Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Standing with an awakened mind.

"Wakefulness is the Way to life, the fool sleeps as if he were already dead, but the Master is awake and he lives forever. He watches, He is clear. How happy He is for he sees wakefulness is life. How happy He is for He has followed the Way of the Awakened." 
                  The Dhammapada

Sometime in 1984 I was employed as a sweeper and housekeeping for a company involved in servicing ships in the San Francisco Bay Area. H&H Ship Services was also involved in Underground Storage Tanks (UST) disposal which was at the time a recent activity that the company had undertaken. It was a 'fly by night', operation some had called it as it was a trial and error project that was till in the making and which a week before i had joined the company had claimed the life of the yard supervisor who was also the tank cutter. Tank cutting was an still is one of the most hazardous if not dangerous job I have had the opportunity to be involved in and it was carried out by those who lacked education, living on the edge and were in need. I was one of them as I had just been booted out of the Zen Buddhist Monastery  and living practically on the streets of San Francisco.
I must have written this episode of my life several times in the past, however for the sake of sharing a point I am trying to make I am hereby sharing it again. I was hired through my friend Joshua Bowes introduction to his friend whose father was the owner of H&H. Joshua was a drug dealer and was also very interested in Buddhist practice that led us to meet and became close friends at Green Gulch Farm where he and his girlfriend would visit every weekend. Josh had given me the temporary shelter I needed when I left the Gulch; I was homeless then. I slept under the table on the floor in his kitchen, the only space available in his converted garage apartment where he lived with his girlfriend. The basement was located off Haight Street on Ashbury not too far from the Golden Gate Park. I was at the nadir of my life and Josh's kindness had saved me from it becoming worse.
Josh instructed me to meet his friend, Will Harris for a job at his office one morning and I found my way to the office on 20 China Basin,off 3rd Street across from to Tick Tock Restaurant on third. I was met by a black man, bald headed and thick glasses in blue coveralls at seven in the morning. After giving the me the third degree of sizing me up he directed me to the next office of Mr. William Harris Sr. as Will Harris Jr. was not available. I stepped into the office after knocking on the entrance as there was no door and was met by the biggest red neck I have ever seen and I mean it literally as that was what was before me. The huge figure sat with his head bowed in between his knees over a waste basket, letter cutter in his hand and a huge cigar in his mouth. Head did not look up from what he was doing all the while he was talking to me as though I was not even there. On his desk i notice a half filled glass of whiskey or brandy and on the wall was hung a picture of him shaking the hand of President Richard Nixon like they were buddies.    
I explained my intention of being there and that was to meet his son for a job at his home where his yard had needed taken care of. "So you want to clean my son's yard eh!" he said from between his cigar chewing teeth still slitting letter with the knife. " Yes, Sir, I would be glad to after i have done your son's." I replied. " You think you can clean my yard, do you?" He asked, like he was challenging me than offering me a job. The little voice in me whispered, " If you let this man shut the door in your face you will have a very hard time looking for work from here on." " Yes I can and will do a good job of it too!" I told him to his back. For the first time he looked up from his letter opening and looked at me and he pointed out the window just above his head, "Look out there, that's my yard, if you can clean it come to work tomorrow morning at the same time." I did and thus began my employment at H&H Ship Services which later also included H&H Environmental Services.
 In less than a year I became the Yard Superintendent answerable only to the President of the Company. In a year i had helped to turn a company on the verge of being shut down into a multi-million dollar enterprise making a profit of two million dollars in the first year of my employment. Not wanting to go into details of what happened in the process, suffice to say that I turned what was potentially a bad situation for me in all sense into a very productive and exciting experience and all because I was somewhat 'awakened' by my experience with the Zen Buddhist practice at the Monastery. Had I been asleep at the moment of this meeting I would have faltered and left the place with my tail between my legs, but instead i saw the challenge and the need to be standing from my own 'Dharma Position' or my ground of Being which shook 'Big Foot' as he was known to the employees, out of his alcoholic stupor.

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