Editorial

Wordless Words

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Editorial: by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman

In creative work, facing a blank page or canvas calls for patience as we attune and express ourselves—a patience much like the receptive stillness of zazen. In zazen itself, we renounce our storytelling and let contact with mind deepen. The instructions to “let thoughts go” seem to defy the impulse to create, to narrate, to write the next line. And yet, language can also reveal the universe, our home beyond words.

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Receiving Kindness

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Editorial: by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman

How do you experience gratitude? Gratefulness, as David Steindl-Rast writes, happens when the heart flows over and must be expressed. Gratefulness arises like the surf or a fresh breath, natural and in accord—a basic, personal awareness that something good has happened. When we look at our lives for these moments, we find them filled with gifts: a sudden smile; caring and being cared for; meeting a teacher of the Dharma; finding our way through the twisted tangles of our greed, anger and ignorance; and, being in the company of good friends and guides.

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Look Again, and Again

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by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman

Looking around at the people and things which come into our orbit, we can be easily misled. The seeing mind is dynamic, complex, and can be affected by a gnawing hunger for lunch, a yearning for praise or even a craving for peace and justice, filling our minds with opinions and judgements. A wide range of feelings rise up when right and wrong becomes solidified. From within this familiar ground, we can find refuge in the Dharma teachings of “View,” the theme of this issue of Mountain Record.

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A True Life

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by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman

What is a true, reliably grounded, fulfilling life? The question of what is true can haunt us, fueling our underlying dis-ease and motivating us to explore and even make major life changes. But rare are the opportunities to unravel the skein as thoroughly as through spiritual inquiry. The taking up of a simple life of generous service sounds appealing, an antidote to all kinds of suffering, not to mention a place of refuge and nurturance. But how do each of us find and genuinely live that true and fulfilling life?

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This Should Be Easy

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by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman

This life of mine is perfect and complete Buddha nature; the teachings state this directly. So this should be easy—just live as an enlightened being. But what is that, really? We come to practice to be completely liberated from suffering, but the old habits of solving problems, finding adjustments or applying ‘the fix’ aren’t the same as taking up the bodhisattva vows. The Buddha and his early followers wandered and practiced together, seeking the true path of awakening, and that’s where we all begin. This Buddha nature is innate, and it has to be verified personally, with one’s very own evolving experience.

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This is My Stop

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by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman, Mountain Record Editor

Not a story I like to tell, but years ago I got into a fight on the subway. A big-shouldered, well-groomed man in his 40s was tearing down a safe sex poster which showed some playfully kissing teenagers, straight and gay. I questioned him angrily as he tore up the poster, and he stopped. That’s where I could have left it. I had stepped forward without fear or self-consciousness, and I had been effective. But now I was livid with self-righteous anger and so was he. Having created a second problem, I was missing a vital element of skillfulness—to find my ground and learn to speak up differently.

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Who’s Your Mama

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by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman, Mountain Record Editor

I arrived at the monastery for the first time curious about Zen but prepared to stay on the sidelines. Organized religions of any kind were to me male-defined, patriarchal institutions I was better off avoiding, and yet here I was. When I turned toward the monastic in the zendo for beginning instruction there was a woman—in black robes and distinctive bald head—and she spoke with a clear, soaring enthusiasm for the dharma. A sudden recognition, and a new picture came into view—this is my seat.

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A Daring Compassion

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by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman, Mountain Record Editor

The news on environmental activism rarely makes headlines, despite some prominent demonstrations and the groundswell of change they can lead to. Occasionally there are clashes or even violence against those who continue working, courageously, to protect and defend. Communities are torn apart, resources are depleted, our human greed and destruction takes its toll. I feel anger, a familiar despair. When facing these feelings of discouragement, or simply not knowing what to do, how is it that being on the path and having a spiritual practice can sustain us?

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Photo by Dean Morley

Bright, Dancing Aliveness

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by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman, Mountain Record Editor

Fire draws our attention with its light. The aliveness dancing in a candle flame is made from the cotton in its wick, the moisture in the candle wax, oxygen feeding its burning. I name the different parts and feel their separateness, grasping at difference. As I return to the experience of the flickering flame, I return to warmth, the light, the aliveness.

While we understand that all the elements combine to create the life of our magnificent planet, we tend to focus on the separation— between candle, wick, wax—as between what we want and what we have, between the human and the natural world. Separating our self-consciousness and our disregard for other perspectives—of people, animals, insects and even protozoa—ultimately justifies destructive acts against living beings. Feeling the distress of the earth and its creatures as deeply personal, this awareness can open up the heart to respond with genuine caring actions which are of benefit to all.

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