Showing posts from March, 2006

Change the World Today!

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Today is a day you can use to change the world. Rita, a member of my Zen Living Yahoogroups list, my Yahoo 360 friend, and Child Protective Services Worker in California, invited everyone to do something today to Change the World.

I am passing this invitation along.

Each one of us, doing something good, can and will make a difference. Small as a smile and invitation to talk, large as picking up trash along a pathway, each act of kindness to self and others creates goodness in the world.

Now, go change the world.

Be well.


With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

In Zen we aspire to leave no trace. That is, to live without self-interest. How do we attain this? We behave for the benefit of others. And if we are acting for others fully and completely then there is no room for anything else.

The value that we place on ourselves should only be the value needed to sustain us for our work. We eat so that we may benefit others. We practice Zazen so that we might benefit others. We clothe ourselves to benefit others. We are in relationship to benefit others. With this right understanding, all other paths of the Noble way unfold with ease and genuineness.

In the absence of self, what is there? Compassion. Our practice is to make compassion a living manifestation in the universe. We do this through continuous , moment-to-moment generosity, morality, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom.

We realise that we are the other shore and that we attained the other shore and that we have never left.

Be well.

Being Present

This morning we awake to the cries of Baby Tate and a telephone call from New Mexico. Tate is grumpy, but always willing to giggle for a moment when Pappy Zen makes odd faces. Susanne, our neighbor at the Refuge, called to say that my old friend, Shaker, was collicking last night. A veterinarian visit later suggested she was OK. This morning Susanne says she is lethargic.

To be alive means to feel. Sometimes we feel good, sometimes not. Sometimes we are happy, sometimes not. To be awake means that when we are hot, we are fully hot; when we are cold, we are fully cold. Enlightenment does nothing to make what is there better. It is what we call being one with the universe and the universe is a vast container. Being one with being sick means fully being sick, present with our sickness, completely. A thought of escaping our sickness leads us to suffering as it adds duality to our consciousness, separating us from ourselves, adding a discernment.

When someone we care for is suffering, …


With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

In the morning we will be leaving for Memphis to visit our daughter, not-son-in-law, and grandbaby Tate. We are looking forward to the drive and the visit. I will post from Memphis when I get there.

Driving long distance is sort of like running long distance: an integration of things occurs as we settle into the drive. At first its all a flutter, did we pack this, forget that? But as the drive continues, just as with running, and sitting Zazen, a natural rhythm develops or settles in. This is our natural state when mind is not overly intruding. It is good practice.

Finding a way to make this naturalness a part of everything you do is the Third Pure Precept in action.

Be well.

Being a Buddha

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

When we sit Zazen we gather ourselves together, fold our legs, and sit down. Our breath comes together with our mind, our skin, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Mind rises and falls, dances a fast dance, then slow dance, sometimes no dance. There comes a moment of integration. Stillness. Once again things begin to stir, once more thought, once more feeling, taste, touch, and sound. Stillness, motion, no difference, no preference. When sitting, just sit.

This practice enables us to see clearly how we are buddhas in each moment. The moment we set aside our preferences, navigate according to our precepts, manifest the perfections, we are buddhas. This is so in the middle of choppy waters and calm waters; in the middle of stinking garbage and wonderful roses; when we are suffering and not suffering. Buddha means awake. Nothing more or less. Awake.

Living awake changes everything and changes nothing. Living awake means coffee is both coffee and not-co…

A Full Cup

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

There is a story about a scholar who visits an Old Zen Master to receive instruction. The Master pours tea into a cup for the scholar; full, the cup overflows until the scholar shouts "stop!"

Unless we are willing to empty ourselves of what we think we know, there can be no room for what presents itself in each moment. Zazen is like a slow leak.

Take your cup and go.

Be well.

Balancing Act

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

With so much going on outside in the world, it is easy to go there and get lost or caught up in the whirlwind. Our perception is that it is outside of us and is so important that we must do something. War, poverty, injustice, disease; these are awful things worthy of our attention and our energy.

Yet, in truth, these things are not out there, but inside of us. In our minds and our hearts. We respond with a disturbed body, we become ill. In such a condition we are not present for our friends and family. We are not fully there for our co-workers and employers.

These things are important. We should do what we can to ease suffering, stop violence, bring health to the ill. We should do so, however, with a healthy mind, a healthy body, and a wholesome heart. This requires us to establish boundaries, maintain these boundaries, and nurture those boundaries.

A boundary is a point where doing begins to hurt us.

Recognizing that there are limits to our pow…

Good Night and Good Luck

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

Yesterday we watched "Good Night and Good Luck" a film about Edward R. Murrow and the McCarthy era in the United States. It was well worth watching and I am glad we bought it so we can watch it again a few times over. George Clooney did a wonderful job. It is an eloquent film.

The film is quite a reminder of things. A reminder that fear can drive us to the brink of willingly giving up our freedoms and responsibilities in order to feel safe. A reminder that such fear can be very easily exploited. And a reminder that keeping vigilant and courageous has its costs.

Of course, we don't need to be reminded. We are in a similar era. Our fear and safely needs are being exploited on a daily basis. In this din of warnings, people tend to cower, acquiesce to the powers that be in order to be assured of their safety. While safety is not such a bad thing, being safe at the price of freedom is.

We must be diligent in two directions simultaneou…

Three Years

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

Please take a few minutes today and consider peace. This is the third anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. Peace happens when we become peace. To become peace means to become complete within ourselves and others. Our practice, Zazen, Kinhin, Samu, Oryoki: all are peacemaking practices. They are practices that teach us serenity in a flood of world activity.

When we sit, we sit. When we walk, we walk. When we work, we work. When we eat, we eat. Nothing special. Nothing added. We are serene reflection in motion.

To be at war is to be at conflict and to be angry, greedy, and deluded. Who wishes to walk that path?

Today, please take a small sign that simply reads "Peace." Go outside and stand.

Be well.

One Way or the Other?

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

Jeff, a faithful reader of my blog, quotes Warner-sensei and asks a question:

Society is offering us two options both of which are completely wrong. The hawks are wrong and the doves are wrong because both sides only want to see more conflict, more wars, more suffering. What's wrong with the hawks is far too clear to bother stating. But the doves cannot be happy unless there are hawks for them to fight against. The "peace movement" is only happy when there are wars to protest. They don't have the slightest interest in peace. ~ Brad Warner

So, Do you understand what he is talking about here? I'm not sure I get it..


Warner-sensei is pointing out a deep truth here in a way common among classical Zen Teachers. The truth is in neither one position or another, but in the fact that suffering arises when we cling to one position or another. True happiness comes when we cease seeking a…


With palms Together,
Good Morning Sangha,

This weekend will mark the third anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war. We will mark this with peace vigils throught the US. In our area, there are vigils planned in different locations:

In Las Cruces: 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM in the parking lot across from the Federal Courthouse.

In El Paso: 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM, at the San Jacinto Plaza, Mesa/Oregon and Main/Mills Sts.,Downtown El Paso. Contact Merlyn or Joe at <> for more information.

Peace does not come without effort. Peace is an active process. We must deliberately put down arms, we must deliberately attempt to find other ways to solve conflicts, address grievences, and correct wrongs. Adding violence just adds violence. It resolves nothing. Our government will continue to misbehave until we make it unacceptable by moral authority, electoral process, public opinion, and the weight of our votes.

I am not naive. I do not believe standing around on a corner will stop …

Encouraging Zazen

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

Zazen can be the foundation of our life. When we make it so, it is the ground we walk on, the support we have through the day, our greatest teacher, our stalwart companion. . What is it about this practice that makes it so?

Deciding to take a seat, gather oneself together, enfold one's hands to complete a circle, and place our attention on witnessing only, enables us.

It enables us to settle down. It enables us to pay attention to the inner workings of our lives. It enables us to see the interaction between the inner and outer workings of the universe. All without having to do anything about anything.

Over time a certain deep and abiding trust develops from this practice. A trust in the universal processes of living and dying. We learn that we can let go and everything will still exist. Me and you cease to have real meaning. We see that we create meaning, and in so doing we create our suffering.

All of these rise and fall in our awareness, a…

RE: [Zen] Book Summary: "Anger - Wisdom for Cooling the Flames" Thich Nhat Hanh

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

I wrote a short reply to a threaed on a email list I am on. I thought I would share it to this blog:

This is a most interesting thread, I feel. TNH's work is so large. He speaks so clearly and so directly and with great passion and compassion. I have divided his work into two piles: practice tips and sutra commentaries. The latter are most interesting and valuable, IMHO. The former, depending on their publishing date are useful to not useful: earlier work being much more useful, later work being more "fluff" as you say.

Here is the thing, though. It seems that fluff can be a good thing. At least to me at times. It reminds me that my critical mind should be more compassionate. It teaches me that simple is sometimes far more clear and helpful than complex walnut cracking koans. So, useful is such a relative term. There is a place in my world for both.

When angry, or deeply hurt, it does not help much to offer softness and tendernes…

Leaving Home

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

This morning there are clouds in the sky over the desert. Yesterday was another windy day. My hope is that this afternoon will be beautiful and sunny with a clear sky, but if it isn't, well it will be beautiful as it is and I will appreciate it.

Each day offers itself to us as a partner in our experience in this process of life. Our practice is to be open to this process and receive its teachings.

What does this really mean?

Partly it is about leaving home. This means leaving what we believe we know at our bed as we rise and enter the day. If we go through our day knowing then what are we learning? What sort of room is there in our heads for something new and different?

Leaving home is scary. It requires courage and faith. Courage to face things without a shield, faith that what we receive will not harm us.

We are life's students. Adult learners who have immense capacity for both enlightenment and delusion. One requires a shedding of self,…


With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

As the sun rises and warms the desert, I am sipping hot green tea at the computer. My heart is still and I am opening my eyes to see you. We are each a part of this wonderful universe. Each necessary. Each vital. The universe cannot exist without us. As each thing has its causes and conditions, each thing is deeply interwoven in the fabric of space and time. Where does one begin and end? Truely? Seeds from parents are planted and arise producing seeds that are planted and arise and so on and so on. Small changes here and there, divergence, complexity, life.

So, as I type here and am aware of the keys touching electrical pads, sending pulses out through fiber optic cables, patterns abound, connect with other patterns, and there we are: a universe. We are one, here and now. As you read. As I move on through my day, and you yours. My message is with you and you are with me. We are together. A good thing.

If we live this way, how difficult to injur…

Dealing with the News

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

On my Yahoo 360 blog I have been recounting the Ten Grave Precepts. Today's precept is the fifth which asks us not to cloud our minds. Usually this is taken to mean not to drink to the point of not being sober. It is also a invitation not to ingest drugs or other toxins that will injure us or otherwise cause harm. Thich Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk and Peace Worker has suggested that this precept includes taking things into us such as images or information which will poison us. Poison us with greed, hatred, and delusion.

This morning's news included a piece on the killing of Mr. Tom Fox, a Quaker and a Christian Peace Worker in Iraq who was taken hostage. Reports are that he was beaten, cut, and then shot in the chest and the head. Bound, his body was dumped on the street.

There are several "Friends" on this list. My deepest condolences to you.

My sense is that to avoid news can be harmful, as harmful as hiding on…

What it is

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

When we are being in the present moment, as it is, there is no room for anything else. This moment, as it is, is full and complete. So, what is this moment, as it is?

Sitting Zazen without sitting Zazen. Cleaning without cleaning. Talking without talking. Eating without eating. Listening without listening.

Zen is being complete in this moment without adding words, names, labels, judgements, thoughts, likes or dislikes to it.

When we are correctly oriented to living this way, everything becomes easy. No problem.

Living this way allows our breathing to be what it is: free.
Living this way allows our Buddha-nature to flower.
Living this way allows our love to be itself.
Living this way allows our compassion to enfold the planet.
Living this way allows all things to be One.

Be well.

No one was beheaded

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

Yesterday's Peace Vigil was a great success if one measures success by the vibrancy of a group. We stood against the wind, a cold wind blowing across the desert valley. There were a couple of dozen women and a few men standing there along the avenue lacing the Federal Building. Public television was there. A few print media were there. Cameras were happy.

Passersby honked their horns in support. A few lifted a finger expressing their disapproval. This is America. No one was shot. No one beheaded.

That morning I met with local people interested in Jewish Law. The topic was "Should clergy marry people in a religious wedding without a license?" This is an effort to have a marrage sanctioned by God, but avoiding the problems with Social Security pension laws, although a few dissented, the answer was a clear no. We should not engage in deceitful behavior. During this discussion, a Christian minister made a few comments about homosex…

Another Day for Peace

With palms together, Good Afternoon Sangha, This afternoon we are scheduled to do a peace vigil at the Federal Courthouse in town. I have my simple sign which reads, "PEACE." I will join others at 4:00 PM, the appointed hour. It is important to add our voice against war and violence. That it does not cause an end to the war is unimportant.  Witnessing is.  Eventually this war will end, they all do. Eventually another will begin, it usually does. What we can do is be a steady voice for peace and against violence. The wind is picking up here in the desert southwest.  It will be interesting out there on the streetcorner. Thankfully, it doesn't appear it will rain on us. So, if you are available at 4:00 PM wherever you are, please stand or sit for a few minutes with us as we witness for peace. If not today, then when you can.  Or write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or to the President, or to your congressional representative: your voice is important. Be well. M…

The Courage to Be

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

This morning I read with great sadness of the death of Dana Reeve. This woman was a great bodhisattva. Her memory, like that of her husband, will be a blessing for us all.

It is not difficult to find models for us to live by. Dana and Christopher Reeve were such models. Then so is a small one named Jennifer I saw on Discovery Health Channel the other day who was born without a face and endures tremendous pain and suffering as she undergoes a countless series of surguries to build her a face. Then there is her family, and the doctors and nurses, her extendeded family, neighbors and friends. When one tosses a pebble into the pond where do the ripples cease?

Dana Reeve was only 44 years old. She had never smoked a cigarette. Yet one in five women contract lung cancer who have never smoked in their lives. One wonders. These are people who led their lives fully. They developed great courage and compassion. They suffered, but they also succeeded.



With palms together,
Good Evening Sangha,

This evening I was thinking about what I could possibly write about. I thought about this:

50 Simple things to do:

Turn off lights when you are not using them.
Use energy saving bulbs.
Cook as little as possible, use cold foods in the summer.
Buy in quantities, then parcel into smaller portions for storage and later use.
Use a half shot glass of bleach in a spray water bottle instead of a cleanser to disinfect counter surfaces.
Flush the toilet less times per day.
Turn off the tap when not actually using the water.
Set your water heater on medium rather than high.
Bike rather than drive.
Walk rather than bike.
Park as far away from the entrance of a store as you possibly can then walk.
Eat six times a day, but smaller amounts.
Eat fruit.
Eat veggies.
Drink juice.
Drink lots of water.
Make as much from scratch as you can.
Enjoy yourself.
Each day for a week eat something you've not tried before.
Eat more nuts.
Smile as often as possible, especially when you don&…

Mindful Silence

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

My suggestion for today is to spend the day in mindful silence. It is a good practice.

Speak only when spoken to in as limited and gentle way as possible. When we do this we are placing ourselves in the position of being open to our lives in a way that doesn't happen when we are busy with our minds and mouths.

Knowing that we are not speaking, we can listen more closely. Listening more closely enables a more intimate connection to be made to our world. It is in this intimacy that profound change occurs.


Due to lack of participants, today's Zazenkai at Zen Center is cancelled. Please remember we have our Hannamatsuri sesshin scheduled for the first Friday weekend of April.

Be well.

On Being Soft

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

Maintaining a sense of interest in the well-being of your partner may be in your own best interest in the long run. When we speak and (otherwise) behave with our partner with loving kindness, we soften ourselves and our partners, making our union a more joyous and comfortable one. On the other hand, when we speak to our partners with anger and behave in a hostile, controlling manner, we harden ourselves and our partners, making our relationship brittle.

It seems that these truths may be deeper and more concrete than we might expect. Researchers suggest that anger and hostile interactions with our partners contributes to coronary atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries.

"In a study of 150 couples, mostly in their 60s, researchers found that women who behaved in a hostile manner during marital disputes were more likely to have atherosclerosis, especially if their husbands were also hostile."

"In men, hostility -- their own or thei…

Who am I?

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

What is the "higher" truth? Does God exist? Is there a Heaven? A Hell? Where do we fit in along the way? Was there a beginning? Will there be an end? Who am I? What ams I? How should I live my life? How should I treat my friends, my family, strangers? Where do we go to get the answers to these questions?

Some would say we should go to Church or Synagogue or Moque or Temple. I would agree. A good religious center would then take us and sit us down and ask us to take a backward step. A good religious center would not give us answers to these questions, instead they would invite us to examine ourselves, deeply examine ourselves. Of course, in the process of this examination they would offer us tools.

Liturgy is such a tool. Means of practice, such as dailty rituals, meditation, chanting, are such tools. Prayer in its many colored and textured varieties are such tools. But these are not the answers themselves. It is a mistake to thin…


With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

Someone suggested I might be considered an "extremist." I smiled deeply as I read it. I wonder. Perhaps. I don't consider myself an extremist. I see myself as an able mediator, a negotiator who seeks balance and something for everyone. My views are informed by both my experience and my values, intertwined as they always are through time and process.

My views on violence are informed by witnessing violence against my mother, brother, and myself by my father. They are informed by my experience as a combat infantryman in Vietnam who hunted human beings for a living and was wounded in the process. They are informed by thirty years of clinical work with trauma survivors in mental hospitals and outpatient clinics. I see no value in violence. None.

However, I am also informed by the fact that there are violent people in the world who would do harm to me and my family, my community, my nation, my world. This is a fact of life. And so, we are…