Xuedou

The World-Honored One has intimate language
Mahakashyapa does not conceal it.
Night rain causes the blossoms to fall.
The fragrant water reaches everywhere.

Joko Beck

‘If you push for samadhi as a goal, you may achieve a kind of emptiness, but it is not true emptiness because the person isn’t truly empty. If in your daily life you misuse other people, or manipulate them, or are interested in your own power, then the samadhi – which can be developed quite artificially- is not, as far as I am concerned, a true samadhi… 

Almost everybody is attached to their samadhi! Samadhi is almost like an athletic ability, And people even learn to use it to avoid their own suffering… If you have artificial samadhi power, you may maintain it during the day, and it may look really good as long as there is no particular stress. But under stress such samadhi often proves to be quite fragile.’ (Meetings With Remarkable Women)

Equinox

The unseasonal clouds and rain finally moved on. After spectacular skies on Sunday, which I wrote about more extensively on Patreon, there were banks of clouds for a couple of days, then a little sting of rain showers on Wednesday morning. I ended up doing most of my day in the opposite order to what I had anticipated, and by the time I went for a little ride in the afternoon, the skies were clear. Now it seems to be warming up as well, so perhaps we are moving towards our late summer, even as the sun rises later and sets earlier.

A friend of mine who has had Covid twice this year said that, after feeling depleted, she just woke up one day feeling normal. I know other people who have taken a long time to get back to full health, or are still slowly recovering after many symptoms, so I do feel lucky and glad that I am starting to find a more typical level of energy inside myself. And I am not taking it for granted, and continuing to make time for rest between activities. But after riding a little longer over the weekend than I had previously, I didn’t feel tired afterwards, and I tried some hills on Wednesday, which seems to have gone okay. 

Nevertheless, I still feel like I haven’t caught up with all the things I put to one side while I was sick, and then conserving energy, so I hope that some space over the weekend will help with that. 

Looking up from the Sutro Baths on Sunday afternoon.
Probably my favourite picture from the afternoon. The beach is never that empty.
Clouds as we sat on Monday.
Ferry skies on Tuesday.
Wednesday afternoon clear air.

Francis Sanzaro

‘I realized the main thing preventing a more intimate connection to the natural world was concept — the mysterious filters our mind lodges between us and the world, at every turn, at every second, in just about every interaction. Concepts can be good: We get the concept of “mortal danger” when a car is hurtling toward us. But concepts, also a form of assumption, can neuter experience because pure sensations become impure when we judge them. Concepts are what we deploy when we ask what we can get out of a walk, rather than the opposite.

Researchers who study our brain activity while we walk use the term “automaticity” to describe how our body behaves on a stroll. Automaticity is defined as “the ability of the nervous system to successfully coordinate movement with minimal use of attention-demanding executive control resources.”

We should leverage the gift of walking to stop thinking and start doing, apparently, what walking is asking us to do — pay attention to the stuff of place, the place itself. To arrive at that point takes time, and discipline, but when it does, delight bubbles up, a “praising of the mysterious and tender touching we are so often in the midst of,” according to Ross Gay, poet and author of “The Book of Delights.” Place comes to life, any place, from the life we gave it, from attentiveness.’ (from the New York Times)

This was a nice article about the power of attention and walking, which obviously I am a huge fan of. I could not resist a little wry smile at the fact that the author, having discovered this, felt compelled to write a book about it.

Dogen

‘One time mountains are flowing, another time they are not flowing. If you do not fully understand this, you do not understand the true dharma wheel of the Tathagata. 

An ancient buddha said, “If you do not wish to incur the cause for Unceasing Hell, do not slander the true dharma wheel of the Tathagata.” Carve these words on your skin, flesh, bones, and marrow; on your body, mind, and environs; on emptiness and on form. They are already carved on trees and rocks, on fields and villages.’ (Shobogenzo Sansuikyo)

This holding of two seemingly contradictory views – flowing and not flowing – are at the heart of Buddhist understanding. As Dogen points out, everything else is comfortable with this view, so we can become intimate with it too.

Jody Hojin Kimmel

‘When we come to a practice such as this, we can sit down with our emotions and feel them without holding on. Being awake on the level of emotion means no longer deriving a solid sense of self from how and what we feel. Usually our sense of self is enmeshed in what we feel. We say to ourselves, “I feel angry. I am angry!” Looking deeply into this, we can see that what we are really saying in that moment is my sense of self is fused with my anger. If we look even more deeply, we see we actually cannot be defined by an emotion that runs through the body. The fusion is an illusion.

Seeing this is awakening through the heart. We discover what we feel, period—and what we feel doesn’t need to be avoided, nor does it define us. The more we shut out the body and our feelings, the more we retreat to thinking, which tends toward disembodying. The intensity of our compulsive thinking is in direct proportion to the extent to which we are not willing to experience our emotional body and therefore disassociate from it.

When we are no longer defining self on the level of emotion, our sense of self is liberated from our conflicted feelings. But we cannot get to this point by bypassing our emotions in the hopes of arriving at some exalted state. We cannot avoid what we feel.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

This was a commentary on yesterday’s quote from Hongzhi.

Hongzhi

‘Emptiness is without characteristics. Illumination has no emotional afflictions. With piercing, quietly profound radiance, it mysteriously eliminates all disgrace. Thus one can know oneself; thus the self is completed. We all have the clear, wondrously bright field from the beginning. Many lifetimes of misunderstanding come only from distrust, hindrance, and screens of confusion that we create in a scenario of isolation. With boundless wisdom journey beyond this, forgetting accomplishments. Straightforwardly abandon stratagems and take on responsibility. Having turned yourself around, accepting your situation, if you set foot on the path, spiritual energy will marvelously transport you. Contact phenomena with total sincerity, not a single atom of dust outside yourself.’ (Cultivating the Empty Field)

Those screens of confusion, eh?

Rabindranath Tagore

Covered vast distances, spent much money
For a glimpse of faraway wonders
Of imposing mountains and endless sea.
Yet I have not seen with open eyes
Only a few feet beyond my front door
A dewdrop glistening
At the tip of a rice stem.

Moving Slowly

This past week, pretty much every time I have had to make a decision about what to do, I have been deciding to do less. Having tested negative last Friday and Sunday, and with the main symptoms behind me, all I have had to deal with is a lingering tiredness. I have been sleeping longer than usual, and finding that exertion, even walking a couple of steep blocks up Nob Hill for a meditation on Monday morning, has much more of an effect than usual. I did some deliberately gentle bike rides over the weekend, and chose not to go as far as I had initially planned, but at least didn’t feel exhausted afterwards. And during the week, when I might have popped out for an hour of riding, I chose not to – until Friday lunchtime, when the cloudy skies finally gave way to some sunshine, and I stretched my legs for an hour. I even tried a couple of climbs at low speed, and didn’t feel bad afterwards, so there are encouraging signs.

There were plenty of commitments on my calendar, but thankfully most of them did not involve much exertion. The flat commute to the ferry and to the studio were doable, though I found heavy lifting a bit challenging. Walking down to Zen Center to give the talk was easy enough, though I suddenly felt very warm once I had my okesa on and was waiting to go in.

Overall I think the talk went well; there was a small crowd in the Buddha Hall, and I heard about thirty more online, which made the event seem a little lower stakes than talks have sometimes felt for me in the past.

Having postponed the roam to Ocean Beach last weekend after testing positive on Thursday, I see that we were getting rain moving through on Sunday, from a typhoon crossing the Pacific – after last weekend’s tail end of a hurricane, which brought clouds, wind and cooler weather than we expect at this time of year. Perhaps we will have a repeat of our damp excursion along the same route last December. I will appreciate the fresh air and gentle movement though, I am sure. 

Mixed skies from the ferry on Thursday morning.
Clear of the fog along the bay on Friday.

Kristin Neff

‘The goal of practice is simply, become a compassionate mess. So by definition, you’re going to be a mess, but can you hold that mess with kindness and friendliness?’ (Ten Percent Happier)

I was going through my pile of saved quotes on the morning of my talk…