recollect, recycle, renew – thoughts for a new year


Happy New Year!

I hope you have created the intention to celebrate safely the transition to 2013.  It’s important, these transitions.  Shifting from one generation to the next, one culture to another, one identity to the unknown.  It takes some contemplation and diligence, best practice and due process, sitting without striving and steadiness of intention.

On all the social media outputs, the typical lead in headers implies we cannot fathom where this year went.  Last year, it was the same.  Years bygone too.  Apparently, we tend to be a bit slow on the uptake about this beast of Time that lumbers us through the transitions moment by moment.  Well, if it can’t be learned in the small things, it is bound to be taught harshly in the big ones.

This sounds smug but I have no trouble recollecting where the year went.  This anné du dragon, the time of the Water Dragon, the season of the naga, which began with piercing clarity and slowly dissolved into l’année du dragon confus.  No, nothing to do with the Old Boy Confucius, it was much ado about the vagaries of relationships and dreams that chose to fulfill themselves by some cosmic agenda.  It serves me right – as in Right Understanding – to have bought into the belief that magic can hold sway over impermanence, nonself, and the truth of life’s struggles.  And yet… it was important to ride the confused dragon as it swooped and tumbled through the atmosphere much like Felix Baumgartner in free fall.  I too didn’t think we would right ourselves in time to save our sorry asses.  A lesson learned: stick to the agenda, keep your heart/mind on the intent of what you are trying to do, don’t be so easily seduced unless it’s your husband with a great plan for not cooking dinner tonight.

So that was 2012, lessons about how great plans can become lusty and send us into freefall.

The good news is we finished our book, Mindfulness Starts Here, and it should be out by Spring 2013.  Hooray!  Don’t worry that you might miss the opening salvo of pleas for your indulgence.  You are my Tribe!  And together we will have online parties with door prizes and scantily clad beings for entertainment.  Or perhaps, you will receive a simpering request to just go buy the darned book.  I worked hard on it, you know!  Five years of my life!  For you.  Really.

Besides I’ll need all the support I can get because 2013 is the Year of the Black Water Snake – a naga in its poorest guise, a dragon flaked out in second-hand skin.  Apparently it means my luck will come and go, recycling at its best.  Hah!  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.  At least by then, I will have had a year’s practice with this writhing dragon.

Other good news is a renewed commitment to practice.  Not just the sitting every day even though my butt has a Skinnerian response to the cushion.  I’ve started working with the online teachings on the suttas by Bhikkhu Bodhi.  You might want to check them out here.  One sutta at a time.  I’m not transitioning out of Zen but somewhere in the recesses of my mind I am beginning to suspect that sticking slavishly to the Mahayana sutras is making me a fundamentalist – great with the quotations but short on the Right Understanding.  Let’s face it, the Big Three of Zen (Heart, Diamond, your favourite sutra) have a built-in obscurity that can take us into the thickets thereby wasting a heck of a lot of time.  Watch for a post on this.

And that brings us back to time.

It is inseparable from transitions.  It is neither noun nor verb, neither adjective nor adverb.  Perhaps a participle – a form of action, shifting to qualify the subject, modifying it, giving it depth and breadth.

It is fleet-footed in a thought and solid in its conviction.  

It is the arc of life into death.

And, there is no way to ever know if it has been wasted or used wisely because it does not have an agenda and does not serve ours.

Have a safe and joyous transition into the New Year!

like the dragon gaining water

Happy New Year!  It’s been a lovely week of connections which reminded me of the value of sinking into time and space intimately.  It’s also been a very reflective period and I’ve been thinking about how the path through 2012 is going to begin for me.    And, without even trying, here it is: a keystroke, a letter, a sequence of symbols that make a word and then a sentence.  I make no claims that 2012 will have any more clarity or less pretense to comprehension than did 2011.  However, I do find myself  exploring what it means to connect with the intimate truth of my life.

Ok, so I’m not even sure what that means but I have been diving deep into conversations about my tendency to speak to the truth of whatever I am connected with – be it a relationship, a situation, a mess unfolding.  And yes, I do understand that “truth” can be relative but “the intimate truth” of our experience is not.  It is that undeniable moment when we are aligned with our values and fired by the passion of our commitment to live fully.  

Well, it should be undeniable, shouldn’t it?  But that moment of knowing who I am often shape-shifts around who I think I am in the minds of others.  It becomes infused with a fog of fear I then need to step through, asking of me a depth of courage and clarity of realization that to stay lost in the projections of others is a dangerous thing in word and deed.

If all of that is too confusing, simply remember this: it is the year of the water dragon.  Nagas (dragons) are intimate with water; it is their truth, what makes them realized.   So too, I hope we will gain the water like a dragon diving deep into its true home.

As Dogen taught in Recommending Zazen to All People*, there is no learning this.

It is simply the dharma gate of enjoyment and ease.  It is the practice-realization of complete enlightenment.  Realize the fundamental point free from the binding of nets and baskets.  Once you experience it, you are like a dragon swimming in the water or a tiger reposing in the mountains.  Know that the true dharma emerges of itself, clearing away hindrances and distractions.

*Tanahashi, Kazuaki (ed.), Enlightenment Unfolds: The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Dogen.