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Showing posts from November, 2006

Stepping Out

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning my wrist alarm surprised me. I pushed back the down comforter and was greeted with a chill in the air. We have two alternatives, pull the comforters back up or throw them off and Step out into the cool morning air. Our lives, every moment of our lives, is just like that.

We can pull the covers over us and stay warm and comfortable in what we know or we can cast off what we know and enter life with open eyes.

This choice comes to us a million times a day. It is the choice between being automatic and genuine. The choice between patience and impatient, generous or greedy, wise or shallow. The "right" choice is always both the more challenging and the more rewarding.

Yet we should not make this choice on that basis. Rather, we chose because we are buddhas being buddhas.

Be well.

Be a Light

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

A friend writes that I rarely quote sutras in my messages. He also points out that I rarely reply to comments. There is truth is this sorta. If we understand sutras as scripture, he is correct. Scripture is what it is, a finger pointing to something. The danger of scripture study is that we can get to a point where we value the scripture more than what it is pointing to. And what exactly is that? Every scripture is about practice, that is to say, some aspect of living out an awakened life.

Sutra study aids us. It is a corrective lesson. It helps us sit upright, so to speak, but it is not the sitting itself. Sitting we must do. Life must be lived and when lived with open eyes the buddha is realized.

Often my morning messages are replies. Your messages suggest topics. I clarify - or attempt to clarify - with my messages. I write two of these a day. One I post to you on these lists and the other to my blog at Yahoo 360. I try to keep up with t…

The Refuges

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

There were two of us at Zen Center this morning. Michelle and I sat a solid period of zazen, I made pancakes, we ate, then sipped a morning cup of coffee and talked about the Three Refuges. These are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

It might surprise you to know these are not always what you think they are. The Buddha is not the person of the Buddha, nor the statue of the Buddha, nor an idea of the Buddha. The Buddha is just being awake. Seeing without distortion, like a mountain in crisp morning air. So, we take refuge is being awake. The Dharma is the teaching, but not really. The Teaching is not the Dharma. Once uttered it is stale. The Dharma is reality just as it is, unvarnished, sweet or stinky, smacking us upside our head. When we see clearly, with open eyes, no preconception, and experience this, this is Dharma. It is the truth of our lives. Sangha is the world that supports us and our practice.

So, forget stone Buddhas, fancy…

A Different Sort of Sesshin

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

We are about to leave Memphis for our return home to Las Cruces. I am ready! While I certainly (and deeply) enjoy playing with Grandson Tate and visiting Daughter Sam and Not-Son-in-Law, Pete, five days is enough.

I miss my pups, friends, and Zen Center and look forward to returning to my routine which helps me stay "grounded" as they say. Here in Memphis, I turned off all of my wristwatch alarms: no 5:30 wake-up, 7:30 end of zazen, 1:30 end of zazen, 10:30 end of zazen, just short periods of silence interrupted by long periods of giggles and playtime. This is a wholly different form of sesshin. And like the monks at Antaiji in Japan, I say five days is plenty!

We leave at 3:00 PM Central Time and arrive in El Paso at 6:30 PM Mountain Time. Another hour and a half or so drive and we will be home. I look forward to a day of flying practice.

Be well,

Knowing What We Know?

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

When we practice zazen, we are just present with ourselves. Self encounters self. Sometimes we argue with each other, sometimes we run from each other, sometimes we watch movies of one, none of this is zazen. But every time we notice that we are doing these things and bring ourselves back to the present moment, we are practicing zazen. Zazen is in the noticing. It is the being, not the becoming.

When we encounter something and act like a human being we ask questions, sometimes out loud and directly, but more often secretly and to ourselves. What's this? Who is this? Where is this? Why is this? And we put these things into a time-line of 'when is this?' All perfectly natural. But all in the mind. Each of these questions take us far away from the experience of the thing we are encountering.

We answer our questions and believe we know something about the thing when in fact we know something about our thoughts about the thing. And ther…

Of an Afternoon

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning was a wonder. Tate woke with a serious hunger! Screeching until he had breakfast. The Zoo was too much for him, I guess, and he went to sleep last night hard and fast. At the Zoo earlier in the day, I had walked enough and sat down near the Pandas to finish reading a book I thoughtfully tucked in my shirt.

It was a wonderful experience to sit and witness the families, the excitement of the children, and the sounds of wildlife. Pema Chodron's book on peace in times of war is a very good effort at teaching us to be present in the face of danger. I closed it and sat on the forward edge of my seat outside under some trees.

A man noticed me sitting there and asked if I were meditating. I smiled and said, "I am." He replied that he was "Chillin'" as well, as he sorted the chairs and otherwise cleaned the area. He was Black and a hard worker; I am White and hardly work at all. He had a heavy gold cross around h…

Sounds of Life

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Well, we are in Memphis and have filled ourselves with either Turkey or Tofu Turkey depending...and lots of pumpkin pie with tons of whipped cream and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes: so predictable, yet so delicious.

It is good to be with family, though I wish all of us could be together. In a very real sense, though, we are. With every breath we take we are human beings alive in a world we deeply share with each other. Our thankfulness should not end with yesterday's sundown, but should spread out throughout the universe with our every action.

So, today we take a walk, smell the cool autumn air, and feel each step with very excited baby sounds piercing our ears.

Be well.

Some Little Things

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

There it is, the morning sun rising. My goodness how bright! I sat alone in the Zendo this morning. I actually cherish those times when I am alone there. (Please don't take this to mean you shouldn't come!) It is so still, so quiet, save the chirps of sundry birds outside. In such lovely stillness one can reside, yet we each should know that such moments are but brief respites that assist us to navigate clearly through a day.

In the morning we leave for Memphis. I look forward to seeing Dragon Tate, the grandson. I wish we could see Olivia, our little Florida pumpkin,the littlest granddaughter or Sami, our Teenage grand daughter, and our array of children who seem scattered like so many seeds. Maybe in the months to come.

Life is like that. We open our eyes and there it is. We do what is there for us to do, we float along and let the rest drop away. When we get all caught up in the woulda-shoulda mind trap, we sink. No sinking allowed.

In the …

Matsuoka

With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

It is nearly the end of morning. We have been busy around the homestead. Zen Center was a delight this morning and yesterday we had a full house once again! Our Board meeting went well as we reviewed the bi-laws approached one step closer to 501c3 status.

Our Zen Center clearly has grown and matured since we began some 5 or 6 years ago in a small room in my home. We have our own facility, we are offering a full range of zazen, as well as children friendly services. I am personally delighted about the numbers of regular sitters and the group of this forum and its membership. Yet, we are still small and, I hope, homey. Such a good hing.

Today is a very special day. We honor Matsuoka-roshi today. For those of you who do not know, Rev. Dr. Soyu Matsuoka-roshi is my Dharma grandfather. He established several zen Centers in the US in the sixties, seventies, and eighties. Atlanta, Chicago, Long Beach, and through my Teacher, Las Cruces and Cloudcroft. Lit…

Tangles

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

"Not the faults of others, nor what others have done or left undone, but one's own deeds, done and left undone, should one consider."the Buddha

The truth is so hard to take sometimes. We live in a world where it seems we are always judging. Well, I should really speak for myself. I live in a world where I seem to always be judging. In this world is pain and suffering and I realize I am its cause.

If I were t place my sole attention on being the person I know I am, no problem. If I were to look at others as myself, no problem...well, maybe big problem, since I can be pretty hard on myself. But you get the point.

It is so important to take care of one's own business, it is a first step to being upright. Yet so much easier to look somewhere else and pay attention to others.

When we sit zazen we are left with only ourselves. Just us with our breath and our mind and our senses. Yikes! Still, if we have the courage to continue to sit …

On Being Outside the Box

With palms together,
Good Evening All,

Is there ever a time when we are ready to live as completely as possible? It would seem we are often living with one foot in the grave, "Oh, don't do that, you'll get hurt!" "Oh, that is just too risky, better not go there!" And so on.

I don't know. I wonder about this sometimes.

One of the reasons we don't live to our full potential is fear, but not so much of getting hurt in the ordinary sense. Rather, this is fear of a different sort; getting hurt in the psychic sense. We are afraid of what people will think of us if we are just ourselves. So we put on, we dress the part, and play roles, never allowing our true selves to emerge.

I remember how liberating it was to find out that even if I make a complete fool of myself, if done honestly, it really didn't matter. People can be hurtful, true. But mostly they are very compassionate and caring human beings. Such liberation is compelling. And I believe people respo…

Being Real

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With palms together, Good Morning All, This past Wednesday evening we had one of our Zen Center members who lives in El Paso arrive with his daughter. She is a delightful young lady, smart as a whip, and just a joy to practice with.  I invited her to be my assistant and ring the small bell at the appropriate times during the evening.  We say together and then we studied a story of the Buddha together.  She served our tea before the Dharma talk. Having children at the Zen Center is a real delight. Children bring a very special energy, as well as a wonderful perspective, to our practice. I have found that children are often very interested in being present, perhaps because they live their lives that way. We can reinforce this and learn from it ourselves by being in the presence of These great teachers. But first we need to get off our adult high horse. How? Zazen teaches us that all things are our teachers when our self drops away. Being willing to drop away our self importance goes hand i…

Walk Softly

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

My apologies for missing yesterday. I am just a little overwhelmed with Yahoo 360, Zen Center, and buying a new house. Our apartment complex, a beautiful gated community, has been sold and is being converted into condominiums. We have the choice of buying or moving at the end of our lease. So we have been looking about for a house and weighing the pros and cons of purchasing the unit we are in.

Yahoo 360 has been a real ride, as they say. I get a ton of messages, requested to be friends, and the odd assortment of very strange messages like "What kind of crack did you smoke as a kid!" Hmmm. What I am impressed with is the sincere nature of most of the comments and questions. The heartfelt requests for assistance in dealing with life's issues. I have been deeply humbled by these.

So, lately, I am spending much time quietly trying to address the suffering, the questions, and the odd thoughts that this Internet experience seems to be …

The Senses

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

There are some sounds that are very comforting. The sound I hear right now is Pepper's breath as he sleeps by my feet. The sound yesterday was the laughter of good friends enjoying a serendipitous meal together. Sounds are a true picture of the nature of things, We cannot hold onto them. And memory is pale in comparison. Yet there they are in our experience. Direct, they lift us up, yet leave us just instantly.

All of the senses are like this.

We suffer when we try to keep them close. We suffer when we value one over another.

So, regardless of the sound, hear it; regardless of the sight, see it. Appreciate the moment.

Be well.

No Chicken Little Here!

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

The sounds of early morning are delightfully few and far between. Stillness. After the dogs go out, they curl up to nap. I sip my coffee and read the morning news. It seems the world always appears to be falling apart. I close that screen and open another.

Our world, in spite of everything, is not falling apart. People care deeply for one another. For every act of violence, there are countless people there to care for those injured. For every disaster, human beings come together to pickup the pieces and rebuild. Billions of us live together, most with scarce resources, and yet each day we demonstrate our true nature as compassionate beings. In truth, the news stories, the pictures of death and destruction, these are the oddities. We must keep that in mind.

As we go through our day today, lets keep our hearts open. Embracing the world is a wonderful way to embrace yourself.

Be well.

Open Societies

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Mt alarm clock, in the form of furry friend, Tripper's tongue, woke me at 5:30 this morning. What does a dog know about weekends? So, I got up and made the coffee. Opened the laptop and began to read the morning mail.

A couple of messages from someone who thought I expelled them from my group went off on me. I had no idea what she was talking about. I rote her back asking her to explain herself. Some other messages from friends who were concerned about the issues I brought up in yesterdays note. I am sitting with those. And a lot of support for sharing my feelings. It is apparently very important that people who are perceived to be religious leaders be real and open with their experience. I believe this is true.

As a therapist, I was struck by the work of a psychologist who wrote a book called the Transparent Self. In this work, he talked about the notion that self-disclosure was essential at getting to the truth in an interview with a patie…

On Being and Becoming, Sorta

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Most of the time we are not buddhas, but rather, buddha wannabees. We buzz around with our nice thoughts and wonderful words strung together ever so easily, likes colored beads on a string. And then we wash the dishes, watch television, and have an live with our spouses and children.

At Zen Center, we can be the buddhas we think we are, but at home, the clothes come off and a whole other person arises. Is this so?

If we are pretending to be something we imagine to be "Buddhist" then we are not buddhas. On the other hand, if we are annoyed or angry or afraid or lonely, this does not mean we are not "Buddhist" either, and if we are genuinely these things, aware that we are these things, then, in fact we are buddhas.

Buddhas are nothing if not authentic in the moment.

Last night I had occasion to feel tremendous hurt, anger, sorrow, humiliation, and compassion, in that order. We attended a service at the synagogue after having supporte…

Vote!

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Today is the day for us in the United States to decide as a group who will represent us. It is very important that you participate in this election. As we have seen, elections are often won or lost on the basis of voters choosing to come or not come to the polls.

While I cannot endorse a candidate or a party, I can ask you to vote in a way that clearly reflects our values as followers of the Buddha Way. So, in the voting booth, vote as the buddha you are.

Be well.

Being Yourself

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

There is a wonderful sun in the sky already here in New Mexico. The sky is clear and it is a nice 66 degrees F. I just returned from morning Zazen. We had a nice turnout for morning and I made us all pancakes and eggs with coffee. It was really nice sitting at the table together.

We talked about the precepts this morning and I tried to stress that the precepts are not rules. Rules are external, they are brittle, they are decidedly unBuddhist. The Buddha taught that we are all already completely enlightened beings, meaning that the precepts are actually fluid doorways to a true expression of our buddhanature. When we drop away the clutter and see directly with a clear mind, there is no separation between us and the precepts. We are the precepts.

Today, please be the buddha you are.

Be well.

May We Have Ears to Listen

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With palms together, Good Morning All, Yesterday, three of my friends worked the polls. My Little Honey and I did this for a couple of years in Mayhill, near our Refuge. It is a long day, believe me, but so rewarding.  I want to take a moment and thank Eve, Allen, and Lou for their volunteerism. You each are a blessing to our community. As the day passed into night, I watched the election off and on. It is an amazing thing this democratic process. The "fair and balanced" conservative news network could not seem to get a handle on the immensity of the tidal wave for change, and the original 24 hour news network could barely control itself. Clearly the people of the United states have sent a message in no uncertain terms to our President. Let us hope he has ears to listen. Appropos to this I read that new text on the Buddha and the Terrorist yesterday. We could learn much from this story. A terrorist and mass murderer from a low caste meets the Buddha, is pacified, becomes enligh…

Vote!

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Today is the day for us in the United States to decide as a group who will represent us. It is very important that you participate in this election. As we have seen, elections are often won or lost on the basis of voters choosing to come or not come to the polls.

While I cannot endorse a candidate or a party, I can ask you to vote in a way that clearly reflects our values as followers of the Buddha Way. So, in the voting booth, vote as the buddha you are.

Be well.

Patience

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning there wee two of us for zazen, faithful Zento and myself. After we sat, Zento told me his girlfriend would be joining us for breakfast. I made the coffee as he prepared the pancake batter. I then sliced a breakfast cake My Little Honey baked for us. We waited. Girlfriend didn't arrive. Zento called her and she said she would be right here. Zento paced a bit. Finally she arrived, but declined breakfast and said she need gasoline. Zento drove her to get gasoline. i went ahead and made my breakfast. By the time he returned, I was just washing my dish. I bid him good day and left for the grocery. Pepper and Tripper were in dire need of treats.

At the grocery store, I got into a checkout line with only one person ahead of me. The cashier rung up her small purchase, but the amount was wrong according to the customer who had an ad saying what the sale prices were. While they tried to straighten things out, the customer kept sayi…

Benefits

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

It is a wonderful thing to be offered the opportunity to practice zazen. In this practice we are able to clarify the mind, experience directly, and behave with autheniticity. All from the simple practice of stilling oneself on a cushion facing a wall.

Yesterday's zazenkai at Zen Center was just such an experience. We had nerly a full house in the morning and, although some had to leave after oryoki lunch, others arrived. We practiced in silence and had a hour's samu to clean the Zen Center as meditative release from the cushion.

Today I return to Zen Center for our morning service. I return with fresh eyes and a real sense of deep appreciation for Sangha and this practice.

Please join me.





Be well.

Peaches and Cream; Rocks and Nails

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Today is a good day to spend in meditation. Or in mindfulness. As my finger touches each key, I am aware that each finger is touching a key. I am aware of the muscle movement in my forearm as my fingers extend and contract, aware of the thoughts arising and falling, being recorded on the electronic page of this computer soon to be presented to you.

When we are mindful, we are aware of the things themselves, but also aware that these things come and go. On the one hand we say they are ours, like "my thoughts" but on the other, we notice that thoughts simply are thoughts and they arise and they fall away. A notion of ownership, in a sense, becomes meaningless. In another sense they are quite meaningful, as they originate from our brain, and our brain originates from its connections with all of the other subsystems created by our genetics, even these are connected and originate through interactions with other systems. When we are mindful w…

Zazenkai

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With palms together, Good Morning All, Tomorrow we will practice zazen throughout the day.  It is Zazenkai day at Zen Center.  I look forward to this opportunity to practice with you.  If you are not within distance of Zen Center or are otherwise occupied with matters of consequence, please practice mindfulness through your day. Each day the sun comes up, we are offered the opportunity to become a buddha. Yet these days are numbered.  It is up to you not to waste your time. This means in each act, each breath, of each moment, we are to make ourselves aware of each act, each breath, and each moment.  This is attention.  It requires practice. When we practice all things change, they come alive.  The colors are brighter, the textures are more vibrant, because our senses are keener. We use our attention to open ourselves to the universe. This is a very good thing.  Team Zen:

Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at: http://www.zencenteroflascruces…

Our Teachers

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Through the smallest things in our life do we create ourselves. The way we touch something, the way we treat our friends, strangers, the cashier in the grocery store. Each point of contact with the world around us is a manifestation of our realization. Want to be a buddha, be a Buddha. It is really that simple.

This requires a willingness to be thoughtful and mindful. It also requires a willingness to surrender our ego and to see our Teacher in everything from the highest to the lowest, because in truth, there is no highest, no lowest, and every single thing is buddha.

This is so challenging in a busy world. We feel we must multitask and thus, by definition, live mindlessly on a sort of contemporary auto-pilot. such a life leads to callous disregard for what is before us. Things, people, animals become means to ends. We do not have the time to see them for the Teachers they are.

I invite you each to stop. Create a small amount of time in your busy…

Just Sitting

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Zazen was good this morning. It is always good to sit still and become yourself. Someone wrote to me and asked what to do in the "sadness phase" of meditation. I am uncertain as to what she meant, but I suspect when she is quiet, sadness emerges from the shadows.

One of the most challenging aspects of zazen is just this. When we sit quietly in stillness, all of our typical distractions are taken away from us. Movement, chewing gum, smoking, drinking, eating, talking, everything is just gone. These things provide cover for the other things that haunt us. So when they are not there, no cover, and bam! There they are, those pesky feelings or thoughts or memories. And we are there to witness them.

OK. So, what's the problem? They are just thoughts, just feelings, just memories. They have no power of their own. They are chimera. It is when we take them and build on them and wish they weren't there or were there more often or whatever…