The air is cool in the sky grey, the house is closed and quiet. Some signs of wind, really not much more than breeze move through the pine needles and boughs. Just now the wind chimes pick up, offering their sweet melodies into the stillness.
My view from the desk, out the window is quite the bird’s nest. The hillside drops away beneath me, and house roofs are the first thing visible above the window ledge. Beyond that, street, house fronts, and hillside rising steeply behind them.
As in the meditation class yesterday, this morning I feel a slight tension between writing, speaking to, what is present in the actions and surroundings of this one man, and those events unfolding across the world stage.
“Meditation improv,” Dan calls the class. “Whatever anyone has questions about, their meditation practice, daily life, world events…” Whatever is brought up nudges the Dharma talk that is to ensue in its unique direction.
Yesterday a young man, American by appearance and inflection, living in Japan, married and working as a teacher was new to our little sangha and new to the practice. His questions went to the subject of concentration, building the capacity to stay with the object of focus, letting the background noise of thought subside and fall away. After focused concentration came the subject of “partial staying,” where the mind keeps track of the object, but splits attention, wandering back and forth quickly maintaining both focus and distraction.
The point of course is full focus which will later be applied to watching the whole of experience as the object as awareness itself shimmers and dances, arising in passing away yet always in perfect stillness and witness of the timeless presence.
After Dan had spent the necessary time addressing these questions of the foundations of practice, our host Noel urged, in a balanced way, but with obvious pain in his heart that we might address the tremendous upheaval currently emerging from our long suffered and festering wounds as a society.
I spoke the other day with Tyler, the day before her birthday, and she shared some sorrow in her heart. Having lived through the activist period of the 60s, she was quite saddened to feel as though so many of the hard-won advances of the progressive movement of the time have been decimated over just the last few years of American politics.
This sentiment of backsliding was echoed in some of what Dan had to say. He shared the story of working in a support capacity at the original Woodstock concert event. Struggling to keep up with the number of young people succumbing to LSD laced with strychnine, they used every available ambulance in the region. Finally Dan asked his support staff to stop bringing the people suffering from the poison, and find the people distributing it.
Not long later, a couple of men was brought in, both DEA agents working for the then corrupt Attorney General and fomenting division by painting the youth in such a stark and negative light.
My friend Vukica called last evening as I was turning in. She wanted to know what I thought of the demonstrations and in particular the violence. Our whole scene is strangely familiar to her, having grown up in Serbia under Slobodan Milosevic, whom she described as almost identical to trump.
She had heard rumors that there were people fomenting the demonstrations to make the current president look bad. She had also heard that the divisive terror tactics were being instigated and exacerbated by Russian agents as well.
I told her that there were probably many agendas at play, and that we should not lose sight of the underlying injustices and a focus on finding not only policies to address, but practices to heal in a collective way from these long-standing inequities.
The stories of horrific mental, physical, and emotional violence perpetrated not only on individuals, men, women, and children alike, but on whole cultures and generations are something that we are going to have to face to move through this ancient affliction towards any hope of a harmony on the other side.
In America we still have what remains of our indigenous Native American elders and their culture and therein remains some small but precious opportunity to realize a better way.
It feels like these may have been broken notes, not quite a coherent song coming through these words today, but then that feels true to the moment.
After rising and journaling and having breakfast yesterday, Courtney loaded us into the car and I made my first getaway into “the wilderness” in many months. Of course for me wilderness is a bit subjective as I require, in general terms, some degree of pavement to move about. Nonetheless, we made our way up into the mountains to the east.
Find my familiar access point, a parking lot and often unused road through the hills to a horse camp, gated and locked, we returned to the ranger station down the road at the campground to look for alternatives.
Most everything is closed and appears as though it will remain that way until August, but the day use area at the campground was open for 50% capacity. Good enough for us and we paid our $10, parked in a handicapped spot, and unloaded to wander the paved roads, otherwise unused, through the little wilderness park as our hiking excursion.
While not entirely as secluded as I hoped – there was a generator truck running for some park maintenance, and work crews with chainsaws (thankfully the saws remained quiet for the duration of our stay), and the scenic mountain highway with its occasional traffic was audible just beyond the trees – the medicine was as expected.
Plenty of mountain quiet, some “far views” through the trees, woodpeckers flitting about, and hot sun and the simple joy of moving through nature, called and soothed our nervous systems. I must remember to bring more water next time as I was a bit dry by the time we arrived home, but in the words of my dear old uncle, “fat and happy.”
Yesterday was bright and sunny, today is cool and grey. There is work to be done. May I be up to it.
God gets to know things, we just get to ask questions…