January 23, 2013

Stanford cactus and the dream life

Stanford cactus garden

Mrs. Stanford's cactus garden 
Went to Stanford at the start of the weekend to see some old friends who live on campus.  We walked to the cactus garden which was built by Mrs. Stanford from plants she brought back from her travels.  After she died, the garden was neglected and forgotten.  It was revived in recent years when some benefactors discovered its importance and restored the beauty of the gardens.  Above you can see a Joshua tree which has curled over the walking path.

The species are rather wild and some look like they've been knitted and placed over forms.  They don't look real at all.  There's an otherworldly look as if they're common on another planet.

A bell at Jikoji
On Friday I drove to the mountains over Los Gatos to temple Jikoji which sits on Skyline Boulevard  along the mountain ridge.  Beautiful country indeed.  I attended a program on lucid dreaming and Tibetan Dream Yoga.  My point was to visit Jikoji to see some friends, and the program just happened to be scheduled for the weekend.  Nevertheless I very enjoyed the spirit of the program and learned a great deal about dreams, sleep, and incorporating dreams in spiritual practice.  I learned that we'll have slept 30 years of life if we live to 90.  We'll have dreamed, that is, been in REM sleep for seven years of our lives. So, the point is, why not learn to dream in such a way that we are aware that we are dreaming and can enjoy the content, learn from the information, restore the soul, increase creativity.

Looking toward the Pacific Ocean
The road home along the ridge showed off the Pacific Ocean on one side and the great Santa Clara Valley on the other.  Few drivers were on the road midday and I enjoyed the hairpin turns on the way back to the freeway and the drive north.  I've a new appreciation for dreams and realize I've been occasionally REM deprived since I love to stay up late but have to get up very early.  REM occurs in the last few hours of an 8 hours sleep.  It could be that that's the situation for many, many people.  They don't get an active dream life because we're all short on sleep.  I'll do my best to get to bed earlier so I can wake up without an alarm and loll around in bed to try to recover the content of the dreams.  Yes, I'm sure I'll do that.  I'll be rousing myself at 5 a.m. instead of 5:40 a.m.!  Yes, I'm sure that will happen regularly!

January 12, 2013

Article by Allan Johnson in Voice Male

Friends, I received the following email from Allan Johnson, a member of Voice Male magazine's national advisory board who has written several books, including The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy, and the domestic violence novel, The First Thing and the Last.  I hope you'll take a look at this article.  He explains his thought in the email which I copy here:

"In the aftermath of the latest incident of mass murder, I have felt compelled to respond to what is profoundly missing from the national conversation about gun violence: serious consideration of the fact that the overwhelming majority of violence in this society--and all mass murder--is perpetrated by men. Our failure to look at this in productive ways all but guarantees that the United States will continue to be the most violent society in the industrialized world.
"I have written an article -- "Fatal Distraction: Manhood, Guns, and Violence" -- which will be featured in the Winter issue of Voice Male, a progressive magazine that chronicles the transformation of masculinity(ies). Voice Male includes on its advisory board Eve Ensler, Jackson Katz, Michael Kimmel and others known for their work on issues of gender and social justice."
The article is available at the magazine's website:

January 07, 2013

On the Street and Getting Around

Hobo signage for getting along on the street.
It's been so cold this past week that the libraries are all full of homeless.  Every computer station, every desk space is taken and the bathroom stalls in the ladies rooms are full of women sleeping in some relatively safe place.  Poor things.  It's nearly impossible to imagine not having a place to go home to in the evening.

I'm getting along and finding my way fairly easily now.  In past years when I've had to go someplace new, I've been memorizing the map and getting there without any other reference.  It's been a helpful brain exercise because I have a good picture of my location in relation to the campus and the key places that are helpful to know.  Now I can get around and even return from a place by a different route without getting lost and without referring to a map.

If I were homeless, I'd know every place that would allow me to hang out in some comfortable chair and warm place.  I'd know where all the public bathrooms are, and where I could pick up leftover food.  The street people up by campus are a rowdy bunch but there is rich camaraderie among them, they seem to laugh together easily.  But it can't be easy when the weather is cold and they are relegated to the street.  I don't care what anyone says begging is hard, cold work.  Having experience begging as a monk, I can attest to the difficulty of it.  Whatever any homeless beggars receive in their bowls, they earn every penny.

January 03, 2013

The Solitary LIfe

Many of us may have a romantic notion of the hideaway cottage where we live in seclusion tucked away from the happenings of the world.  This cottage I'm in is like that, but the reality is lack of heat, old plumbing, slanted floors and a myriad of other interesting and unusual ailments that visit an old building, much like an aging human body.  Asleep for the first night in this 'other world', I wondered about my unconnectedness in this experience.  Not that I was out of contact with many people, but my existence seemed suspended, the way life seems to float in an unreality when we  lie awake in the middle of the night and dwell in an imagined world.

Then yesterday I received word that Lynda Swanson, a former colleague and supporter of Olympia Zen Center, had been found dead at home when she didn't arrive for her classes at community college.  There's a sad feeling that she died alone and maybe we think someone should have been with her at that final moment.  There's that awful pull between living alone and the idea that we should witness another person's end which is, at the same time, the most alone and necessary work we do.

It's just true that to enter "the cottage" is to accept the ultimate solitude, otherwise we might not quite reach the space that the heart longs for, which is the space to know ourselves.  Loneliness is a given in this human experience.  But the solitary heart is a cultivation in the midst of others that we die into again and again perhaps as practice for that final breath when we might, if we are lucky, get a flashing glimpse of who and what we truly are.  Sometimes there is another witness to this, and sometimes not.