“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”- unless your furnace breaks down.

Currently my world has TWO dead furnaces that need replacing. I am wading through a lot of information, and internet reviews, and bids from installers. I have found the most important element in a project of this nature is to have someone that you trust giving you advice. Unfortunately I’ve been a landlord so long that some of my favorite service people have retired and even died. My most trusted furnace installer and repairman was a guy who was completely honest and helpful, he retired about 8 years ago. Since then I have dealt with 2 furnace companies that I unfortunately discovered were inept, and now I am out in the furnace buying wilderness alone. Hopefully one of the competing heating contractors will turn out to be someone I can have a long term relationship with, cause I really don’t know much about furnaces.

With a lot of money at stake, and a feeling of being inadequately informed, I am experiencing a lot of tension and discomfort in the body. Zen practice is about experiencing these physical sensations without trying to fix them. As Joko often said, “difficult, but not impossible.”


Stay In Business: extend Compassion in ALL directions – Part II

“Idiot compassion is a great expression, which was actually coined by Trungpa Rinpoche. It refers to something we all do a lot of, and call it compassion. In some ways, it’s what’s called enabling. It’s the general tendency to give people what they want because you can’t bear to see them suffering. Basically, you’re not giving them what they need. You’re trying to get away from your feeling of “I can’t bear to see them suffering.” In other words, you’re doing it for yourself. You’re not really doing it for them.” – Pema Chodren

I may not be using the perfect definition for idiot compassion as Trungpa saw it, but my frequent experience of idiot compassion involves compassion flowing in only one direction. I imagine we have all had an experience, while driving, where a person/car in front of you stops in a very unexpected way, in order to let someone cross the street. They are being very caring for the person who wants to cross, which is very nice, but they are completely ignorant of the fact that they just came very close to being rear-ended, which would certainly obliterate any benefit they may have facilitated. If fact, they might be actually putting the pedestrian in danger. Recently, in Portland, someone was struck and killed when a person on a four lane street stopped for them. A car in another lane could not see why the driver had stopped, and they struck and killed the person crossing.

Compassion in this case is extending “in front” of them only, and not behind, or to the sides, therefore a good illustration of how we can try to extend Compassion in ALL directions. It’s not always easy to do.


Mold & “Don’t Know Mind”

“I hope you only go straight, don’t know, which is clear like space, soon find your correct way, truth, and correct life, get enlightenment, and save all beings from suffering.”  – Korean Zen Teacher Seung Sahn

Today I’m trying my best to stay with “don’t know mind.” My tenant called and reported that his roommate has mold in the corner of his bedroom. I DON’T KNOW if it’s really mold and I DON’T KNOW what I’m going to do about it if it IS !

12/7/11- Today I know a little more. It is mold, and I think I have found the cause. The neighbor planted a long line of trees along the fence row a few years ago and without my noticing they have spread wide and enveloped that side of the house in perpetual shade.  Also, once on the roof I found that the gutters were as full as they could be, so I think the cause of the mold was chronic dampness from constant shading, and gutters that are over flowing and not draining properly. Possibly some dampness from gutters overflowing towards the house. Yesterday I pruned a huge number of branches away and today is gutter cleaning day. I hope this solves the problem (along with some scrubbing with bleach). I also hope I don’t fall off the roof ! ( note to friends > it’s a very shallow pitch)

12/8/11 – I don’t want to make the same mistake as George W. Bush, but I think I can say that at least Plan A has been accomplished. My very kind tenants washed the walls themselves and removed the mold, which came off easily with bleach and water. Now we will wait and see if it returns. If not, I’ll know it’s fixed, if it returns I may have to turn to a professional.




The Wonderful World of Plumbing

There are Bodhisattvas everywhere. Yesterday I walked into my local plumbing store ( the one that gives good advice ) with a few drawings and high hopes. I was replacing a leaking drain line in one of our two 100 year old houses. There I found a couple women behind the counter that I was reluctant to talk to, because neither one looked like an experienced plumber. It turned out that the younger gal, 6 months pregnant,  had actually worked as a plumber for 7 years. I was skeptical until she uttered the magic word, Oakum. No one but a real plumber would know what that weird old stuff that they once used to help seal cast iron pipe joints was called. Plumbers used it in conjunction with molten lead that they poured into a fitting.  She went on to give me some good advice on how to bond the new ABS drain line to the ancient cast iron stuff that may have been installed by a guy who rode a horse to work.

One great thing I’ve learned over the years is that people with knowledge like to share that knowledge. I’ve had plumbers teach me about plumbing, electricians teach me how to install a GFI outlet, and appliance repair man  help me repair a busted clothes dryer. I have found that a lot of this stuff is pretty easy to fix if you know how a bolt and a nut go together, and ABS plastic plumbing is just like cutting and pasting on your computer.

I think this tendency is a sign of what Chogyam Trungpa called “basic goodness.” I think everyone likes to help….

“Buddhist psychology is based on the notion that human beings are fundamentally good. Their most basic qualities are positive ones: openness, intelligence and warmth. Of course this viewpoint has its philosophical and psychological expressions in concepts such as bodhichitta (awakened mind), and tathagatagarbha (birthplace of the enlightened ones). But this idea is ultimately rooted in experience—the experience of goodness and worthiness in oneself and others. This understanding is very fundamental and is the basic inspiration for Buddhist practice and Buddhist psychology.” – Chogyam Trungpa