There’s a dead opossum in the walls of this newly built house.
They cannot be located but by the smell of their passing life
Trapped, sleeping, while the insulation, wallboard, tape, and paint
Were urgently applied to get the job done.
It will take a smashing and drilling and ripping of the walls
To get to the remnants of the carcass
That is causing a persistent suffering stench
Permeating this newly built house.
Conscious, intentional, and perceptible harm may cause immediate and maybe even indelible results,
but that harm is there,
available to be raged at, to be swung at, to run from, to apply bandages to, to tell someone about, to seek support for, to choose a reaction to,
Before the studs go in And the insulation is sprayed. And the wallboard tacked and taped And the coats of paint applied.
It’s the harm that arises from the dying opossum in the walls of the house that lies in wait, hidden from consciousness, that, at its inception, cannot be raged at, swung at, run from, bandaged, spoken about, soothed, or reacted to;
It is the harm from preverbal imprints, childhood violence, or subtle emotional manipulations, silent neglect, subtle sarcasm, lifelong lies, or constant diminishment;
Or even more,
The insidious carcasses buried in the foundationsof lives, families, societies, genders, races, cultures and karmas, genderism, racism, classism, culture-ism, faith-ism, lookism, ageism, privilege, dominance, slavery, supremacy, competition, ignorance, egoism;
It is these hidden or forgotten harms that are initially unseen and seemingly impossible to root out. Because they are imbedded in the foundations of the skyscrapers of lives, and the ways of living that sustain faith in permanence, and drive the fear of its loss.
Could these be the seed of harm?
Eternal life is the promise of religion,
“Long lasting” is the gold standard for things, relationships, occupations, wealth, deodorant,
Endurance is the epitome of the idea of physical well being and emotional strength.
Threats to existence or the idea of a permanent existence, Stir up fear, aggression, jealousy, hatred, and attachment; The ingredients for a perfect, permanent concrete mix. To conceal the rotting carcasses of harm.
What would happen if faith in
replaced faith in
Would the wallboard crumble?
Would the studs rot away,
Would the foundation dissolve?
Would the source of the insufferable stench be revealed?
Would we ever harm again?
Wherever there are lakes or rivers, there seems to be fisherpeople. Hundreds of different approaches: body positions, casting, trawling, trolling, fly, drag, float, boat, shore, wade, …
One of the many things that seem to be consistent besides the line and the hook are knots in the line and the approaches to them. My personal approach when I fished ( If one could call it that.) as a child with my father and brother, and created a knot in the line, was to cut the line above the knot and start again or throw the pole and all down and walk away. I have had little patience in me in this life and FISHING IS AN ART OF PATIENCE.
As I sat on the edge Rimrock Lake I observed an older boy
was trolling in this windy white-cap-saturated lake with a sparkling lure. Over and over casting the line out and reeling it in, with no fish caught, for much of the time that I sat absorbed in the rhythm. At one point his line hit the inevitable snag and he artfully dislodged it with some wand waving technique of the pole. Retrieving the line it was apparent that there were several twisted knots in it . At this point I would have cut the line, freed the lure and hook and retied them or wound the whole mess up and given up for the day.
Without missing a beat the boy wound the line in by hand and began to let the glistening, silver, spinner lure twirl like a knitting drop needle until he had untwisted some portion of it. Then deftly, not methodically or laboriously, he loosened the knots one by one by expanding the line with his broad hand like a puppeteer as the lure danced like a marionette. Dropping, spinning, looping, without a skipped beat or pause as if he knew the exact path that the line had taken to become so knotted. No overflow of tension in his body or face, which was sublime like the Buddha observing the dance and release of compounded human suffering. And then, and then… Free. The line was free of knots and without stopping to relish his success he reeled the line in and cast out again, and again, and again.
I think of my own knots. How contracted I become around them. How I often tug at the ends in a desperate attempt to undo them. How I find blame for the knot somewhere other than here. How I impatiently cut the knot away and everything related to it, sever it from any connection to me and cast it aside to litter the charnel ground of my memories.
There’s a pile there, of discarded knots, of knots that are too tight to loosen attached to threads leading to my soul, of knots buried deep in the carcasses of pain, loss, regret, knots connected to longing and unfulfilled desire, and newer knots of self doubt, and fear of judgment and faltering courage.
But now I have met a teacher, who has shown me, given me perspective and objectivity. He has reminded me how to make space, to open up, to ease the knot from the grip of fear, regret, and attachment. To dance with the knot and, like a puppeteer with their marionette, to let the knot tell its own story. He has shown me how to bathe the knot in the clarity of seeing things just as they are. To let the thoughts about the knots, and the fear of some imagined prosecutor of my failures, or the diminishment of the aggrandized self, free. He taught me to let the knots dance their dance and just attend to their swirling and undoing with deft and light hands. To see the beauty and the paths of the unwinding, and be awe-full of their undoing.
I am not the master puppeteer of the knots that my teacher is, but I can begin to see the space between the enfoldment of the strings. As I surround them with spaciousness and joy brought about by this precious opportunity to notice, reflect and join the dance, I begin to be able to see how the threads weave and how to attend to them without any expectation of when, or even if, they will unravel. I see the unending paths that dance to the songs of time, and regret, and hope, and doubt, and fear and courage. And for a moment I am free. For an infinite instant, I am a knot undone.
I dedicate this journey to all teachers seen and unseen, heard and unheard, known and unknown. May all of my dees, actions, words, thoughts and feelings bee in fulfillment of their teaching and the end of suffering.
August 9, 2020
Practicing in this Nature with an inconceivable numbers of teachers from the other-than-human world without almost no contact with the human world.
While sitting one morning after a restless night and waking to doubt, the teaching of Jyong from “Clarifying the Mind” cracked open a non-conceptual experience of mind, thoughts, perceptions and feelings. I experienced wholeness, an at-oneness, and ease and freedom, similar to states elucidated by sylicybin or ahyauasca, but this had happened in the meditative state.
I went into the post meditative daily doings and thinking and it remained constant and stable. “I have made it!” I thought to myself. “This state (something like non-duality) can be achieved without the medicine plants and sustained with my own attention and mindfulness.” I could hear the blazing horns of the Tibetan monks blowing and the chorus of all enlightening ones and Buddha’s, or as Gangaji likes to say “All the angels, gods and demons had gathered ‘round to witness a birth.” I was in awe, surprise, deepest gratitude, and wanting to share the joy and luck with anyone who was still suffering from ignorance.
While sitting by the river studying, a large and persistent, beautiful, turquoise-eyed fly had decided that I looked like lunch. I was marinating in the experience of my oneness and reveling the reading of the “Flower Ornament Scriptures” and kindly asked the fly to find another counter to feast at. They would have nothing of it. Clearly I was the only thing on the menu and they proceeded to land on a hidden part of my leg and partake, resulting in a mere instant of sharp pain. After a yelp and an angry “Hey!”, I began encouraging the beast with my hat, flailing at it when it got near, like an artistic gymnast ribbon performance. Their persistence stirred an anger in me that was from somewhere deep in the shadows of my “non-dual” state. I leapt up grabbed my chair and gear and book and scrambled away from the water and up the trail to the safety of my tent where, after settling down a bit, checked to see if the state of being was still present.
Something was there but it was more similar to a strong echo than the actual presencing experience from the morning. It was time for the midday practice and so I sat. The torment of awakened anger wreaking havoc in my being was like being ripped to shreds from the inside out. Shantideva references this demon-devastation-from-the-hell-realms when teaching about the karma of the defilements, like pride, arrogance, fear and especially anger.
After the sit I was emotionally and physically drained. It was late afternoon so I began my ritual of setting up the shade awning and preparing the space for dinner. Well, guess who was there to greet me? While bending over to adjust a tent stake, I experienced a solid two seconds of needle-sharp, hot pain in my butt (Go ahead laugh. Please!!, I did.). I thought well, they got what they wanted and now I can be left in peace. I thanked them for the teaching about anger and asked them to please move on. Apparently it wasn’t enough. I started to feel like I was on the losing side of one of those Matrix fight scenes. Finally they landed on my calf just as I swatted it and I knocked them to the ground, dead. “Dead as dead”, as the crow in Ka likes to say.
I checked in with my experience and I wasn’t really angry, in fact it had felt like a game of teasing and jousting that just got out of hand. I sincerely apologized to the golden turquoise-eyed, compassionate warrior and set his body aside to be interned with honor after I finished my work. That was when I checked in with my “enlightening” experience and it was nowhere in sight, sound, sense, feeling or thought. There was just this dull, thick density like a non-porous obsidian sponge stone.
I buried my teacher near a stand of Japanese’s knotweed (which is where they seemed to come from), overlooking the Nelahem river in sight of the Buddha’s head and guarded by the stalwart Douglas Fir and went on about the evening ritual of dinner, tea, practice, study and sleep.
By the time I was nestling into bed, I was in a state of immutable despair. I had the Indestructible Gem of Truth in my grasp and I let it go. I had allowed unconscious pride, arrogance, and anger to rise up justifying it by thinking “After all, I got it and I shouldn’t have to be bothered with the mundane, much less a fucking fly“. I failed the teachers and the practice. I had been here before: As a son of disappointed parents, an all-nighter evening on a Texas beach when everything seemed connected, a retreat in Taize’ France, on my knees in pre-seminary, with the aforementioned medicine teachers, with Gangaji, on a monthlong silent Shaun in the mountains of Colorado. It was like an inoperable karmic knot of awakening to truth than just as I grasped it, falling back into this reality.
Waking the next day in dullness, I continued my daily rhythm, hoping, looking over my shoulder, lifting the lid on the pot of my mental bubbling to see if “It” was there. It was gone, for good, dead, “dead as dead”. I kept the rhythm of the day, the cleaning, the practicing, the studying, the resting, the relishing of Nature. All the while thinking, It’ll come back. It wasn’t that big of a faux pas.” Then after hours of diminishing hope: “If I continue to do it right (the practice), maybe I can end this perpetual karmic cycle of pride and anger in this lifetime. Or at least engrain the experience into my bones so that I’ll have a better chance of seeing it before it takes me over the next time.”
There were several moments of ease and joy throughout the day. The sits were uneventful but honest and I began entertaining ideas that I was not meant for this practice. By sleep time I felt like I had experienced a death. A deep death and I went into the little death at ease around it.
The next morning, I woke with a little tickle of joy in my solar plexus. Like the feeling I had, as a child, waking up on Christmas morning, or the feeling I have had in new love; anticipating their phone call or arrival for a date. I began the rhythm of the day.
I always begin practice, reading from Jyong, book and this day I read
“… the basic straying is to regard the emotion (that you wish) to be discarded and the training as separate and so to use the training as a remedy against the emotion. Whenever a thought moves or when encountering a difficult situation, the temporary straying is (to believe that) one can only be composed in meditation after the difficulty has been overcome.”
And my heart wept in joy and Buddha head laughed, and stalwart Fir rustled slightly and a bald eagle soared down the Nelahelam at eye level as an exclamation point.
In the Flower Ornament Scriptures, it appears that every moment of the three Times, every pore of every being of existence, every atom of the billions of mind oceans are permeated with the teaching of Universal Goodness and not one being will be left untouched by the enlightening Ones’ gifts.
I have always thought and still get trapped in thinking that it has to look, feel and sound a particular way. My expectations for freedom are insurmountable and ultimately merely concepts. The seems that the reality of the nature of reality is just as it is without the promise or hope of some future better place.
Now in the practice and in the dailyness of this life, I am slowly beginning to experience the depth of beauty in just this, and opening and seeing everything just as it is. It’s inconceivable.
Thank you for this teaching, Oh Great and Compassionate Warrior Fly, adorned with the gold from the Lion’s Throne and eyes bedecked with the lapis lazuli from the mines of the infinite Oceans of Wisdom and stinger anointed with the Nectar of Reminder.
The Gift of Lameness
Hiking, for me, has always been end point and return driven. Whether strenuous climbs or long level trails, I was always on the way to something spectacular or to accomplish something. I have done as instructed by Nature enthusiasts; to stop along the way to take in the beauty on the trail, to snack and drink water, always at the peak, in the alpine lake, finishing the loop. Still, even while stopping, my mind was calculating time and distance to the the endpoint and the amount of time left in the day to take care of stuff, once returning home
Or it was something to talk about afterwards, on the way home or with folks in the days to come, or to say “Yeah, I did that hike.” as if I had just completed a job or a sexual conquest. I have images in my mind of many hikes, and pictures to prove I was there. I even have some feelings of awe that rise up in memory of standing in stillness, dwarfed by majesty. But, most of what I recall is about having completed them and very little about the way there or back.
There was one hike, a pretty strenuous 10 mile round trip, peak hike, that I embarked on during a time when I was experiencing a deep pressure in my right leg and a bit of a catch in my left lung when I exercised for more than 20 minutes. The hike was relatively level except for the last 1.5 miles which were steep switchbacks to the peak through a dense forest that opened out above the tree line for the last 200 yards of elevation. For the first time in my experience, I found that I had to stop several times on the trail to catch a breath and ease my leg. Still I kept pushing through. I thought, if it gets too bad I’ll turn around. (Yeah, right!) I came to the final clearing and was breathing heavily, so I sat down in the shade to rest up for the final push. Rested, I began again and saw that the last stretch of switchback that began about 100 yards away was even more of an intense grade and seemed longer that what I had experienced up til then. I looked at the peak across this grass covered slope and thought that it would be easier to just trail blaze directly to the top. So, I went, at first upright, then lower to the earth and slower until I was slothfully crawling, breathing hard, catch in the lung, leg throbbing. I kept pushing myself to a small copse of shrubs that would provide some shade near the peak where I could rest, eat and recover for the return hike.
By the time I was near the copse, I was dragging my body with the hope that I would reach the shade before lapsing into unconsciousness to die from exposure in the mountain sun. Arriving in the cool I collapsed and after sleeping on the crunchy, stone strewn, incline, I woke refreshed with most of the pain and pressure subsided. I sat for a while and contemplated dying on a mountain. What a great place to transition; 270 degree views, obscured only by a taller near peak to the South, dense ocean of sky above, deep, moss-like forest below. And, maybe for the first time, I sat in absorption, taking in what might be my last perceiving in this life. “Better get going.” It was a slow descent with many stops and time to take in the surroundings; my mind, all the while, calculating the distance and time until I would be home to soak in a tub.
After that hike, I soon learned that I had deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary endema. One of the larger veins in my right leg was mostly occluded from calf to hip with possibly small clots in the lung. Both situations can cause strokes, and death.
Hmmm… Would I remember that lesson?
Three months ago while planning for this gratitude journey, I woke up with excruciating pain in my sacrum that radiated down to my ankle of my right leg. I could not stand or walk with out significant pain. Of course this gratitude trip was going to be a lot about hiking, scaling peaks and trekking deserts and forests that had offered teachings. I had imagined going on days long treks of 20 miles, scaling peaks or trudging through dense forests or striking out across the sands to get to those places that had shared teachings with me. Now after three months of care and therapy, I don’t have as much pain but my walking is hampered, and sometimes I have uneasy sleep from the stiffness in the joints.
I am writing this on the third morning of the Trial Run, leaning up against a moss covered hemlock friend that stands sentinel on the banks of the Hoh river, about 400 yards from my campsite. I had planned on a six mile hike up the river to a trail that winds through a forest of old growth moss giants. I made it to here, being forced to go slowly, seeing more deeply, absorbing the gifts of splendor that this place has, its teaching orchestrated with river rocks playing the Hoh and the percussion of insects buzzing, accompanying a birdsong that I have never heard before supported by a chorus of my black feathered guides from the realm of KA.
I have arrived, I am always arrived.
I wonder how long til I forget. I hope I’ll still be able to walk.