Sangha

May 17th, 2016

Dai_Bosatsu_Zendo_Kongo-Ji_2Silent in the zendo face to the wall, Sangha surrounds me. Conventional wisdom says that the reason we gather is to support our practice, but I wonder again whether really the practice is just reason for sangha. Stripped down to essence of presence we don’t even pretend to drink coffee or walk or even talk. We just sit. Together. That’s enough.

I am thinking about Sangha:community. About why we need other people, and the ways we have of satisfying that need. I call up a friend to have coffee, play Scrabble, walk in the park, go to a show. It is rich to share experiences but also I suspect that the coffee and Scrabble are really just excuses to be with the people. We work together, ride the bikeways, live in East Van, sit in the zendo — together. I go to a yoga class at Open Door: the instructor is Jennifer who I know from dance circles way back in the day. On the mat next to me is Travis who I know as housemate of Sara and more currently as co-conspirator of ZenYU. Beside him is Laurel, his womanpal who I am just learning to know. Behind me stretches Dave who I work with now at the bike store, and who lived in the apartment below mine some 20+ years past.

The sanghas shift and merge and separate, and the ways we interconnect grow richer, more delightful, and more mysterious. As the fabric of sangha gets more tightly interwoven I feel like we can all be together, even when entirely alone.

 

 

 

Dumpstering on Granville Island

April 9th, 2016

Granville-Island-ShoppingI’ve been taking a course with Michael Stone down on Granville Island (more on that soon). The Island —which is technically not an Island but a Landfill—is an urban wonderland of hidden treasures and oddities. My coolest new discovery is the big green dumpster in front of the trés-upscale Public Market. Yesterday a quick exploration yielded carrots, green onions, and a package of baby pattypans. The day before, a fine cabbage, a perfectly good red pepper, many red and yellow potatoes, and a small spaghetti squash. There was lots more, considerately layered between waxed cardboard boxes to prevent the goods from getting crushed. But I only took what I needed, as i’m sure that dumpster gets a lot of customers. For our class potluck I made a spicy asian dumpster slaw. When people tell me it’s so expensive to live in Vancouver I just smile and say, depends where you shop.

A twig in my teeth

March 14th, 2016

danger-sign-cliffA daydreaming monk falls off a cliff. As the monk is plunging downward he sees a twig sticking out from the side of the sheer cliff, and he manages to grab the twig with his teeth (yeah!). He is hanging by his teeth, above certain death, when a student arrives on the beach far below. The student calls up to the monk: “Oh wise monk, why did Bodhidharma come from the west?!” Obliged to deliver the dharma, the monk knows that if he opens his mouth he will fall to his death.

The power of the question is lost in the answer.
It’s a big one, the question. How can i entwine my life with another? I love my solitude, my independence, my comforts, my habits. If I open my life, my heart, my mind, to this possibility—what will be gained, what will be lost? How can we work it out? I am out on a limb, hanging by my teeth. Caught by the illusion of control. So much to lose, so much to risk. The unlived life never known. The vexatious koan never posed.

There is no solution to this dilemma, because there is no wrong answer. All power lies in the question.

<with a deep bow to Onshin Michael Newton for today’s crunchy nugget of zen>

A little pink notebook

March 2nd, 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am having an identity crisis in the fancy-ass stationery store on Granville Island. A little pink notebook is messing with my head.

You see, I am the Kind of Person who carries a notebook all the time. It is the repository and record of my life, from to-do lists to major epiphanies. I get twitchy when I don’t have a notebook (and working pen) within reach. It is what people see when they see me. The notebook is me, it defines who I am. I am the Kind of Person whose notebook is black—serious, beat-poet, anarchist black.

My current notebook has been with me for almost two years, and it is full. A standard little moleskin bought in New Mexico, it has a Georgia O’Keeffe postcard glued on the front and a Cortes Bike Gang sticker on the back; it is battered and ratty and ready for the archive. This one actually isn’t black, to be honest—it is deep forest green. But even the green was a stretch.

I am certainly not the Kind of Person to have a hot-pink leather notebook. It’s not me and I don’t want it. But damn it. That pink notebook wants me. I look over my shoulder to see if anyone’s watching, pick it up, put it down.

I select a no-nonsense black moleskin notebook off the rotating display and take it toward the cash. But then I stop and turn back. The pink notebook calls again from the shelf, with the little kissing sound you would use to beckon a squirrel to take a nut from your hand. I pick it up again. I turn it over, stroking its cover and its cream-coloured leaves. This notebook, that wants me so bad—well it isn’t just pink, it is hot pink. It is the perfect size. A centimeter bigger than the moleskin, it has an inner pouch, nice opaque unlined pages, a place-finding ribbon, and a sturdy elastic band. The elastic is matching pink. The black moleskin is covered in fake leather, but the pink one is the real thing. Real buttery leather, smelling faintly of cow. It is perfect.

But, the pink. I can’t have a pink leather notebook; it is so Not Me. My notebook is a commitment; it has to be right. Who will I be? What will people think?

I come to my senses, put the pink book down. Carry the black moleskin to the counter and open my wallet. Take out my debit card. Stop. I turn back to the notebook section and i swear, the pink notebook winks at me. C’mon, it says. Take me home.

I open the pink notebook to the first virgin page. Pencilled lightly in the corner is the price: $14.99. The serious black moleskin is $17.99.

Done. Sold.

I am a person with a little pink notebook. I’m that kind of person. Who am I now?

The progress of long-distance love

February 14th, 2016

crows troutlake horiz8This long-distance cross-border love thing—this thing that everyone says DON’T DO, it’ll drive you crazy, it’ll never work—i daresay, seems to be working. The naysayers are probably right, too—long-distance love never does work. For the young. But I am a grownup, and grownup love is different.

I am in love with an American man, and there have been times when it has felt utterly crazy-making. There have been days when i was sure it was all just plain over. Read the rest of this entry »

Why knit?

January 22nd, 2016

Know this: if anyone ever knits you a pair of socks, it means they really, really love you.

I’m well into knitting my life’s third pair of socks. And while they are certainly nice socks, they’re nothing spectacular. I don’t do fancy cables or intricate stitchery (and i have actually seen a pattern for socks with a stanza from Beowulf knitted into them, which is just plain insanity). They are plain, but they will be warm and fit just right, and they should last a good long time. But they’re pretty ordinary socks, and mostly they will just be hidden inside my shoes.

Sometimes when people see my hand-knitted socks they say hey—you could sell those! Yes. But, at $20 or more for the wool, plus at least 30 hours of knitting, thems would be some pretty pricey socks. Read the rest of this entry »

Dying stars

January 19th, 2016

landscape-1452522826-david-bowie-5

Can anything ever, so beautiful, die? So sexy. So alive. So hot. So bright.

Lou Reed. John Lennon. Glenn Freye. Freddie. Bowie, Dylan, Keith and Mick.

All dying suns.

Shooting stars.

Burning always through night sky.

The end of awesome

January 6th, 2016

spicoliI know i’m going to come off like a crochety word nazi, but i don’t care. I demand a total and immediate moratorium on awesome.

The a-word has been the most tenacious meme ever to infest the English language. Like some kind of evil invasive species, it has strangled out every native adjective. Ad-copy writers (oops i mean content providers) shove it into every slogan and tagline. CBC announcers and politicians hiccup it like some kind of chipper Tourette tic. It is everywhere, and it is boring. Read the rest of this entry »


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