zen moments of the senior kind

Happy Hermit

 

The continuation of the spiritual journey really depends on how crazy we’re willing to be.
– Reggie Ray

I had no idea I’d end up this crazy. Or this contented. Or this fulfilled. Don’t ask me about happiness – it’s a sub-category these days. Imagine being happy to be unhappy? Imagine being contented to feel like shit? Imagine being at peace with pain and weariness? Imagine being ok with depression, flatness, confusion? If this isn’t your version of liberation I totally understand. (We all start out on this journey imagining ‘waking up’ will magically erase all discomfort from our experience.)

But this absurd liberation lives here, and this is what the crazy cow offers tonight: five three-liners of the slightly nonsensical variety. They like to think they are haiku, but would duck and hide in the presence of ‘real’ haiku. Apologies for my warping of noble zen aphorisms, koans and haiku. I mean no disrespect; after all these years they are deeply embroidered in the fabric of this brain and have a life of their own.

My sanity does too. Where the hell did I put it?


old flesh, old bones

on the zafu, aches come and go

just like I used to

~

weary old mind

data flows in, data drops out

plop!

~

music to my ears…

the sound of someone else

chopping

~

puddle on zafu

old cow’s melted-down stories

moo!

~

relentless koan:

what is the sound of my neighbor’s dog

barking?

 

~

 


About the image.  This delightful brush drawing comes from the cover of an exhibition catalogue: L’Au-delà dans l’art japonaise. Paris 1963. Nowhere in the book does it mention the name of the artist whose work is featured on the cover. My instincts tend towards Sengai… what do you think?


 

on turning seventy three

 

alone in my hut

[no one here to invent me]

eyeballing emptiness

 

Rainbow Lorikeet hovering by Trevor Andersen

 

Seventy three missions

around the sun and not

one thing of worldly value

to show for it.

 

No savvy safety-nets:

investment portfolios, insurance policies,

plans A, B and C.  I walk the way

of not-knowing and wonderment.

 

Lofty notions of enlightenment, bliss,

exalted understanding have no buyer here;

I’ll take this uninvited, serene,

free and priceless fulfilment.

 

See, today I heard the air sing

as it danced through the rainbow wings

of a Lorikeet suspended

in space.

 

Today I watched cumulonimbus

massing in the west, those

sculpted edges alive with flaming gold

as the sun went down.

 

Tonight, as dusk fell

bringing cool relief to the sweating forest

I giddily inhaled a draught

laden with night-scented Jessamine.

 

And it is enough. Whatever may lie ahead

for this beloved bag of bones

the simple sensuous joy of being Presence

 

is enough.

 


Rainbow Lorikeet hovering. Photograph by Trevor Andersen.


being . just being . here

 

Vija Celmins - House 2, 1965

Like the moment you too saw, for the first time,
your own house turned to ashes,
Everything consumed so the road could open again.
– David Whyte

My landlady has notified me that the cabin I call home is needed for family use. Once again I’m packing cartons for a move. But. Where to go?

It’s so strange – the old ideas about what the ML character needed in a dwelling (privacy, tranquillity, beauty, light, workspace, car-cover, community of like-minded souls…) are dropping away during this hesitant recovery from recent surgery. There was no rush to the rebound. BP was happy to stay flat. Slipping away would have been easy; no resistance arose…

But it didn’t happen, and tonight I sit here with the dusk chorus swelling in this vast audial auditorium. Soon the bats will arouse from their upside-down day pose and head east towards their nocturnal feeding-fields. The upswelling of delight is delicious as I relax into the unedited immediacy of Being. Just Being. Here.

There is no longer a wanter-woman here. This, I confess, is the most remarkable thing I can say about my current experience of life. The wanter-woman was so central – and so subtle. She turned up as a host of identities – even trying on the ‘no-wanter’ mask for a while. Whatever saw through all the masks remains a mystery, but I can say with confidence that it’s not another object of any kind.

The contentment and joy known tonight weren’t “wanted”. What I mean is, my particular “wanting” wasn’t consciously motivated by desire to escape from the usual melange of human emotions; nor was I seeking salvation, or freedom from fear. I just needed to know whether the sages were being honest when they spoke of the existence of something changeless, immeasurable, real.

As a child I’d known this ineffable ‘something’ intimately – What was that? Why had it seemed to fade as I grew up? What did it have to do with creativity, harmony, beauty? My lifepath organised itself around these concerns; the wanter-woman was an effective vehicle for the journey … until eventually she was understood to be the root of the problem!

It was seemingly by default that contentment and joy bubbled up in the space being vacated by the wanter-woman’s residual repertoire. (Yes – that’s how it moves here: the wanter-woman was seen for the phantom she was and took off. However she left behind a heap of junk, sneakily stashed away as old patterns forged over a lifetime. One by one they percolate up to be acknowledged, welcomed, loved, and sometimes put to new service.)

Being. Just being. Here. What more could be wanted than the capacity to hear the sweet canoodling of the Rosellas as they settle for the night? Or the croaks of the frogs as they gear up for their mating games? The capacity to sense the air become cooler – my skin alive to its breath; to inhale the fragrance of Jasmine, Petunia and Bauhinia blossoms; to view the darkening world as it exhales, its succulent rainforest forms and colors transforming into a deep-toned two-dimensional dreamlike display? And further, deeper, wider, to experience the impossibility of separation from any of this display – the knowing that The Knowing is all there is?

Capacity! Life’s extraordinary gift, so miraculously ours by default – and unarguably known and experienced to be none other than the inescapable Real, even as one’s BP flattens and the nurses’ eyes narrow.

What more could be wanted than what is already here, and has always been here so long as we’ve been alive – yet taken for granted, overlooked as we search for some awesome ‘Real Deal’ with bells and whistles?

I don’t know why Life returned my BP to normal then gave me a fortnight’s horizontal retreat to wonder why it would want to do that, when the old girl was happy to fade out, to return to sender. What I do know is that my gratitude is beyond words.

Perhaps, after all our speculations die down, that’s all Life ever wants – to hear itself sing its praises to itself.

No brims nor borders such as in a bowl
we see. My essence was Capacitie
– Thomas Traherne, 1634 – 1677

If you know of a humble abode, temporary or permanent, where ML can keep practicing her praising – both verbal and visual – please make contact.

*smiling and bowing*


Image: Vija Celmins House 2, 1965

David Whyte quote: from the poem Fire in the Earth


 

blessed are those who know nothing for certain

 

Bill Viola - Firewoman, 2005

 

blessed are those who know nothing for certain,
whose curiosity keeps them beyond the claws of conclusion,
who seek as an impulse of wonderment rather than for gain,
who question everything the pundits proclaim as truth;

whose questions deliver them, willingly or not,
to the fiery face of the Unnameable, and
who find the courage to keep a “yes” alive in spite of terror;
who come back speechless and trembling with gratitude

blessed are those for whom the encounter enlivens a capacity
and a willingness to hold both hands out to the world
(one to hold grief, the other, gratefulness)
for their heart knows the two as one;

who, without choice, stand naked in knowingness;
whose fulfilment is refreshed with every breath;
who are quietly content (which is not to say inert or passive)
in spite of all that life appears to heave at them

blessed are those who know these contented ones,
who count them among their friends and neighbours,
who seek them out for their simple wisdom, knowing
they have nothing to spin or sell – nothing to bestow
other than their crazy head-shaking heart-healing joy:

innocent – ingenious – immanent

 


Image: Bill ViolaFirewoman, 2005. Detail from video/sound installation.


(it’s not just old age, either)

 

Echoes from Emptiness: Backyard Bauhinia

 
Under a new moon, at the turning of the earth towards summer, I sit at my table out on the deck, the candle flickering as the last stragglers of the bat community head over east, and I, a being once so addicted to “everywhere-but-here”, a global gaddabout of the first order, so easily seduced by salubrious memories of living and working and loving in Europe, North America, India, the Homeland (Aotearoa New Zealand), always ready to go – go – go now, am wallowing in a ridiculous contentment that consumes all desire to spend precious energy fleeing the inexplicable luxury of just this.

How, when my inhalation blesses me with the fragrance of Jasmine, Lavender, Wisteria, Orange and Mango blossom and I am giddy with double delight* at the excessive glory of the huge Bauhinia in my backyard, could I pine for any other clime?

How, when Kookaburra, Currawong, Magpie, uncountable Lorikeets and a host of unidentified cheepers and warblers chorus so insistently at 4am could I wish for a dark, cold, silent dawn elsewhere?

How, when greeted, like this morning, with a sky of powder-blue that throws the Border Ranges and Mount Warning into a chiaroscuro of subtle tones of silver, could I long even for those beloved Alps of my childhood?

I bless the land life has brought me to. It wasn’t my call, and it hasn’t always been easy. But I know beyond a shadow of doubt, it was, and it is, exactly where I need to be.

I am at last able to say – I love I love I love this sunburnt country.

And the weird thing is that it’s not about Australia at all.

I am simply and hopelessly in love.

 


Image by yours truly: Bauhinia blakeana – also known as the Hong Kong Orchid Tree. More info here.
*Treble delight actually – the tree is a dynamo of insect activity, and the Rainbow Lorikeets never draw breath.


“sunburnt country” – lifted from Dorothea Mackellar’s poem: My Country.


lessons from the lifeboat

 

Echoes from Emptiness - Lessons from the Lifeboat

 

Seventy years on and still floating along. This morning’s sit sent me scrambling for my pencil and here’s what downloaded – a list of seven treasured wisdoms the old girl has learnt (so far…)

 

peace

is this rock-solid, inescapable

aware-ing

 

contentment

is simply the end of seeking

salvation

 

separation

is a story without verifiable

substance

 

suffering

is an argument with Life’s

thusness

 

compassion

is meeting Life’s thusness without

a story

 

joy

is unbridled delight at Life’s endless

wonderment

 

grace

is the gift of this unshakeable

understanding

 


Image source


three haiku for the road ahead

Leaving Cloud Mountain

 

xxii

How to heal a heart:
stand alone, drop your stories,
fall in love with this.

 

xxiii

When my aloneness
smiled with simple contentment
love loosed its wild song.

 

xxiv

Now that I’m clueless,
emptiness dances naked
wherever I gaze.

 


 

Life moves. It’s taking itself off the mountain and into the marketplace again. Who knows what will unfold? The only thing I’m certain about is that gratitude and fulfillment go with me – one’s my left leg, the other my right…

three haiku from cloud mountain hermitage