Note to non-practitioners: The below is a brief write-up required of all those who ask to take the first Five Precepts from the Zen Community of Oregon (my sangha).  I posted this here because it's a Buddhist blog, but also because this understanding of the Precepts traditionally should be publicly illustrated.

Thoughts on the first Five Precepts

In the Abhisandha Sutta, the Buddha said that the commitment to live by the precepts is a gift to oneself and all others:
... This is the ... gift, the ... great gift — original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning — that is not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and is unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives and priests. This is the ... reward of merit, reward of skillfulness, nourishment of happiness, celestial, resulting in happiness, leading to heaven, leading to what is desirable, pleasurable and appealing; to welfare and to happiness.
I find this a very useful way to look at the first five precepts. I believe it was [my sensei] Hogen [Bays] who said that if each person were to undertake and live by just the first five precepts, the world would never know war, crime, rape or addiction. The universal begins with the personal, and the idea that this undertaking is a gift to the world—to the Universe and all beings in it—is a very powerful one. We all at times feel helpless and ineffectual, and remembering that you are able to do something to help the entire universe by virtue of the way you live your very life can help anchor you when you feel at the mercy of this existence.

I look at these principles and how they apply to my life in the following ways:

  1. Do not kill: This seems so obvious, yet people do this every moment of every day. Bugs, mites, and all manner of tiny things end their existences every time I breathe, walk, shower, and eat. We tend to think only of the overt idea of killing (that is, taking of a human life) because that to us is the most obvious limit that humans should abide by. Many of us, however, take that practice to a greater degree. I am (primarily) a vegetarian. I have been for five years. I was a strict vegan for three. I decided that after thirty-some years of eating mostly animal products that I should no longer contribute to the suffering of animals simply because I like the way they taste. That decision made an immediate impact upon the world in which I live in a number of ways, not the least of which is that animals are no longer dying in my name. But it also changed who I am directly by making me more aware of suffering in general. The learning of the idea of ahimsa—of non-harming—directly manifested a growth of it in my life, and in many directions. I notice now that I am as aware of the killing of the experience of joy, or the killing of a person's spirit as I am that of a living being. I value this awareness very much. When I kill something, part of the Universe dies, and that is as much damage to myself and my own progress as it is the thing that has died, because the truth is, there is no difference.

  2. Do not steal: I am always moved by the rephrasing “Be satisfied with what I have”. The drive to have, to posses, to acquire; these are all like essential nutrients to the weed that is “desire”. At times in the past, I have fallen into this. “To want what isn't” is what is needed to incite someone to steal. The practice of the acceptance of what is is the medicine the Buddha gave to heal the wound that is this desire. Choosing to steal only creates negative consequences that last long after the initial satisfaction or gratification of possession are gone. The karma of stealing will always outlast the mere thing that has been stolen. Acceptance and true appreciation of what one has will only foster positive things into the Universe, and help us all.

  3. Do not misuse sexual energy: For many, this means to not stray from the bonds of marriage. To some, this means to be celibate. For me, the most important aspect of this precept is that of respect. “Encountering all creations with respect and dignity, this is the precept of Chaste Conduct” encapsulates this very well for me. Not only should we live in a way that shows respect for all the people we encounter and have relations with throughout our lives, but we should remember to include ourselves in that number. Constantly doing whatever it takes to satisfy sexual urges—be it allowing ourselves to stay in unhealthy or dysfunctional relationships, enticing someone romantically simply to satisfy a desire for sex, or withholding our sexual energy as a way to punish someone for some perceived wrong—is also damaging. Allowing yourself to be a slave to your sexual desires is possibly the greatest misuse of sexual energy, and is most certainly the cause of any other damaging sexual misconduct. If one understands that sexual energy must always be rooted in right action, then all sexual conduct that follows will always be in accord with the precepts.

  4. Do not lie: Again; simple on the surface, but more nuanced than first appears. Obviously, lying is bad, and generates negative karma. One should always observe right speech. I tend to turn this precept back upon myself, as I have a tendency to lie to myself. When things aren't going as I'd like, I will tell myself that they are, instead of working with the idea “Why am I dissatisfied?” or “Who is it that feels this way?” When I inadvertently hurt someone by word or deed, I may say “They didn't notice” or “It's not important” when I know full well that they did or it, in fact, is important. These kinds of lies are just as damaging as bold-faced lies to the public, because they kill off the truth from inside, and allow a self-delusion to persist. Accepting lies in one's life is not acting as a Bodhisattva, no matter where the lie occurs or how “big” it is. As we often interpret it, “Listening and speaking from the heart” is the medicine to keep lies from further damaging the world.

  5. Do not be intoxicated: Ah, the sticky one. For me, this is all about motivation. As I am openly and legitimately on the Medical Marijuana program here in Oregon, many would think that I come at this precept from a slightly more challenging position, but I do not see it as such. I am anything but intoxicated while using cannabis. In fact, I am ever mindful of its effects on both my body and my mind. I use just enough to alleviate my physical symptoms. In this way, I am probably more mindful of its presence in my life than, say, someone given a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication, or a narcotic pain-killer. For me, intoxication has less to do with a given substance than it does the desire for mind-states that are not the state one's mind is currently in. In that way, anything can be an intoxicant, and I personally believe that to be true. It would be of wrong motivation to tell someone not to take an opiate pain-killer if they legitimately needed one merely because one of its side-effects is a distortion of perception or a feeling of euphoria. In the same way, it would be wrong to take said pain-killer merely to experience the side-effects because one is bored, lonely or otherwise unsatisfied with their current connection to the present moment. In that way, constantly watching TV, playing video games, or eating when not hungry are as intoxicating as any drug or alcohol. It is the desire to distract oneself from the direct experience of the current moment that is of poor and unhelpful motivation. “Cultivate a mind that sees clearly” is something I've used while volunteering and helping the terminally ill many times, as these people are very often heavily sedated. One can most certainly still practice “seeing clearly” when one is experiencing the side-effects of a given substance. One can never see clearly when they are willfully distracting themselves from reality merely as a cure for boredom or to escape what they see as a negative experience or circumstance. With the former, one is striving for a connection to the now, while the latter is trying to escape. As with all actions, karma is generated. The former will always generate merit, even if one fails; the latter can never do so, no matter what comes of the experience. For me, there will always be a distinction between use and misuse, and while that mindfulness is not something I have always had, I now value it greatly.

(Re)Spotted on the excellent Monkey-Mind blog of UU Minister James Ford.

What more is there to be said of this without dropping down into self-righteous snark?

Actually, I feel sorry for the girl. Digital karma gonna get you...

-le' sigh-

As I was walking to and from the bus today while running a few errands, I saw and navigated lots of mud puddles from yesterday's mondo rain-o. All the puddles made me think of one of my very favorite Zen parables, and in remembering that parable, I realized that I have been dealing with this very topic a lot the past few months. But by "dealing with it," I'm happy to say that that infers more success than failure. For some reason, things are easier to let go of now. Don't know if it's my practice or just my age. Either way, it's just one more thing to be grateful for.

One day two traveling monks reached a town and saw a young noblewoman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. There were deep, muddy puddles and she couldn’t step across without getting mud on her silk robes. She impatiently scolded her attendants, who were burdened with heavy packages.

The younger monk walked by the young woman without speaking. But the older monk stopped and picked her up on his back, carrying her across the mud. Not only did she not thank the monk, she shoved him out of her way when he put her down and scurried by him haughtily.

As the two monks continued on their way, the younger monk was brooding. After a long time, he finally spoke out. “That woman was so rude but you picked her up and carried her! She didn’t even thank you.”

“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk responded. “Why are you still carrying her?”

It's really interesting when you stumble through old (or even recent but forgotten) writing and see what you discover.

Look at me with eyes that wish to see the truth.
Look at me with eyes that will see me for who I truly am.
Look at me with the desire for honesty and compassion.
Look at me with the longing for connection.

Look at me as the man I am,
And I will look at you, always and forever,
As someone I can trust.

I'm really happy that I'm okay with who I am in my life now. There is no substitute for honesty, especially about oneself.

The wagessa passed on first inspection.

Jasmine is turning into a rather playful kitty. We have developed a nice routine.

I am having a ridiculously large 1080p DLP TV delivered today.

...the day after my sensei suggested that I renounce watching television.

I'm beginning to understand why one of the oldest traditions in Zen Buddhism is for the abbot of a monastery to scream "Go AWAY!!!" at anyone who stands outside the gate asking to be allowed in for refuge and training...


Well, The Precepts Ceremony was a month ago. As I said, I dropped the ball in that regard, mostly due to my not getting my wagessa finished. Well, it's finished now. At least I think it is. It now goes to our "head of precepts" director for approval, and if it's approved, she holds it until such time that I am allowed to take the first five precepts, most likely this time next year.

It's really interesting to me: I had such a hard time with this, but honestly not for any true physical issue. Admittedly, I had to sew it with limited use of my right hand, but that really didn't affect me all that much, even though I may have said so, and even believed so. I know now that I was blocked mentally and emotionally, which is quite a bit trickier than merely not being able to sew in a straight line.

When I first began pursuing Zen, I was married. I had flirted with Buddhism off and on (mostly off, actually) for the better part of twenty years before then, but always kept myself at a safe distance for some reason (a reason I am now more aware of, and will speak to in a moment). She jumped right in, head first. I was really very pleased to see this, and was happy for her. I knew it was a very genuine thing for her, that it truly resonated with her, and I would support her pursuit of a deeper connection with it without any kind of problem.

However, a problem of sorts did arise. Eventually, my pursuit of Buddhism--or more specifically, the speed at which I pursued it--started getting some scrutiny. She questioned why I wasn't taking to participation in the sangha and zazen. I tried to explain that at that time, I didn't feel it in me, and encouraged her to just keep on with her own path. That was met with a bit of disappointment, but it was left at that.

I later tried to explain that I knew deep inside that this was actually a momentous quantum change in my life, and that I needed to be sure in my heart that it was what I wanted. Up until that time, I was a returned-to-the-fold practicing Catholic (a rather devout one) and had just written off that faith after the scandals. I was now an adrift agnostic.

In my life up until that point, I had at various times been a Catholic, an Evangelical, a Unitarian, a Christian Fellow, a pagan, a Thelemite, and still to that point (and to this day) somewhat of a shamanic practitioner as well as a Taoist. Read differently: I'd always been a spiritual seeker.

But there was always something about Buddhism that on one hand deeply resonated with me, but sort of disturbed me at the same time. It felt sticky in a way that unnerved me, not unlike how one may have felt as a kid getting caught in a fib. "Uh-oh. The Truth. You can't talk your way outta this one."

When my father died in 2004, I had a very powerful experience. I had just started pursuing Buddhism in a bit of a non-sectarian fashion shortly before he died, and when he left, I felt something inside me that said "This is the moment." Buddhism got me through that experience, and what came out on the other side was a very different person.

Yet still, I was hesitant. We began pursuing and studying Zen. I had always been attracted to Vajrayana Buddhism, and had done quite a bit of study on Tantra. Zen was really very foreign to me. Not only foreign, but actually unappealing to me in a number of ways. It seemed (on the surface) rather dull, boring, and actually sort of depressing and nihilistic. Yet there was something there that began to pop up above the surface of my misconception.

But I just wasn't sure. I tried to explain that, for me, each person was on their own path, and that you cannot walk that path for anyone else. Up to that point, I'd been a believer in the idea that you could walk a spiritual path hand-in-hand with somebody, and that is something that I still to this day believe in, but the base truth is, you are on your path by yourself, alone. There are times when paths run parallel, and may even cross over, but in truth, they never truly converge. You have your path. You walk it. But you cannot walk at any speed other than your own. If you try and walk faster or slower, or alter directions in response to anyone other than yourself, you're making an error that will impede your progress.

Please don't think that I am angry about any of this. I'm not saying that she pushed, or that any harm was done. If anything, her forging on set a great example for me, and encouraged me to do the same. But it took me a while to decide, and that was something I had to insist upon for myself. I was not about to pursue Zen out of any kind of "must do" motivation other than my own internal compass telling me to walk that way. I had so many questions; frankly I still do. I knew though that I had to think and feel my way through to a place of clarity.

I took a year off from sangha-based zen practice. I sat at home. I still paid membership dues to the sangha that entire time and still considered myself a member of the sangha, but at the same time, I kept myself outside the actually practice body. I needed to know that this was where I needed to be. I needed to know that this is what I was supposed to do, and where I was supposed to go. I would not take up another spiritual practice unless I knew deep down that I should be there. I needed to know.

In 2008, my marriage started to wind down. My beloved elder cat passed away after a painful decline. There was quite a bit of trauma and tumult to that year, but the call to Zen began to ring inside me. That sounds so ethereal and mystical, but it's not. It's less like a soul-peeling strike of lightning and more like a persistent itch that you can't quite reach (zen practitioners all know about itching). It was just something that nagged me from the inside. It was The Truth, I knew that it was, and it had me pinned to the wall.

And that really was it. I've tried to explain this to people a number of different times, but typically wind up with the same anemic wording.

Q: Do you "like" zazen?
A: Not particularly. Many times I find it irritating, but mostly just boring.

Q: Do you get a deep sense of peace, satori, kensho, or feel more connected to the Universe?
A: Not anymore than I have at other times through other means.

Q: Do you find that Buddhism is what makes you a better person these days?
A: Probably, but I'm sure I could be a good person without it.

Q: Then if this is all a series of non-pluses, and you can take it or leave it, then why do it?
A: Because every time I "do it", no matter what may happen during the "doing it", when done, I feel measurably better than were I to not have "done it", and there's nothing in my life up to this point that I can say that consistently of.

So, I'm sort-of a defacto Zen practitioner. I pursue Zen in the same way that a physicist pursues the Higgs boson: I tend to be after facts and truths, and want to know things about life. I want to be intimately connected to what's real. I've spent a not-insignificant chunk of my life distracting myself from the truth because it wasn't how I wanted it to be (read: "death and taxes") or Existentially mollifying myself via Sartre's self-deception because the truth made me feel bad about myself or the world around me. But as I've grown older, my desire for a genuine life has only grown. It's grown beyond the life of relationships, careers, loved-ones, homes and all other manner of measure. It's grown in ways that I find upsetting but at the same time affirming. I want the Truth.

Ahhh. The Truth. Knowing the Truth.

That is what finally kicked me in the existential nuts. At about the same time as I started seriously pursuing Zen, a sangha friend started using as a tag-line a zen answer from something I had just read on my own.

Fayan was going on pilgrimage.

Dizang said, "Where are you going?"
Fayan said, "Around on pilgrimage."
Dizang said, "What is the purpose of pilgrimage?"
Fayan said: "I don't know."

Dizang said, "Not knowing is most intimate."

"Not knowing is most intimate." This really was the thing that slapped me right in the face. And to relate this back to the physicist and the Higgs boson, just because you're searching for "the truth" doesn't mean you can't do so with a sense of wonder. We tend to dumb things down as far as the physical and metaphysical realaties of existence goes. What's so different about someone sitting zazen staring at a white wall versus someone at the LHC staring at reams of data? I finally understood--or comprehended--that there really is no difference.

And there it was. There is no difference. There is no separation between the scientific and the metaphysical. There is no difference between the truth and The Truth. There is no difference between knowing and not knowing. All differences are illusions.

I'll probably tidy this thought thread up later. The kid needs coffee...

See? There's The Truth.

Boil water. Make coffee.

Welcome to the deep mystery that is Zen.

Fall always seems so brief here in the Pacific Northwest. We seem to go from summer nearly instantly to winter, with only a scant few days of "fall". A week of colorful foliage, then a hard rain quickly stripping the "color" off the trees, plugging up the storm-drains and causing lower Hawthorne Blvd to flood, leaving the world a palate of wet browns and shiny grays. Not that that's "ugly"; As Ray Stevens reminded us in the 70's, "everything is beautiful in its own way". Very true, Ray.

Ms. Jasmine is growing more and more comfortable in her new digs. I'm very happy about that. She is so much more social than she was last week. Every day I get greeted now with little soft paws on my leg. She hops up to be with me now, on my desk or at times in bed, which was quite a surprise. Still not much of a snuggler, but what I do get is nice.

I was supposed to be headed to Great Vow next week for a Generosity Sesshin, but this cold I've had the past week has developed into a respiratory infection (but NOT pneumonia--I was rather smart enough to have gotten vaccinated for that about 6 weeks ago) and while it's not contagious, I am still hacking and coughing, and I really don't want to bring that level of distraction to the monastery for my first major sesshin. I am actually really annoyed that this happened now. I took great care to make sure that I got all my vaccinations this fall (seasonal flu, pneumonia and H1N1) as early as I could, and I still wound up getting sick! Not only that, but I really need to start doing sesshin practice. I think I'll go up in December to the Beginner's Mind retreat again to dip my toe back in, then go to the Life Vows Sesshin in January. I was asked to transcribe a recorded talk by Hogen from last years' LVS, and it was very powerful. I took the Portland-based weekend class he taught a few years ago, and found it very enriching.

I still get nervous about sesshin practice. I've spent many weeks at a time alone and by myself in silence, but there are a few outstanding issues regarding my participation in this very important practice that I want Hogen-sensei to address before I commit myself to it.

On other fronts, though, I have made great progress on my wagessa! The entire body has been sewn, and I even took a swipe at the invisible ladder stitch used to close it up, with some non-ugly level of success! It's rather odd: this gave me so much trouble at first (even taking two attempts) but once I realized that my problem wasn't so much the physical sewing of the wagessa with the limited motor skills of my right hand, but a mental block I've been having regarding my practice and this past year, it suddenly came together in less than a week. I'd take it with me, and work on it at the laundromat, or simply sitting here with the cat in her bed on my desk, and some music playing while I recited the Verse of the Kesa to myself. Well, I suppose Jasmine would say I was chanting it to her. But it felt very good to work on this time.

I didn't feel the pressure to "get it done," "that stitch is messy," "you're running out of time," and the ever-present inner-critic chart-topping hit "YOU SUCK". None of that was there this time. It was already "too late". I'd already "screwed it up" three times. I was finally aware that I was only doing this for me. On one hand, yes, certain people were looking at me to get this done, not for any reason other than they want to see me walk this path further; My teachers, my sangha leaders, my fellow dharma brothers and sisters want this for me, that's true, but nobody was drumming their fingers waiting for me to get this done. The expectation was there that I would because these people know how deeply this practice resonates with me. These people just want to see me happy. They know what I've gone through this past year, and all they want for me is peace, and progress on my path. It feels like dozens of people reaching out to hold my hand when I need it the most. "Humbling" is so anemic when it comes to describing how this makes me feel.

All that from a silly blue cotton ribbon. A Zen Blue Ribbon, I suppose.

Truly vast is this robe of liberation...

Jasmine is starting to settle in. She is still very skittish and spends most of her days behind the sofa. We've blocked off her ability to get deep under the bed as well as under the reclining portion of the sofa, and that seems to have helped a bit. I think part of it is also her simply learning that we're not half bad animals. She gets fed every day twice a day, her box is always clean, and this little flat is about 250 times as large as her space at the shelter. Things are looking up to her apparently.

I get the majority of her social attention right when I get up. She is very nocturnal, and spends her "day" creeping around the flat in the dark of night. When I get up in the morning and start making coffee, she's just winding down, and will creep over to me and demand to be petted. She was declawed (fronts only) by a previous owner, so her paws are very, very soft, but she still has the pad and knead desire and reflex. It's actually very cute. I'll sit down at my desk, and within a few minutes I'll feel my butt being kneaded, and she'll be there standing on her hid legs, demanding my attention. We have pets for about 10min, then she gets rather bored of me and my monkey ways. But it's nice to have something that comes and says hello to me every day. I am certain now that I won't be returning her. Even if she's never a snuggle kitty, she's a good little Buddha and deserves a stable home. I have that, and she's welcome to share it with me.

I actually still feel a bit guilty for wanting to give up on her so quickly. What would have happened in my life if that were people's attitudes towards me? "Sticking with it and seeing it through" has been a life-long learning experience for me; a practice that I still to this day struggle with. Whenever it doesn't fit the idea I have in my head, I go "this isn't what I wanted!" and go for the wholesale change way of dealing with things. I have been getting better lately of simply being with what is. Still a lot of practice to do there, but I am beginning to see that it, and it alone is the only way to find peace.


Well, I awoke to a different cat this morning. Still skittish, but is currently near my feet under my desk. We have had pets, and haven't jetted off into the dark distance after being picked up either.

I will have to give her more time. Yes, I still think I made a bit of a mistake by picking an all-black female cat, but whose fault is that? Not hers. She still needs a forever home. She's still a well-tempered animal. If I want a snuggler, I may just have to get another cat in the future. Meanwhile, I made a commitment that I would do everything I could to make this relationship work. I have 30 days to return her, and I was ready to give up after four because she wasn't being the cat I wanted. No, she's not. She's being just what she is. Isn't that what I spend hours practicing every flippin' week?

And the education goes on...

This has been a very interesting few days, and what it has revealed to me.

So I'm technically not supposed to have pets in my apartment. Right when I moved in, I asked after this to my land-lord, a dog lover. I told him that I suffered from depression, at times severely, and that I was hoping to have a cat at some point (at that time hoping I could take one of my then-current cats with me: specifically, the one that I rescued and named). I told him that me without a cat would be like him without his dog, to whit he replied "That bad, huh?" He assured me that I could have a cat if I really wanted one.

It was decided that the cat I had in mind wouldn't be able to come live with me. I understated or under-appreciated just how much this hurt me at the time. She was one of the few sources of joy and emotional support that I had while going through the deep pain of my divorce; something I did essentially by myself while at the same time having to keep a brave face while being an emotional protector and recovery aide to my step-daughter. The cat was always there, always wanting me to hold her, snuggle her and be near her. Most importantly, she was my constant companion through what felt like countless cold and lonely nights, always hopping into bed shortly before or after I did, ready to snuggle down with me under the covers as the winter wind howled, and I ached inside.

When I had to leave her behind, I knew it would hurt. I told myself it was for the best, and on one level that was true. But on another, I didn't care. I was giving up so much, and to add insult to injury, I had to give up the cat I brought in off the street and named myself. The one who bonded with me. The one who seemed to always love me when everything else seemed to be going to hell. The one I loved so much.

The summer/fall has been one of great tumult, to say the least. Great emotional highs and lows. Things are leveling off, and I feel better to a degree, but I know that with winter comes S.A.D for me, and this year may be harder than before for a number of reasons, but mostly due to the fact that I have no car of my own right now, and will be stuck in my apartment quite a bit of the time. So while on a recent run-about project with my landlord, I asked agan about getting a cat. The issue has never been him; it's been his wife. She hates cats. But he says "Well, it seems that my name is on the house, and she got that name from me, so if I say you can have a cat, just get one. If we get caught, I'll deal with it."

So with money I didn't have, I went down to the Cat Adoption Team shelter in Sherwood last Friday. I'd seen an all-black cat (a soft-spot of mine) on their site that was listed as very friendly once she warmed up if given a quiet space. Well, my flat is pretty much the epitome of that, and since she'd been declawed by a previous owner, I figured the furniture and carpet was safe. So I picked up Jasmine last Friday afternoon.

I was so looking forward to having cat energy back in my life. To say that I'm a "cat person" is like saying "I like music" about me. Dramatic understatement. One of my greatest joys in life the past ten years was moving out here and living with someone who loved cats as much as I did. I'd only had cats as a child, and they were farm cats: indoor/outdoor mousers to whom tragedy would almost always befall. I'd not had a cat of my own since about age 10 or so. I had a wonderful dog for many years, and had recently tried life with a dog again that went terribly (just the wrong dog at the wrong time--I did find him a great home) so I was keen to have a cat again to fill the void left in my life by having to let go of my kitties from my marriage.

The short form is: this ain't working, and is actually making me feel worse.

Jasmine has been here since Friday afternoon. She refuses to socialize at all. She'd much rather hide in the darkness. She will never come out of her hiding-places, even though she seems to like being petted. She doesn't like being held. She doesn't like to be near people, and only barely tolerates people approaching her. She is eating and using the box fine, but aside from that, has very little use for me or my daughter. This feels more like tennancy in a sub-let situation. It's actually rather upsetting.

I didn't anticipate this at all, but I see it clear as day now why this is so upsetting to me. I'm well aware that rescue cats often take time to warm up and establish a report with new owners--even those that are true-blue cat people. I've been fortunate enough to have helped save a number of cats from the street over the past 10 years--and have been blessed to have grow close to two of them. And therein lies the rub. Jasmine is the spitting image of my former black-cat snuggle partner. I made the mistake of adopting a kitty that looks JUST like my old cat that I miss so much. Obviously, I did this as a subconscious expression of my missing and wanting my old kitty back so much. But this is like the cloning paradox: you may be able to have the physicality of something again, but the personality is something wholly and totally different.

This cat hurts me to be around. It looks so much like my old cat, yet wants nothing whatsoever to do with me apart from keeping the food dish managed. It doesn't hate me, or hiss at me or anything overt, but at the same time its manner and want of attention is so drastically different that it makes me feel like my old cat that I miss so much is back in my life, but wants nothing to do with me anymore. This is like a strange cat-lover's nightmare, except that Rod Serling never shows up to give some twisted explanation.

I have made arrangements to return Jasmine to the shelter tomorrow. I know that part of me is sad for her: I am a very tolerant, understanding and accepting cat person, and there's part of me that knows that if a cat doesn't respond to me (seriously, all cats seem to love me) the chances are slim that she will be well suited to anyone else. At the same time, though, I have faith in the C.A.T. and know if Jasmine has any kind of chance to find happiness, it'll be through them.

It has been an odd and upsetting, but powerful and over-all positive practice lesson regarding preconceptions and attachments, and I bow to the Bodhisattva that is Jasmine for teaching me that you can't go home again, and that being steered there via emotional auto-pilot is something to be ever wary of.

Dev says I should go orange. We'll see...

It's interesting to me that I have a blog, yet there are more and more things I can't talk about here. Hmmm...

I'd write a poem, but all I'd be doing is steal words that already float through the air. Everything's either borrowed (if you're righteous and kind) or simply stolen in this world. I chose to borrow.

"Postcards From Cambodia"
By: Bruce Cockburn
From: You've Never Seen Everything (2003)

Abe Lincoln once turned to somebody and said,
"Do you ever find yourself talking with the dead?"

There are three tiny deaths heads carved out of mammoth tusk
on the ledge in my bathroom
They grin at me in the morning when I'm taking a leak,
but they say very little.

Outside Phnom Penh there's a tower, glass paneled,
maybe ten meters high
filled with skulls from the killing fields
Most of them lack the lower jaw
so they don't exactly grin
but they whisper, as if from a great distance,
of pain, and of pain left far behind

Eighteen thousand empty eyeholes peering out at the four directions

Electric fly buzz, green moist breeze
Bone-colored Brahma bull grazes wet-eyed,
hobbled in hollow of mass grave
In the neighboring field a small herd
of young boys plays soccer,
their laughter swallowed in expanding silence

This is too big for anger,
it’s too big for blame.
We stumble through history so
humanly lame
So I bow down my head
Say a prayer for us all
That we don’t fear the spirit
when it comes to call

The sun will soon slide down into the far end of the ancient reservoir.
Orange ball merging with its water-borne twin
below air-brushed edges of cloud.
But first, it spreads itself,

a golden scrim behind fractal sweep of swooping fly catchers.
Silhouetted dark green trees,
blue horizon

The rains are late this year.
The sky has no more tears to shed.
But from the air Cambodia remains
a disc of wet green, bordered by bright haze.
Water-filled bomb craters, sun streaked gleam
stitched in strings across patchwork land and
march west toward the far hills of Thailand.
Macro analog of Ankor Wat’s temple walls
intricate bas-relief of thousand-year-old battles
pitted with AK rounds

And under the sign of the seven headed cobra
the naga who sees in all directions
seven million landmines lie in terraced grass, in paddy, in bush
(Call it a minescape now)

Sally holds the beggar's hand and cries
at his scarred up face and absent eyes
and right leg gone from above the knee

Tears spot the dust on the worn stone causeway
whose sculpted guardians row on row
Half frown, half smile, mysterious, mute.

And this is too big for anger.
It’s too big for blame
We stumble through history so
humanly lame.
So I bow down my head,
say a prayer for us all.
That we don’t fear the spirit when it comes to call.