Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Accepting This"

I have copied a poem here which I read today at the noon Inquiry Group.  I felt it captured an essential element of what these groups, and our sangha,  are about. Apparently others were similarly captured.  It certainly emphasizes the relational aspect of non-dual practice.  This seems like and an oxymoron or at least a paradox - "relational aspects of non-dual practice."  Enter the poetry and allow it to speak.
"Accepting This"  by Nark Nepo
Yes, it is true. I confess,
I have thought great thoughts,
and sung great songs - all of it
rehearsal for the majesty
of being held.
The dream is awakened
when thinking I love you
and life begins
when saying I love you
and joy moves like blood
when embracing others with love.
My efforts now turn
from trying to outrun suffering
to accepting love wherever
I can find it.
Stripped of causes and plans
and things to strive for,
I have discovered everything
I could need or ask for
is right here-
in flawed abundance.
We cannot eliminate hunger,
but we can feed each other.
We cannot eliminate loneliness,
but we can hold each other.
We cannot eliminate pain,
but we can live a life
of compassion.
we are small living things
awakened in the stream,
not gods who carve out rivers.
Like human fish,
we are asked to experience
meaning in the life that moves
through the gill of our heart.
There is nothing to do
and nowhere to go.
Accepting this,
we can do everything
and go anywhere.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sunday morning schedule changes

This week we expanded our Sunday morning program, adding an additional zazen period and optional mindful work period. The optional work period is from 7:30 to 7:55. The additional zazen period provides more time for individual practice discussion with Peg, and it means that we finish at approximately 10:40. Afterwards, many folks enjoy going for tea and breakfast together.

As always, you are welcome to come for any zazen period. If you arrive after the start of zazen at 7:30, please use the back entrance and wait in the study for the start of walking meditation before joining the group. The first walking meditation will usually be outdoors, weather permitting. If you arrive between the first and second sitting period, you can join up with the walking meditation in the back.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Day 7: Completion and Return Home

The photo above represents how the yurt looked before the participants arrived.  This particular image was recorded by Rikki Cooke, one of our hosts and a long-time National Geographic photographer and talented teacher (see www.thealohabear.com for more of his work).  The elegant arrangement you see here shifted and changed, was rearranged and reordered all through the week to match the needs of the group and each event - meditation, small group work, mindful movement, and even hula.  Light slowly filled the room each morning and then faded each evening. People came and went.  Many of us were, in alternating waves, inspired and discouraged, joyful and sad, angry and fearful - just like the rest of  life.  But the room was always ready and held it all, along with the trees, birds, and wind. The earth supported everything below us and the sky, with its many moods, nevertheless remained open above us. In the end, we reflected on our week together  and then dismantled the room, put everything away, leaving a clean, empty space ready for the next group.  Unlike the typical Western ethos that suggests we "leave our mark" on the world, the Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi suggested that "we leave no trace."  The "eight worldly winds" I briefly described in the Day 4 entry point to the storms stirred by clinging to the personal: gain and loss, pleasure and pain, praise and blame, fame and obscurity.  There is an alternative, however. We can leave (and live each day) with gratitude and respect, which is certainly how I feel about the Hui and also about everyone who participates here.  In many ways it is a long and challenging trip for most people who travel to Molokai.  I have a profound appreciation for those who choose to do so -who offer themselves wholeheartedly to the process, who discover the benevolent welcome of Mother Molokai, who are reminded of their shadows and contractions of conditioning they thought they had left behind on the mainland, and who are willing to "take the backward step and turn their light inward," as Dogen poetically wrote in his old Zen meditation instruction.  To have the willingness to meet it all with the support of the setting and each other is the beginning of not just personal healing, but of peace.  Without this willingness, we feed the seeds of discord, hatred, division, and ongoing suffering for all.  But, with a simple turn, we save not only ourselves, but the whole world.  Toward this end, I offer the dedication we chanted all week together:

By the power and truth of this practice, may all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all be free from sorrow and the causes of sorrow.
May all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless.
And may all live in equanimity, without too much attachment and too much aversion,
And believing in the equality of all that lives.

Mahalo  ("Thank you" in Hawaiian)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Day 6: Releasing and Healing

These posts are such small snapshots of each day, rich with experience, both delightful and challenging.  As someone once said, "transformation is not for the feint of heart."  Hui Ho'Olana, the name of the retreat center, means "where inspiration rises up form the heart."  Inspiration rises rather easily here in this beautiful and welcoming environment, but so does everything else along with it.  When we open, everything comes, not just the joy.  Today we ceremonially honored what wanted to be released - especially anguish and grief - but first it had to be witnessed.  This understanding is most beautifully offered in another Mary Oliver poem, "Heavy" (below).  It rained gently in the morning, as if the sky was weeping softly. We moved the large rock from the altar to the deck outside the yurt. We began to ring the bell as might happen in a temple in Asia whenever a death has occurred. As we counted each striking of the bell with the beaded mala - 108 peals of the bell - participants came forward and poured water over the rock to honor their loss or grief as one might do at an ashes site in Japan. The silence was filled with only the bell, the wind, the birds, and the tender hearts of the participants.  Later in the day, after dinner, laughter and music could be heard echoing down the hill.  How does this happen?

Mary Oliver

That time I thought I would not
go any closer to grief
without dying
I went closer, and I do not die.
Surely God had his hand in this,
as well as friends.
Still, I was bent, and my laughter, 
as the poet said,
was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
"It's not the weight you carry but how you carry it -
book, bricks, grief -
it's all in the way you embrace it, balance it, carry it
when you cannot, and would not, put it down."
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?
Have you heard the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?
How I linger to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world that are kind,
and maybe also troubled -
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love to which there is no reply?