Showing posts from March, 2010


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Well, two seders and I am still alive. First night a Jewish/Buddhist seder, second night with close long time friends. I guess the question is am I free from bondage?

A friend in the Tricycle Community has asked about that. He wonders if I am not too attached to my robes, title, and well, I suspect he thinks I am full of myself. He wonders whether people would respond to me any differently if I did not hide behind these masks: if I were just plain Harvey.

I don’t know. What I do know is that I am told various things by various people about myself. Some are not so pleasant. Some are quite pleasant. In either case, I work on not allowing them to stick. Teflon Zen.

It is a difficult question, though. Most of my adult life I have been a person with some degree of authority: a man with a gun hunting other men in combat, a child protective services social worker and supervisor, a supervisor of mental health services in a school system, …

The Cure for Crap

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

In silence
Wisdom emerges:
The whisper
Of myriad things.

This whisper can only be heard in the deep stillness of our true nature. Swept to the corners of our lives by the broom of busy-ness, it is often banished there as a relic of the past. We moderns can be so full of crap we cannot hear.

Be well

Empty Bowls 2

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Empty bowls are an opportunity; full bowls are an opportunity. Being generous is an opportunity; being self-sufficient is an opportunity. Lessons can be learned from everything in every time and condition, provided there is space for learning to take place. We create this space through our very deliberate practice of zazen.

Judgments about conditions do nothing to address conditions. To fill a bowl does not diminish it and leaving it empty does not enhance it. However, practicing generosity, compassion, and love does nurture us and our world, whereas, practicing greed, heartlessness, and hate diminishes our interdependence and connectivity.

Practice Prajna Paramita.

Be well.

Empty Bowls

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

When things remain the same they rot: in this case, tomatoes sitting on my counter. Tops red; bottoms black, I offered them to the birds this morning. So, from a certain point of view everything has its value and nothing is trash.

There are people who argue that some people have no value. They argue from a certain point of view, certain groups are a drain on society, that they are a lazy, shiftless, and morally deficient lot. Like empty bowls, they gather dust and are often in the way They argue that providing basic needs enables such people to remain a drain. Perhaps this is so.

Yet, from another point of view, a compassionate point of view, an empty bowl is an invitation to make an offering.

If we begin without assumptions (always a good idea), we might be more able to see what needs to be offered and be more willing to make the offering. Empty bowls are always empty for a reason, but they remain empty until an offering is made. It is in …

Like the Sea

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

“Transitions are always difficult,” Soku Shin said to me. Without thinking, I agreed too quickly. In retrospect, saying such a thing has certain implications. I recognize transitions are the essential nature of our lives. Indeed, as we come to experience, change is life. However, if this is so, are we then saying life is always difficult? Change in any direction involves a loss of what was and an apprehension of what might be next. It also involves experiencing what is. Depending on where our mind’s eye rests we will answer yes or no.

In chapter 31 of Shobogenzo (Kai-in-zanmai), Master Dogen quotes Buddha as saying,
“An instant before, an instant after: instant does not depend on instant; a dharma before, a dharma after: dharma does not oppose dharma. Just this is called Samadhi, state like the sea.”

A buddha is a buddha in every moment, not holding on, not letting go, just being buddha. Standing on the shore we might see the sea r…

Daily Life

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Sitting on my cushion, in front of me is a small handmade Medicine Buddha. His right hand extends down from serenity to touch the Earth. His left hand holds his medicine bowl.

In our practice we must remember to touch the Earth, which is to say, be grounded. We also must bear in mind our purpose as bodhisattvas is to heal and transform. All with a serene and calm heart.

At first blush, this may seem an awesome and extremely challenging task. Yet know the Earth is here to support us. It is our foundation. And our medicine flows from our heart. When we assume to posture of zazen, we assume the posture of buddha: mind/heart/body/environment are one and every step is the correct step.

May we walk together along the Way.

Be well.

Practicing Buddhas

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Sitting on the edge of a chair just now, I am at a friend’s home looking out into a very dark desert. I made a pot of coffee, sat quietly for a bit, and now turn my attention to you.

Soku Shin and I watched the film, Little Buddha, last night. This is a film within a film, the story of Buddha, as well as the story of the search for a re-incarnated Tibetan Lama. All along the way, of course, it is a story of awakening and personal transformation.

Every time I sit with this film, I feel blessed to have been born a human being. I am further blessed by the suffering in my life as it has been the source of, and invitation to, compassion. We cannot hear the suffering of the world ensconced in a tower above it all. We waste ourselves in such places. And more importantly, others are wasted as a result of our absence. To be a human being is to be caring in community.

Some have said of me lately, though, that I must not be the person they thoug…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning was wonderful: silence, good sleep, and then opening my eyes to such beauty! Our world is so full of good things: hugs, smiles, and lovingkindness.

It is all a matter of willingness. We must be willing to open ourselves, drop the barriers, and live fully and completely. So challenging at first. So everyday later. Seated on a cushion, we worry if we are doing it right, what people will think, and so on. Yet, with practice, we experience breath and existence as formless form.

Last night Zen Student Soku Shin and I worked through the first part of Master Dogen’s Bendowa. When we realize buddha, all is buddha. All was buddha. All will continue to be buddha. Once the True Dharma Eye is opened, everything changes but remains the same. Spacious Mind and Narrow Mind are actualized as One and a Zenster can now be the Universe and a Zenster, as well as no Zenster and no Universe simultaneously.

Aim for seamless being.

Be well.

Like a Cat

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,


Morning arrives in the night
Like a cat on the prowl
For something to eat.
I turn myself
Open, ready to be released.

Zen practice is the practice of eternal life.
Awake, I see
You are not you
And I am not I
And we are not we,
Yet at once,
You are you,
I am I,
And we are we.
Past, present and future
Are mere thoughts.
Living and dying
Are simply dreams.

In such a place,
The only step
Is the step originating in the night,
The Self making the self.

Knowing You

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,
The coffee is now brewing. I have washed up, offered incense, and sat zazen. Next, will be drink the coffee, do short yoga, shave an already shaved head, and shower. In between, you.

With whom am I speaking each morning? I often wonder about this. A writer writes with someone in mind. This writing is no different. I think it is a genre called creative non-fiction, though I am sure it is all fiction as it is what I create out of my perceptions, thoughts, and feelings.

So, when I sit down to write, what is the “you” I am writing? Is it someone specific? Is it the Everyman? Or is it myself? Are these the same or different? Is it necessary to know?

For me, I write to shin. That is to say, mind/heart. With each moment, I breathe in, closing my eyes, experiencing myself, allowing the snow in the globe to settle as I release my breath. Clear Mind. In that clarity, there you are.

Be well.


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Overnight I was awake many hours, having dozed off earlier on the sofa. The thing about late night overnight’s is things seem to get done. I planned my itinerary to the Omega Institute’s “Veteran’s Retreat with Claude Anshin Thomas” in April. I found tickets for less than four hundred dollars. I did my laundry. I “picked up” and organized my room. I did considerable practice.

It is morning now and time to face another day. May all beings be free from suffering, may we each be a blessing in the universe, and may we each nurture in our hearts the willingness to forgive those who harm us.

The incense has burned itself out, the birds are up, the flowers and the trees are up, and the day’s weather looks glorious.

Be well.


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday I did walking meditation at Veteran’s Park. I walked around the grassy field, then up the walkway to the flagpoles, around the crescent wall with names of those who served from New Mexico. A man was standing there. He pointed to his name. I welcomed him home and we continued walking in different directions.

Walking back down toward the rotunda, I saw a wonderful sight. A man had come onto the grassy field and was flying a model plane, but it had no motor. It was radio controlled and I watched with childlike delight as he maneuvered the plane to rise and fall, eventually landing it softly at his feet. He wanted to make his plane fly higher.

I returned to the rotunda and stood like a tree.

Three men, three universes: one.

When the question is common
The answer is also common.
When the question is sand in a bowl of boiled rice
The answer is a stick in the soft mud.
Case 31 Joshu Investigates, trans by Nyogen Senzaki
Be well.


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

It is a good morning this morning. Zazen went well, and few wonderful breaths centering myself and being with the sounds of the world around me.

Yesterday several of us went to the Both Sides/No Sides Zendo in El Paso. We sat with the Sangha and I offered a teaching on Kie Sanbo, receiving the three refuges. This was followed by a ceremony bringing Soku Shin into the Order. I am always delighted to offer such opportunities. It was a beautiful ceremony.

The thing about precepts is they are from the inside out. We are all buddhas in disguise. We wear the masks of duality. A Zen Teacher’s job is to help the student see the face under the mask and work with a Sangha to make it possible for the student to live without it.

Living in a world of duality with greed and hatred as partners is toxic to the heart. These three poisons make evil possible, even acceptable to some. Yet, in truth, duality is a delusion and once its mask is removed, w…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There are Four Noble Truths in Buddha’s Teaching. Simply put, these are: suffering is; it is caused by investing one’s self in something that lacks any permanence; it can be stopped; and we stop it by waking up. There are eight aspects to an awakened heart/mind. Buddha called these the Eightfold Noble Path. Path is important as it points to process, a walk along the way. Yet as we might eventually (and rightly) come to, one is always a diamond just waiting to undress and expose one’s facets. Therefore, the process is not the thing, but rather the undressing of the thing. Mindful Practice is our process.

These eight aspects have to do with our practical lives: Awakened Understanding, Thought, Action, Speech, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration. The usual translation is “Right” or “Correct” but I see these as more a sense of true, not in the true/false way, but in the trueness of a line or a weight. There is a quality of i…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Sitting in a Starbucks, I am joining America. Bold coffee, cheese Danish, and notebook at the ready! My AT & T account is closed! iPhone tragedy, I guessed. Small wave of “Not Able to Connect” panic arises.

I sit with this. Take a breath, sip my coffee, and explore the options available: no credit cards, little cash, and a willingness to engage. All systems are a go. I realize I have Qwest service at home. Aha! So I call them, conference with my estranged partner to get secret data, and soon a “Mike” comes on the line giving me my precious three digit access code!

Zip, zip, as one handed fingers type, and here I am, back with you.

Yesterday I spoke with my friend Claude Anshin. His voice was reassuring. We are brothers. It is good to have a strong shoulder to rest on and a willingness to do so. Our practice is to awaken to the empty reality of an “I” and realize the vast, though equally empty, interdependence of “us.” How…

A Kiss

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Life is good: even on sleepless nights it's whisper is a refreshing kiss of the Infinite.I sleep on the floor next to my altar in a sleeping bag. Next to me is my connection to you.

Overnight I had a conversation with my senior disciple, Rev. Bussho. I wrote to my friend. Anshin who I will be visiting on retreat next month. In each case my fingers were guided by my love for them.

Such a gift, friends. Through each other we make our lives eternal.

The Sandokai says,

"Each of the myriad things has its merit,

expressed according to its function and place.

Existing phenomonally like a box and cover joining;

according with principle like an arrow points to meeting."

According to friend Greg, the First Commandment is, "You shall survive." One cradles the other in infinite direction and embrace.

Forward and backward are a delusion which when extinguished offers us the present.

Be well.

Know Nothing

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Case One of the Blue Cliff Record tells the story of Master Bodhidharma’s interaction with Emperor Wu-tei. “What is the first principle of the holy teaching?” the Emperor asks. To which Bodhidharma answers, “In the boundless universe there exists nothing to be called ‘holy’.”
“Then whom am I facing?” (Are not you a holy man?), the Emperor asks. Bodhidharma replied, “I know not.”

Sacred and profane are not separate. They are not one. They are mere concepts, like so many leaves scattered on the porch by the wind through branches of aged trees approaching winter. What is this? Meaningless. Who am I? Meaningless.

There is no answer that does not harm us. Master Bodhidharma might have better taught by walking away in silence.

Yet, in doing so we recognize such a teaching would offend our Western sensibilities. We so deeply live in a rationalized, empiricized, dualized interior world that we cannot hear the knock at the door. We cannot per…

The Great Banana

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

My best guess is that “life,” the “Infinite,” Buddha Mind,” wants nothing from us except that we live. “Consciousness,” “Higher Power,” or Great Banana is nothing more than a reflection of ourselves, and everything else collectively, looking back at us. It has no separate existence, therefore, no separate wants, desires, intentions, plans, or power. It is, as we are, life itself.

So, son Jacob, his partner Lynda, and I were talking yesterday about the practice of releasing one’s grip and turning oneself “over” to a “Higher Power” and how challenging or desirable this practice is. Jacob sees this as conceiving of “the Infinite” as a puppet master sort, much like the God of Job. These three issues emerged: a “Universal” separate from us, a “Universal” that has intent, and the challenge of letting go.

A Zenster perspective might be that the first is meaningless as we discover from our deepest practice that any ultimate reality is One. Our con…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I would like to talk about the Order of Clear Mind Zen. Traditionally “Orders” are understood to be lineages within sects that hold certain precepts and a common mission. The Order of Clear Mind Zen (OCMZ or, the Order) is no different. In our case, the Order is open to anyone who has taken the Buddhist precepts and who has an interest in, and commitment to, engaged Zen practice.

I have envisioned the Order to be homeless, that is to say, without a headquarters, building, and other baggage. In a sense, it is a child of the Internet, a virtual community, with a real world presence in the hearts of each of its members.

One need not shave one’s head, vow celibacy, or wear robes. Of course, these are permissible, and as to head shaving and robes, encouraged. Yet, we are contemporary Zen Practitioners with modern and post-modern minds.

Our mission is to bring “good” into the world through our practice. We define “good” as that …


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The Zen way is the way of no “Way.” The Zen way is the way of picking up a piece of paper on the sidewalk without thinking much at all about it. Or if annoyed, being completely there with the annoyance, doing what is necessary to deal with the annoyance.

There is no perfection other than this moment exactly how it is and if we engage it exactly how it is, everything is as it should be and is “good.” On the other hand, if we imagine our situation as needing to be other than it is, measuring this against that, our mind is separating us from what is, and this is not a good situation.

Perfection is easy for a mind that engages reality directly and without preconception. Our practice is to be in this “now” as fully as possible and doing within it what the reality demands of us. It is no problem.

When hungry eat; when sleepy, sleep.

By all accounts, I should be miserable. Nevertheless, I am not. Instead, I am alive in this moment, experienci…

Soku Shin

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Soku Shin Ze Butsu: Mind here and now is Buddha. Master Dogen writes, “The immediate universe exists; it is not awaiting realization, and it is not avoiding destruction.” (Shobogenzo, Volume I, p. 52)

When we practice, we touch this mind. The mind of practice realization, the mind that understands mountains are not mountains, but mountains are mountains. Words are dust covering the truth. Sweep away the dust and see clearly: mind, object of mind, and thought arising from mind, are one in the same in every moment and in the next moment, non-existent.

Yesterday I worked on arranging time at Upaya Zen Center in Sante Fe and called to begin the process to go to Claude Anshin Thomas’s Veteran’s Retreat in New York. Early this morning I am sitting with a friend’s partner as my friend undergoes a medical procedure and later this morning sitting Street Zen at the Veteran’s Park. Tonight I will attend Shabbat dinner at the house with family.

Ready, Aim, Practice!

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,
An Order is a community of Zensters that practice vows established by that Order. Clear Mind Zen has as its mantra, the Third Pure Precept: I vow to create conditions for abundant good. This vow, as does all healing and recovery-work, begins inside and works its way out. At some point in our practice, the dichotomy of inside and outside falls away as we realize our original oneness. In the beginning, however, we start with the self.

A daily practice of zazen is good for this, but takes place with the intent to free all beings. Our aim in practice is to free ourselves from ourselves. It is a deep and complete opening of heart/mind with each breath. Breathing in, I accept the universe as it is; breathing out, I enter the universe as it is. With each breath, the universe and “I” are “one.”

This morning I awoke from my sleep in my new personal zendo. I sleep on the floor with my head on my zafu at the foot of my altar. I looked at the bea…

Clear Mind Order Membership

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The Order of Clear Mind Zen is a socially engage lay Order. We are not monastics, but rather, everyday practitioners of Zen. The Order was established by Harvey Daiho Hilbert-roshi in 2005. It has no building, it exists through the actual practice of its members. It is a street-bound Order.

Anyone can be a member of the Order. Members do not have to be priests. Members must honor the following six vows:

1. I take Refuge in Everything That Is (Buddha)
2. I take Refuge in Reality and its Teachings (Dharma)
3. I take Refuge in the Order (Sangha)
4. I vow to cease creating evil
5. I vow to do good
6. I vow to work to create abundant good for all beings,

Persons who wish to become members of the Order must telephone Daiho-roshi for a set of brief interviews designed to explore the Order’s precepts and gain Roshi’s approval for membership. Once granted, the petitioner will recite our vows with Roshi.
Each member will have sewn a strip of …

Clear Mind Zen

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Sitting this morning in my personal Zendo, the incense calls me to stillness. I have just performed Teihatsu No Ge, shaving my head to free myself from attachments. I do this every three days. It is an important ritual in the Zen lexicon.
Some people close to me believe I am making myself ugly. Perhaps. However, I see a buddha opening in the mirror before me. The reflection is a personal reminder of who I am and why I am here. Teihatsu No Ge is an action of divestment of personal interest.
A Zen Buddhist priest (or lay member) in the Order of Clear Mind Zen teaches through example. We live a life of study, contemplation, social action, and work. We also live in relationships with others, as we are a lay order, not a monastic order.
This Order is open to anyone willing to dedicate themselves to the Three Pure Precepts:
1. Cease Doing Evil
2. Do Good
3. Bring About Abundant Good for All Beings
We are not affiliated with Soto Shu in Japa…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There is a koan about a man who complains upon seeing a picture of a bearded Bodhidharma: “Why hasn’t that fellow a beard?”

Mumon comments, “If you want to study Zen, you must study it with your heart.”

When we see what we want to see, we are not seeing at all. If we convince ourselves we are awake, even if we have had a glimpse, we are a universe away from the clear eye. As in climbing a mountain, we should climb without climbing; in sitting, we should sit without sitting.

This is our way.

The other day I went to a mountain and believed I had climbed it. Silly me.

Be well.