Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Chicago afternoon
Originally uploaded by Peg Syverson.

This is the view from my window here in Chicago. The woods are spectacular in snowy silence, yet the days are filled with the warmth and sparkle of family gatherings. May the New Year bring everyone on earth a fresh beginning and a deep turning toward peace, joy, and complete awakening! I hope you are finding within yourselves a deeper commitment and profound appreciation for your own path, unfolding right through life as it is, this very moment. You are embraced by the entire universe in all of its terrifying splendor. We cannot comprehend the reality of it with our tiny minds, we can only stagger forward, slack-jawed with wonder.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Two poems

While you were out looking for enlightenment

Here is what the note said:
While you were out looking for enlightenment,
I cleaned the house
and put your laundry in the wash,
I took the dog to the vet: it’s nothing serious, it seems,
and picked up that green tea you wanted.
I had lunch with Alice, she asked
about you
and I made a pot of black bean soup—
it’s in the fridge. The pears are ripe,
please eat them soon!
I called about the termites, they’ll
be out tomorrow,
and the kids and I played at the park.
Josh made a new friend from down the street.
I paid the bills and ironed
a couple shirts. Please remember
your dentist appointment in the morning!
Today was just an ordinary day,
nothing special,
how about you?

What is our practice for?

It goes like this:
In the timeless moment of a melting kiss
a thousand children perish;
savoring our morning tea
a half dozen species disappear forever
from the earth
while we are immersed in prayer
a politician winks and nods
and as we are driving absent-mindedly to work,
deep in a dear friend’s bones
a cancer cell goes haywire.
While we answer an email
acres of rainforest disappear
As we write a check to save the whales
a car wreck cripples a promising athlete.
A drunk walks into a bar
a mother is pushing a stroller
a heron stands perfectly still on one
impossibly slender stilt:
you are not here
you are not there,
where everything is happening at once.
Don’t try to hold it all the only
way to practice is to let go
of all imagining
who we are and
what we can do;
in coming together we grieve
and celebrate the world, our lives
and this.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The big parade

Today in zazen, I was watching the rising and falling of thoughts, emotions, sensations, and witnessing. I had an image of sitting in a lawn chair, watching a small-town parade. I know the stories and families and history of everyone in the parade: the high school marching band, where my neighbor’s son is playing the tuba, the cheerleader he is secretly in love with, the wounded veterans, blind, crippled, pushed in wheelchairs and bearing witness to unimaginable pain and violence, the crazy Lions club clowning around on tiny bicycles, the horse troop prancing proudly with fluttering banners.

I am captivated by their wholeheartedness and sincerity, and sometimes I want to jump up and join them, or pull a dear friend out of formation to come and visit with me. They keep passing by, filled with sensation, emotion, story, movement, color, music, pain and wisdom.

And then I become aware of the blue spring sky above, with its scattered tufts of clouds, and bright, almost hot sun. The parade is along the main street of my familiar town, with its outdoor pavilion in the middle of a square bounded by small-time stores and cafes. Down the road, not very far, is the rough side of town, where the tough kids live, and desperate families always on the edge of ruin and failure, and where terrifying dangers lurk, or so we feel. Up the hill are the homes of the well-to-do, rich only by small-town standards: the owner of the funeral home, the supermarket manager, the realtor and car dealership owner.

We all want to live on the hill, bestowing our riches on those we cherish and living in comfort and grace. This small town is here in the middle of the country, not far from a great city, an ocean, a mountain range, a prairie. And this beautiful land is in the middle of a continent, troubled by wars and rumors of wars, pollution, crime, the ravages of drugs, violence, greed, and unsurpassable beauty. The continent is part of a collective of lands and oceans, peoples, animals, plants, and formations, spinning 1,000 miles per hour as it arcs through space around the sun, in a solar system of serene choreography, moving with impeccable precision in just such a way as to fulfill its unique place in the galaxy, set somewhere in a vast, incomprehensible universe, so that on this bright, warm, spring day as I sit watching with complete awareness, I can see and hear, at last, the tiny, heartstopping vision of my own child, hands clasping the little saxophone with total absorption, breathing into the reed and bringing forth the tenderly cracked notes of I Love You Truly. If you blink you will miss what you have waited a lifetime for. Don't hold back! Appreciate this very moment—all of it.