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On Flowers, Gardens, Walls and Dharma Friends

Zen center Pittsburgh

A flower is not a flower. 

A flower in a garden is not just a flower, it carries the memory of the person who planted it and cared for it. 

My mother always had gardens. I never realized how important they were to her until this year as she is not here to see them bloom. 

But a flower is still a flower and beautiful in its own right.  A beautiful flower should never make you sad. 

But they do.  

Imagine losing your child and seeing their art on the refrigerator.  That finger painted flower that brought so much joy would feel like torture. 

One way to fight this is to have nothing, no items to trigger memories.  It doesn't really work because your mind will remember a tree in your yard where you grew up.  No matter what, you cannot rid yourself of the spaces you lived. 

And if you try,  you lose the beauty that exists in the world. 

Five days after my mother was first diagnosed with cancer I went to Deep Spring Temple a Zen center outside of Pittsburgh.  There I met Rev Kyoki Roberts.  A complex and interesting woman to say the least. 

In the following years I practiced, cooked, gardened, chanted, bowed, and was often frustrated beyond belief.  I also had a beautiful wedding at the temple. Then for a number of reasons I stopped going. 

When my life took disturbing turns, I went just for a day or two. It always brought me back.  The last time I went, after a multi-year absence, was four years ago when  my mom recurred and my marriage ended. 

It was torture.  The beautiful pine trees that defined the patio were gone.  Some of the gardens were gone.  Worst of all Kyoki was Kyoki, she is always Kyoki and I wanted different.  To pour the salt on the wound,  work practice was to lay slate for a new water garden. While I was working, the daughter of an old friend came because she was planning her wedding.  It was hard to laugh and cry at the same time at the absurdity. 

I had not gone back until last night. 

It was more beautiful than ever.  There was music and old friends. It was the first time Carrie had been there. Adam said he wanted to live there. I told him when he gets older. 

Kyoki is still Kyoki but a bit older and having a difficult time with painful knees.  Not being able to sit is a tough problem for a Zen master. 

This time wanting nothing from her, all I wanted was for her to be free of the suffering. All I want is for that old log house with a stunning view to be there for others.  

I think we Buddhists often get lost in learning a "practice" or the desire for a teacher to be "the one" to help us. 

Life is the practice! Suffering and deep joy exist in exactly the same place.  Your best friend and enemy can exist in the same person.  Your temple can be hell. 

My mothers garden, Deep Spring Temple, my wonderful Dharma friend and teacher are all bringing me a bittersweet joy. 

While I was a lost Tibetan Mind that old wood wall was the most important thing in my life.  

That wall is beautiful and in no way is just a wall.  Staring at the wall sitting with friends is life or at least will get you through life when it is rough. 

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Water is water. Be water, my friend.

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