Saturday, June 16, 2007

Pleasure

CAUTION: I use a dirty word in this one. If you are under 18, you will have to wait until you are old enough to read this.

“Do not let pleasure distract you
From meditation, from the way.”
- Dhammapada

I don’t like this chapter very much. Admittedly, I misinterpret the meaning. If I look closely at the meaning of the text, it doesn’t say anything about giving up pleasure. If it did, I would probably stop this experiment right now. However, the words do lean toward pointing out some of my “problems”.

I like pleasure. I like the sensual, the passionate, the poisonous fruit of desire. I like the feeling of wanting to hold someone. I like wanting to feel a soft hand in mine. I like craving the caress of a passionate kiss. I like wanting to do something with my life. I like placing importance on things I do and want to do. I like ice cream and comfy sheets and long hot showers. And so, according to the words of the way(again, purposefully misinterpreted), I suffer.

Is it pleasure, per se, which is the corruption of our souls or is it ill-gotten pleasure Siddhartha warned us about?

I often use the example of making love versus fucking to illustrate the difference. Fucking someone or getting fucked is a very lonely and ugly experience – an amplification of our solitude and yearning for companionship. Fucking is suffering. However, if you follow the directions, or if you use a causal GPS, it’s not fucking, it’s making love. Making love goes beyond the physical. It goes beyond the cerebral. It even goes beyond emotion. Making love touches the subtle body which exists beyond the dimensions of existence we comprehend. It is union. Union is the mud and water and seed and air from which the lotus blooms. It makes us stronger, not weaker.

I think I will stick with pleasure for a while. As I go, I’ll try to choose my pleasure carefully instead of stumbling into the night with a fruit I can not call by name.

Joy

“The winner sow hatred
Because the loser suffers
Let go of winning and losing
And find joy.”
                                    - Dhammapada

 Joy is a funny intangible.  When I hear the word, my first image is a choir of angels with big golden halos.  There are other stereotypes of joy; a newborn baby, grandparents playing with grandchildren, a soldier returning from war.  I’m sure we all have other images of joy –personally significant memorable moments.

For me, that’s not enough.  I can’t stave off my thirst for joy waiting for babies to be born and soldiers to come home.  For me, I need a little joy everyday, even if it’s just a little bit, maybe imperceptible to the untrained eye. 

This morning as I write, three little boys are having their daily hammock rides next to me.  It's wild and furious event.  Each day, they come up to the balcony where I work, collect all the cushions from the floor and methodically place them into the two hammocks.  Then they climb aboard and go for the ride of their lives – I’m not sure where they go in their minds, but it sounds like a great place.  Today, they have expanded their fun by convincing me to lift them up to the ceiling so they can take down the some of origami decorations; birds.

I’m not sure what it is about the scene around me that gives me joy.  It could be that, for once, I get to participate in their games – it’s always fun to play.  It could be the 3 silly faces pointed up at the ceiling, arguing about which of the many origami pieces is the best selection.  It could be that after two weeks of isolation in the garden of Eden, I can sit and write and concentrate while two or four or six stomp and swing and giggle and drop from the hammocks around me.  Whatever it is that brings me joy today is both large and small – a funny intangible.

The Man Who Is Awake

“If you wound or grieve another
You have not learned detachment.”
                                    - Dhammapada

Visions of Mahatma Ghandi come to mind when I read this quote from the Dhammapada.  One individual can change the world with their words and actions.  In the pursuit of enlightenment, it is the individual choice to follow the way.  The choices of each individual is a big part of the Buddhist philosophy.  But what about actions on a larger scale?  How can the Dhammapada be applied to corporate life, to government, to international affairs?

The neo-cons are vying for world dominance.  To achieve their goals, they create bloody messes, destroying cities, countries, families.  They fix markets and manipulate trade.  It seems they have their hand in nearly everything… when it’s convenient.  Their actions are the antithesis of detachment.  In fact, it is desire and greed that fuels the world domination agenda.

Between 1964 and 1975, the United States dropped over 2 million tons of bombs on Laos – one plane load every eight minutes.  According to a 2003 news article in The Age,, nearly one quarter of a million cluster bombs were dropped on Iraq (cluster bombs are nasty weapons designed specifically to maim and kill people).  There are millions of statistics to illustrate to what extent a nation will go in order to quench it’s thirst.  It’s clear the Pentagon has read The Art of War by Sun Tzu, but if any of them have read of the Dhammapada, they might want to go back and read it again.

Or am I misleading you?  Could it be that sometimes they practice detachment?  Here’s a example, a quote from The International Reporting Project at Johns Hopkins University said this about unexploded ordinances in Laos:

"Just because we dropped the stuff doesn't mean we're going to go in there and clean it up," said a Pentagon official recently. "The cleanup of ordnance is the responsibility of the people who caused the conflict."

Wasn’t it the US who feared the spread of communism to all of Southeast Asia?  Maybe I’ve got my facts twisted.  The whole era was such a mixed up scenario, it’s pretty convenient to detach from who caused what.

Another bit from today’s chapter on The Man Who is Awake (I especially like the word “slaked”)…

“The rain could turn to gold,
And still your thirst would not be slaked.
Desire is unquenchable
Or it ends in tears, even in heaven.”

In Laos, for 11 years, the rain turned to something even more expensive than gold – weapons.  The desire to prevent the Domino Effect was never quenched.  In the end, someone ended up drinking the paper dominos. 

 

The World

“The fool laughs at generosity.
The miser cannot enter heaven.
But the master finds joy in giving
And happiness is his reward.”
                                                Dhammapada

 

In the village where I am living (ok, I’m visiting, but I’m alive and it feels like I’m living), the local residents are very musically inclined.  They love music and I love the voyeuristic thrill of listening to their freedom.  During the day, the teenagers take turns playing guitar for each other (school’s out for summer – they don’t know the song).  In the late afternoon, the children sing songs as they splash in the river.  In the evening, I sometimes sit with a group and pass around the iPod until we’ve squeezed every bit of charge from the battery.  At night, I loan my friend, Kao, the iPod so he can listen to it while going to sleep.

I am lightly ridiculed for loaning Kao my iPod. ‘Maybe stolen… lost… broken… never see him again…’  All sorts of circumstances threaten my iPod will cease to be my iPod.  Yes, any of these ‘might happens’, might just happen.  Or… a jet may crash into this tiny village and destroy all that is here and my iPod itself, will cease to be.

I’ll take my chances.  I’ll take my chances because, as I wait for the impending 747 to land on my head, it makes me feel good to trust someone, to share music, to detach myself from prizing my possession too much.  It adds to my happiness.  It helps me sleep peacefully through the night while the cockerels crow long before the day dawns.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Yourself

“Never neglect your work for another’s,
However great his need.

Your work is to discover your work
And then with all your heart
To give yourself to it.”
- Dhammapada

Once, two great boons to corporate humanity merged. During the merger, there were natural and normal reactions to new policies, procedures and ethics. I worked there. I stuck it out for a while. Some of us jumped ship immediately. Others stuck it out knowing things would eventually settle down. One of my colleagues, for whom I had a great deal of respect, left to teach school in an emerging country – Tibet it might have been. His decision increased my respect for him and also made me want to follow the same type of course.

My departure from Initech had less to do with my dissatisfaction with the company and more to do with my personal discontent. Although I had done very well in business, I was not following my passion. And time was moving on.

I don’t know how common it is for people to know what they want to do and not pursue it. I’m guessing there are quite a few people out there who are not happy with what they are doing. I’m also guessing a very small percentage of those people know what they would do if they could.

Part of this experiment of mine is to do something that means something. Although it may seem the jury is still deliberating on the verdict, I spend each day with my heart fully committed to my dreams. For now, that is quite sufficient. Maybe someday I will find out that in some small way, I made a difference.

Old Age

“The ignorant man is an ox.
He grows in size, not in wisdom.”
                - Dhammapada

CAUTION: The next paragraph is not very nice.  I don't mean to slag Israelis - I've met quite a few nice people from Israel. 

For the past few days, I’ve had the great pleasure of sharing my guesthouse with a band of Israeli backpackers.  Israeli backpackers have a pretty bad reputation of being loud, inconsiderate and generally obnoxious.  Based on what I’ve witnessed over the past few days, the bad reputation is justified.  Their display of self-centeredness and deliberately inconsiderate behaviour is astounding.  They put toilet paper in the toilet despite clearly posted signs to use the waste receptacle.  They wore muddy flip flops in the bathroom and throughout the house, despite clearly posted signs to remove their shoes.  They cooked food in their room and left the washed pots and pans blocking the entrance to guest's doors, despite clearly posted signs to no bring food into their room – (they told me, in a very agro tone, rice was not food).  They even deliberately drained the rain barrel as some form of expression of discontent.  They stomped about and spoke in unnecessarily loud voices.  When it was time for them to go to bed, they banged on the wall for others to hush beyond a whisper.  My point is not to slag Israeli backpackers – they make their own beds.  I guess they will grow up someday.

One of the things I like about getting older is that I no longer have to monitor my etiquette so closely.  It’s not that I don’t need manners.  Rather, it’s that they are now so deeply ingrained they come out by habit.  This isn’t true of all “grown ups”.  In fact, it is typically the opposite.  It’s the old people touching museum exhibits and snickering at Caravaggio’s perversions.  It’s the older couples bickering too frequently.  These, too, are deeply ingrained habits.

Although I am generally uninterested in becoming a “grown up”, I am glad that on my path of getting older, I’ve taken a little time to develop good manners – good habits.  It wasn’t very difficult a thing to do.  I wonder if the recent gang of undesirable guests will grow up to be snickering septic saboteurs or will they someday catch a glimpse of the reaction they are causing and change their ways – in their old age.

 

Violence

 

He who seeks happiness
By hurting those who seek happiness
Will never find happiness.

            -Dhammapada

 

It is difficult to be in Laos and not think about violence.  For those who are not aware of the Secret War, here is a brief history of the situation.  Laos holds the title of the most bombed country in the world.  During the American war in Vietnam, North Vietnamese supply routes ran through eastern Laos, specifically, the Ho Chi Min Trail.  In addition, a significant, but debatable number of North Vietnamese troops were occupying Laos, assisting in Hanoi’s move to bring Laos into the fold of communism via the Pathet Lao party.  As part of a Geneva Conference agreement, it was determined to be illegal to involve a third country in an existing war.  The US was providing military assistance to South Vietnam and involved Laos in the fight between North and South Vietnam.  It’s a complex story, but basically, the United States CIA set up a private air charter company called Air America to provide air support over Laos and the Ho Chi Min Trail.  US President Richard Nixon finally acknowledged US involvement in Laos in March, 1970 – 5 years after continuous bombing in Laos had begun.

I look around the village where I am staying and I have counted at least 1 septuagenarian and 4 others who are quickly approaching.  In a country where life expectancy is about 55 years of age, the sight of very old people is notable.  Very delicately, I asked a local villager who was a child at the time of the war how the village was so lucky to have so many very old residents.  He explained that the villagers had taken refuge in the many caves in the area and that is why so many people have survived to know their great great grandchildren.  It’s quite beautiful to see a 107 year old woman look endearingly at the brood around them in a place that once was a living hell.  They don’t seem to be all that resentful.  They seem to have moved on to better things.


The other night, in a village upriver of where I am staying, a Welshman and a Frenchman got into a bit of a scuffle.  Allegedly, the Frenchman attacked the Welshman because he was talking too much.  The Welshman never struck back and now has a big net of bandages over his bruised and ring-slashed nose.  The Frenchman was charged with a $100 fine; the Welshman was fined $50.  Apparently, the Frenchman was trying to “knock some sense into” the other.


I can see how the guy from Wales might annoy others.  He speaks in a very strange collection of Thai, Laos and mostly English.  And he does so non-stop.  On a few occasions, when speaking with him, I have watched for an opportunity to politely excuse myself so that I can get away from his racket.  However, the idea of beating him in the face and trying to throw him over a balcony never crossed my mind.


There are so many people in this world that annoy me.  In fact, I find most people to be annoying for one reason or another.  However, I’m not looking to be annoyed.  I’m not looking to be bothered by the things that other people want to do.  I’m not asking anyone to retool their mindset to better accommodate my own preferences.  I really can’t be asked to ruin my day simply because I find someone else lacking in one way or another.  It’s their affair, not mine, and I always have the choice to rise above annoyance and seek my own happiness.  I always have the choice to retreat to a cave – maybe it’s not ideal, but it’s effective.  When it’s over, I will come out of the cave, and resume my life fishing and planting and harvesting and singing and watching the people around me grow old.

 

 

Mischief

I like mischief.  I always have.  It’s not a virtue, I know.  As I get older, I don’t seem to be settling down, but I do notice that my mischief is changing a bit.  Years ago, I was more prone to do something that would make another person uncomfortable, or even hurt their feelings.  I wasn’t really bad, but in all honesty, I was not very good either.  Now, as I’m exercising much more control in my thoughts and actions, I am finding that my mischief had changed from manic malicious to simply silly.

When I was a very young boy, my grandfather used to tease me by setting up my stuffed animals in some kind of silly scene.  One of his more popular setups would involve a plush alligator with a bright red flannel mouth.  He would move the alligator to the corner of the bed and put the corner of the duvet in its mouth.  When I would stumble on this scene in my room, it would send me giggling into an imaginary world of daydreams and fantasies where plush alligators would fly with me to other planets where duvets were grown and we would together devour the whole crop.  My grandfather’s mischief brought a lot of silly fun.

Somewhere in between then and now, I explored a lot of other kinds of mischief.  I tasted nearly every offering on the after dinner mischief cart.  I had a lot of wild times doing so.  But the cost of those experiences was quite high and I grew tired of having to fork over so much energy for my thrills.  Maybe I just got tired or maybe I jut got wiser, I’m not sure either is true, but it’s the logical explanation.  Whatever the reason, I ended up agreeing with my grandfather and the alligator and found less and less use for the drunkard and the fools.

A while ago, I was giving private English lessons to a student.  I was experimenting with using the Dhammapada as the text to learn vocabulary.  I remember clearly getting to the Mischief chapter.

‘Do not make light of your failings,
Saying, “What are they to me?”
A jug fills drop by drop.
So the fool becomes brimful of folly.

Do not belittle your virtues,
Saying, “They are nothing.”
A jug fills drop by drop.
So the wise man becomes brimful of virtue.’
                                               
- Dhammapada

 

“Brimful” is not a word we use much in English, but my student wanted a definition and naturally it was not in the translation dictionary.  In order to explain “brimful”, I set an empty glass on the desk.  Making a funny sad clown face, I made a little dance and song about “empty”.  I poured some water into the glass and made another song about “some” – ho hum, but I got some, at least I got some so not so ho hum.  I poured more water into the glass so that it was full.  Another song about “full” drove the point home.  I poured the water so that it was just a tiny bit more than the glass could hold.  “Brimful” was quite an extraordinary character.  To this day she remembers “empty”, “some”, “full”, and maybe “brimful”.

Later that day, I probably went out for another night of shenanigans.  I probably got very drunk.  I might have toyed with the mind of a na├»ve backpacker or tickled the underbelly of some other sordid scenario.  I can’t remember what mischief I got into that night.  But I will always remember the brimful character from earlier that day.

I admit, goofing around during English lessons is pretty tame compared to some of the things I get myself into, but I think it’s a good illustration of how avoiding mischief doesn’t mean not having fun.

The Thousands

“Better than a hundred years of mischief
Is one day spent in contemplation.
Better than a hundred years of ignorance
Is one day spent in reflection.
Better than a hundred years of idleness
Is one day spent in determination.”

                - Dhammapada

 

We want to be better people.  We want to find truth.  We want to have peace in our minds, our families, our world.  We want our soldiers to protect and rescue those who are in trouble.  We want our leaders to forge diplomatic alliances which bring the world together.  We want our neighbors to love us and accept our differences and we want to do the same.  We want to change and create and do so much, but the mountain is too high.

We look up to the mountain, we see it clearly in front of us, but we don’t see the mountain at all.  Instead we see all the vines and slippery rocks and impassable terrain.  Like the forest and the trees, the mountain becomes invisible.  How often do you hear a person saying they want to change?  We sit about and talk about how we should be more this or more that and less this or less that.  We talk about it and think about it, but more often than not, the same conclusion is reached: It’s too hard. There are too many obstacles. I can’t.

Mischief, ignorance, idleness and contemplation, refection, determination– these are the contrasting words of today’s Dhammapada quote.  We think it is easy to bask in ignorance and idleness, but this is not true.  The troubles that linger around us when we are unfocused are very time consuming.  They take away from our reserves of energy, patience, compassion and so forth.  They delay us from beginning our journey up the mountain. 

Contemplation, determination, and reflection are the vines and the slippery rocks and the impassable terrain on the way up the mountain.  Addressing these, we find focus.  Crossing over these, we find peace in the very world we thought would be so hard.  Do not avoid the mountain.  If you avoid it, it will eventually destroy you.  If you embrace it, it will embrace you and you can become as solid and true as any mountain.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

How many does it take to get to the midIdle...

Mr Owl... how many post-dated posts does it take to get to the middle of the Dhammapada?

I mentioned that I was very diligent about writing a daily post while I was out of touch from "modern" society. Now, I have a dilemma. Should I publish all of the back dated writings or should I publish just a few each day until I am caught up. I think I will do 5 each day unless someone complains.

Cheers to all that I met before, and to those I meet along the way.


The Master

“… And wherever he lives,
In the city or the country,
In the valley or in the hills,
There is great joy.”

                -Dhammapada

 

I have the great fortune to be almost anywhere I like.  That’s partly true.  Recently, I have been staying in a small village on the banks of Nam Ou in Laos.  On the surface, one will identify what we in the west call poverty.  There are no screens on the windows, “running” water is actually a rain barrel and a hose.  Electricity comes in dull two hour increments each night.  Children play flip-flop toss in the street, their shoes serve as shoes and cushions and toys and weapons and whatever other practical use they can find.  Adults draw from the river their sustenance and mend their nets in the heat of the afternoon shade.

Every once in a while, I can peer past these attributes and see wealth.  Out of the corner of my eyes across the rice paddies children play in the sun and laugh carefree.  Do I see Eden out there, in the corner of my eye?  Not everything is perfect.  Life can difficult here, too.  Some times the stakes are very high – life or death.  But is this really different than anywhere else? Maybe we have removed ourselves so much from the basics of being human that when we see it in full force, it appears as poverty and high risk.

In this place, I can hear my thoughts more clearly.  I can feel the rising and cresting and sinking of the sun.  I can smell the sappy dew of incoming rain.  I can taste the broth of endlessness and immediacy stewed together to make the feast of today and tomorrow.  It is just like being back in Brooklyn.

Exactly like Brooklyn except there are no cars, no horns, no film crews banging outside my window at 5 a.m.  It is just the same as any city, except there are no flashing lights or rumbling sounds of shopkeepers’ metal gates slamming their merchandise into safety for the night.  There are no loud noises and no pushing people an no irate customers and no very busy, very important, very overwhelming people high on the fumes of the social status machine.  Yes, where I am now in Laos is exactly like anywhere else.  Just a little different.

Behind the noises of the street, beyond the thunderous approaching airplanes, just below the roar of the subway, there exists everything that exists here on the banks of Nam Ou – happiness, serenity, joy.  Sometimes it takes a trip to a place like this to realize it.  Sometimes people get confused and think they need to be here to listen to the sound of joy.

The Wise Man

“Do not look for bad company
Or live with men who do not care.
Find friends who love the truth.”
                - Dhammapada

 

Last night we had a party – sort of a Laotian Full Moon party, if you will.  There were quite a few people up on our regularly peaceful balcony.  In contrast to the daily routine of waking with the roosters and retiring just after the 10pm generators turn off, the voices of our party shattered the nighttime silence of the village.  Needless to say, the neighbors were not impressed.

One of the late-night revelers (it was 11pm) did more than his fair share of noisemaking.  He was drunk on Lao Lao and insisted on passing the glass around after the bottle should have been put away.  He was speaking Laos very badly in a loud voice.  He was making advances towards one of the village girls, despite her boyfriend sitting on her other side.  He categorically refused to hear any request to keep his voice down.

Every 5 minutes, from the road outside, would come an impassioned plea for the party to end.  But no one wanted to stop, so the sounds in the night continued.  The neighbors’ tone became increasingly annoyed.

“All you people talking. Stop it. Stupid talking. Talk. Talk. Talk. You people stupid. Just listen to guitar.  Stop talking,”  the feisty young guesthouse hostess tried to relay the requests to the party goers.  She was, however, the instigator of the party and more inclined to play than to hush.  She is too big for this town – the city life and party lights beckon her from Luang Prabang and Vientiane.  At 19 years, she is an earthquake sunami forest fire hurricane in this placid riverside village.  She puts on a good show, “Hey, you guys, be quite now.”

The loud, drunk, Lao Lao guy gives a loud guffaw, makes a few animal sounds and resumes his bold and futile pickup agenda.  He doesn’t care.  He doesn’t care who can’t sleep.   He doesn’t care who’s shouting from below.  He doesn’t care if the guy he’s handing the over-poured shot of Lao Lao doesn’t like it.  He doesn’t care at all.  I can’t say I enjoy his company.

The guy who doesn’t like Lao Lao, I like him.  He goes out walking, meets villagers, has intelligent conversations.  Another guy, his friend, also talks about intelligent things; the sensitivity of others, the impact of our travels here, the differences in our worlds.  I enjoy his company, too.  At the party on the balcony they are both quiet.  They are listening.  They are observing.  They are wondering when everyone will go back to their own guesthouses so that we can go to sleep.  They also feel uncomfortable by mother yelling from down below.  They care.

Given the choice between the precocious hostess and loud, drunk Lao Lao guy or the other two guys that think about something and notice that we are disturbing others, it’s not a difficult decision.  In fact, it’s not even something that I have to consider.  Such choices do not always show themselves so clearly at the time, but as the rest of the night unfolds, I sometimes wonder how I am so often confused.

The Fool

It can happen that your life can change in an instant. What we think will happen, who we will love, how we will live, can all disappear from view in a single moment. We like to make plans because they give us comfort – an assurance of the future. Sometimes plans fail or change and we are disappointed with how the future materialized. It is as if we are surprised again and again that our lives can change in a moment.

When we think of these rapid changes of expectations, often the catalyst is considered “bad”. We think of traffic accidents, random shootings, a cancer diagnosis, an unexpected heart attack as the things that unexpectedly change us in a moment. The opposite pole, we also think about, but that is the thing of which fairy tales are made: winning the lottery, meeting a new love, unexpectedly getting a new job offer. These, too, can change our lives in a heartbeat.

What about all that might exist between disaster and euphoria? These things also have the power to change our plans. Little things that happen during our day can adjust our course, perhaps very slightly at first glance – and have a tremendous effect on our lives.

“The tongue tastes the soup.
If you are awake in the presence of a master
One moment will show you the way.”
-Dhammapada

We need to be awake in this world. If we are awake we can see the subtleties that surround us, inviting us to live better lives. With our eyes open, we can see the force of potential, the force of change, inviting us at every turn. But if we are asleep, we don’t see or hear or feel these things. We wait in a blackened slumber waiting for the booming sounds of cataclysm to awaken us and explode the unexpected into our dreams.

Flowers

“Like garlands woven from a heap of flowers,
Fashion from your life as many good deeds.”
- Dhammapada

I know a girl who is alert. She is conscious of her virtue, her sensitivity, her awakenings, and she is conscious of right mind and right action. She contemplates the way and the ways of the world. She is alert, yet still finding her footing.

“But what should I do with it?” she wonders.

Her wondering sounds as if there were that one action, one occupation, one gift that is perfect and correct. It doesn’t matter. Be a Microsoft engineer. Be a pharmaceutical sales representative. Be a Unitarian minister. Be a mechanic. Be a gardener. Which flowers you grow are not important. How you plant and feed and harvest is the true test.

“What should you do with it?” I repeat. “Do good in this world.

Do good in this world and release yourself from your deeds. Collecting goodness, patting yourself on the back, is of no value. You can make your actions your possessions - like trophies on a shelf. But these are only icons of actions which have past – only words describing something that once happened.

Do good in this world and let your actions be a garland of goodness that streams behind you like the wake of a boat – caused by the boat but completely indifferent and unfettered from its next action.

These are the flowers which can be looked for and caught and categorized or they are the flowers which are simply planted and left to grow.

Mind

“Like a fish out of water,
Stranded on the shore,
Thoughts thrash and quiver.
For how can they shake off desire?

They tremble, they are unsteady,
They wander at their will.
It is good to control them,
And to master them brings happiness.

But how subtle they are,
How elusive!
The task is to quieten them,
And by ruling them to find happiness.”
                                    - Dhammapada

Mindfulness.  Mist on mountains from a distance are opaque and shroud the mountaintop from view.  From the valley floor, we look up to the mist and we see it clearly.  From the bottom we climb up to the mountaintop to get a closer look.  When we arrive at the summit, the mist is not as it seemed from below.  Up close, we can not see what is obvious from far away.  Perhaps the sun has burned it away or the wind has cleared the view.  Or, perhaps, it is that we are so close to the mist that we can not distinguish it from pure air.  From the mountaintop, we see the next cluster of mountains to the west, cloistered in mist.

Mindfulness, is like the mist far away at the mountain top.  It can be looked upon and analyzed from a distance.  From that vantage, we can remark on the unsteadiness, the wandering of the unbridled mind and see clearly the pitfalls and dangers.  We can see how ruling our thoughts can release us from suffering.  But like the mist in the mountains, our thoughts and our mindfulness is elusive. 

 

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Return to Civilization

Today I returned to civilization with a continuous stream of problems. My friend woke me up to tell me my fourth cell phone of the year is broken. Then I realized the going away ceremony last night included much more Lao Lao than I should have consumed. Then, I pulled out my camera which is telling me something about a card error. Not needing to use a camera, I decided I would sort through the past two weeks of email. I tried for an hour to connect to a wireless network before giving up and looking for an alternative hot spot. I found one where a cup of tea is 4 times the normal price. The man behind the counter told me they only have hot tea, no iced tea – he said this as he was cracking ice for a fruit smoothie.

Some days are just not as good as the one before. Tomorrow is a 10 hour bus journey so it should be much better than today. It’s great the way life works like that.

As I intended, I managed to write a bit about the Dhammapada over the past couple weeks – one entry everyday. I will have to wait on posting them because I’m just not in the frame of mind to do that right now. It’s great the way life works like that.