The Ghost of Lost Attention

I’m back in the so-called “real world” after a weeklong meditation retreat at Sanshin Zen Temple. And what would sesshin be without at least a poem to show for it! {smile} Clearly this particular one was inspired by my having slept in a tent on the temple grounds all week long – something that made this particular rohatsu sesshin of a decidedly different quality than all of the others that I’ve sat. In addition to the obvious Zen influence, you might also see the influence of a beautiful quote by Catherine of Siena that I stumbled across not too long ago: “Every step of the way to heaven is heaven.” I love this quote for its obvious grasp, albeit from a Christian perspective, of the non-dual nature of reality – something that is without question when considering the Buddhist concept of shunyata, or emptiness. Also present is the influence of the Quaker propensity for speaking of “that of God in everyone.” I hope you enjoy the poem!

The Ghost of Lost Attention

If I were a ghost
I’d take up quarters in an old stone lantern
Beside a monastery walkway
Between the zendo and the dining hall.
And from time to time as monks passed by
All worn and weary from their zazen
I’d point them to the faintest hint of morning sunlight
On a dark and foggy morning,
Or to a mushroom sprouting in winter
From the hollow of a rotting stump,
Or to the frost-ringed crescent moon
Hovering in infinite blackness,
That they might never doubt their path.

And if I were a ghost
I’d swirl amongst the rocks of a cairn marking a mountain trail
Leading to a lonely stupa holding some old sage’s bones.
I'd lift the hearts of pilgrims,
And encourage them in their rest,
That they will surely know the mind of that old sage and more
If they but come to know
That every step into the thinning air
Is the very home they seek.

Yes, and if I were a ghost
I’d hide between the pages of the holy books
To rise up and whisper in the reader’s ear
That truth lies far beyond those many fingers
Pointing to the moon.
It’s deep within and everywhere.
It’s only time is now.
It’s the Buddha that dwells in everything.
It’s that of God in everyone.

Call me the ghost of lost attention.
For surely all our ills arise from having lost it along the way.
The miracle is blossoming all around us,
Welcoming us back into its fold,
If we would only pay attention.
I’ll be the ghost of lost attention.

Copyright 2015 by Mark Frank


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