THE SIXTH ANCESTOR’S “YOUR MIND IS MOVING”

As you look out the window
you say the branches of the tree
are dancing, the clouds barely stopping
to gaze down on the scene.
Walk outside and feel the breeze
skitter along your skin, see
the seed pods of the maple
take wing and fly off.
Ask yourself why this is,
is it the wind you see moving things
or is it the things moving
creating a breeze, which?
Consider that it is only your mind
that is moving, for if you do not
look or think of these motions,
how can you know if they stop?


A reflection on case 146 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

NOT

Today I will hope to master,
if only for a brief moment, not

not being attached to thoughts,
but recognizing them and letting them pass,
since the thought of recognition must
replace the thought that was recognized,

not trying for anything on the cushion
including not trying to not try
for anything for that is the only way
that you can find nothing, which
is what you were trying for in the first place,

not putting into words concepts
which must by their nature defy language
but rather assuming the position
and just let things

COGITO

In many ways thoughts
are very much like cats.
By that I mean that they
are known to wander in
and stay as long as they like
and never a moment longer.
If you feed or stroke them
they may linger, but please
rest assured that if you really
want them to stay, try
though you might, they
will find an open window
or door and be gone
the next time you look.

NOTHING, AND LESS

The hardest thing, he said
to his teacher, both sitting
on their mats, is not
not thinking, but what to do
when the thoughts come anyway.
I can’t seem to get rid of them
no matter how hard I try.”
“Do not try to do anything,”
the Sensei said, “for anything
you do introduces another thought,
and soon enough you have an onion
of thoughts to peel, layer by layer.
When a thought comes, look at it
with the mind’s eye, say, with
the mind’s voice, look a thought,
and do nothing more, and before
you know it the thought
will be gone and the next
in line will enter your mind.”

REVEAL

You will, or may
see something today
that may surprise you.
It may reveal itself
in a quiet moment,
it may be nothing more
than a fleeting thought
or image, which you
are at first uncertain.
There won’t be Magi
not even magic, though
on reflection, it may
seem somehow magical.
It will happen openly,
but most will miss
its occurrence.
Only the rarest
among us will
contemplate its revelations,
but for those who look
too closely it
will be an empty feast.

AGING GRACELESSLY

To know the road ahead
ask those coming back.
— Chinese Proverb

I have progressed to the point
that I no longer mark time
in neat segments based on rotation
of this world about that, now I am
measured against those around me, I
seek those with whom I share an age.
It is best to walk at noon, although
the sun is hottest then, for my shadow
draws inward, less exposed, but
it slowly creeps outward as the sun retreats.
I am of an age with the sun, I see myself
reflected in my children, who call
in the night as I have fled
into my sanctuary, away from yapping dogs.
My sons were, just days ago, standing
jaws clenched, before the batting tees,
they would throw down the bat
in disgust after a swing as the ball
toppled slowly to the ground, now one
sits in his cramped office just out of sight
of the river and mulls that moment
of time before there was time, the other
finds structure in the randomness of thought.
I am of an age with that moment
of time before time
I am of an age with that random thought.


First Appeared in Alembic, Winter, 1999-2000.

MIRRORED

It isn’t the seeing of something
that matters, for what is seen
was there to be seen so seeing
is just its natural consequence.
It is only when you label it, give
it a name that it ceases to exist,
for you at least, for at that moment
what exists is the label and no longer
the thing that was labeled, so
language always keeps us
from experiencing life, renders us
observers of the things we
no longer co-experience.
It is much like looking in the mirror
and imagining you see yourself
when all you see is the polished
surface of the glass, and while
you may be many things, we
are reasonably certain that
reflective glass was never one of them.