Beginner's Mind

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

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

I'm torn between writing something upbeat and writing about my mindset for the last week and a half.

Aw what the heck, I'll go for the gloom.

At first, when the miscarriage happened, I threw myself into helping Karen. She was feeling cramps and pain, there was still bleeding, and she was heartbroken. But as she gradually climbed out of that hole, I found that the grieving I had not done come to the forefront. There was a whole new mindset when she got pregnant, thinking about names, building a nursery, all kinds of things. Now after that is all gone, I still sometimes find myself thinking as if she were still pregnant. Then I catch myself, and that feeling of loss comes over me again.

The biggest loss has to be the glow that Karen had. I've never seen her so happy and excited. That glow is gone. She has started to smile and laugh at my jokes, and she's been out visiting family and friends. You'd think she was over it, then I find her crying in the dark. Or, she'll come home upset after being around children or someone pregnant.

There hasn't been any closure for me, and that may be because there hasn't been closure for her.

I'm finding it hard to meditate, or, rather, finding it hard to start doing it. When I have started, I've been able to clear my mind, something I haven't been able to do in a long while. And maybe there lies the secret of closure; maybe closure starts when a new practice begins. I may not be able to climb out of the hole, but I might be able to slowly rise out of it.

It seems promising, anyway.

Music in my head: Stop Running Away, Brenda Russell.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Thich Nhat Hanh provides this translation of The Smaller Amitabha Sutra in his book Finding Our True Home. Parts of the sutra follow:

At that time the Buddha called Shariputra to him and said:"If you go from here in a western direction and pass through hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddha worlds you will come to a world called Sukhavati (Great Happiness). In that world there is a Buddha whose name is Amitabha and who is this very moment teaching the Dharma.

"Shariputra, why is that land called Great Happiness? Because the people who live there do not have to go through any suffering. They are always enjoying many kinds of happiness. And that is why that world is called Great Happiness."

This is a wonderful place, indeed.

"...there are many lakes of the seven precious stones, full of the water of the eight virtues. The bed of the lake is made wholly of pure golden sand and on the shores are paths of gold, silver, lapis lazuli, and crystal...The lotus flowers in these lakes are as large as cartwheels. The blue lotuses give out a halo of blue light, the golden lotuses a halo of golden light, the red lotuses a halo of red light, and the white lotuses a halo of white light. The fragrance of the lotuses is subtle, wonderful, sweet, and pure."

There's more to it: The breeze blowing through the trees plays heavenly music; there are many wondrous multicolored birds; people born into this land will not regress in a later life, and in fact many will attain Buddhahood in just one more life.

These are some of the teachings of the Pure Land school of Buddhism.

Music in my head: Pop A Top, Jim Ed Brown

Sunday, June 20, 2004

I have read a story in which the Buddha was asked what is the greatest source of suffering. Surprisingly, he answered that it was love that led to the greatest suffering. He went on to explain how the loss of a loved one would bring on great suffering for the survivor.

I have just experienced just that kind of pain. Last night we suffered a miscarriage of our baby. Karen is resting now, most of the physical pain gone, though she still is having some cramping and bleeding.

I know we will be OK, but such a loss is, as you might expect, very hard. But, already we have resolved to try again. The unthinkable happened, and we are getting through the pain and the experience.

Thank you all for your kind wishes and thoughts.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

To those who wonder why the Muslim world doesn't condemn attacks on innocent Americans, you might find this interesting. Found on the always informative Macroscopic World.

One thing I believe both supporters and opponents (most, anyway) of the Iraqi invasion is that the conflict was about governments, and not between US and Iraqi citizens. A recent poll in Iraq showed that only 3% of Iraqis want a return of Saddam. So maybe that's something on which we can all agree.

Perhaps it is time for Americans to make some sort of gesture to the Iraqi people. I'm talking about some kind of grassroots effort of some act; maybe a scheduled moment of silence. This would not be a protest act, but a show of solidarity between American and Iraqi people, to show that we know they are facing hardships. Anyone have any ideas? Perhaps at the appointed time we would face towards Bagdad for our moment of silence.

Any ideas? Would y'all support that?

Thursday, June 17, 2004

It's great when someone who came before has tried something you are considering or wondering about, you can perhaps learn all you need to know reading or hearing that person describe the experience.

The Buddha started his journey to enlightenment by joining a group of ascetics. He put his body through all kinds of hardships: exposure to the elements, fasting, and so forth. But he came to the conclusion that The Way did not travel through such experiences. He broke his fast, and continued on his way.

I take this to mean that it isn't necessary to deny yourself a few creature comforts in order to attain enlightenment. Of course the pendulum can swing the other way, and you can get attached to pleasures which can lead you astray.

Where am I going with this? I guess I am in the process of justifying getting a feather bed.

My sleep has been just awful for months. I awake in the middle of the night with joint pain, usually the hips (which are so well padded you'd wonder how they ever got sore), but also in the back. But I noticed when I was in the cabin last week that I didn't have this problem. Furthermore, when I visited Mike (of Rhythm and Rhetoric fame) and Susan back in February, there was no problem then, either. And they had us sleeping on a feather bed.

Hopefully, I will be saving the joint pain for zazen (if at all!).

Music in my head: Love in the Hot Afternoon, Gene Watson

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Well, I am back from a week of poor fishing in the Catskills. In fact, I came home early.

Today I was out running an errand and got stuck behind a farm tractor trailing a plowing disc. Once upon a time, that would have annoyed me to no end. But for some reason today it actually pleased me. It occurred to me that having a muddy tractor on the road is not a common occurrence for most people. Folks in the big city have their touring held up by masses of other drivers. But in Richmond, tractors are not uncommon.

There is something about living in a small town or community that appeals to me. In New England, we actually have "villages" and I wouldn't be surprised to find a hamlet or two hereabouts. (Vermont also boasts of having the country's smallest "city"...a small boast). We don't actually live in Richmond village, we are out in the country on a few acres next to miles of uninhabited forest.

Still, our town is our town. A few days before Memorial Day weekend the flags went up on the electric poles. The town sent out requests for donations to buy the flags a few years ago (we sponsored one), and now Old Glory waves up and down Main Street/US Route 2, Bridge Street, and Jericho Road, the "major" thoroughfares that meet at the one traffic light. We have a 4th of July parade every summer, and there is a town green where we gather after the parade for the nation's birthday celebration. There are games of skill for the kids, and a few local organizations have raffles. There is an auction of all kinds of goods. And, of course, there is the chicken BBQ that is prepared by the local Grange, and include half a roasted chicken, cole slaw, chips, and home-baked goodies such as M&M cookies and thick chocolate brownies wrapped in plastic sandwich bags. All that for less than $5. At dusk (which, on the 4th, is around 9 PM) there is the fireworks display (which is supported monetarily with change cans next to the register in most of the town stores).

We still have a few fields where corn is grown every year, rich soil that is found along the Winooski River and floods during the spring thaw. On Friday afternoons there is a Farmer's Market on the town green, where you can find homemade goods, and, of course, locally grown produce. There is a small band shell on the green, where through the summer months one of the local video stores (we have two!) sponsors free movies. People fish for brown trout and smallmouth bass in the river that runs alongside the green. If this sounds somewhat idyllic, well, it's because that the kind of place it is.

Music in my head: Small Town, John Mellencamp (what else?)

Saturday, June 05, 2004

We are still walking on air with Karen's pregnancy. The grandparents are all excited. So are Aunts and Uncles.

In all the excitement, I seem to have thrown out my back.

In the grand tradition of men everywhere and throughout the ages, I will be leaving home for a week of fishing in the Catskills, leaving my pregant wife behind. So the blog will not be updated until I get back (sorry, I will be in cabins with no internet).

In our kitchen, there are two plaques mounted one above the other on the wall. The top one says We interrupt this marriage for trout season. The bottom one says He cleans fish, why not the house?. The bottom one is not true, actually, as I release the fish I catch. But the sentiment is there.

Music in my head: Don't Get Around Much, Anymore, the Willie Nelson version.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The times, they are a changin'...

Karen heard from the doctor today...she is pregnant with our first child!

After years of trying, we are walking on clouds. The grandparents are thrilled. I think my parents wondered if they were ever going to be granparents. We are as pleased as can be.

Woo hoo!