Tag Archives: meditation

Edgy

Port Townsend July 2019

Doomscrolling. Pandemic. Police brutality. The disaster that is the president. Election malfeasance. The dissolution of the postal service. A mediocre Democratic presidential candidate (for whom I root!). Sexism, patriarchy, misogyny. CLIMATE CHANGE. (Remember that?!) Drought. Wildfire. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Floods. The rise of Neo-Nazis and other white supremacy groups. Systemic white supremacy. Hate crimes. People being selfish, going maskless because they hyperfocus on personal civil liberty, and to hell with anybody else. New school year beginning, with some schools opening in person, and others distance learning. The added stress to families related to this. Hungry families. Millions of unemployed people. Millions facing eviction. Millions facing medical crises beyond Covid-19. Death.

Where’s my fucking handbasket??

So here is a metaphorical selfie. I’m all spiky these days. And purple, as usual. Sometimes, there are moments in my day when I sit still, and quietly count my breaths. Time passes, and somehow equanimity lands on me like a honeybee, for just that moment. And the moment after that. And the moment, and the moment…

And I remember what I’ve said to my daughter when she is anxious:

Do you know in your heart, and feel, that you are loved?
Yes.
Are you being eaten by a tiger right now?
No.
Then you are okay.

I’m tempted to whine, “What have we come to, that the bar for well-being is so low?” What follows is the realization that I have lived an immensely privileged life for a couple of decades. There was a time when I did not have material and financial ease, or even enough. I lived in rigid anxiety and stress. There are millions of people who live this daily. The truth is, life as most of us live it — future oriented — has always been uncertain, uncontrollable, unknowable. It’s just that before the pandemic, most of us suppressed this truth; we’d whistle past the graveyard and pretend we’re in control.

Then I remember a quote my mother loved, by St. Julian of Norwich.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

How can this be true? It feels like a koan. It can sit right next to another koan: “Not knowing is most intimate.” Come and sit with me. Leave a comment if interested.

Taking Stock

“Dharma practice is founded on resolve. This is not an emotional conversion, a devastating realization of the error of our ways, a desperate urge to be good, but an ongoing, heartfelt reflection on priorities, values, and purpose. We need to keep taking stock of our life in an unsentimental, uncompromising way.”

— Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism without Beliefs

Reflections on Sesshin

Almost six years ago I sat my first sesshin at Hazy Moon Zen Center. I did not return, for many reasons and rationalizations. But when my teacher put a winter weekend sesshin on the calendar, I committed to come. It was wonderful sitting with so many people and creating community. These are some small reflections on my experience. A huge rainstorm visited LA, unusual and impressive for California, and a gesture from nature that we might be worthy of deliverance from drought.

Practice has become a priority. Six years will not pass before I sit sesshin again.
———

Reflections on Sesshin

Rain strikes the city
like a kyosaku startling
dusty streets awake.

The rain converses
with the windows
while water gushing
through gutters holds
a debate with the sidewalk.

Nearly six whole years past
the rooster still crows at dawn
in downtown L.A.

I met my match
outwaited her impatience
wrestled her on the mat
until she cried
not my way, the Way
then bowed
and walked into the day.

–Kathryn Harper

IMG_20170210_110830565

Brief Notes of an Adventure

I just returned from my first sesshin at Hazy Moon Zen Center. It was fruitful. I’m tired and glad to be home. All that I experienced is settling, so I hesitate to write extensively about it. Here are some brief reflections. The first one is from my drive down, when I stopped at San Luis Reservoir for a break. The entire drive leads through two mountain ranges (the Diablo Mountains with the Pacheco Pass and the Tehachapi Mountains with the Tejon Pass) and the central valley; it’s beautiful country. It’s a six hour drive (one way) — which is just right.
—–

Brief Notes of an Adventure

The lake — a bowl of glitter!
Winds whisper to water,
waves murmur replies.
A crow flies, snail snared
in its beak.
—–

Rooster crows, broom sweeps.
A car growls to life.
Helicopters thump the sky.
Pigeon wings slap air.
Sirens keen, dogs bark.
Zazen in L.A.
—–

My food – Advil.
My nectar – water.
My balm – sleep.
—–

Now the cushion
Now the breath
Now the work.
Samadhi does not
come in a box or book.
It cannot be imagined
or conjured.
Bells, incense, bows, chants
bring dignity and form
to the formless.
But above all,
it is about the work.
Breath.
Samadhi.
—–

Cresting the mountain,
valley a blanket spread low;
slices of miles served –
feast towards home.

–Kathryn Harper