Your Weekly Diversion, Week 30

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Photo courtesy of Julia Webb, flickr.com

This is Week 30 of my chronicle of changing times, except I’m not really doing that, just offering a brief general observation, followed by interesting diversions to edify my readers, as they have edified me.

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Sylvia Boorstein, photo from onbeing.org

This week’s observation: as we are stunned by the “fire and fury” and “locked and loaded” off the cuff blurts spewed Eastward and globally to our collective potential peril, it helped me to read what Karl Duffy posted this morning on his daily Mindful Balance blog, a quote from esteemed Buddhist teacher and psychologist, Sylvia Boorstein, starting with this:

The line from the Dhammapada, a compilation of sayings attributed to the Buddha, that seems the best expression of wisdom, is: “Anyone who understands impermanence, ceases to be contentious.”

Impermanence means that whatever is going on right now will change, for better or for worse or in some other way we cannot foresee. So being freaked out by the crazy machinations of any world leader, East or West, is a waste of the limited precious moments of this life. Click on the link above and read what Sylvia Boorstein says about it.

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Having a home to call one’s own, be it transitional, rented or owned, is deemed essential to a healthy life. If you have land you can use, even if you don’t own that land, this house can be brought to the site and “built” in under 10 minutes. The company, Ten Fold Engineering maintains that a foundation is not required, just stable ground, and when the structure is towed away, it need leave no trace. The structure can even be completely off the grid. While not available for most of us yet, it’s an example of what can be done. The structures can be stacked and connected to form multiunit dwellings.

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Photo from calfinder.com

Homelessness is a serious problem in the United States. Over half a million individuals were counted as homeless in 2015, as this site details. They do report that the number of homeless people has declined, although my working in New York suggested otherwise. For more modest examples of housing one can build out of materials often seen as “trash” check out Calfinder, the videos here or Relax Shacks for plans and tons more information.

Another challenge can be having a home but no longer having access to one’s usual faculties if dementia robs one of speech. But, it’s not always as gone as it seems.

Let’s just remember, we are only one call away for someone who needs us, as Charlie Puth sings. Let us hope that they remember, too.

Check out this video on YouTube:

 

Namasté

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A to Z Challenge: F is for Ferns

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Here in Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania we have several kinds of ferns. 

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Sensitive Fern

The large leafed fern above is called a sensitive fern, or Onoclea sensibilis. Some variations have finer fronds. The name comes from early American settlers who noticed that frost quickly killed them. It is also sometimes referred to as the bead fern.

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New York Fern

Around my garden Buddha are fine examples of the New York Fern or Thelypteris novoboracensis. The orange flower to the right of the statue is called Spotted Touch Me Not, or Impatiens capensis, also called orange jewelweed. Below is a large roadside expanse of New York Ferns.

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Pocono Pines features shady lanes and roadways, thanks to the tall pines and lush deciduous forests up here. Ferns love and thrive in shade and in damp and swampy soil, so our woods and roadsides that are crisscrossed by streams and runoffs are filled with them.

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Inspired by my WordPress friend Ruth, I decided to take the A to Z Challenge around my little town of Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania. In the 2010 Census, the population was 1,409 persons. We have one gas station, an art gallery/gift store with wonderful artisan wares, a magisterial court office, an ice cream stand, a pizza place, a family restaurant, one bank, several real estate offices, a US post office, a produce stand, an elementary school, a public library, several residential developments, and a number of other businesses. We are located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, about 35 miles from New Jersey and two hours from New York City. We have two lakes and are 1,805 feet above sea level

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 18

 

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Week 18, and each day this week seems to have brought one Breaking News story after another. What do we do with the parry and thrust, the he said-he said, the weird, the loony, the scary and the unbelievable?  To paraphrase Bette Davis in “All About Eve”: Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy fight.

So of course we need our diversions. Here goes. Mother Jones magazine says that we are turning to comfort foods to salve our fears and quell our anxieties.

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Some turn to Pinterest to ogle food porn, those succulent photos of cheesy macaroni casseroles, pans of iced cinnamon rolls, plates of pretty cookies, pots of spicy chili, and recipes for every imaginable ethnic cuisine or dietary plan, and every way to cheat you could possibly want. If you want to enjoy a meal and not go crazy off the dietary deep end, it helps to search “healthy smoothies” or “salads” or your desired way of eating, be it vegan, paleo, low-carb, plant-based, high-protein or what have you. Then the food porn is at least in your wheelhouse. Hmm, sorry for the mixed metaphor 🤔.

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It is during times like these when mind-fulness, focus on the experience of the here and now, is crucial. The projection into the future doom and gloom, the downfall of our democratic civilization, the climate meltdown of our planet home, a nuclear holocaust, and all the other scary prospects that the future might hold if this or that happens, is a kind of mental exercise that only brings suffering. We have enough suffering, or dukkha, in our lives as it is. The Buddha said that dukkha–suffering, is the First Noble Truth. So to learn to stay focused, meditation is a great help.

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Helping others can help lift us from a potential pit of despair. Suffering may be unavoidable, but it brings good karma to help alleviate it whenever we can. A dear friend of mine and his wife are helping to bring water to an arid part of Africa, a location where women and children have to carry heavy containers of water on their heads up hills just to cook and wash. If you would like to help the Abonse Pipeborne Water Project, they have a GoFundMe campaign on right now.

This week’s musical diversion comes to us from 1962 when cellist Yo Yo Ma performed for President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy and President Eisenhower after having been discovered by famed cellist Pablo Casals. His older sister played the piano to accompany this precocious 7-year-old boy’s amazing performance.

Namasté

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Daruma or Bodhidharma: Early Zen Master

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This craggy early Zen Master, known as Daruma in Japan and Bodhidarma elsewhere in the Buddhist world, has been immortalized by Zen scholar Hakuin.

Learn more about the gifted monastic artist who painted Daruma and other Buddhist figures many times during his 15 years of artistic expression in this post at Buddhism Now https://buddhismnow.com/2016/05/01/the-sound-of-one-hand-paintings-and-calligraphy-by-zen-master-hakuin/

In the accompanying video at Buddhism Now and produced by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), curator Rob Singer gives the background and context of the artist Hakuin.

Namasté

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Savoring the Bounty of Summer

This has been an interesting summer here on the Pocono Plateau of northeastern Pennsylvania. The first few weekends were washouts, dashing hopes for long awaited tennis events and swimming plans. The woods became more dense with lush leafy growth of shrubs and trees. I have read this is due to higher levels of carbon dioxide produced by warmer climate. In previous summers one could see through the trees in the back yard to streetlights beyond but not so this year.

Our garden Buddha sits atop the remains of an old stone foundation wall, and it has been necessary to cut back the berry canes and other shrubs around it several times this year.

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We also have seen no fireflies here or in New York this summer. I haven’t seen any news stories to address this in 2015, but apparently light pollution is a major factor. When the night is bright, fireflies fail to see one another in their usual mating courtship and therefore produce no offspring the following year.

In addition to the lush vegetation we see all around us, our small plot in the community garden is a tangle of tomato abundance and exuberant Italian parsley and fragrant basil. The parsley is an essential for summer green smoothies, offset nicely by ginger root, fruit and other healthy additions, depending on one’s tastes and what is available. We’ve made piña colada mojito smoothies, minus the spirits but tangy and delicious all the same.

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These Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes are ready to pick when the bottom is purply-red and the top still green, and frequently cracked as well.

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Sliced, these Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes are dark red with a purple tinge. They are delicious!

Savoring summer’s bounty has been a very happy experience this year, as has casting our meditative eyes on our lovely Buddha, surrounded by the lush woodsy growth, ferns, clover and the potted begonia that has flourished without any care as it celebrates its honored place.

A lotus for you,

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The Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore

 

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh

 

We are so very fortunate that on September 11, 2014, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, called Thay (“teacher”) by his followers, presented a brand new English translation of the ancient Sanskrit text known as the Heart Sutra, one which he said corrects an error in translation made approximately 2,000 years ago. Recently I wrote a piece here about the Heart Sutra, and I now happily share this version with you. Thay calls this, based on the original texts, “The Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore.” If you go to the Plum Village website you will find the details and more information. Here is the retranslation:

Thay’s retranslation of the New Heart Sutra, in English, September 11th, 2014

The Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore

Avalokiteshvara
while practicing deeply with
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore,
suddenly discovered that
all of the five Skandhas are equally empty,
and with this realisation
he overcame all Ill-being.

“Listen Sariputra,
this Body itself is Emptiness
and Emptiness itself is this Body.
This Body is not other than Emptiness
and Emptiness is not other than this Body.
The same is true of Feelings,
Perceptions, Mental Formations,
and Consciousness.

“Listen Sariputra,
all phenomena bear the mark of Emptiness;
their true nature is the nature of
no Birth no Death,
no Being no Non-being,
no Defilement no Immaculacy,
no Increasing no Decreasing.

“That is why in Emptiness,
Body, Feelings, Perceptions,
Mental Formations and Consciousness
are not separate self entities.

The Eighteen Realms of Phenomena
which are the six Sense Organs,
the six Sense Objects,
and the six Consciousnesses
are also not separate self entities.

The Twelve Links of Interdependent Arising
and their Extinction
are also not separate self entities.
Ill-being, the Causes of Ill-being,
the End of Ill-being, the Path,
insight and attainment,
are also not separate self entities.

Whoever can see this
no longer needs anything to attain.
Bodhisattvas who practice
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
see no more obstacles in their mind,
and because there
are no more obstacles in their mind,
they can overcome all fear,
destroy all wrong perceptions
and realize Perfect Nirvana.

“All Buddhas in the past, present and future
by practicing
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
are all capable of attaining
Authentic and Perfect Enlightenment.

“Therefore Sariputra,
it should be known that
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
is a Great Mantra,
the most illuminating mantra,
the highest mantra,
a mantra beyond compare,
the True Wisdom that has the power
to put an end to all kinds of suffering.
Therefore let us proclaim
a mantra to praise
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore.

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!”

 

The mantra Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi, Svaha, means, as said in my previous post, “Om, Gone, Gone Beyond, Gone Completely Beyond, Awake, So Be It.”

If you would like to listen to a chanting of the mantra, here is a version by Deva Premal and the Gyuto monks of Tibet.  Deva Premal begins chanting in a lilting voice, later accompanying the rumbling voices of the monks. The Tibetan monks here chant in a deep, bass throat singing characteristic of much Tibetan chanting, repeating the mantra 108 times:

 

 

 Shakyamuni Buddha

Namaste

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Gazing at Peace and Truth

 We gaze at the face of the Buddha, one who has shown countless beings who have gone before us the way of peace and truth, of right living, of non-harming (ahimsa), of mindfulness, of dwelling in the moment, of experiencing life open and aware (mindfulness). We see calm and beauty in his face, and we remember why we seek it, for peace in our hearts and for peace in the world we inhabit. We seek to live honorably, fairly, humanely, responsibly and rightly, and embodying loving kindness (Metta).

What do we bring today to honor this enlightened being who has spoken wisdom, passed down to us through the ages, offering tools by which to bring an end to suffering in ourselves and in others? If we follow the Dharma, we bring the intention to align our lives, every moment of every day, with the Noble Eightfold Path. Perhaps we succeed only momentarily, but as we continue to practice with the intentions of Right View, Right Intentions, Right Speech, Right Actions, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration, we will have more such right moments. Even more perhaps than the peace right living brings to us is the peace it can bring to all with whom we come in contact in our lives. The ripples spread ever outward, and the healing influence and positive effects are endless.

The path awaits.

Namaste

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