Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Blogisattva Awards and Dark, Cold Meditation

Hi from the cold, dark tundra known as Minnesota. The seasonal funk has set in, so I'm finding myself challenged by all sorts of mental garbage. Yesterday, I was quite cranky and depressive. Today, the sun is out, and I'm doing fairly well. Don't think the sun's presence is only reason for the change, but it certainly helps.

There's a lot of buzz around the Buddhoblogosphere about the announcement of the Blogisattva Awards. You might call it an insiders guide to the best of the English language Buddhist blogging world. Anyway, I'm a finalist in a few categories, including "Best Achievement Blogging Opinion Pieces or Political Issues."

All winners receive a "Get out of Samsara Free" card, so keep your fingers crossed for me and all the other nominees.

Meanwhile, today is Bodhi Day, or the day many Buddhists commemorate the enlightenment of the Buddha. Lately, I've been doing walking meditation outside after dark, breathing in the cold air with each step, listening to the snow crunch under my feet, sometimes chanting the Jizo mantra, and sometimes just stepping in silence. This effort to return my formal practice outdoors, in the elements, has been growing in me for awhile now. And it feels in line with the Buddha's touching of the earth, calling upon the planet as a witness to the enlightenment he experienced.

I'm not particularly in love with the cold or the dark. Actually, I don't much like the cold darkness at all. And yet, I have found moments while walking where the arrival of a lightning bolt shiver or an ache in my bones instantly reminds me of the vitality of being alive. In other words, I experience it beyond like and dislike. Just like the goofy pigeons landing on the rooftops do. Or the scampering squirrels. Or the feral cats I see along the river sometimes this time of year.

One of the interesting things about being really cold is the intensity of energy movement. How a sudden cold wind blows through you, dislodging an anger or sadness or joy you didn't know was present. I've felt all three of those rip through me while walking outside in the cold darkness, a reminder that notions about "frozen" or "dead" applied to winter landscapes and human experiences of winter landscapes really aren't accurate. It's living differently. Less visual. More visceral.

I keep thinking that one of the reasons why humanity is having so much trouble shifting away from earth-damaging forms of living is too many of us are divorced from the planet's rhythms. Or we've become conditioned to "pick and choose," being "one with nature" when it feels good to, but avoiding the planet like the plague the rest of the time.

Maybe I'll never love the cold, dark time of year the way I do the spring and autumn. However, I'm starting to think that awakening as humans has to be tied back to the planet we are fully interdependent with. It can't just be imagined from inside a warm, cozy building while sitting on a supportive cushion. It must be tasted, drank in fully and repeatedly, breath after breath.


Mumon K said...

Congrats Nathan!

I moved to the Pacific Northwest 13 years ago, and I appreciate the *energy* of extreme weather or, in cold weather the lack thereof.

But truth be told, I loved exchanging NY cold for Portland rain and wind.

Dean 'Jagaro' Crabb said...

Nice post Nathan! I like that statement: "we've become conditioned to "pick and choose," being "one with nature" when it feels good to, but avoiding the planet like the plague the rest of the time."

It was interesting when I was out meditating in the cave the other week this sense of connection with nature. Watching my videos over afterwards I realised I was whispering through all of them. It was like I naturally felt that speaking any louder would somehow disturb nature. The forest was quiet so I'll be quiet. But I was so remote I could have yelled at the top of my lungs and no-one would have heard me scream! haha!

On the first night I put a few tea light candles out for light and made a fire because it was very cold at night. The next morning I realised these mosquitoes had all died in the tea light candles, they'd obviously been attracted to the light and got burnt in the heat. So the second night I resolved to not light any candles or start a fire no matter how cold it got. I wasn't going to knowingly kill things just so I could be a little bit warmer. I wasn't going to freeze and I wasn't going to die so why do it? I would get by just fine.

However I don't think people typically think like this (and I've done it too in the past). We get slightly annoyed by a fly that is in our presence for just a few moments so we decide to just kill it. We typically show little respect for other creatures or nature, our little desires and wants are more important to us. But this gives us know sense of peace and virtue in our heart.

Jagaro (Dean Crabb)

Nathan said...

I sometimes let mosquitoes do their thing and take the little sting that comes. But we have a lot of them here during MN summers, so I still kill my share out of frustration and/or annoyance.

That's one benefit of being outside this time of year. No mosquitoes, horseflies, or anything like them.