Posts Tagged ‘Beginnings’

before you were a victim

February 15th, 2011    -    25 Comments

Yesterday my teacher said something that I can’t seem to shake. It was in the course of an ordinary conversation and not a teaching per se, but that’s how you know your teacher: he or she says something that sticks with you like a needle under your skin, and it works its way in.

He said, “I knew you before you were a victim.” He wasn’t talking about me, but he might as well have been. As is the custom in a lineage tradition like mine, I can only repeat what my teacher has told me. So I will.

I knew you before you were a victim,
before you were a wreck, a mess, and a bomb.
Without a crowning success or crippling failure.
Before you had an issue, an axe, or a cross.
No disorder, no syndrome, no label –
undiagnosed,
without a blemish or scar.
Before that night and the morning after,
before the after and before the before.
Before the fall, the crash, the crime,
without an upgrade or makeover.
Version 0.0
No story,
no narration, no closed captioning,
no footnotes and no bonus features,
before you remembered to forget and forgot to remember.
I knew you before you were what you say –
what you think, what you fear, what you know.

Do you know yourself before?

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat March 13

a turn toward home

February 14th, 2010    -    11 Comments

You’re here! You’re here! Welcome to my new home on the web where I’ve put everything on the kitchen table. Take a moment and subscribe to my new rss or update your Cheerio Road email subscription. Add yourself to my newsletter list. Lift the lid on the laundry and see more about my books and articles. Check out the retreats including a brand new one in Colorado. Put yourself on my Kitchen Table Tour or make plans to meet me in San Francisco, Houston or Kansas City soon.

Find what you need. Take what you find. Come home to a place you never knew you’d left. Right here.

***

With reverence for the illustrious eye of photographer Tracey Clark, and the artful hand of Eric Curtis at RGB Design Studio.

Bless this best: a New Year’s message

December 31st, 2009    -    7 Comments

My friends at the Shambhala SunSpace blog asked me to write a New Year’s blessing for their readers. It runs today somewhere over there, and I invite you to have a look. Then I thought, why don’t I just record it and share it with everyone who’s listening? I hope that includes you and that you share it with all you love.

Here’s to your best new year!

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The first of everything

December 21st, 2009    -    6 Comments

“If you don’t see the Way you don’t see it even as you walk on it.” – The Identity of Relative and Absolute

In this week of returns and revelations, I’m leaving sand on your doorstep with a few repeat posts. Enjoy your time!

The sandwiches are packed; the watermelon sliced. Today I take the kids to the beach. It is the one day every summer every year that we do this: at season’s end, the four of us, giddy to go, spit-roasted on return. With me: the two teenagers who were once my babysitter’s babies, plus the baby who was once my own.

I believe in cycles like this, in anniversaries and observed traditions. But then, what’s to believe? They come on their own, the returns and repetitions, as reliable as seasons because they are seasons. All of life is a season. We dance in a circle the whole way! The rhythm insistent and true – our part is but to hear the music and move.

Next week we end these short summer months with a true family vacation. Venturing up north, where the ocean is darker, the air misty, the forests thick. Yesterday I remembered that Big Sur was the last vacation destination my husband and I took before Georgia was born. Hardly a vacation, it was the place that the full catastrophe of my sickness was felt, and the shock of its sudden conclusion would bear down. We spent three days roaming and moaning the northern coast, and on return, I was hospitalized. Georgia was born too soon after. This Sunday is the anniversary of her coming home.

So I’m riding the waves and wind these days, again, and next week I’ll find myself back at the first of everything. All over again. Completely new.

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Least grain

December 20th, 2009    -    9 Comments


“If you don’t see the Way you don’t see it even as you walk on it.” – The Identity of Relative and Absolute

In this week of returns and revelations, I’m leaving sand on your doorstep with a few repeat posts. Enjoy your time!

We are weekending at a shimmery stretch of coastline known as Crystal Cove. It is one of my husband’s most sentimentally favorite places. We spent his 40th birthday here ___ years ago. It was the site of our first family vacation, when Georgia was nine months old, the disbelieving dawn of my awareness that I could leave the house for more than an hour at a time.

Back then, it was a week of firsts. Georgia crawled for the first time, putt-putting in a forward sway across the putrid shag carpet in our beach rental. We shopped nearby in Laguna Beach, where I stepped inside a clothing shop for the first time since giving birth and let a wise saleswoman cajole me out of my baggy sweat pants and back into a facsimile of me. I carried my cranky girl twice daily down the lonely curve of sand and saw for the first time how she dropped straightaway to sleep to nothing but the sound of the ocean.

Shwoosh
Shwoosh

Shwoosh

That discovery alone saved our lives every day and night for the next four years.

Shwoosh
Shwoosh

And now it is a weekend of returns and repeats. The cove of beach cottages has been lately reclaimed and restored, and although it lightly approaches the Disneyfication that passes as some kind of global standard of entertainment, it as raw and real as only the ocean can be. My younger sister, a recent transplant from Texas, now lives nearby and, more than that, genuinely occupies our lives. Enough proof for me that in this ceaseless cycle of comings and goings, there is a perfect order and rhythm that can never be foretold.

Shwoosh
Shwoosh

Shwoosh

On the beach nearby us was a young couple with a tantruming two-year-old wrangling out of their clutches as they tried to slather him with sunscreen. He roared and wailed above the pounding surf. I can see now how in the life of a two-year-old nearly everything is an outrage and an imposition; nearly everything is foisted at them with the rudest of good intentions. Now I understand the screams, although for most of that year Georgia and I went nose to nose in mutual mortification.

Shwoosh
Shwoosh

Today I heard the waves, the same old waves, anew. The ocean tells us over and over to accord ourselves with the rhythm of life, with the movement of life, like grains of sand on the beach, lifted up and carried back, sunken deep and then roiled forward again, staying nowhere, flung through air and water to what is but the next temporary abode, the impermanent address, and that it is only in this change itself, this perpetual unrest, holding nothing, that we can ever find true rest.

All that and hot dogs too.

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The way we are

May 29th, 2009    -    24 Comments

As a farewell to backpedaling Mercury, whose retrograde ends this Saturday, thereby closing reopened chapters and resolving unfinished business, awkward pauses and anxious backward glances, I offer this parting remembrance of last year’s fire:

We evacuated the house yesterday, probably the last people to be evacuated, because as soon as we drove away the mountain cooled to a wispy simmer and they started letting folks return. We had already loaded up a week’s worth of clothes, assorted papers, dusty photo albums and baby videos, the dog and the dog crate, with the potholders, yes those very potholders, at the bottom of the suitcase. That talisman alone probably turned history on its heels.

And for the record, as Georgia swept through her room choosing those few things she would rescue, she donned her pink Disneyland cap and her Girl Scout vest. She strode out bedecked with badges and pins, under a pair of mouse ears. That precious glimpse of who she is, who she is right now, was proof enough that there’s no need – ever – to look back.

***
My 400th post. Proof enough of the wonders ahead.

Originally published on April 29, 2008 as my 200th post.

Lost shoes, found days

January 2nd, 2009    -    18 Comments


Update: Miracles underfoot!

Tomorrow I’m going to have to drop into my reliable local bookstore to buy a 2009 wall calendar. The kind with trite pictures of lotus ponds and such. I always stick one on my kitchen cabinet to track comings and goings in the heart of our home: vacations, school holidays, washer repairs, flea treatments, the important stuff. It’s amazing to me that I haven’t been given a calendar this year. One or a hundred and one, which heretofore has been the custom. The current lack seems weirdly suited to the state of suspension we’re all in, this limbo in-between the end and the beginning of so many unfathomable things. It’s not surprising that no one could muster the faith this season to look far forward. No matter, I can find the coming days on my own.

Last night I was at the temple for our traditional New Year’s services: chanting and bowing in fusatsu or atonement ceremony, followed by meditation across the midnight hour, then the spectacle, (for us spartans anyway), of revolving the sutras, a kind of blessing ceremony. I was more than once reminded of the power and reach of this anniversary. New Year’s Eve is an anniversary in and by itself, of time’s eternal beginning, and then a personal anniversary in each of our lives.

It is the anniversary of the night my husband lost his shoes in a crowd of Buddhists, for instance. A loss in which everything unexpected was later found.

It was soon after I began my practice with Maezumi Roshi and I then met my husband-to-be in a restaurant in Florence, Italy; a husband-to-be that lived in Los Angeles, glory be, while I was still a wanderlusting south Texan. It seemed too eerily easy that I should begin an affair with an eligible guy in LA, and the obviousness of it prompted Maezumi to say, “Invite him for tea.” So my guy came for the first time to Zen Center of LA to meet Maezumi in the lull of New Year’s Eve before a traditional ceremony much like the one I was at again last night.

Impressionable, my boyfriend and I were both mildly terrified by the extreme auspiciousness of the favor: to be Roshi’s guests in his home on this night of nights. Once arrived, my boyfriend took off his shoes outside the door.

He never found them again.

There were many people there that night, many people inclined to wear the ubiquitous shoe fashion of the time, black Reeboks. After the services, after the time for putting shoes back on, long after everyone but my husband-to-be had his or her own shoes snuggly back on his or her feet, I went around in the crowd inspecting the shod.

“Are those your shoes?” I would say, pointing at the very shoes on their feet. “Are they really your shoes?”

I didn’t find anyone not wearing his or her own shoes. We didn’t find any shoes unworn.

My boyfriend left his first encounter with Zen sans footwear. (I’ve tried to leave everything else since then, but alas, I’m still holding on to a lot of unnecessary freight.) In his socks, he drove me to his apartment late that night, and he was pissed.

It’s easy to see the metaphor in this. He and I left behind a familiar road on that night, a well-worn footpath, the way things were. We went on, of course, getting over it, finding our way, uncushioned, unprotected, by a different route, to an altogether unimaginable future. We left behind more than a pair of shoes, but losing your shoes can indeed be an auspicious start to a whole new way.

Wishing you abundant lost shoes and found days, because sometimes it takes one to have the other, and I want you to have it all.

Something new about the new

December 28th, 2008    -    8 Comments


For the last 15 years, there’s been only one way for me to observe the New Year.

By observing it.

Come, find me there, and let’s get this party started!

You are too good to be untrue

November 23rd, 2008    -    29 Comments

To you, to me, to everyone cradling a secret wish or a distant dream. Read this through, see what comes, leave your disbelief under the shade of a strong and fragrant cedar, and trust your life as it unfolds.

On the day you were born
the grass danced
the air sang
the sun bowed low in patient sway to every night’s partner,
her full and rounded mystery,
the stars harmonized
a still and silent
hallelujah symphony
the ocean rocked the earth beneath a foggy vest,
your rich and ready nest,
your mother and father,
every mother and father,
came together and apart
trusting their lives for you
making a place for you
to come home.
You are too good to be untrue.

A welcome blessing for Cedar Leonard Kroon, in full amazement and gratitude for life.

Now, leave your own wish here for what you may not yet believe could come true, and let’s see, let’s just see, what unfolds.

Disputation on the sudden appearance of sunlight

October 16th, 2008    -    13 Comments


Because we are longing for the slightest glimmer of change on the horizon, and because it can be seen.

Day before yesterday I was pulling weeds or raking leaves or some such that comprises my morning rounds on this ranch and I heard the buzz of chainsaws, then the crack of a branch and breathed a gust of dust that came over the back fence.

The property to the rear is derelict and has been for decades, overgrown with monstrous trees and thickets, a forgotten ramble and a pit, with ragged shacks and sheds and a wildlife population so vile that we could only smile and call it Raccoon Lodge. I’d noticed on my strolls when the lot had gone on the market, the near eternity that it had been sale-pending and knew with the noise that the closing date had been crossed.

The routine rumble we’ve always heard on our street has been quiet of late, a deafening lull, as the upgrades and add-ons and even tree trims wait for the return of good days and easy money. It might be awhile coming. It might be a good, bad, sad, tight, taut, crying out loud long time ’til those days are here again. With everything and all getting worse and no way to tell, I don’t mind too much that something blasphemously new and huge is probably about to go up adjacent to me.

I don’t mind anymore. Because about four o’clock yesterday afternoon, after the crew had quit, and the work was done, and I walked into my kitchen, and I looked out the window toward the western sky, I saw the wide open sky, through my own leafy cover, the dreamy blue and the streaming sun, the light that had been eclipsed for so long by the tangle of rotten trees and vines, by the dark of gloom, by an unkempt past. I saw the sun, I saw the future, and I saw the incalculable density of dog hair, glistening gold each and every strand, hair that blankets my floors, heretofore unseen, and I knew the truth with a certainty that I must speak and console you with here.

It’s going to be okay. We’re going to be fine. The light has arrived.

That, and a merciful vacuum cleaner.

You won’t believe what I don’t believe

September 5th, 2008    -    17 Comments


From time to time I’m asked this question: What do Buddhists believe? I like to respond that Buddhism requires no beliefs, but that’s rather hard to believe. And so I offer this.

I believe in love. Not the love that is the enemy of hate, but the love that has no enemies or rivals, no end and no beginning, no justification and no reason at all. Love and hate are completely unrelated and incomparable. Hate is born of human fear. Love is never born, which is to say, it is eternal and absolutely fearless. This love does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in truth. Not the truth that is investigated or exposed, interpreted or debated. But the truth that is revealed, inevitably and without a doubt, right in front of my eyes. All truth is self-revealed; it just doesn’t always appear as quickly or emphatically as I’d like it to. This truth does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in freedom. Not the freedom that is confined or decreed by ideology, but the freedom that is free of all confining impositions, definitions, expectations and doctrines. Not the freedom in whose name we tremble and fight, but the freedom that needs no defense. This freedom does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in justice. Not the justice that is deliberated or prosecuted; not that is weighed or measured or meted by my own corruptible self-interest. I believe in the unfailing precision of cause and effect, the universal and inviolable law of interdependence. It shows itself to me in my own suffering every single time I act with a savage hand, a greedy mind or a selfish thought. It shows itself in the state of the world, and the state of the mind, we each inhabit. This justice does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in peace. Not the peace that is a prize. Not the peace that can be won. There is no peace in victory; there is only lasting resentment, recrimination and pain. The peace I seek is the peace that surpasses all understanding. It is the peace that is always at hand when I empty my hand. No matter what you believe, this peace does not require belief, it requires practice.

I believe in wisdom. Not the wisdom that is imparted or achieved; not the wisdom sought or the wisdom gained. But the wisdom that we each already own as our birthright. The wisdom that manifests in our own clear minds and selfless hearts, and that we embody as love, truth, freedom, justice and peace. The wisdom that is practice.

***

I invite you, once again, to join me at another one-day beginner’s meditation retreat at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 21. I know it is too far, too much, too long, too impossible to ask, and I understand. I just believe in asking.

A time and place for unicorns

August 13th, 2008    -    19 Comments

“The unicorn is the only fabulous beast that does not seem to have been conceived out of human fears. In even the earliest references he is fierce yet good, selfless yet solitary, but always mysteriously beautiful. He could be captured only by unfair means, and his single horn was said to neutralize poison.” –The Unicorn and the Lake

That my daughter, for all her outsized dreams, could be satisfied with only a bedspread for this birthday is something I regard as fabulous. One look and you might not share my opinion of it, but I am a selfless saint, or so it helps we sinners to encourage ourselves daily.

Yesterday I asked her if she wanted to change out her old quilt for the new one, and we did. Off came the patchwork spread that had cushioned her across that first fearsome transition to the big bed. Fadeworn and soft. Off too the menagerie of stuffed animals, the easier for her to swoon at the sight of her new beloved.

“And what about Fay?” I asked. Fay is a three-foot-long stuffed pink unicorn, perhaps the most fabulous gift ever bestowed on a four-year-old, as big as she was when an infatuated little friend named Noah hauled it in to the birthday party five years ago. I was faintly disturbed by its sheer heft, the volume of space it dislocated on the bed. But Georgia adored it and she named it herself: Fay, which was my mother’s middle name, although my mother had died even before Georgia turned two. Did she understand?

“What about Fay?” I’d asked. And she proceeded to tell me a new and fabulous story, of how Fay should now be on the floor, behind the chair, by the turtle tank, for when Daddy needed to kneel down, and protect his knees, and such like that, her tone earnest and good.

I understood.

I understood completely.

There is a time and place for unicorns named Fay, that mysteriously gentle phantasm, the transition between first and last, then and now, hello and goodbye.

I miss my baby. I miss my mommy too.

I release them both into the wild.

Hand wash cold

May 9th, 2008    -    4 Comments


A reprise, because somebody somewhere knows what this means.

I recently ordered a set of samue. Samue is a style of street clothing for Zen monks. This tiny piece of printed rice paper came tucked into the garment. I have no idea what it says, and for that very reason, I find it quite charming.

I imagine it could be laundry instructions. Maybe it says “Inspected by No. 12.”

It reminds me that, with only a change in perspective, the most ordinary things take on inexpressible beauty.

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