Crow Time

Crow dancing with the Universe

Crow dancing with the Universe

Sometimes there are no right answers, yet this is the Way.

Sometimes the answer is crystal clear, and this is the Way.

The saying goes.. the Sun will still rise tomorrow, and this is the Way.

One day, billions of years from now grant you, the Sun will not rise tomorrow, yet this is the Way.

Triumphs and follies, compassionate acts and acts of horrific violence, they are all the Way.

The ‘Way’ is nothing more and nothing less than the Universe, all that is. It flows… sometimes smoothly without hindrance, sometimes rocky yet no hindrance is inherent in that hindering rockiness.

This Time has happened long ago and yet has never happened yet… but only is ever happening Now. Sometimes, we can see that the future actually flows into our Present and this changes the past.

How many times has this experience happened? Only once, yet countless of billions of times as well. Our counting minds, like crows counting up to 5 or 6, do not understand, yet the crow knows how to look past its counting and spread its wings and trust the abilities it has.

I can’t count that high, but that’s ok, my heart counts with a different mathematics and always gets the correct sum.

Black feathers ruffle in the gusting wind, head bobs up and down, flying to the ground. A worm awaits and is ripped apart and nourishes the counting-less heart. Caw Caw Caw.

Free your heart, full of love and understanding and let the tears stream down your face. Caw Caw Caw!!!

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Escaping Pain

You can run, and you can hide, but always right arounf the corner you will be staring right back at yourself, or a sheep!

You can run, and you can hide, but always right around the corner you will be staring right back at yourself, or a sheep!

Having lots on your plate to get done while having chronic fatigue is difficult. When this extends over an extended period of time with minimal relief on the horizon, it can be more than mere deflating. Being mindful of each moment, as that’s all there really is, certainly is the best mode of attack, if you will. However, one thing I have noticed, is that it is times like these, where difficulty can be safely predicted to be constant for the foreseeable future, that being mindful of the present can be experienced as unrelenting stress and pain. This is certainly one of the birthplaces where ‘escaping reality’ takes place. Now, i don’t want to give the impression this is how my life is, because whilst individual moments may be experienced in this way, many other moments are magical. Such as holding my wife’s hand, or flying my 4 month old daughter around the house like Superman, or rather Supergirl I suppose! Last night my 3-year-old son wanted to help me get stuff from the attic, but I explained it was too dangerous. Then, as I was finished, and about to move the ladder back outside, I took him up the ladder to show him the great mysterious unknown above. The look on his face was of pure amazement and exhilaration! He felt like the luckiest kid on Earth I think! lol.

Back to ‘escaping reality’ … Sometimes people use booze or drugs. Many people use television or surf the internet. Perhaps more dangerous are the subtle escapes, like, for example, reading books. Things that have positive connotations, such as reading, can remain forever hidden as a possible obstruction. We all know watching too much tv or drinking too much booze isn’t really good for us.. but how many people think that reading too much is bad for us?! Only nutters! lol.

If we do feel the need to escape, to have a stiff drink, or a good read, perhaps we can try to be mindful of those moments, and, when we are, something magical happens, the escape drops away and we are where we started, where we always have been. Sure our problems will still be there after the next chapter or the next episode, but if we can face our escape head on, then we learn to not be so afraid of our problems and feel we can live within them. Over time, the need to have a stiff drink or a good novel fades away and our problems and pain are best ‘solved’ head-on, with loving compassion for ourselves.

Infinite Universe? Infinite you?

How many times has this scene been seen? How many times has it been ever so slightly different? How many times has this spider been worshipped and its movements decide the fate of millions? In the end, the spider dances on the web, as the blue dwelling never realises its impact

How many times has this scene been seen? How many times has it been ever so slightly different? How many times has this spider been worshipped and its movements decide the fate of millions? In the end, the spider dances on the web, as the blue dumpster collects garbage.

If the Universe is infinite, then, by definition, anything that is possible, has already occurred, is occurring and will always occur. One way to try to grasp this idea, is that there are infinite other ‘Earths’, that have the same positions of continents and oceans, all have the same species of monkeys, pine trees and lice. Once you start to allow your mind to fall into this thought, it starts to become almost too absurd. Taking into account that the only restraint is the laws of physics, this still does not limit the infinite absurdness of it all.. For example, if the Universe is truly infinite, then there are countless other ‘mirror’ Earths, with mirror versions of yourself…. countless ones, countless ones identical in every way, countless ones that vary in the finest way, maybe you are a millimetre shorter or taller, and countless other versions of yourself that are, well, not so identical… So, we can easily open up the questioning of how far does one of these ‘mirror’ versions of yourself have to deviate from who you are before you might say, hey, wait that’s not actually me. Maybe you say none are actually you. Fair enough.

Now, I think about this quite a bit, usually when I am driving to work… Now, it is possible (within the laws of physics, remember), that 1000 baboons will fall from the sky (released from an airplane?) and land all around me. It is possible that every single dog on the planet will happen to make noises from their mouths that sound like they are saying hello all at the same time. It is possible that your back yard will always have a cloud above it making the sun never shine there. It is possible that whenever a person says the phrase “I command thunder to appear right now” that thunder does appear coincidently every single time. It is possible that everyone in the world says the word ‘lollipop’ at the same exact time. Every day for a week. For a year, for a decade, for a century. Even people who don’t speak English. It is possible all these things happen all together, always. I could go on and on with the ridiculousness of the possible situations. And, of course, they can be even much more far-fetched than these…

Now, if the Universe is truly infinite, than these ‘possible’ scenarios, are not just ‘possible’ but actually occurring. They have already occurred, infinite times, are occurring now an infinite amount of times, and will occur in the future, again a countless amount of times. And each very specific bizarre situation you can think of, dream up, will be played over and over, with the subtlest variations, countless times.

To me, this makes my head get blown! It makes me conclude that the Universe simply, can not be infinite, it is just too ridiculous! Purple monkeys are not going to be in my bathroom this evening. 10,000 years of hidden planning by countless people to place a half eaten grapefruit on my toothbrush, although within the laws of physics, just can’t be! Can it? If the Universe is infinite, this bizarre planning has occurred!

I also think, well, if the Universe is infinite, then surely the Earth would be filled with countless bizarre situations! Well, you may say it is! lol. In some ways it is, but, in reality, you do not get a shadow that is permanently over Stonehenge and only clears to reveal the Sun when a donkey goes ‘hee-haw’. In an infinite Universe, this is the norm!

So, if the Universe is infinite, then you can visualise this shredding of reality into any form you desire, bounded by the emptiness of infinity. If the Universe isn’t infinite, but ‘merely’ very,very,very kick-ass large, then, well, this shredding, this diversification still exists, albeit, on a reduced level.

So, regardless, there is probably a version, many versions of yourself existing in the Cosmos right now. What would you say to them if you met them? What about the ones who are 10 years older than your current self? What would they tell you?! What would you tell your younger self? How close to ‘yourself’ would they be?

So, this visualisation, this contemplation, is good medicine for trying to define yourself… Who are you? Do you own your uniqueness? What makes you, you? What happens when you do place a definition on yourself? Is it liberating or restricting? Is it truthful?

I See …

green, brown, bird, plump, flightless?, orange stick legs, ....

green, brown, bird, plump, flightless?, orange stick legs, ….

What are your first thoughts when you see the image above?

Think about how much processing your brain cranks out just to have some thoughts about the image. Think not only of what you come up with, like: “short, fat bird, possibly flightless, pretty earth colors” but also the gates that those thoughts flew past….. like, you almost instantly recognize it as a bird. What made your brain think that? Can you put your finger on the complex thoughts and preconceptions that must exist for you to think “bird” straight away?

Can you imagine just looking at this ‘bird’ without thought? without thinking? what does your brain say before it is allowed to rush through all those preconception gates?

Now, those gates are very, very important…If this was a tiger and you were in the wild, you better process through those gates quickly before you get eaten! So never underestimate their value!

That said, it is always good practice for your minds to think about what our brains are doing! Think about thinking! lol.. Or better even, thinking about ‘before-thinking’! Step it up again, and fall into the ‘before-thinking’ mind!!

I think I got a headache but I do love this pretty bird!

New you! Do you have a choice?

Is this old car not new again today?

Is this old car not new again today?

“New year… New you!”

Of course, the marking of a new year is an invention, so the true significance of a new year is minimal. That said, the cultural influence of the marking of a new year can be quite powerful…. So, just like many Buddhists meditate in groups, focusing on improving our lives through New Years resolutions has extra power.

Completing this circle of thought, we can make every day a new start, a ‘new you’! In fact, going deeper, we have no choice but to start each day with a new you.

So, lets embrace today’s ‘new us’, garnishing the collective cultural power for support. You can do it!

What is the opposite of opposite?

What is the opposite of this vehicle? When does the meaning of opposite become worthless? Seeing this vehicle, we compare, compare, compare it to other vehicles we already know - its not a car, not a truck, not a train, not a motorcycle - what is it?! Hey, it is what it is, just have a look without trying to name it. It is rather beautiful.

What is the opposite of this vehicle? When does the meaning of opposite become worthless? Seeing this vehicle, we compare, compare, compare it to other vehicles we already know – its not a car, not a truck, not a train, not a motorcycle – what is it?! Hey, it is what it is, just have a look without trying to name it. It is rather beautiful.

Off / On

High /Low

Back/ Front

Black /White

Many things have their opposite. What does this mean? Are things this cut and dry? Well, let’s see… if something is ‘off’, than means it is not ‘on’, and if something is ‘on’, then it is not ‘off’. Each word, each term, requires its pair to exist. For example, you may say that the lamp is on, or it is off, but you wouldn’t say this to things that don’t have the opposite….. so, for example, you wouldn’t say that the air is ‘on’… it is always on! Lol. If you did say that the air was ‘on’, this would inherently imply that it can be ‘off’. Maybe you were talking about the air conditioner! Lol.

So, there is a subtlety here, which grows even more so with words like ‘black’ and ‘white’. One part of our brains thinks of them as opposites… yet, they are not…. You can have white without black and you can have black without white. Additionally, black is the absence of light and white is the combination of all colors of light. So, perhaps black is ‘off’ and white is ‘fully on’! Maybe that makes green ‘partially on’, lol.

Certain things we try to figure out do not benefit from using our opposite-minds. The big questions, really. Like, what exists outside the Universe? If time was born during the Big Bang, what existed before then? These questions use as a foundation the notion that the pair ‘universe’ and ‘outside the Universe’ is accurate. Is this accurate? We can get into a deep semantic-al discussion over this, but if we drop that, what remains? In some ways, the term ‘Universe’ means ‘all that exists’… so in that context, it cannot have its opposite, its pair, as nothing falls outside its realm. So, if that’s true, what is wrong with our question then:  ‘What exists outside the Universe?’?  The problem with this question is that the questioner assumes it is a valid question! Lol. What do I mean? Well, if the questioner accepts the definition of the Universe as all that exists, then there is no room to think of what exists outside this! However, our minds are curious! Let’s take a peek outside the bubble of our expanding Universe.. what is it traveling into?! … Ah, so now we get into geometry really, if we begin to think of the Universe as some sort of 3-D bubble ever-expanding into space….INTO space? That’s just it… the Universe is expanding space, not expanding into space. So, our dualistic, pairing, opposite-minds clunk. They can’t work properly.

I think of it like Newton’s laws of gravity and motion…. They aren’t really correct, but they work awesome-ly when applied to motions on the Earth…. So, just like our opposite-minds, our dualistic minds work really really well in helping us to evolve and survive on Earth as humans, they fail when we try to figure out things much deeper.

So, Zen is not about banishing our dualistic mind, our ego-mind (our illusion that we are separate from everything else), but rather about not attaching to this ego-mind… letting it function in this manner when it appropriate, and letting it go when it is not.

Who/what decides when it is appropriate? Be careful!

Built for purpose

IMG_8941

I know what I should be doing! I am right at home!

The beetle in this photograph is ‘built for purpose’. His/her form has evolved overs millions or years to perform certain functions. Hard armor for protection, wings for flight, colors for camouflage and mating. Claws for climbing and grasping… When a beetle is born into its natural habitat, it can survive and can flourish.

The same is true for all beings, whether a beetle, a cow, a pigeon, a whale, a snail… You get the idea. It also holds true for plants, the trees, the flowers, the bushes…. All beings….

So, where are we? Humans are the same. We have a habitat for which we evolved to be able to survive and flourish. We also are able to survive in very different climates through our clever-ness!…. Big warm parkas are pretty clever!!!

But, where is our natural home for our minds?

Can we find where our minds feel safe, and at home? This ‘natural’ home is healing and beautiful. When we are home, then we can feel safe to wander, to leave home, as we know where it was born from.

Our own light is always there, guiding the way.

Teamwork

Leaf-cutting ants, working as a team.. Whose team are you on?

Leaf-cutting ants, working as a team.. Whose team are you on?

We are all involved in teamwork….Sometimes we are willing team members, sometimes not so willing… sometimes we are good teammates, and sometimes not so good….

So what teams are we on? Well, we can define ourselves on whichever teams we want to be! lol. I am in the team ‘democrat’, I am in the team ‘Republican’. I am in the team ‘Libertarian’. Those are political teams. I am in the team ‘hippy’, I am in the team ‘metal-head’, etc, etc…

It doesn’t really matter. In fact, aligning with any team, any collection of teams, divides us from others, and inherently creates division and separation. It creates thoughts of one being superior to another team. It is this reasoning why the late, great, Toni Packer said she wasn’t a Buddhist. Saying ‘I am Buddhist’ creates an unnessary division. The historical Buddha didn’t say he was Buddhist! lol.

I tend to not tell people I am Buddhist for this reason. It also creates immediate stereotypes and prejudices of what that means, whether good or bad. The same reason I do not tell people I am vegetarian. Why do they need to know? It comes up if someone is going to cook me a meal, and also may come up through natural conversation. If someone asks me why I am vegetarian, or why I am Buddhist, I usually give a very simple answer like ‘oh, many reasons…. the Buddha was a human being and seemed to figure out things really well, and I don’t eat meat for many reasons, like environmental, animal welfare, religious, etc’. I never defend my positions, and I never go into much detail… unless someone is truly interested. I am not a great Buddhist, nor a great vegetarian… I mean, i never eat meat, but perhaps I should be a vegan if I care so much about animal welfare and the environment… .I don’t meditate everyday and I havent taken the precepts.

Anyhow, where was I going with this rambling? Ah, yes, teamwork… we are all team mates on the team of the Universe! Hey, it’s true! If you accept the big bang theory to be true, then all that exists, ALL that exists, ever has existed and ever will exist, was once just one thing, without separation. So, we are all simply facets of that whole. Good, bad, ugly, pretty…. we are all on the same team. Team Universe!

When we act using this thought behind our actions, amazing things happen… the Universe rises up with us, and it says “hey, welcome back teammate, let’s get to work!”

The dance.

Who is your master?

Does this butterfly make you happy?

Does this butterfly make you happy?

If we are driving, and someone cuts us off… Do we get angry?
If we are driving, and we see a rainbow over the lush hills… Do we get happy?
Who is the master here?
The driver who cut us off? Do we feel they made us angry?
The rainbow? Do we feel its beauty made us happy?
Bad things happen, good things happen. Do they master us?
Do we hold onto the anger of the driver who cut us off? Do we keep thinking about it, replaying it in our heads, projecting visions of them getting pulled over by the police.. or worse even?
Do we hold onto the beauty of the rainbow? Do we keep thinking about it, replaying it in our heads, projecting visions of how to find more of them, wishing we had our camera to hand?
In many ways, our external world is our master, and this can be dangerous, regardless if we suffer from this mastering (like the anger) or if we benefit from this mastering (like the happiness). The anger could be thought of like a dirty jail cell.. we are not free and in a bad place, whereas the happiness could be thought of as a gilded cage, though beautiful, the bird is never free.
Now, we can try to acknowledge this and also understand that although we may not be able to control what happens to us, we can control how we react to what happens to us. This, I feel, is a very important transition to make.. It is much healthier to feel as we are our own master than to have the Universe master over ourselves. It can be very empowering and good.
In Zen, ultimately, however, there is no master, as the duality of ‘ourselves’ vs. everything not-ourselves is illusionary. The distinction can be a useful tool, yes, and we evolved to have this tool of self- realization as it has aided survival. That said, there is no separateness between ‘ourselves’ and all that exists, the Universe. When this is realized, and not just understood with our brains, then a wonderful dancing emerges, naturally, from the underlying functions of the ‘Universe’ and ‘ourselves’…

So, let’s first become our own master, then when we do, let’s let it fall away, then we can be truly free.

Mindful Yoga

What is our natural state? Is such a question unnatural to ask?

What is our natural state? Is such a question unnatural to ask?

What is our natural state? Is there even an unnatural state to discuss?

Humans increasingly are becoming more sedentary in the modern world. We evolved to be active beings, and this ‘natural’ activity keeps us functioning properly. We are not sloths after all! No matter how cool sloths are, our bodies don’t thrive this way.

Yesterday I did some yoga meditation, and was mindful of each movement and tried hard to focus my mind within each movement and also how my body felt in response to each movement. I felt my body feeling a deep gratitude, for lack of a better word, for my actions. It felt as though my body was weeping with joy with being treated with such correct function. An unexpected side effect of my movements was that in each position I would get a flood of vibrant intense colors within my eyelids. (I had my eyes closed the whole time). Each position produced a different color! It was like I was on some kind of drug! lol. When stretching upwards, deep burnt oranges and reds, when facing down, fully down, deep cosmic midnight blue, when my head was down but neck facing up, tropical neon greens. I found it very beautiful yet also distracting from keeping my focus on my movements… However, I also simply,for the most part, incorporated the realising of the colors into the meditation. I was mindful of them.

I was re-reminded how important it is to treat our bodies, not just our minds, with deep love and kindness. I hope to continue to further deepen my practicing, whether it is yoga or zazen. I am buddhist, but sometimes I am not a good buddhist, so I must continue to practice, practice and practice, building to the same intensity as if my hair was on fire. Thank you Dogen.