The Mountains and Waters Sutra

As I like to point out, Dogen’s title is not claiming to be a sutra about mountains and waters, but telling us that the mountains and waters are themselves the sutra – if we pay attention to them rather than thinking we know what they are.

I was originally going to title this post ‘things falling into place’; that phrase came to me last Monday after I had run the uphill blocks and many staircases up to Twin Peaks, and was looking down on the city in a late afternoon mix of sun and shadow. There was a moment where the city felt so deeply familiar that I was settled by it, even as I am busy having plans falling into place for my upcoming trip to other places where I feel at home – and a few, like Hebden Bridge and Belfast, that are becoming more familiar to me each time I visit.

I almost didn’t run that day, but was glad once I was out there, and I knew it would be good preparation for a long run at Wilbur and then those to come in England. This past weekend I took my last significant bike rides until the middle of October, when my form will be very different, and they exemplified summer in the Bay Area: on Friday I left early to catch the BART to Walnut Creek, where it was already warm before eight o’clock; the ride up Mount Diablo was not blessed with much breeze, though at least there was shade. I sweated my way up the road I feel I know well, cracked by the continual stretching and shifting of the mountain, even if I only get there once a year at the moment, something I would like to change. Perhaps the winter will be less wet this year…

The ride is very simple, and that is the fun of it for me: put it in the lowest gear and pedal for an hour until you get to the summit; on the way down, pay attention to every corner.

I led hikes that afternoon, and the following one – my last scheduled roams, as I am not sure the weather will be amenable in the middle of October, much as I hope it will be. And I felt pretty weary from all of that (weary enough not to have written this post for the slot I had originally intended), but not enough to stop me pedalling south on Sunday morning. It was a mostly foggy ride, and having gone out along the Camino Real and adjacent quieter streets, still having to deal with fast-moving and impatient traffic at that early hour, it was a relief to get to the quiet, car-free miles alongside the Crystal Springs Reservoir and San Andreas Lake. Mist drifted prettily off the surface of the water and the farther banks started to appear through the fog. People walked, ran and cycled, all sharing the space peaceably.

I have also been at Zen Center a couple of times, offering zazen instruction this past Saturday, and leading a beginners’ sitting the weekend before. I was very happy that the fifteen participants all stuck it out for the whole day, even if some were struggling with physical discomfort, and sitting longer than they ever had before. I hope they got to watch and appreciate the arc of the mind and the ebb and flow of sitting for those periods, sometimes wakeful, sometimes sleepy – I was certainly tired in the couple of periods after lunch, but rallied before the end. I chose some lines from the Fukanzazengi to speak on, but mostly answered questions. Hopefully people felt met, and encouraged to practice more.

IMG_0795.jpgA view from the summit of Diablo on Friday.

IMG_0316 (1).jpgFrom a previous visit to Crystal Springs, with a different weather pattern.

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