angry, tattooed monk


a change in the weather allowed for a long walk outdoors. 25 august 2018

for the past week smoke from surrounding wildfires has shrouded the city, making my lungs burn and eyes water. the smoke-filled grey sky has transitioned to cloud-filled grey sky. the damp air is cool on my skin.

with the arrival of clouds, light plays trickery on the senses—the day looks as if it belongs to autumn, not summer.

i walk the streets and parks. a breeze moves the boughs overhead and carries a few fallen leaves across the sidewalk. a memory surfaces from close on five years ago: an autumnal walk with my partner. we were walking home from the market. while stopped on a street corner i spied a tree whose remaining leaf canopy only existed on its periphery. leaves quivered, some fell to the ground. with the leaves today and the memory, William Carlos Williams’s poem Approach of Winter came to mind:

The half-stripped trees struck by a wind together,
bending all, the leaves flutter drily and refuse to let go or driven like hail stream bitterly out to one side and fall where the salvias, hard carmine - like no leaf that ever was - edge the bare garden.

another gust picked up fallen leaves and they danced across the sidewalk. people are like leaves. they bud and sprout, grow and mature, weather the seasons. some die off prematurely, others fall alone or with leaves they have spent their entire lives beside.

on that evening five years ago, i could see my breath. then and now, the muffled hints of conversation, the din of traffic, the swirl of leaves picked up by the breeze — the interconnectedness of everything.

i am grateful for it all.

#compassion #dharma #interdependence #zen #williamscarloswilliams #daishinstephenson

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poetry is what we live. 7 may 2018

robert frost said it best: “Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.”

for me, poetry is about slowing down and seeing what is going on around you; of observing the impact of actions; of feeling the rawness of our lives.

the keen edges of john berryman’s words as he captures the egoless struggles of life. robert frost’s aching grasp of life lived honestly. william carlos williams’s frank observations of living. samuel beckett’s poetic minimalism sends me over the treetops. they, and many more not mentioned here, are all great teachers and friends.

i think of poetry more often than not. while i stopped at a corner of a blossom-covered street, i spied two young sparrows ripping leaves off a small plant. at a downtown square, a child chased pigeons into traffic where two were killed by cars. a woman walked down the street while talking on a cell phone erupted in laughter. i thought about the woman my grandmother used to be before alzheimer’s altered her brain. this is all poetry.

#dharma #poetry #johnberryman #robertfrost #williamcarloswilliams #daishinstephenson

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letting go. 26 march 2018

dry, curling leaf on pavement

the phrase “letting go” is frequently used amongst Dharma practitioners, found in texts, and heard in discussions. despite its frequent reference, the meaning of “letting go” is commonly misunderstood.

the Dharma teaches the importance of letting go of ego, of preferences, of emotions, of neurosis, of addictions, of compulsions, of desires, of what we think the Dharma is. we cause harm and perpetuate our own suffering with the misguided belief that “letting go” means that our egoic attachments vanish and we then become beacons of peace and tranquility.

it is true that letting go of our attachments is important, but “letting go” does not mean getting rid of things. “letting go” does not mean that our attachments and character traits disappear.

“letting go” is about acceptance—about realizing that those aspects of our personality that we think are broken will not disappear. our neuroses, desires, preferences—it is those attributes that give us individuality; they are part of each of us and are neither good nor bad. when we “let go,” it simply means that we are no longer controlled by attachments and beliefs; that life is no longer ego-driven, but actually lived.

truly letting go is like looking at yourself in a mirror. you see your reflection, and you know you are not your reflection.

#dharma #zen #daishinstephenson

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reminders. 21 march 2018

image of tattooed june bug

when i was very young, say three or four, my grams tied a thread around the abdomen of a live june bug. after tying the knot, she passed me a living kite.

the june bug died from exhaustion (and possibly fear, for sentience is everywhere) from not being able to escape and rest. i kept its carcass for years till it finally crumbled after being jostled in its box.

this is why i have a june bug tattoo; to always be reminded that our actions have impacts.

#causeandeffect #cruelty #dharma #karma #sentience #zen #daishinstephenson

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