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Raise the Sword, Swing the Sword

Yanking on two corners, in one motion, the star quilt unfurled in the sky and settled around my shoulders as the air breathed out of its soft light blue, white polka-dotted belly. I took my seat on the cushion in the snow on the Abenaki forest floor. The coolness woke-up my nostrils and I could feel winter's damp awareness from inside my shell.


Bowing I lit the candle that already froze into a perfect spot for itself in the snow. After a few breaths and some loud cracks in the tall white pines standing guard, I offered incense. I rung the bell the three times from inside all my warm layers, a fleecy hoodie, the quilt sewn by a Lakota unhchi (grandma) and the maroon rakusu I sewed.


These days I'm sitting a lot with the Patriarch Simha. I weep in grief often. Simha got his head cut off by the king where he was because a couple pranksters dressed as Buddhists caused serious trouble with the kingdom. The king was also Buddhist.


I weep for them both.


So many mysteries. I've been sitting with the kings perspective lately. This brought up many questions. Who raises up the sword? Who swings it?


I've made some big life decisions lately so I made this a real practice.


Lately I can tell when the 'me' is doing the swinging. When I see that the worry or attachment to a belief has been driving my thoughts and actions, I realize it feels like I've been holding my breath. At first it was a startling realization.


With that came the recognition when the moment is breathing and I'm breathing. It's just one breathing, inner and outer fades away somehow, but, is still there too. It feels like I'm in zazen. It's a sort of focus on the breathing but letting go of the focus. That's when the absolute 'I' is doing the raising of the sword and the swinging. Maybe more accurate is the absolute 'I' and the relative world 'me' are simultaneously doing the raising and the swinging.


If I conceptual that, forget it. It's like practice. It practices me really. If I try to let go or remember any of this bunk I'm typing, I'm just holding my breath again. Breathing is letting go of everything. It takes a lot of courage and faith.


I practice this when I am with the camera. I can breathe deeply and let the breath out very very slowly as I raise the camera to my eye. I can breathe as I 'see again' what is through the lens. I can breathe as I watch the light change and the forms move but also as I let out my breath very very slowly I can also let go of the concepts of forms and light and movement. I can let go of the concept of self and other. I can let go of the concept of good or bad art. And there is the world, there is me as one breathing.


The wick burned down and snuffed out in the center of the frozen wax. Darkness had begun to fall. I bowed and rang the bell. Me and the pine trees and the ice crystals all walked back to my house across the train tracks.

Who does the doing?


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