Limp

Limp,

Tossed about by nature's breathing,
When not too busy or indifferent
To spare me even a breath.

Cold, exposed to elements attracted more
to the colorful parade than I,
Faded and tattered remnants
hugging a cold, stiff pole
on an unseeing street corner.

Ignored, eating the meals tossed by
"empty" ghosts, glittering shells,
begging bowls filled with nails
and crosses.

The winter cold and snow freeze my
very foundation,
sleet starches the very flow of me
and makes of my heart a
cold, icy thing dressed
in fearful shivers.

Carers whiz by en route to their
emergencies
while I flail my prayers, my
hurts, my forgottenness to the darkness.
Sirens scream, horns blast, 
onlookers curse the noise but love
the adventure of it all.

Bright lights shine satin upon
patches of still clean snow
but all I see are crusty,
dirty dog-peed stains
carelessly allowed by
angry mongrels.

I'm left endlessly fluttering,
reaching for what?
a rainbow over there
offering some hope,
some beauty to my world of
beggars, hustlers, "thieves"

Who have stolen the dance
that was once mine?

Limp,
the heavy flag
has hidden my jewels
in locked closets only to be
displayed on special
holidays.

What's next, Valentine's Day?

by Vivienne L. Lund

(written during Winter Solstice Retreat 2015 at Zen Life & Meditation Center, during Practice of Immediacy in the Arts®, inspired by looking out a Zen Center window and seeing a flagpole with a limp hanging flag, mirroring my emotions at the time. 

Religiousness

Albert EinsteinAlthough I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated. The most beautiful and deepest experience a person can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavors in art and science. Anyone who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is. Albert Einstein

Turtle Island Mandala Series

Turtle Island is a term that comes from the American Indian tradition, used to describe North America. For me, the term carries with it a set of values I share about the sacred nature of the world. In this world there is respect for living in harmony with the earth, with the natural world, it's communities, plants, animals and many beings.

I place these images in the context of mandalas. It's difficult for me to describe in words what a mandala means. It is not a concept or a symbol, nor is it merely psychological, though it seems to have a healing power that can restore us to wholeness. Mandala arises out of how our experience organizes itself. It's not about a center. Centers are uncountable. There can't be a center without a periphery. There can be no enlightenment without delusion, so the mandala includes our confusion, bewilderment, and chaos. The order and chaos include each other. And then, there is the ground of totality beyond any reference point. The mandala is communicating the richness of this human experience, so perhaps it doesn't need to conform to our visual preconceptions.

Robert Althouse

Mandala

I find it difficult to put into words, what mandala is about for me. It's not a concept or a symbol of some kind. It's not about a center. Centers are uncountable. Mandala arises out of how our experience organizes itself. There can be no enlightenment without delusion. The mandala includes our confusion, bewilderment, fear and chaos. The order and the chaos include each other. And then there is a ground that is larger than this duality as well. And the mandala is communicating the richness of this experience. Perhaps the mandala doesn't have to conform to our visual preconceptions.

Secular Ethics

"As the peoples of the world become ever more closely interconnected in an age of globalization and in multicultural societies, ethics based on any one religion would only appeal to some of us. . . What we need today is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without: a secular ethics." Dalai Lama from Beyond Religion

Teacher

"Life always give usexactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath.

Every moment is the guru."

Charolotte Joko Back

A World Crisis We need to Address

I'd like to draw your attention to a recent article written in Nation of Change that should make you sit up and pay attention. Tepco is preparing to remove fuel rods at Fukushima, Unit 4, a pool, that stands 100 feet in the air and holds 400 tons of fuel and 1,535 highly radioactive rods, that may already be damaged and beyond repair. There are indications that Tepco is facing bankruptcy and may not have the resources or the expertise to undertake this task with safety. This is not just Japan's problem. It's the world's problem, so I invite you to inform yourself as much as you can, and to sign the enclosed petition requesting help from the United Nations and President Barack Obama.

The petition is as follows:

"At Fukushima Unit-4, the impending removal of hugely radioactive spent fuel rods from a pool 100 feet in the air presents unparalleled scientific and engineering challenges. With the potential for 15,000 times more fallout than was released at Hiroshima, we ask the world community, through the United Nations, to take control of this uniquely perilous task."

Please consider signing this petition.

Click here to add your name to the petition.

I would also like to form a circle at our Zen Life & Meditation Center that will exist for the next 60 days, to help us stay informed about this, and to inform the rest of our community about what is happening there. I volunteer to be the steward. If you would like to join me in this circle, we could simply call it the "Fukushima Circle", please email or call me at 708.689.1220.

Thank you,

Robert Joshin Althouse

Who's a turkey now?

As it turned out, no one stole my turkey. No one even paid it any attention. The turkey, substantially smaller than a Volkswagen (it was actually rather turkey-sized) had been on my porch for four days, tucked away safely into the seat of a baby stroller we keep out there. Shortly after posting my last blog entry, I started to think that things were not adding up. My friends, Inga and Rimas, read the entry and asked themselves the same question I was asking: If you’re going to steal something from my porch, why not steal the $400 stroller? Why steal the $20 turkey? Things were not adding up. However, thieves are not logicians, so I thought perhaps food was more important than a stroller. Perhaps this thief, desperate for dinner, did not imagine transforming a stroller into enough turkey to feed an orphanage.

Apparently, I did not listen to a very important voice mail message which had detailed the turkey’s whereabouts.  I simply deleted the message, thinking I had all the information I already needed—how complex can this exchange be? I had checked the porch (in the dark). I had contacted Rimas to be sure he had been the one who rang at the critical hour. With no turkey on the porch, and no one who knew where it could be, there was only one conclusion: theft. Frozen turkeys do not disappear on their own, and they certainly do not rise from the dead.

Well, I came home last night to embarrassing news. My wife had found the turkey. It was in the stroller.

Now the lesson becomes even more fascinating. I must add my own delusion: I truly did believe, falsely but ever-so-strongly, that the turkey had been stolen. And my gentle elation in that moment was real, a result of loving-kindness for an imaginary thief. In fact, my elation continues to be so strong that I am thinking of where to donate this turkey.

But how fascinating. I had started out with no turkey. Prior to Inga’s phone call, I had not even the ambition for turkey. In the wake of her call, I was imagining a turkey to take up my entire oven leaving no room for even one potato. Then an actual turkey arrived and transformed into a daydream, a construct, a work of fiction complete with villains. I thought I was truly experiencing it. In that way, I truly *was* experiencing it, just as I experience all the constructs of my daily living. Now that the turkey has “appeared” and rests safely in my freezer (where I have more than enough room for bags of spinach and autumn herbs), I can meditate on the turkey’s emptiness. The lesson is suddenly clearer than it would have been had I greeted Rimas at the door and thanked him for the turkey.

In the meantime, I must be mindful to pay close attention to the messages people leave me.

by Karolis Zukauskas