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Coming back to the journal…
words and thoughts locked up
A warmer day than what we have had here on the coast, I am told. Being away in the great California desert with a lot of snowbirds, I missed the cold, wet days of early January. Today I was able to sit out in the sunlight and play my ukulele without my fingers numbing up on me. I am hopeful that the short winter days will not string me along much longer like this, but I will enjoy each day no matter what the weather brings. Being gone and coming home: what is that like?
Attending the morning meditation meeting down the road a few miles with a small group of those faithful to their inner calling. We purge our minds of that gnawing ego and look for the peace that is so good that it overwhelms. Maybe one must reach a certain age, a certain plateau of understanding and dissatisfaction of the pervasive nagging mind, before one will begin to look for a solution to the problem. One of the fellow meditators told me this.
So I sat in the morning with the others and then alone in the afternoon, watching the cartoon-like movie in my head keep spinning forward without me following it in interested attention. Rather, I have learned to make note of what is passing and return constantly to the silent and steady mind that knows how to live peacefully.
Trying to help others free themselves from their own talkative, egoic self can be so difficult, when that same egoic self is the only one listening inside of them and doesn’t really care to hear anything anyhow because it feels threatened when not in complete control. A whole world of people running and hiding from their true self, rather than turning and facing and accepting the goodness that underlies each of us.
Now I know I have never been separated from life, from the author of life. I have forgotten that life and my true self are two ways of saying the same thing. Such little sense, some days, in trying to explain such things, when just quietly being and assenting to the knowledge is much easier. I return to the one I never left, but only thought I had left, had only thought life had left me. Today’s casual reading from “Seeds for a Boundless Life: Zen Teachings from the Heart” , by Zenkei Blanche Hartman, reminds me once again in a new but strangely familiar way what it is like to return to the place where you have always been without realizing it.
I have come home from the desert. Today I moved slowly. There was much to do in the way of clean-up and put-away chores. I will usually rush to return to my normal life after being away for awhile, but today I decided to enjoy and make easier the transition from being away to just returning home and being, just being, what I am when I am not wandering. Why rush to settle myself when I am already here and have nowhere I need to go?
I undid packed bags, washed clothes, cooked a pot of beans with the new pressure cooker my brother-in-law and sister-in-law gave us for Christmas. I have discovered how wonderful pinto beans can be when cooked under pressure. Within an hour they become soft and kind to my intestines. I scooped a bowl full out of the cooker and treated them lightly to some herbs and butter. This is the way to eat. Each bite feels so good in the tummy after a couple of weeks of surviving on restaurant and road food. What seems to taste good when I first set out on a trip quickly loses its excitement when I get out of my regular eating pattern.
I have a pattern for eating because of just that. Because, when I don’t eat right nothing else feels quite right either. It seems that everything in life is tied to everything else–interbeing is the word for this inclusiveness about reality that we all would like to embrace and celebrate, rather than run from, disavow, and hide in suffering. All of what we do is related, whether thinking or eating, sleeping or enjoying the company of others. All of our activity must come to be seen in its flow of divine essence.
This is how I have been reading and trying to view reality these past couple of days, while studying Steve Hagen’s book titled “Buddhism Plain and Simple: The Practice of Being Aware Right Now, Every Day“. I almost always have a book stuffed in my face. This is the one for this week. Last week it was Aldous Huxley’s “Perennial Philosophy“. My Amazon wish list and sample copies are already miles ahead of my reading time. Just bury me with my Kindle, I guess…
I know life is more than reading. And I love having my mind filled with awe and wonder, which is easy to do when one picks the right books, those you need in your life. The thousand or so I have downloaded? I could easily go through them one more time.
Tomorrow comes a few more settling-in-back-home chores. I may even get a haircut and get the smog checked on my old Toyota. Winter has been harsh this year, even on Californians, so I may step out and see what needs my immediate attention. Life itself beckons me to be a watcher of all that is real and comes close to me, and that, like reading, is enough to keep me occupied. The singing birds, the moving clouds, the thoughts, feelings and emotions that keep roaring through me: there is so much to watch, to enjoy. And to think that in the earlier days, before I learned meditation, I used to be bored and felt like I needed to go outside of myself to find happiness.
We get a cold January wind today, shuffling up our treed canyon from out of the ocean. A short rain last night has moved on, leaving us behind. Storms from Hawaii to California are more wet than those from Alaska, but the wet ones bring a nice warm mass of Hawaiian air. Alaska sends us nothing but pure Eskimo breath.
I keep inside. There is a lot to do. I’m reading the tale end of Joan Tollifson’s book, “Death: The End of Self-Improvement“. I’m packing for a trip to the desert to watch dogs for friends who are off to Europe. My wife and I are always looking for a reason to be gone somewhere, at least temporarily. About the time we have been away a week or two we are done with it and want to come home. Then in no time the travel bug is at us again.
Life resembles this pattern. We come into it from lord knows where, quite astonished with the beauty and wonder of it, until we wear out our childhood bliss and must look for another reason for existence. Mostly, we keep looking for years, trying everything to reinstate the original, unconditioned wonder of it all, and find that party-wild behavior and expensive thrill-seeking adventures are short-lived…addictive traps that make us keep looking for more.
At least, that has been my experience. Here at 71 reflecting on a life full of excitement, continually requiring sustenance because of me not being able to find solace in rest, the way the masters have been teaching in all the world’s great traditions. But now I understand some of it, since I’m slow to walk, easily chilled when the ocean wind comes my way. I talk with myself while hitting at the keyboard, picking out letters and stacking them together as a way of finding out more about myself and just who I am.
Tomorrow, though, we walk away from the ordinary, sedentary way of whiling away our hours. The bags are packed, the Toyota is all gassed-up, weather and road conditions taken into consideration, notes left around the house for visitors who come here while we are gone. Everything in our normal pattern of living and being is about to be upset by this road trip to the desert. I know I will miss my quiet sitting spot, my place of stillness, but I need the lessons in how to be present with myself wherever life may take me next.