Tag Archives: Buddhism

Rearranging the altars

It’s a fairly common thing to color the water used in Buddhist offerings with saffron. Saffron is, of course, very expensive, and I haven’t been able to afford it, but V. bought me some while we were in the spice aisle at the store. I will make the saffron water when I can and start using it in daily offerings.

We had previously been to the dollar store, where we found an assortment of things that we thought would be good for the altars. Small wooden boxes, moss, stones, glass bowls and vases. I’ve wanted to make something for Freyr for a long time, because I don’t have much for him: really only a dark brown clay pig, aside from my jewellery.

Hela told Brand to rearrange the order that things are in, in terms of the shelves, which is reasonable and convenient. I need more room to use the offering bowls more effectively.

I will make something for Freyr and incorporate the pieces of the trees in the yard that offered themselves into the area. He is so intertwined with nature/land spirits for me that it seems like the right thing to do.

We bought a Christmas cactus, as well. Being past its flowering season, it was heavily marked down and in good condition. They blossom so beautifully.

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Solstice.

Yesterday was a very bad day — I am scraping through the bottom of the mental health barrel — and we were not able to do what we had wanted for the solstice and mother’s night. But, barring a convenient Stonehenge (where it was raining and very dark, anyway) or Science, the exact solstice is difficult to determine and wanders each year, so I hoped shifting the majority of things to today would be all right.

We lit tealights for the important goddesses and women in our lives, as well as some who were very important to people we loved. Some were slightly generalized: Buddhist tradition says that the numberless sentient beings are all our mothers, and they have all been our children, at some point in time. We ended up with fourteen candles. Had some people not been grouped together, I think we might have gone through half the box. I felt terribly serious about it; I have never had a mother, and I have seen how the loss of his mother has torn B. apart and how much it hurts R., whose wife she was.

I was adopted by Brand’s mother, Auðhelga, and so was B.

Inadvertently (it was largely to do with emotional and physical exhaustion and what I could handle cooking), I made cream of rice for dinner, which is a comfort food (in the form of cream of wheat, which none of us can eat, now, but I’ve forgotten what the difference in taste was and so have they) for Brand and V., because their grandmothers made it for them all of the time.

I also made Freyr’s tea, because I was fortunate enough to find unfiltered raw honey at the grocery, which is the only sort of honey that he and some of my spirits are very willing to have put in things for them. He asked me in the beginning to eat a little raw honey every day, and I have not been able to do it because I haven’t had the food stamp space for a while now. It’s very good to be able to share his tea again.

It rained the past two days and it will rain all day tomorrow, and my shoes have holes in them. Nerthus asked me to go stand on the ground barefoot — it’s actually warmer right this second than it will be tomorrow (the high is rapidly dropping from the upper fifties to the mid twenties), but I am so very tired. And I want to bring something to the pine in the back yard. I am not entirely sure how to accomplish this without looking insane to the landlords. My logical reason for being in the backyard is taking the trash out. Perhaps I can ask V. to hold the offering cup for me since I am stronger than he is, as far as the trash is concerned (this is not saying much, to be honest: whereas he has lost all of his muscle tone to cfs, I’ve kept some because I’ve had to carry home groceries and so on).

I have flipflops, which will be less troublesome than my shoes with holes in them, for the purpose of standing on the ground (though one could argue I am always standing on the ground in those shoes…!).

I will try to get some sort of feel for what the pine would like out of the tea that we have.

Autumn and winter are the only times of the year that I feel especially comfortable, so the solstice is not about lengthening days and the passing of winter for me.

It is about the moon in an ice cold clear sky, shining on a field of snow.

It is about a moment of absolute silence filled with such shattering clarity that the only thing you can do is stare in wonder.

It is about a void that is anything but empty.

All good thoughts appreciated.

We are going to see another apartment today. This time, in the city. Very convenient to a grocery that accepts food stamps and a bus route that, with one transfer, will get us to/from the train station, that also serves as the place MegaBus runs between Albany and NYC (often less than half the price of the train, with the trade-off that you have to stand around waiting on the sidewalk in NYC for it).

Similarly, the same bus plus one transfer will take me to the Albany location of the main Buddhist center I’ve been associated with.

Also, the bus costs $0.75 for disabled people, though it doesn’t seem like they do free transfers. I could be wrong. Even if they don’t, a two-bus trip would be $1.50 and it’s $1.25 in NYC for two buses and/or one bus and infinite trains.

But the bus doesn’t have a Metrocard sort of thing that you can pre-pay for trips on unless you’re buying weekly or monthly passes, and definitely not the version where you can have your Metrocard ding your bank account for each trip and never have to refill your card. Which is terribly convenient, I must say. But an extremely minor annoyance when the rent is literally half of a one bedroom in NYC ($650 versus an average of $1200). Farther away from Albany, you can get two or three bedrooms for $550-$650, no problem. In NYC, you can’t typically get a bedroom in a shared apartment for less than $800.

I’m very tired and this has been very hard, and been very hard to be firmly optimistic that something will work out and everything that matters to us won’t be lost, somehow. Brand is much better at that sort of thing, because if it won’t work, he will make it work, and we will have a safe fucking place to live if I have to build it myself sort of thing.

But I am clinging to my beloved, who is hope and light and fulfillment.

Wheel turning

The Equinox is at 4:44pm local time. I could go to the ADF event at Central Park. It’s raining right now, but should clear up by afternoon.

My knee is bothering me, and the recent tendency toward frequent/constant stress-induced nightmares haven’t left me with much energy, but it would be good to be around people. If not, I hope I can go to the store to get the things to make bread. It does involve much less walking.

When Brand is feeling very bad or vulnerable, he likes to wrap the cord he had made around his neck loosely. I took the idea and looped ours, which still smells of the herbs it was washed in.

I do not know if I have “let” things get to me, or if this is a situation in which it is nearly impossible to avoid “letting” things get to me — that the issue of insecure housing, threats of physical violence, insufficient money to move right away, and everything else has thrown me into a form of survival mode where I seem capable of thinking about nothing else. It’s done it to everyone — I’m not the only one with nightmares — but I don’t want to solely be existing in this mode. I don’t want to be so full of stress that I sacrifice everything precious.

One of my mentors suggested using Green Tara’s mantra in times of difficulty, and I think it did help a great deal in getting to (I also got lost) and through a hearing about whether or not my benefits were being cut off (they aren’t). It’s also short and to the point. The difficulties one asks to be saved from sound like normal difficulties, like protection while traveling, but more relate to the general difficulties of samsaric existence and ignorance. And, goodness, couldn’t I use a lot of help with that.

Some of the leaves are falling here, or browning. Our unpredictable weather has interspersed periods of autumn with blazing summer. I wouldn’t rule out another period of 90 degree days, but it’s back to being cooler outside.

In a fragment of a dream I had, it was already time for frost, and frost was silvering the green leaves of the plants every morning. I don’t think I was in my ordinary dream locales; I think either Freyr or another person was with me. I was reminded in some vague way of the place where I grew up, though I couldn’t say why, now.

Brand is about to embark on a period of belonging to his sister. I need to settle myself, engage in daily meditation, and descend into the right portions of consciousness to learn more about this apprenticeship to Eir that’s being arranged around me and something similar with Frigga. Both things will need my attention.

In this moment of being split between seasons, it seems good to revive and set intentions.

Mine are:

– practice daily meditation

– practice mantra recitation

– spend time with my beloved

– pray

– pursue the invitations from Eir and Frigga

– follow commonsense approaches to improving these things — care for my plants and study herblore, clean my spaces, my altar, etc, and maintain them, cook and enjoy good food

White Tara

The wild change in the weather brought on a migraine. Not too surprising, but as always, they affect what I can do.

I was having a very difficult time settling my mind and frequently feeling panicky all day, which is not strange for the day, or with recent circumstances, and I could not find a rhythm for tonglen to keep it going for very long. It seemed like only about five or ten minutes. Five or ten minutes seemed like a terribly short period of time when I was thinking about people being trapped under metal and concrete, dying of thirst, burns, and other injuries. How time must have crawled for those people.

I wanted to do recitations with something I both already had memorized and had easily accessible to listen alongside to help me stay focused. What I had available turned out to be White Tara.

White Tara is often approached for longevity, but also during sickness, and she is said to be more compassionate toward our suffering than a mother is toward a beloved child.

Part of the training on compassion throughout Buddhism is that we need to be compassionate toward ourselves, forgiving toward ourselves, accepting of ourselves, and so on, so that we can be those things toward others. I needed to be compassionate toward myself and my limitations, remember that one second of thought for the benefit of other beings is priceless, and accept the efforts I was able to give as good.

This is something that I have constant trouble with.

I did not grow up with a loving mother, so it is very hard for me to imagine Tara’s compassion.

I did not feel well enough to get up to get my mala, but the recording has 108 recitations, and I went through them, drawing my mind when it wandered back to the topic at hand. I visualized a Buddha-field with white lotuses and clear water as an offering.

Something controversial, I think, in Buddhism and some other religions, is that you do not separate some people from who gets included. You do not think to yourself, no, the people who hijacked the planes cannot come to this Buddha-field and receive blessings from Tara, or sit among these lotuses, or listen to this water.

Among Orthodox Christians, it’s common to use the word ‘repose’ instead of ‘dead’ or ‘death.’ Sometimes it seems like a better word.

9/11

Tomorrow never stops seeming like a day that has detached itself from the timestream and remains outside of it, one foot aside, leaving a jarring hole like missing a step in the dark — as vertiginous and horrifying, full of animal visions of twisted bones and broken spines.

It “gets better.” The city “moves on.”

Signs about the missing, then PTSD, then sickness, then cancer disappear. Then there are no signs at all, except sometimes you stumble across a mural to a group of people, to firefighters, to all of them.

The victims’ families have become something of an embarrassment: they demand tribute every year to the fallen, demand that something be done, demand that it not get brushed under the rug of tourism and shining up the public perception of the city as Safe again.

It’s going to be in the upper 90s tomorrow, after days of pleasant weather. It’s going to be incredibly oppressive.

I’ll be at home, meditating on peace, making an offering to the dead, and an offering to the spirit and spirits of the city, themselves wounded grievously and much ignored. Maybe I will turn my practice to tonglen, and take their suffering, and give them love, empathy, acknowledgement. I see you.

I hear you.

And I am so very sorry.

A Month for Freyr: Thoughts on Frith and Lovingkindness

Reaching the messy end of friendships, of relationships, of other sorts of bonds that seemed inclined to last but have frayed apart recently, or currently are fraying, I’ve been trying to find ways of coping with things and with people that does the least harm while maintaining my own self to a reasonable degree — not putting myself into a situation where I will be devoured and have nothing left for Freyr, for the wights, for studying, for meditation, for my other friends and loved ones, or anything at all.

Buddhism approaches how one should protect oneself, or if one should protect oneself at all, differently depending on the school. But the interior attitude does not change, whether one takes steps, or what sort of steps, to remove oneself from harm or the potential for harm.

Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: “Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.” That’s how you should train yourselves.

“Train” is an important word. Doing this is anything but easy, even in circumstances that are relatively pleasant much of the time. It’s both common and easy to have stray nasty thoughts about people who annoy you, when someone cuts you off driving, or cuts in line in front of you, won’t move when the light turns green, steps on your toes, bumps into you hard enough to make you stumble or drop something, etc. It’s basic Internet 101 on get enraged at the opinions of others, as well. And politics.

It’s unlikely someone will start sawing your limbs off, but you may find yourself subjected to a monologue about politics you find abhorrent (I know someone who is a great fan of Rush Limbaugh; I’m gay and passionately support women’s rights), from someone you can’t afford to seem rude toward, so you seethe inwardly and fantasize about sawing their limbs off.

It’s an accomplishment, and not a small one, to manage to be polite to people on the exterior almost all of the time. It’s very hard to create interior kindness, patience, and forbearance that doesn’t shatter as soon as someone sits near you and chews with their mouth open.

Peace, ultimately, comes from within ourselves. Especially the sort of peace that grows.

It’s said that what we hate most in others are things we hate about ourselves, and it’s a fact that most western people, when they try to do metta meditation, and have to start with genuinely wishing themselves happiness and freedom from suffering, have trouble doing it. We harbor a lot of self-loathing.

The advice is to start with someone easy, like your best friend, or your mentor, your lover, someone that your heart can embrace without any selfishness and wish for their happiness and their freedom from suffering. And then eventually work your way around to yourself. Some people find wishing themselves happiness even harder than wishing the “difficult person” happiness — someone you don’t like very much, but not necessarily someone you hate or someone who’s abused you, because dealing with those people is fairly advanced and you’d ideally want to not be alone in your practice when working with something so hard.

I realized that these things and people who are fraying away from me need, more than anything, a great deal of love and kindness — both toward them and toward myself — to loosen the attachments and let them go, and heal what’s left behind.

The image that I had was of uprooted trees, or partly uprooted trees. And i knew it would not harm them to finish uprooting them, to work from the bottom and fill in the soil with lovingkindness and gently push the trees out of the ground, instead of pulling from the top and ripping them out. With an intact root system, they can grow somewhere else. And I’m not left full of pieces of other people, inside my soulscape, with land that does not return to itself the way soil and plant matter does here without any human intervention. There are microbes and worms and plenty of other things that do that, largely invisibly. But I’m not full of helpful things tilling and aerating me until I’m full of rich black earth, ready to be filled with a garden.

I have to do it myself.