Zen 101

Friday, December 31, 2010

World Healing Day

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I offered a prayer at our local World Healing Day vigil. It is the third time, I believe, I have been invited by the religious community here to do so. Various clergy were present, as well as congregational members from different faiths. It seemed the theme this year was eliminating the things that separate us. I chanted the first part of the Heart of Wisdom Sutra and offered words regarding the three poisons, their antidotes, and the process of receiving and giving in terms of healing. My heart was with those who believe borders are necessary, as I see this need as based primarily in fear.

Afterwards, at breakfast, a participant talked with me about his concern that “illegal’s” are getting resources we cannot afford. He has a point. Medical care is expensive, especially when it is done through ERs. ERs are pretty much the sole source of care for the uninsured He thought children born in the US of illegal’s parents should not be allowed to be US citizens.

I asked him what the alternative might be. I asked him if he thought sick people and the dying should be left to fend for themselves and quite possibly die on the streets? No answer. The consequences of not caring for people when they are ill are not contained to the ill. Moreover, denying critical care to people who are suffering is cruel. Such cruelty is a toxin that attacks our heart.

I am such a bleeding heart liberal. I actually believe to make a healthy world requires making healthy people. And quite frankly, I could care less what country they are from, what color or ethnicity they are, and whether they are here “legally” or “illegally.” After all, this country was founded by illegal immigrants.

Be well.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

At McDonald’s this morning getting an Egg McMuffin without Canadian Bacon, an order which baffles the young man taking it. He wasn’t quite sure what to do and, in spite of searching the little keys on the register, the price kept coming up as the same as that with the bacon. This, he said, was what caused his confusion. I agreed. It seems that a corporation as large and wealthy as McDonald’s could figure out a way to have the “No Canadian Bacon” key reduce the price of the sandwich, but apparently, this is not the case. We call this greed.

One might ask, “Roshi, why eat at McDonald’s then?” I might reply, “Brilliant idea!” The trouble is, these pesky critters are everywhere and open all hours. On the road, the consistency of quality can be pretty much counted on. Whereas, the Mom and Pop operations, which do not have fancy cash registers that lock choices to a very narrow range, are not known quantities.

Eating at McDonald’s is not a good idea and I really don’t recommend it, but, more often than not, there is one near you when traveling, and the coffee is good and hot enough to really enjoy.

What did that Third Patriarch say about preferences?

Be well.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Trip

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

After an early morning Zazen practice with Student Yubao, Suki enjoyed a one mile run in the desert. I was less happy with it. My training has gone to pot and there is no way I will be able to run a 5k let alone a half marathon anytime soon. So, re-grouping, I will target a date in the spring. Vowing to restart my training program on the first, I will do what I need to do to make training happen. There is a Half Marathon in El Paso the first weekend of March. Hmmm.

Last night we visited Both Sides/No Sides Sangha in El Paso whilr Rev. Kajo graciously hosted Zen 101 for us. In El Paso, we arrived just as the bell was being invited to ring. Rev. Bobby Kankin Byrd was very warm and welcoming. I offered a Dharma talk on aspects of the Genjokoan. The drive home was a challenge though. I am certainly not as young as I used to be and, even though I am often awake late, suffer from serious sleepiness after 8:00 or so. We needed to stop and rest at the New Mexico Welcome station, then stopped once again for Suki to take a break.

So, today’s walk/run was a useful wake-up call for me. Get in shape!!!

This afternoon at Clear Mind Zen Temple: 4:00 PM Tai Chi Chih; 7:00 PM Zazen.

May we each be a blessing in the universe today.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

This coming Saturday Clear Mind Zen Temple will offer Zazenkai to any who wishes to participate in an extended practice period. We will begin at 8:00 AM and close at 4:00 PM. Practices will include Zazen (seated meditation), Kinhin (walking meditation), Samu (work meditation). Oryoki (eating meditation), and Study. If you are interested in joining us, please let me know ASAP.

Today: Zazen at 7:00 AM, Zen 101 led by Rev. Kajo at 6:00 PM followed by Zazen at 7:00 PM. Jiisha Soku Shin and I will travel to El Paso this afternoon to join Both Sides/No Sides Sangha for their weekly evening practice.

There are three study groups offered through our Temple: Zen 101 (currently studying the Fukanzazengi) on Tuesday evenings at 6:00 PM); Zen Group (currently studying the Compass of Zen at 4:00 PM Friday), and Women in Zen (meets on Thursdays at 5:30 at our residence).

Don’t forget Tai Chi Chih, the Joy of Movement practice on Wednesday at 4:00 PM! Click here for information about Tai Chi Chih.

We hope to see you soon!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Day

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning dawns as we pulled together the Zendo after a lovely, if not odd, dinner last night. The meal Soku Shin and I planned failed at the very last minute! Thanks to Soku Sin’s daring we salvaged the meal by turning spinach gnocchi into an egg frittata. And then there were the pies that did’nt get baked well enough…Still, no one seemed to notice as everyone was thoroughly enjoying themselves.

We really do enjoy having people at the Temple for a meal together. There is something about eating together that is so human and so unifying. Perhaps we will establish a meal tradition where one day a week we open the Temple to the public for breakfast and Zazen.

We also paid a visit yesterday to Rev. Kankin in El Paso at his home. It was very good to see him, again and his family, as well. Kankin is a poet of the first order with several volumes of his work in print. He took us into his poet’s office and it felt so much like home. From there we were invited into the living room and a delicious meal with a glass of wine followed by the sort of coffee only Kankin can make.

And now it is time to go into the Zendo and offer ourselves to the Buddha Way.

May we each be a blessing in the universe.

Friday, December 24, 2010


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning at 7:00 AM we practiced Zazen at the Temple. Student Yubao and I sat for two periods and practiced one short round of kinhin. I then went to the Veteran’s Park, but no one came to sit. From there, I went to the apartment and now am back at the Temple. I have cleaned the Zendo floor, oiled the wooden ceremonial items, and made a new practice schedule.

Work practice, or “samu” is considered a very important contemplative practice. We work with complete mindfulness. Samu is not about completing the task, but rather, its about entering the task and becoming one with it.

This is it. When polishing the floor, do it with exactly the same mindfulness as polishing the Buddha or cleaning the toilet. Samu should be a graceful practice, regardless of the task. A teacher might come by and say, “Not good enough!” To which we would bow and continue. The “not good enough” is, more often than not, not about the work itself, but rather, our attitude and presence within and about the work. If our focus is on getting the job done so that we can sit back and rest, WRONG IDEA! Enjoy the work, exist in the work, feel the work.

News from Student Glenda in California: Her surgery went well! Please offer her wellness in your practice.

Be well &, be safe,

Thursday, December 23, 2010


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

Please indicate whether you would like to attend a Friday Discussion and Zazen tomorrow at 4:00 PM by reply.

My apologies to Member Rose for not getting back to the Temple in time for Tai Chi Chih. It seems we were delayed on business in T or C, NM. Soku Shin and I went there to meet our webmistress and re-imburse her for the new ISP service. We also shopped for statuary and found a lovely Kwan Yin for the ceremonial table. Soku Shin herself found a beautiful Medicine Buddha. On the way back to the Temple we needed gasoline and that became a techno-nightmare. Needless to say, we didn’t get into town until after 5:00.

Recently, I have begun training our evening students how to use the various instruments that are used during a service. We tend to have 3-4 people so one gets the mokugyo; one gets the large bell, one the small bell, and one, the inkin (acting as timekeeper).

It is a delight to see the ensemble at work. Students are getting the feel for the rhythm and texture of the service’s chants and, as a real benefit, a sense of participation and deep learning. As in all other aspects of Zen, we must do the thing, not just talk the thing.

This past Tuesday evening at our Zen 101 Group, we were talking about an aspect of the Fukanzazengi and I used a piece out of Harada-roshi’s text, the Essence of Zen, to make a point. There is Zen in activity and Zen in stillness he offers. The idea is that every moment is our practice: walking, sitting, driving, chopping onions; it’s all Zen when our mind in unified.

We cannot be thinking about the wooden fish when using it to lead a chant, we must just invite the sound contained within it to arise. It is the same with the bell and gong, the knife and onion, and all other instruments and activities of living.

Being one requires practice. Perhaps we will practice together this evening at the Temple. Zazen at 7:00 PM.

Be well.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No Sound

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I am awake to the sounds of silence. What sounds are those? The sound of no-sound. No-sound is the sound of presence. Just this, as it is, with nothing added.

No-sound, like no-seeing or no-thinking, is a serious challenge for us and so it is core to our practice.

When we walk and we think we are walking are we walking? Is this Zen in motion? Or is Zen in motion just walking? Consider this.

When I say I am awake to the sound of silence, to no-sound, it simply means there is no I in the “I am.” “I am” is nothing more or less than a fiction derived from language. How can this be? Where is the “I” in the sudden close-by crack of thunder? Practice no-sound. Practice no-I.

Be well.

A reminder: Tai Chi Chih today at 4:00, Zazen at 7:00 PM

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Morning Note

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

First, I want to thank you for your generosity of heart. It is important that our sangha finds support for itself through its members. Second, I want to invite each of you to write to me personally with your thoughts or questions or request a Skype personal interview. I am at your service.

Our online sangha is struggling right now. There is a conflict about our sangha asking for donations and the linkage between my teaching and donation. As I see it, my teaching belongs to the sangha and a sangha is composed of members. The question is what constitutes membership? In my view, the main element is a commitment to practice. The key word is commitment. A commitment is more than a word, it is an word turned into action. A commitment without action is hollow.

What sort of action? From my point of view, the very least is a communication stating one’s desire to be a member. Add to that a financial commitment (practicing generosity), a social action commitment (practicing the three pure precepts) and practicing Zazen (the practice of meditation). This completes the membership.

Our society seems to have developed an idea that ideas are all that matter. As if to say it is enough to think about Zen, Sangha, Practice and somehow we will magically manifest our Buddha Nature. Not so. We must practice and practice requires a relinquishment of ideas, especially of self.

I am grateful for your presence. I am grateful for this Sangha. Thank you.

Be well.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nothing to Attain

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

In the Heart Sutra we are told that everything is empty. Everything changes, that is, so nothing is either what it appears to be or what it is. We have no eye, ear, nose, tongue, no body, no mind and therefore there is no seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or touching, and no thinking. Yet, there they are when we look in a mirror: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. When we practice Zazen, when we enter the stillpoint, these fall away, meaning we experience truth.

In the largest context all things are not things at all. All is one, nothing is separate. This thing over against that thing is an illusion perpetrated on us by our brain. Yet, even so, when entering the stillpoint, even one is no more. For one to have any reality, there must be another, two. So, not even one is real: no wisdom and no attainment; there is nothing to attain.

This morning we practice Zazen at 9:00 AM in the Zendo. The Zendo is home to the Sangha. Please join us.

Be well.

P.S. Last night I had a candle accident, melting some wax on the office carpet. Any ideas as to how to get it up?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning was lazy. I woke with my alarm, but immediately went back to sleep. Suzuki-roshi said that he had to learn to jump out of bed as soon as his eyes opened in order to get up. I failed to jump. Consequently, I did not get to the temple and am at home working. Besides, Qwest lost Internet service at the office yesterday afternoon. Another one of those “24-48 hour” question marks as to when service will be back up. So, Suki and I went for our little business walk at a reasonable hour. And I am now cozy with my coffee and computer. Still, I need to get to the Temple, as one never knows…

Yesterday a young man walked into the Temple and wanted to tell me about his knowledge of Zen. I invited him to practice, but he really wanted to talk. His presentation of himself went from what he had read to how so many others were so judgmental, to how Buddhism changed his life and helped him turn his life around. I admire him. He came from a community that knows little to nothing about Zen and there he was, in a Zen Temple talking to the abbot. I hope he returns, but more, I hope he practices at home.

Last night we held our Zen 101 group and, I confess, I am not myself in that group. We are using a commentary on the Fukanzazengi of Master Dogen as a source text. I struggle with the participants over the basic questions all of us who come to Zen sooner or later face. Questions regarding its apparent contradictions, regarding its practice, regarding the role of self (what self, which self?) abound and confound everyone.

It is much easier to give a Teisho and let the listener sort it out. 

Be well.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,


Today we will host Zen 101, our Introduction to Zen Study Group, at 6:00 PM. We follow this with Zazen at 7:00 PM. This is a very enjoyable group as we are taking a close look at the fukanzazengi written by Master Dogen at the beginning of his career teaching in Japan. Anyone is welcome to attend, but the group is for lay people relatively new to the practice.

Our Women in Zen group is getting started soon. If you are interested, please contact Rev. Kajo at greatfiregoddess@yahoo.com. This group will be podcast, as well.

We are changing web providers for our Clear Mind Zen website soon. Be advised the site will go down for 24-48 hours when the switch happens.

We are producing a handbook for the practice of Zen in our Order. We will make it available to anyone who wishes to purchase a copy. I expect it will be in the neighborhood of $25.00 plus shipping, but as it is not yet completed, I cannot say for sure the price. If you would be interested in having a copy, please let me know so I have some idea how many copies to order in a first run.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) we will practice Tai Chi Chih here at the Temple. All are welcome to join us in this serene contemplative movement practice. We begin at 4:00 PM and close at 5:00 PM.

On Friday at 4:00 PM we host the Zen Group and will be discussing the chapter in The Compass of Zen that deals with the Structure of Buddhism. This is followed by Zazen at 5:30 PM.

Please consider joining us at one or all of these opportunities for learning and practice. Our Zazen schedule includes sitting periods Monday through Friday at 7:00 PM, Monday and Friday morning at Veteran’s park at 9:00 AM, and Tuesday through Thursday Zazen at 7:00 AM. Of course, I am always willing to practice with you at anytime during the Temple’s hours. Just call in advance to make an appointment.

Be well.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Closed Society?

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

So, the morning arrives with a whisper. I shave my head and clean the razor, make the coffee and read my morning mail. It is a typical morning, but for the hour. For some reason I woke at about 2:30 AM…it might be due to the fact that I went to sleep just after dark. Hmmm, note to self, try not to do that.

I re-read that post by Naomi Wolf from Huffington. I then took a look at the Espionage Act itself and how it has been enforced, as well as some other acts. The Military Commissions Act of 2006, for example, gives the president or his appointee the power to declare anyone (including ordinary American citizens) an “enemy combatant.” I fear Naomi Wolf is onto something.

Here are her ten steps to a closed society:

10 steps that close an open society

1. invoke an internal and external threat

People who are afraid are willing to do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do.

2. establish secret (unaccountable) prisons where torture takes place

In a secret system, the government does not have to provide any proof of wrongdoing by those it holds, so it can incarcerate anyone it wants.

3. develop a paramilitary force

A private military force — under the exclusive direction of the “commander in chief” with no accountability to Congress, the courts, or the public — blurs the line between a civilian police force and a militarized police state.

4. surveil ordinary citizens

People who believe they are being watched are less likely to voice opposition. To scare a population into silence, the government need only monitor the activities of a few to make everyone fear that they are being surveilled. Every closed society keeps a “list” of so-called opponents it tracks.

5. infiltrate citizen’s groups

Spies in activist groups put psychological pressure on genuine activists by undermining their trust in one another. They may also disrupt legal activities, undermining the effectiveness of group efforts.

6. detain and release ordinary citizens

Detention intimidates or psychologically damages those arrested and also lets everyone know that anyone could be labeled an “enemy combatant” and “disappeared.”

7. target key individuals

People are less likely to speak out when those who are highly visible, like journalists, scholars, artists, or celebrities, are intimidated or have the livelihoods threatened. Targeting those who are especially visible makes it less likely that people will speak out and robs society of leaders and others who might inspire opposition.

8. restrict the press

The public is less likely to fi nd out about government wrongdoing if the government can threaten to prosecute anyone who publishes or broadcasts reports that are critical of the government.

9. recast criticism as espionage and dissent as treason

People who protest can be charged with terrorism or treason when laws criminalize or limit free speech rather than protect it.

10. subvert the rule of law

The disappearance of checks and balances makes it easier to declare martial law, especially if the judiciary branch continues to exercise authority over individuals but has no authority over the Executive branch.

See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/naomi-wolf/ten-steps-to-close-down-a_b_46695.html

What does this have to do with Zen? Everything. We cannot practice in a closed society. Our society is becoming less and less tolerant as we become more and more frightened. A piece on the BBC just pointed out the difficulties with religious garb, for example, when the TSA deciided an Indian ambassador needed to be both patted down and have his head covering searched I was patted down myself when I refused to remove my rakusu.

A free society is a living society, a closed society is a dying society. Open societies, while tumultuous at times, are vibrant, healthy, and willing to take the risks freedom requires.

Where do you suppose we might be?

Be well, be free.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Books and Friends

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

Finally, we are completing a serious task at the Order. We have the initial version of our “Shingi” or standards for the Order collected into a book form. Rev. KoMyo and I will have a pdf version available soon. I have sent all of the sections to each priest within our Order for their review. I want to make this text available to any member of the Order, including lay members.

I also have my book, “Living Zen: A Diary of an American Zen Priest” in the process of being a print on demand text through Amazon.com’s company, CreateSpace. It will be available as a paperback and as a Kindle downloadable book. It is currently being copy edited by student Jill Freeman in PA., as well as by my Teacher, McGuire-roshi, who has agreed to author the preface. My partner and Jiisha, Soku Shin, is also adding her valuable insight to the text.

I will keep you apprised of the progress of these texts and let you know when, exactly, they will be available.

Over the last few days, I have lost two friends. Mary Phillips and Bobby Siegel. Mary was a social worker who assisted aging persons as her practice, then became a strong engaged peace activist who sat with us at the Federal Building for several years. She was a wonderful person, a marvelous poet, and a deeply caring mother and grandmother.

Bobby was a scientist, a staunchly inquisitive person, who traveled the globe to do her science. She was an odd, but delightful mix of agnostic/practitioner, who attended synagogue services, practiced Zen meditation, and had a deep fondness for Kwan Yin, the Chinese version of the Bodhisattva of compassion.

Both of these women were hospice patients. I was able to sit with Bobby the day before she died and recited the Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra while holding her hand. Her eyes were moist and she had a lovely smile on her face as this powerful sutra was chanted. I admit I choked-up a bit at a phrase or two. It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life as a monk to offer this sutra to my friend.

Be well.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Zen of...

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

When we talk about Zen, we do not talk about Zen. Zen is impossible to actually talk about. Its rather like the Dao, if it can be spoken, its not the Dao. We “talk about” rather than experience. Zen is not even to be experienced, though, as to experience it is to be it and to be it means there is no one separate from it. All of our talk should be nothing more than fingers pointing to it: we must release ourselves into it and the “it” I refer to is reality.

As Daido Loori-roshi pointed out, there are many Gates of Zen. He catalogued eight, but in fact, there are myriad gates. If our attitude is correct, anything we do is a dharma gate. My use of attitude here is similar to the one used by pilots of aircraft where attitude is four-dimensional.

To enter the gate, we must release ourselves. This release is really very simple, children do it all the time, as do adults: we all just are not aware that it is what we are doing when we are doing it. What is it we are doing?

I remember riding my horse, Shaker. When we were training, doing figure eights, tighter and tighter, or when I was lunging her in the round pen, I would become her. Every muscle of hers and mine were merged, completely integrated to the point where we were one. Not only we were one, but this new “oneness” was one with time and space, which is to say, there was no circle, no figure eight, no round pen, as all of it, circle, horse, and rider were one. Mind was no more. Everything was instantaneous and completely there. Only by trusting myself and my horse was I able to release myself into her and space. I call this trust faith. Cowboy Zen.

Do not mistake this. You don’t need a horse, nor do you need to be a cowboy. Artists know this, motorcyclists know this, bicyclists and runners know this. This is why we have so many books with title like “The Zen of…” They all come to the same thing: release yourself, let go of your grip, and enter reality fully and completely.

Be well.

Today at Clear Mind Zen Temple: 9:00 AM Zen in the Veteran’s Park; Zen Discussion Group at 4:00 PM at the Temple; Zazen at 5:30 in the Zendo. Our discussion will focus on “The Structure of Buddhism” as outlined by Zen Master Seung Sahn in his Compass of Zen.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Monthly Dues and Dana Request

Good Morning Everyone,

We have had a very good year with lots of Temple building and Sangha building efforts. Feedback has been nothing but positive. Our sesshin fees are very, very low at $25.00 for a full weekend. I am suggesting we increase these fees to $50.00.

This is the last month of the year. For those who wish to offer dana to the Temple, please do so, we are always in need. I think it would be wonderful if those who consider themselves sangha members make a monthly pledge.

I propose the following:

Friend of the Order: $5.00 per month

Associate Member: $10.00 per month

Member: $25.00 per month.

Sustaining Member: $50.00 per month

Great Benefactor; $75:00 + per month.

Friends, Associates, and Members will pay $25.00 for sesshin/zazenkai/retreats and will be asked for $25.00 for any ordination ceremony

Sustaining Members will pay $15.00 for sesshin/zazenkai/retreats and will be asked for $15.00 for any ordination ceremony.

Great Benefactors will pay nothing for any service offered by the Temple.


Yes, I want to be a part of the Order of Clear Mind Zen

Please enroll me at this level:

____Friend of the Order: $5.00 per month
____Associate Member: $10.00 per month
____Member: $25.00 per month.
____Sustaining Member: $50.00 per month
____Great Benefactor; $75:00 + per month.

Regular dana will help us to firm up our budget for the coming year. So, please complete this form and return it as soon as posible to harveyhilbert@yahoo.com

Thank you.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Voice

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

Who listens to a voice of protest when business is on the line?

Apparently nineteen countries won't. They will not attend the United Nations Nobel Awards ceremony awarding imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize “for various reasons.” Some of these refusniks, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, are supported and bolstered by the United States. Some are countries we are in bed with such as Saudi Arabia. China insists the award is political and that a “few clowns” are attempting to interfere with its judicial affairs.

Liu Xiaobo was part of the Tiananmen Square protest and was an author of a paper asking for multiparty democracy and increased human rights in China. For this, he was found guilty of inciting subversion and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Everyone and every country has the right to show its true colors. The US is hardly exempt here. Our ethical and moral reputation has been shot to hell by our recent wars and how we conduct them. We wanted increased influence and oil and we did what we needed to do to get it (and if our leader’s business ties profited? Wonderful!). In this latest moral litmus test, my bet is the countries refusing to support the Peace Prize are countries needing trade ties with China.

Our friends in Iraq and Afghanistan ought to be ashamed of themselves and those who supported the wars there, as well. Values are important, but apparently the 4,748 coalition dead in Iraq and 2252 coalition dead in Afghanistan did not die for values, but rather for the opportunity to do business. And poor Liu Xiaobo? He's just another peacenik protester, let’s forget about him.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Cold

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

The air this morning was cold and, as I walked Suki, I felt my body grow tense. Partial paralysis is a funny thing. In the winter, muscles contract and tense to the point they simply will not release. My partial paralysis of my left arm and leg makes it nearly impossible to walk. Everything becomes tight; everything clenches. I feel myself tighten against the cold. It is an emotionally and psychologically challenging experience.

I practice my own version of kinhin. I deliberately breathe out, telling my leg to open, telling my arm to relax, and telling my chest to breathe. I take a step, the tension returns. Another breath. And another. Sooner or later I get to where I am going.

This morning was no different. I relaxed the grip cold air had on my limbs and took one step, then another. Suki helped by doing her dance and pulling on my arm. Her friskiness in the cold air, and her obvious joy in it, made my struggle worthwhile.

Sometimes it takes two to make a difference.

Be well.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Post Rohatsu Notes

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

Rohatsu sesshin concluded with a wonderful luncheon dinner at the Village Inn. If anyone has pictures of the ceremonies or of the group afterwards, please email one or two of them to me. Sesshin was attended by fourteen of us: four from the American River Sangha in Sacramento, CA., two from Both Sides/No Sides Sangha in El Paso, one from Deming, NM, and the rest from Las Cruces, NM.

Ceremonies included three Kie Sanbo Tokudo and one Jukai Tokudo: congratulations to Susan “Hakushi” Beckett (student of Priest Kajo), Heather “Kishin” Ogston (student of Priest Komyo), Kathi “Ryugin” Sorenson, and John “Shoji” Sorenson (students of Priest Daiho).

A highlight of the sesshin was a somewhat unorthodox activity. We each wrote out a commentary on our Dharma name. If we were not yet in possession of such a name, participants were asked to consider what they might think their name would be. It seemed this exercise was deeply touching and emotionally moving. Silence was maintained for the most part, but it did take a slap of the kyosaku on the Roshi’s desk once to make the point.

Our Tenzo, Rev. Bobby Kankin Byrd, did a superlative job addressing the needs of the sangha. We only heard one yelp when he dropped an egg on the floor and the food was delicious.

My aim during this sesshin was to stay out of the leadership role as much as possible, allowing my able Kansu, Rev. Komyo, to take the lead. He did a terrific job and I am very pleased with the overall outcome. One of the things I did learn coming out of this experience was a procedure book, a “Shingi,” might be a good idea for our Order. I have been slowly developing this, but I can see I need to make it a priority.

May each of us be a blessing in the universe today.


Friday, December 03, 2010


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

Preparations are in full swing for sesshin. The California Sangha arrived safely yesterday and are now busy getting things ready. The Tenzo, who is the abbot of the Texas Sangha, will arrive in a couple of hours. It is very exciting to see so much activity at the Temple!

Today at CMZT we did Zen at Veteran’s Park at 9:00 AM followed by the samu of completing the altar platform. Afterwards, we will check the oryoki bowls sets and then prepare for our weekly Zen discussion group at 4:00 PM. Rohatsu sesshin begins at 7:00 PM. We will be sitting through the weekend until noon on Sunday. Sunday Zen service is at 9:00 AM.

I will not write to you over the weekend. May you be a blessing in the universe.

Be well.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Zazen Tonight!

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

Thursday morning and Rohatsu sesshin is nearly upon us. Still there are many small things to take care of. We will have a full house and it is exciting to see that happen. People are coming in from California and Texas, as well as other New Mexico cities such as Deming. I am turning sesshin over to my able assistant, Rev. KoMyo. He has a small staff to assist him. Rev. Bobby Kankin Byrd will be the Tenzo (Head Cook). Rev. Celia Kajo Villa will be the Ino (Zendo supervisor). Rev. Bonnie Bussho Hobbs will be the Head Priest’s Jiisha (Assistant). I get to be just the old teacher in the corner.

There is something very comforting in knowing that the Order has people who are trained in the various roles of temple life and who can step into these roles and do them well.

Zen is not just sitting. It is everything. How we walk. How we talk. How we treat the trash (knowing there is no trash is a first step there!). So, the various roles are important as they develop a sense of mindfulness in each aspect of our everyday life.

Our California group will be arriving today. Please consider coming to the Temple this evening to sit with us at 7:00 PM.

Lastly, it is that time of month again for me to pick up my bowl and ask for Dana. We are in serious need, as the Order will buy carpeting for the altar platform and new inflatable mattresses for sesshin participants. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Send your gift to Order of Clear Mind Zen, 642 South Alameda, Suite E, Las Cruces, NM 88005 or simply click on PayPal from our Order’s website: http://clearmindzen.org

Thank you very much.