Showing posts from April, 2008

Ten Minutes

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at Temple Beth El. I teach three classes in a row: Jewish Spirituality, Jewish History, and Advanced Jewish Spirituality. By the end of the day I am swimming in Judaism. Not a bad thing, really. but cause for a period of rest. I was reading a book by Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi the other day and he presented me with a wonderful tool. He calls it "making a ten minute Shabbot (Sabbath)".

The Sabbath is a break from ordinary time, as Rabbi Zalman points out, there is "doing" time and "being" time. (Master Dogen of the 13th century pointed out the same from a Zen point of view.) Being time is full, natural time, not clock time, not calendar time, but time in the present moment, in sync with your natural, human rhythm.

We can each "make" a ten minute sabbath by taking leave of the clock and joining the natural universe, either when we need it or during a break time in …

No Room for Self Centeredness

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

If you want to live an authentic life, you must be willing to live completely. This means living with your mind, heart, body, and environment so thoroughly integrated that there is only one. By environment, I include Big Mind, the Absolute, i.e., God.

In Judaism we practice Hitbodedut in order to experience Ruach HaKodesh, the spirit of God, which, like Big Mind, is everything. In order to experience this we must open our hearts and minds in stillness. This is the equivalent of zazen.

There is a real resistance to opening. Its as if somehow if we open ourselves we will either disappear or be injured. So we try, but retain that last bit of wall to protect us.

Such protection is the self holding onto Self. It prevents us from joining the Universal.

When we practice, we should therefore reduce the threat.

In Zen we do this by reciting the san ge mon, the prayer of repentance, and the Three Refuges, san ki rai mon. In these verses we acknowledge o…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Waking up in the morning, I am aware of just how precious a new day is: it should not be taken for granted.

We can chose to just get through it, doing what we do to take care of ourselves. We can chose to do something for the world, to make it a better place . We can chose to live as if each moment were a blessing in itself.

So, what will I do with this day? What will you do with this day?

Often, the thing that renews the world renews you. Maybe that's a good place to start.

Be well.

Get the Ball Rolling!

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I plan to go for a run of sorts with my friend, Katie. It will be a desert trail run and I'm looking forward to it. I have not been training as hard as I should of late, so maybe today I'll be able to kick it a bit. Maybe a few hill repeats are in order.

Consistency is vital. Habit energy is the strongest sort of human energy, I think. Like the proverbial ball rolling is hard to stop, so too, its hard to get rolling again. Best to just roll, because once "on a roll" its easy to continue to do so.

I've noticed our chief enemy to consistency is our Small Mind. It wishes to take us away from the Big Mind "roll". We might say to ourselves, "Aw, I don't feel like it" or "I just can't get myself out there ______________ hurts."

Just Small Mind at work. Kick it. Get into that Big Mind space, expansive, open, inclusive. positive.

We should do this with everything: …

Being One With the Universe

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

On this Passover, a note on liberation:

There is an old joke about the Buddhist monk who says to the hot dog vendor, "Make me one with everything!"

We smile and dismiss the phrase as ubiquitous pablum.

To be one with something means being without self and being without self is more than counter-intuitive, it seems impossible. Yet, we are without self everyday. When we ride a bicycle, read, work, play, anytime we are so immersed and involved in an activity that we forget ourself in that activity, we are one with that activity and essentially, without self. In such moments time ceases to exist. There is just the moment. Zen practice aims to teach us to be in this singular, non-dualistic state at all times.

We sit down on a cushion, bring our attention to our breath, and join the universe. We open the hand of thought that connects us to ourself, and there we are: one.

When we are one with the universe, everything we do is the universe.


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

My dreams are worrisome. I keep dreaming of Zen services, chanting sutras, inviting bells to ring, gracefully offering incense, and I wake. It has been several months now since I left the Zen Center. I feel as though something is slipping away. Perhaps this separation is an opening of my hand of thought. Perhaps I am fading away. Perhaps my dreams are a closing of that hand, grasping for what was. Better to let it go.

At Temple last night I felt alone, very alone. My Little Honey and I had been suffering one of our moments of disagreement, I had had a runny nose, I took an antihistamine with my evening meds, and within an hour felt the heaviness of sleep pressing against me. My friends asked if I was OK. My Little Honey asked if I was OK. I was OK. I was just alone in my own little head.

I practiced zazen during part of the service. It is always a good thing for me to be still and place my attention on the present moment. It points the w…

Be Still

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning's air is delicious! Cool, fresh, and still. I know that by this afternoon it will turn into the winds common in our spring here in New Mexico. For now, in this moment, though, it is still.

One of the things I so appreciate about morning is its stillness. I hear some birds singing along with the occasional coo and hoot of desert birds. Its a wonderful thing. Most of our neighbors are retired and so we don't have the ruckus of cars starting for the morning drive to work. We are left with just the sound remaining in a world that lacks busy-ness.

Yesterday was PrayerWorks, a monthly luncheon event hosted by Rabbi Kane's wife, Cyrille. It is a really positive experience to gather together asking for the healing of others. So often we go through our day without much thought for the well-being of our friends, the well-being of our community, so self-absorbed we can become. A deliberate practice of gathering together, refle…

The Way of Man

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

According to Hasidism, the very qualities which make
us what we are constitute our special approach to God and
our potential use for Him. There is nothing so crass or base
that it cannot become material for hallowing. “The profane,”
for Hasidism, “is only a designation for the not-yet-hallowed.”
Hallowing transforms the “evil urges” by confronting them
with holiness and making them responsible toward what is

Maurice Friedman in his forward to Buber's Way of Man

When I was a therapist, I would often suggest to my clients, now that you are aware of the problem, it is your responsibility to engage it. So often we go about in life believing that past issues are the cause of our current suffering. This is really like sleep walking. Yet, once awake, we must behave differently. We must be awake to the present moment and this moment's opportunities to live.

Martin Buber wrote a wonderful little book called "The way of Man" (its availabl…

No Where To Go

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

On the Zen Living list, we have been discussing emotions, particularly anger, and there have been some particularly good comments made about it. One sangha member suggests Zen teaches that "true stillness is to be found only in action". I like that perspective and see its truth. It reminds us of the third pure precept, to bring about good for all beings.

Yet, Zen is, in a sense, really more about the stillness before the action. Emotions, thoughts, and actions are interconnected. Because this is so, they affect one another and are affected by one another. A change in one, therefore, affects a change in another. Because this is so, if we change an action, say, we are silent when provoked, escalation of ill-feeling is less possible. Moreover, our ability to be present during conflict increases. Our "enemies" are without sails to puff up.

Zazen is a skill that when practiced, acts like this. It is a practice of maintaining …

Humility v Humiliation

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Last night was wonderful. We had the distinct pleasure of attending the "Red & Black Ball" introducing the Pam American Dance Institute, an aspect of the New Mexico State University's Dance Department to the Las Cruces community. Throughout this elegant evening we were treated to hors d'oeuvres, drinks, a wonderful dinner and delightful dance performances, as well as live music and dancing with Bob Burns and the Mike Caranda Orchestra. The whole affair took place on the spacious patio plaza of the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum.

The dance pieces were sensuously Pan American, tango, rumba, and Flamenco, but also included modern dance renditions that were just wonderful. Toward the end of the evening we were all invited to share the dance floor! Right, just after being lifted into a near dream state by such delightful body renditions of human passion and love, I don't think so.

I thought about dancing, eve…

Being Awake

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The morning air is a little chilly. I did my evening practice period with my home zendo window open and as I entered the room this morning, it was pretty nippy in there. I have a penchant for fresh air, I think, and this gets me into trouble at times. I almost always would rather have a window open than closed and really dislike air conditioning systems as they require closed windows.

There is something exhilarating about crisp morning air. I recall at the Mountain Refuge stepping out onto the deck at night feeling the crisp, cold air or in the early morning facing an early mist in the meadow below. These were special moments that grounded me in space and time.

Zazen is like that. The practice of seated meditation can be thoroughly grounding, not just emotionally or psychologically, but literally in space and time. This is because when we practice zazen, the moment is completely alive, vibrant and very, very real. When done properly, we …

Kindness Practice

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

It is a beautiful morning here in southern New Mexico. I am always appreciative of the sun's light and our deep blue skies. On the way home from Memphis Tuesday I noticed I was beginning to feel under the weather, yesterday a full blown cold emerged and today I feel a bit cloudy with the symptomatic treatments of aspirin and benadryl. I'm also taking Zicam and drinking plenty of water. In spite of this I did go to meditation last night at the Temple, though I passed on the Peace Vigil. I am a believer in maintaining a set of habits, a daily regimen, if you will, and allow limited excuses in my own life.

I'm reading a new book out by Jeffrey Hopkins, former translator for the Dalai Lama, entitled, "A Truthful Heart: Buddhist practices for connecting with others" and in it he says one one year or so of the Dalai Lama's teaching tour, the Dalai Lama's message was a simple and clear one, "Everyone wants happi…