meditation, poetry, zazen, zen

Winter Moods February 4

creek-light-in-february

It’s turned colder over the past several days following a late January warm spell. The creek still trickles, but less each day. The Great Horned Owl still calls before sunrise. As I sit in the barn zendo bundled with double blankets and thick ski gloves against the 10 degree cold, there are these two sounds.  Then the owl at some point quiets. Then the only accompaniment to the breath in this belly is the creek and the closeness of the cold. Then there is only this belly pushing up and out and then falling, sometimes  as smoothly as water sliding over clear ice and sometimes falling in small fits and starts like a leaf carried downstream, occasionally caught in eddies or bumping into rocks. This breath also will quiet for good some day. The belly will rise no more. The cycle interrupted. Who can say when?  You might as well try to predict that magical moment when moving water turns to still ice. For now the breath is the center and all else in the world exists only when given attention, like satellites attracted or inhaled, then let go or exhaled by the inconstant gravity of the mind.

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meditation, zazen, zen, Zen Poetry

States of Meditation

bodhidharma

some days I’m swimming upstream
some days I’m going with the flow
some days I’m floating on a tranquil pond
other days the mind wanders away
like a kite untethered from the kid
who thought he was in control
and then suddenly the crow: “CAAAAW!  CAAAAAW!”
like the THWACK!  THWACK!
of the keisaku, or “wakeup stick”
purpose regained.
this moronic ox
eyes open
on this cushion

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beginner meditation, mantra, meditation, zazen, zen

The Monkey and the Mantra

rafiki-2

Let’s talk about focus while meditating.  I have yet to meet the person who can sit down to meditate and stay focused for the entire time, every time, or even most of the time, every time. We all struggle. The important thing is that we’re not sitting there most days just daydreaming or letting the monkey mind rule…..  that little bastard gets us all the time with his bells, and shenanigans….. Oh look how Cute!…. oh, wait, where was I? Yes, staying focused…. even people who have been meditating for years or decades  get distracted. The mind tends to go in one of two directions, remembering past events or planning for the future. The monkey doesn’t like to sit still. So once upon a time the mantra was invented and has been used by Hindus, Buddhists and others for centuries. A mantra can be a sound or a word that can be repeated aloud or spoken silently over and over. In some traditions the word has a sacred or spiritual meaning, but for me, it just helps to have a sound or word that can keep me on track. A mantra that works for me is “here, now”.  Breathing in, saying a silent-“Heeeeeeerrrrrreeeeee” throughout the entire inhalation.  Breathing out- “Noooooooooowwwwwww”.  Being fully mindful of the entire breath from start to finish helps me to focus when I feel like I’m swimming upstream or being led around by that monkey.  Give it a try, it can’t hurt.  And if it does, “it doesn’t matter it’s in the past”. (The Wise Rafki in The Lion King)

 

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meditation, New Year's Day, zazen, zen

Ringing in the New Year, Enjoying the Gift of Time

bell-and-watch

Today, after a small sip of grapefruit juice and a back stretch, I put on the winter gear, and made my way up the icy driveway to the barn zendo.  I got up later than usual and the sun was shining brightly.  It’s a curious idea that we celebrate the new year January 1st. I always thought it should start with the Vernal Equinox and the greening of the landscape, but it makes just as much sense to celebrate the new year after the Winter Solstice and with the lengthening of days. Each day until the beginning of summer  we are given a minute or so more daylight to either savor or squander. Our choice. Speaking of minutes more, my sitting frequency and duration have slacked off quite a bit over the holidays, but the cawing of the crow and the burbling of the creek reminded me today to PAY MORE ATTENTION! So, I will heed their advice and as the days get longer I resolve to savor them by sitting:

 

at least once a day

every day,

come what may

Rain or snow

30 below,

or grass to mow

At the end of my sit today, I rang the tiny bell much longer than usual- enjoining the world and mainly myself:

Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up!

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beginner meditation, meditation, zazen, zen

when you first start meditating

maybe you’re looking for answers
to nagging existential questions:
who am I?, what is life all about?, what is my purpose?
or self improvement:
how can I become more centered? (whatever that means!)
or perhaps less selfish, more open, more spiritual?
and then you finally listen to your teacher, who has been saying:
“YOU” don’t exist
Wooah!, do I believe this?
No! I am definitely here with this throbbing knee in some
half-assed attempt at the half-lotus
what is she TALKING ABOUT?
if there’s no me here, then WHO is hearing these teacher’s words?
WHO is feeling this pain?
teacher: “exactly.”
woooooaaaahhh!
wait….. one wonders, is this truly so?
am I this body?… this mind thinking about the pain in this body?

 and now the journey can begin

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cookies, enlightenment, meditation, zazen, zen

enlightenment-lite

contemplating cookie

They say you can’t chase after enlightenment
As long as there is dualistic thinking,
an “I” seeking an “It”
or belief that there is some “thing” that can be attained
then the student will continue wandering,
condemned to a morass of delusion

Soooo, while I am just moping around waiting for enlightenment to find me,
Perhaps I should just settle for “enlightenment-lite”
a little less stress, a wee bit more carefree time to wander about….
wait, I do that already….
ok, maybe I could give some of my precious time (gasp!) to another
To achieve this somewhat-selfless ideal, I could try the incremental method:
Each time I sit down to meditate I could strive to leave one thing behind-
one care, one selfish thought, one craving.
(Notice the “I” is still present in this pared-down aspiration.)
Who knows what Wonders this may bring?
I may begin to feel a little less stretched,
some cracks may appear in my selfish armor
and perhaps, just maybe……. someday,
after countless eons sweating away my gazillions of selfish thoughts, cares and cravings,
there may come a point where there is nothing left, and I will just levitate and float away
in the ethereal bliss I so justly deserve….. just imagine……
but wait….. are there cookies in this realm?  oh Damn!, one craving left…
Thunk, down on my ass I go!
“I” might as well go eat some cookies

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