Clean out the corners

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Suzuki Roshi used to say that what was needed most in the monastery were people who were good at cleaning out the corners. The most perverting ideas are the ones that lie for years and years in the dark corners of our mind. Like spiders, they creep out while we are sleeping and spin their webs of illusion. Only when the mind is clean, in order, and uncluttered can the present moment be fully realized. If we hang onto past memories, trophies of our good-old-days, in time our mind and our home will be a museum instead of a place to encounter the present reality. The relationship between house cleaning, garden cleaning, and mental caretaking is not just symbolic. It is very direct

Marian Mountain, 1923 –  2013, artist and student of Suzuki Roshi, The Zen Environment

photo jim henderson

Beyond what can be seen

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At Ryoan-ji in Kyoto there is a famous rock garden;

Wherever in it a person stands, one of the fifteen rocks cannot be seen.

The garden reminds that always something unknowable is present, just beyond what can be perceived or comprehended – and that something is as much part of the real as any other stone amid the raked gravel.

Jane Hirshfield

photo adriano

The roots of compassion

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Easter Saturday.. a day of waiting

When I stop running from what frightens me,  and instead try to feel and understand it, I learn to deal with the world with greater kindness.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

Naomi  Shihab Nye, Kindness

photo AMISOM Public Information

Falling is part of life

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Everyone, from time to time, experiences  a challenge which makes life seem less safe, when things seem to tighten around them – a new job, relationship difficulties, facing an illness or being let down.  Under these pressures we may stumble and even fall:

If there be anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe,

I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me.

But this was shown:

that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.

Julian of Norwich 

photo of memorial for Captain Scott South Pole, by Barneygumble


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There’s a kind of basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better than we already are, that we should try to improve ourselves, that we should try to get away from painful things, and that if we could just learn how to get away from the painful things, then we would be happy.

Pema Chödrön

When we practice meditation, we practice a double movement: there is a movement of return to the breath, a movement of recollection of presence, of samadhi — and there is a movement of mindfulness, of allowing everything to be just as it is. Last Sunday, I realized that the movement of return can also be a movement of allowing, of self-forgiveness. All the prodigal sons and daughters of our thoughts and dreams and gnarly little complexes are welcome to come to the feast of this present moment.

Tracy Cochran, Be a Lighthouse