Sitting a Three Day Sesshin at Oak Tree in The Garden

Sitting Zazen for Extended Practice

It is really easy for me to be seduced by the couch and practice is one of the things that I can build up a lot of resistance to even though I have been doing it for a long time. I have so many  examples of how much I benefit and it’s even better when I can have the company of other people sitting. So I was glad when I had the opportunity to sit a three day Sesshin lately with Oak Tree in the Garden. And yet even as I was preparing to head out I was thinking of excuses for cancelling at the last moment. (wtf?)

We are often encouraged to indulge by advertising: to eat what doesn’t satisfy any nutritional need, to buy what serves no purpose, to want what we can’t afford now and even when experience shows us these things lead to despair that *ping* in our brain that happens when we follow an urge feels like satisfaction. I watched a show on the science of fast food; apparently the “stomach share” is how fast food companies look at us. It was frightening. The worst thing was I started craving junk food while watching the show! I know it is fun to commiserate with others about our favorite snack food and how we are “going without”. We know it is ridiculous in our part of the world to do something like that. The only real “problem” of food is the lack of it and it still is in many places in the world.

So why is it so hard to do what makes us really feel better? Is it really a corporate master plan to ruin us?

It helps to understand the success of marketing when trying to change behaviour. We do have to be a bit of a bore to pursue practice and to make change happen. When confronted with the onslaught of advertising that encourages instant gratification, heck it makes it seem like a virtue, well, it helps to commit to practice for change.

It also helps to practice. Establishing good habits may not sound like fun but it really makes more fun possible. The other problem is that we have been convinced of a lack of time. I am happy to say I have been reminded what a difference a day makes, or recently, three days. 😛

“OVER 2500 YEARS OF CUSTOMER SERVICE, THE GOLD BUDDHA AWARD FOR SESSATION OF CRAVING, COUNTLESS BEINGS SERVED. GET YOUR SLICE OF CUSHION NOW! RIGHT NOW. REALLY NOW. THIS IS BIG, BIG REALLY REALLY F-ING BIG!!!!”

 

Me too? Piss off!

I have been walking around feeling lousy because I have been remembering times when I did things I didn’t want to do and times when I didn’t say things that I should have and thinking about all the circumstances surrounding those times and just feeling so awful just because I don’t like to think of myself as a victim even when I was. I think I would rather be a whore than a victim. Then I read this:

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/01/06/martha-nussbaum-agency-victimhood-dignity/
and I started to feel better.
Once I knew a man who wanted to go and harass women who were on a “Women Unite, take back the night” march. He thought because they didn’t want him march with them they were being sexist and therefore he had a reason to yell at them and interfere with their march. (I recently listened to an interview with the woman from Pussy Riot who told of a man who joined the band dressing like a woman who was horribly beaten for it and I thought, cool that he did that but typical he got beaten for it.)
The genius of non-violent demonstration is the inclusiveness of non-violence. This man, (and I said nothing to him at the time because I was in love with him and constantly aware that he was smarter than me, like all men, starting with my father) This Man needed only to respect the value of their message or at least their right to express it. Their message was, “We should be able to dress as women (how we like) and still walk safely home. It is not a privilege. Acts of violence are criminal.  Being female in THIS PLACE at THIS TIME is not something we should need to justify any more than any man has had to.” And then it occurred to me, any man who is not a black youth in a hoodie that is. (If you say things like “all lives matter” in response to Black Lives Matter, you are not getting it. If you say, “that is disrespecting the flag”, you are missing it again.
Bending a knee is a non-violent means of making a point. However uncomfortable it may be for those of you who like quibble about anything that might make it seem to be about something else, citizenship is the right of citizens and that includes non-violent demonstration.)
As for all the recent “news” about moguls who abuse their power and intimidate women (and who knows who else) for sex, well why is it getting so much attention right now? And is it going to change things? Is there a nugget of hope here or is it another tittliating story? SEX SEX SEX
In the tape Harvey says, “come on are you going to ruin a friendship for five minutes?” or something and I thought, if only she could have said “this is not about friendship this is about an exchange for sex” and then put a price on it per minute, a million per minute. (No doubt considering the recent press it would have been a great deal for him). I am being facitious of course but seriously, who would be the criminal if she had? She would have been. How insane is that?
It is time to own up to the fact that it isn’t about sex (or even gender though frequently women are the demographic). Sex is a smoke screen, a diversion. This is about control. This is about culture dominated by a small number of powerful people who want a large contingent of people who will do stuff for nothing or next to nothing. It is about unpaid labour and abuse of an entire populice. Women (and others) doing things to avoid violence, to avoid arrest, to avoid losing a promise of financial security, not even “wealth” often , just doing things to avoid being called a WHORE and being rejected even by other women. Meanwhile the collateral benefit goes to those who just shiphon off the gravy that they had to do nothing to recieve except be powerful or perceived as being powerful.
This is the formula: maintain fear, remove autonomy, encourage desention, work them to death and make them grateful to think they are your friends.

 

 

 

A Billion Tiny Flowers

I have been technology challenged for about ten years.  Before that I felt I could hold my own. Now, age, concussion and recently, ambivalence have led me to the shoals, the place where many older adults find themselves, muttering and cursing and occasionally exclaiming “YuReeek Ha!” as some colourful object washes onto our shoal and makes us happy.

I spent an entire weekend, possibly the nicest weekend of the summer trying to sort out why I could not longer watch television (Star Trek) or googly or putz on the various devices in my home! I must say here, if you are patient with the poor techies they are appreciative. I may not be able to defuse racist Nazis but my Zen practice has taught me to be attentive and patient while on hold.

Mostly I want to have Star Trek, any version, playing while I do my sewing. I could put on the radio but sometimes (gottalovem) CBC radio is just dumb and my stitches get tight while my mind boggles. (Star Trek is often dumb but it is Sci-fi, come on!)

Last night while falling asleep I realized my dreams were of a billion tiny flowers, each providing a context for perpetually opening complexity, which viewed as a whole was breathtaking. From my perspective they were the flowers of a quilt that I painstakingly was appliqueing one at a time, made of billions of threads of cotton, manufactured and dyed, all by human hands from plants grown in sunlight and with water and tended by more human hands on a beautiful planet spinning within spinning galaxies.

So as glitchy as these entertainments are from my point of view, some things, important and awesome, never change. 🙂

20170827_111239[1]

 

Sharing our Humanity

 

flowerseller

Nivia Gonzalez, “El Mercado de Flores”

Two days ago I went for a follow-up mammogram and ultra-sound. Nobody likes to get these things. I always tell the technician a glass of wine would go nicely, sometimes it gets a laugh but I NEVER get a glass of wine.

 

It was good.  I mean, I had a nice time if you can believe it.  As it was a follow-up exam I made a point of telling everyone that actually had to touch me that I have had cancer twice and am now being monitored for a pre-cancer.

“I can understand how you might be nervous because of that.”

It seemed to make a difference, but I can’t be sure if it was a result of the release of tension I probably carry without knowing it or because of the technicians actually showing more than the usual amount of compassion.

I like to say that compassion is not something anyone can own or take as a virtue but an environment that we can share when we let go of the “self and other” mentality.  I have no proof for this and only a vague recollection of experiencing this as my usual internal narrator was absent. The moment, transitory and aberrant has only a tether to my Zen practice which is almost impossible for me to talk about.

Nevertheless my own pressure release of expressing what could likely make me feel separate from other people, (or at least one of the things that so often limits me) did serve to connect me to what was going on and that usually has good effects.

Something else I realized, if you make people aware of your shared humanity, they increasing look ridiculous as they try harder and harder to deny it.  You only have to look at ranting racists on social media who are confronted in a calm but consistent rebuttal by the people they are invested in hating and how they look more and more pathetic, eroding in their rhetoric into petulant potty mouths.  I think it is interesting because they look like two year olds… just a thought…

Nobody should be written off as hopeless.  We all behave like children often enough and yet, like children, given a shared opportunity to learn we can be quite remarkable in how kind, helpful and even courageous we are.  Oh and good news, results in, it’s fine, nothing to worry about. 🙂

the poster was in the waiting room of the breast screening clinic

Personal Transportation Vehicles

Sitting staring at a blank wall the image of a zafu, a small round cushion, flying through the air and hitting me on the back of the head came to mind.  Wait, let me back up a bit: I have grown very attached to my zafu having clocked  so, so, many, many hours sitting on it.  At times I realize I have an almost obsessive affection for it. It has been repaired and recovered and in it’s heart it contains my former teacher’s zafu.  *Sigh*

None of these things has anything to do with my practice or the value of it or my sincerity or effort. At the end of the day it is just a cushion… And you may ask, quite rightly, what does this have to do with cars?

Well we all have to get to places. We can pay attention to where we are without getting confused about how to get to where we need to be. *groan*

We all, at least begrudgingly, acknowledge we  affect each other with our behaviour, certainly we acknowledge when other people’s behaviour upsets us in some way. But put us in our very own vehicle, encase us in “top of the line performance” and drench us in the joy of our favourite mix of tunes OR WHATEVER, driving along in our cars, flying like Isadora Duncan’s scarf down a ribbon of hi-way, well, that is freedom.

The images of driving and freedom are endless thanks to really clever and expensive advertising.  Too bad they are untrue.  It isn’t free.  It is very costly.  It costs in waved penalties for environmental damages for the HUGE companies that produce all manner of stuff for cars. It costs in road maintenance, insurance claims, hospital and emergency response costs, and in broken bodies and destroyed lives.

It costs in deluded and dangerous expectations about “what we deserve to have” and gives us an added layer of separation from the harm we might be doing to others.

Whatever you believe about yourself and what you are doing, if it is a means of separating yourself from your fellow beings and their suffering you will get someplace, maybe get there really fast, but you won’t be happy and you can never be free.

You might get a buzz, a high, a sense of being unfettered by worries and concerns and responsibilities but, AND IT IS A REALLY BIG BUTT, AS IN DUMB-ASS, now wait for it, here it comes, the flying zafu!!!!

A Few Thoughts on Traffic from A Crossing Guard who Quit

Dear Pedestrians, when talking about “the flow of traffic” in a big city, I think it is important to say if it is a liquid it is ketchup. It gets stuck just like the ketchup when you hold the bottle over your fries and then suddenly it seems unstoppable and you have a mess pouring out ruining everything! This is how I have come to understand that not only one car will fly through an amber light but three or four will follow and the last will be speeding through a red light.   😦

It can be argued that ketchup is mindless and drivers are not but neither have been proven.

I do not describe pedestrians as ketchup because that is my greatest fear. I never ever want to see any pedestrian covered in anything resembling anything like ketchup. It was one of the reasons I decided to quit.  It’s one of the reasons I am posting this.

This idea that we all have to run across a light as the final numbers count down might be a result of too many game shows in our youth but here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • You don’t get a prize. You maybe save a couple of minutes but you set a bad example for your kids who will, despite all your efforts to supervise them, one day do the same thing. Also you can cause an accident. It isn’t all about your ability to run, it’s about a lot of other people too, some of whom are in cars and also the cars behind those cars…
  • Not everyone can see everything that is happening all the time. This is why when the randomness of rush hour and children’s behaviour (they drop their project, they see a friend on the curb and run back, they sudden stop to crouch down to tie a shoe) WE PAY EXTRA ATTENTION TO THE RULES THAT HELP US ALL STAY SAFE.
  • The length of time you have on a green light should be long enough to cross at a normal brisk walking pace. Running is not a good idea, neither is riding a bike or skate board or a pogo stick! Running with a stroller with a child in front of you, by the way, they do not make good shields against on coming traffic… well, lets just say, is not a good idea and here is why: a driver will take a quick perusal of the speed of the herd of pedestrians and calculate his/her turn based on that. Yes he will be in the wrong if he hits someone, but as I said, its not a game show. 
  • If suddenly a person takes off ahead of the herd a driver can’t anticipate this. Many drivers overestimate their ability to accelerate, swerve and stop. If he/she is making an illegal turn across the crosswalk, and this happens so regularly that it is almost normal, he will have to hit the breaks, AND he might have a flow of mindless ketchup behind him to jam up the intersection.  This has happened so many times that I stopped trying to keep count.

You would think having a crossing guard there would help alert the drivers that there could be children crossing. There is nothing lovelier than working for minimum wage, often sick and in the worst weather to have a driver show me the finger because I have stood there, in his or her way, until the parents and children are on the curb. FORGET ABOUT HIM LETTING ME GET THERE too!  Sheesh. He or she thinks they have 360 degree vision while also interfering with traffic and breaking the law.  I decided it was easier to thank the good drivers than to expect anything at all from the bad drivers.

So, getting back to what pedestrians and cyclist can do: Don’t ignore your charges, dogs, cats, kids or parrots. Behave in the manner you would have them behave. Please don’t text on the phone or stop to greet one another in the crosswalk. (Even if it’s to tell the crossing guard you love her or him!) Wait until you are on the curb. In such a beautiful and warm community as yours (at least we hope it is) it will happen often that you are talking and sharing with each other but do it when you reach the sidewalk well away from the curb so there is no confusion for the drivers or the crossing guard about your intentions to cross.

Cyclists. You are my heroes.  Do not ride in the crosswalk, especially when there is a constable or crossing guard.  Walk your bike or ride on the road. It is illegal always to ride in a crosswalk but especially not a good idea when children or handicapped people are crossing. If a crossing guard is crossing people it is because they may have varying abilities to react to unexpected vehicles in the crosswalk. A bike is a vehicle unless it is a handicap device.

Finally, stay safe. Take chances with your fashion, your creativity, your generosity, and your interests, and your limits but not with traffic. That`s just dumb.

The Things I`ve Seen Standing on the Corner!

Okay, the laughs are hard to come by these days but last week I watched a young woman with headphones on and her hood up (it was cold and had snowed the night before) walk along at a leisurely pace as a sidewalk snow plow continuously honked the horn at her, FOR AN ENTIRE BLOCK trying to get by her.
FYI: I now help texting people across the street as I count them as visually impaired. I have a great idea for improving the smart phone:  Put left and right turning signals on the side so other people can tell which way they are going to go!
Perpetually hooked up people are sensory disadvantaged!