by Andy Jiyo
ORDER OF SERVICE
Skipping Stones on a Summer’s Day
(July 31st, 2011)
— GATHERING —
PRELUDE Country By Keith Jarrett
Dan Dance, piano
WELCOME Dianne Link, Worship Associate
Walk (but softly)
Through your life …
For there are memories
In the stones.
*HYMN #86 ‘Blessed Spirit of My Life
A monk came to a village where the people were starving, took out a stone, and sat down in the village square –
Would that I had a kettle and fire, with some water to boil
And the townsfolk rushed to find a large cauldron, and building a fire, brought the water to a boil for the monk. Dropping his stone in the cauldron, he said –
Would that I had some garlic
And the townsfolk rushed to find some garlic, and (for extra measure) also found some herbs they had hidden away. Then the monk pondered –
Would that I had some carrots
And the townsfolk rushed to find some carrots, and (for extra measure) many other things besides. And when the monk proclaimed his soup boiled to perfection, he invited them all to sit and eat with him. And they laughed and they ate until all that was left –
Was the stone.
European Folktale (adapted)
— CENTERING —
SILENCE FOR REFLECTION
*HYMN 123 “Spirit of Life”
READING ‘Three Cases of Stones’ Zen, (traditional koans)
I have three Cases (or Koans) for you today:
The FIRST Case
The Stone Mind
Hogen, a Chinese Zen teacher, lived alone in a small temple in the country. One day four traveling monks appeared and asked if they might make a fire in his yard to warm themselves.
While they were building the fire, Hogen heard them arguing about subjectivity and objectivity. He joined them and said: “There is a big stone. Do you consider it to be inside or outside your mind?”
One of the monks replied: “From the Buddhist viewpoint everything is an objectification of mind, so I would say that the stone is inside my mind.”
“Your head must feel very heavy,” observed Hogen, “if you are carrying around a stone like that in your mind.”
The SECOND Case
In Shobogenzo Ikka-no-myoju (One Bright Pearl). Dogen Zenji introduces a story of a Chinese Zen master, Gensha Shibi (Xuansha Shibei, 835-908). One day Gensha, while he was still a student, left his teacher’s monastery to visit other masters. Shortly after he left the temple, he stubbed his toe on a stone. As it bled with terrible pain, he suddenly had a deep insight and said, ” This body is not existent. Where does this pain come from?”
The THIRD Case
Santoka’s Stone Koan:
This is the stone,
drenched with rain
that points the way.
So ends the Reading.
MUSIC FOR CONTEMPLATION
‘Stones’ (Neil Diamond), Andy Agacki soloist, Dan Dance Piano
REFLECTIONS ‘Skipping Stones on a Summer’s Day’ Jiyo Andy Agacki
I’ve walked this path (this road) of life with SHOES on (well … maybe SLIPPERS sometimes) for I learned quick (REAL quick) in my short (SO short) time of innocence and trust that treading down this Way with bare feet is PAINful (TOO painful) to bear without some sort of proTECtion from the vicissitudes of this tangled geography we call life that we have laid out behind us and grows (ever GROWS) and multiples unknown out there aHEAD for us to walk into and experience (COPE with) in the best way possible and I have learned (come to find OUT) that I like a THINness between my feet and this rough ground I so adVENturously dance over for (yes) I DO have to proTECT these skin bag collections of tarsal, metatarsal and phalange from the sharpness of the experience but not so much that I cannot READ each and every stone I SO momenTARily rest upon or bump into as I walk this path (this road) of life … because each one of those stones (those vicissitudes) is a story we need to pay atTENtion to …. Listen to …. learn from …
Thank you for coming here today … this WONDERFUL today!
JUST to hear me talk about stones!
Mmmm …. Hmph!
They’ve certainly been around a long time … and so numerous as to be inconsequential …. un-important (unless they’re worth something).
We trip over them, step on them, pick them up, dig them up, throw them, skip them, build with them, worship them …
You know …. Saying it like that, unconsciously, gets me to thinking …
Whenever I went on Silent Retreat up in Door County, I’d find some stones that didn’t seem to be in the right place, fossilized coral and shells all by themselves in the middle of a field … a huge, dry field. And more, finding them there would bring back memories of seeing those same carapaces of evolutionary memories in Plymouth, Wisconsin (where I spent my teen years) … even further away from any kind of water. Those old fossils were, indeed, deep Earth memories laid bare by some farmer’s tilling.
Farmers, I observe, have a certain kind of ‘relationship’ with stones. Stones have a stubborn disposition to want to stay where they are; quite sedentary creatures, in fact. Then a farmer comes along with his plow and SMACK, an argument ensues. Stone won’t budge from their position; but the farmer needs to till that ground, and not lose his plow in the process. Hmph. Who wins the argument depends on the size and persistence of that old stone, and the persistence and ingenuity of the farmer, I’d say.
Say the farmer wins the argument (as they usually do nowadays): what happens to that obstinate embodiment of the Earth? It gets used … used as … part of the farmer’s house … part of the field’s boundary … a ‘marker’ of sort.
The important part here is that it gets used!
Have you ever walked into a stone like that … smack-dab in your way, from out of nowhere?
I’d say you have … most definitely … you have.
Remember that time (those times)
The he said, she said, you said times?
Oh … you knew you were right
Your argument was ‘rock-solid’
And you stood your ground …
But they … the other
Oh … they knew they were right
That their argument was ‘rock-solid’
And they stood their ground
And that ‘righteous’ stone
(That immovable stone between
You … and … them)
How you both
Shouted and shoved
That stone between you
Until it fell in a thud
A painful thud
On your hearts
That filled a void between you …
Maybe still lies … between you.
I’ve made those kinds of stones. Walked away … left them lying there … then carrying the weight of them around with me too long, far too long. Most times … I couldn’t bear the weight of it … the pain of it … and went back and apologized. Most times … not always. There are stones I carry in the pockets of the memories I wear that continue to scrape and cut me decades later.
Yet I have found that constantly reminded of my stupidity by these still sharp memories, I have found that this older heart has grown softer, my hearing better knows the first notes that begin the rumbling cacophony of contesting ego. I don’t always catch that growing dissonance quickly enough mind you, but I’m working on it. It’s just that, my mind doesn’t always pay attention to the melody of the moment … maybe a bit too much callous has grown over these many years. Don’t know … I just don’t know.
Stones play inside my head …
For there were soft September eves
Where I have slept deep in the wood
And they made my bed.
When I have ached for love
I could get none but stones.
As I envision it, this path we walk upon through our lives is littered with innumerable stones left over from those that have traveled before us. They are the memories … the stories of their lives. They are the markers of once lived moments.
I don’t know where you look when you walk. You must (of necessity) look ahead of you to see where you are going. But always(?) … do you always keep your eyes focused …. just …. ahead? Never mind the busy business streets downtown … it is quite an eerie sight to stand back and watch so many eyes vaguely focused only forward, only enough to avoid walking into each other … and maybe too, for fear of walking into … and sharing … their stories. Never mind that … what I want you to do is think about all those other times you walk unencumbered by crowds, traffic …. busyness.
I must confess that, as I walk any distance through a building, down a street …. I look down a lot. I always have. I remember walking through Southgate with my mother, I was quite young at the time … she was holding my hand as we walked through Gimbels … and I saw four dollars laying on the ground! Four dollars! I was rich! I looked around at all the people just stepping on the bills, so I picked them up and showed them to my mother, ‘Hey mom’, I burst out, ‘Look what I found’! ‘My, my’, she said (or something like it), ‘You’re ALWAYS finding money, aren’t you? Well lucky you’! I remember walking over to a Gimbel’s employee (my mother frantically running after me) and telling her about what I found … did she drop it, I asked? ‘No, no’, she said, ‘It’s probably been there for a while, though I didn’t see it! But thanks for being honest. Why don’t you just keep the money and buy something you like. No sense trying to find out whose it is.’ ‘Boy’, she said, ‘I wish I was so lucky’! Before another word was said, my mother took the money from my hand and led me down an aisle. My lucky find turned into a new … pair … of … pants. Corduroy pants! We always called those kinds of pants ‘brrrrut, brrrut’ pants for the sound they made when you walked. I HATED THOSE PANTS!! Do you know how many comic books I could have gotten? At a dime apiece I COULD HAVE BEEN SWIMMING IN SUPERMAN COMICS!!
Most times, I’ve found, that what I have so excitedly found by luck, never quite turns out to be what I envisioned. As I look back on the incident though, I am forced to understand that my mother did do the ‘right’ thing …. Those darn corduroys lasted an annoyingly … loud … long time!!
And what of those stones that drop down in front of you without warning, that plow into your existence like some huge meteorite or new formed mountain jutting up cataclysmically in front of you … at once shattering and cratering your life to a fiery stop? Losing your home, your job? A death?
I know the look of this landscape … intimately. I know the sight of the smoking, charred stone girders that once held up my hopes and dreams. I know the distance in the grayness suddenly thrown out before me, the aloneness of the cold breath that blows unimpeded over the heart.
I’ve often remarked that, if this past-life/Karma thing is true, I must have been one real, mean old son-of-a real, mean old couple in a previous life. Maybe several times!
And do not believe, ever, that I meet every adversity with a stoic silence, or even a solid determination to move on. I can get depressed, mightily depressed. I’ve shivered in the cold loneliness of those devastated landscapes. I’ve ranted and raved about the ‘injustice’ of it all; the, ‘Why me? Why now’? I’ve cursed and swore a blue streak into the pit of my despair until it echoed back to me out of the void until my heart was purged of its anger and its pain. I allow myself that time for grief … without excuse … without blame, of others or of myself … time only for the raw truth to show itself uncovered of good or bad, end or beginning, without casting stones.
It is my heart that moves me to do this. It is my heart that refuses to turn to stone.
A good friend of mine, the Rev. Michael Dowd (he’s spoken here a couple of times) had a malignant tumor in his spleen. Amazingly, he posted videos before, during, and after, his surgery … through his subsequent chemotherapy. He had to ‘Walk the talk’, he said. What an inspiration! He shared the stones that had been so rudely cast against him … played them out in front of us with a courage unfazed by where it would all lead … Will I do as well (so close to death)? Hmmmm … even with all my Buddhist ‘rhetoric’ … I don’t know. I just don’t know!
I have stood lost,
All alone and broken-hearted
When the stones softly said,
Is worth the coming home’.
If you ever find yourself against that same rock, go ahead, curse and swear a blue streak … it’s a great stress reliever. And then … when you’re done with it …. Look down … right where you are …
Ol’ Ram Dass
(That Zen Hippie)
He said, ‘Be here , now’.
Oh, that’s wise,
That’s so mysterious
GOT to be true …
But what does that mean?
(That Dharma Grandma’)
She said, ‘Start from where you are’,
That makes a little more sense …
Gets the rusty brain gears turnin’
Maybe leadin’ to
Some kind of real understandin’
A real resolution to my dilemma
It’s just …. It’s just …
I don’t know ….
I just don’t know.
I just look down whenever I come to a stop, a rest. I don’t look up at the sky as much …. Don’t find many answers up there. Trip on things too much when I look up. Tripped over Dena once, me looking up at the full moon and WHAP! Full body contact! The full moon might be a beautifully philosophical ponderance, but my fault was not paying attention to the reality right there in front of me. It was a nice ‘wake-up call’. I talked to Dena about that incident a couple of weeks ago, needing to reiterate my apology … not too swift a thing to run into one of your minister’s like that, you know? I told her that the recollection of that Kensho moment ‘awakened’ me to pay attention to the things right there in front of me; down here, right now.
She said, ‘I don’t remember that happening. Was that after one of my Interplay classes’?
‘Uh … yes’, I said.
Sooo much for apologies …. I apologized (again) anyway.
Back to Baba Ram Dass and Pema Chodron’s here and now.
I know what they mean when they say the words ‘here’ and ‘now’, and I know it’s more than just the everyday use of the words themselves. Let me pause a bit in my ‘stone gathering’ to examine that … it’s pertinent to my discussion.
There are some double meanings to those words: ‘here’ can mean … well … here … the very spot I’m standing on. It can also mean, ‘Here’, I’m giving this to you … from here. ‘Now’ can mean … well … now … this very point in time. It can also mean, ‘NOW’, a command … I want it done NOW. I know those meanings, but (as I mentioned previously) it’s more than just the everyday use of the words themselves. And it’s those meanings that I don’t know … and (I’d venture to say) neither do Ram Dass or Pema!
With that out of the way, then, let’s continue our ‘stone gathering’:
There is a time for planting stones
A time for harvest gathering
For every prayer ever prayed
Earlier this Summer (the end of June I find, as I searched for the post on Facebook) I found two stones that particularly grabbed my attention.
Of one stone I wrote:
Crescent moon and stars –
This stone sitting on my desk
Holding them all still.
This stone (and I have it here) was found in a small ‘herd’ of stones ‘lolling about’ the beach in Shorewood. It … spoke … to me, I’d say, out of the myriad stories rolling out from the sand. I know it’s an illusion: the seeming crescent moon and stars that appear on its surface are only what my mind makes of the appearance of shells on its worn surface.
Pffft! I am a poet (of sorts … small ‘p’)! I hold existence in the palm of my hand … past memories … the present enfolding.
Of another stone I found and posted (yes … I have it here, too) I wrote:
On a sandy beach
Sharp shell pieces and dead fish …
Oh! A heart-shaped stone!.
What a wonderful thing to find! There I was, walking through the sharp landscape of my life with my love … my wife … and the Earth … in her compassion, threw her love out to me! What a wonderful thing to find … what a wonderful comfort!!!!
Each stone, each piece of the Earth’s bones we step on, kick, throw and trip over is a history … a memory … even an emotion.
Igneous rock is an anger spewed forth in rage and pain.
Sedimentary rock is a gentle settling of memories.
Metamorphic rock is … sometimes a memory changed under the pressure of time’s myriad remembrances … sometimes an ‘inexactness’ of memory too old to recall clearly.
That, of course, is not exactly what I learned about the three basic rock types in my college geology course. I firmly believe in science … BUT ……………….
I believe, like us, the Earth is alive!
And I believe, like the Earth, we cast our own stones!
I’ve always done it … done it as far back as I can remember …. This lookin’ down around in piles of stone and pebbles on a beach … in a country field … seein’ those that catch my eye, engage my mind. Oh, I don’t know what that something is that singles itself out among the crowd … sometimes, sure it’s the uncommon agate or sparkling quartz …. Maybe a nice worn piece of glass,,,, something that might have once been a beautiful crystal glass now worn down by the rolling of time and hardship … more usually though, I catch the fossils … those remnants of living existence frozen in a time long before these fingers (these eyes) met up with their stony carapace …. But then …. Ah! ….. Then there are the nice smooth, those thin, round stones … Oh, but aren’t those a treasure? Those I pick up in my fingers. Turn ‘em ‘round and ‘round in my palm … caressing their stories until …. Well … until it’s time to let go …. And then we walk down to the waters’ edge and I bend slightly to my pitching arm … bend into the throw … only letting go with a measured flick of the wrist. And sometimes …. Sometimes … they skip along the surface of the water more times than I can count … can see … and then I imagine them goin’ clear across … over to Michigan … bouncin’ on that watery landscape, then lyin’ there on that other shore …. Just waitin’ …. Waitin’ to let their stories out again … imagine that …. Imagine THAT!
Domo arigato – Thank you very much!
OFFERING AND OFFERTORY James by Pat Metheny
Dan Dance, piano
*HYMN #346 ‘Come, Sing a Song With Me’
There are dreams and failures
Fused in the stones
That lay strewn about our pathways …
In this life …
This game of stones …
Strewn across the pathway
Of our lives
The countless pebbles lay –
Truths and lies …
(That stutterer …
That ‘r’less fumbler)
Until naught but profundities …
Did spill from his lips.
I only pick up the odd stone –
The odd memory,
And skip it across
The waves of my life.
Try it some Summer’s day
And imagine …
Stones would play inside her head
And where she slept,
They made her bed
And she would ache
For love and get but stones
La la la la la la la la la
A good day’s comin’
And I’ll be there to let the sun in
And bein’ lost
Is worth the comin’ home
La la la la la la la la la on stones
You and me, a time for planting
You and me, a harvest granting
Every prayer ever prayed
For just two wildflowers that grow
La la la la la la la la la on stones
*EXTINGUISHING THE FLAMING CHALICE
*POSTLUDE Summertime by George Gershwin
Dan Dance, piano
Andy Jiyo is part of the Lay Minister program with the Bright Dawn Way of Oneness Sangha. To learn more about Bright Dawn Way of Oneness please visit us here.