Thursday, June 27, 2019

I met a friend yesterday for a dog walk and a Dharma chat. The Buddha encouraged his followers to hang out with Kalyanamita- literally spiritual friends. When I hike with Holly, we talk about the meaning of co-arising or causes and conditions. Rachel is on a journey of discovery which includes her study of deep trauma, Judith has a steady sitting practice and holds her own pain with grace. I am so grateful for these friends who are studying and probing and questioning the causes and remedies for suffering.

I feel that those of you who read here are also deeply practicing and deeply living your lives; with your passions and disappointments and thoughtful investigations into the nature of existence, all existence.

The babies flow on and on. Parents do the best they can to raise their children with the least amount of harm. I remind myself that most of us do a pretty good job. The news cycle is full of aberrant parenting because the good parents aren't 'news'. My neighbors are raising their twin girls with the grandparents living next door. They have learned to ride their bikes under their grandmother's watchful eye. She tells me 'bonita, bonita' when she watches me water my garden. Their little white dog runs from house to house.

When we were done with our walk, Glenn asked if I wanted to meditate in the park. We found a place surrounded by flowers and sat on the grass. Eventually it began to rain, very softly. I could feel the drops in my hair and on my skin. As first I thought we should move or stop but I remembered that the Buddha instructed his followers find a quiet place, sit under a tree and meditate. We could hear children playing in the playground and there was some large machinery nearby but we continued to sit, the rain gently blessing us.

Right now the house is still. The dog is at my feet, the cat is lying in a patch of sunlight. Gratitude flows through me.

Monday, June 24, 2019


The weather here is beautiful, cool and sunny. I'm in a funk but this morning I went into my studio and threw some colors on canvas. Now the long awaited dog walk and a trip to the pea patch to weed and water and harvest.

A few nights ago I went to a reading by Ocean Vuong for his new book, "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous." I'm still in a state of wonderment. I have his book of poetry, "Night Sky With Exit Wounds" after encountering his work in the NYT. I taped them to my kitchen wall. You know when you read something that makes the landscape tip and suddenly the trees and sky are unfamiliar and you've entered a new reality? His work and his Q and A after he read!!! Please look for him on youtube.
My silent retreat was transformative. Sitting with nuns who have given their lives to the study of the Dharma, how to explain the warmth and kindness of their regard for all of us? I'm still mining the work I did in that week. It's taken me a while to 'come back' or maybe I've stepped over a threshold into some new understanding.

My little cat just caught and ate a spider while I was sitting here.

Being with the mystery today.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Garden bounty. The lettuce has slugs and the strawberries are sour but they grew in my pea patch and I'm grateful. Going on a week of a rotten cold with an impressive cough but going to work tomorrow in spite of it all. Taking cough syrup and throat lozenges and if it gets too bad, a percocet to keep the cough away. On Friday I leave for a week in the forest to sit with the Vipassana nuns.  I offered a ride to someone on the ride board and when I said 'the nuns' retreat' she said, 'whaa?' Oh dear. well, we'll have a few hours to chat on the way there.

In the West we don't really understand the concept of monastic life...well the Catholics have monks and nuns but in the East, the monastic community is an integral part of everyday life. You see robed men and women everywhere, in the open air markets and walking on the streets. And they go on alms rounds with their bowls. Every household supports the monastic community with food, shelter, clothing and medicine. In return, the monks and nuns offer the teaching of the Buddha freely, all who ask. It's a major renunciation, leaving everything behind to live in a monastery and be dependent on the generosity of the surrounding community. A tradition that has been going on for more than 2600 years. Unfortunately, the wealth is not equally distributed. Nuns are more often neglected and will disrobe because they are unsupported. In the West it is even more dire. There are a few nun communities on the West coast with women who grew disenchanted with the obvious misogyny of Eastern monasteries and have planted themselves in small communities in California. We who live out here have the benefit of their deep practice and humility. I've had the good fortune to sit with a number of remarkable women over the years and this retreat will be no exception.

It's just too bad that the larger community is largely unaware of the plight of Western (and Eastern) nuns. The patriarchy is a mean and powerful bastard. 

So the young woman I am picking up Friday morning to drive to the retreat will be 'treated' to a lecture. Or maybe I've gotten my righteous indignation out of my system and we will have a quiet discussion of the nuns' situation...

The teachings from these gentle, wise women is truly a rare privilege. Let's hope I'm not still hacking and snorting with this everlovin' cold.