Valentine’s Shirt in Heaven

Zazen last night at Red Cedar for the first time in some weeks. My mind was a drifty sleepy jello, nothing new there. I moved from following my breath to following sounds. No alertness for me there so I switched to taking refuge

I take refuge in the Buddha
I take refuge in the Dharma
I take refuge in the Sangha

one on each exhalation. Just the utterance for itself, not trying to connect with what it means, I don’t know what they mean, honestly I don’t. I mean, I could try to explicate it, but phhhht. Nothing special happened and I left before service, tired after a long day and under the weather.

What we want’s so simple. To be loved. It’s so little and so much.

This morning, two poems by Jean Valentine, facing pages, saw me face to face.

OPEN

I lay down under language
it left me and I slept

—You, the Comforter, came into the room
I moved my head—

my blood, my mouth
all buttoned away—

Makers of houses, books, clothes-
makers, goodbye—

and

A LEAF, A SHADOW-HAND

A leaf, a shadow-hand
blows over my head
from outside time
now & then
this time of year, September

—this happens—
—it’s well known—
a soul locked away inside
not knowing anyone,
walking around, but inside;

I was like this once,
and you, whose shadow-hand
(kindness) just now blew over my head, again,
you said, “Don’t ever think you’re a monster.”

That Comforter, that kindness, I know them, & not just in memory.

& not only, please let it be, their recipient.


Image above, from a work still incipient, Dura Mater. Click to go bigly:

Image 1 col

Sumas Mountain ochre, olive oil, egg yolk, water on paper.

Caught then not

Got caught in a post-breakup jag of self-hate for a bit there. No one loves me, no one will want me, why should I bother. You know, that drill. It can be pretty compelling; it can be a rock fast at your head; a rock sunk fast in your head.

For me – I’m noticing this more and more lately, and wonder if it’s a lumpy fruit of years of practice, zazen, psychotherapy, artmaking – it was powerful but also clear-edged, I couldn’t push it away but it couldn’t take me over, either. Like, I can’t repress much anymore, walls of the mind don’t work so well anymore. What arises, I gotta suffer. But as recompense, what arises doesn’t wash me away either.

Or is it just getting older? Anyway, it came with a migraine, there was that much wave to it, and as I lay on my bed in the afternoon, near naked with the sun on me and the cat beside me, window wide open and the wind in the dogwood outside, and all the little birds, and traffic sounds, a thought came, and it was, the world wants you here. And another thought came, and it was, the evidence is, you’re here.

That is all.

 

Broke stick

I miss my lady. Got my coffee, books piled round me, sun on me through the big window as I work, some beautiful songbird being ceaseless on the patio, it’s all good. And I miss my lady. And it’s still all good. And still I miss her.

Painting of us, hers, angel as broke stick.

 

On listening to another, oneself

Zoketsu Norman Fischer on listening:

  • Listen with as few preconceptions or desires as possible.
  • Listening takes radical openness to another and radical openness requires surrender.
  • Listening turns a person from an object outside, opaque or dimly threatening, into an intimate experience, and therefore into a friend. In this way, listening softens and transforms the listener.
  • Listening requires fearless self confidence that is not egotism. It is faith in yourself to learn something completely new.
  • To listen is to shed, as much as possible, all of our protective mechanisms.
  • Simply be present with what you hear without trying to figure it out or control it.
  • To listen is to be radically receptive to others.
  • You are aware of all your preconceptions, desires, and delusions, all that prevent you from listening.
  • Listening is dangerous. It might cause you to hear something you don’t like, to consider its validity, and therefore to think something you never thought before, or to feel something you never felt before, and perhaps never wanted to feel.  Such change in ourselves is the risk of listening, and this is why it is automatic for us not to want to listen.
  • To really listen is to accord respect. Without respect no human relationships can function normally.
  • So much of what we actually feel and think is unacceptable to us.  We have been conditioned over a lifetime to simply not hear all of our own self-pity, anger, desire, jealousy. Our “adult response” is no more than our unconscious decision not to listen to what goes on inside us.

From Taking our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up

So much of being grown up, yeah, is an unconscious choice not to listen to most of what goes on inside.

How to listen and let it, another, oneself, in. Not give it sway but look after it.

Asked before what just sitting following the breath could possibly offer as a response to Trump and what’s happening.

This thought, just now. Trump’s first failure is a failure of inner listening.

I know that sounds 180 degrees wrong. But I mean Norman’s sort of listening – the friendship given another, given to oneself. Trump has no such friend.


The image atop: three Daruma dolls. I saw one last summer in a store window in Toronto and wished for it and … oh, it’s a long story, but my dear friend Barb went to great lengths, and then some more. And over pancake breakfast at the Old Town Cafe a few days ago passed it across the table to me. Daruma = Bodhidharma, Zen founder, spent nine years in a cave listening.


With thanks to Nomon Tim Burnett for passing the text on.

Trump and the Diamond Sutra (II)

A sickness is spreading, here and now, and fucking hell.

Three gunmen opened fire in a mosque in Quebec City during evening prayers on Sunday, reportedly killing at least five people, according to the mosque’s president, Mohamed Yangui. Around 40 people were reportedly inside the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center (Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec) when the gunmen opened fire.

Police say they arrested two people and aren’t ruling out the possibility of a third person being involved. Officials confirmed there were multiple fatalities but won’t specify how many.

Bodhisattva means a long view. Innumerable beings, innumerable worlds, and it ain’t you saving them anyway. But this – what are you going to do?

My country is burning, my other country is burning, the world is burning, the top of head is burning, here, now. And here I am grading? Somehow I am.

What the fuck is this world.

Calling my congressman does not feel sufficient. Waving a sign in a crowd does not feel sufficient. Okay nothing feels sufficient. Calling and waving do not feel me. What does then. You don’t do that, those, what are you going to do?


Sorry for the jargon folks. The Four Bodhisattva Vows, as I first learned them, and still most to heart know them –

Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them.
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them.
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.
Buddha’s way is unattainable, I vow to master it.

Bodhisattva = enlightening being. One who puts her enlightenments aside indefinitely, even if that’s forevers, to further the enlightenment of all the others.

My Q, and it burns, is how’s it function in this present sitch. Cuz DT, that whole coterie, they sentient beings too. They can sign executive orders, definitive evidence of sentience. Save them too? Sheeeeee-it.


Don’t believe in hell as a later place. It’s where they are now.

Trump and the Diamond Sutra (I)

Worst case seems to be our case. Men of great sudden power – worldly power, outer power, power a manifestly decrepit political process has bestowed on them – are telling the media they are enemy and should just shut up. Are reinstituting torture at secret sites overseas. Are abhorring abortion abroad to placate a domestic audience though that jacks up illegal unsafe abortions in the Third World, and deaths by. Are waving threats of no-more-money at cities havening immigrants doing work few else want to and their DACA children, some my own very students. Oh if I keep listing I’ll never be done. The Constitution, frail bulwark, cries to think what comes next.

I’m not a marcher. Don’t like slogans, crowds, group thought. Guess I could suspend that, and may, for the import of opposing. Cuz this is real real bad.

Want to know what inner power is. Have started reading the Diamond Sutra again, Red Pine’s translation, thought I touched something in these lines:

After crossing his legs and adjusting his body, he turned his awareness to what was before him.

At the start of the sutra. Don’t feel qualified to comment on them, but what I hear is, the Buddha is in a body. And wholly in it. He needs to attend to it and knows it. Maybe his knee hurts, so he adjusts. He was out in the city begging for his one meal, walking barefoot, he’s an old guy by now, maybe his knee or his insole hurts. He adjusts his body. Doesn’t blame anyone for his discomfort, just does what he can to lessen it, and moves along. No arrogance.

No blame. Turns his care to what needs looking after – what was before him. Is human, not a god, not omniscient, it takes a choice and a turn to locate his mind here, in mindfulness. But he can, and because he’s love, he does.

What answer does this offer to Trump, at the apparent dawn of proto-fascism in a capital empty of competent political opposition? I think maybe none.

Nor am I helping the petitioners, demonstrators, agitators, and such, whom I admire lots and am glad for greatly but find I am not one of, much.

The only answer I know to the sickness of outer power is cultivation of inner power. I have not heard a resonant response to the ill spreading among us anywhere except in buddhadharma. Which I don’t understand, and tells me nothing specific about how to act.

And, too, I reject quietism.

Thus astray, as I dive into the Diamond Sutra, I may post a few of my misprisions here. Will share by tweet in case lonely sleepless sad POTUS eavesdrops.


NEXT DAY. This post started to turn to crap. Had I had a beer too many? (Been through a breakup, second time round with the same o so lovely heartful hurted beloved, some beers is cheery to me.) Maybe I just lost the bead.

“Group thought,” that’s out, everything I’ve heard about the Women’s Marches, they were astonishing harmonious various, true response, right action.

“I have not heard …,” that out. Soon as I said it, started hearing fierce meaningful responses all over. L. in Portland sent this from HuffPo on ethnographic blogging, its quilting of irreducibly multiple voices, as resistance to the One Voice of the State. Adam Gopnik’s annoying fondness for the sleek epigram has transmuted under a new pressure to become a majestic voice of true opposition. He wrote this in the New Yorker, from which a taste:

Whenever there is an authoritarian coup rooted in an irrational ideology, well-meaning people insist that it can’t persist because the results are going to be so obviously bad for the people who believe in it, whether it’s the theocratic revolution in Iran or the first truly autocratic Administration in America. Tragically, terribly, this is never the way it works. There is no political cost for Trump in being seen to be incompetent, impulsive, shallow, inconsistent, and contemptuous of truth and reason. Those are his politics. This is how he achieved power. His base loves craziness, incompetence, and contempt for reason because sanity, competence, and the patient accumulation of evidence are things that allow educated people to pretend that they are superior. Resentment comes before reason.

And this in the Sun, which arrived today, its dawn offering

Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America was never America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed –
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It was never America to me.)

Ironies multiply and compound. The whole poem here.

Could be said, these are buddhadharma, yo? A sutra‘s what stitches you up.

I just – I just – I don’t know how to turn acts of mind, poems and posts, to act acts. I want to knock a government down. What use, following my breath?