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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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. 😉

Low self esteem

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London palm. Wisdom radiates and pulses throughout the cosmos, straight into my heart. 

Sometimes during contemplative reflection I become utterly disgusted with myself. I amaze myself that I allow myself to think and do certain things, that, when I look back objectively, I am stunned at myself.

Having low self-esteem is not healthy, of course, and meditation is usually not thought of as something to make you feel worse about yourself! lol.

Confronting our true selves can be hard. It is painful to accept we may not be the person we want to believe we are.

Ultimately, our true self is not ourself, and although we must have individual responsibility, we can never bear the load alone, no matter how isolated that burden may feel.

(I must say that sometimes during meditation I become utterly elated with myself… and although this may feel super awesome, it has its own dangers… mainly of reinforcing the illusion of my own self ego, but that’s a whole other story!)

Outrageous!

bumper sticker

(not my own photo)

I remember many years ago seeing a bumper-sticker and it really resonated with me. In our world, there are numerous things to be outraged about..and the more you look, ie. pay attention, the more outrageous things you will see.. and this will start to extend into things that are currently accepted as legal and normal…

I think the bumper sticker needs another verse however:

If you’re outraged, you’re not paying attention!

This brings it back home, back inside. … When we view our world, we may get full of rage, outrage… and feel more than justified… for example, feeling rage when learning about 53 people being murdered in a nightclub. No matter how justified we may feel with this emotion of hatred and rage, we should look at the origin of this feeling. (The origin is the shooting, idiot!) Anger and rage are natural.. why did we evolve these feelings? To help our survival… to put us in a fight-or-fight response. However, when we see these images on our computers, thousands of miles away perhaps, the flight-or-fight response becomes unnecessary…. we are too far away to help protect the people and too far away about trying to get away from the danger. Sure, you may say that rage fuels our fight response, which we can take to stopping others before they get the chance to do the same in the future. But this type of ‘fighting’ would require a strategy, and therefore the immediate ‘fighting’ could not be achieved (ie. the rage we may feel can not be acted up in a constructive way).

So, bringing it back inside ourselves… if we pay close attention, we do not need to be filled with rage, it will not help anyone. Sure, when we first learn of horrific events, we may feel anger and rage.. that is natural… but it is not natural to hold onto this anger… in nature, we evolved to have an immediate response to this anger…

When we look inside ourselves, we may see that running or fighting/protecting isn’t a valid choice given our position. So what shall we do? Let it fall away and see what remains… Once the anger and rage are released, we may begin to see things more clearly and have a better idea of what could be done.

 

 

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.

Love

Faith to get to the other shore

Faith to get to the other shore

Our brains are very strange things. Well, our thoughts are anyhow.. well, my thoughts perhaps, lol. But seriously… Our thinking minds create the Universe. Things that consume our minds with worry are usually things that don’t warrant that level of attention.

I am not the best Buddhist. When I think deeply about myself, my thoughts, I realize I am truly deeply attached to my desires… I constantly desire to rid my body of the disease it has, I desire this, I desire that, and it goes on and on… it will never end if I let it ‘run its course’.

It’s funny, because although in my heart I know that all this desiring is unhealthy, and although my mind can rationally understand why it is unhealthy, my mind still chugs along, giving my heart and my analytical mind a giant middle finger. So, who is in charge? It almost feels like I am the captain of a strange spaceship that is out of control…. Like it is flying straight towards the sun because it is shiny and pretty… even though I know in my thoughts and my heart it is foolish and destructive…. Yet my spaceship keeps heading there… blinded by desire.

I also understand that there is no spaceship, no sun, no desire.

Who is in charge of the thing that is charge-less?

I suppose it is my deep faith, my heart’s understanding of the truth of the Buddha’s teaching that keeps me pondering, keeps me going, keeps me grateful.

I feel the deep love that the Universe is. I feel the Universe perceiving itself through my mind, my thoughts, my actions, my love.

Life is too miraculous, too wondrous, too short to flounder. Even when we do not know what else to do but flounder, which for me, is often, one needs to embrace the floundering, and have deep faith… in the Universe, in yourself…

The first Noble Truth is that life is suffering (as well as the opposite, mind you). Why does life involve suffering? That does not seem right, does it? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It is a very good thing to contemplate, and contemplate deeply. What does it mean?

All beings have been touched with death, whether a loved one, a friend, even a stranger, or a pet. It can tear one’s heart apart and some people never recover. It can simply be too painful to address. One day, for all beings, everyone one of us, it will be our turn. What then?

Dogen said we must practice as if our hair is on fire. There is a great urgency to what we must do with our lives. And this ‘doing’ is all about what we do with our hearts. We must see clearly our own heart, our own mind, see how it is nothing more and nothing less than all that exists propping it up, making it exist. We owe all we are to all that is. When we see the beauty of our own true heart, the Universe shines, we shine, and deep love cannot be anything but flowing, overflowing… The Universe itself cannot contain this Love.

Be kind with yourself, love yourself, with all your ‘faults’, all your mistakes, accept it all, leaving nothing out, and allow yourself to love, and deeply, and fully. It is all okay.

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?

Distinguish-ation

Woof.

Woof.

Our senses distinguish…. That is not an incomplete sentence.* I was going to write ‘Our senses distinguish things’.. but I stopped myself. Our senses make things.. through distinguishation.  Wow, that is an ugly made-up word! Lol. Distinguishation. Perhaps differentiation is better.

So, our eyes see brown, our hands feel roughness, our nose smells cinnamon**, our tongue tastes wood***, our ears hear… cracking?,… our mind makes soup with them and it becomes Bark. Bark soup.  Now, it is our brains making bark… but surely the bark had to pre-exist for it to make our mouths taste cinnamon. We didn’t just make that up!!

So, Is it possible that the Universe is simply a creation of our brain’s soup making? Is it possible that soup is made from the Universe?

I remember reading about a Zen teacher who said that when our minds cease to exist, the Universe ceases to exist. This is a tough pill to swallow.. surely before I was born and certainly after I die, the Sun will still rise in the East.. for billions of more years.. it doesn’t rely its existence on me! OR does it?! How could it? It is such a super-selfish way of thinking.. The Universe literally exists for me… because of me!!

Now, it is not that way, not exactly. But there is something there… Something to think about.. Why would a teacher of Zen teach something that seems to reinforce the importance of EGO? Surely he should do the opposite! Lol.

I thought lots about this. Why would he say that?

Lets think about it…

The Buddha said that our lives are like dreams…. Not dreams, but like dreams… they are illusionary.. they are real, but not what they seem. Where does this life-long illusion come from? Our Ego-mind. Our perception that we are separate from the Universe. ‘There is the Universe and then there is me.’ This separation is illusionary, so when we realize this, not simply understand it, but realize this, both our ‘mind’ and the ‘Universe’ cease to exist.

The Buddha, when he realized his Enlightened nature, he did not disappear into thin air! Lol. He taught, he walked, he ate and urinated and defecated. And if someone yelled over to him ‘Yo Gautama, over here dude!’****, he would understand that he was being called. Although he realized his selfless nature, he still understood what Gautama meant.

So, when we die, the Universe, our illusion of the Universe dies too. Is there a real Universe beyond the illusion? Is not the illusion based on something?  The Buddha said our lives are like dreams, but he did not say they are dreams.

So, if a Zen Master picks up a rock and asks you if that rock exists.. how do you answer? If you say no, it doesn’t it is just an illusion, he may hit you upside the head with it, perhaps saying ‘How’s that illusion feel now?!’ Haha. If you say yes, it does exist but you do not know its reality beyond its illusion, he may throw it at you and make you duck, saying ‘if you do not know what ‘rock’ is, then how did you know to duck. You know rock.’

* Well, perhaps it technically is an incomplete sentence, I don’t know.. I am a scientist not a writer, lol.

** Cinnamon is just a type of tree bark, though not the one pictured above.

*** Why are we licking bark? lol

**** Gautama is one of the Buddha’s names.

MEAT!

What is going on here?!

What is going on here?!

It is interesting how we react to certain things… how we pull with us our preconceptions, our past views, the trenches of thought our minds made long ago….

When I saw the above product, I was annoyed. It is NOT turkey and it is NOT steak! The ex-meat eater in me was offended! Lol. The comic in me found it humorous!

Meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan – we should all take the time to think about where the food we eat has come from.

Now, these ‘turkey steaks’… they are pretty tasty! I gobbled them up! HAHAHA.

Transformation

Who is in the driver's seat?

Who is in the driver’s seat?

Transformation.

When most people think of water, they usually think of liquid water. Of course, water can be solid – as ice, or gaseous – as water vapour.

Water can transform itself from one state of matter to another. It does so without effort….when the conditions are a particular way, water will become either loose or rigid….

A Zamboni is a great machine..it makes ice smooth again! It shaves off the top rough layer of ice, melts it and pours it back out as a thin uniform layer to refreeze. If you love ice hockey, you love Zambonis! lol.

Our minds are like the ice and our hearts are like the Zamboni. Our minds can become rough and filled with bumps to trip us up on our journey through life. Our hearts can melt away those rough ridges and bumps and smooth them out.

Now, these are just words, of course, but they are meant to serve the purpose that transformation of ourselves is possible. I use the dualistic function of the mind and the heart a lot in my writing, as I personally find it a useful tool. However, as it is dualistic, it separates each from the other and from all other things too. That is ultimately not correct.  We must pay attention to this.

Now, water transforms without effort (unless you are using a Zamboni! Ha)… how about our minds? I said we can use our hearts…. Now, our hearts, I feel, operate without effort, they do what they do and they do not lie…. So, looking deep within our own hearts, feel the love it has for our minds, how it loves us, and protects us… let it guide us, without effort, to calming the chaos in our minds.