Perhaps a Glimpse of Buddha Nature

Every once in a while I think I catch a glimpse of Buddha nature. Actually, it is more of a feeling than an actual sighting. In other words, any “aha-moment” vanishes the moment the recognition is mine. I suspect that is how it always is with Buddha nature.

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Even the term, Buddha nature, is known by many other names. For me, it is the eternal aspect of existence–energy vibrating in infinite dimensions and form as matter and anti-matter—creating a background of immutable harmony so that we are able to live our lives with choice.

The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance, but its background is always in perfect harmony.

This is how everything exists in the realm of Buddha nature, losing its balance against a background of perfect balance.

~Shunryu Suzuki~

Suzuki’s description is a familiar one on this blog, as I have cited it many times. For me, it is the essence of the feeling I get whenever I sense Buddha nature. No matter the definition or description, the idea of a balanced background against the days of our lives means we always have options.

For me, Buddha nature is what I am and have been from my inception, the blank canvas that was me at birth. If I look closely at this painting that is my life, its background is in perfect balance, allowing me to lose and regain myself moment after moment.

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Dates and years frame the triptych of my past, present, and future. I am the artist’s brush, swirling with the color of every choice, stroke after stroke on the canvas that is my moment in Buddha nature. Its balanced background—the context of my life—absorbs the outcome of each moment that is my life.

Buddha nature does not allow me to slide through my life unaware or it does. The choice is mine. In any given moment it is up to me how aware I am of my own brush stroke. In mindful moments is when I glimpse Buddha nature.

The moment is hazy at first, floating in and out like any other, yet its rhythm is different, like an undercurrent that absorbs rather than pulls. Maybe this is what synchronicity is; regardless, I am immersed in it. In such a moment, the ending is as uncertain as is the beginning but I am bothered by neither.

Rather, it is like a story that begins with “once upon a time” and ends with ever after and forever. I am confident there is a bridge between the beginning and the end and indifferent to the outcome. Buddha nature has the essence of a rainbow, a bridge to and from and back again.

Only life is in flux, neither ending nor beginning but always being, not a snapping of photographs or a study in stillness but a series of scene changes as the stroke of the artist aligns with change against the constancy of Buddha nature. The painting that is my life is only one scene in the tapestry of existence yet mine mirrors all others in that it is lived.

As I say, every once in a while I think I get a glimpse.

When Spring Occurs Inside and Out

Waverly Bush 0314Every moment is the best time to begin. Beginnings are never out of season no matter what the weather is in your heart or outside your door.  Every once in a while, spring is the season inside and out.

No matter the season, we welcome its beginning for in opening ourselves to any season, we stand at its threshold new, and the possibilities are infinite.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in

summer, snow in winter.  If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,

this is the best season of your life.

Wu-men (as quoted on Zen Flash)

In each moment of every season, we thrill to the unfolding of what we do not yet know. All together, these are the years of our lives, each with its own spring, summer, fall, and winter.

Sometimes the spring of a year, both within and without, is sporadic in its blossoming but nonetheless, in spring all comes alive again, anticipating the produce of summer, the harvest of fall, and the sleep of winter.

Of course, each season has its days of clouds but on the clear days of spring, eternity seems within our reach for the bursting forth of life is the promise of forever.

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature 

is constituted to be that profound secret

and mystery to every other. 

Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities)

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In any beginning of any season is the promise of life’s renewal for every sentient being. There is birdsong, the greening of grass blades; there is the flight of the insect, dazzled in its moment of life.

It is in a moment’s beginning that all seasons start. Beginnings are for poets and painters capturing forever a moment in a blossom’s life, the uncovering of what was once winter stilled. A season begins the life cycle.

In the moment that is spring the world awakens because we, too, awaken, stretching for the infinite possibilities inherent in every beginning. There is spring in such a moment, and we wrap our arms around life.

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All winter long, underground roots have embraced one another in frost or warmth, sharing nutrients through the stillness in anticipation of the moment of movement that is a thaw or a breaking of the surface. Life begins again, unpredictable but renewed.

Where I live, it is the season of beginning all around me as well as inside me.  I am reminded that I am in constant relationship with life no matter where I am, inside or out. It is the season of my life, rich in bursting forth, magnificent in blossom, resplendent in fall foliage, and sated in winter.

In every beginning of every moment I stretch my arms to the sky in appreciation that I see the sky, whether or not there is weather in it. I am in a moment’s beginning and all that it may be.

It may be the moment that I look into the face of an iris and discover a shade of purple not ever known to me for the light in this moment is new, unlike it has ever been. Together, the iris and I, wild in our ways and settled in others, share in the sentience of being.

Always, we are in relationship with life whether it is an insect, a blade of grass, or a plant in a pot on a bedroom windowsill. We engage constantly in the cycle that is life and from time to time, we burst forth as an iris bloom or as a human, both grateful for another spring inside and out.

The View From Waverly: Bottoms Up!

Curiosity is standing on a moment’s edge, sharp with uncertainty, and deciding the leap is worth the risk. Staying curious closes the door on the known and opens us to the thrill of exploring familiar territory as if it were the first time.

When the “world is too much with me,” I escape to Waverly pond and park—in my mind’s eye ever idyllic—once there, I believe I will regain myself, and I do, but never in the way I anticipate. For when I am at Waverly, curiosity shoves aside all of what I am so certain, and no matter what happens, the view is new.

Life goes on at Waverly, impermanent but not imperfect. It is a distinction well worth remembering for nature does not summon the past to understand or to avoid the present, no matter how daunting or mundane the moment might be.

Nature just is, unfolding in every moment, perfect and precise, providing another perspective, different from the moment previous and unlike the one yet to come. Nature is curiosity sustained.

As I look across the waters of Waverly, there is not a single snowy egret or Canadian goose to be seen but the waters of Waverly are not as I have seen them–ever. Sediment, rust in color and seemingly the texture of sawdust, covers most of the pond.

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Its red clay banks are deeply scarred by what was once roaring rivulets of seed pods and dead grass. Day long rains swept and splintered pine needles into fragments of themselves. Needles, pods and grass—a winter’s barge–now float.

Spring blossoms are sporadic, seemingly uncertain. Most trees stand bare, witnesses to a winter that seems in no hurry to leave. So far, spring is days of rain and weeks of gray. I do not know Waverly in this kind of spring. It is not what I want to see.

In response, my mind’s eye returns to Waverly idyllic, as if to wait out the moment that I have. I actually close my eyes on the nature that is for the nature I seek.

Standing on the edge of such a moment is a first for me at Waverly, and I open my eyes with a start, having heard nothing but having sensed something. It is the wonder of the world, whether at Waverly or wherever, that in the instance of knowing one thing, something entirely new reveals itself.

In this moment, it is the bobbing bottom of a duck amid murky waters, oblivious to winter’s floating barge. The duck rights itself, churning through the old as if it were new.

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Once again, the duck is bottom up, now joined by yet another duck, also bottom up. For more than a while they are content within the muck, swimming one way and then the next, sometimes in circles, seemingly content in waters that are new yet the same.  Ultimately, they swim beyond winter’s barge to open water.

So often, the unknown is merely a new perspective on an old situation, one that seemed so ripe for escape. Escape takes us only to where we have been as we have been. Staying curious allows us to meet the moment’s edge, perhaps bottom up, completely unsure of what that may mean but confident that these waters offer life in yet another way.

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Good Manners Make Good Neighbors

The pain of loss sometimes divides me between a life I once knew, and the life I have now, a wall not welcome yet one all my own. Most days my mostly Buddhist self says, “Let’s not attach to the pain of loss or we’ll get stuck in its drama.”

But there seem so many days I am too bound to my mind and unwilling to face life as it is now. My lifelong friend is dead, my ability to move through life threatened emotionally as well as physically. A life I knew is no longer but I hold onto it, as if “walling in” a life were possible.

Finally, reality forces me to focus—I have poured coffee into my oatmeal–mindfulness makes me aware of the wall I have so carefully constructed. So often it is the human way to try and still life.

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“Something there is that does not love a wall” is a line from Robert Frost’s “The Mending Wall,” a poem I once knew by heart some fifty years ago. Now, all I recall is a single line but it seems enough.

In the poem, two Maine landowners perform their spring ritual of reinforcing a rock wall that keeps separate his land from his land. Whether it is nature, the magic of elves, a burrowing animal, or a thoughtless hunter that tear down the wall matters not. “Good fences make good neighbors” is the belief of one neighbor while the other wonders if that is true.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
(Robert Frost, “The Mending Wall”)

When I first wrote about this poem in some grade school or junior high English class, I sided with the neighbor who believed a wall was a sign of respect, a reminder of what was not one’s own, a sign of good manners.

Now, I am older or simply old—a final label—yet still on the life side of the wall between here and whatever comes next–the unknown, the intangible—I am here within the laws of nature.

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbours.’
(Frost, “The Mending Wall”)

In my later years, I re-consider what makes good neighbors. It is not good fences or any walling in of loss or walling out of life. It is good manners, a respect for life as it renews on terms not for us to understand immediately but ultimately for us to accept.

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Ours is to extend good manners in our relationship with every form of life. It is ours to mimic the apple orchard and the pine forest, as each respects the other without transgression, as both drop their seeds for a life larger than their own.

Ours is to grieve for those who are no longer here. We respect that they lived and left life with us. It is ours to continue without a wall at all. It is good manners that do not love a wall; it is good manners that make good neighbors.

Reference Notes: For a profound essay on grief, loss, and life, I recommend Francis Weller’s “In Praise of Manners;” also, here is a link to Robert Frost’s “The Mending Wall.”

In the Presence of Coffee and Oatmeal

Each morning, I drop into a reverie that is becoming more routine than not. It occurs after my meditation and yoga practice but before that meditative state settles into my day.

It is a time in-between, this hour between the dog and the wolf, this waking up to the day Bloom of Peace 0613where thoughts define what must be done but being present provides the focus.

Breakfast often serves as a bridge for the meditative state to make its way into my day. A steaming bowl of oatmeal and coffee brewing simultaneously reach a point requiring a similar action, to pour.

The thought of pouring defines what is required but being present focuses the thought, which is either to pour almond milk into a steaming bowl of oatmeal or to pour freshly brewed coffee into a mug. If the general thought of pouring swirls between oatmeal and coffee, what was one or the other might just become another.

Such coffee-in-the-oatmeal mornings bring reality to our attention, courtesy of the meditative state. The realization of what has occurred intensifies our focus on what might happen next. This shape shifting of our lives uncovers us.

Give your real being

a chance

to shape your life.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj~

Mindfulness does not multi-task but awakens us to where we are, to what we are doing. It is a snapshot, a jolt of opportunity to consider the untried, the untested. When our real being emerges, it is an hour between the dog and the wolf not so much of reverie but of reality.

I have many coffee-in-the-oatmeal mornings and just recently, I watched a writing life I had envisioned evaporate. The writer I was trying to be was not the writer I am. It was just that basic. I was trying so hard to secure a writing life not meant for me that I almost missed living the writing life I have.

I used to think I wrote because there was something I wanted to say. Then I thought, ‘I will continue to write because I have not yet said what I wanted to say’; but I know now I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.

~Mary Ruefle, “On Secrets”~

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I am not a writer of fiction but for years fiction is what I thought I heard yet no center of any story I wrote ever held.

In my poetry, prose crowded meter, and the lines went flat. I did not distinguish what I heard.

Some sentences stand alone until the day they pour into a single paragraph not about one or the other but another, like coffee in oatmeal. For me, this shifting of my writer’s shape is my awakening to the writer I am.

Rather than hearing story or rhyme as one or the other I hear another, a beat in-between, a meditation on the story of a human being, sometimes a verse worthy of song.

If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation.

~ J. Krishnamurti ~

Sitting Within the Winds of Change

These last six months I allowed myself to swirl within the currents of change, believing I could harness these winds or at the very least touch them. Such suffering is the stuff of storms, the perfect one always a possibility the longer one remains in flux.

It is within the eye of the storm–stillness surrounded by gale force winds–where suffering ceases. Rarely, do we reach the calm by choice. Usually, some moment grabs us so fiercely we are forced to sit down and look at what is actually occurring.

My suffering stopped when I realized I could no longer walk as I always have. I was in an airport, two thousand miles from home, when I had to look at me as I really am.

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To my mind, I have had a slight limp for a while—over a year, actually—it meant I walk more slowly but nothing more. Frankly, I no longer noticed my limp but it was significant enough that airport security “expedited” me in more than one airport. I took no notice.

It was on my flight home I realized I would not be able to walk the airport. Wheelchair assistance was a necessity. Twice I had to walk the short distance between plane and terminal to get to a wheelchair. Those steps were the most doubtful I have ever taken.

I am finally losing my mobility was my only thought as fourteen years of medical conversations regarding degenerative disease replayed in an infinite loop. As my mind plotted the possibilities, the perfect storm seemed upon me.

 Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished

(Lao Tzu)

I am still sitting within the eye of this storm, in pain, but no longer suffering. I suffered in immersing myself into one “what if” scenario after another, sinking into dramas that may never occur.

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Pain is a guarantee that we are alive; it is a sensation sure and pure. To sit within its purity is to detach from its fury, to allow its torrents to rage and overflow without being swept up in suffering.

Leave your front door and back door open. Allow your thoughts to come and go. Just don’t serve them tea

(Shrunyu Suzuki)

We cannot avoid pain, we can only face it. If we do anything less, we suffer as we avoid reality in favor of living in fear fantasies.

I am able to walk, able to go to the grocery store and even to my beloved Waverly to sit and see rather than walk round park and pond. I am able to drive a standard shift car. I limp but I walk.

Nothing has changed and everything has changed. My world is smaller and larger for to sit within the heart of change is to watch within the calm as scenarios rage without ever knowing the light of reality.

It is when we ignore the moment at hand for what might come next that we are least aware and most stuck. We are trying to touch the wind when all we need to do is sit down within the storm’s calm and let it rage.

Facing the Past Tense

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow,

I am the sunlight on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there; I did not die. (Mary Frye)

Fifty years of friendship feels like only a moment yet it has been a lifetime.  It cannot be over. Not yet. I want Laziness 010514the conversation to continue but mostly, I want the past tense to be the present.

In death, the past tense looms. My mostly Buddhist self believes the past tense is a series of images always available for viewing but never again for experiencing.

I am not used to the past tense. I am not ready to live with my friend as mere memory.

If I think of my friend as dead, there is a hole in the sky that is my heart. I want to tell her how that feels, how that hole is now my world. The telephone that connected us as we aged from teenagers to sexagenarians is no longer in service. It is past tense.

In the last couple years, this blog provided yet another connection for us.  Sometimes, my posts sparked conversations, and other times, our conversations created posts. On this blog, my friend is eternally present.

Discussion was our way for five decades, not a daily occurrence or even monthly, but whenever there was a hole in the sky for either one of us we seemed to sense it. There would be a phone call or an email when least expected and most needed.

My friend was not one who labeled but one who listened. Her innate compassion and loving-kindness opened her to the world wherever she was. And the world responded to her light.

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Along the wend and way of our lives, we each explored Buddhism and over the decades offered our experiences to one another. In these last three years when illness once again marked my life and then for the first time hers, we found ourselves less concerned with outcome and more with exploring the energy of raw emotion.

We were less interested in questions so we had little use for any answer that might appear for we recognized all outcome as temporary. It kept us curious, this being in the moment. We explored eternity as a web without a weaver, its vibrations animating humans, blades of grass–lifetime after lifetime–perfect in its impermanence, forever coming and going.

She is gone in a way I knew and exists in a way I am yet to know.  She is in every breeze, blossom, and glint of light in a night sky. She is. The past tense is no more.

My thanks to Diana J. Hale for her recent post, In Memoriam, as it led me to Mary Frye’s poem, which I could not seem to locate.  Also, thanks to all of you who have sent personal messages. I will respond to each one.