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May 14, 2020

Perspectives from Tassajara: PART IV

The monks at Tassajara have written a letter to the boundless sangha: friends, supporters, guests, former residents, fellow practitioners, all sentient beings. The letter is published in four parts. See parts I, II, III, IV and Coda.

PART IV: What I Want You To Know Is…

Tassajara will be okay. In fact, the plants and animals seem to be enjoying this unusual spring with plenty of rain and without hundreds of visitors.

We are acutely aware, as individuals and as a sangha, how lucky we are to be here. To have these mountains ringing us, this creek flowing through, a long, deserted dirt road to walk on. These are incredible privileges while so many others are sheltering elsewhere.

We’re maintaining the facilities, ready to receive a work period and guest season as soon as they’re announced. We’re clearing rockfalls and leaves and six months of cobwebs. We’re doing fire prevention projects that usually can’t happen in the summer. We’re finishing and correcting hastily-done improvements from years past. We’re watching eagles catch updrafts over Flag Rock. We’re stopping, awe-struck, at Venus setting in the inky sky over the Birdhouse after evening zazen.

We’re maintaining a vibrant practice and open-hearted sangha, sheltering together like one big family, out in the wilderness. We wish you could be here, too. We’re taking good care of Tassajara until you come back.

What I want you to know is…
The energy of the universe is running through everything — columbines are tall in the waves of it, finches and ravens flit, soar and perch in the sky of it. Everything is free in the sheltering, in the dishes left by the kitchen sink, the thread of chores and peaceful moments. The animals’ world and our own are more invited together it seems, in the viral wake-up call. Loved ones far away can rest in the stillness of an open hand, reaching for bedroom slippers thousands of miles away, that pile of papers she didn’t quite get to, wishes falling like downy feathers in stronger wind, love in a whole new past, 60 years together.

What I want you to know is…
Yesterday, mom wrote to say the universe bumps every Friday at 6, when she blesses her children. At 7 her cityside alights with the pots and pans, yelps of cathartic joys the closest sugar-asking neighbors meet. At 9, my brother calls to say he’s still standing and at 10, I feel the rounded slope of my stomach that I’m not quite resigned yet to never holding a child though how could I hold so tight to a feeling, so out of line with what’s happening before me.
What I want you to know is I ache for that child I’ve already let pass as a dream.
What I want you to know is I fear the greed deep in my belly that craves the exhilaration of catastrophe. How does this meet my never-bourne child? When I stare at the river I feel the water that is me move, great movement of inside and outside, and I am nauseous.
What I want you to know is the name of the plants your feet cover, the ways they meet the bones of our bodies to knit ourselves together.
What I want you to know is that I love you, that wide big breath of love so that there is dissolving and reforming. I do not always want this love.
I want you to know that I fear the death of everyone I love, as though the fear itself was the same as living.
I want you to know that I believe this world can be otherwise.
I want you to know the feel of the waves over your body once you’re no longer in the water. I want you to know earth that rises to meet your feet. I want you to know to take off your shoes on holy ground. I want you to know that (I believe) we consecrate each other.
I want you to know, I want you to know, I want you to know.

I’d Like You To Hear
History says don’t hope
On this side of the grove
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
and hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge
Believe that further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.
Call miracles self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And god speaks from the sky
That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth cry
Of new life at its term.

What I want you to know is…
Death is certain. How do you want to live/practice getting there?

While other faith communities have been meeting and supporting each other online in virtual zendos and live-streamed services, we here at Tassajara wanted to share our practice and experience in our way. Practice is still being enacted and embodied here, for the benefit of all beings. You might be surprised at some of the changes, but you would still recognize the heart of this practice.

This is an expression of Tassajara practice.

We would like you to know that we love you. We miss you. We hope you are safe.

Words submitted by Gurmeen Aneja, John Anklow, K., Tim Ream, Jordan Gardner, Eilis Ward, Krista De Castella, Nobuko Hori, Bapu Vaitla, Dan Gudgel, Zuzu Myers, S. H., Brent Haas and other Tassajara sangha members who wish to remain anonymous.

See parts I, II, III, IV and Coda.

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