Showing posts from June, 2008

To be Worth Our Salt

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There are sixteen vows to being a Zen Buddhist. They are: Vow to take Refuge in the Buddha, Vow to take Refuge in the Dharma, Vow to take Refuge in the Sangha. Vow to Cease Doing Evil, Vow to Do Good, Vow to Bring About Good for all Beings, Vow not to kill, Vow not to steal, Vow not to misuse sex, Vow not to lie, Vow not to intoxicate the mind, Vow not to gossip, Vow not to elevate oneself at the expense of others, Vow not to be greedy, especially with the Dharma, Vow not to indulge in anger, Vow not to speak ill of the Three Treasures.

It is important to note that these vows are both positive and negative. We must not only vow to not kill, but also affirm life, for example. A religious life is not simply rule based, however. A religious life is a life devoted to being awake. From a Big Mind perspective, what is killing? What is supporting life? This planet is but an infinitesimal speck in an expanding, boundless universe. There is no num…

On Pins and Needles

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I plan to meet my son in Old Mesilla for a bike ride. I have taken the last four days off from exercise in order to recover from a tweak in a hip muscle and an inflammation of my skin disorder (chronic folliculitis). I took a Zyrtec to relieve the terrible itching and it pretty much knocked me out for two days. Now the Zyrtec has worn off, I have some energy, and the itch is steadily returning.

I often sit with this itch. I watch it as what feels like pins stick my skin and remain there for awhile. I watch my response. Most of the time I float with it. When I am not mindfull, however, yikes, I scratch it...not good. Like a lion the thing roars. More follicles get inflamed and I am desperately searching for something to calm it down. These things used to be on my neck. I now have some on my forearm. They seem to be getting better overall. Fewer follicles are subject. But those two or three...goodness.

I sometimes am able to…

A Fresh Face

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There is a sense of history being made, a turning of a corner in the United States with this election. Senator Obama's youthful, happy face and focus on change, the vibrant primaries with a very strong, very smart woman who ran a terrific campaign for the nomination for president, and on the other side a tired old man treading over the same old stories, supporting the same old industries, big businesses, and wars. In a word, its unsettling.

I like Senator McCain. I think he is a man of character. He fought for his country when many chose not to, was a prisoner of war for years, and yet had the willingness and fortitude to work with his previous captors to bring an end to hostilities post Vietnam War. Like John Kerry, he chose a career in politics to give something back to his country. Both men have been maligned in their careers by political opportunists and operatives.

Yet, here's the thing. Senator McCain is not the man of the hou…

Do Nothing Club

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The day is finally overcast. Clouds are offering us shade from a brilliant and hot summer southwestern sun. This morning we rose early to meet some friends at our new house under construction. The wall framing is up and we did a tour of the house. Its wonderful. From there we went to a yard sale, then on to our friend's home where My Little Honey served up a coffee cake she baked last night. We had a stimulating conversation where I showed myself a bit. Hmmm. Sometimes we need to vent a-little, I suspect. No worries.

So, home now I am faced with a day open and free...the kind I like. This evening we will go to Rabbi Kane's for Shabbat dinner. In between I will sometime do a run (or walk) and a weight workout with a swim (perhaps) to cool off. I also plan to draw out the presentation of my book club selection for Sunday. And still have time for nothing.

Having time for nothing is essential to us all, in my humble opinion. We h…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

On the Zen list there has been some discussion of sitting and stretches for sitting. For those of you who have access to Three Pillars of Zen, please consult the excellent advice in the back of the book. Posture, whether seated in a chair or on a cushion is critical. Some, oddly enough, such as the unorthodox Brad Warner, are strong proponents of the full lotus. Others argue that any position is OK as long as the back is upright. Still others, Jon Kabat-Zinn comes to mind, suggest that any comfortable position, including lying down, is good.

I do not favor the notion that position should be comfortable. Our purpose at Zazen is not to be comfortable, not to "zone out", go to some altered state of consciousness, or any other pleasant place. Our aim to to be awake, not feeling good. The lotus and half lotus position offers tremendous stability; the cushion offers the proper cant to the hips so that our knees are thrust down as our …

Notes from the Mundane

With palms together,
Good Afternoon Everyone,

This morning we clicked on Robbie the Robot to sweep the floors. As Robbie was doing his (or is it, her(?) thing, I went down to the hundred year dam and did a speed workout through the grove beside it. Ended up doing two miles with 4 x 0.10 mile repeats. We then went to the audiologist and My Little Honey was fitted with new hearing aids! She now notices every sound including our kiss (she just left to have lunch with the ladies).

I am busily preparing for our Temple book club this Sunday. It is my turn to lead the discussion and I selected a book by Rabbi Karyn Kedar entitled, God Whispers: stories of the soul, lessons of the heart. The book is a collection of her reflections as a rabbi working with people. Its the sort of thing I write, actually. Stories of real life used as lessons for myself and perhaps others.

Writing is a great way to clarify. The act of putting words on paper...or in this case, a computer an act of …

Life Itself is the Verb

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

When we say, "Just this!" we point to the field of deep interdependence and oneness. Just this, the moment we see clearly, the moment the point is understood as both one and many, where near and far, birth and death, fall away, is also the moment to get off our butts and do something.

Awakening is just to open one's eyes; living is to be alive with those eyes open.

As living beings awake to the true nature of reality, we see what is to be done and we do it. There is no real room for should, would, or could. Oneness is seamless. No subject; no object: life itself is the verb.

If we want to live in peace, we just live in peace. Inner and outer are one. No separation. Separation is illusion. A mind at peace with doing is at peace, period.

One might say, but what if killing needs to be done? What if people are causing harm? An awakened person addresses such people with compassion, understanding such people are acting out of an int…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Last night we attended our synagogue's annual Gala. It was our first...we are not really fancy party people...but, after last night, I can tell you, it will not be our last. Moreover, since I am now a board member, a page must be turned and I will have to do things I'm not necessarily comfortable with. This event is a fundraiser for the Temple and contributes mightily to our annual budget. Tickets are pricey and there is a large silent auction of donated gifts.

As we arrived, the wind was blowing very badly. The event was to be held outside under two large tents with the auction held inside. We have been having days of clear skies and triple digit temps so we anticipated being baked as we ate and danced and bid on gifts. Not so. Instead, the sky decided to develop massive clouds, thunder and lightening and, of all things, rain. Everyone in their finery were either windblown or rained we hustled inside, moved the sanctuary c…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

To practice Clear Mind Zen is to practice with an open mind. Our mind should be so open that its like a room with large, open windows on each side. Nothing resides in this room. Whatever enters this room enters without being spun around, redressed, or otherwise altered. What is there is brief and pure and free to leave.

I am reading a book recommended by Rabbi Citrin entitled, Your Word is Fire. Its a collection of teachings from Hasidic masters of contemplative prayer. Usually, in our modern, superficial, sense prayer is considered a plea or supplication to God who we imagine might be listening. Rife with anthropomorphic simile, this understanding nearly always reflects, then forces, a concept of God as a "being".

Chasidic masters, like Zen masters, are masters of Emptiness. Prayer is a practice that allows heart/mind (in Zen, shin) to open and be filled with no-thing. Prayer becomes a dynamic process of joining the entire un…

Between This and That

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,
My open windows reveal a cool morning breeze. I set my floor fan to pull that cool air into the living room. We have had temperatures above 105 for days now. The day before yesterday I am told we were at 109 in some parts of Las Cruces.

All this heat reminds me of the story suggesting there is no hot or cold. Of course, its true. Hot and cold are words referring to concepts we construct based on a temperature normed by the earth and its relative distance from the sun and our particular body's capacity to exist within that range. In an Absolute sense, however, there is no hot or cold; these concepts exist in the Relative world, the world in which we live.

An awakened being experiences hot and cold as they are and not as that being wishes them to be. When we experience heat as it is, heat, per se, ceases to exist. There is just the experience of perspiration, burning skin, etc. Even these are a problem if we focus our attention on them and …


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There are some moments we would wish lasted forever. A grandchild's smile, the delight in our partner's eyes, or just a soothing moment in quiet peace. Yet, as we know, nothing lasts forever and our desire to hold on to moments does, indeed, produce suffering. So, what are we to do?

Relax. Have faith. Moments, while moments, are always moments. Life has a way, when we are open and accepting, to offer us moment after moment of wonder and delight. By setting aside our need to control a moment or have a certain kind of moment, we surrender to the actual moment, as it is.

These are the most delicious of moments as they are often completely unexpected.

Let yourself be surprised by your life.

Be well.


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Someone suggested the topic, meditation, as a thread for the Zen Living list. Interesting. Zen living is about contemplative living. Every post is about meditation in the largest sense of the word. My sense is the writer wanted to focus more on seated meditation, our practice of zazen.

Zazen is nothing special. Zazen requires us to select a time and place. It requires us to be willing to gather our mind and body together on a cushion facing a wall in that time and place. It requires us to place our hands together in the cosmic mudra and our attention on our breath, in that time and place. It requires us to sit there for a predetermined period of time. All of this means, of course, that zazen requires us to face ourselves completely; alone and, essentially, naked. We sit stripped of our distractions: no radio, no CD, no television, no book, no eating, no gum chewing, no magazine, no talking, no drugging, no drinking, no getting sticky. Jus…


Good Morning Everyone,

In the desert southwest we are already in the dog days of summer with temperatures in the triple digits. June is typically the hottest month here in New Mexico because July through August marks the rainy season. We marked Bodhidharma Day in silence on June 7th and will celebrate Obon in the latter part of July. Bodhidharma is credited with being the founding Patriarch of Zen and Obon is a festival that feeds the hungry ghosts..In other words, Obon is the time we consciously offer whatever "merit" we may have accumulated to those in need. As the weeks between are hot, then wet, and the desert transforms itself, so too, we move from a recognition of our beginning to an honoring of our interdependence.

Sharing is both a sign of transformation and itself transformative. When we willingly step outside of ourselves we let ourselves drop away, thus joining the great sea of humanity: an ever expanding circle of life, as a raindrop falls into the ocean. Who a…

Daily Living

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I plan to ride my Diamondback with my son, Jacob, in Old Mesilla. We try to get in a longish ride on Sundays. Sometimes it works out; sometimes it doesn't. No matter, the experience of being with my son is enough.

We often look to the activity rather than the company. Sometimes this is necessary, as with training in Zen or training in running. When we train our focus is on our ability within the activity. Yet, we often do these things with others. On long slow days, such as these Sunday rides, the focus can shift from the activity to the person. I enjoy this allowance.

Most of the time, though, training is about training and the key element in training is disciplined focus.

When we practice zazen, we sit upright and gather ourselves together in the moment. All of our attention is on the boundaries of our consciousness: our thoughts, our feelings, our sensations. Notice, let go; notice, let go; notice, let go.

Just so with o…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I would like to talk about being bored. There are times in all of our lives, I am sure, when we just are not excited about the view in our lives. Often these times come as we transition from something, but are not yet caught up in something else. Or when the something else is either not clear or not very interesting or something we really do not want to engage.

I am in that place just now.

As I moved away from being the leader of our local Zen Center, I had a sense of wanting something different in my life. I looked at streetZen, a lonely effort, but necessary one. I looked at Zen Judaism and renewed my study of Judaism itself, explored Jewish Spirituality, Jewish History, and even delved into Hebrew and began a study of kabbalistic texts. Recently, I was elected to the Board of Directors at our Temple.

All of these efforts are wonderful experiences. Yet here I am this morning feeling bored.

Life is like that. We cannot always be f…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

We should live with a sense of gratitude in our daily lives. Regardless of our circumstances, we are alive to greet the dawn's light; we can confront each moment of a new day, we can learn, we can appreciate, and we can be of help to others. These are true blessings.

To live this way, we must decide to live this way. To live this way, we must live out this decision.

How often do we think, "I will practice mindfulness" and then as life throws us a curve (and life always throws that curve), we are hardly mindful at all and caught in the emotion of the moment. A decision must be lived other wise its just pretty words. We gain this ability through a disciplined spiritual practice.

In Zen we often place our palms together. This gesture, known as gassho, is a hand mudra. It signifies an effort to bring ourselves (our energy) together while at the same time communicating humility to others. It is very difficult to remain angry with a…