going home

going home

in this moment
we tread a path

that not-knowing
stamped out.

and new,

and amazing.

as simple
going home.


Now that was an eventful week!  Before I continue on this meander, let me give a deep bow to Philip Ryan at the Tricycle Editors’ Blog who graciously picked up 108ZB’s Ox Herding adventure and made this whole enterprise a chance to practice a lot of calming breaths.  It was fascinating to watch the oxy-moronic mind grab the event and create catastrophic dramas out of it – with rumbling omens provided by our little 5.5 earthquake on Wednesday.  And that precisely is the process of Ox-Herding, isn’t it?  How great to have it unfold all in Real Time!

In this stage of Ox-Herding we are in partnership with ourselves, integrating practice into the everyday, bringing the disciplined mind into service so that there is a seamless quality in our interactions.  In my own staggering along the path, I get to a point, after the dance and the trusting embrace, where I can no longer deny the relational.  Not only do the Ox and I continue to create each other, we now also create the world we move in.  In that world, I can no longer see things the same way, interact with the same unskillfulness – well, I can, but no longer without awareness that I’m doing so.  And interestingly, I don’t want it to be any other way.  This feels real; it feels like the compass is set in the right direction.

In sangha, last week, I was asked to talk about where I was with the Upaya Chaplaincy studies.  I preferred to talk about Ox-Herding.  It turns out it’s one and the same.  One of the sangha members asked if the stages were re-visited at different points in our lives or if we “got it” enough to fall forward continuously.  If I think about the unfolding of many (all?) of my experiences, I can definitely say it starts with a search; more accurately it starts with a yearning.  After that, trajectory and mileage on the ox will vary.

That this is a recursive process was really evident upon seeing my posts tagged as “art” on the Tricycle Editors’ Blog.  It threw me into Stage 3 (Seeing the Ox), triggering all the concepts what “this means.”  Twenty or thirty years ago, when I bought my brush for $1.96 + tax, the only intent was to take lessons to feed my love of all things Japanese (there’s a karmic link there that I will explore someday).  As my teacher’s inept student, taming the grasping and wild mind definitely overlay the other stages of seeing the traces and actuality of how I could grow.  At some point, I invested myself in the process (in first glimpse, did you notice the hat transforming into the horns of the ox).  If I rode the ox home then, it was along paths that were tangled with thorny bushes which tore at my skin.  I left the teacher but not the path – or the ox – and started the search again and again.

The Chaplaincy process is similar – but different.  The ox is larger – about the size of Babe the Blue Ox and I’m no Paul Bunyan.  It too started with a search; unlike the art, this began with a yearning to create some meaning out of this mess I call “my life.”  What I saw as traces and then the reality of who I am in this particular journey has been hard to comprehend.  I feel I’m asking to learn how to offer the incense but instead, I’m caught up in a whirlwind of learning how to grind the ingredients and glue them together.  But that’s fine because I’m reminded that when I grind the ink for my paintings, it gives them a special depth.  More important, there are moments when I am struggling to do things differently; graduate school was an abusive environment and it gave me survival skills that I’d prefer never to re-activate.  So up to this stage, dancing with the Ox is giving me a lot of practice cultivating different skills – trust, boundless joy, equanimity, understanding presence.  And walking away quietly.

I do feel I’m riding the Ox home in the Chaplaincy and the path has to be negotiated with both intention and awareness of lessons learned.  It cannot be goal-driven, not simply to catch a ride home; this time it must be different at every level of my body/mind.  But, cattle love to take the same route home to the barn each evening.  Look out across a field where they have been wandering and you will see well-defined tracks.  Creatures of habit, they are not easily dissuaded.  So Babe the Blue Ox and I have some negotiating to do because some of these well-worn tracks are not how I want to get home.

Thank you for practicing,

Genju (and Babe)

6 thoughts on “going home

  1. Pingback: Tricycle » Riding the Ox Home

  2. I did notice the transformation of the hat~ ^^
    In my recent experience, letting the ox roam freely it did return to some of its old ways, but took much less effort to get back on…

  3. Your art came up in a search I just did for Ox Herding. I suppose you can say, I’m at the stage where I’m still searching for the searching for the Ox. I wanted to share that I think your reflections of these stories are visually very stunning. Thank you for sharing them. I’ve just followed your facebook page, too, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of your messages.

    Anne Ellyse

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