21 October 2013

Mu Rising

In the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to speak with several people one-on-one about their practice.  In each case, the person in question was finding renewed aspiration and renewed resolve to enter into the fray of seeing into what there is to see into.

What none of them understand is what their grit and pluck and wonder does for my practice.

It takes me back to my first halting attempts at the koan, to that initial sense that I was embarking on the task of a lifetime, to the fear and awe and frustration and strange sense of comfort that walking the same path as all Buddhas and bodhisattvas brought with it.

It brings me back to the present, to all the ways in which I still get stuck in the well-worn habit tracks laid down by greed, anger and confusion.

It bids me press on, knowing that the Dharma does not disappoint and that countless ages will not suffice to plumb it completely.

What a gift, this koan practice – so unlike anything else and yet so absolutely straightforward and plain at the same time!

20 October 2013

How Out of It am I?

I know someone who has it in his head that the bank around the corner is First Nations, not First National, Bank.  No amount of correction has been successful in getting him to come up with the right name on his own.

In getting my students ready for their first exam I drive home the point that it's an essay exam, and paragraph ≠ essay.  I will bet my last dollar that tomorrow when the exams come in, there will be at least one, and likely more than one, paragraph passing itself off as an essay.  I will have them rewrite the exam, and of the rewrites at least one (such is the track record) will still come back as paragraph.

These are somewhat extreme cases, of course, and I'm sure even more extreme cases likely exist. I could go on about "people these days..." or "some folks are so...;" but I won't.  What I find myself puzzling about is, well, myself: what am I missing?  getting wrong all the time?  calling y instead of x?

People don't correct me too often, but maybe they are just being kind – or merely reticent.  I've been told I can be intimidating, and enough people have said that in enough different times and places that it must be somewhat true.  Maybe I've built up a wall of intimidation that keeps my foibles and stupidities from being addressed.

Help me out, folks, and don't withhold spiritual and material aid.  Kick my ass!

09 October 2013

When a Eulogy Isn't Quite Right

My aunt died last week.

I do not believe I ever knew anyone so well who was so emotionally crippled, so thoroughly wrapped up in her own self-created miserable life. As I pause to remember her, I struggle to think of a single attribute of her life, a single personality trait, a single accomplishment that would prompt me to commend her to others as a model for living.  I cannot come up with even one.

She did not care for herself, and because she did not care for herself she was incapable of caring for others.  She never learned the simple joy of living contentedly in her own skin, of making something of the life she'd been given, of entering into genuine relationship with other human beings.

To be fair, she may not have even been capable of these things.  Some people are just dealt a poor hand.  She was never in good health, never possessed much attractiveness, and was plagued by mental health issues throughout her life (undiagnosed early on, I'd guess, and increasing in scope and severity until she could not but be treated or cease functioning at all competently).  Still – and this is the part I keep coming back to – she seemed hell-bent on sabotaging even what few things she did have going for her, opting instead for a life lived increasingly alone, surrounded by consumer products (yes, she was a compulsive shopper and hoarder), and in stubborn refusal to work with her doctors in matters of diet and movement and the rest.

She seemed to take a shining to me, though, and I never was on the receiving end of her fits and tantrums.  In fact, she was rather kind to me, and she took an interest in my life, though I never felt like I was at all at liberty to give her more than just the most cursory account of my goings on. For that, of course, I am most grateful.

If you are still reading this, do me a favor.  Send some merit in her direction.  A hungrier ghost you are not likely to find.

May she one day be at ease.  May whatever sufferings she endured in this life go some distance to making her subsequent burdens lighter.  May she one day find her True Home.