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Thread: Notes from the Field: the glacial moraine and mountains walking

  1. #1

    Notes from the Field: the glacial moraine and mountains walking

    It’s been a very rough couple weeks. My brother and I just transferred our father to a nursing home – he’s 88 years old and was no longer able to live at home with his wife - they've been together 62 years and inseparable for all of that time – he’s only eight minutes from home yet the physical separation is very painful for them. The fact that they relied upon me to make a decision - and my decision was to enforce the first real separation between them in the history of their courtship and marriage – leaves me with the sense that I have betrayed not only their relationship but trust in me. My rational mind knows this is not the case but the emotion of the dutiful son runs circles around rationality.

    I took the day yesterday and wandered beyond mobile phone range (Mom calls many times a day wondering if we have done the right thing) to drive down the coast to Bar Harbor with Gary Lawless (friend, mentor, and teacher). Gary was invited to read some poems and give a talk on the mountain poets of China at the College of the Atlantic. Not that I needed any more reason to go, but my son Peter is also a student there. Bar Harbor abuts Acadia National Park – as we approached the periphery of the park we passed a large glacial moraine (what lovely words to savor on your tongue in the days of txtslang – lol).

    Large rocks dotted the soil, resting where a passing glacier had deposited them many years ago…. You could almost sense movement in this large field, movement over a span of time in which a mortal life is but the flash of a firefly… and realize that even the solidity and seeming permanence of mountains is an illusion – that in the course of geormorphological process (otherwise known as many, many years) even mountains walk…..

    It is no secret around here by now that I spend a lot of time thinking about Dogen’s Mountains and Waters sutra. I have wondered about the dimensions of meaning in “mountains walking.” This moraine laid out for me in clear and graphic display the impermanence, the constant movement and change of all things – the illusion of permanence that our minds crave. Even mountains crumble and walk across the landscape – large tectonic plates and fault lines periodically release pressure (earthquakes) and even Everest loses inches in height…. Mountains indeed walk – often with terrifying clarity.

    Dogen challenges our distinction between sentience and instentience. In a glacial moraine, there is movement and life – mountains and rivers walk over tens of thousands of years. Our drinking water, the nutrients in soil, the passages in the mountains carved by the passages of glaciers facilitate transport, commerce, adventure and exploring….. our lives and vitality depend upon the natural processes of the earth. It is easy to lose sight of this fact. Living within the fortifications and walls of the self it is easy to conjure an image of ourselves as masters of the natural world – able to harness and harvest its resources and vitality for our own enrichment. As we deplete these resources we begin ourselves to be depleted, to die bit by bit, to diminish ourselves just as innumerable species are diminished and disappear with metronomic frequency as human industry progresses….

    When Gary finished reading one of his own poems at the end of the seminar, the last line of his work brought the image of the moraine, all its movement, all its history, into clear focus – mountains do indeed walk, and as Gary wrote:

    “we complete one another’s sentience…”

    The mountains and ourselves, we complete one another’s sentience. When we watch our parents fade form this world and we feel alone and scared, when our tempers flash and we fight with our partners, when we flip the bird to another driver in the supermarket parking lot – we are completing one another’s sentience.

    How do we complete one another’s sentience? In a compassionate way that recognizes our obligation to care for one another, or in a way that reinforces our separateness, our anger, pride, feelings of superiority?

    It became clear to me as we watched the fog close in over the bay on the edge of Acadia that once we realize our fundamental relationship and interdependence with the world around us – it becomes increasingly difficult to live in contravention of the precepts – because every action we take is a reflection of our reverence and respect for this interdependence, for the humility and smallness we realize when dwarfed by the scale and movement of the moraine – and all of a sudden we do not struggle to remember and catalogue sixteen precepts or the eightfold noble path – rather we live in actualization of one fundamental precept – the importance of interdependence to our very existence – not our small human existence but existence on a huge symphonic natural and universal scale. To cause harm would be to live in dramatic contravention of these natural and universal precepts. The precepts we recite in practice become one …. Every action, every breath we take is part of this part of this large movement – we cannot live in contravention of this precept. When our human lives end our physical forms return to the earth and we become part of this movement, we join the mountains walking. We cannot live in violation of the one fundamental precept whether we like it or not. Our actions are part of the cycle of vow, repentance and renewal that the precepts represent.. Our flashes of temper and greed soon disappear like the ocean tide erasing footprints in the sand and the moraine slowly advances over timeless time. We are not so important. Just as mud and filth cultivate the lotus blossom our delusions are prerequisite to clarity of action and experience. The cycle of vow and repentance. There is no right action if we have not committed a harmful or painful action off which to practice. We cannot violate the universality of the precepts.

    The daylight faded, in the fog the horizon and ocean were indistinguishable. Then we returned to the world of traffic lights and cell phone signals and aged parents. The moraine rests in the moonlight, and mountains walk.

    Thank you.

    Deep bows
    Last edited by Yugen; 05-21-2015 at 03:59 AM.

  2. #2
    Thank you, Yugen, deep bows. And metta to your parents.


  3. #3
    Thank you Yugen for your guidance and teaching ... much love and metta to you and your family.



  4. #4
    If I'm already enlightened why the hell is this so hard?

  5. #5
    Metta to all.

    Myosha sat today
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui Shugen's Avatar
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    Nov 2007
    Redding California USA
    Thank you Yugen.




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼

  7. #7
    Thanks yugen. You really put things in perspective.

    Sat today
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  8. #8
    Thank you, Yugen.


  9. #9
    Thank you for the wonderful lesson. That was beautiful


  10. #10
    Thank you Yugen.

    Sitting for your family. Sitting for the walking mountains.


    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  11. #11
    Thank you Yugen. Deep bows.


    sat today

  12. #12
    Thank you Yugen. And I will also sit for your family.

    Gassho, Kyotai
    Sat today

  13. #13

    Thank you for the moment.

    Myosha sat today
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  14. #14
    much metta to you, your family and all of us


  15. #15
    Thank you for that, Yugen. Beautiful writing.

    sat today in geological time and clock time...and no time

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