Showing posts from January, 2010

At this moment...

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

At this moment,

I woke from a dream

and can no longer see


The ladder has lifted.

Or maybe was never there.

(We can never be sure.)

The voice is silent:

I am left to sit alone

In its echo.

This is the ground

of being itself

and I sit upon it

with no fear.

Be well.

Entering the Way

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

The language of the spirit is not to be assigned the particular, but must remain in the universal. This means matters of spirit are not masculine or feminine. They are not Jewish or Christian, Muslim or Buddhist. Spiritual is by definition of everything and therefore completely universal. In a very real way, taking up the path of spiritual journey requires a shift in orientation away from the particular. It requires leaving home.

Assignment of gender or ethnicity or religion or social class of anything leads to separation.separation to valuation, valuation to discrimination, discrimination to suffering. Assignment leads to being stuck in a view and considering that view reality.

Reality is none of that and a true Bodhisattva Warrior lives without the assignment of, and alignment of, labels, classes, categories, or hierarchies. A Zen Buddhist is not a Zen Buddhist, but a being connected with the universe assisting others to realize that sam…

Drop Away, Drop Away

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

It is a cool morning with water in the air. A beautiful dark sky. Awake!

Student Kate told me she had practiced "Dropping Away Zen" at Tassajara during a summer retreat. She wondered about instruction regarding attention to the breath.
which she has heard from me.

We Westerners are not oriented correctly for Zen practice. We are pragmatists. We seek outcomes, think linearly, use the scientific method and so on. We want results. Zen practice is both means and end together. There is no "end" that already is not present. Very challenging to those who want, as being is seemingly just not enough.

When I give instruction for practice, it is stepwise. It is like the liturgy in Judaism. There are opening practices which orient oneself, then there is the practice itself, i.e., union with the Infinite.. Attention to breath, breath counting, are means of orientation. Orientation is my aim.

Thus, my aim is how I am oriented…


With palms together,

Good Morning All,

Being lost. Feeling as if there is nothing familiar --- or that the familiar is slipping away and cannot be grasped ---, this is in the pit of our stomach yuk. We avoid such places. We want desperately for solid ground. Its only natural.

However, all is not lost, ever. We are. We are not individuals. New does not happen without a dropping away of old. And creation is always on-going. Far from nihilism, Zen resides in eternal change.

Any effort to open our eyes when lost will reveal new wonders. Lost just means we feel the loss of our cradle. Step out. Stand up. Be alive.

Be well.


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Our lives are full of mysteries and we organize them into what makes sense and what does not, what we accept and what we do not, what we fear, love, hate, and just plain will not admit to. Its all very natural. Its all very challenging. So, we pretend or hope or pray. And one day it all comes crashing down. The paradigm no longer tolerates the cracks.

The world took a long time to accept the planet was not flat...some still believe it to be so. The new paradigm takes time to settle in, to gain acceptance, and for us to throw off the old.

We have a view of things, perhaps from childhood, perhaps from an experience so penetrating that its memory always remains fresh, or perhaps from a social convention: what to do when this view no longer works?

As John Bingham is fond of saying regarding running, "There's No Need for Speed". Patience is a necessary partner in this process, as are all the other paramitas. A wise person does …

One Step

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,,

Today, Zazen at 6:30 AM at Roshi's residence; streetZen at 10:30 at Veteran's Park; Mediation at 3:00 and Study Group at 4:00 at Roshi's residence..

Yesterday I tried to take a walk with friends Allen and Eve through the desert park. Could only go half way and had t return. My Left Foot was having none of it.Perhaps it is time now to use kinhin as my walking style.

Kinhin is a deliberate, slow, mindful walking too often wrongly understood as a break from Zazen.Kinhin is meditation, it is Zen in motion. Mindful, it embraces body in motion in environment. Balance, touch, breath, forward motion, and empty mind abide there.

Slow, like Tai Chi, there is no where to get to where one has not already been.. The universe in each step. Infinity and ground meet. Spirit moves across the face of the deep. With each breath our universe is crated and maintained.

It's the Zen One Step.

Be well.

May We Be a Blessing

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Morning of the only day there is

opens in silence.

My breath is slow and steady.

My heart opens to you.

Breathing in, I take in our suffering,

breathing out, I offer us my love.

But there is so very much suffering

and yet I am serene.

Last night

at a Rabbi's house

We said a blessing,

ate a lovely meal,

and settled in to watch.

a film


It was about an IED unit in Iraq.

And demanded recall:

war is far more than a nasty word...

The energy of deep compassion

Set a-swirl, like the stars in the sky

in a drunken night...i chant,

Everything is precious.

All my past and harmful karma...

Born from beginningless greed, hate, and delusion,

Through body, speech, and mind,

I now fully avow...

Scotch helps.

As does zazen.

Breathing in,

breathing out.

It is morning.

and I have not slept much.

I sit in the zendo and listen.

The sky is still dark

But the swirls have

become gentle streams.

Vast wings

enfold all beings

and I relea…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Senzaki-roshi says, "The old timers in a religious group consider themselves to have reached the top, and then jump from where they are, leaving the very principles of that religion. They are poor fish who cannot swim in the water."

When our eyes are open, there is no question, we swim because it is what we do. An open eye is a completely integrated eye, therefore eye and no eye at once.

When about to face a question, we cannot answer. We answer only when the question is asked and we do so without pointing.

As Leonard Cohen says, dance me till the end of love.

And if love is the essential, core, complete and total reality?

Dance on...

Be well.


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The morning brings desert wind and small splatters of rain. I imagine the desert floor is being swept by the Infinite. I remember once while climbing the Organ Mountains, a storm came out of the southwest. From my elevation, I could see it rolling across the valley toward the mountains. The feeling was a sweet combination of fear and utter awe.

Such moments enter one's body like a shotgun to the stomach.

Over time, this feeling lays in wait. It can open and spread, like a pool of honey being fed by that Infinite Wellspring or it can remain a puddle being stepped over by those of us who are busy.

This morning as I walked outside, my feet refused to move. My eyes were fixed on clouds rolling down the slopes of the Organs. I was transfixed.

Whatever the Infinite is, it is here.

Be well.

What Next?

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning came too soon and not soon enough. Too soon in the sense that I had a late night with Study Group followed by dinner and long conversation with my close friend friend and psychiatrist, Abe. Not soon enough in that life is so short and there is so much to do.

We discussed a sort of midrash in group. Midrash is a story offering a back-story to a biblical tale. This midrash was about what happened after Jacob discovered God was everywhere and he saw the ladder to heaven. God asks Jacob to go up the ladder and Jacob refused. The question then becomes quite existential.

I likened this to the Zen koan about having attained the top of the hundred foot pole to only be asked, "What is your next step?"

If the top of the pole signifies awakening, then what? Buddha faced this on the morning of his awakening. Jesus likely faced it in the desert after his dance with the devil.

Is this all there is?

How do I face my futu…

The Cosmic Egg

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

There are living opportunities hidden in each moment regardless of time or space. The ground of our lives is fertile. When we reach out, risk, invite, embrace, or express, we transform seed into seedling. Life unfolds through us and our creative spirit moves across its face. The Infinite is in Everything. Allow awe to enfold you, then speak its name.

Be well.

An Evening

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyman,

Last night was very good to my heart. Children descended on our house. We had a neighbor join us. We enjoyed pizza, a delicious eggplant dish, Buffalo wings (for those who eat such things and son Jacob made a marvelous desert. Granddaughter Livvie played with Pappa's iPhone, son Jacob played a guitar, and at various times, the music of either Jacob or Leonard Cohen.

Laughter was a prominent feature.

After everyone left, I sat for a few moment and enjoyed the silence.

It was a beautiful evening. I am sorry My Little Honey wasn't here to enjoy it. But she is enjoying daughter Sam and grandson Tate in Memphis.

So, after a bit, I decided to put my laundry in the washer, get the dishes done, and take a late night walk under the desert stars. I walked 3/4 of a mile. It was chilly. The sky was expansive and deep and full of starlight.

I walked briskly, stumbling once or twice, but finally getting My Left Foot not to drag. Its…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Reader Michele wrote:

Harvey can you provide me with some insight on blessings. I need balance. I keep hearing from people that they are blessed because they were not part of the Haiti tragedy. I get sooo angry when I see or hear this...I know since I am not in the neutral zone upon hearing "I am blessed," I am not perceiving something......HELP. Please post. Thanks and apologies for the intrusion...

I replied briefly: No one is blessed by not being harmed when others are. If one blade of grass is harmed we are all harmed. Second, try to use your anger to energize you into action. The best way to deal with such things is to do something about them.

It is a human experience to feel relief that we slipped out of harm's way. It is delusion to believe that because you have, you are somehow one of God's "elect". A long time ago, people seemed to dwell obsessively on the question of where they resided in God's e…


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

There are times when, like a tidal wave striking a shoreline of thatched huts, we are completely undone by an emotion. Such emotions are the great caps of the wave. We become so saturated that all things take on their feel.

It is catastrophic to a human being, as it separates us from others. The very essence of human being is social.

I have a dear friend who has been overwhelmed by anger. The hurt which caused it was like an earthquake. Everything he had worked all of his life for was rejected, the ground he walked on sank, and he found himself in a great darkness.

Responding to his pain with anger, he fanned its flames, colored nearly every event with its brush, and with each stroke, worried his friends.

In such catastrophic states, everything is made far too simple. Threat, no threat. Friend, foe. Its as if we are on a combat mission deep in a jungle all alone. Every sound is suspect.

As he suffers, I suffer. My love for my friend i…

As it is...

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is.
The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is
in the very here and now,
the practitioner dwells
in stability and freedom.


As so many have said, the past is past. We cannot change it. We have done what we have done, responded as we responded, and are in this moment with its karmic results. Just so, the future has yet to happen and it amounts to a fantasy. Reside there and Walt Disney would marry you.

We abide in life as it is. Oh boy. Another pitch for 'the present moment'! Yet, what is life as it is?

For me it is creating this message as I wait for My Little Honey to get herself ready to fly to Memphis. Noticing the clock, noticing my mind. Taking a breath and releasing into it.

We do not displace the present for something other than what it is. If anxiety is there, it is there. If love is there, it is there. We are pr…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

The highest way to understand prayer is as union.

Reb Nachman says, "When a man goes out to the meadows to pray, every blade of grass, every plant and flower all enter his prayers and help him, putting power and strength into his words."

We should consider this. Sitting zazen out of doors is a very natural experience. We drop away the bells and whistles of the Zendo and open ourselves to Everything. Everything enters, embracing and supporting us. In turn we are embracing and supporting Everything. Somewhere, sometime, Everything is. It is at this point that prayer takes its power.

We realize we are not praying to anything for anything, we are integrating our hearts and minds with Everything for Everything.

May we each be blessings in the Universe.


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Whatever I say,

it is not true,

as what I say

is a product of thought,

a simple reflection:

the image in the mirror

is not "me",

it is just an image.

Understand our words

as tines on a tiller.

Together, we dig in the dirt,

aerate the soil

and open ourselves

for the myriad things to grow.


Today: 9:00 AM meeting with Yoga Instructor, 4:00 PM Meditation & Yoga at Temple Beth-El.

Be well.

and No Religion, Too

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Last night I finally got some sleep. Going to bed early, slipping on a blindfold, and taking an Ambien helped. I am told by my doctors that sleep patterns change as we age and that sleep interruptions are common. I'll have none of that.

So, I slipped under the covers after a period of meditation and light yoga, practiced awareness of breathing, and then it was morning.

Ready now to step out of the Zendo into a new day, I am contemplation a bit on yesterday.

At a "Future Planning" meeting at Temple Beth El, I experienced a small awakening. Well...maybe just an insight. Everyone was happy to see me "back" at TBE. (I admit, I resigned many of my tasks and jobs there rather abruptly. Kind of like a kyosaku whack.)

Over the course of the meeting, people were talking about the need to live more "Jewishly" and wondering how the Temple might inspire such a thing. Identification with the people, the faith…

Our True Nature

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

There are ten grave precepts, a sort of Buddhist Ten Commandments save the command part. We often discuss these as practice guides, principles, anything but rules. In fact they are our True Nature and reflect our compassion.

The grave part is twofold: first, to violate a precept is to violate oneself, hence the universe. Second, in some places and times, to violate one of these precepts got a monk out of a sangha.

As we unfold in our practice, our attention regarding precepts shifts from care for the morality of self to the nurturance of the universe. This leads in two directions it seems to me. First it asks us to examine how our conduct nurtures others. Second, and most importantly, is not to harm in the process. Ahimsa: do no harm.

It is not enough to nurture, we must also protect. I wonder if these are the same or different. Awareness is key. Can nurturance, for example, be harmful? Co-dependence suggests it is possible when on…

Nothing Special

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Lee Love, a friend in Japan, made a comment on my Face Book wall about a practice used by Tibetan followers of the Buddha Way. This practice, called "Tummo" is about deep concentration, a concentration that allows for the raising of body temperatures, reducing heartrate, blood pressure, metabolism, etc. The Dalai Lama was instrumental, and continues to be, in bringing Buddha's practices under the light of scientific investigation.

Much has been learned as a result. The text I am now reading (Buddha's Brain) is a practical guide that bases its work on such investigations. And while there is clearly much benefit from such practices and their study, I often wonder about what we take away from such efforts.

For one, I think many people see our practices as (maybe) sophisticated techniques and tools. The practice is eviscerated, gutted of its spiritual heart. Secondly, I think people think there is something special ab…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Cloudy skies greet the morning light. A threat of snow lingers. The land feels barren. Winter is like that, a natural break from the forces of growth. Rest is important to us all.

Last night I went to bed fairly early, fell asleep munching on some creamy chocolate, and woke this morning at 3:30 as Tripper wiggled and snorted, and snuggled, until I let him and his two brothers out. Too early to rise, back to bed for another hour or so.

Rest is, indeed, important.

Calm abiding in everyday life is rest in motion. Resisting nothing, enfolding everything, living things bend and yield. We practice to create a mind that is aware of the changing environment, as well as its own changing nature. Anger and frustration happen: yield to patience and compassion. Poverty and greed happen; yield to generosity and understanding. Alienated and isolated; yield to the deep wisdom of interdependence.

With each breath, a universe rises and falls. Kee…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Our Study Group has been dancing for awhile now, cutting a pretty mean 'rug', some might say. Cutting through things is important practice. What's at the core? What is being said? Understood? Done?

Yet, I am finding that if we really like something, we will find a way to make it not only "OK", but downright necessary to do. We will then weave a new rug spun from threads grown of either desire or necessity. Yet woven in such a way as to make what was once understood one way, now understood in another way. The new way is on the one hand closer to the Infinite (we convince ourselves) and on the other hand, something we really wanted to do in the first place (more truthful).

An article on the question of Yoga's place in Judaism set off a whole chain of thoughts in this regard, as the author, an Orthodox Jewish woman, clearly struggled with archaic notions foisted upon her by her rigid theology. In the end she s…

Wednesday Notes

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

The day today is full. Breakfast Discussion Group, Torah class, lunch with friends, meeting with my Teacher Hogaku-roshi, meditation, yoga, and finally Journey's Class. Somewhere in there I need to do a walk.

Such days remind me of my working life when every 30 minutes from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM were accounted for in a huge professional office calendar.Need time to just look at the sky? Better block it in!

Sometimes this is a very good thing. If we are not so very well disciplined, a calendar is a wonderful tool. We should not, however, obsess over it! People are often surprised by how much time is actually spent in mindlessness. No time to practice zazen? BS! Got time to pee? Of course. Well?

Discipline has gotten such a bad rep. It is far too often placed in opposition to freedom and creativity. Big mistake. Its like responsibility. No responsibility, no freedom. No morning, no evening. As sleep walkers we can get away…

The Kannon Sutra

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

The Kannon Sutra:


Praise to Buddha,

All are one with Buddha,

All awake to Buddha,

Buddha, Dharma, Sangha,

Eternal joyous selfless pure,

Through the day


Through the night


This moment arises from Mind,

This moment itself is Mind."

This little piece is powerful. Kanzeon or Kannon is the Bodhisattva of Compassion. A Bodhisattva is an "awakened being" (or one devoted to, and on the path to, awakening). Kannon hears the cries of the world. She/he responds with myriad hands. We should not think of Kannon as a God-being. Kannon is us, each one of us. Kannon is our own compassion.

When we chant this sutra, we are inviting our own compassion to emerge. We are acknowledging the beauty of being awake, the complete unity of the universe, and expressing a base fact: nothing is not as it should be. Everything is because everything is, all deeply connected through both time and space.

So, we o…

Going No Where Again

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Groundhog day. I just wrote a marvelous little note on Going No Where, Version Two, and in the spellcheck, refreshed the page and lost the entire post. Reconstruction never works. So, I will begin afresh.

More or less.

I have thought to myself often, "I'm going no where". I wonder now what that really means. To say such a thing points to a dream, a fantasy, that has no reality except in my mind. It is also a set-up for disappointment, as life never is as it is in our mind's eye.

In truth there is no where to go. The only place we are (at this moment) is here, now, with me. If we allow ourselves room in our brain for another place to go, we are pushing out our true reality, our actual life, in favor of a thought. In so doing we lose our life. Not a good idea. Worse, a bad reality,

So, here is the thing. Whatever is your life, embrace it. Make it whole. Allow no spaces for somewhere else to enter. To manipul…

Going No Where

With palms together,
Good Evening Everyone,

Having just returned from the Refuge, had dinner, washed the dishes, and done the laundry, I am now sitting quietly in my small Zendo. I chanted the Hanya Shin Gyo and deeply experienced its truth. There is something about that sutra that gets me every time. I just get caught in the sound of the drum and the drone of the characters. Or should I say,a self that never was drops away to allow a Self that always was to emerge. Star-stuff.

Of a sudden, there is no thing else, just the sound: just he beat, the bell, the breath.

This is as it should be. A wake-up in the middle of nothing to go no where for no thing. Just to be is enough. I often forget that.

Granddaughter Sammi took my iPhone outside this evening. I have a "Planets" app on it and she can take a 3D look at the horizon and pick out the constellations. She also took son Jason's Camaro out and learned to do donuts or something with her father's skilled …

Roshi Returns

With palms together,

Good Afternoon All,

We are now in Las Cruces unpacking and decompressing from the journey down from the Refuge. I practiced zazen facing the wooden wall. It is clear much work needs to be done there. So, I will be returning shortly.

In any event, It was good to get to the mountains and enjoy some time with family, especially Granddaughter Sammi, who loves the place.

I will post more later.

Be well.