Thick frost covered the ground this morning and the sun struggled and failed to break through the layers of morning cloud, denying my hopes of a sun filled celebration of the first day of spring. The cold only affects me for a few moments as I jump out of bed and into my warmest clothes and make a bee line for the stove, which fires up pretty quickly once you feed it. The breakfast operation distracts me nicely until the room warms up and the hot chicory does the job from the inside. I always find this time of the morning good for practice and preparing food for the community is as good as any of my more formal spiritual activities. Like a meditation, paying attention to the various thought patterns which arise in the process and appreciating their contribution in the natural order of things. Everything has its place. Even the mundane and the inane are somehow directing me toward a kind of balance in myself, an internal experience at the seat of existence, an essential insight into the nature of being.
There's nothing like a bit of gentle reading over breakfast...but that's not the way we do things here at Eleusis! This morning we were treated to a passage from the writings of 13th century Zen master Dogen, who's very particular style of thinking has influenced Buddhist practitioners ever since and who's ideas and philosophy show up in most contemporary representations of the Zen tradition. The somewhat convoluted texts weave around important metaphysical matters, revealing snippets of profundity in the midst of obscurity, leaving the rational mind confounded, yet speaking directly to the heart in a poetically abstract fashion. There is a heavy dualistic element to the text, which appeals very much to my sense of truth and arises frequently in my own thinking about enlightenment and all of the richness that the subject offers. In this passage we are encouraged to lay aside our own cerebral interpretations of the concept of awakening and seek the truth in the natural occurrences of the everyday world, which offers infinite spiritual encounter for the initiated seeker. This is, for me, one of the points where Zen meets Pureland. It is in my most simple interactions with the world that I find the Buddha, as if my relationship with the physical acts as an interface with the spiritual, opening up dimensions of understanding through direct experience. As is usually the case with our morning lessons, the Dogen teaching stimulated me sufficiently and provided ample thinking material for at least the rest of the day.
We had a bonfire in the Aphrodite field this afternoon after Dharmavidya spontaneously decided that it would be a good time to burn the rubbish and get rid of all the clippings which had accumulated from our work clearing blackthorn. Elja dubbed him ''The Pyro'' because he got so excited about setting fire to things, which I relate strongly to myself. Bonfires bring out the kid in me and remind me of camping trips and general childhood mischief. We used to spend a lot of time building fires as kids and a few times they got out of hand, once or twice the fire brigade were called which was not good news for my one friend, who's dad was a local fireman. Today we spent half an hour building the fire and then stood back as it swallowed up a heap of wood and waste nearly twice as tall as me and covering an area of a good few square meters. We became transfixed by the flames and talked about how mysterious they are. When you really look and think about what is happening, fire is very elusive, almost like a spirit of some sort, moving over the wood and extracting its substance, converting it into heat and leaving very little to show for it. The fire consumes the fuel and then disappears completely, as if to another plane of existence. It seems to speak to me in a certain way that draws me in to its spell, feeding me with warmth and making me stare and think deeply about trivial things.
We then had a gathering, otherwise known as a ''Stone Passing'', which always strikes fear into my heart because it is a form of public speaking which I still find very difficult. My body protests and my muscles go into spasm, making it almost impossible to speak and concentrate on what I want to say. As usual though it was ok and we all had a chance to reflect on the last few weeks, each of us showing gratitude for the nurturing power of the Sangha, which has sustained us and united us through some pretty tough times recently. This place brings me closer to my real self than anywhere else I've been. Amongst other factors, it seems to be the open spaces and quiet natural settings that provide the safety and security for my deepest darkest feelings to come out and find the light. This is where the deep healing is for me. Namo Amida Bu( :
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