Friday, January 30, 2009

This Moment

Recently I've been reading a lot of haiku, the Japanese-style short poems. What seems to have drawn me to these is that they are succinct and yet capture a moment of life in a clear way that may also be metaphorical. An example is this poem by Sylvia Forges-Ryan:
Sparrow chirping—
     this winter morning
       its white breath

When we engage in the practice of Insight Meditation, one of the objectives, and one of the benefits, is that we come to see the true nature of our experience more clearly. Ultimately we want to see the universal characteristics of each moment of experience —that it is impermanent, ultimately unsatisfactory and lacks an enduring essence or self— as this brings us to spiritual freedom, to a life of contentment. But seeing the specific characteristics of a moment of experience is what brings our lives a richness and newness in each moment, whether seeing the white breath of a sparrow on an icy winter morning, noticing the sweet-sour taste and crisp, firm texture of a Granny Smith apple as we take the first bite, or experiencing the vibratory, dancing quality of an itch on the face as we meditate. Opening to and seeing clearly both the universal and the specific characteristics are such a benefit, I hope you will just take this moment to look, to see and to be completely present for your life. This poem by Shiki Masaoka captures a moment so beautifully:
cutting a pear
sweet drops drip
from the knife

This moment, each moment, will never be here again. Please look closely, and enjoy!

"Sparrow chirping…", Take a Deep Breath: The Haiku Way to Inner Peace by Sylvia Forges-Ryan and Edward Ryan, p. 90.
"cutting a pear…", Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart, p. xi.

Welcome to awake n missouri


The sun rises over the Missouri River. A golden reflection on the water. The beginnings of warmth. The sounds of birds chirping. The smell of, well, the river. A clear, crisp moment in life. A new day dawns.

In the same way, spiritual practice offers the possibility of a new day. We begin to pay attention to our sensory experience in each moment and life opens up, shining bright. We come to realize that there is no "me" separate from life, separate from what is and the struggle falls away, perhaps for a moment, perhaps longer. These are the possibilities of awakening.

As the subtitle says, this blog is about exploring awakening in a Midwestern life, a life that is not especially dramatic and that is pretty ordinary. There is no one to be awakened, no one who is awake, yet awakening happens. What is it? What seems to lead to it? What is it like in an ordinary Midwestern life? These are questions I hope to explore.