Showing posts from September, 2010


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

As the title of one of Maezumi-roshi’s books shouts, appreciate your life! Appreciation of every sense, sense organ, and object of the senses is a foundational practice of Zen. What does this appreciation really mean?

I recall classes in college called Art Appreciation and Music Appreciation. They were intended to offer students a sense of the subject matter and often amounted to little more than a survey of the art or music scene and their histories.

Appreciation, however, goes far deeper than a surface scan of a subject. Dates, appearances,, patterns are important, but the work of appreciation is internal. What does it really mean to truly appreciate something?

The Oxford English Dictionary says that appreciation is the ability to estimate a value of something, be sensitive to it, to esteem it, and to be grateful for it. How meaningful, in other words, is something that sits before me? Do I have the ability to value it for itself? Am I g…


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

There are no consequences: a simple, but powerful, sentence. This does not mean that “bad” things do not follow “bad” things, or that “good” things do not follow “good” things, but rather, it means:

1. things are what they are, in the moment they are,

2. and when we are one with (and in) them, notions such as good, bad, right, wrong, past, future, are meaningless.

Consequence assumes linearity of time and a dualistic separation of subject and object. When we reside in the moment, we are residing in the moment as it is.

Some might argue that if there were no consequences, that is, no separation between subject and object and perception of linear time, we might misbehave, run amok, and otherwise cause grievous devastation. To them I say, “Look around.” Living in dualism with consequentialist ethics has not shown us much.

What is the alternative? Simple really, live precisely, exactly, and squarely in this moment. Focus your complete attenti…

Sangha Building

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

If I want to build a sangha, I do not look for Zen Buddhists or even Buddhists for that matter. That would be a big mistake as I would be likely to collect a motley crew of people with all sorts of ideas about Zen.

No. First, I wouldn’t look period. I would find a place and set a time, and then I would just sit. Second, I would welcome whoever came to sit with me. The key is openness and keeping our eye on the ball: practice. I might post a flier or two. I would ask my friends. I would first and last, however, practice.

People too often set out with ideas in mind. This is not the Zen way. We do not chase ideas. We practice zazen.

Training is important when we get past just sitting. Instruction is important before and during our zazen. We never get past just sitting. Training in the forms is an issue for Zen Temples and Practice Centers. Important, yes, but not essential.

What is essential first is that we understand what we are doing and seco…

The Deep End

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

Stepping off into the deep end of the pool requires a few things. Courage, faith, and a certain foolhardiness, as well as a sense of centered acceptance of life as it presents itself. We must have faith in our ability to swim without aid of the pool bottom. We must have the courage to test that faith. We must be reckless enough to take the chance itself. Lastly, but I think most importantly, we must know our center intimately enough to know that regardless of any possible outcome, including drowning, we will be serene in the process. Serenity in this case, is a palpable acceptance of what is.

So if we are swimming, serene. If we are fearful, serene. If we are drowning, serene. We must use the word, centered, here to help us make sense of what I am calling serene. It isn’t that we are not struggling to stay afloat if something happens and we have begun to drown. We are struggling. But we are struggling knowing we are struggling and being compl…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I am inspired by student Shoji’s work on Uji, a piece written by Master Dogen in the 13th century. Uji is a koan of sorts and relates time and being.

He concludes in a piece he is writing, A blade of grass that will eventually grow on a mountain that does not yet exist is here, always was and always will be. Likewise, a leaf that grew and decomposed millions of years ago is here, always was and always will be. After all, where is there to go if everything and everytime is now - is this present moment?

Zen asks us to experience all points, all relationships, all time as one, and, as Alan Watts once said: we are it. Conversely, for time to be time it must have points in space related to each other. And these points must be observed by an observer. In Samadhi: no points, no relationships, no observers, no time.

Separation from the observed is an illusion, therefore, observer and observed is an illusion, past, present and future i…

Practicing Together

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Last night student Luisa sat with me at the 7:00 PM zazen period. This morning student Mu Shin sat with me at the 7:00 AM period. Suki stayed in her bed. It is good to sit with others. There is something about the energy of people practicing together that supports us in our own individual practice. After Mu Shin left, I sipped coffee, then welcomed Teacher Ken Hogaku-roshi into our Temple where he set about completing a construction job in the zendo. I took Suki to Pioneer women’s Park and we walked our single loop. It had rained last night and there were huge puddles for Suki to play in. She was a joyful mess by the end of our walk.

Sangha is key to successful practice. Successful practice is any practice that is done in mindfulness both in a zendo and out. Practice within a sangha is a means of learning to be mindful of others and our relational interactions. It requires us to get out of ourselves, to open our hearts, and practice generos…

An Unexpected Practice

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning was a challenge! I woke late, did a short, fast bicep/triceps workout, practiced zazen, and talked with K. Then off for a walk in Pioneer Women’s Park before zazen at 9:00. Walking, or should I say stumbling, around my futon, I jammed my thigh into the wooden edge. Pain. Then off to the park. Suki was a madwoman dog. Running hard after every bird, every leaf, everything that remotely looked like fun to chase. We did our lap of the park and I discovered my keys were not where I usually put them and I had forgotten my cell phone in the pain of a bruised thigh. So, another lap of the park to look for a mess of keys. No luck.

All the while I am practicing: notice the anger, notice the panic, notice the grief over the loss of my balance and memory. Notice the beautiful sky, overcast and pregnant with rain. Notice and take another step, and another.

At the car, I looked once again in my shoulder bag. Good grief. There they were in a…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

The morning sky was delightful. Tiny ribbons of clouds were illuminated against the stars by dawn’s light. Apparently, it rained sometime through the night as I stepped into a mud puddle and felt the goo of the earth come up between my toes. Suki and I both enjoyed this.

As a child growing up in Miami Florida, I rarely wore more than a pair of cut-off shorts: no shoes, no socks, no shirt. My feet could handle the roughest pebbles and the hottest pavement. It is all a matter of conditioning. Just as my feet became conditioned to the conditions by the conditions,, they also became unconditioned when the conditions for conditioning were not present. (Such a sentence!)

So it is with everything. When the conditions are correct for something to arise, it arises. When the conditions are no longer correct, the conditioned thing falls away. This is the core teaching of dependant co-arising.

We human beings have an advantage of sorts. We can see this…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning was another early riser. I am now sipping coffee after washing dishes and putting some things away. I read my morning email, but have not, as yet, replied. Some silence and reflection first.

Today is a busy day: son Jason will complete the condo move (two pieces of furniture and a mattress) while I lead morning services at the Temple and this evening I will facilitate a roundtable discussion on the meaning of peace at the First Presbyterian Church on Boutz Road here in Las Cruces. This will be followed by an interfaith musical celebration for peace.

In preparing a bit for the discussion this evening I took a look at two sources: the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and Thich Nhat Hahn’s text, Creating True Peace. Nhat Hahn is an excellent role model for peaceful living: reflective, thoughtful, compassionate, and willing to look deeply into situations to see their true nature. The OED points out that peace has a plethora of mean…

Its a Wide World

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Today at CMZT:

7:00 AM Zazen, 2:00 PM Zazen, 4:30 PM Yoga with Susie Citrin, 7:00 PM Zazen

This morning I opened my eyes and stepped outside to see a clear sky. The stars are so beautiful in the early morning and the air, even in town feels so much fresher. I made my coffee, washed the dishes, walked Suki, replied to K, and am now writing to you.

There has been considerable response to my last post. Thank you each for weighing in. Most everyone wants me to continue as I have. Perhaps that will be the case, but I will remain mindful of some of the pitfalls and will try my best to keep a proper decorum fitting a Zen monk.

Yesterday I met with my Teacher, Hogaku Shozen McGuire. He had come to the Temple to install some partitions he had built for us. In the process we outlined additional work that needs to be done in order to complete the Temple. Here is a list:

Shelving in Office

Altar platform with railings

Raised platforms (tan) along both …

Today at CMZT

Good Morning Everyone,

My apologies for the confusion yesterday. Today I know what day it is! Its Wednesday!

So, today:

7:00 AM Zazen in Zendo

9:00 AM Zazen in Zendo

2:00 PM Zazen in Zendo

4:00 PM T'ai Chih Chih in Zendo

7:00 PM Zazen in Zendo

I am also seeking helpers to finish my move out of the Condo. I need to move clothes, kitchen remainders, and various small odds and ends. I would like to do this Saturday. Can anyone assist me?

Lastly, Ken-roshi will be in the zendo this morning completing the installation of two partitions. These will create a foyer at both entrances to the Zendo.

Rev. Harvey Daiho Hilbert-roshi

Order of Clear Mind Zen

Telephone: 575-680-6680


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Please Note: Today at Clear Mind Zen Temple: 7:00 AM Zazen, 9:00 AM Zazen, 2:00 PM Zazen, 4:00 PM Tai Chi Chih, 7:00 PM Zazen.

From Uchiyama’s translation of Tenzo Kyokun, “What are the characters? 1,2,3,4,5. What is the practice? There is nothing in the world that is hidden.”

Here in as succinct a fashion as was ever written is the definition of Zen as life. Everything is Zen; nothing is hidden. In whatever you do, wherever you are: that is it.

On the one hand, we make a big mistake separating this from that, teaching from learning, teacher from student, zendo from kitchen, and so on. We add meaning to these words; we conceptualize them, and in so doing, take ourselves away from our experience of life itself.

On the other hand, teachers have an obligation to teach. Teachers are, monks are, doctors and attorneys are, sanctioned by both their sanctioning bodies and the public, to be somehow separate from their students, patients, and client…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

The practice of Zen is difficult. It is not for everyone. Zazen requires discipline, as does koan work, samu, oryoki, and kinhin. A Zen life is a life of dedicated and committed practice. We rise in the morning with an aim in mind: wake-up! We sit with this, we walk with this, we eat this, we work this. Wake up!

Yes, of course, but what, exactly, does “wake-up!” mean?

Have you ever had the experience of lightening striking near you? Or an experience of dozing off and suddenly being startled as you woke? The instant you were brought to presence, that is awake. The instant afterwards, not awake.

What is it about these experiences? The main thing is the sharp dropping away of everything but your senses: no thought at all, just pure perception, clear, unimpeded, and flawless.

While we cannot live in this state we can approximate it by paying attention.

The Buddha taught this method in a number of sutras, but primarily in The Four Establishme…

Back in Las Cruces

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Morning in Las Cruces is cool and wet. Though it is dark, I can tell the sky is cloudy. I felt the clouds hanging there above me as I walked Suki. I am back in Las Cruces and the Temple is open with its full schedule. Today’s schedule includes Zazen at 7:00 AM, 9:00 AM (in the park), 2:00 PM, and 7:00 PM. Please consider joining us in our practice.

As I entered the Zendo on my return, I could not help but notice the wooden floor had been polished and the bathroom door actually swung open and closed without resistance. Most subtle was the fact that the computer lines that had dangled by the doorway were neatly rolled and tucked in a way that rendered them inconspicuous. Thank you very much Disciple Dai Shugyo!

My hope is that our Temple will offer what it can to be in service to this small, but vibrant community. I am here and at your service.

Be well.


With palms together,

Good Evening Everyone,

My partner cannot stand a single ripple in things. I am not so oblivious to ripples myself. When we practice our zazen, we see things rise and fall. They come and go with the ease of waves at the ocean’s shore. When inside a wave, there is no wave. However, if we fail to practice and stand outside of the wave, something changes. Waves become disturbances in the placid, serene nature of the ocean of our mind.

How so? Serenity is the unification of Mind.

And in this a ripple is not a ripple until we say it is. This descriptive word and this assignment of meaning, makes a ripple what it is. In other words, waves need a point of comparison to be “waves” such as flat, still water, and vice versa. It is our mind that creates this point and, without it, the ocean is just the ocean as it is.

So, the natural state of things is serene, even in the midst of cataclysm. The universe, like the ocean, unfolds and folds, it expands and contracts, all in a…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

“The Grand Design” is on the end table beside my bed here in my hotel room. I began reading it on the walk back from the bookstore to my hotel. I like the early reference to Faynman because it reminded me that I never finished reading his Six Easy Pieces, which a friend and I were discussing on our morning walks. (Note to self, finish what you start.)

There is something about being in the presence of brilliant people, whether their brilliance is in physics or kindness that is so very inspiring. Yet, even these wonders of the universe, drop away. A book, regardless of its greatness, is not the author. And while a book can live on millennia after the author’s death, it is just not the same.

I have noticed on one of the blog sites I post on, a proclivity toward using dead writers (or living ones, for that matter) to bolster or explain points of their theory and practice of Buddhism. I would rather we begin with our own practice and work our wa…

A Heartbeat Away

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

My partner is beside me and she is pretending not to be interested in what I am writing. I know better. It has been a joyous reunion. She looks much healthier and is so much more alive. We have a very special, if not outside the pale, relationship. We have not seen each other for two months time.

In Zen, the universe is one. There is no outside, no inside; just this that is there in front of us. Unlike Stephen Hawking, it does not care whom or what (if anything at all) created it: it simply is. In thusness we turn and face ourselves. How are we doing? Is our life of benefit to others? How are we treating one another? Can we die in this moment without hesitation?

Labels and boxes are the stuff of duality: they are fingers pointing to delusion. I say, drop them and be free.

Travel at the speed of thought,

And find yourself

Looking at yourself:

There is no tomorrow

No yesterday.

No now.

There is just what we make

In our next breath.

Open Heart

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

We bow to buddha. I find this practice to be a pathway to right understanding. When I place my palms together, I am reminded of several things simultaneously: the fact that my left hand does not work and I have to work at it to get it to align with the fingers of my right hand; the fact that I am but a human being no better or worse than any other; and the fact that I need to let go of my ideas about everything. When I a bow, my heart relaxes and who it is that stands in front of me is allowed to enter as they are.

Bowing in this way, the Buddha way, is a gate for releasing the self and opening the heart/mind. When stepping through this gate a synchronicity of body, heart/mind, and environment forms: it is within this alignment that I consider Right Understanding to be possible.

If we are not in proper alignment, if our heart/mind is not synchronous with our environment, for example, distortions arise, as we are not seeing what is immediat…

Donations Plus

Good Morning Everyone,

This is the time of month when I must don my robe and pick up my bowl to ask for donations to our Clear Mind Zen Temple. We are open for service from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM Monday through Friday and from 9:00 AM to noon of Sunday. That is a lot of candles. :)

Dana (Generosity) is a key to letting go of self: it is an opportunity to practice.

Please either mail your donation to the Temple directly at the address below or go to our website and use our convenient Paypal button.

A bow to each of you.

Order of Clear Mind Zen

642 South Alameda Blvd.

Las Cruces, NM 88005

btw, here is our T'ai Chi Chih Instructor's schedule. It is a wonderfulpractice, please consider joining us.


T’ai Chi Chih: Joy Thru Movement Schedule

When: Every Tuesday (T’ai Chi Chih Tuesday)

Where: Mountain View Medical Plaza

4311 E. Lohman Ave. in the 4th floor

Women’s Resource Room

Time: 9:00 – 10:00 AM Beginner’s Class

10:15 – 11:15 AM Intermediate Clas…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

There are two things I need to say this morning. First, we will be holding Sesshin this weekend beginning Friday at 7:00 PM and concluding Sunday afternoon at Clear Mind Zen Temple. We will do something different this sesshin. We will begin sesshin at the Center for Spiritual Living at the downtown mall where we will study the masterful film, “Zen.” We will then begin zazen at 6:00 AM on Saturday and continue through Sunday. Please let me know if you will attend.

Second, my puppy, Suki, managed to get her mouth around a full bottle of Mirapex in the middle of the night and eat it. The bottle was on the dining room table and somehow she managed to get up to it. She vomited profusely, which is what woke me. Between cleaning up and watching her, I called poison control and stayed on the line over an hour to no avail. Websites suggested immediate medical care for an overdose of this drug. I called the Emergency Vet Clinic only to find there was…