Weekly Update From the Zen Garland Order

There has not been a finish to my day when I don’t at some point look back on the hours spent with patients, spent without friends and family, spent with just me and tears have been spent, again. These are heartbreaking times and perhaps a reminder that life has always been heartbreaking at some level. Our teacher Shakyamuni Buddha passed on this teaching that we carry forth to the world along with the hope that we as practitioners of the Way can soften the hard truth of suffering through the eight fold path. Within that path I include art and the appreciation of art to bring me back to life and give me a reason to put one foot forward every day. And so today I find inspiration from our Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo. She is the first Native American poet to serve in the position and is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation.

An American Sunrise
by Joy Harjo

We were running out of breath, as we ran out to meet ourselves.

Were surfacing the edge of our ancestors’ fights, and ready to
It was difficult to lose days in the Indian bar if you were Straight.
Easy if you played pool and drank to remember to forget. We
Made plans to be professional—and did. And some of us could
When we drove to the edge of the mountains, with a drum. We
Made sense of our beautiful crazed lives under the starry stars.
Was invented by the Christians, as was the Devil, we sang. We
Were the heathens, but needed to be saved from them: Thin
Chance. We knew we were all related in this story, a little Gin
Will clarify the dark, and make us all feel like dancing. We
Had something to do with the origins of blues and jazz
I argued with the music as I filled the jukebox with dimes in June,

Forty years later and we still want justice. We are still America.

“When all the usual places of inspiration and entertainment are closed to us, and we can’t even attend a funeral or sit beside a loved one in need, our outlook turns inward. To know what to look for when we turn inward, we turn to poetry and art. During the pandemic, these are doing what they’ve always done: finding us doorways to fresh knowledge of ourselves as human beings and as co-creators on this planet. Art teaches us to live a life that has meaning, by accepting the responsibility of becoming aware. Inside our little beehives, we are now growing more attentive. We’re paying attention to food sources, for example. We’re asking, who’s bringing my food to me? How is it prepared? We should also ask, when we go back out do we continue as we were, or are there things we need to let go?
Art answers: Leave behind that which isn’t nourishing. Not only have we been in a culture that’s marked by a predominance of processed food, there’s also a predominate of processed ideas, colonized ideas, that follow a particular template toward a particular end, namely fame and money. We’re at a crucial and incredible moment of reckoning, and of opportunity. The pandemic challenges us to recognize the immense experiment that planet Earth is, and that human beings are part of the same community—all peoples, past and future ancestors, animal human beings, tree human beings. We have been thrown into the center of knowing. Our great challenge will be in sustaining what art helps us become.”

(Joy Harjo interview by Zac Jason published in Wired magazine)

Sensei KC Zero Sato
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