Beginner's Mind

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." - Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

More from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind that has me thinking:

So it is absolutely necessary for everyone to believe in nothing. But I do not mean voidness. There is something, but that something is something which is always prepared for taking some particular form, and it has some rules, or theory, or truth in its activity. This is called Buddha nature, or Buddha himself. When this existence is personified we call it Buddha; when we understand it as the ultimate truth we call it Dharma; and when we accept the truth and act as a part of the Buddha, or according to the theory, we call ourselves Sangha. But even though there are three Buddha forms, it is one existence which has no form or color, and it is always ready to take form and color. This is not just theory. This is not just the teaching of Buddhism. This is the absolutely necessary understanding of our life. Without this understanding our religion will not help us. We will be bound by our religion, and we will have more trouble because of it. If you become the victim of Buddhism, I may be very happy, but you will not be so happy. So this kind of understanding is very, very important.

I wish I had bigger hands, so I could have this tattooed on the backs of them. I have been reading this over and over to myself; it seems to me so fundamental, not only to Buddhism, but to most religious, spiritual, and even humanistic thought. Though what Suzuki calls Buddha nature can also be called God, it does not need to be personified as such, in the form of a deity, though of course it could.

Perhaps, fundamentally, what separates the world's religions are insignificant details.

Music in my head: The third movement of Brahms' Fourth Symphony.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

A box from Sounds True arrived today with my order of Self-Healing with Guided Imagery. I have used imagery as a technique for coping with pain, but without much success. So, maybe I haven't done it right, or used it to its fullest potential. So I spent this afternoon with the CD's from Andrew Weil, M.D., and Martin L. Rossman, M.D.

The first CD gives a good introduction to the mind-body connection and its effects on the healing process. It also talks about the concepts behind guided imagery. While imagining pleasant places is part of the process, all the senses can be engaged. In addition, there's a receptive aspect, in which you "listen" to your body as it tells you what it needs in order to heal or feel better.

The second CD contains three guided imagery exercises. The first one is a deep relaxation guided imagery. This is the most common form which I have come across, and indeed about ten minutes into it I felt very relaxed. (I should add here that yesterday I had one of the worst migraines I've had in a few months, and today I was dealing with aftershocks). The second exercise involves having a dialog with your inner healer. It starts with a deep relaxation, and then you imagine your "inner healer" as maybe some real or imaginary person, or a religious figure, or I suppose it could be an animal or even something inorganic. I let my mind go from one person to another; the first person to come to mind was the late Frank Saenz, who was my blind eighth-grade teacher, then a Buddha figure came to mind, which transformed into Suzuki Roshi (no surprise - I've been reading him lately). Finally, I "saw" a very old black man, who looked like an Australian aboriginal. He was short, with thin, long white hair. He was bare-chested, wearing a grey loincloth. Most of his teeth were missing. His skin was an amazing deep black, and he had piercing blue eyes. Why this image of my inner healer I can't say. In the exercise, you imagine your healer in a special place, which for me was a vast, green, grassy plain with a few twisted trees and a blue sky that hosted some high, thin white clouds. Then, you are to ask your healer what he needs in order to help you. He looked at me, and said nothing at all, but after a bit I could sense that he wanted me to go outside and take a walk in the woods. That was all I got.

So, out I went, walking in the woods behind my house. I hadn't been back there in a long time, and the path to the back of the property had many broken limbs and a few fallen trees across it which I now know I will have to clear. I took the dog with me, which was a mistake for this purpose, as he was more of a distraction than anything else. But, I got to the back where there are some very large, old trees. Of course, this time of year, there are no leaves yet. But I will say that the headache I had was mostly gone when I got back, so I guess the old fellow got what he needed.

Music in my head: Thank You (Dido).

Monday, March 29, 2004

More from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind that strikes really close to home.

When you have a headache, there is some reason why you have a headache. If you know why you have a headache, you will feel better. But if you do not know why, you may say, "Oh, I have a terrible headache! Maybe it is because of my bad practice. If my meditation or Zen practice were better I wouldn't have this kind of trouble!" If you understand conditions in this way you will not have perfect faith in yourself, or in your practice, until you attain perfection. You will be so busy trying that I am afraid you will have no time to attain perfect practice, so you may have to keep your headache all the time! This is a rather silly kind of practice. This kind of practice will not work. But if you believe in something which exists before you had the headache, then you will feel better, naturally. To have a headache will be all right, because you are healthy enough to have a headache.

Talk about hitting me upside of the head! It's almost as if the paragraph were put into the book specifically for me to find. Susuki Roshi was a wise man. It's no wonder I am drawn to his writings.

Music in my head: Perfect Fit, Van Morrison

Sunday, March 28, 2004

It's spring and with it comes spring cleaning. Karen and I have come to the conclusion that we have just too much stuff and a bunch of it has to go!

What is a bit unusual this time around is that we are thinning out our book collection. I have this thing about books, have since I was tiny. I not only love to read, but I also love to collect books. I have a pretty decent library, but the books are scattered throughout the house on all sorts of bookcases. And crates. And shelves And in boxes. And stacked on the floor.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been listening to a history of Buddhism from The Teaching Company entitled, oddly enough, Buddhism. This is a set of 24 30-minute lectures given by Professor Malcolm David Eckel of Boston University. These lectures have been excellent! He really knows his stuff, and presents it well. I have a few other courses from this company that I have yet to hear, and if they are as well done as this one is, they should prove to be enjoyable and informative.

What a pretty day we had today. I noticed over at The Cassandra Pages that the crocuses have bloomed over in the Conneticut river valley and I'm a bit jealous. Ours are just little shoots coming up out of the ground; no blossoms yet. The rhubarb patch is still under snow, so I haven't seen any of it. The snow in the herb garden has finally melted, and little bits of thyme and oregano are showing some green.

Music in my head: We Are All Candles, by Emilie Aronson

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Been having some fun this morning. I downloaded the latest version of BottomFeeder, and have been playing with that. Now I know what to do with those "site feeds" and "XML" buttons I've been seeing on sophisticated weblogs (like this one :) ). This is a really neat program. With it you subscribe to the RSS or Atom feeds of various web sites (it comes with the feed for Dilbert and Smalltalk), and can see what are the latest updates/entries on those sites. The program looks like a mail program, in a way, and collects the latest entries for each feed in folders you specify. The program has a very useful tutorial to get you started. I highly recommend it! It might just change the way you browse!

Been wondering about syndication, turns out Blogger already supports it. If you use an aggregator, I now have a site feed URL on the right.

Wow! The Associated Press, and now Beginner's Mind! Is this a great world or what?

Music in my head: Stay (Jackson Browne?)

Friday, March 26, 2004

Oh, what choices!

It's 65 degrees outside, the warmest it's been all year. But, the Expos are playing on TV.

What to do, what to do!

Music in my head: This little piano riff, not sure where it comes from.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Have been re-reading Shunryu Susuki-roshi's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Some things which have caught my attention:

"In Japan we have the phrase shoshin, which means 'beginner's mind.' The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner's mind. Suppose you recite the Prajna Paramita Sutra only once. It might be a very good recitation. But what would happen to you if you recite it twice, three times, four times, or more? You might easily lose your original attitute towards it. For awhile you will keep your beginner's mind, but if you continue to practice one, two, three years or more, although you may improve some, you are liable to lose the limitless meaning of original mind."

"Most people have a double or triple notion in one activity. There is a saying, 'To catch two birds with one stone.' That is what people usually try to do. Because they want to catch too many birds they find it difficult to be concentrated on one activity, and they may end up not catching any birds at all!"

And, having had trouble sitting lately, I found this to be telling:

"When you are tired of sitting, or when you are disgusted with your practice, you should recognize this as a warning signal. You become discouraged with your practice when your practice has been idealistic. You have some gaining idea in your practice, and it is not pure enough. It is when your practice is rather greedy that you become discouraged with it. So you should be grateful that you have a sign or warning signal to show you the weak point in your practice. At that time, forgetting all about your mistake and renewing your way, you can resume your original practice."

And with that, I shall go sit.

Music in my head: All kinds of things, jumbled up. Very noisy.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Is baseball a Zen sport?

If you look at the business side of baseball, it isn't. Like most businesses, it is opportunistic, and materialistic. It's about putting fannies into seats, selling merchandise and beer. It is about attachment to a team. And, sometimes, it's about violence.

But if you stand far enough away from it...well, it is certainly intellectual. Baseball is the best sport reported by radio because you can see with your mind's eye the action as it occurs. You can picture a runner on third and one out, and the sacrifice fly to center that brings him home.

It resembles Zen in that the practice is in the doing. Sure, there are warm up drills and batting practice, but it is in the actual playing where all the action occurs. You can read about it all you want, and watch it all you want, however there's no substitute for actually playing the game. You become better with experience.

There's a lineage as there is in Zen. Experience and teaching is handed down from the veteran to the rookie, from the teacher to the aspirant. There's a natural talent, of course, but to play in the big leagues involves following someone who has been there.

There is karma in baseball. If you've walked a batter, you will now have to deal with the consequences of that action.

Baseball is very much an in-the-moment sport. Though what you've done up to this point will determine your action, still, it is the current action that is the focus of attention. It's not like you can plan for a field goal. You have to decide what to do now based on the current situation. You can't play the seventh inning in your head while in the fifth inning.

What do you think?

Music in my head: Stevie Nicks, Sorcerer

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Well, spring is here and with it, spring snow. It's the wet, heavy kind of snow that can break your back when you try to shovel it. Tomorrow we can expect a high of around 20 degrees F. That's spring in Vermont!

We've been keeping the feeders full, and there's been a feeding frenzy at them. A large flock of chickadees has taken up occupation in the backyard. They are funny little birds, not all that shy and can be encouraged to eat out of your hand if you have patience enough with them. It seems to me they use more energy in their feeding habits than they would get from the seed. Mostly we feed black oil sunflower seeds. The chickadee will go to the feeder perch, and pick out four to six seeds, one at a time, and drop them on the ground before taking one they want. They then fly up to a tree branch and peck at the seed until they get to the meat inside. Then they fly back and the cycle starts over. Under the feeders there's a bit of a mess, where squirrels and mourning doves clean up the seeds they've dropped.

We also have red and white breasted nuthatches. These are the birds that cling to the trunk of a tree upside down. They, too, will pick through the seeds. What they really like is to find a sunflower kernel, though they, too, will peck the hull to get to the meat inside.

The goldfinches have very dexterous beaks, and will pick out a seed and chew off the outer hull to get to the kernel, never dropping anything but chewed up pieces of shell. The titmice, while very shy, will stay at the feeder and crack open the seeds on the perch.

Music in my head: Zip-pidee-do-dah, from the jazz Steve Miller album.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Watching the ABC news this evening, their Person of the Week feature interviewed many people of Iraq. It has become plain to me that the Iraqi people are not going to be as "appreciative" of our "liberating" them as, say, the people of Kuwait are now. Having deposed the governments of two Muslim countries, and provided aid to Israel that has been used to attack Palestinians, I think it is not unreasonable for some Muslims to believe we as a country are out to rid the world of Islam. We now hear rumbling about taking action against Syria.

If this is a war of terrorism, why have we only concentrated on terrorists who are "Muslim?" Before 9/11, the worst act of terrorism in the US was carried out by two white Christians (McVeigh and Nichols). Christian fundamentalists in the country use terror tactics against Planned Parenthood and doctors who perform abortions. Why haven't we tried to crack down on them? Or how about the destroyers of our public lands out west who have terrorized government personnel who have tried to enforce land use laws? What about the paramilitary organizations who refuse to pay taxes?

Then there are the overseas organizations. The IRA? ETA? What about the systematic destruction of the Tibetan culture by the Chinese?

Somehow we need to mend the fences with the Islamic world. I don't mean that we should fold under terrorist pressure. The overwhelming majority of Muslims hate terror tactics as much as we do. They should be our allies. We need to do more than provide lip service.

I don't have the answers. I don't know how to do it. But I believe there are people in the Islamic world that right now consider me to be an enemy because I am American. I believe there are Americans who consider all Muslims to be their enemy. There is hostility there where there shouldn't be.

Music in my head: Keiko Matsui, Precious Time (still!)

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. -Lord Acton.

I control what can be seen, what can be heard. I control the vertical, the horizontal. I wield at my fingertips immense powers that bring light into the darkness, forces of nature which are fundamental to the existence of the universe. I hold dominion over the sources of enlightenment, over the perceptions of events from all parts of the globe. I am King of the Visual Arts that convey great emotional turmoil, and the most sublime of thought and action. I am drunk with power, from the mastery of all that I command.

I have possession of the TV remote. :)

Music in my head: Keiko Matsui, Precious Time.

(Note: have updated my links, have added some good ones. If you see your blog linked and don't want me to, send a note or leave a comment).

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Poor Karen is sick, some sort of cold that has knocked her out, well, cold.

Because of the migraines, I have made many, many withdrawals from the emotional bank account. To go through the pain and physical down-times is so much easier when there is someone there to help you manage it. Over the years my wife has shown so much patience, so much caring, and so much love that it will take many lifetimes to return it. So many of her dreams and ambitions have been delayed by my illness.

So when she comes up ill, I feel that I just can't be helpful enough. Today she has drank numerous cups of tea, made lovingly by yours truly. Some bits of food, and glasses of juice and cold water. Oh, I don't think I can ever pay her back, but at least I can make some deposits into the emotional bank account. A backrub, setting up the TV. Bringing medicine. Bringing in the mail for her to look over. Ordering birthday presents. Calling clients, calling her in sick at work.

Our dog Kane has been there too, staying in the bedroom, mostly on the bed, lending what aid he can. He hasn't left her side yet today except for outside breaks, and briefly for his breakfast.

So she who gives so much is now forced to be the receiver. It isn't the only time she is on the receiving end, but it is times like this when it is obvious what to do. It is time to return the favor.

Music in my head: Norah Jones, Cold Cold Heart

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

My contribution to Ecotone wiki.

There was a GIANT spider that lived at the back of the tin-covered pens where we raised sheep for show on our small "ranch" in South Texas. It terrified us, because we knew it was one of those "jumping" spiders that could leap out at you and bite you on the neck like some sort of arachnid vampire. She had an eggsac the size of a quail's egg. She herself was yellow and hairless, with black markings on the back of her thorax and abdomen. She would sit in the middle of her huge web (the size of a small, round kitchen table) waiting for an insect or small bird to fall into her nest, or for a small child to wander too close.

Music in my head: Stevie Nicks, Enchanted

Coming to you from the laptop this time; I was testing the baseball video, to make sure it would work here. I subscribed to their video feed service, and suspect I'll be watching most of the games with the laptop sitting next to the bed this season.

Right now there is a spring training game being played, Orioles at the Marlins. They're having 70 degree weather in Jupiter, Florida where the game is being played (though they are having rain showers ha ha!). Weather service says to expect two to four inches of snow here, though I understand there is supposed to be more further south.

But there's baseball on TV!

My earliest baseball memory is in playing pewee league ball, and our team name was that of the sponsor, Roadway Inn. I don't think I had a batting average, but I walked almost all the time. I remember our team were the champions. I recall playing left field. At that time, there was no "T" ball, so we had pitchers and everything.

I better remember playing one year of Little League. I pitched, and played first base, for the Dodgers. We won one game that season, in a four-team league. I guess I was an OK pitcher, because I was one of the regular starters, or maybe there was just a shortage of pitchers.

During warm-ups before one game where I was playing first, I took a simple throw from second base. I had my glove, on which I had branded my initials, out in front of me to take the toss. Somehow, the ball jumped over the webbing of the glove and hit me square in the upper lip. There was blood, and I didn't play the game, but went home. In a way it was good that it happened, painful as it was, because we came home to find our Irish Setter "Lady" was giving birth to puppies. Had I played the game, I would have missed it.

Music in my head: Center Field

Monday, March 15, 2004

Hello to those reading from Reflections in d minor, and to all the ships at sea.

The three-day migraine has finally broken down into a slight pressure, what a relief.

On today's page of the Words of Wisdom calendar with quotes of HH the Dalai Lama he says, "History is history and no one can change the past." True enough. And I think the point being made is that it doesn't help one to dwell on one's past. There is some wisdom in that.

For awhile I was really into reading history. But I found myself wanting to read only the most recently printed history, while finding that old histories were interesting in their context but I took them with a grain of salt. I've found that history, like science, is ever changing. With both history and science, our current discovery updates what we knew years ago. So, to be accurate, while history and science do not change, our understanding of them does.

The further back in time we go in reading histories, it seems that the standards for accuracy become more lax. I wonder how much that is stated as fact is really opinion or hearsay. Older histories point to a time when the fantastic and magical occurred with greater frequency than today (though no doubt what we take for granted today would have been magical a century or more ago). Back then, too, there were fewer experts that could have validated or provided a critical assessment of a work of history.

Granted, the experts weren't such great experts. The history of the creation of the world was believed to have occurred in six 24-hour days. Even scientist Isaac Newton was a Creationist. Furthermore, these experts had such strong faith in what they believed to be history that any evidence to the contrary was discounted (not unlike today, eh?).

So, isn't interesting that, to be informed, we need to keep up with the latest intelligence on something that is temporally static?

Music in my head: Norah Jones, Sunrise, sunrise (if you've heard it, isn't it a catchy tune?)

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Day three of the migraine that won't go away. Pain meds giving me something of a relief. I decided to not go to the Zen center this morning; there was just too much pain to socialize and socialize is what I most wanted to do.

Sleeping with the CPAP machine for a week now, I seem to be in a bit of a rut. I sleep for about four hours and wake up, and have a hard time getting back to sleep. So I set the mask aside, planning to put it back on when I get sleepy. I lay there for an hour, or a half hour, and then fall into a poor sleep of dreams and dozing. As a result, I've only gotten four hours a night on the machine. I'm sure that is why the headaches have been so bad. Will have to talk to the doctor about this insomnia.

I've just about finished reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, in my plan of reading all the works represented by the movie League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It's a very good read, if you don't get bogged down by the long lists of sea flora and fauna reported by the narrator. I seem to recall that there was a Disney movie made from this novel (yep, check it out here).

I have a copy of Dracula on order from Powell's (a great bookshop, you can find almost anything there) which probably won't arrive by the time I finish Verne.

Speaking of books, there was a book sale last Saturday (a benefit for the Richmond library) where I found several collections of Ray Bradbury's stories. Nice additions to my library.

Music in my head: Nanci Griffith singing I Don't Want to Talk About Love

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Nasty migraine pain yesterday and today, so I'm kinda quiet. From some earlier browsing I ran across an interesting blog, Macroscopic World. If you are at all interested what's going on in the Middle East, you should find this blog interesting. So I refer you to there today.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Another bright, sunshiny day!

I have a new resolution, and maybe by stating it publicly I'll be more apt to stick to it. Two things that I need to do daily and have been unable to do is to exercise and meditate. So, my new resolution is that I won't turn on the TV nor sit down to use the computer until I have walked and sat. Though it's a gorgeous day outside, I decided to put the treadmill to good use and do my walking there. You see, I want this to become a habit. There will be cold days and rainy days and maybe other unpleasant days, and I don't want that to stop me. Plus, I've been kinda inspired by Keri's work.

Doctor said I should start with just ten minutes a day and work up, but I've been sporadically walking so twenty minutes seemed like a reasonable start. And it was great! I feel more awake, and though I woke up with a headache, it seems more tolerable now. Plus, Sensei told me that exercise would help, and I've had enough people tell me so that I'm starting to believe it.

Another reason for using the treadmill is that the road on which we live is a very busy road and the speed limit out front is 45 miles per hour. Once I get some walking stamina built up I will probably start walking out back, building a loop trail around the property, or even (!) do the loop up to the top of the hill where an old logging road makes a great walking trail. Right now I'm so puny I don't think I could get to the top of the hill. And even if I could, there's too much mud right now to make such a trip reasonable.

Since cutting back on the pain meds, I've found it difficult to sit. This morning I was able to do a full 30 minutes. It wasn't easy, and I had trouble quieting my mind, but I was able to get through it. There was pain in my head and in my legs and feet, but I just tried acknowledging it and going on. I use a seiza bench and I was surprised to get the leg and foot pain. Guess I shouldn't have; during formal sitting on Sunday I had the same problems.

In other news, Karen gave her notice on Tuesday, I guess she'd about had it with the Stern Center. She gave four weeks notice. So far she doesn't have another job lined up, but I doubt she will have any problems finding another job. She seems so such better now! Her job was creating a lot of stress in her life. She is visibly doing better, all smiles and pink in the cheeks. I'm happy for her.

Music in my head: the song Our House

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The sun is shining this morning and has melted the new snow we had yesterday. The weather station is off in la-la land again (guess I'll have to get another circuit board for it, my third since buying the station) but I guess it is around 35 degrees F. Seems to be no wind; a nice day in March in northern Vermont.

Sometimes in the early morning I'll find deer that have been eating the ground cover ivy next to the house. This stuff has kinda taken over, so I don't mind them eating it back a bit. I've been seeing a lot of deer in the neighborhood lately, mostly does with a occasional young-un in tow. They've chewed off the soft buds on the apple trees up to about eye level. They've been doing this for years, but I can't see that it has harmed the trees any.

In the summer the deer are a menace. I've found it impossible to grow a garden, as they eat just about anything I grow. At first it was the leafy vegetables, and the tops of beets and carrots and broccoli. They left the squash plants, and the cucumber vines alone, as well as the tomato plants. But in the last few years they've eaten just about anything that grows in the space except, of course, the weeds.

I've not taken any steps to deter them in the past (last year, struggling so much with pain, I didn't plant a garden at all...just kept the herbs, and had some tomato and bell peppers in containers on the deck). If I do decide to grow a garden this year, I'll have to come up with some sort of deterrent. So far I've heard that human hair, human urine, and various types of soap around the garden will keep them away. There are also commercial products that are supposed to work. There are some fencing tricks I've heard, and seen amongst my neighbors, that I may have to do, but I'll try the other things first.

Cute critters that become pests are sort of the order of the day when you live next to miles of wilderness. For years I've had running battles with red squirrels, who are too small to trigger the squirrel-proof bird-feeders. For awhile I used the ultimate solution (a .410) before I started to feel guilty. Since they were destroying the feeders as well raiding them, it wasn't hard to justify this harsh action. But one day while looking for something else in Home Depot I discovered a Hava-Hart trap, and decided to try that instead. I found this to be a much more humane, efficient, and satisfying way to deal with the problem. Thus began the Great Red Squirrel Relocation Program.

Right now I have only one red who comes around, and he spends most of his time cleaning up the lost seeds dropped by the birds, so he does me a favor of sorts. But he has started raiding the feeder, too. I don't like relocating squirrels in the winter time; they have a hard enough time finding food as it is. But soon...this fellow will have new living quarters.

What has really become a problem are the bigger, grey squirrels. They're too big for the trap I have, and so now I have to do with chasing them (or letting Kane, our dog, chase them), and they do take off when I go outside, and seem to stay away for several hours.

I tried just setting aside food for the squirrels, but that didn't work too well. It attracted more of them, and they were going through a tremendous amount of food. It made the problem worse, regardless of where I put the food for them. Guess I'm going to have to get a bigger trap.

In the summertime I have problems with raccoons raiding the feeder. Last year I just brought the feeders in during the night, and that seemed to deter them. I'm pretty sure there was a bear getting into some of the feeders, as I would find the squirrel baffles pushed down to ground level.

Now THAT would be a big trap.

Music in my head: Summertime

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Went to my first formal sitting and private instruction at the Vermont Zen Center this morning. Made one mistake in getting up from the mat at the wrong time, but other than that, things went well. Sensei gave me some suggestions during private instruction about doing zazen with head pain, which I think I will find helpful.

Everyone was so nice! When I arrived I was given instructions on how things would go, though there were still details that I had to pick up as I went along. Sensei gave a teisho on right speech. What was new to me was that, during the talk, people sit facing the altar of the Buddha; you don't face Sensei. There was also some chanting, one of which I was given a copy so that I could follow along, one which nearly everyone seemed to know (except me and a few others who were new) and it was a powerful experience to hear.

I didn't stay for the socializing after it was over, though now I wish I had. Maybe next time.

It was overcast and snowing when I arrived this morning, but it was sunny and clear when I left; all around, it was a beautiful day! I look forward to future adventures at the Center.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Went this morning to Life Plus and picked up the CPAP machine, which I will start using tonight. It comes in a handsome carrying bag and weighs very little. The tech helped me fit the mask and whizzed through the instructions on how to use it. There really isn't much to it. One feature it does have is a logging feature, so the company (and via them, my insurance company) can tell how long I am using it each night.

The unit is set so that, at peak, there's 11 something or other of pressure, which I was told is about the middle of the range. It has a ramp feature so that it works its way up to full pressure gradually, so I don't have to take the full force of the air when first trying to go to sleep. This is good as, at full strength, I find it hard to exhale. Well, hard is not the word, but more difficult, certainly.

For those not in the know, I have sleep apnea, and it may the biggest contributor to my migraine problems. The CPAP machine is designed to put pressurized air in my breathing passages so that my breathing is not interrupted. The interruptions were causing me to not get to the deeper levels of sleep, so I'm not rested.

The machine has a reservoir to put distilled water, so that the air being forced into my nose isn't too dry. The down side of all of this is that the unit has to be cleaned every day to prevent bacteria from growing.

I was amazed at how quiet the machine is. Also, the mask that I will be using is much more comfortable than the one I used in the hospital sleep studies. It won't be necessary to have the mask so tight around my head. Pleasant surprises, to be sure.

In other news, I have been accepted as a trial member into the Vermont Zen Center. I plan to attend a sitting and teisho this Sunday. It should prove to be interesting.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Finished Lotus in the Fire early this morning during another fit of insomnia. He had a really rough go, and it put my troubles into perspective. I am in way better shape than I could be if I had leukemia, or some other form of cancer.

I also figured out that I am very ignorant when it comes to the nuts and bolts of formal practice with a group. Guess I'll have to learn as I go along.

The Buddhist diety Kannon played an important role in the book. I found interesting references here and here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Is it irony? I've caught a wicked cold, while at the same time reading Lotus in the Fire by Jim Bedard. The book is by a Canadian who got leukemia, and tells of how his Zen practice, teacher, friends, and family helped him through the ordeal. The book is dedicated to Sensei Sunyana Graef, the teacher at the Vermont Zen Center, with whom I hope to be working soon. Though I'm about halfway through the book, I know he makes it in the end because it says in the back of the book he's been in remission.

When I was using daily pain meds for headaches I was able to meditate for 45 minutes to an hour a day. Since I've cut back, I've struggled to make even 20 minutes. Part of it has to do with the migraine pain, but part of it too comes from being off the meds. When I sit now I feel like I want to jump out of my skin. So, I'm having to relearn how to do it. I'm hoping to gain some insights from Bedard on how he was able to keep up his practice while going through chemotherapy.

Though I haven't seen any myself, the Cassandra Pages has a picture of the first sap buckets of the season. That's an early sign of spring in Vermont. The temperatures have broken out into the upper 40's and lower 50's during the day, though today it is raining. We had six straight days of sunny weather last week, which hasn't happened in decades. The record for Vermont is nine straight days of 100% sun. I think that happened in 1947, but I may remember the radio news report incorrectly.

Music playing in my head: Keiko Matsui's Kappa.