firewood- these can be lordly activities. Any action performed with a sense of reverence, of care and of pleasure, can become what I would call a sacrament. Zen, in particular, lays emphasis on ‘everyday life’ as the real path to the great mystery. One of its Masters, Joshu, replied to a question about the true nature of the Great Way, the Tao, by saying, “Our everyday life, that is the Tao.” It is the worship of the moment’s duration, inviolate, detached, and passionate. It is the observation of the sunlight on a bald of grass, the sight of a beetle crawling across a leaf; the worship of the day’s most commonplace events:

I draw water,
I carry wood,
This is my magic.

~ John Lane, from the “Art of Commonplace” in The Spirit of Silence

 


Quote: Thank you Make Believe Boutique. Photo: tapioanttilacollection

 

Saturday Morning

elephant

In one of his insightful talks Zen master Shunryu Suzuki said that in your practice you should walk like an elephant. “If you can walk slowly, without any idea of gain, then you are already a good Zen student.” There’s a mantra for your religion: Walk like an elephant. It means to move at a comfortable pace. No rushing toward a goal. No push to make it all meaningful. The sometimes inscrutable texts of Taoism and Zen teach that it’s important to do what you do without trying to accomplish anything. One of the benefits of a religion of one’s own is its ordinariness and simplicity. You don’t need a magnificent ceremony, a specially ordained minister, or a revered revelation to give you authority. You don’t have to get anywhere. There are no goals and objectives: nothing to succeed in, and nothing in which to fail. You can sit in your house, as Thoreau did, and be attentive— his suggestion. “We are surrounded by a rich and fertile mystery. May we not probe it, pry into it, employ ourselves about it— a little? . . . If by watching all day and all night I may detect some trace of the Ineffable, then will it not be worth the while to watch?”

~ Thomas Moore, A Religion of One’s Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World.


Notes:

Riding Metro North. And dragging it around.

train-station-light

Who are we, really? Who is dragging this body around.” (Zen Koan)

4:55 am.
Just another Hump Day in August, but less torrid, and pleasant, really.

It’s a short walk to the station. The digital counter on the wrist flashes Step # 63, a reminder of the failure to reach 6500 steps by last day’s end.

A Lady, in her early 30’s, hair still damp, rushes onto the crowded train car, steps over the gap, looks down the aisle, lets out a sigh. She sets down her bag and stands. You watch. She stands. And stands. And stands. This weekend you opened the mailbox to find junk mail inviting you to join the AARP, and flung it with disgust into the recycling bin. Hey, at least she wasn’t pregnant.

The 7:30 morning meeting is cancelled, 15 minutes before start time. The same meeting requiring you to catch the first train. You launch an e-missile punctuating the finish with an exclamation mark.  Shrapnel hits the target — its impact boomerangs in a Return To Sender. Necessary?

You interrupt another mid sentence, again and again, to steer the discussion and to drive the pace. What is it that is so unsettling that flows in your blood? [Read more…]

Do Over.

vizsla-dog-zen

When he was a puppy, he slept curled at my feet, under the covers.  The arch of my foot would caress his tailbone. As the night passed to early morning, he would inch up to my knees, still under the covers.

I would turn to my side and set my knee on his back, my leg rising and falling with his breathing.

Eight years later, he’s done with his breakfast. He jumps up on the bed, nudging his nose on the blanket, signaling it’s time to lift the covers. He turns in a tight circle once, and then again, and then falls. He shifts so he is parallel to me, with his back to my belly and his tail at my feet. No longer a puppy, his 70 pounds leans in.

I turn to my side and set my knee on his back, my leg rises and falls with his breathing.

I slide my hand under the cover and touch his silky ears, and pull him in tighter.

He stirs.

No, I can’t buy this on Amazon or find this on the Tube or in a Book.

No, I can’t feel this in any other Moment.


Note:

Lice? Hmmm. The rest? Zen Mastery.

full-moon-gif

Ryokan was a Zen master, hermit, calligrapher, and poet. He was known for his great kindness – he would pick lice out of his robe, place them outside so that they could get some sun and then later put them back into his robe. He smiled continuously, and people said that when he visited they felt “as if spring had come on a dark winter’s day.” He took the name “Great Fool” for himself. When a thief stole his few simple possessions, he wrote this famous haiku:

The thief left it behind:
the moon
at my window.

Roderick MacIver


Notes:

 

Saturday Morning: Zen Dogs

dog-zen-vizsla-pet-adorable

“In a series called Zen Dogs, Alex Cearns, a professional pet and wildlife photographer from Australia, photographed pups looking peaceful and calm, their eyes closed.  To capture the animals looking so placid, Cearns counts the number of seconds between blinks. She can take upward of 300 photos of an animal in one hour-long session; she says she usually gets one terrific Zen Dog-worthy shot in the bunch.

Dogs have the power to make people happier and feel less stressed, so it’s not a stretch to imagine you’ve started to look a little more blissed-out yourself just looking at the photos. Cearns believes her project can serve as a gentle and positive reminder to take a break, unwind and contemplate inner peace and presence. Take a moment out of your day to enjoy a collection of these charming shots, and maybe you’ll feel a little bit of what the dogs do.”

Kate Bratskeir, These Photos Of Zen Dogs Will Make You Feel Zen, Too

Don’t miss more of Cearns’ photos here: Zen Dogs


Notes:

Can, feel it…

kazuaki-tanahashi-miracle-moment-present-art-blue

Kazuaki Tanahashi
Miracles of Each Moment, 2014


Kabuki Tanahashi @ brushmind.net – Zen Circles. He was born and trained in Japan and active in the United States since 1977, has had solo exhibitions of his calligraphic paintings internationally. He has taught East Asian calligraphy at eight international conferences of calligraphy and lettering arts. Also a peace and environmental worker for decades, he is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science. See more of his Zen Circles here.


Source: Precious Things

Whoa Horse! I told you to stop, damn it!

black and white,

There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man standing alongside the road, shouts, “Where are you going?” and the first man replies, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!” This is also our story. We are riding a horse, we don’t know where we are going, and we can’t stop. The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless. We struggle all the time, even during our sleep. We are at war within ourselves…We have to learn the art of stopping – stopping our thinking, our habit energies, our forgetfulness, the strong emotions that rule us. When an emotion rushes through us like a storm, we have no peace.

– Thích Nhât Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering Into Peace, Joy and Liberation


Credits: Quote – Sensual Starfish. Image: landscapre

 

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