Dhammic Safe Harbor (Covid-19.2)

“Retreating to safe harbor” is a theme Ajahn Buddhad?sa employed to caution against mindless progress. Careening forward out of habit is never wise. There are many times when we must pause and take stock. He borrowed the term from Southern Thai culture: toi lang kao klong, literally “back up into the river.” Klong, in the South, are both human dug canals, as in the rest of Thailand, and the rivers that descend from the mountainous spine of the peninsula to make their brief runs to the Gulf of Siam. The fisherfolk where he grew up would bring their boats up into the local Klong Pum Riang when storms were brewing. Here, there was more protection from strong winds and wave surges.

There are times to venture forth for earning a living, learning about the world, seeking Dhamma training, and otherwise engaging with the outside world. And there are also times for seeking refuge from storms such as social strife, widespread immorality, wars, and pandemics. Wisdom discerns when it is time to toi lang kao klong.

Like the breathing there is a natural rhythm and balance between our outer activities and inner spiritual work. Students of Buddhism heed this need and take the opportunities that life presents for periods of quiet, solitude, and contemplation, whether 30 minutes in a busy day, a weekly wan phra (sabbath), or days of retreat. With the Covid-19 strictures that health officials are recommending and governments are enforcing, we can make this a voluntary toi lang kao klong. This is wiser than chaffing at the restrictions.

In this physical, social, and economic world there is no ultimate safety. For that we turn to nibb?na, the ultimate refuge. The Three Refuges of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha guide us to such safety, if we truly take refuge in them. We toi lang kao klong to seek the inspiration and guidance of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha and cultivate the noble path of freedom from suffering.

Spiritually, we retreat into the safe harbor of our practice of ethics, meditation, and insight. Dhamma practice is not meant to be easy and it will challenge us deeply, even shake us at the core, but it never harms us. Rather, it frees us from the mistaken beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that actually harm us.

May each of us retreat into our safe harbors and help our sanghas, communities, and societies begin to understand Dhammic Safe Harbor.

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Sane living … year round (covid-19.1)

Avoiding Covid-19 and flattening the curve are on our minds. As many of us will catch it, surviving it is also on the table. Those of us who will experience cold or perhaps flu-like symptoms have healthy choices to make. How do we get through that without taxing the underfunded, strained healthcare system and adding to the emotional chaos? Here are common sense general behaviors that will benefit now and overall (modified from an email forwarded by wise friend):

How to be a bad host to illness:

1. Drop Fear because it suppresses your immune system.

2. Three S-words: get Sleep, stay away from Sugar, and Stress.

3. Get some Sunlight; it energizes your T-cells.

4. Exercise. Walk a lot. (also helps with anxiety)

5. Get a Massage or Energy Work or adjustment in the body.

6. Nutrients that boost include zinc, vitamins C, D, and echinacea.

7. Get good Sleep because stress hormones go down.

8. Meditate.

This is the first of posts from Kevala Retreat as we learn and adapt with the causes and conditions known as Coronavirus disease 2019.

view from cottage porch
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Friendly, Loving Kindness for All Beings

On retreat in Thailand, the morning chanting ends with familiar words that still reverberate deeply …

May all beings, comrades in birth, aging, illness, and death,  
Be well and happy, without enmity and malice,
Be well and happy, without selfishness and harm,
Be well and happy, without bodily pain and mental anguish,
Be well and happy in body and mind,

preserving ourselves from all sufferings and dangers.

This must be the way forward for our species if we are to escape from our vicious cycles of violence and destruction; of atrocities in the name of economic growth, religion, and sovereignty; of banal greed, hatred, and delusion; of fear and self-centeredness. The biosphere has just about had enough and the climate is paying back. Do we descend into even worse greed, hatred, fear, and confusion? Or do we stop blaming and start helping each other out of this dire predicament?

Only when we are sufficiently well and happy and at peace with ourselves will we stop chasing the superficialities we mistake for meaningful happiness.

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Deeply into Fall

The colors turned late and marvelously this past week. Temperatures dropped yesterday and there was even a bit of slushy snow. Getting towards end of apple crop, yet delicious orbs still hanging on a few trees and on ground too (until deer get to them). Wood stove getting used again. And three retreat yogis enjoying it all.

Still outdoors work to do. New house construction going well. Horses are getting let out some, which they adore after being cooped up due to construction relocations.

Folks are scheduling for retreat through the end of the year and into next. Practice time away from hustle & bustle in natural surroundings is a blessing.

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On the Verge, always, of Terra Incognita

Inspired to post by seeing On the Verge (or The Geography of Yearning) by Eric Overmeyer at the Commonweal Theatre, a local treasure.

On the Verge is most definitely a dirigible of cool whipped delight with CoolCat wordplay, unless you’re in another decade, but always witty. Highly recommended.

Our lives journey in untold directions: outward, inward, geographical, temporal, psychological, upward, and depthward. Yet always moving and moving into what we cannot know. Sure, we guess, ponder, estimate, calculate, imagine, worry, and predict, but never really know, even when we desperately want to know and convince ourselves we DO know. But we never really do.

We often call it ‘the future.’ And many of us know how bad that is going to be. Climate destruction. Recession. Worsening sexism and racism. Fascism. We have the evidence. It screams at us from many sources and reverberates in our craniums and curdles in our hearts.

Yet, we cannot know. Cannot really know. However, this play reminded me that we can always touch the beauty of the human spirit — compassionate, creative, peaceful — now. Whatever I am on the verge of I can serve this Buddha-Nature without belittling the climate science, responsible government, and well-grounded activists. If I do not serve this best of what our species is capable of, I am likely to support what I deplore. The journey can never be us against them or me against everyone else, for that attitude degrades steadily and pollutes everything it touches.

‘The future’ may not be so dreadful when we remember what is most meaningful. We may make our peace with terra incognita.

May On the Verge help you there. Many thanks to the Commonweal Theater for another delicious production.

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