Thursday, 26 February 2015

How To Be Ultra-Spiritual

(For some reason the thumbnail for this embed is coming up as YouTube's grey "missing video" default, but the video is not in fact missing. Click on the "play" button, and it will play.)

Here's a timely instructional video that'll be useful in Zen Centres throughout the Western world. Trust me, beginners: this scant 5-minute seminar will get you as far as many Zenners do in as many years. (How about this Internet, eh?)

But the very best part is that JP Sears actually is one of those New Age life-coach types I'm always sneering about. This guy makes his living as a spiritual counsellor, ministering to people in pain from an (apparently) areligious-but-like-spiritual perspective. And given the long string of biting YouTube videos he's made lambasting his own schtick, I'll bet he's brilliant. I'd send a friend to him, if she needed help and were of that bent. (The fact that he's based in South Carolina may contribute to his groundedness.)

All of which goes to underscore a central pillar of the Buddha's teaching, one that we Zenners often forget: "If it works, it works." Enlightenment is its own justification. It's a hard pill for some establishment types to swallow, but if you get there by following a master and doing your billy-be-damnedest to be Japanese -- good. If you get there being a sardonic hermit in the woods -- just as good. And if you get there by being a hippy-dippy kale-eating bohemian -- just as good.

We're a results-based religion. Forget that, and you're not practicing Zen.

And if you see my man JP, ask him for me if he thinks he'd've turned out as awesome in California.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

WW: Trees in fog

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Beating Swords Into Search Engines

Schwerter zu Pflugscharen - Bronze - Jewgeni Wutschetitsch - Geschenk der Sowjetunion an die UNO - 1959
Every so often a host name in my blog stats provokes a moment of reflection. Certain ISPs are a given: schools and universities; Zen centres; private corporations; government servers; and of course, lots of general service providers. But it's the armed-response readers that hit me hardest.

To date I've been "surveilled" (to use a non-word I dislike) by the US Department of Defense; America's Orwellian "Department of Homeland Security"; the US Justice Department; and the Pentagon. And though Yank institutions make up the bulk of this traffic, I've also been visited by the Royal Military College of Canada; the Indian Armed Forces; and the British Ministry of Defence, among others.

Given the predilections of current Western governments, with their brazen rejection of democracy and embrace of pre-Enlightenment concepts of loyalty, these drop-ins always give me pause. We know that such agencies – especially those in the US – collect "intelligence" on unoffending civilians. We also know they're not above working violence on similar, when the whim takes them.

Meanwhile, I've made no secret in these pages of my opposition to those trends and goals, so I suppose I could conceivably wind up on some professional stalker's target list. Still, it's hard to swallow. OK, ordinary innocuous folk like me have recently been investigated, harassed, and worse. On the other hand… really? Government enforcers paid to monitor some half-mad Zen hermit on a desolate beach somewhere out in the North Pacific rainforest?

I'm not buying it. Rather, I believe these civil servants and military personnel are simply surfing the Net on the boss's dime. (A survey of local times at the agencies in question reveals that about half of them drifted in on their lunch hour.)

And that insight changes the whole story. As chilling as it is to find "Pentagon" in one's daily results, in the end, it's probably proof of our shared human nature. You got people screwing off on the job, and following more or less random impulses to satisfy their curiosity on sundry topics. Better still: some of them apparently have at least a passing interest in alternatives to confrontation and "enemy-think". (One happened in while searching "eightfold path".) Will my little Blogspot journal change their lives?


But if they keep hunting around in this fashion, they will in fact eventually find plenty of grist for that mill. It's out there; that's how I got here, myself.

Any road. If, honoured reader, you're engaged in the security industry and have surfed in here on the sly: Welcome! We Zenners don't recruit or evangelise; you're free to come and go as you like, and to leave as unchanged as you wish. Peace and wisdom to you, brother or sister, and may we all find Enlightenment at the end of this road.

(Photo of Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares - 1959 Soviet gift to the United Nations, by sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich - courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

WW: Arizona sunset

(Photo stolen from Michaela Young-Mitchell, Sahuarita, Arizona.)

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

WW: Karma ring

(Found high in the dunes; ancient relic of some wrecked seawall or dockwork. I collected the malleable washer, which is about 3 inches across, to make a fudo.) 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

North Coast Tarantula

Kaldari Phidippus johnsoni male defense

The sun hacked its way free as I meditated on an upturned bucket under the walnut, beside a velvety Johnson jumper. Tiny tarantula of vermillion and black, with a solid red abdomen that marked him as male, his four expressive eyes tracked all possible threats.

Jumping spiders have an intelligence – indeed, a personality – that, together with their teddy-bear plush, makes them improbably adorable. They only deal their bee-sting bite when threatened; failing that they'll opt to run. (Or jump.)

I once shared a kitchen counter with one for months, and quite missed him when he left. We peopled each other's silence, and stayed out of each other's way.

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo of Phidippus johnsoni courtesy of Ryan Kaldari and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

WW: Foggy forest

(Photo by friend and fellow blogger Trent Dejong: