This edition of Dharma Stream is devoted to the theme of
The Resilience of Nature
“. . .my reason for hope is the resilience of nature. The places that we've destroyed can become beautiful again. And then there’s the human brain, which is utterly amazing . . .and the indomitable human spirit. . . . ."
— by Jane Goodall
Photo by Marcia Craighead
RESILIENCY TOOL KIT FOR THESE TIMES
by Heather Sundberg
After the Paradise-Chico fires in autumn, which deeply affected our sister sanghas (communities) at Sky Creek Dharma Center in Chico, I heard from another sister sangha where I had taught in Holland. They asked how we in California were practicing with so much uncertainty and loss. With my heart on my sleeve, I shared with her what the foothill communities were dealing with and a few ways I was humbly practicing with it all.
A simple Resiliency Tool Kit emerged to use during cycles of abundance and difficulty in the times ahead.
Resiliency Tool Kit:
~ Staying embodied and grounded
~ Remembering our deeper intentions and values
~ Gratitude and other heart practices
~ Taking Refuge, including in awareness itself
~ Staying connected with others
~ Offering service
~ Dedicating the merit
Staying Embodied and Grounded
Doing a practice which involves the body every single day.
Exercise mindfulness practice
Daily movement such as yoga or Qi Gong
Daily mindfulness or metta (lovingkindness) walks
Daily mindfulness of the nervous system practice, such as Orienting, Resourcing (grounding) and Pendulating
(to work with pain in the body).
Click here to listen to the dharma theory and examples of the practices.
Remembering Intention and Deeper Values
Taking time each day to reconnect with our deeper intentions and values. Perhaps in our daily sitting meditation practice this will allow these qualities to become more and more the guiding force which guides our thoughts, words, and actions. This supports resiliency within ourselves and in our organizations and wider systems, which only thrive when we value them and actively support them.
Gratitude and Heart Practices:
Nurturing gratitude is an incredible support in connecting with a sense of abundance and aliveness. Some people enjoy having Gratitude Buddies with whom they regularly communicate (by text, email or phone) sharing what they are grateful for. Others prefer to have a daily Gratitude Journal.
Sometimes it is clear that the ‘‘heart flavor of the day’’ simply isn’t gratitude. Some days the heart expression is that of compassion with difficulties, or is balance of equanimity.
Taking Refuge, including in Awareness Itself
Many use the practice of Taking Refuge as part of a daily sitting meditation practice. Some connect with the traditional refuges of Buddha (awakeness), Dharma (truth), Sangha (community). For others, deepening within this sense of refuge is more of an ongoing activity — regularly attuning to find a place of rest in the sense of ‘’that which knows’’ all things.
Resting back into Awareness itself provides us with a sense of spaciousness and perspective no matter what is happening. Developed over time, this relationship with Awareness offers a deeper kind of resiliency, which can weather the fluctuating cycles of life.
Staying Connected with Others
We cannot walk the spiritual path alone. Isolation erodes our sense of resiliency.
The technology we are increasingly dependent on is a kind of double edge sword — increasing some kinds of connection and decreasing other kinds of connection.
Make sure to include regular person-to-person contact in your life, including a variety of different kinds of relationships and activities.
The safety nets of this country are stretching very thin. We can fill the holes in our collective safety nets with person-to-person care and skillful response. Whatever your skill sets and capacities are, use them. Do not think they are too insignificant, or that no one will need them. Offering service is a wonderful way to increase a sense of connection and meaningfulness in life. Acknowledge more often the service you already are offering in work or family life, or if you add a volunteer activity, consider making the spirit of service a core value on your spiritual path.
Dedicating the Merit:
A number of indigenous cultures world-wide understand how on the unseen levels, the world is literally held up by our prayers, our blessings, our metta. At those times when you reach the end of the day and feel the weight of the world, and wonder with distress what you could ever do to fix things—Dedicate the Merit. Offering the merit of your day of practice, of any and all beneficial qualities you cultivated during the day, allows you to feel connected in service with widening circles of beings. Take delight. Dedicate the merit.
“May All Beings Experience Happiness and the Causes of Happiness.
May All Beings Be Free of Suffering and the Causes of Suffering.
May All Beings Experience Freedom — in every needed form at this time —
And may that Freedom grow and grow.
May it be so.”
For many people in the Paradise and Chico areas, life will never be the same as before the fires. Please continue your prayers and metta for them (as well as direct action when an opportunity arises), whether you live in the California foothills, or are a part of our wider circle of Mountain Stream friends around the world.
We who live two hours south in the foothills area (Nevada City) know it could be our communities that experience similar events at any time. This is both frightening at times on a material level and can be energizing on a spiritual level. Right now, the conditions of the world are asking of us for a higher level of awareness, heartfulness, and embodiment — with a kind of flexibility, trust and empowerment which allows us to maintain continuity to see, care and respond. These simple resiliency tools are available to cultivate every day to support this ongoing process of expressing awakeness in this world.
Thank you for your expression of Awakeness in the world.
Photo by Cindy Shaw
OUT OF THE MESS
by John Travis
The wind whistling through this body,
maybe it could blow the many thoughts,
stories and feelings out through the mountains,
scattering them for miles and miles.
But today, sitting on this sore bum, knees a little creaky,
not sure why I would want to inhabit this ignored body,
difficult pulling buoyant mind down,
down into this skittish body,
staying only a moment, then off again,
hoping to think myself out of all these discomforts,
but remembering this sacred and enchanted place,
asking only to surrender the body,
stepping into its own natural loveliness,
body inhabiting body.
Awareness has the home destined to feel itself, one breath at a time,
making nothing out of all of this, resting in its totality,
body in body.
This poem is from John Travis’ first book, Taking The One Seat
Published March 2019.
Photos by Marcia Craighead
THE DREAMING GARDEN
by Corey Hitchcock
The tangled garden has belonged to the birds and insects since fall. No activity. No compost added. No nurturing beds of rice straw. Weeds still clog the paths. Not a single winter crop planted. A determined malaise so pervasive I am not sure it will ever lift. The chill wind is whipping around limp, frost burned vines and stalks, the last of summer’s frenzied growth, now impressively decaying. I conjure up last year’s scorching fall, when waves of heat finally sparked dangerous fires that showered us with grey ash from neighboring townships.
I rolled into winter’s cave like a bear when the rains finally came. While a new storm raged, I dreamed of an old acquaintance, a planner of large projects and unending intellectual arguments, which never allowed him to bring anything to fruition. He over-thought life and was largely oppositional. Perhaps life had cheated him of opportunities and fame? But here, in my dream he was full of natural ambition and organic intelligence. He was boundlessly creative, and worked calmly, carelessly naked, so absorbed was he in following each complex project to satisfying completion. He moved objects around in a large, bright room as he reconfigured his schemes. He was no longer getting in his own way. I was impressed, amazed. How had I not seen this capacity in him?
I caught his fierce focus as my own and began to paint large colorful orbs on, of all things, long sheets of waxed paper. I saw so clearly each step: how I scratched into the newly painted areas, the exact colors I chose and brushed in place. I saw and felt myself absorbed. I remembered this sensation of limber responsiveness in my body.
Waking up, I stumbled barefooted, half asleep into the chilly studio to duplicate the dream painting. I caught its magic, the numinous breath of that place between worlds, before thought.
Later with spots of color still on my fingertips, I braved the garden again. This time I could see the dream of summer, the tall, scarlet Amaranth plumes entwined with Ancho peppers, icy green cabbages tumbled at their roots, immense tomatoes ripening outside of their cages, the unstoppable Mexican Sunflowers that bloomed right through December, feathery Quinoa, soothing, wide-eyed Comfrey, and moon-maiden Nicotiana. I saw them all rising again from ash and mildew. I was germinating along with them. My painted fingers gently tugged at the lanky, yellowed stems of Arugula, which even now the first sleepy bees were deliriously probing.
I believe we will make it again after all.
Corey Hitchcock - Zen practitioner, interdisciplinary artist, and editor with Pacific Zen Institute’s Uncertainty Club, aspires to the job title: Interpreter of the Wild.
RESILIENCE ~ RESILIENT   by Cassandra Wahlstrom
Cassandra Wahlstrom is a long-time member of the Sangha that John Travis founded, which now includes so many participants at the wonderful and beautiful Mountain Stream Meditation Center in Nevada City.
by Eugene Berson
Shoveling sheetrock scraps into a wheelbarrow to load onto the dumptruck,
I noticed a monarch wing on the redrock beneath the lemon tree
the setting sun suffusing the ripe lemons
summer full, just starting to descend
filling the world with an immense pause.
All around me, more wings, like leaves,
burned orange-brown, oddly calming.
A season’s driving force had fulfilled its orbit
cast off wings
beaten by inspired muscles in minuscule bodies
lay as testimony to creatures who had fulfilled their task,
yielded to their life-force without fear.
I felt gratefully inspired by them –
an odd snatch from a Patchen poem went through my mind:
I cannot offer to serve.
All things proceed
From their resulting center.
O the wing walks upon its proving throne
And I am raised above my harvest.
Gene has been attending Mountain Stream for four years, maintaining a practice in his haphazard but diligent way. Things he’s heard in Dharma talks have helped his poetry many times. Not only have those insights clarified concerns he’s been struggling with, but they have helped him realize his thoughts and feelings are part of a continuum that has flowed through people’s minds since the beginning of humankind and continue to flow through those people around him. They have often dispelled the blinding illusion of isolation imposed by an exaggerated Self, and restored a sense of inter-connectedness within him that has provided great solace. The little poem is one example.
Photo by Marcia Craighead
by Susan Solinsky
In the months before spring,
as weighty storm clouds hammock low in the sky,
the farmers market shines with vegetables: crimson beets, shitake mushrooms,
lavender-edged cabbage, robust carrots, meaty purple potatoes.
Like the wet earth, they sit through the February and March sleety rain,
The roots with hairy tendrils lift and almost wave in gusts of morning wind,
perhaps searching for soil or a soup pot.
Thick carrot tops revive a vision from kindergarten -
those same green tops sitting in a tray of water, sprouting
before my five-year old eyes. A teacher leans over me to say
how they keep growing even when cut from the carrot.
School is more than I can understand, but this sprouting,
this is the most miraculous lesson of all, an old talisman that carries
and stops me, even today.
I ask what time the farmers set up for Saturday market,
imagining a later start in winter, the warmth of bedding still enfolding them.
A young woman says, 8:30 this morning, and smiles back.
Oh, here it is 10:00, I am fresh from a solid cooked breakfast,
bundled in gloves, scarf and hat, gazing longingly at produce.
The farmers sip coffee, share spurts of conversation, laughter,
tug at jacket collars, lean forward to thank the shoppers for coming.
Slowly I palm and lift each ruby and golden beet in awe,
weigh its perfection in the pearl gray light,
and resist the urge to drop to my knees in gratitude.
Susan has traveled the many unique paths of questioning while searching for Life’s big answers and realized there are only more questions. But hanging around Mountain Stream for a long time has filled her heart cup nicely. That along with art, writing, wildlife, community and family life.
RESILIENT?! (A PARTIAL LIST)
by Jennifer India Scott
not-fraying blue tarps
banjos (for heaven’s sake)
everyone who smiles
least favorite habits
Aaron Copeland’s symphonies
Sacred Pipe Carriers
the home team
the Peace Corps
the United Nations
hearts (yes, again!)
fraying blue tarps
the High Road
one’s best wishes for our world
Jennifer India Scott, aka Jen Scott, works at Mountain Stream as volunteer and outreach coordinator. Her gateway drug is community. Favorite bumper sticker: May all Beings Be Stoked!
Photo by Steve Solinsky
RESILENCE IS AT FOOT
by Steve Solinsky
I thought I could tell it straight away.
But wisdom counseled to let it go.
As this piece has relied on a willingness to sway,
to release all precious thought, and admit defeat,
and wait on a better day.
And through this faith, in the morning light,
insight has offered it to me through metaphor
in this way:
See that Ponderosa pine out there,
swept under the siege of a fierce winter wind?
It does not resist the storm rigid like a pole,
but sways and bends to and fro,
woven root to ground, where the connection is firm.
Trunk is like Mind, growing high in notion and thought,
but must allow for the sway.
Integrity is at foot-
in depth of spirit and soul,
where certainty looses it’s grip,
but in such deep earthen stillness may grow.
Resilience comes not just from limb,
but from root.
Steve is a longtime Mountain Streamer, Nevada City artist photographer, and previous partner in the Mowen Solinsky Gallery. His focus is on his own creative experience and he likes to share insights into this integral aspect of being human through imagery and words.
Photo by Marcia Craighead
Marcia Craighead arrived in Nevada City on January 1, 2014, to be an integral part of the Mountain Stream dream-team. Dharma photography continues to be an instrumental part of her awareness practice, through seeing clearly and listening whole-heartedly.