Showing posts from December, 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,…


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 …


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…


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…


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…


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…


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.


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:

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…


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.


create a sangha
in the walled corner,
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?


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…


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 …


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!


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…