Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


No Such Thing as Nothing

Briefly, because I'm not a physicist of any means, I'm fascinated by the fact that truly there is no such thing as "nothing." There's always something, the buzzing of matter. Nothing I can see and stuff that eventually makes my brain go all quiet in awe when I hear about it, but very certainly something.

My Zen brain pings around with this. I think about the part of the Heart Sutra which reads, "Form itself is emptiness, emptiness itself form."

Then my mind zips over to ponder Dogen's words in the Genjo Koan referring to an ocean of an infinite variety of realities.

Physics speaks of an emptiness that is never empty. We are constantly awash in that ocean of infinite realities in our world consisting of swirling, changing matter. It is the something that is the form out of emptiness.


History Revisited

I've been sorting out stuff I've written the past day or so. Digging in and moving stuff around. In part it is to be mindful and protective of those that I write about. I also wanted to create a space that really was just where I talked about living in Portland and places I frequent or travels I make. It has meant I've reopened and reread everything I've written since the end of June. In fact, I'm only part-way through September.

It was a tough summer. There has been so much shifting and changing the past year, just to revisit the past 5 months or so is to see big bumps navigated. Really, the past few years for me have felt like everything has changed entirely. With my practice I've become a different person than the one I thought I was. Strangely enough, I mostly feel very young again.

Hogen said something once, when talking of the vows we take, about looking at what was true when we were children that is still true today. When he asked us to consider this I'd found it unsettling, upsetting even. It was a request that threw me into the pain of my childhood as well as the stark reality of how little I remember. In practice I have started to touch that, to see myself turn towards things I remember feeling were important as a child.

Looking at the past months, reflecting upon what I wrote most days, I see where the hope keeping things together started to unravel. Seeing where I started to shift away from what I thought would always be and try to dive into the truth instead. Revisiting where the steady reassurance and heterosexual privilege of marriage started to unravel.

As painful and unsettling as this has all been, I feel like I'm moving towards the right path for me. I never thought it would move me in this direction, away from what I convinced myself was safe. Regardless, I feel like I'm moving towards what is the truth and there is genuine comfort in it.

Besides, I've come to dive into the shifting uncertainty that is our daily existence. Which is to say that I recognize that I was merely clinging to the illusion of safety. Like the boat on the ocean, with no shore to be seen in all directions. The boat is the illusion of safety, the small mind that clings to what it knows rather than sink into the limitless, boundless Dharma.


Revisting the Genjo Koan by Bicycle

Oh I slept so poorly last night even having taken some melatonin. I tossed and turned from some combination of pain and travel dreams. That busyness of rushing to a destination, unsettled. I could not help but whimper a little when my alarm went off at 6AM. I hauled myself out of bed and got myself together, onto the bicycle and off to CK's.

I made it a little more quickly to her flat this time and had some breakfast while she finished getting ready. It took us only 10 more minutes to bicycle over to the Convention Center for OSCON. We locked up and watched all the guys walking by with badges on. We laughed at how relieved we were to be there together. She's not been to an event like this before as an attendee and I've not been since 2000.

We got through registration, through the Starbuck's line, and onto our respective sessions. I had all Perl workshops today while she did one on PHP and another on A/B testing. We were fed salads topped with grilled veg and tofu, which was pretty good. Tomorrow she and I both will be in PHP workshops together. I'm looking forward to it a lot.

The ride home was hard since the wind was blowing right down N Williams making the hill climb up to Alberta challenging. Other bicyclists passed me in a parade of faster rides powered by legs more trained than mine currently are. I just kept pressing my feet into the peddles and trying to breathe through my nose, control my breath.

CK asked me later if a year ago I would have thought I'd be commuting on a bicycle. I'm so thrilled that I can do this, very surprised too. I didn't really think it would be possible to find something that I felt both comfortable and safe on. It is intimidating to be out in traffic again, I found the big trucks loud and close as they rushed past me on Russell. As tough as I find the hill up to Alberta, I'm still so grateful to be huffing & puffing my way up it.

In answering her I found myself stumbling over one of Chozen's Dharma talks from last winter. The sangha had been studying Genjo Koan for several weeks. One evening Chozen focused on the image of a boat that reappears in Dogen's lines. She talked about how we feel when on that boat, with nothing but ocean in four directions. How would we see the ocean at that point, how is the boat viewed.

In that kind of situation we tend to cling to the boat, the idea that the ocean is enemy at that point. If we loose the boat, we are consumed by the ocean. We don't see the limitless, boundless, teeming depths of the ocean as our element, we cannot sink into the idea of merging with it, abandoning our little boat and our wish to see land soon.

Chozen taught that our mind is that boat floating upon the boundless ocean of the BuddhaDharma, but our tendency as we age is to close our mind which shrinks that boat. We start telling ourselves that we're too old to learn something, no longer willing to try new things, and believing we're not capable of something. Chozen found herself, at 60 learning how to play piano for the first time.

And I find myself riding a bicycle. My shoulders, mid-back, side ribs and chest ache. We realized that it is most likely because I'm gripping the handlebars with such tension as I learn this skill all over again. Still, I'm making my way through trucks and the whoosh of cars.