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December 29, 2020

Missing the Forest For The Trees

by Seijaku Roshi

A Song of Hope

By Charles Bertram Johnson

Day is at the gate,
    I am risen late;
Clouds laze in the air,
    Clouds sleep on the grass;
I have song to spare
    Till the shadows pass.
Day is at the noon,
    No thread of bow or moon;
Rain is in the air,
    Drenched and limp the grass;
I have song to spare
    Till the shadows pass.
Day is at the close,
    Faith no logic knows;
Rain-clouds blur the air,
    All the world is dun;
I have song to spare
    Till to-morrow’s sun.

Reflection

Our lives these days for at least the past few centuries but mostly the last year, have become so entangled with the day-to-day challenges we find ourselves willingly or perhaps not so willingly to have to meet. The dictionary defines “Missing the Forest For The Trees” : “to not understand or appreciate a larger situation, problem, etc., because one is considering only a few parts of it.” While having an awareness of the “details” in our daily lives attending to the mundane with full awareness, is part of the spiritual practices, balancing our awareness between the day-to-day challenges and the experience that leaves us with at times and “The Larger Reality” is the heart of the spiritual practices.

When I was diagnosed with cancer in January 2018, my “experience” of myself and my place in the universe shrank almost immediately. Part of my own spiritual work I had ahead of me and continue to have everyday, compounded by the arrival of COVID19, was to learn to “see through” the immediate experience in order see the “View” I had most of my life which kept me connected with “What Really Matters”. I was caught up then and need to be really mindful of it even now with the conundrum of — “Missing the Forest For The Trees”.

While every tree in the forest matters, our work is to learn to balance the time we give to the mundane and that quality of that time and, what I refer to as the “Greater Reality”

What Matters, Really Matters?

Tragedy has a way of waking us up to the answer to the question, “What Matters?” but often time proves inadequate in sustaining our realization. This is where the “spiritual practices” are vital along with, “a code for living” “that you must live by”.

Most of the time when you ask people how they are doing, the first thing they refer to is, “How they are feeling”. While feelings play an important role of our daily living as well as the bodies survival, I personally feel we have elevated there importance in modern society and a culture marked by hyper-individualism to dangerous levels.

When you have cancer you learn that feelings are important to the degree that they help you in knowing what the body needs to protect itself. It is to this degree I feel that, “Personal feelings” are to be understood and acted on skillfully and appropriately. Or like my first primary medical doctor use to always remind me, “Finish the prescription.” As a “general barometer” of “how my life is” they can often prove to be both unreliable and an impediment.

His Holiness The Dalai Lama teaches that, “Pain is inevitable, Suffering is optional.” As a form of matter our bodies like everything else in the Universe are always in flux. When we feel something odd or different then the way we think we should be feeling, we immediately think, “There is something wrong with our lives.” Like a small child running and playing then suddenly tripping and falling scraping the knees and elbows, our mind immediately thinks, “Our world is coming to an end.” When all that is needed is immediately shown to us, which happens to also be “What Matters”. As a child we turned to someone we trusted, perhaps a parent or an older sibling or friend; we reached out, then suddenly the world felt like it was coming back together again.

Connection, matters! More than ever before in my life, these past three years and still counting, battling cancer crystalizes the for me 24/7. Gratitude for another day, not just another day, but a day again to spend with those I love and cherish; my Daughter; my remaining Family; my Fellow Monks and Community, and all the friends and supporters who surround me with their unique perfections and imperfections, which feed and help me heal day-by-day. Some of whom I may never see, yet I know that in a moment of “tripping and falling” they will be there.

Connection or relationship with others is primary for human-beings and spiritual beings. Science again and again presents the evidence of how the power of “Right Relationship,” “Loving Relationships,” “Committed Relationships,” rooted in “Right Intention” and a genuine desire for the happiness and well-being of others, go farther than any medication ever can. And, as my first primary medical doctor reminded me often, take and “Finish the Prescription”.

The Prescription

A skillful life is one of a “Set of Priorities”.

You’ve heard the saying, “If you have you health, you have everything.” That’s about 99.9% correct. It’s alway that tiny subtle percentage which makes the difference. “If you have your health and people to share it with, you have everything.

Take care of your body.
Eat well.
Get plenty of rest.
Exercise when possible.
Expose yourself to as many opportunities to be as helpful as possible.
Laugh a lot.
Don’t underestimate the power of tears. Hopefully they will be happy tears as much as possible.
Say I Love You.
Say I Love You.
Say I Love you.
Never stop saying I love you.
Take nothing for granted.

When you fall, look up, and reach out. NEVER be embarrassed to fall. It’s a gateway to succeeding.
Ask for Help.
Accept Help.
Mop the floors.
Cut the carrots.
Be quiet when eating.
Listen.
You will hear their hearts beating.
La Familia. Whomever they are. All present at the dinner table are family.

Connect with someone, or someone’s, every day.

Make time to be alone and contemplate, meditate, pray.
This is where the ground for both gratitude which leads to strength and a reliable sense of connection is cultivated and nurtured.
What you think, the thought suddenly there, does not matter, not as much as on what thoughts you dwell on. The world you perceive and experience in your body-mind will always be a reflection of what you dwell on. This is why I mentioned earlier that, “Feelings” often prove unreliable and an impediment. Except sometimes…

Always remember the rule, — “Except Sometimes!”
Life is in continual flux, and infinite process, without an end.
Never make any conclusions.
Just Live Your Life, that’s the one in front of you.
Stop running away.
Drop Anchor.
Lend a hand.
Share your heart.
Forget if it’s safe or not. Just do it. A Life Worth Living is One Always Risking.

A Prayer for You

A Golden Day
By Paul Laurence Dunbar

I found you and I lost you, 
   All on a gleaming day. 
The day was filled with sunshine,
   And the land was full of May. 
A golden bird was singing
   Its melody divine, 
I found you and I loved you, 
   And all the world was mine. 
I found you and I lost you, 
   All on a golden day, 
But when I dream of you, dear, 
   It is always brimming May.

I Love You,
Seijaku Roshi

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