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Showing posts from 2009

A Modest Life

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

In the Diamond Sutra we find a single description of the Way. It is a model for understanding the paramitas. This description comprises the first chapter and simply reflects the Buddha's day.

What does a buddha do? Before noon he puts on his patched robe, picks up his bowl and walks to town. He takes his time, waits patiently in front of a few homes collecting food offerings.He eats, then returns to the grove, takes off his robe, puts his bowl away, washes his feet, and sits down on his cushion. He then turns his "awareness to what is before him."

In this brief description is everything. Buddha demonstrates generosity by making himself available to teach through a variety of means, including asking for help. He demonstrates patience through his quiet standing in front of homes begging. He teaches vigor through walking, washing, and ordering his life after eating. Sitting down on his cushion he practices meditation,…

Paramitas

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There are six paramitas in Zen. These are perfections or excellence's. Some might call them values. The paramitas are six manifestations of the facets of our essential face. They are the "what" of us, rather than the "who".

If I ask myself who was I before my father and mother were born, before my father's father, my mother's mother, what would I say? If I said, "Ridiculous, there was no me before I was born!", I could say, "That's skirting the question! I am only approaching the clothing, not the body."

Under the clothes, who is there? Honestly, I must answer with some reference to core elements, eh? Father is there, mother is there. Teachers, friends, neighbors, lovers, wife, children, all are there. The me of me does not exist in a vacuum, the me of me has been, and always will be conditioned, that is, subject to cause and effect and has thus been in existence in some …

Challenges

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

In the morning my heart feels the most grounded. I sit, pay attention to my breath, listen to the sounds of my environment, and typically take care of the kitchen, animals, and getting the coffee made. This morning My Little Honey did these as I slept. Apparently, I needed some extra sleep.

Paying attention and opening to what is there are good practice buddies. Resisting engaging an inner voice that wants to interrupt others, inject itself into something, or direct things, is a good third buddy.

Practicing these can be a challenge on two fronts, however. First they are challenges to our own habit energy. Second, they are challenges for those around us. When we attempt to make a change, that change is often met with confusion or resistance by others.

This morning, just now, I was asked to help Judy with a task right in the middle of my writing. I felt irritation. I took a couple of breaths and attempted to do what she asked. …

Tea Cups

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



The day is dawning cold. I feel my body much more acutely than ever before as I age and the temperatures are low. Those first bends and twists to feed the dogs, make the coffee and load the dishwasher are each mindfulness moments in themselves: great teachers!



I spent a good deal of last night studying a wonderful book on Buddhist yoga entitled, "Mindfulness Yoga, the Awakened Union of Breath, Body, and Mind" by Frank Jude Boccio. This is a serious book which relies heavily on the sutras to make its case for yoga as a contemplative practice. I was fascinated by Boccio's depth of presentation using sources from teachings regarding the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Noble Path, the Heart Sutra, the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, the Tao Te Ching, Thich Nhat Hahn, Shunryu Suzuki, his present teacher, Samu Sunim, and many, many others. While I practice yoga daily, even as a contemplative aspect of my morning pra…

Christmas

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



There are so many, many levels of understanding related to Christmas. I see them on a continuum. On one end of the pole is Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth who came to be called a Messiah by some and whose followers later made a deity. On the other end of the pole is a holiday, one among many, but nothing particularly religious. In between, a vast array of meanings, each according to the person experiencing the day.



Another dimension is that of like and dislike: those who go completely and gleefully nuts on one end; those who aggressively go "bah, humbug!' on the other. This is accompanied by still another dimension, that of sacred and profane. It gets so confusing.



Someone could not believe Jesus was anyone particularly special and yet hold the secular nature of the holiday sacred! Case in point, the response to those "bah-humbuggers" out there, which is typically, "Ah come on, its s…

My Aching Nose

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



My teacher often would say to me, "If I grab your nose and twist it, you would yell!" The trouble with reaching a state of non-duality is those reaching it often believe they will reside there, should reside there, and ought to be able to reside there...forever. Not so.



We are human beings living with a central nervous system and all of it's attendant functions. Our senses perceive, our brain organizes, processes and responds. Even when we realize the reality constructed by our brain is not the reality that exists as it is, we still must deal with our CNS and it's chemical and electrical processes.



Creating a pause between thought, feeling, and behavior is only one step. Some get stuck in the pause. Believing that pause is the same as emptiness. It is not. We must take a next step. A next breath. A next meal. We must continue to function in the world.



So then, what is this function? Is it to sit in serene refl…

Notes for the Day

with palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



Waking to the patter of rain today. The sky is clouded over. The temperature is a chilly 37 degrees. I am wrapped in my robe and feel content to just be here at my desk talking to you.



A sense of contentment is a wonderful thing. Very grounding. Yet, contentment can be dangerous. It is one thing to feel contentment for one's self and entirely another, to be content with the condition of the world in which we live. Feeling content to me means I have little anxiety about myself, my own path, my desires, hopes and dreams. Yet, I am a deeply malcontent-ed person as I look out into that other aspect of myself, the world.



So much fear and anger in the world; so much suspicion and hate. So much disproportionate wealth, poverty, hunger, untreated sickness. And such fear about people getting what some believe they do not deserve.



On one level, I would like to eliminate that word and its meaning from our language. Deservedness, like mer…

Avatar

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



What follows is inspired by both the film, Avatar, and our weekly discussion group held at my residence.



In a world where species specific ethics is the rule, an organic system cannot sustain itself. In a world of egocentricity, a homo sapien system cannot sustain itself. In both cases, we are on the losing side of the rule. Sustainability requires an aim of system wide sustainability. In Merton's words, 'no man is an island', nor, I will add, is a species.



Classic theology has Man at the center of the world, if not the entire universe, and Self and the salvation of self , is the chief product and process of that creation. It is a theology of death, yet masquerades as a supporter of life. Adherents of this theology place everything in service to a single species and, ultimately on each human being as the crown of creation. Even our care and compassion are placed in service to our needs.



Yet, no system can sustain itself w…

Recovery

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



There is no where to go that we have not been. Yet, we always seem to seek something new. Brain on drugs. Every feeling, every sensation,smell, taste, touch, sound, we have experienced either directly in life or indirectly through media. There is, indeed, nothing new under the sun, yet there it is, the next step, the next adventure, trip, meal, movie, partner. Its dizzy making.



What we avoid experiencing is stillness. Serene reflection. Our actual self.



This gives a somewhat different meaning to recovery. Rather than seeking recovery from, we experience recovery of. It is a deeply profound difference with very different assumptions and starting places.



Our original self is our original mind, like that great void across the deep in Genesis, it is our Original Nature. We need not recover from our addictions, distractions, and other delusions, instead we take a backward step and allow them to just be what they are: our job is to see th…

Testing is Not Living

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



When we fail our lives seem as if for nothing. Our thoughts scream, our feelings blister, and our hearts feel empty. If failure is a pattern, we begin to think in terms of futility or a corruption of our personality, a loss of soul. Yet, all of this is based in what? A measure we create in the first place and hold out as if it were a litmus test of our worth.



Not so.



Our test is not in our failure or our patterns, but rather in our recognition and willingness to take the next step. Always, it is to do what is there in front of us to do.



Listen to the screams, they are our teachers. Listen to the thoughts, they are our teachers. Listen to our feelings, they are our teachers. Yet, none are the end point, but rather the beginning.



Just so, the successes in life. Another false measure, easy to be mistaken for the moon and not the finger pointing to it. We bathe ourselves in good feeling, positive thoughts and embrace a sense of invinci…

No Buddhism

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



In spite of all the books, references, and times it is refered to as such, there is no Buddhism. For there to be a Buddhism, there would need to be a set of beliefs, a dogma, something the "-ism" would reside in. If we seek to adopt a set of values, we are lost. If we believe in Buddha, we are lost. We must allow the sword of Manjushri to set us free.



Followers of the Buddha Way take a backward step. We sit down. We reside in stillness. In this stillness our skins fall away allowing us to touch our True Nature, our True Body. Say what it is, and it is no more. Hold it out as an ideal and it is as good as a stuffed animal.



All that we think we know about Buddhism is delusion. We should get rid of it. It is worse than trash, it is toxic to our practice, which is to say, it closes our eyes. To use a phrase popularized by my friend, Brad Warner, sit down and shut up and in the process, allow our eyes to open.



Be well.

Everyday: Think About It

With palms together,

Good Evening Everyone,





Everyday is a wonder. I look at my hand and marvel at it. I look at my other hand and marvel at it, as well. They couldn't be more different, yet are of the same body. One moves with ease and has tremendous sensitivity. The other hardly moves and when it does it curls into strange twists and strains almost against itself. I feel one, barely feel the other. Just so, my heart/mind.



I consider the cause. A single bullet to the right side of my head on May 29, 1966 is the obvious cause. But equally present was my youthful willingness to go to war. My culture's willingness to have me go there. All of the propaganda, all of the socialization, and religions unwilling to stand up and shout against the grain, "There is another way!"



When I returned from combat, I decided I could no longer support war. Talk is cheap, though. So I protested. At that point in the Vietnam War, people didn't like protesters.



All the same a…

Violence

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



Lately, I am encountering questions about the use of violence to confront violence in the world. Is Zen Buddhism pacifist? How do we actually live out our precepts, precepts that underscore a position of doing no harm on the one hand, and doing good, on the other hand?



How do we embrace those that would kill us?



How do we deal with those who would have us kill?



I will answer directly:



I believe the Buddha Way does not embrace or support violent solutions to violent conflict.



I believe we are called to directly confront violence with non-violence and to meet hate with love.



I believe this takes a long and deep practice which results in a dropping away of self so there is "no hindrance in the mind, therefore, no fear". We are not always residing in this place, but must continue our practice so as to 'water the seeds' of our compassion.



Because of this, Zen is not for everyone as very few are at a point in their human and …

Monday Notes

With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

This morning's streetZen went well. It was delightful outside. Colette and I were sitting alone, but a woman came by and decided to join us. She had been to the local showing of the short Yee film about me and Street Zen and decided to come by. Such good things happen when just sitting.

During the first sitting period I was visited by a spider. After the others left, I stayed for awhile and was soon visited by a curious roadrunner. The spider crawled onto my head, the roadrunner just walked behind me.

This afternoon I have a Study Group meeting at my residence at four. A delightfully diverse group of participants create a truly wonderful atmosphere. If interested, please join us.

Be well.

Winter

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Winter gets a bad rep. In some places, such as Cleveland, deservedly so. Yet, there is something of value about the winter regardless of where we are. The day opens slowly in the winter. A good way to begin any day actually.

"Slow" is rarely encountered and certainly not appreciated today. "Slow" is too often experienced as a hindrance. We so want to 'get there'! Yet, "slow" assists us by allowing moments of thoughtful deliberation to occur, as well as time to appreciate each moment itself. And due to our own expectations of what a reasonable pace is, to go slower than that expectation offers us a teaching about ourselves.

So, I know when I am in a hurry, I have taken to slowing down a bit. Attention to breath, slowly in, slower out, reside in the center. While I am clearly not always successful, as I do not always practice what I preach, I am always successful when I do practice.

Be well, be …

Living Zen

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I would like to talk a little about what it means to follow the Buddha Way. It's a deceptively simple path to nowhere. It's a path where the path itself is the end and the beginning. It is a Way where, "Are we there yet?", is a meaningless question.

More BabbleZen? Put your hands on the table you are sitting at. Take in a breath and release it slowly and deeply. Where are you? No BabbleZen, just being there.

When we are 'there', that is to say, 'here', we are able to experience nothing more or less than 'here.' When we realize 'here' is the whole enchilada then we are free to be completely present and eat it. We release the thought of the next moment and the last moment. We release the grip of feelings, knowing they have very short lifespans and are simply reflections of thoughts and discriminations.

No planning? No dreaming? Not so. We have our thoughts and our feeling…

Is Knowing Enough?

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

From the Soto Zen meal blessings, Gokan No Ge:

First, innumerable labors have brought us this food
We should know how it came to us.

The new farm:

"Find a sheet of printer paper and imagine a full-grown bird shaped something like a football with legs standing on it. Imagine 33,000 of these rectangles in a grid. (Broilers are never in cages, and never on multiple levels.) Now enclose the grid with windowless walls and put a ceiling on top. Run in automated (drug-laced) feed, water, heating, and ventilation systems."

Free range? Make a small opening in the wall, enough for one bird to squeeze through to a 5 x 5 foot dirt patch. This qualifies the mass of birds to be labelled "free range".

Now, after killing, the chickens are placed in a refrigerated water tank, thousands at a time. Referred to as 'fecal soup' by the Government Accountability Project, clean birds are cooled with dirty ones. Hot birds have ope…

Opportunity to Help

From a friend:

Hi Harvey

I hope you're doing well this holiday season. The Fresh Air Fund is looking for runners and sponsors to join our Fresh Air Fund-Racers team for the NYC Half-Marathon this coming March 21st and I was hoping you might be able to post something about it on Clear Mind Zen to share with your readers. This is a great way to participate in NYC's premier summer road race while helping Fresh Air Fund children.

Over the last year, support from friends like you helped us give nearly 10,000 inner-city children country experiences that they're still talking about! We rely on donations this time of year to keep our programs strong for the summer months, and helping children is a cause that I'm sure your readers would be interested in. Please feel free to repost anything from our news site here:

http://freshairholiday.org

Being one means?

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

On Face Book yesterday I posted a bit of whimsy, "A universe of one means we are all related." Last night I caught the last half or so of Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God", her one woman autobiographical play on her conversion from Catholicism to atheism. I set my DVR to record the next offering of this show (Sho3, 12/10 @ 5:55 AM MT) as it was a marvelous presentation. So these two points are rolling around in my heart/mind this morning.

Too often when atheists talk about religion, they are addressing a religion with a God framed in dualistic terms. Its a straw man thing. And when we talk about "oneness" we too often talk from with a human centered point of view.

Trouble is, God is no thing we can name. If our argument is with God it must rather be, with our understanding and conceptualization of God. Likewise, if we talk about Oneness we must include everything in that oneness and know that there…

Windy

With palms together,
Good Afternoon Everyone,

We have a very windy day here in southern New Mexico. The swing on the back patio was lifted and thrown against the house, creating a small hole in our wall. Looking out, looking in. Meditation and Ygoa at TBE at 4:00 today.
_____________


Wind

Tumbleweed
create a sangha
in the walled corner,
gathering
near Buddha
like so many disciples.

Dry and lifeless
stiff and prickly.
This is how they roll.

Is this what it means
to be aimless?

No.

Look within and see
the seed
grasping to earth
in a flow
as a handless wand
spreads stardust.

A breath.



Be well.

Ice Cream

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Through the graciousness of Disciple Rev. KoMyo, I was able to study the video teaching regarding Oryoki (formal meal taking) from Dharma Communications. A monastic setting certainly demands a formal and efficient approach to things, and respect for food clearly must be a priority, yet I believe sometimes it is far too easy for some of us to believe the type of bowl, what color it is, type of spoon and how it is set out, are more important than their function. We call this Cathedral Zen. At Clear Mind we say, "just eat the ice cream".

The story behind ritual is two fold. First, it offers a tool toward efficient accomplishment of something done often. We brush our teeth in a similar way each day. Brushing our teeth becomes a ritual. If there are a hundred of us brushing our teeth at the same time, we certainly would be well advised to have a plan so that elbows aren't cracking and sinks are available. But is the ritual, th…

Snow

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

We woke to a few inches of snow on the ground. The Zendo was warm and inviting. I opened the window a bit and as we sat, the cold morning air penetrated my samue (working clothes) to wake up my skin. Disciple Rev. KoMyo is here from California and sat with me this morning. We will begin Rohatsu sesshin this evening.

Our sesshin are weekend events. This sesshin, typically done at our Mountain Refuge, will be done in Las Cruces at my residence' Zendo and on the street. It will be a challenge, but then, Zen is nothing, if not a challenge.

When we leave our comfort zone many channels of awareness open. Even our skin seems to be on alert. This is a welcoming invitation to experience the present moment.
Too comfortable is a problem; too uncomfortable, also a problem. To leave what we know is not to jump over a cliff. But, it is to take a step into unknown territory.



So, this sesshin will be a different experience than what we have …

Violence

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There is always a reason for violent solutions. Violent solutions seem quite efficient and are often in service to an emotional need. Yet, violent solutions are, more often than not, short sighted and suggest a lack of creativity, skill, and patience, to say nothing of a lack of compassion.

Ruthless enemies offer opportunities for quick, violent solutions so all enemies are ruthless. We sometimes say violence is compassionate as it can, we believe, be corrective. Is this actually so? What is corrective about a bully? A sharp word or crack of a stick gets our attention, but isn't there a cost? Moreover, what causes ruthless behavior? And does violence address that cause?

I have used guns, grenades, sharp words, and a kyosaku. The former in service to killing an enemy and protecting my life, the latter in service to family and students. Or so I convince myself. In Zen we are asked to always question.

Is there not a better way?

Be …

War No More

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Does practice change anything? After years of sitting facing a wall, does it at all matter that such a practice was done? In the morning the sun rises. Has millenia of nights made a difference?

Under the sun, a rock. Does the sand in the desert change or not? Does the rock come and go?

Does anything change anything? Of course it does ...and it doesn't. Buddha taught this arises because that arises in an infinite thread; birth, death, birth, death. When we say they are the same, one thing; when we say they are different, another thing.

To live without war is easy. Just give up the fighting and abandon the who that is doing it. More guns, more war; less guns, less war.

And the who that it is being done to? To live in peace is a challenge. Peace requires a willingness to take our hands off an enemy and put them back on a person who is suffering.

Stop, Listen, Practice!


Yours,

Rohatsu Sesshin

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

We begin our weekend Rohatsu sesshin on Friday evening and will practice a mix of zazen in the Clear Mind Zendo and streetZen both at the Veteran's Park and in Old Mesilla throughout Saturday. A showing of an independent film about streetZen at the Fountain theatre will be considered part of our study practice on Saturday afternoon. If you wish to participate, please email me (if you have not already done so).

For those attending, please bring sleeping bags, blankets, and your own cushion for streetZen. Dress warm, layered, and in dark colors, preferably black. Evening and early morning practice will be in the Zendo. Late morning and throughout the day we will sit outdoors. Gloves and scarves will be needed.

Morning and evening meals will be indoors. Lunch will be outdoors at streetZen. Sunday morning we will practice in the Zendo and Student Joe Weitzell will take Jukai.

A small donation will be welcomed. Please join us to m…

Listen

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

A headline on the news services this morning spoke to me. It reported that a storm was gathering in the US senate. I immediately saw a senator addressing an empty chamber with other senators huddled in their offices, surrounded by staffers, looking for ways and means to sink or float whatever. The thought occurred to me that this is an exemplar of our most serious contemporary problem: no one listens.

We seem to run through our lives with an agenda in mind. First, get what I want. Second, be as distracted as is possible in the process.

Listening requires stopping first and releasing our grip on what it is we are carrying, second.

Zazen is a powerful tool in learning not only that this is possible, but that it is of great benefit to do so. When we practice zazen, we stop. We gather ourselves together. We take our seat with deliberation. We address the universe as it is, not as we wish it to be.

I have lived a great deal of my life …

The Point

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Playing online chess with really good chess players around the world is an exercise in humility. I decided not too long ago to only seek games with players ranked at exactly my rank and upward to three hundred points. This forces me to play with very good players each game. It also allows me to immediately (or nearly so) see my smaller errors. One thing I've noticed is it is much easier to yield defeat after a blunder when playing someone ranked above me. I wonder about this.

Now, that is not the point, the point is to notice such things.

We spend much of our lives (or at least I have) not noticing. We have our eye on future possibilities, as an Argentine opponent once phrased it. Aging, like playing vastly superior players, informs us: future possibilities are less interesting than present delights. Noticing becomes increasingly important, I suspect. And as we practice, we notice more easily.

Again, not the point. Practice for …

Crazy is as Crazy is Decided

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Overnight I dreamt about thanksgiving and gratitude. How are they the same? How are they different? But this led me to another question, an age old question, the question of measurement.

The measure reveals more about the measurer than the measured. The measure is a set point created by the measurer. Of course, there is no set point except in the mind of the measurer. Absolute zero? No. In relation to what?

With human beings, we measure in ranges. Normal is between this and that range of something. Not going outside of these limits can be very important, say for our health, if we are talking about body temperature, for example.

Measures of value, quality, and behavior, these on the other hand, are a challenge. We measure in relation to our set point. In physics and chemistry, this point may be established through empirical testing. Absolute zero is as low as we can go: no motion of molecules in relation to one another. But in…

IP

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The world is still here. I did yet another sleep study last night. This time with a CPAP for sleep apnea which I have, they say, a very mild case. Always seeking a solution seems to suggest always seeking a problem. It is an interesting position being the Identified Patient. Life becomes a laboratory and I become the experiment. Observers understand everything then in terms of this or that. Yes. And then the solutions. Pills, machines, and, of course, more tests.

These are just a bother, to use Willie the Pooh's word, the real issue is the interior landscape.

What is it to live as if there is a problem, an illness, a condition, underneath everything? Behavior and thought suspect? Framed in some pathological picture?

Life lived this way seems to dismiss or diminish the health of a person. No matter what else is, illness is in the scope.

Zen makes it possible not to do this. Zen takes what is, just as it is. Removes the fram…

When the Cat Becomes a Lion

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Joy is a wonderful thing. Eyes light-up, smiles happen, heart-rates jump, all sorts of healthful chemicals flow through our bodies. So, why shouldn't we desire it?

Desire is one of those kleshas, those toxins we are taught in the Buddha Way to avoid. It is equated with greed, a poison that overcomes us and disallows our awakening.

Sunday at our discussion after Zazen, we talked about how wanting something has been co-opted and transformed into needing something by the marketing forces of corporations. But they are not necessarily to blame. We, ourselves, do this simple conversion. It is rather like the simple slip from "is" to "ought" and not actually recognizing that the two are not connected. We human beings desire.

Desire in itself is not the problem. It is what we do with it. Recognizing desire is just like recognizing a thought or a feeling. No problem. Return to your breath and be still. Increase …

Suffering

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Sitting with someone who is suffering is very challenging. We wish the person was not experiencing pain, we would like to relieve that pain so the person will not suffer. Our hearts feel. We suffer in our desire to relieve suffering.

What to do. Nothing. Zen practice is to be. Yet, to be in a particular way. This way of being is the way of the Buddha.

Increasing the space between the perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors we experience, we allow for stillness. Moving deeper in that stillness, patience. In that patience, concentration, generosity, morality, and diligence arise.

Through these perfections, we see the one thing that remains: just do.

Be well.

Morning Note

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

A busy night last night. We had a party for Daughter-in-Law Maggie in honor of her completing a course to become a physical trainer. She did her testing for her certificate, but will not know the results for a couple of weeks. It was delightful to see the joy in her face as a cake and special dinner was presented!

This morning Robert Yee of Robert Yee Productions, will visit us in the Zendo. He has been following our sitting for the last week videotaping in order to produce a short video on streetZen. The film will be a part of the Mesilla Valley Film Festival here on December 5th. I am uncertain how he will pull this off: a movie of people just sitting?

That is his. This is mine. A mantra to live by.

We also have an extra dog with us. Zeesa, friend Deana's Labrador. Together with our other three (we are watching son Jason's dog, as well) we are up to our hips in fur. I am learning much about myself with these pets. They a…

Morning Note

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Things happen. This morning I woke a bit late, spent an hour getting a very messy kitchen cleaned (having a French Chef for a son has two sides) and took care of the animals. From there, into the Zendo for meditation and writing practice. Bella, other son's dog, would not stop barking. I feared Judy would wake. Calmed Bella, began to video, then I heard the washing machine start. Judy was up. Bella barked again. Tripper followed. I followed Tripper.

So, I abandoned the seat, visited with Judy, sipped coffee, and played online chess as she scanned her email. Shortly it will be time to walk. Everything is as it is.

Zen in the morning.

Be well.

The Moment

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I woke feeling rested. This is a wonderful feeling, yet it will pass. I just received an email from my walking partners. They will not be going out this morning. He has a sciatica problem affecting his foot. A few days rest are in order.

As we age we really begin to notice changes. Not as sharp, not as strong, not as flexible, not as resiliant, we say, because we recall a time when we were otherwise. Its easy to say, everything changes, live in the moment, and let the rest go. Or to notice that, in the end there is no end and our True Nature is Infinite.

Yet, faced with an inability to walk, or a heart that needs repair, or a brain that is declining, requires a recognition of what was to what is in order to deal with what will be. Just as the monastery's cook must have a time and a place to plan tomorrow's meal, he must also consider the contents of his pantry, the number of monastics to fed and the condition…

Study

With Palms Together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday afternnon I was reviewing the fukanzazengi, a text by Master Dogen. I was doing this in concert with a review of Uchiyama's "Opening the Hand of Thought". Its funny how one text often inspires the examination of another. In Zen we have such awesome texts to look to for inspiration. Each time I look into one, I feel compelled tpo look into another. There is a great danger in this, however.

The danger, of course, is that such absorbtion points in absolutely the wrong direction. The steps we take in study should compell us to set the texts aside and seek refuge in the our Self through zazen. Zazen is the practice, the rest are ideas about the practice. About is not the same as is.

So, we use our study to inspire us to move toward practice. Practice to get our head away from ideas. Eat our celery without it being "celery". Then study with a clear mind.

Be well.

Refuge

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



Often in the morning I ask , "What am I doing?" My answer, "I don't know."



Disciple KoMyo and I talked yesterday. During the Rohatsu sesshin, our seniors will confer. The Order will develop itself. For my part, I want to remain without a Zen Center. My practice is on the street and in the heart. My practice is about being peace. Buildings do not make for much of anything but a place to separate yourself from the everyday and in Zen, as in most spiritual practices, it is the everyday is everything.



Practice in the open, under the sky, on grass or sidewalks, and in parks is precisely how Buddha himself practiced. Today, with pace being so important and distraction being our singular human activity, we fail to learn about ourselves. We do not stop long enough to listen.



It is easy to fall prey to this. I just did. Its a kind of sickness, I think. The trouble is, it seems to define the contemporary human condi…

Blankets and Buddhas

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



A cold front is moving across the desert and the morning air is sitting at 43 degrees. Shortly I will bundle-up and go outside to walk. We often say in Zen there is no hot or cold. Yet, there it is, The relative scale of the thermometer, the need for our bodies to remain within a certain range on that scale, demand action.



Four of us sat zazen Friday in the rotunda. The wind was blowing very hard, fallen leaves didn't just shuffle along, they absolutely ran! Each of us were forced to put on protective clothing. Again, the relative truth of things came into play.



For those of us convinced awakening frees us from such things, I say that sort of awakening is just another delusion. Air remains is both cold and not cold at the same time. Awakened beings get cold. They then cover up. No problem.



The moment we argue with the cold or with the heat or that we should somehow be little statues, immune to it all, we lose our buddhahood,. M…

Moment in Time

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The dishes are put away, the dishwasher is re-loaded, my laundry is being washed, the coffee is brewed, and I am sitting just now in my Zendo. The window is open. Cool air flows onto my robed knee. It is refreshing.

I spent a lot of time last night just sitting. Its a wonderful way to experience no-time. Notice the language. I do not "spend" time. I do not experience "time". When I am "spending time" I am really not present as I am aware of the memory of one moment to the next, measuring one against another. When I do that there an be no now.

But when I experience "no-time" that is to say, I remain with the present moment, with no last moment, no next moment, no comparing, there can be no time.

What is it like to live without time? Boundless.

Be well.

Practice

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Those of you receiving this are what remains of my daily recipients list.

I have decided to step away from synagogue life, as I indicated earlier. My focus will be on my own practice as a Zen priest and theology student. Practice is a large matter residing in the intimate details. Practice is where our "shin" is, our heart/mind.

My practice, the deepest practice of all, is zazen.

I will post a bit more infrequently than in the past.

Practice periods are 10:30 Monday and Friday at Veteran's Park and at 9:00 AM at my home Zendo.

I encourage each of you to take up this practice daily in your home.

May you each be a blessing,

How is it?

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,


"When birth and death come, how do we avoid them?", Yunman was asked. And he replied, "Where are they?"

This is from Case 166 of Master Dogen's Koan collection. The capping verse goes,

"In arriving, there is no abode;
in departing, there is no destination.
Ultimately, how is it?
Here I have been all the time!"

This morning I entered the Zendo early and sat facing the wall. I decided not to bring a timer. I just sat. It is Veteran's Day today. We are asked to remember. I don't think so. I cast aside memories.

Zen is the practice of just being. We do not practice for today, tomorrow or due to something that happened yesterday. We practice for nothing. Zen practice is a constant letting go of things we think are true, or that we believe in, or that we experience. Sometimes it is a struggle to do so. This morning, for example, I could not find a cat carrier we had borrowed from friends. They asked …

Zen & Tautology

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning is cold and fresh. I woke with no agenda. It is both a light feeling and a frightening one. Sometimes our burdens, plans, hopes, and dreams give us a sense of place, direction, and stability, while at the same time, rob us of being awake.

As a Zen practitioner I practice to wake free and stand without bags. This requires a willingness to live without place, direction, and stability. Why? All places, all directions, all ground is delusion. We create our universe in each breath, in each moment, and with each step. We die, the universe dies. And as the universe dies, we are truly born. There is a reason the Ancients taught that we should die to ourselves. One cannot be awake and at the same time live in a fiction as if it were real.

Very challenging.

The world of duality is immensely seductive. I am this; you are that. This is better or worse than that. I win, you lose. Scores are kept. And so on.

One reason I so enjoy cold air…

Death

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

One of my Disciples, Rev. Kajo, wrote to the Zen Living list about her experience dealing with the recent death of her father. I am sending my reply to her this morning as my daily message. Below my reply is her original post.

Daiho Roshi

__________________

Dear Kajo,

Personal pain and personal suffering are different, but equally difficult for others to address with the one in pain and suffering. You have experienced the loss of your father's presence in your life as a physical being. You have experienced your family's insensitivity in not informing you immediately. Pain, yes. Suffering, well that is yours. We suffer as we hold on to thoughts and feelings, stringing them like beads on a necklace. Care needs to be taken not to allow this necklace to become a choker chain.

We experience, through our practice, the fact that there is no birth or death, only this moment. How can this help? The thought of it does nothing. The practice of …

Is the Point Necessary?

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning is a wonderfully cool morning. My chess was a little better last night. And I began reading a great little book recommended by Rabbi Citrin on the Bible called, simply enough, "Who Wrote the Bible?" It offers a background on text criticism which opens a whole other dimension to Torah study. Agenda in writing is the sleeper to the story. As in most of life, don't we seek to know "the point"?

When we try to transfer something from ourselves to another, duality is created. Other is separated from self. You arises. In this separation, a point arises. Why? Why would you give me that? Why are you talking to me? Why would you take that away? Why would you tell the story that way and not this? What does why mean? Is is really is? :)

Zen Judaism asks us to be our relationship with the Infinite. We don't become it. Why questions cause separation. What questions offer exploration. When we explore our live…

Where's God?

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Honestly, I do not know why I study through the day each and every day. I've been considering this question (and another) for some time as it consumes a great deal of my time. I suppose the best answer is that when I study, I find connections. Text is my community. The more the better, it would seem. The two major areas I study are in Zen and Judaism, particularly what I like to call contemplative Judaism. [Whenever I come upon the word 'mystical' in a Jewish text it almost always refers to a pointing to something non-dualistic. Must be mystical if it brings us closer to the Infinite, I suppose. In the modern era, mystical sounds, well, too mystical :) ]
Every once in awhile I find texts in the two traditions (actually, more often than not) which say the same thing or point to the same thing, and this leads me to believe that in both cases, the practice is to collapse the self into the Infinite. In other words, to join Big Mind…

Loori-roshi

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I went outside to eat some raisin toast. While doing so, I feed the birds and picked up things. Granddaughter Livvie has a tent set up and it is full of toys. As I'm picking up, I notice a bird swoop down to snack on my toast. Sharing is a good thing.

The passing of someone like Rev. John Daido Loori-roshi is one of those inevitability's none of us look forward to. The man was a pioneer of Zen in the United States. His monastery, books, dharma talks, and photography stand as a testament to a life well lived in service to others and to the dharma.

I met him once in California at the 800th birthday of Master Dogen. He walked with a slow deliberateness and slightly hunched back. There was a slight smile on his face and seeming twinkle in his eyes. He taught through himself: a manifest buddha. Yet, also, was challenging. His teaching was as historic masters, the kyosaku and a word or bell were always present.

We use his…

The Paradigm is Cracking

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Last night after a pair of classes at the Temple I came home and read the Responsa assignments for our "Jewish Issues" class. A "responsa" is a rabbinic assembly's consideration of a question put to it by someone regarding Jewish life. In Reform Judaism, Responsa do not hold the force of law, but are considered informed opinions about situations that are meant to offer guidance to local congregations.
One of our reading assignments/discussion topics involves Jews who convert to Christianity, apostasy & synagogue honors. I read this and felt for all "sides". Conscience, faith, and belief on an individual level is always in tension with "group". I remembered another responsa I had read some years ago now on the question of whether or not a Zen Buddhist priest could become a member of a Temple congregation. The responsa declared he or she could not. The issue hung on the assumptions around &quo…

Moving

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The morning air is moving swiftly over the desert up from Mexico. I am reminded of the koan regarding the flag and the wind. Some might say the flag is moving, others say the wind is moving, still others say mind is moving. In truth there is no "moving". And from the point of view of the Infinite, clearly this is so. Buddha Mind is unmoving. Yet, the clock still ticks as we measure our day and if we don't get to the bank on time, our checks will bounce. What is important about the lesson regarding "moving" is that we learn both are true at the same time: relative and absolute. The Infinite is infinite. It renders all concepts both full and empty. Only No-Mind can grasp this.

Be well.

Noise

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Quiet pervades even in the midst of a cacophony of noise. How? Ask, what is noise? Concordant, discordant, no matter. Noise is nothing but a sensory event we assign meaning to. Some meanings are wonderful; others, not so wonderful. Yet, when we set aside our meanings and exist with the 'noise', when 'noise' is received and accepted, enfolded into ourselves, 'noise' ceases. This is stillness. This is serene reflection meditation. This is Zen. It is without religious assignment, yet is the heart of all religion.

Be well.

Vows

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Vows are inside out. We don't take a vow, we manifest a vow already there deep within us. Like a seed planted by the Infinite, life's various twists and turns till the soil around it, water it, offer it light and warmth, and there...it opens to our view.
I have manifested only a few vows in my life. A vow to serve and protect the United States. A vow to follow the ways of Torah. A vow to be a partner to My Little Honey. And a set of Bodhisattva vows. I like to think these are consonant and not discordant.

It is so: the core vow is that of waking up. Being present, and seeing with a clear mind, resolves all illusion of conflict as conflict can only occur in a deluded mind, a mind divided.

I experience buddha-mind in every moment. We are beings united without separation, yet there is you, and there is me. The golden net is our heart. It is our heart-mind, "shin", that is the source of all vows. Understand, in Zen, heart an…

Invitation

With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

As a elder in the Zen Peacemaker Sangha, I ask that you consider the following from the Zen Peacemakers:

"For Your Information: Bernie Glassman and the Zen Peacemakers are offering a free subscription to BEARING WITNESS: A Newsletter for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism. This e-Newsletter offers profiles, links and articles on the groups and individuals committed to this practice, emerging service projects and social actions as well as the history, ethical bases and philosophies comprising this multifaceted global movement.

To subscribe, please link to: http://www.zenpeacemakers.org/subscribe Bernie has also created two resource directories for this work, a Directory of Socially Engaged groups and individuals: http://www.zenpeacemakers.org/doing_directory, and a directory of learning resources: http://www.zenpeacemakers.org/learning_directory

Thank you,

May you each be a blessing in the universe,

A Light in the Dark

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

A sore throat and sniffles greeted me this morning. Still there from yesterday, I decided not to go out for a walk/run/bike today. This morning Zen services at 9:00 AM; this evening Erev Yom Kippur services at Temple Beth-El at 8:00 PM. In between, a class on the sacred art of lovingkindness at 3:00 PM. Within each moment, vast emptiness, :).

My altar needs candles. I had my Daughter-in-Law pick-up a bag of tea light candles a few days ago, but she has not brought them over as yet. So, I will use an old round candle nearly burnt to the quick. There is no trash, as Master Soko Morinaga says. May each of us burn brightly and be a light to the world even to the last breath.

Sounds awfully dark, doesn't it, last breath and all. Yet each breath is a last breath. Each moment the universe is created and kpasses away with each cycle of our lungs, each sweep of the second hand of the clock. Going into time deeply, there is no first, no last, ju…

Each Day

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Today is very busy: Talmud class, Shabbat services, Havdalah after dinner. I have moved Saturday streetZen to Friday morning. We are approaching Yom Kippur. This day we stand before the Infinite. All month we have been preparing for this: examining ourselves, our relationships, our words and deeds. On Yom Kippur the book closes.

There is something very wonderful about this process. Examination is followed by an attempt to reconcile, to forgive and be forgiven, and to close the story's chapter in order to take the next step.

These are moment to moment dramas.

We notice. We act. We move on.

Zen teaches us to be present in each moment and notice. Seung Sahn says then 'only go straight.'

We recite the prayer of atonement each morning "All my past and harmful karma, born from beginningless greed, hate, and delusion,
through my body, speech, and mind, I now fully avow."
We might wash our hands three times or once, we migh…

Puddle Mind

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

An early morning chill in the air adds a sense of freshness to the day. Crisp air feels clean and clear. A mind must be chilled as well to be clear. One of the "kleshas" is "passion". The connotation is heated, stirring, rolling, as the surface of the surf when water is pushed and pulled to form a tumult of waves at the beach. Zen mind is the mind of pond or, better, puddle and residing in stillness.

Chill: to settle down, abide in the moment as it is.

When chill when we let the passion flow without resisting it. Recent rain storms here in the southwest have demonstrated the futility of trying to channel the flow of raging water storming down from the mountains. When passions meet an obstacle, they tend to find a way to roll over it, around it or undermine it. As a hardwood tree in a hurricane, if the obstacle refuses to bend with the wind, away it goes.

How to we become mind like puddle?

Flexibility seems to play a part…

Drama

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

One of my fascinations in life is the role story plays in our lives. In training as a social worker my early mentor, Dr. Howard Goldstein (may his name be for a blessing), taught through demanding we examine story as key in understanding our clients. Somewhat dramaturgical, this idea is that we create stories where aspects (he refers to them as "persons") organize our perceptions and suggest responses.

This seems to me to be an integration of role theory and phenomenology. Oh, boy. We create a story through events in our lives, create parts, put ourselves in the play and then manifest the whole thing as we live out each moment.

Zen practice is the practice of examining this process and cutting it.

We are not a role, nor are we at the center of any story. We are the Universe. Story, while helpful, is a conceit. It is at root deceitful. But more importantly brings past karma into present moments as mechanisms for distortion. As Rabbi Shap…

Peace Day 2009

With palms together
Good Morning Everyone,

This evening we practice for peace together in support of the United Nations International Peace Day at Temple Beth-El. A number of local religious groups (including Clear Mind Zen) have come together, created an interfaith choir, and will offer songs, prayers and chants in support of peace. The event begins at 7:30 PM here in Las Cruces.

To honor this day I will practice streetZen at the Veteran's Park at 10:00 AM. If any of you are available and are interested please join me.

May you each be a blessing in the universe.

Notes

With palms together,
Good Afternoon Everyone,

Today has been very interesting. It began with an early 4:30 rise, zazen, and putting together an outline for a workshop on "Compassion Fatigue" for a local hospice organization. I managed to get in a short 1.5 mile walk through the desert park with friends Eve and Allen, but had to leave early to get to the hospice in time for the workshop at 8:00 AM

From there to the Temple to hear the finish of a discussion on the differences between the Christian "Old Testament" and the Hebrew Scriptures. On thing that came out: Jews are most interested in asking questions, Christians seek to find answers. As an aside, my sense is that Zen Buddhists just want to live as fully as possible. Scripture is relatively unimportant in Zen; it's the practice that is the Way and through the practice, the "scripture" reveals itself in our own original face.

Anyway, compassion fatigue, for those who don't know, is a potential…

Words

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The meaning of words, goodness, they form such peculiar common ground. A word is a vocal symbol for something. To the degree to which we share an understanding of the symbol determines the degree to which we understand each other. The rub is that understanding is never pure. It is always distorted by our prior experience and memory of that experience. Moreover, the symbol itself has an often unspoken social meaning. It all gets so convoluted. Yet, we think we understand each other.

Sometimes shared agreement on a meaning is reached. What becomes important is the shared agreement, not the word. The word is just a trigger, so to speak, which fires up recall of the underlying shared meaning. But even this is not the thing itself.

Just because we share an understanding of something and the common words pointing to it, does not mean we are in actual touch with that thing. In such cases, shared meaning clouds our mind and we think we are in tou…

Visitors

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This weekend was a beautiful one. Two of my wife's friends from graduate school (class of 1966) visited. It was the first they've seen each other since that time. They used to drive to their field placements in Akron together from the Cleveland area a couple of days a week. All three got married, had children, and then lived out their lives. Now, over forty years later, thanks to the Internet, they have reconnected. Its as if the intervening forty odd years did not exist. It was fascinating to witness.

Much older, grayer, and wizened, these three students, now Masters, came face to face with a sort of timelessness and a shared construction of reality with a few cracks. "Remember? Don't remember?" As each sought common ground, they each differentiated with the expectation of inclusion.

I admire My Little Honey and her two friends. This took courage. Clearly, people can and do care deeply for one another, and the co…

Life Bites

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,


Zen is neither mine nor yours. Awareness is neither mine nor yours. This moment is neither mine nor yours. Awakening is neither mine nor yours. Mine and yours have no place in the world of Zen. Even place itself does not exist. Mine and yours are convenient fictions we live by. We give them legal sanction, moral sanction, and sometimes even spiritual sanction. So: Everything is no thing.

Yet, a mosquito has bitten the back of my knee and it itches. At 4:30 AM Tripper barks and Judy grumbles. Our water is hard and leaves a residue on our glasses. No thing is everything.

We can say these do not exist, that mine and yours, like I and Thou, are based on constructions of a mind created through a neural net. But we live within this net. When our net collapses: so collapses mine and yours. So collapses mosquito, bite, itch, dishes, Tripper's bark. So collapses I and Thou.

Zen is living in both with full awareness of both and acting according…

Where Are You?

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Going out into the world, going inside, good grief! Enough going. I practice not-going. Practicing not-going is to practice Zen. Everything is here now: no path, no attainment, no 'other shore'.

Of course, sometimes "I" "go", as in playing iPhone games, wandering around looking at things, diving into Torah or the Sutras, etc., yet, this is just the shift of an eye, isn't it. One "eye" says "this is relative to that", suggesting two. Another "Eye" says "this and that are one and seeing a 'this' and a 'that' is a delusion, a mortal mind-trick". The Infinite is constantly demanding of us, "Where are you?!"

Watch out for shifty eyes.

Practice not-going and witness an eternal Eye.

Be well.

Suffering

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Last night son Jacob invited us to dinner at his condo. He prepared a wonderful dinner, bread, arugula and butter lettuce salad, and sole, all prepared exquisitely. The condo was spotless, extremely well appointed, and very comfortable. I was out of my comfort zone.

Fidgeting, I played a game of "paper toss" followed it by winning a chess game on my iPhone. I wandered around looking at his pictures and books. My Little Honey and Jacob talked and talked.

The other night we had dinner at a friend's. At the dinner table, I checked my email on my iPhone. One of my friends asked me to please put my iPhone away. Interesting. She was right, of course, and others have made comments about my inattentiveness at functions. If its not the iPhone, its wandering, if not wandering, its meditating. Something has changed.

It wasn't all that long ago that I wouldn't be caught dead owning and using a cell phone, when people commented …