7/22/17

The Yard Buddha and a Meat Purchase

Yard Buddha
Above is an ordinary, nothing special Buddha (with lichen spots) who has been sitting in my yard in Asheville for several years, and throughout it all, he has been consistently still and calm. In all circumstances and weather, covered in snow, leaves, poison ivy, or pounded by rain and heat waves, his subtle smile is unwavering. He has been completely unruffled by Trump's election, greed, twitters, corruption, and narcissism. He calmly faces threats to climate and civilization, and as for changes in immediate landscape—new moss carpet, pine needles, flowering plants—and his appearance—coats of spray paint (to cover lichen), Windex baths, he is completely indifferent. His smiles at me serenely, regardless of my changing moods, illusions, and suffering. I am in awe of him for these things and particularly struck by his disregard of bitter cold, something I cannot bear. 

And If it sounds like I view him as a living being, I doIn one flash of awareness he was this remarkable creature of pure equanimity, chilling out in the yard for years on end, and in the next, he was the unchanging being/truth inside me and us all. 

Yes, alive! Outside and within. And at the same time, an idea I had always considered this way: pictures or statues of deities, enlightened and holy beings are merely attractive symbols for the religious-minded and the hipster to display or masterpieces for art historians to study (the latter—me, now and then.) And so it follows that if I had met this Buddha guy coming down the road at one time in the past, I would have killed him. 

Maybe.
Note:  “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him” is from a koan attributed to Zen Master Linji, founder of the Rinzai sect. There are various interpretations, but I prefer - whatever your concept or image of the Buddha and enlightenment is—get rid of it!  IMO using the word "kill" is just shocking enough to stun the Buddhist-trained mind into silence/emptiness. 
Maybe not. 

Maybe I'm not an iconoclast any more, or just a selective one. Am thinking of the power of Tibetan Buddhist images and how they are intended for the creator and viewer to transcend ego/illusion. My heart and soul need these masterpieces, but apparently spirit can also be moved by a mere lawn ornament or a piece of meat(!)* (See story below)




17th C. Tibetan thanka of Guhyasamaja Akshobyavajra, Rubin Museum of Art

Anyway— this nothing-special Buddha led to something 

recognition
gratitude
whatever

much needed.

In the midst of the political and world messes and my personal joys, euphoria, heartaches, and physical and psychological pain (shoulder/yoga practice/surgery) there is something unchanging and forever. It's there like the Buddha's smile, no matter what. 

I've scheduled surgery with stem cell therapy in August.
Yard Buddha: still smiling.

*Story : Equanimity : Enlightened by Meat:
When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer. 
"Give me the best piece of meet you have," said the customer. 
"Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best." 
At these words Banzan became enlightened.


deep bow
metta




6/4/17

Nothing Special : Valley View Part 2




Rajaji National Park, Uttarakhand, India


"You don't need to try so hard." 
Years ago in Seattle, I went with my friend Anita to see someone whom she described as a "seer" of sorts. Hearing him say, "You don't need to try so hard," I exhaled with relief and felt infinitely lighter. Since then I've come to believe that many, myself included, who exert large amounts of effort, are overcompensating and avoiding a fear that perhaps we are not good or not capable. 

"How you do one thing is how you do everything." 
A once-teacher of mine was fond of saying this. True or not, it's an interesting consideration.

"What's true on the mat is true off the mat." 
Ashtangis often say this, and in my experience it is true.


***



"But as long as you think, 'I am doing this,' or 'I have to do this,' or 'I must attain something special,' you are actually not doing anything.... When there is no gaining idea in what you do, then you do something."  - Shinryu Suzuki 


hotel stairwell, Aurangabad, India

Nothing special that's how I feel—not in a bad way, but in an everyday Zen way. So I am finishing this post after letting it sit for several weeks, and indeed, the post and I are—nothing... special. No gaining idea/not trying (so hard) resonates and tastes of freedom to me. 

Guru Sharath says it in a yogic way. (Substitute "practice" for any activity or "life"): 
You should not be practicing to have a "good" practice.... We should do practice happily regardless of whether it is good or not.
Sharathji and (many) scriptures have also said the divine can take any form:
In Indian philosophy they say Nirakara—this means that the Divine, the Supreme.... can come in any shape. It can come as human, it can come as a dog, it can come as an elephant, it can come as a tiger. So there is no... specific form... It is just an energy which we have to experience.
He is saying essentially that everything is an expression of the divine and—not to get off topic but—that would include #45 and other Rakshasas, ALL beings, and all we experience. To me, this is also liberating (even as I resist politically—with awareness, or so I hope.)



hotel hallway, Aurangabad, India. (actual color from EXIT sign)


Saying everything is a divine manifestation may sound like parroting the cliche, "It's all good." However, at the same time, no, it's not all good! Will leave it there. Gotta love what defies "logical' thinking. 

Well, the mat, cushion, and life are (mostly!) always there for us. Just watched a David Garrigues video in which he describes what he calls the "arc of Ashtanga." Basically, as we change, our practice changes; and just so in life, as we change, so does life/our life. 

And lately, while experiencing freedom in so many ways, I have also felt stuck and longing for change. The shoulder improves or worsens and the mind obsesses or lets go, often focusing on relationships of all kinds, past and present. All the ghosts of unknown, unspoken, withheld, refused words and interactions appear before me—without resolution. Stripped to the core, this feels like one of the last layers of the the onion-ego (duality.)

And how healing it is to come to my mat, to art, to life, to this writing—to come home to Truth. 

Nothing special.

Love and blessing to all! (And a big smile to my political, personal, and inner Rakshasas.)

metta
“Once you realize that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy.” Nisargadatta Maharaj

Lake Junaluska, North Carolina morning





4/22/17

Seeing Heaven from the Valley

Go Blank: Encinitas, California, February 2016


BLANKETY : BLANK

Rock exuding Zen wisdom? Implied profanity? Enlightenment on the beach?  


EMPTINESS : FORM

     An Ashtanga teacher stops teaching in a graceful, wise way. 

     A father passes away in a beautiful, peaceful way. 

     Yogis and yoginis learn when to let go, when to go blank. and when to push: 
     that suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases.  (Samadhi and Third Noble Truth):
"I wrote and thought a lot about the wish to be invincible, the wish to always be healthy, the wish not to age, not to die….about how yoga does not make us invincible physically or mentally, that we must age and die. Here is the magical blessing that yoga gives us: equanimity and peace with whatever comes. This is truly magical. This is powerful." 
Karen  Cairns
GRACE : CHANGE
A yogini close to my age whom I greatly admire, always has her eye on the prize. 
And what is the prize?  I believe it is accepting what is in the present moment, an "equanimity and peace with whatever comes." 

For most of us, isn't the prize the perfect something or other? Perfect achievement: asana, money, solo "show," love, likes, and so on. For me it has been about progress, getting somewhere else, or returning to a previously attained state—anything but where I am right now.


So like yogini Karen, scheduled for her second hip surgery in May, I contemplate (shoulder) surgery while I learn, observe, accept, and find the way to truth in my own body and spirit day by day. Karen's essay (shared with her permission) below astounds and inspires me. It reveals that she and perhaps all of us—can access yoga's Eighth Limb. I am grateful for the reminder and proof that in aging/change, there are inherent gifts. 


metta
Field Notes from the Valley of the Shadow of Death 
My elder ashtanga is a deeply satisfying practice. I don’t think about it; I just do it. Gone is any struggle over doing it or not. There is nothing I am working on. No new poses. Nothing to “deepen” in any way. No adjustments needed. Whatever I do is fine. I actually practice more these days, just taking Moon Days off. Elder ashtanga is everday ashtanga, nothing special ashtanga. This is truly magical. 
.... No need for renunciation- things just peel off when no longer needed, without struggle, without loss. Endless talking about asanas? About teachers? About Guruji and Sharath and Saraswati? About the practice? Less and less…  I think I was noticing a space to talk about everyday ashtanga, about elder ashtanga, which anyone can do.  
The practice that is slow and steady with no bells and whistles. No YouTube videos. No glamour photos of poses on a beach, in front of an ashram or a temple, by a river…. No special clothing needed- just everyday clothing. Nothing to talk about. 
Adjustments are plentiful and come from within. Or not. Insights are plentiful and come from within. Or not.
Really, this ashtanga can be done at any age, with any body, with any mind, anywhere. You do not need to be old for elder ashtanga, but perhaps it helps. As we age, we tend to learn firsthand that “it’s okay until it’s not okay”….and that this can happen at any time. It is not an “if” but a “when.” Some learn this earlier, while young, of course, through illness or injury, perhaps. When recovered, sometimes we forget and once again feel invincible. 
With aging, this is no longer possible. We know we are permanently more vulnerable, fragile- our skin thins and tears easily, eyesight may get dim, hearing less acute. We can fall more easily and we know that recovery is both more problematic and partial. Our practice becomes even more important but changes fundamentally. It becomes everyday…nothing special but completely special.
Before my left hip replacement in 2014 I was very apprehensive. I’m not a fan of surgery- well, who is. Before this surgery I made a Yatra or pilgrimage, my first one to northern India, to the Himalayas…to be blessed. And I was indeed blessed. The surgery went well and practice healed me on every level. I wrote and thought a lot about the wish to be invincible, the wish to always be healthy, the wish not to age, not to die….about how yoga does not make us invincible physically or mentally, that we must age and die.   
Here is the magical blessing that yoga gives us: equanimity and peace with whatever comes. This is truly magical. This is powerful.
            —Karen Cairns

3/20/17

forty-five. taxes. escape.




We are in the universe and the universe is in us—in the most unlikely places

For 10 days I:
1.     sat quietly for at least 15 minutes with focus on #45's higher self;
2.     made note of processes, failures, and epiphanies;­
3.     made simple images relating to this process. 


link to what happened next:
Ten Days of #45 
March 26 

I'm avoiding tax prep today. Such a tedious unpleasant chore from which I seek to escape!
  
Ah, escape. It's much more than taxes I wish to elude. After the #45 focus (see above), felt both clear and peaceful about life and politics. That is, until some dormant parts of self awoke from their sulk in the dark. 

Feeling things so deeply, I cried helplessly after reading the story of a cat called Ugly. Later, sensing other energies, I felt sad, bad, irritable, and miserable. 

I am all things (as we all are) And though ALL things are neutral, they lose their innocence through the spin story we put on them.  Welcome to the entire truth—neutral AND illusory—whether grasped, avoided, or observed.

I sit quietly and do yoga practice for the equanimity to observe. And there are things I don't want to look at—far beyond the annoying drag of tax materials**—my own and humanity's cruelties, heartbreaks, helplessness, judgements, mostly heartbreak....


Sigh! True. 
image of the Sanskrit version of the Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya)
metta


** And on that note—why should I pay taxes to support #45's trips to Florida?  
OK, back to taxes... 
or study the Heart Sutra for a while—yes!




1/29/17

Burning Down the House: politics-yoga-spirituality



Talking Heads, "Burning Down the House" 
(full lyrics below)

Hold tight wait till the party's over
Hold tight we're in for nasty weather
There has got to be a way
Burning down the house


House as metaphor for ego.... and politics. What a mess. Heartbreaking and frightening (for me) just one week after inauguration and the women's march in DC.

So - Adyashanti has a story. It goes something like this. In the early days of his teaching he held retreats at a location where the early morning was graced by the sunrise, bird song, and peacefulness. Later, local residents blasted Led Zeppelin and others at full volume out on the streets. As Adya says:
It is easy to stay conscious to the birds, to the pleasantness, to the beautiful manifestation of the Divine, to your own true self...until the first power chord... And there it is. There's the invitation. 
 Well the political powers are shrieking at me right now. I see how easy it was to stay in a state of peaceful awareness of self, others, etc during Obama's presidency. Now I am put to the test:

  • Can I maintain equanimity and awareness now that the "sweet sounds" have ended?
  • Can I keep an open heart while at the same time feeling outrage and heartbreak? 
  • Can I engage in a way that is positive, pro-active? 
  • Can I refrain from reacting in-kind to energy that feels negative or bad?
  • Have I closed my heart to some as a result of pre-conceived ideas about certain people with whom I disagree? 
  • And if so, am I not doing something essentially similar to what the head of the US government today wants to do to Muslims? 
  • Can I view the US president as "bad" in a neutral, matter of fact way? That is, without the added injection of hate and anger?
  • What can I DO that promotes inclusion and peace on both an individual and governmental level?
I'm watching, looking for answers. I will say for certain that being open to "those" people FEELS much better than shutting down as I learned in DC after the march.  Two women got on the trolley we were riding. One carried an anti-choice sign and the other, roses. We muttered among ourselves about them, and then chatted joyfully with some other pussy-hatted women, all the time eyeing the two. (And I, sending them some evil-eye.) When we got off, I did something I can only attribute to my (unconscious) higher self. I smiled at them from the heart and smelled their roses.

The result of good energy from march, meditation, and yoga practices?

Don't know, but yoga practice in particular seems vital to clarity, equilibrium, and equanimity for me—particularly since resuming regular practice after dealing with shoulder injury/pain.


And here I should interject what I've learned since Andrew Hillam's workshop in India about the integration of bhandas and breath. Amazing! Breathe right and your bandhas will be there; if your bandhas are present, you will be breathing correctly. Aaaah, the breath. Everything said about it is true!


And to also interject—have learned about everything since injuring my shoulder. One down to earth thing: at Duke they will do arthroscopic surgery AND stem cell treatment at the same time. Amazing! So excited by that I signed up and scheduled immediately. (But at this moment with shoulder so much improved wondering if it wouldn't eventually resolve for the better on it own. To be decided after consult this week.)


Questions! Answers! Some say questions are far more important than THE answers.


METTA

May prosperity be glorified. 
May administrators rule the world with law and justice. 
May all things that are sacred be protected. 
And may the people of the world be happy and prosperous.

(Ashtanga closing mantra)




Talking Heads – Burning Down The House Lyrics 

Watch out you might get what you're after
Cool baby strange but not a stranger
I'm an ordinary guy
Burning down the house

Hold tight wait till the party's over

Hold tight we're in for nasty weather
There has got to be a way
Burning down the house

Here's your ticket pack your bag: time for jumpin' overboard

Transportation is here
Close enough but not too far,
Maybe you know where you are
Fightin' fire with fire

All wet hey you might need a raincoat

Shakedown dreams walking in broad daylight
Three hun-dred six-ty five de-grees
Burning down the house

It was once upon a place sometimes I listen to myself

Gonna come in first place
People on their way to work baby what did you expect
Gonna burst into flame
Burning down the house

My house's out of the ordinary

That's might don't want to hurt nobody
Some things sure can sweep me off my feet
Burning down the house

No visible means of support and you have not seen nuthin' yet

Everything's stuck together
I don't know what you expect staring into the TV set
Fighting fire with fire

Songwriters: BYRNE, DAVID / WEYMOUTH, TINA / FRANTZ, CHRIS / HARRISON, JERRY
Burning Down The House lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.