looking upon thy shadow
and be ashamed -
on a cold night! ~ Issa*
The Year of My Life
Trans: Nobuyuki Yuasa
year’s first mushrooms—
plays with one ~ Issa
Visit Sonel’s Corner to view more images submitted for this week’s black and white photo challenge: texture.
my dear old village,
every memory of home
pierces like a thorn ~Issa
Releasing the shackles of tension
Concentrating energy and then relaxing is a good way to release any physical or mental tension. Concentrate your mind, feel the tension, and then let go…release energy blocks in the mind and body…concentrate on feeling where the pressure is – often you can release the stress simply by bringing awareness to it, and letting go. If muscles are tense in a certain place, they will relax once awareness of letting go is there.
Release the stress or worry in your head by relaxing the muscles of your face and forehead, and letting go of all tension…image a healing light opening up and relaxing the tightness or pain in your head, or where ever it is tense…imagine your out-breath as a warm wind that sweeps away stress…releasing your breath into the welcoming infinity of space. (pages 108-109)*
The Healing Power of the Mind
As old age arrives,
considering just the day’s length
can move one to tears. ~ Issa*
Haiku transforms the most mundane of moments into something special. In Zen it is glimpses like these, rather than the study of the doctrine that are said to lead to enlightenment – the realization of the true nature of existence…The haiku poet, knowing that words are not enough to capture the fullness of any moment, inscribes a partial idea that leaves an all-important space for the reader to fill in. As you question what the poet has omitted, the poem comes alive through your own memories and feelings. (p.8)**
There is a relation between the pleasurable ‘aha!’ phenomenon of insight and the right amygdale, which mediates interactions between emotions and higher frontal cognitive function. In fact an extensive body of research now indicates that insight, whether mathematical or verbal, the sort of problem solving that happens when we are, precisely, not concentrating on it, is associated with activation in the right hemisphere, mainly in the right anterior temporal area, specifically in the right anterior superior temporal gyrus, through where there are high levels of restructuring involved there is also activity in the right prefrontal cortex. Insight is also a perception of the previous incongruity of one’s assumptions, which links it to the right hemisphere’s capacity for detecting an anomaly.
Problem solving, making reasonable deductions, and making judgments may become harder if we become conscious of the process. Thus rendering one’s thought processes explicit, or analyzing a judgment, may actually impair performance, because it encourages the left hemisphere’s focus on the explicit, superficial structure of the problem. (p. 63)***
*The Spring of My Life and Selected Haiku Kobayashi Issa
Trans: Sam Hamill
**The Moon in the Pines
Trans: Jonathan Clements
***The Master and his Emissary
in this world
i have found
no perfect drop of dew-
not even on the lotus ~Issa*
As I sort through the various threads of thought, imaginings, memories and beliefs I have woven into a tapestry that illustrates my companionship with a silent sense of saudade, I come to see a life colored by attempts to evade or expunge an underlying current of dissatisfaction. This discontent is generally felt as a yearning for something undefined, or a vague sense that things are not quite right. It comes in the wake of the realization that dreams are unreachable, and expectations only create more turmoil. Sometimes it erupts as sorrow, grief, anguish, or despair. As a result, I question where is the wellspring of this homesickness for a place, a person, a time that that I continue to search for despite a knowing that it simply cannot be?
Buddhist psychology seeks to uncover the truth of human suffering and to find a path that leads to the cessation of suffering. The first two truths speak of suffering and its nature, while the third and fourth truths outline a life path that will bring about the cessation of suffering.
The First Noble Truth nudges me out of my own immersion within the misery of suffering through its validation that suffering is a universal occurrence despite one’s race, culture, or affiliations. Even those who say, “all’s right with the world,” are impacted by the constant state of flux within their life and thus experience anxiety.
To be born is to struggle with physical changes that occur in conjunction with developmental milestones, to feel the pain that accompanies physical and medical frailties, and to wrestle with the process of dying and with death itself. To be human is to be dissatisfied with the wanting and obtaining of that which is pleasant, to know the fading of initial pleasure, as well as to experience the discomfort of unpleasant sounds, sights, scents, tastes, physical sensations, and thoughts. To be open to life is to experience the range of human feelings, be it fear, anger, sadness, and joy. To be with others is to know the distress of – real or imagined and spoken or unspoken – inclusion and exclusion.
The first truth also extends these truths of suffering to the unsatisfactory nature and general insecurity inherent in the law of impermanency. That is, all the phenomena of existence whatsoever, even the awe-inspiring and the horrifying, are subject to change and dissolution. Those who know the pleasures found within substances also are acquainted with the unease that accompanies excess. We all intimately know the truth of this impermanency in our longings to feel emotionally close to others, which soon changes into a yearning for separation. Consequently, without exception discontent does arise.
Suffering is clinging to the illusion of an unchanging self; that is, to a belief there is a permanent self within the ongoing process of physical and mental occurrences which constantly arise, disintegrate, and dissolve. Hume wrote that self is a “bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with inconceivable rapidity, and in a perpetual flux and movement.” He further suggested that we create an idea of self as we processes our perception of events and things. Thus, there is not a tangible sense of self that remains consistent from one moment to the next. To desire, crave, or cling to a solid consistent self where there is only a changing psycho-physical complex is to create conditions that generate sorrow, grief, and dejection.
The feeling of an “I” emerges from a reflection of the stream of experiential consciousness that awakens when one becomes aware of being observed by an internalized watcher or seer who is felt but never known. Therefore, there is no denying that there is a wavering consciousness, an “I”, that knits together streams of memories, thoughts, feelings, and interactions in such a manner that we are able to formulate an awareness of identity, continuity, striving, as well as an sense of ourselves and others.
Memory bridges our past with the present
and brings us to an awareness that life is a cyclic process
that demonstrates the dynamic forces of togetherness and separation;
therefore, this moment is but a reflection within fragments of a past
and of a self revisited while in this process.
* The Year of my Life
trans: Nobuyuki Yuasa
 B. Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (New York, 1945).
don’t swat the fly
who begs your pardon
wringing his hands and legs ~Issa*
The arising of ill will hinders one’s interactions with self and others. Ill will is a synonym for aversion. It is felt as hatred, envy, anger, self-pity, and resentment. It is seen in the repulsion we have towards others, objects, situations, and ourselves. An introspective mind that is overcome with ill will can be equated to a person looking for her reflection in a pot of boiling water.
The goal of metta meditation (a meditation of loving-kindness) is to wish happiness for all beings. This practice begins with first extending love to one’s self by saying, “I will rid my mind of anger, hatred, ignorance, fear, greed, and craving. I will make my mind clear, fresh and pure. Like a transparent window is my mind and I pour out thoughts of love and kindness to myself.”
The practice moves you to another as you recall a mental image of someone dear to you. Imagine yourself within their being, feel his or her personality, enter your own being and direct loving-kindness into the mind and heart of that person. Repeat this with other people with whom you feel emotionally close. In time extend this warmth and kindness to others in your life; for example, people who live in your neighborhood, the grocery clerk, your co-workers, and eventually all beings on earth and beyond.
If you find during this practice that disturbing thoughts and feelings arise in conjunction with an image of a person, take this as a message that it is not the right time to extend loving-kindness to this particular person. With soothing self acceptance, return to extending warmth and loving-kindness to your self.
I find it amazing to acknowledge the strength by which our ego holds onto our feelings and beliefs as if they were objects to possess or tangible entitlements to protect despite their potential to consume or destroy. It is as if feelings have the creative ability to create story lines and to take our mind hostage while formulating validation, rationalization, and justification for their continued presence. For example, anger once awakened by other feelings—such as, pride, jealousy, fear, or grief—seems to have an uncanny ability to recall historical events to justify its continued presence as well as to drawn upon an unlimited supply of resources to insure its survival.
To become mindful of ill will one must first discern it arising without acceptance of its justifications with, “ill will is rising within me.” As it is abandoned, “ill will within me is abandoned.” While it is fading, “ill will is ceasing within me.” When it is gone, “there is no ill will present within me.” To ease anger and ill will, one is directed to meditate on loving-kindness.
Inch by Inch
trans: Nanao Sakaki
such quantities of wind
on the floor of a spacious
summer room –
and still not quite enough! ~ Issa*
I have come to understand that overtime my meditation practice will result in a greater awareness of the sublime states: compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. With the comprehension of each of these sublime states and discernment of their unique qualities, my practice can be extended to include an intention to breathe in the understanding of a particular sublime state and to breathe out that same awareness. Each in and out breath is co-joined with a mindfulness that is ardent, alert, and steady as well as absent of greed and suffering.
What often impacts my practice is one of the five hindrances, desire’s lure. Desire pulls me away from my meditation intention of mindfulness as my attention is drawn towards that which carries an implied promise of pleasure or escape from the suffering within suffering.
William James noted that desire, wish, and will are states of mind common to everyone: “We desire to feel, to have, to do, all sorts of things which at the moment are not felt, had, or done. If with the desire there goes a sense that attainment is not possible, we simply wish; but if we believe that the end is in our power, we will that the desired feeling, having, or doing shall be real; and real it presently becomes, either immediately upon the will or after certain preliminaries have been fulfilled.”
The craving for sensual desire is understood as a yearning for sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches that are pleasant as well as a longing for wealth, power, position, and fame. Craving is known by an addict as a need to find a substance that once promised euphoria and now only postpones suffering. It is known in the anxiety that comes with thoughts about losing what one has and the fear of the emptiness that follows a loss. It is seen in the vague depression within boredom, which has the potential to either imprison behind walls of angry resentment or energize a life filled with excitement and challenges. The Buddha noted that that the obtainment of that which we desire has the potential to be like easing thirst with salt water, the temporary relief returns with thirst multiplied.
When our minds are filled with desire, it is like trying to focus upon one’s reflection in a bowl of water filled with multi-colored precious stones. That is, when we are overpowered by desires and cravings, we are not able to foresee consequences and become limited in our ability to recall learned moral lessons. It is suggested that the meditation on impermanence may assist with containing the pleasure-seeking mind. To remove the desire for excitement and new experiences one is encouraged to mediate on impure objects, to guard the sense doors, to eat in moderation, and to engage in noble friendships and suitable conversations.
To effectively contain desire one must first acknowledge its presence without distraction by noting, “pleasure seeking is rising within me.” As it is abandoned, “an intention to experience desirable experiences is abandoned.” While it fades, “an intention to experience desirable experiences is ceasing.” When it is gone, “there is no intention to experience desirable experiences within me.”
The Year of My Life
Trans: Nobuyuki Yuasa
 William James, The Principles of Psychology, (New York, 1890), 486.