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.

Rivers

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The water thought cycle: Ocean to clouds to rain to land to rivers to ocean. 

Using our minds we can explore the nature of who we are.

The short question we can ask is: Who am I?

This simple question can be expanded as far as we like to help us, or to hinder us.

When I probe this question, I always do so from an analytical mind-frame. So, I always will go through the normal facts of what I can define myself by.. I am an animal, a mammal, human. Step one done, lol.  Next I may probe deeper… ‘who is thinking this?’ and then I quickly answer myself ‘Richard’, lol. So I change the question to ‘what is thinking this?’ .. and I will then ascend to how the human brain biologically functions.. and review all the various scientific articles/books/etc I have experienced over my lifetime.. how the brains thoughts are almost all hidden from our outward consciousness .. how our brains are bendable… how there may be some ‘hard-wiring’ in place, but how almost all the wiring is soft and we can unplug some wires and plug them into other sockets. ..

A river carves the earth without choice. Depending on the underlying densities of soil and rock and slope of the land, the water will form the shape of the river, without effort. Our brains are like the Earth, they are bumpy. External stimuli are like the rain falling on our brains… they enter our world and transform it.. they form rivers of how to think again when the same stimuli happens again, the path has been laid. Over time, the river gets deeper and stronger and sometimes, no matter how hard we try to stop going down a certain river in our brains, we are dragged along.  Say, for example, a child was raised by racist parents and everytime the child saw a person of another race, their parents would talk badly of those people and tell the child how bad people of that race were. Over time, whenever this child would see a person of another race, they would have this channel, this river entrenched in their thought processing, this soft-wiring, kicking in and the thoughts would be taken down this racist river. Say, for example, as an adult, this person comes to understand that racism is nothing short of ignorance mixed with fear, they will still struggle deeply from flowing down the racist river in their mind when presented with the stimuli of a person of another race. This person, as all of us, can perceive this river, comprehend it, and we have the power to redirect that river. It is super hard to do, yet, in an instant, it can be without effort and a new non-racist river of thought can flow.

In Buddhism, we talk about letting go… that our thoughts, no matter what they are, are OK, so long as we are not attached to them…. We must realize that almost all of our thoughts are created by the attachment we have with our rivers… the path of least resistance. It is difficult to paddle upstream. So, in a sense, I am saying that almost all of what we think is a form of attachment! So stop thinking! Lol. We can’t stop the generation of thoughts, so what can we do? First, we must be so very kind and gentle with ourselves.  Enlightenment does not take place when we align all our rivers appropriately or something like that, however, we can provide better nutrients for the unfolding of Enlightenment if we are mindful of our river management. Sometimes a painful river, one that brings you to rage and fury, for example, can be completely dried up in an instant once we flow upstream and see the origin of this toxic river. Enlightenment won’t remove the entrenched rivers of thought, but it removes their power. If a river is healthy and part of our natural function and nature, it is maintained. If a river is toxic, it will naturally dry up over time and fade away, perhaps leaving some scars behind.

Then I will come back and say, what was I asking myself again… oh ,yeah.. Who am I? lol. I have this thing called a brain, which evolved through the influence of everything around it over time, making its origin outside of ‘me’ and this brain thingie also operates and is shaped by the external stimuli as well.

Then I think, man o man, I have only approached this so far from one angle. The biological brain. But what about my heart? My body? What about far-out theories too?

The path of questioning of who we are is endless, and at some point we may realize… we are endless.

That is who I am.

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.

Ancestors

There is no where, no thing, that has not been influenced by your ancestors.

There is no where, no thing, that has not been influenced by your ancestors.

Feet thump on the ground, round and round, in circles they go and I follow… then I am left behind.

This man walks in circles around the fire, his heart beating in time with his steps and his breath joins in the rhythm.

Ancestors emerge and as they watch the man, they whisper gently ‘He is a good man, no? Take care of him, treat him well for he has taken care of us all well many times, many rivers and moons ago.’

Suddenly I am back looking at my feet … and trip …and a big puff of smoke bellows from the embers.

I smile and kneel down and my hearts pours gratitude and love as my eyes weep for joy.

Seeking

leaves, green, photosynthesis, growth... what thoughts arise in an attempt to seek meaning of  experiencing 'leaves'. What remains when we let go of our seeking thoughts?

Leaves, green, photosynthesis, growth… what thoughts arise in an attempt to seek meaning of experiencing ‘leaves’. What remains when we let go of our seeking thoughts?

Our ears react to vibrations in the air and our eyes react to photons. Our nose reacts to chemicals as do our tongues….They do not seek these things, they simply experience them as they come and go. What is there for them to seek beyond this?

Only the illusion of our mind seeks meaning. The eyes see light, the ears hear sound, the mind … does it covet this information or does it let it go?

You know, it will come back if we need it… our minds build cages and build foundations and towers from the coveted information, transforming them into a grand illusions.

In Zen, we say, when we see a green light, we go, and a red light we stop. When the dishes are dirty, we wash them and when we are hungry, we eat. What about our minds? When we think deeply, we think deeply, when we don’t think deeply, we don’t. It doesn’t matter if we are smart or dumb…but are we wise?

Let us let the brain do what it does without the cages we have built up over the years. Zazen meditation… it isn’t to better oneself, to gain insights, or even to experience Enlightenment. It can be see as a tool, a diamond tipped tool with the finest blade. It cuts to the core of our house of cards in our minds. When we cut out the illusion we created of our own selves, who remains? what remains?

Our cages can be built as quickly as we tear them down. It is like land in New York City… you tear down an out-of-date building but it is replaced, with something you assume is better. The real estate in our brains is too valuable to not rebuild on! lol. Buy hey, what happens if we don’t rebuild? Can we focus on that moment? Do we see the rebuilding occurring? We can! We Can! So, WHO is rebuilding it! I didn’t authorize that! What is going on?

Practice? Sure.. But When?!

Don't wait for the pile to go down before you Practice... The pile is your Practice!

Don’t wait for the pile to go down before you Practice… The pile is your Practice!

Sometimes life gets so busy that we may feel as if we need to ‘clear our plate’ before we can begin to focus on our spiritual development.. or any other development for that matter. ‘How can I have a clear, single-mind when I have 8 different things I need to keep in the forefront of my mind… I have to pick up that prescription, buy groceries, book the car in for a tune-up, sort the kids clothes that no longer fit, fold and put away the laundry, and on and on and on…..’

And if and when we get to those times when our plate is actually clear, we may tend to want to just chill-out, put our feet up and read a good book or watch some tv..

So, our Practice, our development, goes stagnant.

We can brush this off with reassuring thoughts… ‘well, I have been too busy and I deserve to simply rest’..

I remember reading a long time ago about a story of a Zen center in the Far East. It was in a busy city, I believe, and there were lots of car horns, traffic, sirens and the rest making lots and lots of noise outside. And in the evenings when it got a bit quieter, feral cats who had made a home under the monastery would make a huge racket themselves, with fighting, playing, mating and the rest.

So, thinking we need a quiet environment, a quiet place with no responsibilities looming over us, to meditate properly is, well, something we need to overcome. There will never be a perfect time to practice, never be a perfect place to practice. And if there was a perfect place and time, then great, but our minds just might think too much about how perfect it is! Lol.

So, our lives may be hectic, but it is in those hectic moments that our practice may mean the most… and also those moments may in fact be the best time and place to actual do our practice.

Looking

accurate but not quite precise.... Is our vision 'wrong' if we need glasses?

Precise but not quite accurate…. Is our vision ‘wrong’ if we need glasses? Be careful how you answer, you may get pricked! 

Sometimes when we look directly at something, we get saturated with what we see and clarity fails…we might have precision, but accuracy of what it is lacks…. So we look slightly away from what we what to view and it comes back in our peripheral vision. It is now accurate but the precision is out.

Is it possible to view Enlightenment both accurately and precisely? It reminds me of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle… You can’t know where a particle is and also know its momentum at the same time.

Now, Enlightenment is not an electron! lol.

Time travel!

The original Tartis from the Dr Who TV show. Get in and fly away!

The original Tartis from the Dr Who TV show. Get in and fly away!

Sometimes we may want to get into a box and just disappear… travel off into time and space and explore new realities.

Sometimes this is out of fear of where we are, so we want to run away.

Sometimes it is simply a natural curiosity.

Our minds are like this, they are this….

Why do we meditate? Is it to escape our situation? Is that healthy?

Is it because we are simply curious what lies inside our minds?

Perhaps it’s a bit of both sometimes.

Sometimes it is a good idea to meditate on the thought of ‘why am I doing this?’

Being honest with ourselves, we might not like the answer. Let’s work with that and grow.

Who Do We Meditate For?

Buddha at the Forest Hermitage

Buddha at the Forest Hermitage

Who do we meditate for?

Ourselves?

Our Children?

Everyone?

No one?

All beings?

Meditation for

anyone or anything, be it ourselves, all beings, enlightenment, lower blood pressure… is dangerous!

Haha! Lower blood pressure is dangerous? Of course not!

Meditation for ….fill in the blank….. may be incredibly useful and powerful, but that’s not what the Buddha was getting at. Meditation for…. existed for a long time before the Buddha was born. Meditating for….. is dangerous because it instantly separates … and when all that is, empty of independent nature, separation is illusion.

Mediation is a sort of confirmation of the wholeness of all that is. It helps the Universe to flow freely. Just as eating raw vegetables over greasy cheeseburgers will help your blood flow more in tune with its natural function, meditation without purpose becomes the purpose itself.

 

May all beings not suffer.

Boats

I like this boat!

I like this boat!

Living with an ‘invisible’ illness can be difficult to manage sometimes. Sometimes, I feel fine, sometimes not so fine. On the outside, i look fine and i usually act fine, so its hard for other people to know what I am going through. On support group websites and the like I see lots of things like ‘what not to say to someone who has chronic illness’.. .and it will say things like ‘don’t tell me to change my diet or to be positive or i need to exercise more or tell me you are tired too’…. Sometimes i can relate to why these things could be upsetting, but usually they are said with an air of compassion, of trying to help. However, sometimes they are said with blame attached, as if it is all my own fault and if I just exercised and ate more fruit I would be healed. It is the same as telling someone with clinical depression that they just need to snap out of it and just be happy.

I try not to tell anyone how exhausted i am or what pain i may be in (Except my wife and well, i guess everyone reading this,lol!). Everyone has something invisible they are dealing with, and has to work with and might never go away. We are all in the same boat, sometimes the waters are calm and smooth, sometimes they are choppy and scary. But we are all in a boat. And we all have the same destination.

Buddhists are encouraged to meditate in groups…. it is like sailing all our boats together, tying them up and make the stability and direction stronger than the individual boats alone combined. We are social animals, we work best as team-mates. We all experience suffering of one kind or another, so lets join together to end each others suffering. How? Love and understanding. Understand that every person, every being you interact with, has something they are working through, or will have to work through at some time, and that everyone passes away.

A zen teacher once gave a talk about his work in prisons.. with inmates on death row. It was a sobering talk. Then he said something I will never forget… ‘We are all on death row.’ Yeah, of course we are, and we all know that… we will all die someday…. but for me, those words hit home…. and I carry that with me….. So, what do we want to do with our lives?

We are all in the same boat.

The Sun shines after a drizzle filled morning while birds fly passed majestic rainbows. A dead mouse lies on the path and a puppy gives it a good sniff.