Posts Tagged ‘Dharma’

Enough already

June 25th, 2007    -    6 Comments


My life is one continuous mistake – Dogen Zenji

This is a picture of the season’s first water lily from my backyard pond. It seems ubiquitous, doesn’t it? A pond and a water lily? You never see one without the other. In truth, a water lily blooms only in the full sun of summer. Specifically, it only blooms under the shadowless midday, high-heat summer sun. That means it blooms for way less than half a day during way less than half a year. Its bloom is so rare, as a matter of fact, that I had to hold up this post until I could actually get a photograph of any one of our two dozen water lilies in bloom.

Now, would you call that bloom rate a success or a failure as far as flowers go? Would you call it a mistake? A half-measure? A near-miss? A critical success but a marketing failure?

If it were anything other than a water lily, say if it was your life’s work, or your life, you probably would judge it. I know I would, and I do. By output, uptake, download, click through, sales rate, tally mark; by any weight or number, my life is one continuous mistake. This is the burden I bear as I write this; this is the atlas unshrugged.

My life is one continuous.

Several weeks ago I started this blog, just as several years ago I started to write. I started both of these things as I know all writers do: for themselves, or more precisely, for itself. We, most of us writers, write for its own sake. We write because we must, because it is what we do. The words come from someplace else. We are merely the conveyers. We don’t quite manufacture, but rather more accurately, supply our product, like the ice cream man, or the Tupperware lady. The ideas, the inventories, build up, and then we take them to the streets and sound a tinkling tune; we put on a little word party and invite readers into our own home. Of course, there are hardly any ice cream men or Tupperware ladies left anymore. More failing propositions.

I started writing this for myself, and now I am chased once more by the numbers. I look around and see other writers, other bloggers, more skilled, I daresay even expert at the tags and the rankings, the rings and the pings, the views, the ticket-taking, and the turnstile. And then I catch myself. This post is my way of catching myself from falling that way again. Falling into my judging, measuring and weighing mind, my discursive, ego-screaming mind where nothing ever blooms enough.

My life is one.

Look at the water lily!

Hand wash cold

June 24th, 2007    -    1 Comment

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.

Way station

June 15th, 2007    -    5 Comments


I have an unusual backyard full of old and unusual things. Sometimes when I find out that people need help, that they are struggling with fear or illness, anxiety or worse, I say, “I’ll go into the backyard right now and say a service.” And I just open the door, step into the garden and say a chant, which is a prayer.

It’s the least I can do; it’s the most I can do; it’s the only thing I can truly do.

Then I come back in and empty the dishwasher.

Lately it seems I hear those kinds of things a lot. I hear about women, my friends and sisters, strangers and soulmates, waiting for their children, waiting for the news, waiting for arrival, waiting for a turn, waiting for health and optimism, waiting for benevolence, waiting for a safe haven, waiting to start again.

This is who hears all of that. This is Jizo, a kind of Buddhist guardian of women and children and travelers (because aren’t we travelers all?). She is in my backyard, she stands watch and hears prayers. She does this for you, because who else could there ever be?

Take comfort today. Take comfort always.

Mercy me

June 12th, 2007    -    2 Comments


Oh my goodness. We had the most remarkable visitor here at our house this weekend. A peacock.

She was a peahen, actually, and you could skeptically discount her appearance as less than miraculous. We do live a mile or so from the Los Angeles County Arboretum where the birds have their run of the place. Occasionally you see a posse of them strutting around town. But we’re a bit farther above and beyond the typical range.

It was one, alone, flitting amid the bamboo, nibbling beneath the wisteria.

“It’s an auspicious sign,” I said, as I am wont to say about most things, mainly because I love the word “auspicious” and especially love the way it sounds, so round and full in the mouth, so deliciously sibilant. I find it easy to love words, far easier, for example, than loving anything else. “Maybe she’s roosting,” I said, as she squatted atop the garden gate.

And so, later on, after she’d left for the day, I googled to find the meaning. “Chinese symbol peacock” I typed in, and there she was, in plain sight. Kuan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion, of mercy, of love, she who hears the cries of the world, and responds eternally, effortlessly with her thousand arms and eyes. Kuan Yin, the essence of what we are: pure love, and not just a word for it. I’m like her number one fan!

Sometimes, only rarely, I can see so plainly that the dharma–the true teaching–is not something that I have to find elsewhere. It is not something to study or acquire. It is not something to do. It is not a metaphor for something else. It is all there is! Yes, like all signs we encounter in our life, the peacock is auspicious. “Enter here,” she reminds me. “This means you.”

Roost here, old girl, roost here.

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