This edition of Dharma Stream is devoted to the theme of
THE GIFT OF RECEIVING
by John Travis
Hesitantly, standing between worlds.
The gate is open, Dear Heart.
What kind of medicine are you caring in your pouch, Pilgrim?
Turkey feathers, lizard's tails, a worm's body,
a small brush of deer hair,
a ray from the full Moon
a tattered picture of Shangri-La.
Is it enough, these few things
to stand by the high tide
without being swept by the tsunami of your life?
Buddha whispered from that deep place within.
"Medicine pouch full,
you are enough;
these few things enough."
Opening your whole body/heart to the deep water,
pulling you out into the world,
everything held in the original ordinariness;
a picture frame bigger than the cosmos.
Photo by Naima Shea
Photo by Neighbor of Naima Shea
Naima was born on the East Coast, migrated to the West. . . . is now settled in the Ocean Sky Land of New Mexico via blessed Teachings in India (where she met Brother Travis in 1972).
by Eugene Berson
I thought for a second they were bowling pins
balanced on the bank of the drained reservoir
but they were so attentive
devoutly beaming in a radiant aura—
a congregation of little monks robed in light
soaking in the last rays of the sun.
Their brown-hued breasts swelled
filling with the day’s last warmth—
about twelve of them.
Since they seemed far enough away
on the opposite shore
we hoped we wouldn’t disturb them
but one started working the rusty hinge of his voice
and they all gently took to the air, flying as if one fabric
layering the valley with trombones
spiraling higher as they circled the reservoir
passing above us, lifting just enough
to thread an opening in the trees.
But what if we had been more patient
crouched on our haunches
in the shadows at the base of the trail
and attended the last light with them
felt the coolness come, the darkness, and when
they took off, unable to fully see them
listened to their wings
as they swept overhead and escaped
with that part of ourselves
no one can see?
Gene has been attending Mountain Stream for the past four years. Many themes that have risen from the Dharma talks he has heard there have helped him feel connected to others, breaking down his fabricated isolation and generating a feeling of gratitude for the Sangha.
by Patti Bess
Most of my life I dreamed of a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya. The strange thing, however, is how my most lasting memory of that journey was a ten-year old boy.
We arrive in Bodh Gaya on a hot, muggy evening. After a good night’s rest, my husband David and I are ready to tackle the immense crowds gathering at pilgrimage sites. Though I understand that everyone here struggles to make a living from the many pilgrims, still it’s like moving through the streets with a horde of mosquitos buzzing around your head—impossible to think or focus. Young boys surround us with plastic Buddhas, incense, and various mementos for sale. Rikshaw drivers stop directly in front of where we walk forcing us to “doh-si-doh” around them into the traffic.
I dash into a curio shop to browse and escape the intensity. Returning, I see David sitting on a bench near the street as a boy of about 10 or 11 approaches. His rail thin arms stick out from the sleeves of a faded, too-tight Michigan State t-shirt. He carries a small box of postcards and maps to sell.
I can hear his impeccable English as I approach. “Is this your first day in my city, sir? Would you like to buy a map of Bodh Gaya?”
“Yeah, I’d love a map. What’s your name?” David asks as he rummages through his pocket for money.
“My name is Rahul. What’s your name?”
“I’m David and this is my wife, Patti. Nice to meet you, Rahul.” He follows behind us for a few blocks exploding with questions about where we live, what kind of work we do. David and I are enthralled with his quick and curious mind. The spunk of our guileless friend is infectious and melts our hearts like ice cream in the sun.
“Where did you learn English?” I ask.
He averts his eyes and looks down. ”I teach myself,” he says as if that isn’t as respectable as learning in school.
“Your English is excellent. You should be proud of yourself.”
“Thank you, Madame,” he says as those milk chocolate eyes continue staring at the dirt road.
“I can help you, Mr. David. I know best places in Bodh Gaya. If you want rikshaw to the temple, I will get a good one. Only you pay 4 rupees, no more. I am very trustable.”
“I’m sure you are, Rahul. Right now we just want to walk.”
Pausing in front of a computer center, David says, “Actually, Rahul, we need to go here to send a few emails.”
“Don’t go this place, Mr. David. I will show you where they have many computers, not broken.” Having already experienced several barely functioning business centers, we are happy to take his advice. Weaving through crowds in narrow streets, we hustle to keep up with him as he arrives at a small computer shop with several available machines.
“Thanks Rahul. Good job,” David calls out as the boy disappears down a narrow alley.
“Good-bye, Madame. I see you later, Mr. David.”
The next morning a similar scenario enfolds and we follow him to a café where the coffee (Sanka) is brewing. Rahul disappears again without asking for money.
On the last evening, I walk into town alone to buy snacks for the train to Varanasi. His smiling face reappears. For the first time he looks up at me with those luminous eyes and asks for financial help, but I brought only enough money to buy snacks. Apologizing profusely, I give him two small boxes of cookies.
The light in his eyes fades as if someone (me) hit the dimmer switch. “Thank you, Madame,” he says graciously with a crestfallen smile. “I will share these with my family.” We walk together for a block and say our good-byes.
Of the many inspiring experiences in Bodh Gaya, it was this bright, ambitious child that I am most grateful for.
Patti is a columnist for the Grass Valley Union and a cookbook author. She has been a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda for more than thirty years and is active in the Self Realization Fellowship of Grass Valley.
Photo by Cindy Shaw
by Susan Solinsky
We make plans, clutter the calendar,
confirm appointments, follow road maps, read signs,
pack bags, book flights, check the time, the place, the weather—
over and over. Fill the space.
But the signs shift, blossom and swell into something
no longer found on these flat devices but now
travel on the wings of a red shouldered hawk
cruising through the wide canyon, close by, silent
barely glimpsed; a raptor appearing
minutes after gratitude prayers are spoken
on the day of her surgery,
the very morning that each morning
has led to this one.
All the doctor appointments, MRIs, consults
and the maps followed
and devices showed that led to another city,
where the hawk flies.
Moist breezes move off the Pacific,
lift our hair, enter through open windows and doors,
offer relief while surgeons scrub up
in the gray-blue windowed hospital
as we wait for sleepy grandchildren
to wake at the rented house
overlooking the canyon.
We arrive late morning, hearts thrumming in our throats
to wait with old friends who also arrive
holding a strand of life being woven this moment,
on this morning in early August.
Old friends who help weave the day: their drive to the hospital,
the trips to the elevators, to the bathroom,
to the hospital café, back and forth through bright halls,
to the surgery waiting room, weave in the texting, the dimmed conversations,
the silences, the dozing. Layer on layer of design in each strand.
Then two surgeons appear after 5 hours:
gods in blue and white cotton with graying hair.
Our mouths open, Yes, feed us, gently.
Barely breathing, we listen.
One doctor speaks, confident in white coat, arms relaxed,
dark eyes glistening, he reports: All is well.
No surprises. Cranial tumor is gone. Anesthesia
will wear off in a few hours, then we can visit briefly.
Seven people sigh into the pale walls painted with tree leaves.
The old friends exhale with us, swallow, rearrange their tired bodies.
We gaze into space, fill ourselves with hugs, gather each other close,
thank deities, spirits, rosaries, Mala beads, prayers offered from
the desert, the mountains and the Tibetan monks in Dharamsala,
Gratitude rides the unseen every day, this is true,
even in the hospital elevator the next day before the doors close.
The doctor in white joins us, nods at our mortal beings,
heads to the same room in ICU with colorful monitors and charts.
He checks on her, says she’s doing great as he leaves.
We smile, the family files into her room.
I stop, look at his clear round face,
see the hands that cradled my daughter’s head
the day before.
I thank him. No, I bless him openly
and his good kind hands. Pause. Then bless his good heart.
Dark eyes turn
to stare at me for the first time—
this mother and grandmother rooted firmly, here.
Neither of us blink
as he breathes out, Thank you.
Susan honors reading and writing as part of a daily practice along with greeting the cat and sky each day, arms stretched high and proclaiming, Ah! What a blessing to be alive.
Photo by Cindy Shaw
by Maeve Hassett
Driving up the road into the Sierras for a retreat recently, I was struck by how depleted I felt. The turmoil in the world, wars, mass shootings, anger and confusion seeming to ooze out of every corner plus illnesses and losses among family and friends left me feeling drained. I needed renewal and was so glad to be approaching a quiet place of space and time. I realized that I was out of balance. The felt urgency of the times had me trying to repair all the brokenness to the point that it was all I could see. I was forgetting to make room for spaces to receive the truth of each moment.
Once at the retreat, with no access to outside communication and having taken a vow to be silent and attentive to my thoughts and actions, there was nothing to do, nowhere to go and no one to be. What I discovered as I settled in to the first day of the retreat was the gift of receiving. Receiving the beauty of simplicity, wisdom, sangha, and enormous gratitude for the mystery that brought me to this replenishing well of balance and wholeness. It wasn’t all pleasant. I recognized that part of the process of receiving involves allowing whatever arrives in the moment to be seen, experienced and then released. As space opened and softened inside, I was able to receive whatever arrived with the understanding that there is room for everything in the vastness and minuteness of the web of inter-being.
Home now, the world as chaotic as ever, I sit on my deck making space to breath in, feeling the air that breathes everything and though I don’t understand it all, I know it is unfolding exactly as it should.
Maeve has practiced and studied meditation and mindfulness since 1993 and graduated from Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s Community Dharma Leaders Program and Dedicated Practitioners Programs. She has taught meditation classes since 2003, co-founded and co-leads the Rocklin meditation group, and frequently offers dharma talks in Auburn and Nevada City. Maeve also recently retired from a 35 year psychotherapy practice using mind/body awareness as a guiding principle in her work with individuals.
Photo by Steve Solinsky
Steve is a longtime Mountain Streamer, Nevada City artist photographer, and previous partner in the Mowen Solinsky Gallery. He likes to share insights into this integral aspect of being human through imagery and words.
by Barbara Tandy
her nose nudging my palm,
her tail twitching,
my arm curled around her spine,
her purr, my breath,
my cheek on her flank,
her small heart beating,
her small skull butting my hand—
what comfort from her presence,
fur against skin,
her artless pleasure,
her simple trust,
here together by some quirk of fate,
two creatures of this planet
somehow in communion—
For a moment, just this.
Barbara enjoys researching word—and name—origins, and occasionally gathers a few syllables into something approaching poetry.
by Perissa Busick
by the small purple flower
between the crack
in the sidewalk.
Reaching for the light
as the golden sun
into the pond
and the hawk
With deep gratitude to the world for all the beauty and wonder it offers.
Perissa is a retired Marriage and Family Therapist living outside of Nevada City. She loves the natural world, especially trees.
JUST BEING THE GREAT BLUE HERON
by Cassandra Wahlstrom
Naked Quietly Alone
Cover of Leaves Tall Trees Bamboo
Morning Outdoor Creekside Hot Tub Bathe
Above Tall Tree Branch Dark Oval Shape Large
The Great Blue Heron Sighting
Branch-Like Yard Long Legs Standing
Footlong Bill Closed Folded
Long S-Curve Neck Tucked
Down Breast Feathers Pale
Hearing Sound Soft Clicking So Close
Long Bill Grooming Steely Blue Flight Feathers
Lithe Neck Reaching Over Around
Seeing Bright Round Yellow Eye
Invisible Still Attention Intense
Look Away Impossible
Predator-Prey Not See-Seen
Scratching Neck Long Toe Standing One Leg
Scruffing White Top Head Feathers
Great Beak Yawning Wide
Being Bathing Grooming
Time Flowing Bath Water Cooling
Wishing Drama Great Wings
Considering Spectacle Flight
Patient Present Intimate Presence
Seeing Eyes Powerful
Long Line Subtle Patterns Supple Neck Lengthy
Top Feathers Lacy Texture
Great Wings Folded Leading Edges Subtle Hue Coral
Standing Profile Effortlessly Balancing Tall Leg
Holding Branch Long Toes Three Plus One
Enchantment Indonesian Dancer's Grace
Watching Great Wings Open Great Ease
Mastery Movement Astounding Dimensional
Flight Over Water Above Trees
Gone View Vast Open Free
Infinite Beauty Vision Awesome
Changing Natural Way Time
Cassandra is a long-time member of the Sangha that John Travis started years ago which now includes many participants at the wonderful and beautiful Mountain Stream Meditation Center. It is very rewarding to participate and be a part of the meditation group now gathered there, holding the feeling of peace and well-being.
ALL THE HEMISPHERES
Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses stretch out
Like a welcome season
Onto meadows shores and hills.
Change rooms in your mind for a day.
All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside the equator of your heart.
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide
Into the great circle of the heart.