Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘zen’

Moving Water

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Mazbo’t

In the past I had likened life and time, a lifespan, my journey, to a trail.
Many are the poets and songsmiths that have called it The Road.
The Path it’s called in real Zen (i.e. not Armchair zen).
So too, a voyage on a ship, charting one’s course, to set sail, all have found there proper places in the prosaic. These things rang true to me for my first few lives.

Similes to ships seem fitting in so many ways. One is the captain of one’s own ship, and one needs to set one’s heading and plan a destination. The boat can represent a physical body or a spiritual vessel in or on which you transit cradle to grave. It can be used to illustrate tremendous responsibility, and demonstrate what it means to let it run aground or to be asleep at the wheel. It can exemplify perspective, delineating the perimeters which should never be surrendered, simultaneously reminding us that a great wide world exists just on the other side of that thin hull. A world considerably larger and more powerful than you and your little boat. One does not sail through a hurricane. One prays through the tempest, and lives or dies at the mercy of Mother Earth and the ancient oceans from which we emerged.
The sea is so large, and my boat is so small.”
There are a few other useful lessons available under the boat-driving brand of philosophy, not the least of which is (depending on what kind of boat) that under some circumstances, it is difficult or impossible to run the boat alone.
(And under almost all circumstances, sailing is better with a mate or two.)

Most of the boat-speak still suits my taste. Particularly the part about the sea being several million or billion or trillion times your size. A tiny iceberg sank the infamous Titanic. I mean, it was as big as the Empire State Building, but for icebergs it was a bantamweight, and if you calculated its size as a percentage of all the glacial masses on Earth it would be a hundred zeroes followed by a one.

Now here’s where my divergence lies within these philosophical premises. The ideas about being the captain and responsible for your boat and your crew and setting your course and all that. Well, the Titanic had aboard a well-trained and skilled crew, and a seasoned captain. No knock on them. It was an accident, and that’s why we have the word. But even a full and skilled crew cannot ensure protection against every threat the world might send your way. And sailing a ship on the high seas or the great lakes or the reservoir is a deliberate act within your control. You can set a course, turn the tiller, raise the sails. You can monitor the compass and the wind. There are forces like Trade Winds and ocean currents with which you must deal, but pretty much you sail across the pond, large or small.

As my philosophies aged like cheeses and fermented like wines, I began to understand that life is much more a river than a sea. (I did sneak in a couple of good similes there.) And we don’t so much pilot a powerboat on this river, but rather sort of raft down it. Personally, I prefer to think of myself as something of a Tom Sawyer, poling my way to adventure. There are, of course, responsible adult ways to ply the river in canoes and kayaks. The point is: the river is always moving.

Yes, you can argue that there are currents in the oceans, or that there are tidal rivers which flow back and forth in opposite directions following the tides. But if you go around with that kind of attitude I bet you won’t get invited to a lot of parties at my house.

My metaphoric river carries me. If I stop paddling, I keep moving. I can zig-zag across the river. I can paddle with the current and move at twice the speed of the water’s flow. I can fall asleep, or daydream, or faint or even die I suppose and that river is just going to keep on flowing isn’t it?
Now you’re not ever going to get that from a path, road, trail or anything else that you are required to follow and physically pursue.

I can rest. I can heal. I can be sick for days or go on a drunken binge and that river is going to keep right on carrying me. And whether I paddle with zeal or sprawl in a stupor, I will be brought to the places where the river chooses to flow.
Brought to the places the river needs to bring me.
Buoyed and wrapped in her caress, the moving water will bring me to where I need to be.

Captain’s Log

Since clearing the ice pack, we’ve had fairly good sailing to the south. Inspections revealed some considerable damage caused by being iced in, but nothing that will sink us. Moored several months for repairs, the crew was eager to be underway and have benefitted greatly from the warmer air and sunshine. Still encountering a lot of fog this far north, but currents bear us for now toward more favorable climes.
It is in the hearts of the crew the greatest changes have occurred.
Frozen in, there was nothing to do but pass the time, and soon they fell into their own doldrums, making the motions of the living, but with the eyes of zombies.
For a considerable time after we were first underway, they were compelled to keep looking back at the sheet as if it were stalking them. It was out of sight more than a full day before the light returned to their eyes and they could finally believe that one of the longest and most arduous times of our sojourn was truly over.
The following day they lingered in the galley and drank too much, and sang.
It is the first in many, many months that I have heard voices lifted in song, merriment and celebration. I was moved to tears to hear their joy.
What were they celebrating?”, you may ask.
Life.

Take care and keep in touch,

Paz

The Speed Of Zen

Frost’s Road

 

I have no problem moving over,
And letting the
Younginahurry people race past me.

Let them dash off to their
Younginahurry lives.

Despite their velocity,
They will never catch up to me.

I’m not in the slow lane or the fast lane,
But the now lane.
Traveling at the speed of zen.

Let them speed past me in the 
Younginahurry lane.

And I’m not talking about the highway.

Slainte,

Paz

Time Out

 

Tick Tock

 

Thinking of the

Great Cosmic Game Clock.

What 
Period
Is 
It?

 

Slainte,

Paz

 

A Conspicuous Absence

 

Crocuses are blooming now, and Canada geese migrate northward. The air each day hints more of spring. The song of the red-winged blackbird fills the yard. Sunsets are lavender then orange. Mornings sport foggy patches, and the deer have come down out of their winter yards.

The beautiful world has been busy being beautiful for a long, long time. Make that a very, very, very long time. Nothing to date has affected her all that much. The sky is still aquamarine blue, and clouds in the sun will reveal rainbow colors if you look closely.

The grass is greening as green as any year, and dandelions have wasted no time getting started. The trail greets Sassy and me with the same joyous embrace we have come to know, and the air smells as sweet as any spring I can remember.

Mankind has always sought out and marveled at beauty. Nature and the arts. Throughout recorded history we have breathlessly described new frontiers. We have written ballets devoted to the seasons, composed and choreographed the essences of life’s beauty to be displayed upon the stage. We have written books of adventure, love, poetry. Songs that embrace light and love, devotion and bravery. We have painted and drawn and sculpted masterpieces attempting to convey our overwhelming joy to be witnesses to this marvelous world.

These things have never tired, never faded: the world’s beauty and humankind’s appreciation of it.

Humans have observed and recorded beauty at all times. All times throughout history.

During bountiful years and seasons of drought.

During times of enlightenment and growth as well as times of darkness and evil.

During plentiful times, and times of starvation and death.

We can hope and dream with all our might, yet we must bow to the unwavering truth that there will be some dark days for most of us during the courses of our lifetimes. That there will be dark times for our world.

Humankind has harnessed the power of light. It began long ago with a fire in a cave. It continued as gaslights recorded in the stories of O. Henry and Charles Dickens. It entered modern times with Mr. Edison’s curious invention. It has followed us into the future with lasers carrying our telecommunications, and solar farms gathering the power of the sun for our use.

And so it is the power of beauty and light that I will embrace now.

There will be lilacs in May.

There will be peonies in June.

There will be raspberries in July.

There will be morning glories in August.

You have plenty of places elsewhere to read about the darkness.

 

Sure As Spring

 

Let’s keep our eye on the lighthouse, and keep the lamp lit.

Let’s marvel at the sweep of the beacon through the fog.

Until the storm has passed.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Pardon Me

Barn at sunrise

 

 

I beg your pardon, and I mean just that.
I’m sorry we won’t have time to chat.
I haven’t a moment to spare, you see,
Just now Mother is calling me.

It’s not entirely my fault,
This unavoidable delay.
But you know the world is bigger than me
And overwhelms my day.

It’s not only me, it’s also the birds
‘Cause they’re Tweeting me with their tweeting bird words.
And the trees are waving to catch my eye,
Passing clouds call out “Hello and goodbye.”

Am I to blame for marveling
At this air that smells of snow?
It surrounds me and embraces me,
And follows everywhere I go.

You wouldn’t hold it against a guy
Whose eyes automatically rise to the sky,
For breathing deep and lingering long,
To sing along with Nature’s song.

So hasten, must I,
To truncate this rhyme.
You and I can visit
Some other time.

 

Mother Beckons

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Sages

Sunrise Buck

 

When I was a young fool and thought I knew everything,

I had something to say to everyone,

and an opinion, a position, on everything.

Now that I am an old fool I realize how little I know.

And I am reticent.

Why waste my breath on incessantly babbling young fools?

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Delusional

Who’s to say denial and delusion are anything but good for you?

Dreams, fantasy, fiction, acting, pretend, hope, “all the world but a stage”.

Consider the alternatives.

Of which course to follow,

Really, who is the fool?

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Bursting

 

By some, the event may have been called

A loss,

A tragedy.

My heart

Burst open

And love spilled out.

It flows as it never has.

Easier with

Each

Passing

Day.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Tree Attitude

“Getting back to the roots” of Armchair Zen, so to speak. This post was originally published in May, 2011.Stand for somethingThe mighty oak from the tiny acorn grows.

This old adage seems to reflect a wonder and reverence for this amazing feat.

I love trees, I really do. I could easily personify them, impune them with human attributes, worship them as spirits. Something about a tree, standing firm and tall in the same place, day in, day out, year ’round…it brings a sense of stability, longevity, solidity, groundedness.

I like to subscribe to what I call Tree Philosophy, or Tree Attitude. So many things in our lives appear to be a conspiracy of circumstances, the times we live in, where we live, the way we live, with whom we live. Choices we made back in…when? Things we shoulda woulda or coulda done.

My grandfather always told me “Take shoulda, woulda and coulda in one hand, and a nickel in the other, and see which one will buy you a donut.”

Trees waste no time on such worries. A little tree seed plants its first tendrils into the soil—and is committed! From day one, that tree is going to live or die, stand or fall, right on that very same spot.

I like to imagine trees thinking about that. “I’m going to be the best tree I can right here, where I am, working with what I have.”

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, from President Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  That is, after all, a description of our entire lives, really, isn’t it?  We are where we are, there’s no denying that. We must work with what we have, be it employment, a dwelling, our people, money, transportation, brain power, energy or spirit. And doing the best we can within these parameters is all we can do.

For philosophers such as President Roosevelt and myself, this means we don’t throw in the towel just because the odds are stacked against us, the task is overwhelming, or we’re short on assets, even if tasked with great challenges or the seemingly impossible. It also means recognizing that there are limits to what we can do, and we shouldn’t punish ourselves for being unable to do more.

I imagine a tree’s life is similar, but to the greatest extent. Tree doesn’t agonize over location. Perhaps prospects for success might be better elsewhere. Perhaps the climate is something humans would want to escape. Perhaps the very home of Tree is in a precarious place, on the side of a cliff, at the edge of an eroding riverbank, or at the last edge of the tree line, far up a tall mountain. Tree can’t move, but can only hang on and throw all of its efforts into the present.

Neither can Tree do anything about the changes in its life. Perhaps it’s struck by lightning, maybe loses a limb or suffers damage to its trunk. Perhaps humans come along and saw pieces off. Maybe its roots are immersed “knee-deep” in water during a flood season, or a drought season makes survival difficult.

If Tree is an evergreen, it will keep it’s needles as it goes into a dormant season. Granted, I have wished more than once that I could have a dormant season for myself, to rest and recuperate from the rigors of my own seasons, storms, lightning, chain saws, floods and blizzards. If Tree is deciduous, it will awaken, depending where Tree lives, sometime between February and May. As it stretches its limbs to the sky, it gets down to the business at hand: budding, developing and flowering. Sounds a bit like our lives again, doesn’t it? For its season, however long it may be (and without groaning that it is either too short or too long) Tree will produce thousands of leaves, each one a near-perfect copy of the others. For pines, tens of thousands, maybe millions of needles. Year one, year 50, year 200, Tree goes right on doing what it is born to do, producing those leaves or needles, growing when the conditions are right, and resting when it is necessary.

Tree will keep up the good fight, no matter what, and will try until defeat and death. As it is with all living things (and, in fact all things in the universe on its grand scale), eventually there is an end. I like to imagine Tree retiring. “I’m going to lay down, right here, next to the rest of you.” At that time, Tree is okay with this end, whether it is after 5 years or 500. Call it destiny, call it nature, call it the randomness of the universe, the circle of all things.

Saplings can be heard all around “Good job, Tree, and thank you for your silent service. You have been a fine example of patience and perseverance. A great neighbor in our community, shading the tender shoots and plants at your base, welcoming, with open limbs, the wildlife; squirrels, chipmunks, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, wasps, and anything else that came to you seeking refuge, a home, safety, security, something meaningful and solid that we can know and understand and rely on.”

Even after death, Tree remains an influence. Flora and fauna of certain types will flourish thanks to Tree’s legacy. The many generations growing around Tree will look on, seeking and seeing the testimony to its determination, learning and benefiting from the example, and the knowledge that Tree stood by them, and gave selflessly whenever called upon to do so.

I don’t need riches, recognition or immortality. If my life, and its own end, can be to any degree worthy of Tree’s example, I too will be able to lay down in peace, and return to the earth from which I came.

Be at peace.

Paz

Kind Words versus Critical

Rerun: This post was originally published in 2011. – Paz

 

I was reading a thing recently about a crew demolishing a building. Someone asks the foreman how long it would take to knock the building down, and what sort of skills were required by the crew. To sum it up, the guy replies that they should be able to knock the whole thing down within a week, and aside from knowing how to work safely, no special skills were required. The observation concludes that it would take many weeks or months, maybe a year or more, to construct the building, and the construction would require many people with well-developed skills. Masons for foundations, welders for steel, electricians & plumbers, painters & roofers, and perhaps consultants for interior design.

In short, it takes longer and requires more skills to build something up than to tear it down.

This is also true of people, and the words we use with one another.

Like the unskilled demolition crew, anyone can speak words of criticism. Complaints, judgement, even derision. These words are pretty easy to come by in the human brain, especially when motivated by aggravation, frustration or anger.

By contrast, it requires greater effort to hold one’s tongue, keep one’s opinions to one’s self, to avoid getting on the band wagon with others complaining or condemning, and especially to keep hurtful things from spitting out of our mouths in the course of an argument, particularly an angry one.

So too, it requires a different and perhaps greater skill to look for the good in situations, to compliment people on the degree to which they got things right, not criticize them for the degree of wrong.

In the heat of battle or when someone is railing or ranting, the conversational side of the brain will feed you many thoughts that it wants you to speak. Maybe it’s the way you feel, or maybe you want to defend a position, or maybe you want to agree with a condemnation being offered.

The sage will understand the old adage “less said the better”. With concentrated effort, one can express that one understands or at least hears the other’s point of view without agreeing or arguing.

In any situation, look for the positive. With any person, look for the chance to share a kind word, and watch for those verbal grenades your automated-language-based brain tries to toss past your teeth.

We went to see an apartment into which someone had recently moved. The street was not well-to-do, or of the newest part of town. The houses were mostly multi-family rentals, and were generally well-worn. One could not describe the sidewalks or alleys as neat or clean. The apartment was at the top of a steep, narrow, windowless staircase. The windows could have used cleaning, and with some effort one could see above the dormers of the house next door, and catch a sliver of the sky and the city beyond. The kitchen floor was from the last century. It looked, in many places, exactly like what is was: a medium-sized second story apartment in an older house, whose tenants probably never stayed more than a year or two.  A few marks showed on the walls and woodwork, where families had probably raised rambunctious children, and the landlord probably repainted only when needed.

When asked, I described it thusly:

“It’s quite spacious, with good-sized rooms. It has a brand new carpet in the living room, and a brand new space heater, like the ones I have in my house. A Big kitchen! The windows are big. Tall, old-fashioned windows that let in the light. On sort of  a side street, where the traffic seemed pretty light. And cozy! Probably quite efficient to heat!”

Next time you have a chance to describe something or someone, an apartment or even adversary, put your effort into the use of the skills of “craftsmen of the human spirit”, “masters of language”, developed by being practitioners and tradesmen in the arts of compassion and empathy, and build with the materials of positivity, hope, caring and dignity.

Be at peace,

Paz

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