Being the Buddha That Is

“When you suffer you should suffer. When you feel good you should feel good. Sometimes you should be a crying Buddha. And sometimes you should be a very happy Buddha.”
~ Shunryu Suzuki

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Buddhas in the garden at 金閣寺  Kinkakuji Zen temple Kyoto Japan 2014

So fellow travelers, a creative tribemate recently posted this quote.

Shunryu Suzuki was required reading in a comparative religions class I took in college. Zen Buddhism’s emphasis on acceptance of what is has always been both it’s most compelling and most challenging dynamic for me.

Accepting what is when one is happy or at peace comes far easier than accepting what is when one is suffering or sad.

Yet I know it is resistance to pain or sadness, the struggle to be other than what is which intensifies and prolongs suffering.

During the years I endured migraine headaches, I learned a meditation technique which allowed me to find an empty, pain free “space” within the headache. I was never able to maintain it for more than a few minutes at a time, but those few minutes often provided essential relief when I most needed it. To get there I had to sit with the pain.

As the school year is drawing (thankfully) to a close I am begining to reflect on it’s chaos and realized I needed to “sit with the pain” so I gave myself a day of being with the full range of feelings embedded in the past eight months. In essence I stopped struggling to be anything other than frustrated, angry, disappointed, confused, sad and tired. This allowed awareness to shine through the darkness.

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Fountain in Nikko, Japan 2014

Suddenly it was clear so many changes had happened in such rapid succession I never had time to recenter before the next onslaught.  In essence I have been in “survival mode” for eight long months. Even the reset function of both winter and spring breaks had been offset by situations which blindsided our whole team within days of returning from each school break.

Maintaining confidentiality protocol I’ll refrain from specifics. From a mindfulness perspective the details themselves are irrelevant. Response is more relevant than details. The difference between mindful response and mindless reaction is crucial to establishing Inner Equilibrium. Becoming aware of how difficult it has been to stay in response rather than reaction mode it is clear I have some adjustments to make going forward. 

Just the thought of going forward makes me a happier Buddha.

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Rest then go forward

Step out on the mindful path

Buddha heart within

 

 

 

 

 

Jizo, Buddha of lost souls.  Japanese Gardens, Portland Oregon 2014

Walk gently on the path my friends and may peace bless your journey.

 

 

 

Zen Moment : Rising Crescent Moon

So fellow travelers, a sudden thunderstorm filled  the evening air heavy with cold damp air.

Trinity of Lights*

Stepping out for the last dog run of the night, I looked up and saw the waxing crescent moon rising above the big maple tree by our little pond.  A tree frog’s evening serenade set this flow of words in motion.

Sun sinks below the horizon

pulling all light beyond the edge

abandoned

alone

as darkness closes in until

a silver crescent cracks the night 

and one lone frog sings out 

a kindred soul 

in search of hope

Sunday evenings have brought increasing heaviness as this challenging school year evolved. However, this extended holiday weekend provided much needed respite to help me reset my energies for the final weeks left. I have never been so glad to see a year come to a close. When it is finally done I will spend the summer building on some insights I have gleaned from the chaos.

Forward. No need to look back. Onward to a path of greater Light.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

*Postscript: for those who inquired, the “floating” green sphere is a solar lantern with a green wicker exterior that hangs by our pond. The other two lights are a porch window and of course the crescent moon.

Solitary Loonacy: One Bird at a Time

So fellow travelers, the preliminary tally results from last weekend’s birding marathon just came out.

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While my final tally of 73 species is not in the top ten on the team list, I felt a little swell of pride seeing my tally listed higher than several teams of seasoned birders. Not a bad showing for my first solo “flight,” given the challenges of being afield without my longtime Birdathon teammate aka Favorite Younger Daughter.

Little did I know how sparsely scattered those tallied sightings would be. Our basic strategy has always been to hit known hotspots as early as possible giving us the option to track unusual sightings at locations in between throughout the day.

Those hot spots were unusually quiet, missing many of the songbirds that pass through during migration season.  In most of these spots I would find more memories than birds.

Sterling Nature Center Heron Rookery where Team Loonatics scored our first owl sighting last year.

So I spent a lot of time scouting side trails and second guessing possible back up locations. Some sightings of more common species I probably missed because I could not simultaneously drive and watch along the roadside. There’s where that second pair of eyes has always been a crucial part of our teamwork.

Perhaps more than any individual sighting my most significant discovery on this solo quest was the joy embedded in the process we had laid down in our years as a Mother-Daughter birding team. My fellow Loonatic may have been several thousand miles away yet her spirit echoed in every favorite moment of this solo run.

Hidden in plain sight

One bird’s song gives voice to love

Echoes in my heart

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

Solitary Loonacy: First Solo Flight

So fellow travelers, a year ago I posted a photo and poem about a  heartfelt moment during an annual birding expedition with Favorite Youngest Daughter. This weekend I returned to that spot and captured this image.

It was my first stop on this year’s Birdathon challenge, an annual event I joined for the first time in 2005. ( it’s background is in a previous post too) . As excellent a spot as Potter Road Marsh can be for birding, I had a more personal reason for starting my day’s adventure there. Like the mist on the water that morning a year ago, emotions embedded in the moment I had captured drifted through my consciousness as I prepared for this year’s expedition.

For the first time in ten years I would be flying solo. I had no illusions of breaking our tally record of one hundred and one species without my Team Loonatics partner, Favorite Youngest Daughter, whose expert ear for both pitch and cadence and accurate note taking skills were a major contribution to our final tallies. Still I had strong hopes of being able to find most of the species I could confidently identify independently and I wanted to fuel my “can do” attittude by starting the 24 hour challenge at the spot where inspiration had left a powerful memory.

Windows wide open inspite of the chilly morning temperatures, I drove towards the marsh, counting every song I heard along the way.  By the time I reached the trailhead just fifteen minutes from my house I had tallied nine common birds which I carefully marked on the checklist. Bear in mind first light was just emerging through cracks in the night sky, so I was finding birds only by calls

Stepping out of my car, I heard the sweet melodic song of a wood thrush, so loud and clear, I knew it had to be close to the trail head.  Binoculars in one hand, I moved along the trail as soundlessly as possible. Just a few steps past the trailhead I found the bird sitting in plain sight on a tree branch a few feet above me, so close I never had to raise my binoculars, I had such a clear view. Clear that is until sudden tears blurred my vision, ambushed by a memory from one of our first birdathon trips when a wood thrush had hopped out of the brush and onto a trail right in front of us. My daughter and I instantly froze in place and watched as the bird tilted its head as if looking quizically at these odd big shapes in the path. It hopped a few more steps then flew up into a tree and sang it’s signature flute like melody loud and clear before retreating deeper in the woods.

Left speechless, it had taken me a few breaths to answer my then ten year old daughter’s question of what bird that had been. Inspite of finding wood thrushes many times before, an actual sighting had always eluded me.  I remember, as a new birder taking a guided walk at a local nature center where everyone in the group I was with was able to spot a wood thrush in the trees. Everyone, but me that is, as the elusive songster kept zipping from branch to branch hidden behind leaves as I frantically focused and refocused my binoculars to get a clear view.  This “heard clearly, almost but not quite saw it,” moment was repeated for several years over many auditory encounters until that first full view on our second Birdathon adventure. The wonderful memory of that shared moment rose as clear as the notes filling the morning air and I whispered just as I had ten years ago “wood thrush, it’s really and truly a wood thrush.”

WoodThrush

Wood Thrush song spectrogram from Birds of North Ameirca Online; music from Oiseaux Exotiques © 1959 Universal Edition (London) Ltd., London/UE 13008. Photo by Janet Heintz via Birdshare.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

After the Storm

So fellow travelers,  the first big thunderstorm of the season blew through earlier this evening.

Tree frogs are serenading me to sleep through open windows for the first time this year.

Night falls tree frogs sing

Gusting winds and rain abate

Calm after the storm

 Walk gently on the path my friends and may you rest well this nearly summer night.

A Hug from Heaven

So fellow travelers, as Mother’s Day dawns soon, I am mindful of what a gift it is spend the day with my Mom. For those I know whose Moms have left this life,  these words are my gift for you and your Angels.

The sun never sets

on a mother’s love she lives

always in our hearts

Walk gently on the path my friends and may simple joy bless your journey.

Rain

So fellow travelers, a breach of trust is hard to overcome.

Time heals all wounds. Sometimes rain helps the process.

Angels’ tears fall as

Life giving rain gracious gift

Hope for those who thirst

Walk gently on the path my friends and may simple joy bless your journey. 

Corner Jazz

So fellow travelers, taking in the sounds of a Friday evening downtown, letting the mellow tones of a street corner musician soothe ragged edges of a tough week.


​Corner Jazzman riffs

Passing car horns keep the beat

City summer night.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Sailing with Vinnie:  Chasing the Horizon

So fellow travelers, a while back I wrote about a creative adventure involving some Van Gogh inspired art for a good cause.

Sailing with Vinnie the final version.

A few of my friends commented on my project; one thing led to another and soon I was signed up for several paint events with various groups of friends at a local art studios.

One session held at a small independant studio session had a distinctly different atmosphere from the Van Gogh fund raiser, which was held at a locally owned franchise studio. The concept of creating a painting in a casual setting was the same but participants could choose different paintings. The supervising artist walked around our stations giving us simple step by step directions for our chosen artwork. We shared snacks and beverages, chatted about our families, concerns about current events and joked about our not so artistic abilities.

This last bit was one thing our studio host was quick to turn around. She would point out elements in our paintings that worked well, giving simple suggestions and encouraging each person to step back and look at their painting from a difference perspective. She gently reinforced the intention of working on different paintings is to minimize self-judgments and comparisions with others.

We judged ourselves anyways.

Why do we demean our creativity so definitively? Artistic endeavors do not have to produce  a masterpiece every time. Not one of the great artists through all the centuries could do that. Where is it written we have to be good at art to enjoy making it? We cut ourselves out of too many opportunities to try something new expectations of mastery.

Still, I understand the tendency to be overly critical.

I always end up tinkering with my work afterwards until enough of the “not quite right” spots are “good enough.” 

This scene from the recent painting class sat on my easel at home for a couple of weeks until I adjusted a few little details that nagged at me. One of the Adirondack chairs looked awkward, there were some areas in the water where the color was off and a smudge along one of the tree lines that needed “erasing”.  Thank heavens for the forgiving nature of acrylic paint. 

It’s been a little surprising to find how much joy I feel while painting. When my daughters were young I gave myself the gift of taking art classes for a few years. The busyness of life slowly encroached on my creative time and my art supplies were packed away for close to a decade. Coming back to the easel now I find, awkward smudges aside, the “masterpiece” syndrome holds less power over my process. Trusting my instincts of how a painting feels as it unfolds helps me tune out the voice of my Inner Critic. When my work looks right to me it is “good” art. Inspired by the pieces I accomplished in the past few months, I’ve been grabbing little snippets of time to work on an unfinished landscape left over from my summer art class days many years ago.

So now there is a stack of blank canvases in my art corner and the long days of summer vacation about a month away hold the promise of creative horizons yet to be sailed.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Accepting Joy

So fellow travelers, each morning a thought for the day arrives by email.

Good morning. Here comes your morning moment of zen.

Today’s message spoke of acceptance.  More specifically, it referenced accepting our part in a Bigger Plan of what’s unfolding in this life.

That’s been a challenge for me this year, yet slowly I am coming around to comprehending some of the pieces.

In my adolescent years, I knew with the brash certainty of youth there could be no Grand Plan. Life’s twisted circumstances were far too random to make any sense. Along the way to here and now, my experiences with unexpected serendipity and Universal Consciousness gradually brought me back to center.

Dawn kissed dew scatters fairy lights across fresh spring grass.

 

Those experiences were more likely to be a glint of sunlight than a flash of cosmic lightning. The lessons came as quiet whispers, gentle reminders of inner truths waiting to be heard. This not to say my journey did not have it’s crash and burn episodes.

I’m grateful for those tough lessons too. Grateful to have come through stronger, more aware if not outright wiser and most of all with a deeper compassion for those who suffer or struggle.

If this belief in the inter-connectedness of life through all space and time is a simple minded attempt to give meaning to my otherwise insignificant journey, well, I’ll take that as it is. After all I crave simplicity more than ever these days.

Like the simple joy of catching golden light at sunrise in a shimmering dew drop.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.