An Unlikely Friendship Chapter 4

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A rock on a log with a stick.

Click for previous chapters: 1,2,3.

Years went by after that time in the book store…..and he never actually thought about it again. That is, until one day, while he was out driving. He was speeding ,which he didn’t normally do, but he was late. As he sped down the highway, his mind was thinking about how late he might be, what he could do to mitigate the situation and the like, when.. out of nowhere…

“hello”

“Holy moly! Rock?!” He thought, and although he was asking for confirmation, he also needed none.

He just continued driving, speeding but safe, and for several minutes there was silence. Not the silence he remembered all those years ago as he could feel the rock with him and they both we simply enjoying each other’s mere presence.  Then he began to think about all these past years… how could he possibly have never thought about this all these years?  Then he thought about the last place he saw the rock… on his dresser… he knows it’s not there now, and he can’t remember moving it or seeing it… what happened to it?! Where is it right this very second?

“doesn’t much matter…. does it?”

“True I suppose but I feel like I failed you.. to protect you… to listen to you, learn from you”

He didn’t get words for an answer but felt it…. it was like a very very long, almost infinite plane of solid rock, almost humming – very deeply – very very quiet – almost beyond sound, or inside sound – the vibrations of the atoms in the air – so quiet yet almost infinitely loud. It didn’t make sense when he tried to comprehend it but when he simply felt it, he understood….. Protection is meaningless to the rock … how could the inside of a vibration need protecting?! And even that thought, he knew, failed to explain what he felt.  He also understood that he couldn’t fail the rock… how could the rock judge another’s vibrations? And it’s not even like that he thought… those vibrations…that ‘sound’ it pulses into everything ,everything is pulsing into everything .. to judge would be like snake attacking its tail…. It can be done but it’s not very helpful!

“police car”

“um huh?”

“POLICE”

He didn’t understand exactly but trusted the rock and he slowed down to the speed limit and sure enough after half a mile he saw a patrol car behind some shrubs with a radar gun.

Although he had plenty of reasons to be blown away already, this really floored him. Did he really just have an imaginary rock help him avoid a speeding ticket?!  His brain began freaking out somewhat and he couldn’t control the expanse of thoughts and hypothesis to explain this all. Nothing could explain it that didn’t involve some level of sounding completely crazy. He realized he probably shouldn’t tell anyone .. he was not even sure if he could believe himself, so how could he possibly expect anyone else to?

He tried desperately trying to talk with the rock but his brain was buzzy with so much internal noise he couldn’t hear the soundless sound anymore.  Although he kept trying, he knew the rock wasn’t going to reply to his calling out “Here rocky rock, here boy” as if he was calling a dog! But he was desperate. It was years since he last communicated with the rock and was afraid he may never again communicate with it.

He arrived a little late, which caused some issues, but nothing he didn’t sort out, but his mind the whole day was elsewhere.

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An Unlikely Friendship Chapter 3

Find previous Chapters here: 1 and 2.

He watched the woman in the red dress as she picked up a book on ‘crystal magic’ and brought it to the counter to buy it. All the while, he was watching her.. making sure she couldn’t tell he was indeed watching her…

And that was it.. she bought the book and was walking out the door… but as she was leaving he noticed her reflection in the big glass store windows… and she was looking right at him!!.. with a little smirk on her face no less!

“What is that all about?!” he thought…

“Many people do not understand rocks…. and those who understand something.. most mis-understand most”

“Most mis-understand most?! – I don’t understand all this understanding and mis-understanding!!” he thought, half in frustration and half in amusement.

“Pick up that book”

He picks up a book on ‘crystal magic’

“It is just like that but absolutely nothing like that”

“I think I get you…. there is something important there but it is not as explained in these books”

“Perhaps”

“Perhaps?!” he says laughing… and with that… poof….silence… not the kind of silence in between words spoken… or between thoughts.. but nothing… he felt the rock was gone again.

He thought how very strange this all was.. and how the rock wasn’t even with him, so how could it have just left?

He considered buying the book for a minute then thought : “What am I crazy? I have my own personal rock tutor, I don’t need some other person’s interpretation of this when I can get it straight from the horse’s mouth! – Oh man, I am crazy – listen to myself! And for some reason, I think the rock would find it very funny I called it a horse’s mouth! “

And with that, although very confused, felt very relaxed and a big smile formed and could not be erased from his face.

An Unlikely Friendship Chapter 2

To see part one, click here.

So he put the rock into his pocket and gave it a little pat of reassurance.

“So, how long have you been a rock?” he asked… and while doing so realized how funny it sounded and this made him smile.

…laughter joined him ….

“yes, you know… a very long time”

“yeah” he said.

They kept walking through the woods, well, he walked, and the rock enjoyed the ride. This was highly unusual for the stone… It was used to not moving for eons at a time. At one point it was millions of years before it moved … A big storm had eroded the stream bank where it was embedded for (nearly) countless years….and released the stone…

“red dress”

“Huh?” he asked.

red dress” came again from the stone

“Um, okay… red dress…. Purple socks! How’s that”

…silence…

More silence….

Then it felt like he just had a rock in his pocket.. nothing special….

He got home and put the rock on his dresser and forgot all about it ….

Some days later he was in a bookstore and just starting thinking about the stone…First he wondered if he kept the stone and recalled he put it on his dresser… yes.. he kept it… and he wondered about his ‘conversation’ with the rock…. Maybe his brain was having some fun and he did admit he enjoyed greatly the short time spent with the rock…. But he just thought it was all a bit too strange …. At that moment he looked up and noticed a woman in a red dress enter the store.

“yes that’s the dress”

“What? You’re not even here stupid rock!!”  He said (not out loud!)

“You know that is the red dress”

“okay, okay, yes, I feel that… yes.. but what about it?”

Your future self wants to say hello to you!

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My future self has white hair… and dandruff!

The past and the future …. Many people have their minds existing in these illusionary places…. Living in the past or dreaming of the future…. In Zen, it could said that we strive to have our minds exist in the present moment..To be mindful of what is occurring now.

In practice, it may seem very hard to truly be ‘in the present’ ‘in the moment’ ..

At some point, after meditation and deep thought, a certain realization may occur… This striving to be in the moment, to stop living in the past and to stop desiring the future… is not very hard at all. In fact, we may see the opposite.. it is very hard to live in the past, and very hard dreaming of the future!

So, say, for example, we try to reverse our goal – to avoid fully living in the present and only live in the past and future – we realize something – you can’t escape the present! You simply can’t do it! lol

So, we may reach a point where we see that this is all there is.. this present moment – we may see that in this present moment, we can think of the past, we can visualize the future – but its only done right now. It can only be that way. This is all you have. It is really, really simple. This is it. Right now. It can never leave you no matter how hard you try!

All of the past and all of the future can only be contained and exist in the present.  The arrow of time is not straight…. Just as the horizon on Earth makes the world seem flat.. at some point we can begin to see it’s not straight, not flat and it curves…so much it loops back onto itself. This is how the future can influence the past. Sound crazy? Perhaps! Lol.  But the scientific method of seeking truth is also coming to this realization.

So what does this all mean other than giving me a headache? Lol.

For me, sometimes when I am struggling and suffering, I try to think about my ‘future Richard’ – and I know he has my back and I know he is affecting me right here, right now, sending me deep love and understanding. I love that guy.

Of course these are all just words, just models, conceptions.. but I hope they may serve as a medicine when taken as directed. 😉

Knots

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When you seek the origin of your thoughts, the origin of your being, you find that many knots that bound you become untied. Sometimes this is liberating as it yields freedoms we have long forgotten the taste of; however, sometimes this untying is terrifying as the rope that spines throughout our life becomes smooth with less and less to hold onto.

We all live in a gilded cage of one sort or another. We feel protected and safe within our cage, yet we live in our own self oppression.

The origin of ourselves…. Can it be inside the cage? We know the answer, so we may find we open the cage door and start exploring what is outside. We seek our origin, following and untying the knots on the rope as we go… We untie knot after knot and that lets us fly further and deeper….It seems like the knots will never end.

What is at the end of our rope? Is there an end? Can the knots ever end?

As long as our rope exists, one knot will always remain…. For at the very end of the rope, devoid of all knots, we discover it is tied to our minds.

What happens if we dare untie this last knot?

An Ox grazes on the lust spring grass as birds eat mites on her back.

We fall forever yet never before now have we felt the ground.

Stereotypes

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Can we focus properly? What does our own focus mean? We may see the moon brightly but not yet understand this Truth. In seeking understanding, we make many assumptions of what this Truth must be, yet, in the end, all assumptions fall short. One day we will simply reach up into the sky and pull down the moon with our bare hands and place it deep within our hearts to shine for all to see. 

Every person’s condition, situation, experience is unique…different. The interpretation, the fascination, the joy, the depression, the horror, the glee…

So much boils over inside us, … highs and low… maybe just mind-numbing evenness. Some are manic, some are calm.

I remember once a teacher in school once told the class… ‘Next time you are in the supermarket, just observe the people around you.. pick one person… study them, think about what their whole life is about, what their personality is like, what their shopping cart’s contents tell you about them, what their clothes say about them, what their hair… their grooming, their posture.. etc, etc.’

I remember doing this ‘exercise’ many years ago… and what it taught me was that I hold lots and lots of inherent stereotypes about people. That scared the shit out of me.  But it also taught me that this was natural. It is what we do with these stereotypes that matters. For example, if a 40 year old woman had Coco-Pops kids cereal in their shopping cart, I would stereotype her as a mother of young children/child. In and of itself, this assumption isn’t bad. But it could very well be totally wrong. She might love Coco-pops and never had children in her life! So, attaching ourselves to our stereotypes is where we run into trouble. If we think our assumptions are correct we run into danger. If we think are assumptions might be correct, then we are open to the new evidence that may prove our assumptions wrong. No one likes to be proved wrong. Perhaps it is even harder to admit to our own selves if we are wrong.

But here in lies a secret power we all have…. the power that emerges when we allow ourselves to examine our assumptions. In fact, we should always attack our assumptions head-on. Hey, this is what science does. Prove it, prove it , prove it! I will try my best to disprove your theory to see if it contains truth. Thats our secret power. To attack our own beliefs, assumptions, preconceptions, prejudices, stereotypes… Attack them with all we have to see what is left standing.

Ultimately, nothing would remain standing. Nothing has a leg to stand on.  All truths are stacks of cards. So what happens when you destroy your whole world? What good is that as a secret power?! lol.

With nothing left to lose, we walk as if we are already dead, free from the limitations of worry. Free from the confines of our illusionary self. We can roam the world free, with helping hands, to end all beings suffering, to hug them deeply with all our heart, to love them, cry for them, hold them until they see what burns infinitely bright inside them. That lamp is nothing short of the Entire Cosmos.

What a stack of cards we belong to! The whole Universe has got your back!

Terrorism and hate

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I look to the Buddha’s teachings to understand my own true nature. What I always find is that Love binds all beings.

Choosing forgiveness and love over hate and fear is sometimes portrayed as being weak, ignorant and unpatriotic. It is easy to let fear make our choices for us. We can even rationalize the prejudices they blossom.

When terrorists attack, fear is a natural state of mind. We naturally look for clues to keep us and our loved ones safe and protected. Sometimes we look at a particular aspect of the form. Take ‘Islamic Terrorists’. Yes, there are people who commit horrific acts who do so wearing the cover of Islam. Does this mean we should fear Islam? Should we let these people define our fear? And hence our modes of protecting ourselves? When we calm down and think deeply, we may begin to realize that these people do not represent their faith, that they want to play on our fears and their agenda grows strongest when anger and fear create separation.

So, instead of letting adrenaline focus our minds on the form, which is useful in evolutionary terms when identifying venomous spiders, let us focus our minds on the function. These terrorist attacks… they occur from human beings. These people are clearly suffering in their own minds and hearts. So much so they kill people such as they do. Killing is wrong. Hating hate is not useful. It spins the wheel of hatred. This is how the Islamic State grows. When terrorists are killed ‘pro-actively’, it breeds more hatred, on both sides, and simply makes the world more dangerous, not safer.

Do I suggest simply doing nothing and letting more attacks to happen? No, self protection is natural. But I do not suggest pre-emptive murder to protect against murder. We must look into the reasons why people become ‘radicalized’. After all, these are human beings. They must be suffering horribly to become convinced to murder. Love and compassion are the way to stop the violence. Now, angry dogs bark at buddhas… That means, some people will always be too ill in this life to grasp the nature of love and they will end up harming and killing people. Murder and hate will not be abolished fully. But thinking of terrorists as human beings is an important starting point.

Just as Islam has been hijacked by some, do not let your mind be hijacked by hate and prejudice. This is what the Islamic State, for example, wants. They want you to hate them. This is a part of their agenda. This makes them stronger. So, if you really want to protect the world from terrorism, put down your hate for them. As in Christianity it is said to Love they Neighbour. .. Love… not like, not tolerate, certainly not condemn and kill, but Love… Love they neighbour… It is the Way, the Light. Love.

I am human. When I see a terrorist attack, i feel fear and deep anger. Hatred for the horrific acts. My blood may boil. This is natural. This is human. I am not anything above this reaction, or below it.

We must learn to realize that we are human in our reaction to such events. But this reaction has evolved for a response almost certainly not applicable to these events, as we almost certainly will not be directly in the mist of an attack. If we are, then adrenaline is certainly our friend, and real time thoughts and actions are valuable. But, sitting on a warm couch, seeing things unfold on tv… our evolution betrays us… our natural reaction isn’t appropriate and not very useful.

We need to feel with our hearts, tempered by rational thought. To fill the world with love.

In Buddhism, there is the concept of Bodhisattvas…people who realize their own inherent Enlightened state but delay final release from human form in order to save all beings from suffering. All beings. Every single being. So they know their task will never end, but they also know it can only ever end this way. In the End, all beings will understand. We are all teammates, even the beings that we, as humans, may hate with all our being.

Wants Vs. Needs

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We need water to survive, we want it to be readily available, we are attached to its benefits. Who is this ‘we’ that thinks so much about water? 

 

I remember once when a student asked our Buddhist teacher, a former monk, something along the lines of this:

‘In Buddhism, we are taught that attachments are to be avoided, that they reinforce the illusion of the ego, and fed our desire-minds. I have an infant, a baby. I am deeply attached to my baby and I can’t see how this is a bad thing. I can see how attachment, in general, is to be avoided, so I am confused.’

To be honest, I forgot exactly how the teacher responded, as the question resonated within my mind. Like a bell being struck, the question kept bouncing around in my head.

Years later I read some teachings of Seung Sahn who wrote about form and function. What is a humans natural function? This teaching sticks with me daily.

A human mother’s natural function is to care for her baby. To achieve this, a deep attachment forms between her and her baby. That is natural. That is Zen. That is nothing secret, nothing special, but the most special thing there is.

Related to this, one may ask about the relationship between need and love. Thinking about the mother-baby relationship, the mother loves the baby and the baby needs the mother. Now, the mother may say she needs the baby, and while this may be true for her heart’s joy, one may say it is not technically true. How cruel am I? lol…. and the baby may certainly love the mother, but it doesn’t need to. (Wow, I am really cruel!). But what about other relationships? Those of friends, of siblings? of lovers?

We may build our lives with deep and supportive relationships… our mate may be the other parent of our children, so we feel a deep need for this person. Sometimes this makes people feel trapped, sometimes it makes people feel liberated. Sometimes it makes people feel both at the same time!

Humans need people, thats how we are. This is how we evolved. It is ‘natural function’. In modern times, a strong value is placed on being independent. Being dependent…is seen as a weakness, not a strength. And, sure, being able to be strongly independent has its merits, and there is real value in that, but, our natural function, how we perform best, how we live free, is by giving up some of that independence. We are, after all, social animals. We need each other. That is not merely ok, that is great! Now, expanding this further into Buddhist philosophy, all things need all other things to exist. Nothing is an island. All things and people are our teammates, even if we loathe them, lol.

So, how can one reconcile this ‘needing’ with not letting it be ‘attachment’? Is that even the goal?

I come back to: what is our natural function? As a mother, a father, as a mate or a sibling… as a friend, as a teacher, as a student… We are many things, but always human.

Of course, when we feel we need someone, something, we must be very careful about what this means. Often people may say they need something, but it really is just a want, a desire. But even that is OK… so long as we do not become attached to our desires. Easy right? HAHA.

So, what am I trying to say?

Trying to distinguish between what is a want versus what is a need is, well, dangerous… The act of thinking there is a decision to be made reinforces our ego-mind: It all comes down to Self. It is the Self that either needs or wants. When we let go our our attachment to our ego-mind, wants and needs disappear and our true natural function blossoms. We may discover we always were living our natural way, we just got in its way by trying to define it through our lens of Self.

Wanting something? Needing Something? Even attached to something or someone: They can all be OK, so long as our our Ego-mind is let go.

So, you may say I am basically saying do not be attached to your attachments! HAHA. Perhaps I am. Perhaps.

 

Comfortable electric chair

Life comes and goes... even rocks come and go... what do we do with the time we have here?

Life comes and goes… even rocks come and go… what do we do with the time we have here?

I remember many years ago attending a talk given by a Buddhist monk back when I lived in the United States. Something he said has stayed with me to this day, and I am confident always will remain with me until I die. It was something obvious, something we all know, but I suppose the context drove home a crucial message. The monk did work in prisons… work with death-row inmates. People who were sentenced to die for the crimes they committed. There was no going back, they knew they would be killed and their time was limited. The monk talked about how some of these prisoners had realized greater freedom than the mass majority of people who are living ‘free’. Then he said the sentence that grabbed my head and has never let go… He said ‘We are all on death-row’

Now, of course, we all know that we will all die, someday. But, at least for me, it was always some abstract thing to occur in the incalculable future..

We will all die, we are truly all already on death-row.

How depressing!!!

Yet… how liberating.

How would you act towards yourself today if you knew you were to die tomorrow? How would you act towards other people?

In one sense, knowing we will die can free us from the fear of the consequences of our actions… both good and bad… we can become fearless.

In another sense however, knowing we will die can bind us with crippling fear of the upcoming death we know awaits us.

We are all on death-row… how will we make the time we have left in the prison we have put ourselves in?

In Buddhism, there is a Way, a path, in which we can escape our prison before we die.. so that when we do die, we die free. … like some of those inmates in the electric chair.

Paths and flashlights.

The concept of a path is dualistic. ;)

The concept of a path is dualistic. 😉

In a flash of clarity, a path is illuminated before us. We treasure that experience and hold this direction, this image, this path close to our hearts and follow it with deep faith. The faith is unshakable as the clarity, this vision, was not shown to us by another, not read in a book or explained during a speech. We experienced it ourselves directly so there is no doubt.

Years pass and while this path may have proven itself well time after time, the clarity of our memory may fade. Even if the clarity doesn’t fade, as we progress down the path, we only were shown part of the path… eventually we reach the end of our vision. Where do we go from there?

This may happen without us realizing it and we blindly forge ahead, but now with a false confidence, a blind faith, and when we stumble, we might not learn from it but instead think it’s just a rough part of the path. We may defend our path and get angry and disillusioned and then despair appears.

The Buddha dying words were to be a lamp unto ourselves. But what do we do if we can’t remember how to turn on our flashlight? Imagine you are in the forest with steep cliffs all around. It is pitch black during the dead of night. Do you blindly forge ahead? Sometimes it is not wise to try to forge ahead, but remain calm, steady and unmoving. Eventually, like as in the forest, the sun will rise and show us the way home. Sometimes while we wait for the sunrise, we realize our eyes have adjusted to the dark and we see the path, oh so faintly but that’s all we need, and we can make slow progress.

In the end, there is no path, no progress, we are already home but it is sometimes useful to trick our minds into turning back on our flashlights.