Yuishun

Why, it’s but the motion of eyes and brows!
And here I’ve been seeking it far and wide.
Awakened at last, I find the moon
Above the pines, the river surging high.

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Joshu

With an empty stomach I look at smoke rising from nearby kitchens.
Having bidden farewell to dumplings and steamed bread last year, my mouth still waters thinking of them.
There is little room for mindfulness but much for despair.
From a hundred neighboring houses, no one gives to the monastery.
Visitors come for tea, but not finding a treat, they leave unhappy.

Making The Unwanted Wanted

Even now,
decades after,
I wash my face with cold water –
Not for discipline,
nor memory,
nor the icy, awakening slap,
but to practice
choosing
to make the unwanted wanted.
(A Cedary Fragrance, by Jane Hirshfield)

I thought of this poem at Wilbur. I have always loved it, with its evocation of Tassajara, where there is only cold water in the cabins. I too practised with washing my face with cold water every morning, even on the coldest winter days – and I still do, mainly for the awakening nature of it.
On the Saturday morning, with the temperatures already reaching the nineties, I went to sit on the yoga deck with a few other people who all came very early. As we settled, I was looking at the picture of the serene Buddha, with his hands in a particular mudra. In meditation instruction I often talk about the particular energetic significance of each hand position within the tradition that yoga and meditation arose from. And also how our physical posture as we sit is also of energetic significance; I usually spend a fair amount of time on details in the body which I have found it helpful to pay attention to as we settle into sitting (if you want to hear me actually talking about it, you can find a recording here.)
There were a fair number of flies that morning, as well as the sound of water, of people passing, birds, and the occasional vehicle. I spoke about practising equanimity, of sitting upright as a way of meeting each moment, without leaning forwards or backwards, or to the left or to the right, regardless of what comes up. Acknowledging that what is arising now IS what is arising now, whether we want it or not. And trusting that it will not always be like this, that this present moment is in flux. I was thinking of the wonderful quote by Katagiri Roshi, which I appear not to have posted on here yet: ‘The universal path is complete tranquility and at the same time constantly flowing’.
So, I went on, we can get to notice how we respond when a fly buzzes close to our ear, how our skin reacts when a fly lands on it. Do we need to wave our hands to try to get it to go away? It will head off somewhere else very soon anyway; can we stay with the irritation and discomfort for the moments that they last?
At Tassajara I discovered that my limit in this regard was having an ant crawl into my ear – that was something I felt I had to try to shake off, but otherwise, I did my best not to be disturbed by the flies. When we can practise with these little things, then we have a chance to build up our equanimity muscles so as to be able to meet more challenging moments in our lives. We may even discover that we have a far greater capacity for meeting these challenges – and I invoked the residents of Houston dealing with the catastrophic flooding that is their lives at the moment – than we might imagine in our thoughts and fears. And so on, all the way to the end, as tomorrow’s poem will illuminate.

DSCF1794
The sunrise on Saturday morning at Wilbur.

Nanao Sakaki

Within a circle of one meter
You sit, pray and sing.

Within a shelter ten meters large
You sleep well, rain sounds a lullaby.

Within a field a hundred meters large
Raise rice and goats.

Within a valley a thousand meters large
Gather firewood, water, wild vegetables and Amanitas.

Within a forest ten kilometers large
Play with raccoons, hawks,
Poison snakes and butterflies.

Mountainous country Shinano
A hundred kilometers large
Where someone lives leisurely, they say.

Within a circle ten thousand kilometers large
Go to see the southern coral reef in summer
Or winter drifting ices in the sea of Okhotsk.

Within a circle ten thousand kilometers large
Walking somewhere on the earth.

Within a circle one hundred thousand kilometers large
Swimming in the sea of shooting stars.

Within a circle a million kilometers large
Upon the spaced-out yellow mustard blossoms
The moon in the east, the sun west.

Within a circle ten billion kilometers large
Pop far out of the solar system mandala.

Within a circle ten thousand light years large
The Galaxy full blooming in spring.

Within a circle one billion light years large
Andromeda is melting away into snowing cherry flowers.

Now within a circle ten billion light years large
All thoughts of time, space are burnt away
There again you sit, pray and sing.
You sit, pray and sing.

A Love Letter