If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. ~Ajahn Chah
posted by Faith Fogel
There are two ways to live; you can live as if nothing is a miracle, or you can live as if everything is a miracle. ~Albert Einstein
We find ourselves, once again, in the season of gratitude. Isn’t it interesting that the season of gratitude does not fall during a time of plenty; I’m speaking in terms of the climate, and what currently grows, or does not grow, in what’s left of summer’s garden. I pulled the last green tomatoes before the second intense rain, a couple of weeks ago. Some are ripening on my windowsill, and some are failing to thrive. Although I must admit, the rain is plentiful! And so the ground is already being prepared for next year’s garden. Such are the miracles that require no human intervention.
And for everything else, there are carpenters, volunteers, and subcontractors! We are in the dregs of minutia as we near the end of the renovation project at 710 Zion St. We check off one item on the list as we add another…tending, tending, tending. Here is an abridged list of recent miracles:
- Toilets and sinks in the bathrooms! (Water coming soon)
- WE HAVE HEAT!
- A gorgeous bluestone entry porch
- Some new plantings and screening on the Zion St. fence (Volunteer powered!)
- Buddha and Tara statues perched in their delicately lit alcoves
- WE ALSO HAVE A NEW TREE!
We have several exterior details to finish, including some lighting and landscaping, so please don’t be too overzealous in your rain dances. I still have pictures in my mind of how the land and space looked the first time I visited the center.
And though we all have that very human urge to be done, to check off the list, to move on to the next project, I feel a sense of amazement when I reflect on all the miracles, tiny and giant, that have transpired in mere months. And I know there’s something about the trees being sparse and on fire, and the air being crisp, and the rain dictating our schedule, that lets the knowledge of what is miraculous shine in a way that it just wouldn’t on a perfect, sunny day when zucchini clubs abound and dealing with the bounty of the garden seems like a chore.
I will not speak of dates, because there are several factors and subsequent official documents and procedures to go through yet. But I will keep you posted, and at some point in the relatively near future, I will drop the “almost” from “almost home”.
Posted by Faith Fogel
The thought manifests as the word.
The word manifests as the deed.
The deed develops into the habit.
The habit hardens into the character.
The character gives birth to the destiny.
So, watch your thoughts with care
And let them spring from love
Born out of respect for all beings.
As fall consumes the landscape, I am reminded of this quote that I heard last November at my first retreat with Mountain Stream teachers John Travis and Heather Sundberg. A lot of thoughts, springing from love, and manifesting as deeds have been making themselves known around the center as we work on through this fall season. We are in the final stages of a construction project that began in the Spring transition season, and heads towards completion at the close of another transition season. The core crew and many volunteers continue working away towards helping the new center to emerge out of it’s chrysallis.
This month, I want to use less words, and simply present some of the visual splendor we’ve been basking in. Fasten your seatbelts…
Posted by Faith Fogel
“Now that my ladder’s gone,
I must lie down where all my ladders start,
In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.”
Posted by Faith Fogel
Threshold, the point of crossing, entering, new beginnings. This also calls to mind the verb “thresh”, the beating or rubbing of stalks in order to extract the crucial grain. When the center opens its doors, there will be many new thresholds to cross. Doorways that did not exist, that were cut out of brick, and framed with new wood. To the left of the newly installed meditation hall door, an endless knot marks the threshold. The knot is an ancient symbol with many interpretations, including the idea that the spiritual path is composed of movement and time flowing within greater dance of the Eternal.
If rumors are true, a stunning new paint job lies beyond this eternally knotted threshold. And though not always good practice, I trust these rumors wholeheartedly, because our errant crewmember Rick Scovil, of Sacramento fame, took the lead on the paint job. Rick shows up when the stakes are high, the job is unpleasant, and we REALLY need him. And, he does beautiful work. Rick also reports that he had incredible support from the rest of the crew. There, I’ve qualified my reasons for subscribing to common rumors.
As for why I need to rely on rumors, I have been away most of this month, standing on a completely different threshold. The one we always know about, but so often look the other way; the one between this life of time and movement, and whatever eternity is. In layman’s terms, the one between life and death. Someone I held dear left this world, and left me pondering thresholds and eternity. All the while, there was the reality of earth, body, and sadness. All the while there was family, food, and children playing.
I’ll be back at the center in a few days, and I imagine that when I cross the threshold into the meditation hall, the knot, and the sunlight reflecting off new paint, and those sweet Japanese maples that haunt the new bay window will call to me like some absolute proof that whatever I have seen pass of time and movement, not just this past month, but these past months, is surely careening with the Eternal.
On the construction side of things, the center is currently being sheetrocked and “mudded”. The mud part refers to the taping of the joints between sheetrock panels, and the subsequent covering of said taped joints with goopy white stuff (the mud) that fools the eye into thinking there’s always been a seemless wall. This stage of construction always has an opening/closing feel to it. The space feels closed in and defined when the sheetrock first goes up…in other words, it finally feels legit. As the seams get covered and smooth white glop is feathered out in all directions, the space seems to open again. When paint is applied the space opens up even more…Interesting all that perceptual opening and closing, without any actual altercation to the shape itself. Hmmm…must be a meditation metaphor in there somewhere.
But that’s not near as fascinating (at least to me) as the finding of this molted cicada husk gripping a rag that was hanging from one the Japanese Maples out front. I have a long time fascination with these creatures of process. This appears to be a Tibecen dog day cicada, given its July/August timing. That knowledge comes to us from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicada. If you follow the link, and scroll down to “lifecycle” you can actually watch one molt in via time lapse photography. Fascinating and disturbing…
And what, the focused among you may ask, does that have to do with sheetrock? Well, first off, there’s a weird morphing feeling lately, as if the meditation hall is actually molting out its former structure. And beyond that, cicadas are known for their skills of disappearing and reappearing several years later. They spend most of their lives underground. Emergence and their physical presence where we can actually see them represents only a small shard of their lifecycle. And when they do finally emerge, it’s procreation and death, in short order. No fancy parties or long winded ceremonies, though they do project some enormous sound in their brief life above ground. So this whole thing about digging around in dark tunnels, living on root juice, sometimes for many years, only to emerge as a fantastic eyed, gorgeous winged thing, sing for a minute, deposit some eggs, and be gone; yes, this whole thing speaks to me of process and trusting in the unfolding in a way that no dharma talk can. Cicadas are, among other things, symbols of rebirth. The meditation hall, newly rocked and mudded, seems to understand the process, the rooting around in the dark, and the rebirth that is well underway.
Then finish the last song and let us leave.Forget this night when the night is no more.Whom do I try to clasp in my arms? Dreams can never be made captive.My eager hands press emptiness to my heart and it bruises my breast.
~ Rabindranath Tagore
The Mountain Stream Community has been especially blessed lately; that’s on top of all the care and support our immediate and extended community has shown during this renovation process.
First off, in July, Ayya Santacitta joined us for a daylong in Auburn. She also brought her sweet prescence by the center to permorm a quiet blessing of the new space.
The ripples of this blessing continue. Phillip Moffit spoke to benefit Mountain Stream last Friday in Grass Valley; he presented his new book From Emotional Chaos to Clarity. How could you not bite with a title like that? The talk was well attended, and it was a beautiful opportunity to see the greater community. Folks joined us from the Carson City Sangha, from Auburn, and beyond.
And where are we at with construction? We are following one of Buddhism’s greatest traditions: Listmaking. The crew is steadily working through a pre-sheetrock punch list that is broken down into categories of carpentry, wiring, and plumbing. That’s right, not just lists, but sublists.
And today, I leave you with a list:
- Bay Window
- Front Door
- Emergency Exit Door
- Front Porch, Walkway, and Pavement
- Flowers blooming on many of the transplanted plants!
- Completed niches for the Buddah and Tara statues
I’ll be back again in August with more news, and especially to show and tell when the sheetrock is done! Until then, be well, and may the blessings keep flowing.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
To frame is to choose: To designate this from that. To set apart, to highlight. To decide the size or shape, as in a doorway or window opening. I once had a photography teacher say “When you are taking a picture of something that has called your attention, turn 180 degrees, and take a picture of what is in the opposite direction; it may be more interesting.” In other words, what beckons or distracts us may not always prove the most interesting in the long run.
We are in the final stages of framing at 710 Zion Street. It is a process where things literally take shape, come into being, appear before the eyes. Choosing and making crucial decisions comes to the forefront of our days. Those things we put off for another day are now present, the last few pieces of sky in an elaborate jigsaw puzzle, and we must move the couches and chairs to make sure no pieces are hiding out.
Solid carpentry facts: The meditation hall has its new and final corner, thanks to some elaborate powerhammering and brickcutting. This corner had a problematic feature in the floor: a concrete slab that was poised to occupy about 9 square feet of the new hall. We hatched up all kinds of plans involving endless knot decals or a zabuton permanently glued in place. But in the end, some persistent poweringhammering revealed another slab at a lower level. The top slab was removed, and that floor area will now be able to merge with the rest of the wood floor. That’s a pretty sweet offering from the universe! In addition, new doorways are being cut and framed for both the front entrance and the new bathrooms. Yes, we cut brick people…with our bare hands (and some serious tools).
For some reason, all this choosing, designing, processing, and projecting into some unknown future full of ever more unknowns put me in the mind to ask Mountain Stream teacher John Travis the question “Why abandon hope?” I mean, here we are, building a center, and like the fruitful humans that we are, we’re hoping all the time. Hoping it will all turn out well, hoping people will support the center, hoping it will thrive, etc. Yet we know it is key to our practice to abandon those very lovely and wispy branches we cling to. I asked John to put it in a nutshell for me. Here is my paraphrase of that nutshell:
We don’t know what the future holds. Hope is a way of saying “I’ll get what I want” and one of the hearts of Buddhist practice is to abandon the hope that things will be different. Hope = leaning into the future, it’s about desire and wanting things to turn out a different way; it takes away from the now, and robs us of the mystery.
In “The Road Not Taken” cited above, Frost does not say he took the better road or that he thoroughly reviewed all the specs and took the road that provided the best views with the least amount of risk. In fact, he says little about the road itself. “I looked down one as far as I could/To where it bent in the undergrowth;” he tells us, but he could not see much before wildness took it over. The poem is more about the process of choosing than the road itself. Nor is there resolution: And that has made all the difference. Seems like resolution, but we know nothing of this difference. Frost doesn’t imply whether it was good or bad, how it compared to his expectations, and as he states, it can’t be compared to the other road: Yet knowing how way leads on to way. I doubted if I should ever come back. By choosing one road, he abandoned hope of the other; and THAT is what made all the difference. Frost seems to have an intuitive sense that his choosing set him on the proper course, regardless of its twists and turns, bramble, or undergrowth. Trust, as opposed to hope…thanks Frost, for unraveling that conundrum.
If this highly poetic post has not satisfied your quenchless thirst for solid carpentry facts, know this also: Jim from Reno, is helping us get connected, as in electrified, illuminated!
What a guy! We are pulling old wires, and beginning to string the new ones which will shine light into all our new spaces. Talk about mysteries…