Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cold, Long Night Moon

Cold, Long Night Moon

Since I began wearing necklaces to remind me of the moon's phases [Moon Time], I am more aware of, interested in, and thankful for the moon in particular——and our natural world in general.
    In their wisdom, Native Americans named the full moons. Here, pinched from the Farmer's Almanac website and lightly edited by me, is an East Coast view of Native American Moon names.

    Full Moon Names and Their Meanings

    Full Moon names date back to Native Americans, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers followed that custom and created some of their own names. Since the lunar month is only 29 days long on the average, the full Moon dates shift from year to year. Here is the Farmers Almanac's list of the full Moon names.

    • Full Wolf Moon - January Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January's full Moon. Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to the next Moon.

    • Full Snow Moon - February Since the heaviest snow usually falls during this month, native tribes of the north and east most often called February's full Moon the Full Snow Moon. Some tribes also referred to this Moon as the Full Hunger Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult.

    • Full Robin Moon - March As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.

    • Full Egg Moon - April Other names for this month's celestial body include the the Sprouting Grass Moon, and among coastal tribes the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

    • Full Flower Moon - May In most areas, flowers are abundant everywhere during this time. Thus, the name of this Moon. Other names include the Full Corn Planting Moon, or the Milk Moon.

    • Full Strawberry Moon - June This name was universal to every Algonquin tribe. However, in Europe they called it the Rose Moon. Also because the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June . . . so the full Moon that occurs during that month was christened for the strawberry!

    • The Full Buck Moon - July July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time. Another name for this month's Moon was the Full Hay Moon.

    • Full Sturgeon Moon - August The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.

    • Full Corn Moon - September This full moon's name is attributed to Native Americans because it marked when corn was supposed to be harvested. Most often, the September full moon is actually the Harvest Moon.

    • Full Harvest Moon - October This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox. In two years out of three, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October. At the peak of harvest, farmers can work late into the night by the light of this Moon. Usually the full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice the chief Indian staples are now ready for gathering.

    • Full Beaver Moon - November This was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Full Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now actively preparing for winter. It is sometimes also referred to as the Frosty Moon.

    • The Full Cold Moon; or the Full Long Nights Moon - December During this month the winter cold fastens its grip, and nights are at their longest and darkest. It is also sometimes called the Moon before Yule. The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long, and because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time. The midwinter full Moon has a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite a low Sun.

    Wednesday, December 30, 2009

    Every Loving Thought is True

    One of the members of our group, Marc, shared this last night at our meeting. I wanted to share it here. It is from "A Course in Miracles," which is said to be a channeled text, supposedly dictated by the voice of Jesus. It has quite a following. The voice is male-centered—lots of "brother" but not a single "sister" for example and no female pronouns. It contains some blindingly bright, compassionate, and forgiving passages. This is from Chapter 12, "The Holy Spirit's Curriculum," in the first section, which is entitled, "The Judgment of the Holy Spirit." 
    "There is but one interpretation of motivation that makes any sense....  Every loving thought is true. Everything else is an appeal for help and healing, regardless of the form it takes.
    . . .
    Only appreciation is an appropriate response. . . . Gratitude is due for both loving thoughts and appeals for help, for both are capable of bringing love into your awareness if you perceive them truly. And all your sense of strain comes from your attempts not to do just this."

    Every loving thought is true. Everything else is an appeal for help and healing. Wow. Thanks for sharing, Marc!

    Tuesday, December 29, 2009

    Do Bugs Have Buddha Nature?

    Shunryu Suzuki said,

    "If you are not a Buddhist, you think there are Buddhists and non-Buddhists, but if you are a Buddhist you realize everyone's a Buddhist—even the bugs."

    I've enjoyed the sentiment of inclusiveness in that quote.

    Today I find Suzuki's remark a little Buddhocentric. (Is "Buddhocentric" a word?) Whatever: we can say bugs are sentient beings, yes they are. Bugs have "Buddha nature" and so do all the bacteria that live inside bugs' digestive systems.

    Plants have have sentience so deep and so powerful and so profound that their multiple intelligences are barely discernible to any but the most spiritually connected humans. Plants have "Buddha nature" too. Not to mention fungi.

    I've come to feel that all of life—from the mitochondria in cells to blue whales to the daffodils awakening outside my front door—all life is deeply and irrevocably interrelated. All life is sentient. All life is sacred. Even stuff we think of as not living is sentient: rocks, water, air. I think rocks know when they're hot or cold. Water freezes when it gets cold; evaporates quickly on hot days. Sentient.

    We can say this or that has Buddha nature. Better yet, we give the Buddha some time off. I don't think he wants to lay claim or put his name on wisdom that is self evident to anyone willing to look closely and feel deeply about anything and everything alive.

    Monday, December 28, 2009

    Society of Friends Winter Schedule

    Good friends, 
    Below is the schedule for Winter, 2010. I'm posting it, online, for easy future reference. I'll bring a paper copy to the coming meetings.

    See many of you tomorrow at Sue's for our fifth Tuesday Friends Meeting.  Please bring a poem or other item related to Dharma that you'd like to share. 
    Society of Friends of the Buddha

    Reading/Discussion Schedule for Winter, 2010

    January 5, 2010
    • Radiant Presence (from the Dhammapada)
    • Bahiya (from the Udana)
    • Sutra on Full Awareness Breathing (from TNH)

    January 19, 2010
    • The Heart (from the Anguttara Nikaya—Numerical Discourses)
    • The Abandoning of Sorrow (from the Majjihma Nikaya—Middle-Length Discourses)
    • Parable of the Lute (from the Anguttara Nikaya—Numerical Discourses)

    February 2, 2010
    • Inclination of the Mind (from the Majjihma Nikaya—Middle-Length Discourses)
    • Inner Peace (from the Sutta Nipata)
    • Abandoning All Hindrances (from the Digha Nikaya—Long Discourses)

    February 16, 2010
    • Soma and Mara (from the Samyutta Nikaya—Connected Discourses)
    • Songs of the Nuns (from the Therigatha)
    • Look Within (from the Dhammapada)

    March 2, 2010
    • The Sharpest Sword (from Paul Carus)
    • Bamboo Acrobats (from the Samyutta Nikaya—Connected Discourses)
    • Blessing Chant (from the Pattanumodana)

    March 16, 2010
    • The Parable of the Raft (from the Majjihma Nikaya—Middle-Length Discourses)
    • The Kalamas’s Dilemma (from the Anguttara Nikaya—Numerical Discourses)
    • Patience (from the Dhammapada Atthakatha)

    March 30. 2010
    • Friends Meeting!

    Saturday, December 26, 2009

    Start with Yourself

    Start with yourself. And go from there.

    Friday, December 25, 2009

    Christmas Presence

    Christmas presents?
    How did Christmas get to be about stuff?

    For me, Christmas is about sowing some Santa-spirit.

    Christmas is about cultivating generosity—about stretching my Grinch heart just a little bit bigger.

    And then keeping it stretched out and open and not letting it shrink back.

    Christmas presence.

    Remember this verse from kindergarten?

    It's excerpted from How the Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss:

    Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
    Was singing! Without any presents at all!
    He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming!
    IT CAME!
    Somehow or other, it came just the same!

    It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
    It came without packages, boxes or bags!
    And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
    Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
    "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
    "Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
    And what happened then...? Who-ville they say
    That the Grinch's small heart
    Grew three sizes that day!

    Tuesday, December 22, 2009

    Wag More, Bark Less

    A bumper sticker I'm seeing around town says,

    "Wag More. Bark Less."

    I like it. Don't you think we'd all be happier if we took a page out of the Golden Retriever playbook and regarded everyone we meet as a long-lost friend?

    The older I get, the more I try to erase the threshold of friendship, treating everyone I meet as my buddy——even the bug who found his way into my living room by clinging to the Christmas tree.

    Sure, I know there are some people who won't like it when we walk up and nuzzle them, but they're just not our friends yet. Badgers don't like Golden Retrievers. The world wouldn't be very interesting if they did. That's okay.

    Badgers are badgers. They'll come around. Someday.

    Meanwhile, there's a Yellow Labrador just round the corner!

    Monday, December 21, 2009

    Six Perfections

    First, a disclaimer: I'm not a perfectionist.

    In fact, I'm slightly allergic to the whole idea of perfection.

    A wise first grader once told me, "Only God is perfect!"

    I agree with that kid—well, I agree in those fleeting moments when I believe in God. In regard to God, I'm among those who must endure having both great faith and great doubt. I have great faith that God's real, and great doubt in my ability to fully understand or even believe, sometimes, in that reality.

    I accept my imperfections because they make me human: imperfect and okay, just like everyone else.

    Ah, to continue...

    As the solstice passed, I was playing the Native American flute in my meditation room. I was trying to contemplate the Seven Factors of Awakening, as a misty rain fell outside the open window. And what did my mind do? Why, what minds are so good at: getting distracted. My mind started down the path of another thought-complex: the "Six Perfections," another list from that trusty source, Buddhism. (Buddhism has lots of lists for minds like mine.)

    The "Perfections" or "Paramitas" as they are called in Sanskrit, arise in another tradition of Buddhism, the Mahayanas, mainly. They are:

    1. Generosity: Dāna paramita (giving of oneself)
    2. Ethical Behavior: Śīla paramita (virtue, morality, discipline, proper conduct)
    3. Patience: Kṣānti (kshanti) paramita  (patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance)
    4. Energy: Vīrya paramita (energy, diligence, vigor, effort)
    5. Concentration: Dhyāna paramita (one-pointed concentration, contemplation)
    6. Wisdom: Prajñā paramita : (wisdom, insight)

    I cultivate these six qualities in my ordinary lay life. Let me describe two examples:

    Remembering Generosity while shopping at Fircrest Market has prompted me to pick up extra cans of food—good food, the kind I would want to eat if I were in need—and drop it in the Redwood Empire Food Bank bin outside the store. Donating food like this always feels better than giving in to that inner voice that would have me "just skip it this time." (Yes, I have heeded that voice, too, and I know how crummy it feels to be stingy.)

    Remembering Patience helps me find joy where I would have overlooked it while waiting in lines at the post office, bank, or grocery store. There are always interesting people to watch while standing in line. And, if I know the clerk (as I usually do) I can think of a funny story to tell or think of a question to ask about how life is going for him or her.

    I'm not posting this list of the Six Perfections the day after posting on the Seven Factors of Awakening to suggest that one list or the other is the best. Either list could support a lifetime of contemplation and cultivation. Having been exposed to many traditions of Buddhism—not to mention Christianity—I am presented with many worthy objects of mind to contemplate. Sometimes, it feels like too many!

    Sunday, December 20, 2009

    9:47 Pacific Standard Time

    Winter in the Sierras
    Photo by Ian Parker

    The winter solstice will arrive at 9:47 tomorrow morning here in California between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the easternmost waters of the Pacific Ocean.

    I like to re-affirm my deepest intentions at the solstices and equinoxes. For me, these occasions are like quarterly New Year's resolution sessions occurring in Mother Earth time.

    As for me, I plan to renew my intention to cultivate the seven factors of awakening—seven factors that the Buddha is said to have taught some 2500 years ago, and are still worth pondering today. (I often think of the Buddha as one of the world's greatest teachers. Not many of us have people thinking about our teachings for 25 centuries; ordinary teachers like me are happy if our students remember what we've taught for 25 seconds!)

    In any event, those seven factors of enlightenment, in case you're wondering what I'm seeking to cultivate are:

    • Mindfulness (sati) i.e. to be aware and mindful in all activities and movements both physical and mental
    • Investigation (dhamma vicaya) into the nature of the world and of the teachings of Buddha
    • Energy (viriya)
    • Joy  (piti)
    • Ease (passaddhi) of both body and mind
    • Concentration (samadhi)
    • Equanimity (upekkha), to be able to face life in all its vicissitudes with calm of mind and tranquillity, without disturbance.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    An Inborn Sense of Wonder

    Barbra Stephens over at the blog Honorable Mention featured a quotation from Rachel Carson the other day that really rings true and has been reverberating in my heart since I read it:

    "If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in." —Rachel Carson

    In the comments section of her blog, I wrote the reciprocal idea which is equally true:

    "If an adult is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one child who can share it, rediscovering with her the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."

    I feel extremely fortunate to have had hundreds of children kindle my inborn sense of wonder. After all these years, my joy, excitement, and appreciation of the mystery of this wonderful world is fairly blazing away....

    If you don't have a child (or two or three) in your life, I recommend that you find a place in your heart (and calendar) and fill it.