when i came here

may the new year bring you peace, companionship and adventure…may all beings be happy!

cropped-dawn-patrol-2.jpg

when I came here, I believed

it was the mountains that called,

 

and so they do – Dogen told us this

hundreds of years ago.

 

these mountains walk.

these blue mountains always

 

walk. How slowly we must see

to see this. the morning sky

 

speaks softly running west to east,

reaching to embrace the mountains –

 

fog and rain,

the blue white brilliance of snow.

 

everything is a sign

to those who would see. Winter

 

is here. the grasses of summer

are brittle and brown

 

beneath my feet. Up ahead,

a dozen mountain bluebirds

 

break cover as one, each

a singular sliver of blue, each

 

a slice of heaven, rising,

spiraling up into this limitless sky,

 

reaching

for the embrace of the mountains,

 

yearning

for the blue-white brilliance

 

of snow

 

© 2018 jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com/jfinkimages.com

 

 

The Secret Ingredient

Yesterday, I really felt a need to get up into the mountains, so I took my dog and headed up to the Uintah National Forest. As always, I stuck a camera in my pack, but unusually for me, I set out with intention of NOT taking pictures. Rather, I just wanted to walk, throw a stick for Jack, and look.

About halfway through the hike, we came to a deep alpine lake at about 10,500 ft. In the shallows, the grasses were curling, undulating with the small waves.

The whole time I shot, I thought “I can’t believe this is being given to me…”

Recently, a Shambhala teacher told me “I’m going to give you the secret ingredient.”

“Patience,” he said.

Amen.

 

 

Singletrak Redux

This week I headed up a local trail here in Park City with a good friend- an hour or so of decent uphill, and I remembered this post from last summer. When I revisited it this morning, I decided to re-post it as the first of a series of “Reflections” that have been cooking for a few weeks here. “Old Bones” will always work with the interplay of image and word/ poetry and photography. But there’s more to be said, always more practice to to be done…

Singletrak- Redux

Image

The stillness of sitting meditation would seem to have little in common with the effort needed to power up steep single-track, nor for that matter with the rush of rolling downhill at speed through tall stands of aspens. But every time I head out on my dusty mountain bike, I get flashes of insight that feel like they reach straight from the cushion to the trail.   So this piece is about bikes, and it’s not. And it’s about meditation, but not so much.   In point of fact, its about mind, the one that both sits in shamatha and the one asks, “self, how did I get here,” as the trail angles steeply toward that ridge line way, way up there…

As a rider, I’m still pretty new to “real” mountain biking (i.e., in the mountains, at altitude with meaningful elevation gain and multiple miles of joyful, if sometimes difficult descents,) so it took me some time to see a basic truth—that to get the good stuff (strength, stamina, the joy of descending) I had to get over my resistance to riding up things. Without the effort, there’s no progress. Moreover, I needed to commit to climbing these hills over and over again. One big climb doesn’t make a season, or a rider.   The juice is in the consistency.   For me, climbing on a bike is a shamatha practice—get to the cushion, put in the time, develop the discipline. The masters that came before all had to do it. No shortcuts. As Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche said (long before Nike…), “just do it.”   But climbing kinda sucks. It hurts, at least for me. So right away, I get to work with my mind in order to work with my body. This is the flip side of a long meditation retreat where I get to work with my body in order to work with my mind (because quite often there’s often bodily pain involved in long practice sessions.)   In either case, my ego comes alive and whining as, on the bike, I watch my more gifted pals leave me in the dust (I’m kinda slow…just like in meditation I suppose.) So here’s a chance to practice some serious gentleness with myself. As Popeye says, “ I yam what I yam.”

So be it. What I do have is doggedness- I can generally hang in when it starts to hurt. Recently, I’ve even been able to find a place of some peace amid of the pain. I find it helps here to try to shift to a larger perspective- to lift my gaze from the trail and check in with the incredible space I’m riding through. Just as in sitting meditation, being aware of the space seems to relieve the sense of claustrophobia, of compression that can arise in a long sitting session (or climb.)

If climbing is shamatha, then maybe descending is vipashyana. Here, it’s all about space, moving through it using more instinct and less discursive thought. Insights come often and at speed.   The first is to ride more, steer less. A mountain bike (and the mind) is designed to flow over the terrain and the rocks. If I can relax my grip, give up on over-managing the process, things seem to work out a lot more smoothly. The innate wisdom of the situation has a chance to emerge.   The second is closely related to space – raise the gaze, see down the trail. A proper view is critical. Caution (fear) can lead me to focus too much on the trail right in front of me, but it’s too late to react to anything there. The karma of the ride is going to blow me past these rocks before I could ever hope to react to them. So expand the view – the farther down the trail I focus, the smoother the ride passing under my wheels seems to flow. Again, see the space — trust the wisdom of the situation. Trust the path.   Number three is an extension of number two- ride through the changes. Tight switchback turns, abrupt changes of direction, can be sketchy. It’s ok to check some speed coming into a turn, but once its started, look through the change, not at it. View again- the larger the better. Ignore the stones under the wheels and look through and well past the turn, and allow the bike (and the mind) to pull itself through and into whatever is next.  

Finally, at some point a particular truth is likely to emerge that’s common to both biking and sitting- eventually, you’re gonna fall — beef it, dump it, wipe out. Comes with the territory. We can’t control how much a fall is going to hurt, and it will hurt. Even small falls hurt. But with luck, you get back up and carry on. For a while, you’re going to be a little shaky. You don’t want to fall again. But as long as this thought infects you, your riding sucks.   You can’t ride, or sit for that matter, if you’re trying to protect yourself all the time.   But eventually, the adrenaline fades, the discipline of your practice reasserts itself and the ride smooths out again. And then its over.   The trail ends, the bell rings.   For me, the hours immediately after a challenging ride are wonderful. My body is spent and my mind is blown open. Everything slows down and there’s all the time in the world.   Whatever thoughts were churning during the ride, or on the cushion (and as you can tell by this piece, there are often quite a few…,) pass away without a trace. The rest of life flows back in and on we go.   Until tomorrow. When it’s brand new and fresh once again. When the bike, and the cushion beckon.   The bell rings, and its time again to practice.   And to ride.

© oldbonesnewsnow.com/ J.A. Fink

Red Stone

Note- some poems are prompted by a word or a phrase, perhaps an experience. This was suggested by an impossibly beautiful tree deep at the head of the unfortunately named “Negro Bill Canyon” off of the Colorado Rive near Moab Utah.  

red stone

by the time we reach the top of the canyon

we’ve walked through most of our words

this trail of sand and stone, the solitary blooms

of tattered desert flowers. this deep in the canyon

all light is reflected, shattered light,

passed from rim to rim until it settles like mist

luminous dust, a dry and brilliant rain.

we never know what we’ll find in the deepest canyons

of our lives like these incandescent leaves,

such improbable green, or this stone, the rich red

of freshly oxygenated blood, the red of iron and of time,

of pressure and erosion, the true red of benediction, the hard,

hard red of redemption.

©jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com

singletrack mind

Image

 

The stillness of sitting meditation would seem to have little in common with the effort needed to power up steep single-track, nor for that matter with the rush of rolling downhill at speed through tall stands of aspens. But every time I head out on my dusty mountain bike, I get flashes of insight that feel like they reach straight from the cushion to the trail.

 

So this piece is about bikes, and it’s not. And it’s about meditation, but not so much.

 

In point of fact, its about mind, the one that both sits in shamatha and the one asks, “self, how did I get here,” as the trail angles steeply toward that ridgeline way, way up there…

 

As a rider, I’m still pretty new to “real” mountain biking (i.e., in the mountains, at altitude with meaningful elevation gain and multiple miles of joyful, if sometimes scary descents,) so it took me some time to see a basic truth—that to get the good stuff (strength, stamina, the joy of descending) I had to get over my resistance to riding up things. Without the effort, there’s no progress. Moreover, I needed to commit to climbing these hills over and over again. One big climb doesn’t make a season, or a rider.

 

The juice is in the consistency.

 

For me, climbing on a bike is a shamatha practice—get to the cushion, put in the time, develop the discipline. The masters that came before all had to do it. No shortcuts. As Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche said (long before Nike…), “just do it.”

 

But climbing kinda sucks. It hurts, at least for me. So right away, I get to work with my mind in order to work with my body. This is the flip side of a long meditation retreat where I get to work with my body in order to work with my mind (because quite often there’s often bodily pain involved in long practice sessions.)

 

In either case, my ego comes alive and whining as, on the bike, I watch my more gifted pals leave me in the dust (I’m kinda slow…just like in meditation I suppose.) So here’s a chance to practice some serious gentleness with myself. As Popeye says, “ I yam what I yam.”

 

So be it. What I do have is doggedness- I can generally hang in when it starts to hurt. Recently, I’ve even been able to find a place of some peace amid of the pain. I find it helps here to try to shift to a larger perspective- to lift my gaze from the trail and check in with the incredible space I’m riding through. Just as in sitting meditation, being aware of the space seems to relieve the sense of claustrophobia, of compression that can arise in a long sitting session (or climb.)

 

If climbing is shamatha, then maybe descending is vipashyana. Here, it’s all about space, moving through it using more instinct and less discursive thought. Insights come often and at speed.

 

The first is to ride more, steer less. A mountain bike (and the mind) is designed to flow over the terrain and the rocks. If I can relax my grip, give up on over-managing the process, things seem to work out a lot more smoothly. The innate wisdom of the situation has a chance to emerge.

 

The second is closely related to space – raise the gaze, see down the trail. A proper view is critical. Caution (fear) can lead me to focus too much on the trail right in front of me, but it’s too late to react to anything there. The karma of the ride is going to blow me past these rocks before I could ever hope to react to them. So expand the view – the farther down the trail I focus, the smoother the ride passing under my wheels seems to flow. Again, see the space — trust the wisdom of the situation. Trust the path.

 

Number three is an extension of number two- ride through the changes. Tight switchback turns, abrupt changes of direction, can be scary. It’s ok to check some speed coming into a turn, but once its started, look through the change, not at it. View again- the larger the better. Ignore the stones under the wheels and look through and well past the turn, and allow the bike (and the mind) to pull itself through and into whatever is next.

 

Finally, at some point a particular truth is likely to emerge that’s common to both biking and sitting- eventually, you’re gonna fall — beef it, dump it, wipe out. Comes with the territory. We can’t control how much a fall is going to hurt, and it will hurt. Even small falls hurt. But with luck, you get back up and carry on. For a while, you’re going to be a little shaky. You don’t want to fall again. But as long as this thought infects you, your riding sucks.

 

You can’t ride, or sit for that matter, if you’re trying to protect yourself all the time.

 

But eventually, the adrenaline fades, the discipline of your practice reasserts itself and the ride smooths out again. And then its over.

 

The trail ends, the bell rings.

 

For me, the hours immediately after a challenging ride are wonderful. My body is spent and my mind is blown open. Everything slows down and there’s all the time in the world.

 

Whatever thoughts were churning during the ride, or on the cushion (and as you can tell by this piece, there are often quite a few…,) pass away without a trace. The rest of life flows back in and on we go.

 

Until tomorrow. When it’s brand new and fresh once again. When the bike, and the cushion beckon.

 

The bell rings, and its time again to practice.

 

And to ride.

 

© oldbonesnewsnow.com/ J.A. Fink

Spring in the Wasatch

Two untitled pieces from a spring afternoon in the mountains

 

(after dogen…)

 

one day while out

walking, the mountain may turn

and hand you your heart –

here

this is your heart, don’t lose it

near here lies the road

home

 

Image

 

a cloudless blue sky holding the mountain

countless

 

winged fairies

from the cottonwoods

 

dancing, swirling, the profound

wealth

 

of immeasurable

blossoms on the old crab apple

 

all the small birds have returned

bringing a smooth

 

southerly breeze, well being

beyond words

your feet know this

we are meant to embody this world

completely. to be cried by rain

breathed by wind. your feet

know this.

 

tear yourself from your ledgers,

the pale yellow columns

of figures, the harsh

discipline

of decimals.

 

come walk with those who move

among mountains.

pointless, meaningless

and full.

 

we’ll dance atop the stones like a stone

skips across the water—stop

and listen—air and water

are your very voice

and blood.

 

what else

could they be?

 

step upon a rock and feel your own

resistance; step upon the soil

and feel your life

reverberate.

 

place your heart in your feet, ask them

to guide you. take off your shoes

and feel your toes caressing

the luscious face

of the earth.

Image

her pain is your pain, her joy

your joy—

what else

could they be?

 

come, walk with those who move among mountains.

come walk your way back into your life,

come breathe yourself complete

and sleep the sleep of stars

 

pointless, meaningless

and full.

 

© J.A. Fink 2013