Saturday, 28 May 2022

Some Thoughts on Getting Older

I was sent this piece by a Sangha member and it does say to share it................
So here it is..........................

Aging Wisely  By Sharon Salzberg


I’m mostly in denial that I’m about to turn 70 years old. I often find myself saying, “Let’s just not think about it. I’ll pretend it isn’t going to happen.” 

But of course, as I contemplate my upcoming birthday with disbelief, I remember that I’ve spent all these years in a Buddhist tradition that encourages reflecting on your own death every day. So maybe it’s not something I should put off anymore! 

When I do this reflection, I think about letting go. During the pandemic, I let go of many things: travel, seeing friends, and much more. And so I ponder what it would mean to let go of everything. 

Of course, aging is a mixed bag. Wisdom, perspective, gratitude—so many things grow stronger as we get older. But there are also distressing, growing incapacities from one’s body; the fear of what a moment of forgetfulness might mean; the sheer indignity of being treated as unimportant by some; even the frustration of having to scroll down for a long, long, long time on some websites to get to the year of your birth (my personal pet peeve). 

Dandilion Blowing Away And then there is the painful fact, so relevant recently, that one’s body tends not to mount as strong an immune response to illness. 

I do also feel the joy of aging. For example, I don’t feel ambitious. If someone asks me what I’d like my legacy to be, I think, “I’ve done it.” Hopefully I can still accomplish things and make things happen, but I don’t feel competitive. I don’t feel haunted by the folly of youth as I might have been at one time. 

I once attended a retreat focused on aging led by the Tibetan master Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Although he was still a fairly young man at that point, Rinpoche had noticed that many of his students were confronting the challenges of growing older. One afternoon, someone in the retreat was waxing on about the tremendous joys and delights of growing older. Exhilarating insights, followed by a litany of pleasures, followed by impressive triumphs, all spoken faster and faster (“What is she running from?” I thought darkly), until Rinpoche interrupted her. 

“Don’t just make a poem out of aging,” he said. “It can be really hard sometimes.” 

He wasn’t encouraging cynicism or despair—more an invitation to see and openly acknowledge all aspects of our experience. We don’t want to deny the difficult, of course, but we also don’t need to be completely defined by it. Being enveloped in and defined by what’s difficult is relatively easy to do, so it takes some intentionality to recognize all aspects of our experience and remember the positive forces in our lives. 

So how might that work in practice? 

First, while the difficult parts of aging are unavoidable, we can try not to add to them. For example, I have seen, throughout my life, the tendency to rehearse some catastrophe and thereby live it several times. So I think the first question is always, “What are we adding onto a situation which is already hard enough?” 

Not being able to do something I used to be able to do, or being in physical pain, or losing people we love—these are already very hard. But we often add more suffering onto them, like thinking it shouldn’t be this way, or feeling shame or fear. One possibility of mindfulness is to notice where we’re adding to the suffering that’s already there, and try not to fall so much into it. 

Second, I learned an interesting form of lovingkindness meditation from Ananda Matteya, then an energetic, 94-year-old Sri Lankan monk visiting the Insight Meditation Society in 1993. He taught us what he described as his favorite meditation: combining loving-kindness meditation and a body scan. He would go through the body, part by part, wishing each part well: may my head be happy, may my eyes be happy, and so on through the whole body. Even “may my liver be happy!” 

I’ve taught that meditation to people with injuries, scars, diseases, difficult diagnoses, and all kinds of things, and it makes a difference. It can help counteract our tendency to add bits of shame or resentment, even subconsciously, to whatever is already there. 

Finally, there’s the perspective of wisdom. 

I first met Joseph Goldstein at my first meditation retreat, in India, in January, 1971. Just before lunch, I was in a madly frustrated state, because I couldn’t keep my attention on the breath. I said to myself, “If your mind wanders one more time, you should just bang your head against the wall!” 

Fortunately, the lunch bell rang just then, saving me from that fate. This retreat was not silent, so waiting in line for lunch, there was a conversation going on between two people behind me. One asked, “How was your morning?” And the other replied, “I couldn’t concentrate at all, but maybe this afternoon will be better.” 

He was so casual about it that I was horrified. I thought “This guy doesn’t understand how extraordinary these teachings are—he’s being so glib!” 

Of course, ‘this guy’ was Joseph Goldstein. The difference, of course, was that I had been meditating for four days, while he had been meditating for four years and had a kind of perspective on change, on the inevitable ups and downs of meditation, that I was nowhere near having. 

Now I feel that way about life in general. Things change, there are ups and downs, and with practice, we can learn to let go, again and again.

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

We're Back! (again)

 


The Omicron wave seems to be on the wane and we am going to reopen for group meetings next Thursday, the 17th.

I look forward to seeing all of you who are comfortable with that then and the “door” is now open for those with reservations to return when they are ready.

Be well,

Steve

Monday, 3 January 2022

Restart Delayed...................

Hi Everybody,

Due to the current level of uncertainty as to how the latest wave of Covid will progress and how virulent the Omicron strain is for older age groups I have decided to delay restarting our Sangha meetings until we can be confident that it’s safe to do so.

I’d welcome your feed back as to what you’d like to happen and how you feel about “things”.

An especially poignant, Be well and look after yourselves – and I’ll see you all soon(ish),

Steve

Friday, 19 November 2021

FULL MOON – Habits of Clinging

Fostering habits 
such as craving and clinging  
is like fertilizing noxious weeds. 

Dhammapada v.335 

When, for the first time, small children are dropped off at school, they often feel upset as their parents leave. They don’t understand that in a few hours time mum or dad will be back to pick them up again. Eventually those children learn that their parents have not disappeared forever and so are no longer upset. As adults, when we catch ourselves misperceiving a situation and becoming caught in clinging, it is wise to take note and register how clinging causes suffering. On one level it can feel suitable to cling to those things that we hold dear. It is a most natural thing for parents to feel caring towards their children. But what happens when the caring is combined with clinging? The child is over-protected and fails to learn. Or, what happens when we are praised by someone we respect and we cling to the agreeable feelings that arise? It can feel fine at the time, but what we fail to see is how, when we are spoken to rudely and painful feelings arise, we can’t help but cling to disagreeable feelings. The two go together.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

FULL MOON – Criticising

Those who always look for 
the faults of others
- their corruptions increase 
and they are far from freedom. 

Dhammapada v.253 

Although we don’t realise it at the time, when we heedlessly dwell on finding fault with others, we create obstructions within our own field of awareness. Part of us might feel good as we compulsively criticise, but we fail to see that in so doing we distance ourselves from Dhamma. Of course there is a time and place for criticism offered out of concern for the benefit of others, but here we are talking about criticising with malice. If we are keen to develop clarity and understanding, we need to reflect on the consequences of fault-finding and inhibit the impulse. It can feel tempting to scratch an itchy wound that is healing, but we know that following that impulse makes things worse.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

A Poem

One of our Sangha members sent me this piece the other day and I thought it's a good one to share.......................


In Zen practice,” writes the Zen teacher Sobun Katherine Thanas, “we give attention to the details of our lives.” By paying close, sustained attention to the most ordinary details in our daily round, we train ourselves to abide in the present moment. Rather than sacrifice our present experience to a past that is already gone, a future that has not yet come, or abstract thoughts that may or may not reflect reality, we attend to the details of the matter at hand: the level of green tea in our measuring spoon, the temperature and volume of water to be added, the specific brewing time for that particular tea. By so doing, we fully engage in relative, historical time, even as we touch the timeless, absolute dimension of our experience.

No one understands this paradox more fully or articulates it with greater skill than the Midwestern poet Ted Kooser (b. 1939), who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his book Delights & Shadows in 2005 and served as US Poet Laureate from 2004-2006. Kooser is not a Zen practitioner, so far as I know, (he's a Unitarian Universalist) but by attending to the details of quotidian life, no matter how mundane, he returns the reader, time and again, to the immediacy of the present moment. And in their acute awareness of impermanence and interdependence, as revealed by such common or discarded objects as curtain rods, enameled pans, and Depression glass, his poems often embody the essence, if not the customary forms and rituals, of Zen practice.

A vivid example may be seen in the title poem of Kooser’s collection Splitting an Order (2014). In this gentle poem, set in a diner, the narrator observes an old man cutting his cold sandwich into two equal parts. It pleases the narrator to watch him

keeping his shaky hands steady

by placing his forearms firm on the edge of the table

and using both hands, the left to hold the sandwich in place,

and the right to cut it surely, corner to corner,

observing his progress through glasses that moments before

he wiped with his napkin, and then to see him lift half

onto the extra plate that he asked the server to bring,

and then to wait, offering the plate to his wife

while she slowly unrolls her napkin and places her spoon,

her knife, and her fork in their proper places,

then smooths the starched white napkin over her knees

and meets his eyes and holds out both old hands to him.

A more ordinary situation it would be difficult to imagine: an elderly married couple having lunch in a diner. Yet Kooser endows this everyday situation with the glow of heightened attention, both on the part of the husband and wife and on that of the observant narrator.

The couple are splitting a plain roast-beef sandwich, perhaps to economize or because neither needs to eat a whole one. To accomplish this division, the husband must steady his shaky hands, a challenge he readily overcomes. By dividing the sandwich “surely” and diagonally, he ensures that the resulting portions will be exactly equal. Meanwhile, his wife carefully unrolls the napkin enclosing her knife, fork, and spoon. These, too, become objects of meticulous attention.

Even as the husband and wife are taking their time and paying attention to the details of their humble repast, the narrator is doing the same. His unswerving observation, recorded in a single complex but graceful sentence, not only mirrors that of his subjects toward the actions they are performing. It also establishes a tone of caring, even for common, unexceptional things, and implicitly bestows moral and aesthetic value on a scene that might otherwise have been dismissed as banal. The true significance of the scene becomes apparent in the poem’s closing lines, where the husband’s offering his wife her half of their sandwich completes his act of fairness, solicitude, and kindness. She in turn exhibits an attitude of openness and gratitude.

Shizen ichimi, an old Zen saying reminds us: “Poetry and Zen are one.” Although the former depends on fresh language, the latter on silent contemplation, both rely on wholehearted attention to concrete, particular detail. By stopping and looking deeply, both reveal the hidden dimension of human experience, the currents of interdependence and impermanence that underlie the most commonplace of human interactions. And, though they do so in very different ways, both, in the words of the poet Patrick Kavanagh, “snatch out of time the passionate transitory.”

_____________

Sobun Katherine Thanas, The Truth of This Life: Essays on Learning to Love This World 

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Wearing a Mask

I came across this piece on Quora, it speaks for itself - bless you Amanda..............



How do you feel, if vaccinated, about having to wear a mask to protect those who refuse to get vaccinated? 

Amanda Bankston, Hippie nursing student with a big heart and a fancy pen! 

I'm standing in the grocery store, safe behind my cart, politely minding my own business. The movement and energy around me is practically dizzying as I observe my fellow humans trudge along as though nothing is different. I have no idea how long I've been at the store - time moves differently lately - but I'm now in the refreshment aisle. 

For just a moment, my heavy heart is relieved of its burden by my brain. I think, “What shall we drink this week…?” as I stare down the row of various juices, sodas and Crystal Light wannabes. 

Just then, in the deli area behind me, a male voice becomes clear. He's not shouting but his voice is elevated. You can hear a demanding and questioning tone. He's agitated and aggressive, although I can't initially make out what he's saying. 

My fellow Americans around the area look up momentarily. You can see their questioning expressions, their perked up ears, their anxious feet. Some of us, myself included, pretend not to hear it while still mentally tensing. We're all ready to run or step in if we need to. We know this is how “things” sometimes start. 

It's finally clear that the aggravated gentlemen is merely the “Rights Warrior” of the day, as he starts to screechingly make his demands for all to hear: 

“NO, I WON'T go back and get my mask! I want my fucking turkey and ham! Is that too much to ask!? I should be allowed to buy food without having to give in to your conspiracy bullshit! Ya'll are living in fear of lies! I won't be one of the mindless LIKE YOU and follow this ridiculous mask shit, and if you don't check me out, you're discriminating!! I'M HUNGRY, DAMMIT, JUST LET ME BUY MY FOOD! I said, I'M HUNGRY!! … Even our Founding Fathers said, ‘Give me liberty, or give me death!’ Now just do your job and ring up the meat!” 

My gaze falls (unintentionally) on the Kool-aid as his last furious word is spat. Gazing at its cheerful label, I think to myself, “I wish we could have some, but it's no good for you…” 

So… 

How do I feel when I see others completely disregard science to protect their sense of intellectual superiority? 

How do I feel as I continuously am victimized by the “Rights Warrior” who feels the need to spew their diatribe at every given opportunity? 

How do I feel as others ignore the safety of the majority, for the sake of their immutable beliefs? 

How do I feel when I see someone without a mask, knowing that someone I love suffered greatly, likely due to similar selfishness, arrogance or ignorance? 

How do I feel when I realize people I used to respect and admire greatly, are failing their due diligence and mindlessly accepting false information regarding virology (a term they hadn't even heard until recently)? 

How do I feel when I see a fellow human being berating and bullying someone for wearing a mask? 

Or the opposite, berating someone for encouraging them to wear theirs? 

How do I feel when people choose to be selfish and unwilling to learn? 

How do I feel as I watch my country become further divided over something so simple, black/white, and easy? 

How do I feel when I see people refuse to cover their face with a little piece of cloth in public, because, they say, it violates their rights? 

I feel like I miss my fucking husband. 

Because he's not here anymore. 

If he were, I wouldn't be thinking about what beverages to buy. I'd know exactly what to get. He is… was… afterall, the only one that partook in these sugary liquids. 

Every unmasked face is a reminder of what could've saved him. 

Of what I lost. 

What my children lost. 

The hole in my heart. 

The destruction of all my hopes and dreams. 

And the implosion of my near-perfect life. 

So you wonder how I feel when I'm faced with that reminder and its noisy crowd every single day? 

I feel confused and heartbroken, even as I seek to protect those who actively contributed to the destruction of everything I hold dear. 

But mostly, I feel dead. 

And yet, despite the numbingly heavy loss, the emotional static, the disruption of purpose and heart, I will still wear my mask. 

I will wear it in the hope that I can save just one person from feeling like this. 

If only someone had done that for me.

Friday, 6 August 2021

We're Back!

 



West Wight Sangha reopened it's Shrine Room doors for it's first Post Lockdown meeting yesterday!

Join us every Thursday evening from 7:30 until 9:30