a time of contemplation…

Stay at Home Order … day 8 plus 14 seclusion retreat days

The true person is
Not anyone in particular;
But, like the deep blue color
Of the limitless sky,
It is everyone, everywhere in the world
.

~Eihei Dōgen

Nikon D750 f/1.8 1/4000 35mm 200 ISO


Yesterday my mother came to visit…it was a remembered touch that announced her arrival not as the frail woman with a fierce determination time had transformed from the woman who carried with her the stature of Danish Vikings…warriors, explorers, conquerors, survivors.  The English genes of a woman whose life was colored by an incessant search for union with God, an unquestioning moral and social mandate, and an aloneness I did not know. 

She visited as my mom and walked alongside me as I gathered the ingredients for homemade soup, she watched me — with discerning eyes — as I made the bed and gathered the laundry, and she sat with me as I flipped through a photo book of fading memories. Memories…the mundane moments swept away into darkness by brooms of discontent, negation, and yes…shame. The shame that arises from a felt sense of a marginalized family’s “being different.”

She woke the memory within the shifting images of a night when I saw her sitting alone within the silence of deafness nested within the silence of night.  Before her was a topsy-turvy pile of children’s scuffed and worn shoes. I watched her from the doorway, hiding as I did not want to be sent back to bed, slowly polishing each one and then matching them into pairs, forming a straight row — creating a sense of order.  When her eyes acknowledged my presence, she invited me to sit alongside her.  Moments passed as I felt her listening presence…a mother and a daughter sitting quietly in a dimly lit room, a protective barrier. 

As this remembering faded, I felt a gentle gaze that spoke of a silent loving-kindness. It was as if she came from a place of waiting knowing that the barriers that blocked me from being receptive to the multiple color threads that weaved her life had begun to weaken and fade and — for the first time — I entered, felt, and embraced her aloneness. And she, in return, eased the discontent that ebbs and flows throughout this time of uncertain isolation.

I have often wondered, since her passing, that if we had met – not as mother-daughter but as children in a playground would she have wanted to be my friend?

everything in the cosmos…

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For a table to exist, we need wood, a carpenter, time, skillfulness, and many other causes. And each of these causes needs other causes to exist. The wood needs the forest, the sunshine, the rain, and so on. The carpenter needs his parents, breakfast, fresh air, and so on. And each of these things, in turn, has to be brought about by other conditions. If we look in this way, we’ll see that nothing has been left out. Everything in the cosmos has come together to bring us this table. Looking deeply at the sunshine, the leaves on the tree, and the clouds, we can see the table. The one can be seen in the all, and the all can be seen in the one.

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching

wpc: 2017 favorites

Standing quietly by the fence,

you smile your wondrous smile.

I am speechless, and my senses are filled

by the sounds of your beautiful song,

beginningless and endless.

I bow deeply to you.

~Quach Thoai (describing the appearance of a dahlia: Thich Nhat Hanh, Fragrant Palm Leaves)

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2017 Favorites

an object of perception

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The spring sunlight, flowers blooming, and green trees create a landscape that looks like embroidery. This is an object of perception and it’s a beautiful thing to focus on. …if we don’t consider the role of our mind, and just focus on what we see as the independent reality around us, there will be contradictions.

The Vietnamese poet Nguyen Du said, ‘When a person is sad, the scenery is never happy.’ How we are feeling determines how we see the world. Why are some people able to experience happiness when they look at the moon and see its beauty, while others see the same moon as sad or depressing? This question can’t be answered unless both the subject [person] and object [moon] are taken into account.

~Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Battles

 

autumn with Thich Nhat Hanh

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Here is the Pure Land,

The Pure Land is here.

I smile in mindfulness

and dwell in the present moment.

Buddha is the autumn leaf,

Dharma is the floating cloud,

Sangha is everywhere,

My true home is here.

Breathing in, the flowers bloom.

Breathing out, the bamboo sways.

My mind is free.

I enjoy every moment. 

~Thich Nhát Hanh, Zen Battles