Tag Archive | Buddhism

How Much I Learned

Baby Stellar with Uncle Brick in 2008

At the risk of seeming maudlin I am remembering, reviewing, calling to mind the details of Stellar’s last days. How time lost its linearity. 

I shared my life with him. There is no one now to turn to and smile. I would finish writing a bit at the desk, and turn to him, and smile. Wanna go for a walk? I’d stoke the fire, close the glass stove doors, turn back to the living room and there he is watching me from his bed, and I smile. Sometimes I’d move on to my next step in the day, or the evening, or sometimes I’d drop to all fours, crawl to lie down beside him, stroke his luxurious living coat, and notice, really notice, the feel of his scruff, rolling the folds of his neck flesh in my fingers, his thick silky fur… the pliability of his white chest star… the specific warmth of the breath from his nostrils across my skin, the hairs on my own forearm… I savored every living moment with him. I’m grateful for how much I learned during this extended interaction, this meditation with death.

Stellar and Topaz, equals and skeptical friends, last March, when we were all still walking the driveway. Topaz continues to improve gradually.

I may have made mistakes, made some choices based on less than accurate understandings of reality, but I believe I did the best that I could: stretching, giving, surrendering, loving with less and less condition… What I did next always involved him, whatever choice I made, to go in or outside, a short or long walk, watch TV or read, what I ate sometimes, where I was at every waking instant always involved him. I’m grateful to be able to recall vividly now, because I paid attention at the time, how he slowly settled when I stroked his shoulder, his back, how he relaxed onto his side and lay down his sweet head; how I held those acupressure pulses in his feet til he stretched his back legs with a big sigh. Later, that last month, how it soothed him when I whispered the mantra. And my attention was riveted on him even in my sleep, waking and analyzing the slightest sound from downstairs. Living in dedication to him brought out the best in me. He made it easy to embody my highest values. He was an inspiration, a Buddha dog.

May Stellar enjoy positive conditions,

High rebirth, happiness and peace,

May he meet the perfect teacher,

And quickly attain perfect enlightenment

For the benefit of all living beings without exception.

Everything

If ever there was a ‘Catahoula look,’ it’s this one: What? You talkin’ to ME?

Tired. Grateful I get to go to bed. Grateful for just about everything today! Grateful this morning for snow!

Grateful for gorgeous rose hips, and hoping I get time to harvest some to make jelly. If not, oh well! Grateful to feed the deer.

Grateful for the garden Buddha, and grateful for the teachings passed down for millennia from this humble sage.

Angry Monk

This monk is pissed off! Bottled water in Tibet these days: He’s tying together plastic, pollution, greed, and climate chaos, with his personal experience growing up in Tibet in the 70s and 80s, when you could dig fifteen feet underground almost anywhere and be rewarded with pure, fresh water. Tibetans would have laughed at the idea of paying money for water! These days, he gesticulates, bottled water everywhere. The best thing you can do for the planet is stop buying bottled water. It’s heartbreaking, inspiring, delightful–miraculous, actually…

I’m grateful that I can be watching an actual Tibetan Buddhist master (who is 7500 miles from the roots of his tradition, and is actually present at the Yoga Tree down the road), from the comfort of my recliner twenty miles away, on the screen of a foldup super-computer. I’m grateful for the Yoga Tree and the Creamery, and all the other people in this valley and everywhere who make it possible for these monks from Gaden Shartse Monastery to travel to small towns with their ancient wisdom. It’s amazing that I am receiving profound teachings from a representative of a lineage going back to Gautama Buddha 2600 years ago. It’s technology, among many other things, that enables this astonishing connection. And it is technology, and our insatiable desire for more and better of everything, that has led to climate chaos.

“We all have responsibilities to be more content with our life and try to protect Nature as much as we can,” he continued, after explicating the six primary delusions of attachment, anger, pride, ignorance, doubt, and wrong view. We need to do the inner work to understand these issues, he taught, and from our balance will flow more balance for the world. A couple of people pointed out that we need to do something now, we don’t have time to rely on doing inner work.

“Recognize interdependence. When self-cherishing is reduced, cherishing of others will grow…. Start from yourself and then teaching your family, friends, near and dear ones,” he explained, “and one becomes ten becomes a hundred… like the coronavirus, this too will spread,” he said. It was a hopeful image, this goodwill for the planet and commitment to the well-being of all creatures great and small spreading exponentially like a virus, until, in my imagination, even our governments, our policies and laws, entire cultures across the globe begin to truly reflect the interdependence of all life on earth.

He concluded the lesson with this pearl: “Die without remorse, and your next journey will be great and fortunate.” I just wonder, where do we come back to in our next life if we’ve destroyed our species and much of the planet? Meanwhile, I’m just grateful when I can live one day without regret.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Top left on my ‘bulletin board’ wall of meaningful images, a postcard of the Dalai Lama I’ve carried with me since I got it in 1988. Also an image of the Buddha by Mary Hockenberry. (And yes, that’s a signed card from Jack Hanna, another longtime ‘hero’ I got to meet a few years ago.)

His Holiness fled his country the year that I was born. For as long as I can remember, I have been paying attention to his journey in exile in news reports, and later reading his teachings, and later still following them. Buddhism is less a religion than a philosophy that encourages one to examine for oneself to discern the truth of the teachings. I’m grateful for the Dalai Lama, for his teachings, even for the fact that his forced exile enabled him to bring the ancient wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism out into the wide world at large. I’m grateful I got to sit in the audience one year when he spoke at the Boulder Theater.

Because the Dalai Lama had been a beneficent force in the back of my mind for most of my life, I leapt at the opportunity last spring to partake in an online retreat exploring The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. I’m grateful for that opportunity and for Dawn who shared it with me. I’m grateful for the teacher of that retreat, John Bruna with the Way of Compassion Dharma Center in Carbondale, and for his wife Laura, whose curiosity prompted her to ask about the thickness of my house walls which she could see behind me on the Zoom screen. (Grateful for Zoom, and all the connection it has enabled during this year of social distance.)

I’m grateful that Laura’s spark of interest led me to become her student in the Mindful Life Program, and for all the goodness that has flowed from that choice into my life this year, as I pursue a Mindfulness Teacher Training course that will result in my ability to share the benefits of meditation and mindfulness practice as a certified teacher. I’ll be bona fide!

I’m grateful that I’m spending the first weekend of this new and hopeful year in another online retreat with John and Laura, as we explore the possibility of “Bringing our Innate Goodness into the New Year.” I’m grateful to be learning to be a better friend to myself as I reflect on good things I’ve said and done in the past year, and learning to shush the harsh voice of my inner critic who harps that it’s never enough. It’s a helpful skill to cultivate, being your own best friend.