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Showing posts from August, 2009

Practice Realization

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Bowing practice is a key practice in Zen Buddhism. We place our palms together in "gassho" bend at the waist to about 45 degrees for an everyday bow, 90 degrees for a deep bow. We also do "san pai" or three bowing prostrations as part of our Zen services. Various practice centers do these at differing points in the liturgy. I see these as completely private relational practices of buddha nature regardless of when they are done.

What I mean by relational practices of buddha nature is practice that contains the realization of complete non-duality.

When I do sanpai, I am not bowing before Shakyamuni Buddha, I am releasing my self to the universe. This is an act of complete humility. All subsequent bowing is a sort of abbreviated version. All gassho practice is even more abbreviated.

Abbreviated does not mean lesser. We place our palms together with the same realization of unity. We bow 45 degrees with the same realization…

Notes

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The week is beginning with a wonderful cool breeze coming across the desert. I am listening as the washer and drier do their various activities. I can hear the fountain in the garden. Its soft, nearly melodic sound is eclipsed on occasion by the sudden re-filling of the tank of the clothes washer and the circling operation of the drier.
Reality. If I wished for silence I would suffer; in narrow mind, should and shouldn't. Accepting these sounds is not to suffer; in spacious mind, noise, no noise, just thusness.

Receiving what is before us in with equanimity is life's essential practice. Receiving ill-will, we use it to destroy our own animosity and offer back our love and willingness to be present with those who might dislike us.

Yesterday at steetZen there was a huge crowd. Some sort of chili festival of sorts was going on. I sat in my usual place joined by Rev. KoKyo. We burned incense and had small signs asking for peace. Many w…

Appreciation

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Over the next three mornings we will host a garage sale at our home. Goodness. I don't look forward to this process. My Little Honey, however, has been working diligently to make this happen. She does so much for me and for "us". I pale in comparison, not that we should make comparisons.

Appreciation for those who are close to me and who love me is not a difficult challenge for me, expressing it is. I am awkward with warm, fuzzy expressions, choosing almost always to be silent when I feel overwhelmed by the help and love of others. The problem is, of course, that people need to feel appreciated and struggle when they are not.

For me, I think the issue involved is vulnerability to emotion. I feel vulnerable when I express a soft, warm, and fuzzy feeling. When I express gratitude to another human being its as though I must put up my guard. Their goodness opens me up to feelings.

Lately especially, I have noticed a rise in my an…

Recovery

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

If we say we have the potential to be or that we strive to be, in effect we are saying we are becoming. These are the pleas of buddhas hooked on dualism. There is no becoming, no trying. These are the drugs of Small Mind. Quit! Get clean! Sober up!

What is left?

Everything as it is. No striving, no separation. Not perfect? What is perfection but a creation of a dualistic mind seeking non-dualism?

What is left?

Doing. Being. Buddha Nature.

The Six Perfections aren't goals; they are our reality. Trying to be our reality denies us that reality. Becoming is an obstacle to being.

The Infinite teaches us to be awake. Every stone in the road. Every sudden noise. Every rainbow. Every thunderclap. Every Other. A cacophony of mindfulness bells being invited to ring. We have but to listen.

Be well.

Always

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The day, for me, is in full bloom, although it is overcast and the sun has barely shown itself. Rising early, getting things done, we appreciate moments to stop and just be present. I managed to do a 2 mile fast walk, a half mile run, and another 1.5 mile slow walk in the park this morning. Some time was spent with Jacob and My Little Honey, some Cheerios, and now here I am talking to you.

Today I will prepare for a lecture on "Kadosh" or Holiness. I will be presenting this lecture at Temple Beth El on Wednesday morning at 9:00 AM. Kadosh means many things, and holiness is not always the best way to understand it. As a contemplative Jewish practitioner and Zen Master, I practice to realize with, more often than not, what we call mochin d'gadlut, or "spacious mind". In Zen, the equivalent is "Big Mind". (A close friend and Social Work professor used to call this "Divergent Mind".) This is to say…

Stop

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Please take a moment
Just now...
Stop,
Listen,
Pay attention:

Crickets chirp
Dishwasher swishes
Cool morning air glides across my shoulders
My alarm says its time to dress for a run.


Be well,
Zazen at 9:00 AM Clear Mind Zendo.

Feathers

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,
The time is 4:56. I have been sitting in my small zendo for a half hour, with the exception of the time it took to get the coffee pot going. In another half hour I will get up from this cushion and go for a walk/run, then clean the kitchen, then go to streetZen, then go to services at Temple Beth -El. This afternoon, I need to prep my classes for Sunday's Academy. And this evening a special havdalah service at White Sands National Park.

All are just one thing in front of another. Some may happen, some may not: no worries.

Some of you wrote to me about my equanimity. Thank you. This duck has mastered floating a long time ago. Yet, still occasionally he gets his feathers all a-fluff. Like any bird, though, in the blink of an eye, all feathers are back in place.

When our feathers are in place, our mind follows.

Be well.



Harvey So Daiho Hilbert-roshi
On the web at: http://www.clearmindzen.org
Telephone: 575-405-8522

Equanimity

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

"The truth of my experience," reports Joan Halifax, Roshi, "is that the tender balance of equanimity can be easily lost."

And so it is. For sometime now I have felt a disturbance of my own equanimity. Some call it anxiety. Or stress. Or being out of balance. Life feels like it is about stepping up and down on the point of a pin. We need to be steady, trusting, caring, and careful.

Our Zen practice helps us develop this skill. We sit with whatever comes up, residing calmly in its midst.

I like to think of it as being like a duck floating in a pond. Serene, the duck floats smiling in the sun and shade. Then dark clouds. Wind. Water rises and falls. If we have equanimity, we continue to float, rising and falling with the wind and water. If we don't, we rock, we feel fear, we worry, and maybe we even argue with the storm.

This ability to stay present in the midst of turmoil, emotional hurt, sadness, fear or anger, is a function…

The Mean Time

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Nearly every morning when I sit down to write to you the phrase, "In the meantime..." pops into my mind. I have, thus far, avoided beginning a post with this phrase (or so I believe). This morning I think the reason is, that everything is in "the mean time". The mean time is what time exists between the shadow of the past and the hope of the future, both mental constructs ready, willing, and able to be changed. What is left is just this, the mean time.

In the mean time, my fingers lightly, sometimes not so lightly, press the keys on my rather ancient Dell. My heart is your heart. My mind is your mind. The cool breeze of the desert night slips through the screen door as the sound of the dishwasher bounces around the house. The mean time.

Student Aijin Song wrote on her Facebook wall asking why we must assign meaning to things as everything comes and goes. I replied, "But we do: a koan." Not so helpful, I suppos…

Teachers

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Zen is a disciplined practice. Soto Zen values discipline (sila paramita), honors founders and ancestors, and holds its teachers in high regard. Beyond that, we place our palms together and bow often. We work at renunciation and honoring those in front of us. These are excellent practices. Kshanti, one of our six perfections, is often translated as patience, yet it also includes tolerance, forbearance, and acceptance, all of which teach us humility.

When we have a Teacher that Teacher is teacher to us often in very unexpected ways. My Teacher, Rev. Ken Hogaku Shozen McGuire Roshi, and I often are in conflict regards things such as politics, but we are above it all, Teacher and Student. We learn from each other. For years I have watched my teacher, wondered about him, marvelled at him, argued with him, and learned from him. I rely on my Teacher and have found, over time, he relies on me. We have Mind to Mind transmission.

Early in my relat…

Water

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The morning sun is already hard at work building the temperature of the day. A clear blue sky offers a perfect and serene sea for the sun's journey. The water warms.

We morning people, up at 4:30, witness a spectacular transformation. Sitting in the zendo, an ominous black, lightens. Outside on the morning walk, grey becomes pale blue. Sitting at my desk to write the pale blue becomes a brilliant sea for the sun to lead us along our way.

Storytellers use such drama to unfold their tales. I wish I could tell stories, but then again, perhaps I do. The stories of a life looked deeply into. Like water, they are sometimes pooled in the sand in full view. Sometimes deep in dark wells with cold stone encapsulating it.

My stories are living tales of mindful moments. Most likely boring, sometimes a little odd, but always there, a reflection in a pail of gathered water, being served up for you.

May we each have such pails of mindful reflection. P…

Faith

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning the topic of hope came up on my morning walk. Not directly, but in context of a discussion with friends. For thirty years or so I have been listening to the suffering of the world. As a child protective services social worker, I listened to the cries of abused and neglected children, as well as their suffering parents. As a psychotherapist, I listened to men and women struggle with their assaults, abuse, wars, robberies, and marital strife. As a Zen Buddhist priest, I listen to all sentient beings, as I listen to my True Nature: we are all suffering.

So, how to have hope?

As there is suffering, so to there is equanimity. As there is suffering, so too there is compassion. We are not alone. We are also quite resilient. It is important to accept that hope may not be a particularly good quality. It resides in the future, a future we are imagining. I prefer faith. Faith is based not in belief, but in practice. From my practice I …

Invisible Men

Image
Good Afternoon Everyone,

This morning early I did a short mile and a half walk through a desert park. Soon after, I went to the downtown mall where we have a farmer's market. Approaching my spot I noticed a man sleeping on the low wall built to protect a tree. I carefully unfolded my blanket, put down my zabuton and zafu, my begging bowl and thermos of hot tea, and took my seat.

At the bell, I lit a stick of incense and offered it to all sentient beings. Palms together, I quietly chanted the Wisdom Heart sutra. Finally, a bow and settled in for zazen.

Over time a police cruiser pulled up. The homeless man rested. I watched over him. The policemen got out of their cruiser and walked passed us, slipping their batons in sheaths. The bell rang signalling the conclusion of the first period.

The market was getting crowded. I noticed people not noticing. They would look at me, then look right past the man sleeping on the bench. Some of us are clearly invisible men.

At the bell, another incens…

Mystery

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

As I write it is raining outside. The window is open, a gentle rain. The sound is marvelous. It is still dark and I am reminded of childhood when as a boy I stood on the beach in the dark and was riveted to the sand by the large and mysterious sound of an invisible ocean.

Mystery.

Our deepest and most primitive sense of presence occurs in the face of partial sensory deprivation. We cannot see or we cannot hear or we cannot feel or we cannot taste. In such moments other senses come alive. Its as if they seek out the missing data. The mystery is the search itself.

Zen is like this: on the edge of nothing...everything

May we each have the faith necessary to take the next step.

Be well.

Compassion

Good Morning Everyone,

When we talk about compassion we mean well. But compassion is not a thought. It cannot be articulated. Compassion is being. It is our complete buddha nature as it is. Talk about it takes us away from it, creates a dualism between this and that...as all talk seems to do.

Step into your day with the compassion on a deep knowledge of your oneness with everything. Touch the floor with your foot as if you are touching yourself, because you are. Listen to your boss or your partner or your children as if they were yourself because they are. Avoid stepping on that ant on the sidewalk. Offer a cup of tea to a friend, pay for a stranger's dinner at a restaurant, visit a hospital or nursing home and say hello to someone who is suffering there. For there we are as well.

Compassion is so easy to talk about, so challenging to be.Practice helps.

May you be a blessing in the universe.

Not By Bread Alone

With palms together,
Good Afternoon Everyone,

This day was full. Rising this morning, I studied the Torah portion for the week and was delighted that it was a wonderful teaching: "...man does not live by bread alone..." Deut. 8:3. Within this Torah portion God reminds us to be mindful and respectful, but mostly to keep our minds and hearts open. The Jews had left Egypt, had wandered in the desert forty years, leaving all that they knew. They are now about to cross over into the promised land. God says to them, to paraphrase, 'you'll have everything you will need.'

Very Zen. Wherever we are, we are complete and have exactly what we need. Nothing to eat? No problem, a little hot water, some flour, a little salt: bread...well, matzo. Master Dogen teaches us to treasure every bit. God asks the same. Moreover, the Infinite is present in every bite, every sip, every breath. We should pay homage to this reality.

When we leave what we know, everything has the potenti…

Living Zen

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

My goodness, a late start on writing. Each morning I sit down to write. It is part of my practice. Usually this practice occurs after zazen, after my walk, and before breakfast. But today is different. Its a new day. I am stepping out of my box. When we do something a little different, news views appear before us. Writing in daylight, with the day well begun, offers a somewhat different platform.

This morning I went to the lab and had blood drawn in anticipation of my annual physical next week. While sitting in the waiting room I read a piece out of my Dharma Grandfather's book, "The Kyosaku". He was talking about Zazen as practice realization. This is such an important point. And, as some have said, we in the West do not talk about enlightenment enough.

Matsuoka Roshi was teaching from Master Dogen's Genjo Koan. He was linking practice realization to every moment Zen, or what he liked to call Mokusho Zen, Living Zen. …
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With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning was beautiful with an early morning moonset and a glorious sunrise. Unfortunately, the moonset became obscured by clouds, but the clouds' presence in the sky made for an awesome view of the sun rising over the mountains here in Las Cruces.

Life seems to work that way. Look one way, clouds obscure; look another, clouds become a dreamscape. Same clouds, different view. Here's the Zen: appreciate the clouds regardless of the view.

Be well.

Morning Again

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With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I woke at my regular time, 4:30, and witnessed the moon set. I cannot help but think of Master Dogen and his apparent fascination with the moon. I share this fascination. Serene reflection illumination. It kind of fits with my obsession with morning light. Its all transition, fluid, penetrating.

Ever since Vietnam when I forced myself to stay awake through the night after being shot in the head, I have had this fascination. I have sought that light, that light would signal my safety, my life. The light of early morning is soft, tender, and reaches out as a slow surf spreads across the sand. Cold to warm, dark to light, and in an instant aware: no dark, no light, no cold, no warm. Just this serenity.

And so sunrise has a particular meaning for me.

Wake up!

Arahat

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Some of us just need to be somewhere. We are not satisfied with where we are. Biting an apple is just not the same unless we bite that apple as an "Awakened" one, yet the moment we do, we clearly are asleep. Practice realization is not good enough. Zen is not good enough. Some of us have to pronounce our enlightenment. As Daniel Ingram and his derivative, Kenneth Folk, says, "I'm an Arahat". Perhaps.

If you are a student of Zen, a member of the Zen tradition, you let these thoughts drop away. Master Seung Sahn says, "put it down!"

Just bite the damned apple and move on.

Our practice, that is to say, Soto Zen practice, is a practice of engagement. This engagement is outlined in our precepts and bodhisattva vows. Enlightenment is not a goal, it is a way of being that requires practice and moment-to-moment renunciation of self-interest. Seeking enlightenment is not the same as having 'the thought of enligh…

No...Yes...Maybe

With palms together,
Good Afternoon Everyone,


According to some, I was almost eaten by a camel yesterday at White Sands National Monument. Such reports are greatly exaggerated. In fact, the camel and I had an understanding. I rubbed his nose, he looked at me. We all want and need attention. Some of us when we've had enough, snort a bit, just to get the message out there. So too, camel. I think I like the camel's way. A clear, unequivocal snort. "Snush!!!" (I'm done, go away!) This is sort of like the kyosaku's smack.

The human way is to often be unclear and messy in our communications. Words like, "maybe", "if, "perhaps", "I'll try", used in the context of a plan between people yuk up the works. They allow for too much internal spin. Wiggle room. Its a fudge factor. So that when things don't go according to plan, or something better comes up, we can always say, "Well, I did say 'maybe'..." I…

Zzzzz

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The day has dawned in a wonderful way as it does each and every morning. How could it not? The sun rises with such power seemingly chasing darkness away, and things that were awake go to sleep as things asleep, wake. Being awake is not the same. Knowing there is sleep. Knowing there is awake. These are dualistic notions.

Being awake comes before it.

As U2 chants, its the "street with no name."

I wish to stop this incessant naming of things. Pointless deviancy, it is. To live without names, live without assumptions, live here, now, that's the thing!

But then, along comes a bee. ZZZZzzzzzzzzz. What is the sound of one bee stinging?

Awake!

Be well.

Morning

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Soft as a whisper, the morning opens itself in my mind. "All of my past and harmful karma, born from beginningless greed, hate, and delusion, through body, speech, and mind, I now fully avow." This morning I vow with all beings, to see the world clearly as it is, to end violence, and bring compassion to all beings.

We sit zazen in the morning and consider no thing. Thoughts and feelings come and go; the sun rises; the dog curls up; the cat wanders. We do what is next to do.

Yesterday at Ft. Bliss, I heard many angry young men. They were not angry, as much as deeply hurt. They are suffering because things were not supposed to be the way they experienced them. Conditions arose within which killing and injury happened. Conditions condition. So they walk with they eyes alert, respond as if they are in a combat zone, and suffer. When the war is over and home isn't home anymore, what do we do?

In Zen we leave home. In life, to be …