Saturday Morning

Here I am alone with silence.

I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played.

This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me.

~ Arvo Pärt, in Arvo Pärt by Paul Hillier


 


Notes: Quote Source – Your Eyes Blaze Out; Portrait of Avro Part by K. Kikkas

Sunday Morning

One day when Buddha was walking with his disciples he pointed to the ground with his hand and said, “It would be good to erect a sanctuary here.” — Book of Serenity, Case 4

“…One day I ran across a single line in a thick book that made it all simple. It told the original meaning of the word paradise before it became a mythical ideal, imaginary and unattainable. Before it pointed somewhere else. The word paradise originally meant “an enclosed area.” Inside the word are its old Persian roots: pairi-, meaning “around,” and diz, “to create (a wall).” The word was first given to carefully tended pleasure parks and menageries, the sporting ground of kings. Later, storytellers used the word in creation myths, and it came to mean the Eden of peace and plenty. Looking at it straight on, I could plainly see. Paradise is a backyard. Not just my backyard, but everyone’s backyard. Teeming with weeds, leaves, half-dead trees, moles, mosquitoes, mud, dust, skunks, and raccoons. With a novice gardener and a reluctant groundskeeper.

Like the entire world we live in, bounded only by how far we can see. I began to garden. I got scratched, tired, and dirty. I broke my fingernails and ruined my shoes. I yanked out what I could have kept and put in more of what I didn’t need. I pouted and wept, cursing the enormity of the task. I was resentful and unappreciative. But when I ventured afield, sidelined by things that seemed much more entertaining or important, I always came back to this patch of patient earth. Time after time I realized that everything I want or need —the living truth of life, love, beauty, purpose, and peace —is taught to me right here, no farther away than the ground beneath my feet.”

~ Karen Maezen Miller, from “Prologue: Paradise” in “Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden


Photo: Mark Benbenek

Lightly Child, Lightly

“Living in the forest, I feel the presence of many ‘treasures’ breathing quietly in nature. I call this presence ‘Shizuka.‘ ‘Shizuka‘ means cleansed, pure, clear, and untainted. I walk around the forest and harvest my ‘Shizuka’ treasures from soil. I try to catch the faint light radiated by these treasures with both my eyes and my camera.

In Tao Te Ching , an ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu wrote, ‘A great presence is hard to see. A great sound is hard to hear. A great figure has no form.’ What he means is that the world is full of noises that we humans are not capable of hearing. For example, we cannot hear the noises created by the movement of the universe. Although these sounds exist, we ignore them altogether and act as if only what we can hear exists. Lao-tzu teaches us to humbly accept that we only play a small part in the grand scheme of the universe.

I feel connected to his words. I have always sensed that there is something precious in nature. I have an impression that something very vague and large might exist beyond the small things I can feel. This is why I started collecting ‘Shizuka’ treasures. ‘Shizuka’ transmits itself through the delicate movement of air, the smell of the earth, the faint noises of the environment, and rays of light. ‘Shizuka‘ sends messages to all five of my senses.

Capturing light is the essence of photography. I am convinced more than ever that photography was created when humans wished to capture light.”

~ Masao Yamamoto, “Shizuka (Cleanse)


Notes:

  • Masao Yamamoto (61), is a Japanese freelance photographer, who blurs the border between painting and photography, by experimenting with printing surfaces. He dyes, tones (with tea), paints on, and tears his photographs. His subjects include still-lives, nudes, and landscapes. He also makes installation art with his small photographs to show how each print is part of a larger reality.
  • Photographs by Masao Yamamoto with “unknown” and “untitled” via the Artstack.com
  • Quote via Memorylandscape
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly Child, Lightly

One of the Japanese words for mind is kokoro. The word koro is the onomatopoeia for “rolling along.” Something that rolls like a ball is koro koro koro. So kokoro is something that is always moving and changing, never stopped. There is no object or form that we can identify as mind. It is always changing. Though we are always looking for something to rely on, we cannot find it in something called mind.

~Shodo HaradaNot One Single Thing: A Commentary on the Platform Sutra


Notes:

  • Photo: via Your Eyes Blaze Out). Quote: Thank you Make Believe Boutique
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

T.G.I.F.

So I say to you.

This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:

Like a tiny drop of dew,
or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.

— Buddha, from the Diamond Sūtra


Notes:

  • Diamond Sūtra: “A copy of the Chinese version of Diamond Sūtra, found among the Dunhuang manuscripts in the early 20th century by Aurel Stein, was dated back to 11 May 868. It is, in the words of the British Library, “the earliest complete survival of a dated printed book.” (Source: Wiki)
  • Photo (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

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…]

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