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Showing posts from October, 2008

Relax and Be Free

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning was a chilly 45 degrees according to my thermometer as we headed out the door to meet friends Eve and Allen for a brisk morning walk. Actually, I needed less brisk, but then there was a morning breeze with that chilled air, so we naturally had a quick pace. Somewhere along the way I asked Allen to slow down. It was a rest/easy walk day for me.

In practice it is important to know the aim of your practice. Its part of the discipline. This is the meaning of that old saying, "When sitting, sit; when walking, walk: above all don't wobble". We do not sit zazen then in the middle of a sitting period decide to begin chanting practice. Likewise, if running a long, slow run, we don't in the middle decide to do speed repeats. Each practice has its place and its purpose.

Many of us are impatient, however, and think more is better. In training this leads to injury or burnout. In Zen practice, the same: we become so goal…

Team Zen

Good Morning Again,

A Team Zen Update: This morning I did a hard hill repeat workout (8 repeats) in the desert on sandy trails and steep hills. I completed 1.75 miles in total. My modest training schedule is as follows: Sunday, long run; Monday easy walk; Tuesday, desert hill repeats with a trail run base; Wednesday, easy walk; Thursday, interval run; Friday, easy walk; Saturday, off.

Shortly I will add a little biking, easy kick boxing, and some free weight training again, but I need to get a base established first. (Our garage is almost ready to act as a gym.)

I plan to increase my distance, repeat numbers, and interval numbers by 10% or so weekly, with the goal of completing the 15 mile portion of the Bataan Death March in March 2009.

For those of you who don't know, we had a "Team Zen" at the Zen Center for a couple of years and did local races. We made t-shirts that had "Stillness in Motion" printed on the backs. It was a lot of fun.

Fitness Training is …

A Refuge Weekend

With Palms Together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Our weekend went well in the mountains. As we arrived there was a person there looking at the property. The refuge is still for sale, technically, as there is a real estate contract in place, but we will only accept a very good (close to asking price) offer for the place and I would have many regrets selling it. On the other hand, it does require a degree of work we are no longer able to commit to (or do) on a regular basis. Its nearly six acres of fenced forest with a meadow, a wood burning cook stove requiring chopped wood, and water to be pumped from holding or collection tanks to the gravity feed tank on the ridge behind the house. The vegetation nearly took over the place this summer. I am anticipating fence repair as trees inevitably fall across fences in the winter. This means getting out the chain saw. Goodness.

On the upside, son Jason and daughter-in-law Maggie did a great job doing much of the work. Jason got the 4 wheeler g…

Becoming a Sage

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday we spent the morning with friends at the hospital. Our friend, Ken Kessen, underwent another major oral surgery to remove areas of his mouth affected by cancer and other issues. Please keep him and his wife, Deana, in your thoughts and prayers.

Being with friends as they struggle is something we are becoming quite familiar with. I think it is a sign of our particular age and place in the life-cycle. I was talking with someone at Temple yesterday who is witnessing her parents age and deteriorate in these, their final years. She said she wished God had set things up so that we live until we go out like sparklers. I understand the sentiment. Some of us are for sure fortunate if we die in our sleep with little to no warning. Yet, on the other hand, a process of dying has its advantages, as well.

While I would not wish long periods of painful suffering on anyone, I do think, aging itself is a stage of life that can be useful to all. W…

Mood

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Feeling good about the market rebound yesterday, I cautioned myself. It is important not to let our emotions determine our mood. What? Our emotions are our mood, you say. Not so.

Our mood may be a reflection of our emotional state, but our mood, it seems to me, is much more complex than that. Mood and attitude: our stance with regard to ourselves and our world is an aggregate of thought, feeling, behavior, and core beliefs. Our mood, then, is a dynamic reflection of our core beliefs, our core selves.

Mood. I really do not like that word so much. I prefer not to be in a mood or moody. I prefer to be present. If I am happy, I am happy; if angry, angry. An overflow of feeling into mood is not comfortable, nor is it good for us.

One of the best ways to make our mood stable is to recognize that thoughts and feelings are not us; they are transient reflections of our core beliefs. Our brains produce thoughts, we respond with feelings, and the wh…

Varieties of Religious Experience

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Last night we had Sunday dinner with our son, Jason, his wife Maggie, and our granddaughter, Olivia. Sunday dinner is a family tradition that began when our children moved out of the house after high school. They were invited to come to dinner on Sunday and could bring friends with adequate notice. Over time we amassed a few ex-girlfriends and an occasional ex-boyfriend, who would continue to visit even after they were "ex's". Our dinners were always open and inviting and we truly appreciated getting to know the people in our children's lives. Now that we have children once again in the neighborhood, we are delighted to continue this tradition.


Anyway, last night Olivia discovered the Zendo. At three years old, she was quite impressed with its emptiness. The gong and small bell delighted her, the mokugyo made her stop and take notice with its deep, wooden sound. I taught her to sit, gassho, and bow. But most of all we e…

Crisis

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Nothing is forever. Oh, how we resist this simple truth! Beaches erode, we attempt to shore them up; age takes its toll, we attempt to repair or prevent it; our economy goes to the dogs and, yes, we try to buttress it, prevent the loss of our fortunes. Everything changes: its the nature of the universe.

Yet, our safety is threatened. Our comfort and security is in question, not in some far off desert, but right here on Main Street.

What to do.

A few months ago I was threatened with a serious reduction in my pension. I freaked. We were in the process of our credit review and the closing processes on our new house. My mind was not as elastic as I had hoped.

What I did: I saw my psychiatrist; I took time to sleep, to practice meditation, but I also took the time to engage the VA and the DAV. I was committed to health regardless of outcome.

Zazen helps us see clearly that life is a full process of birth and death...to the point that we see there is n…

Another Day

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

It is early morning. The air is incredibly still. Pete-kitty has joined me on my desk and Tripper is at my feet. Shortly I will leave them for the Zendo, but for now they are wonderful furry company.

We have just completed our yearly "Days of Awe" where we open ourselves to a New Year and work hard to examine ourselves and our relationships so that we might repair them, address wrongs we might have done, and close things out so that we might begin our new year with fresh eyes and a fresh heart. Sometimes we are more successful than other times.

In Zen we chant a verse of Atonement daily. A new translation from Soto Shu says it this way:

All my past and harmful karma,
born from beginningless greed, hate, and delusion,
through body, speech, and mind.
I now fully avow.

It is very important for us as human beings to examine ourselves, to know ourselves intimately. We should know what makes us tick. We should connect the dots between thou…

High Maintenance

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

In the morning, the early morning, the air has a stillness that is just so inviting to the soul. There is a clear sense of the earth having rested, settled, and in the east a rising sense of expectation. Of course these "senses" are not real, they are perceptions of a mind joined with that earth.

Perceptions are a funny thing. They come in different shapes and sizes and, more than likely, are fairly distorted by a perceiver's point of view. In Zen we work to cut through these distortions, to see as clearly as is possible what is actually there, only to discover nothing, a vast emptiness of process. Even this process is not real, it is but a mental construct, and explanation our mind offers to name what we experience.

Recently, My Little Honey and I had a few words over whether or not I was "high maintenance." It seems others who know us have commented that I am a high maintenance sort of person. I took great offen…

Creation

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Clearly fall is upon us here in southern New Mexico. The early morning sky was seriously overcast as the mountains were nearly hidden in them. Lightning flashed in the pre-dawn. It has rained a coldish, miserable sort of rain and much of the landscape has that gray look that always seems to accompany a seasonal temperature drop.

I stood outside by the rock wall cleaning i-robot of this morning gatherings of dust and dog hair. It was pretty wet and nippy. Marvelous light on majestic mountains was my backdrop. Robot is recharging now and I am enjoying a little coffee. Zazen went well, if not a tad droopy. Of late, I seem to have little energy.

Here's the thing: such things come and go and I firmly believe they are tightly connected to our inner self. When we are purposeful, we feel better; when we are in motion, we feel better. The key is to have an aim and be in motion at the same time while then re-enforce the positive thoughts and f…

Clear Mind Zendo

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Clear Mind Zendo had a crowd last night. Hmmm. Two people, Bobby and John, came up from El Paso, very gracious of them both! And two local students, Rev. Kajo and Colette, were present. My maximum seating is six including myself, so it was a good test of the Zendo to accommodate a "full house" :)

This Zendo is intended for Zen students to come and sit with me. It is not a Zen Center, per se. I do not intend on incorporating, filing church papers with the state, or any other such nonsense. It is only a place to practice zazen and touch the Dharma.

So, I woke this morning with a sense of accomplishing a purpose. We all should have an aim in our lives, not an obsession, but a direction.
Mine I suppose is to be a religious teacher to any who approach me knowing I have nothing to teach. For a student to know this he must have some basis in practice already. Zen is like that.

Be well.

Announcements: We will sit this Saturday morning at 8:00 AM …

Peace

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

I woke a little late this morning, passing by my wrist alarm as if it were a pesky fly. So, zazen will come after this missive. It is Wednesday. Today we sit at the peace vigil at 4:30 PM and again in the Zendo at 7:00 PM. For reasons I cannot recall other than the vague sense of family and moving issues, I have not been at the vigils for several weeks now. So, I look forward to returning to this practice. Especially now that the weather is not quite as hot. Besides, this is a new year for me and an opportunity to re-commit to peace action.

Peace is a tricky thing. Peace activists cover the waterfront from complete pacifists to those who are simply opposed to this war (the one in Iraq). Some Zen Masters might say we can be at complete peace while swiftly cutting the head off an opponent. Most others might say, surrender all violence and consider all alternatives to violent action in the cause of peace. I am somewhere in there. To not ki…