Zen 101

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Good Morning All,

This morning I would like to talk about the coming year. I have posted the retreat schedule on the Clear Mind Zen website. We have made some adjustments to our retreat schedules to accommodate to our Sangha’s needs. All of our intensives will begin at 8:00 AM and close at 5:00 PM. These will be either one day or five day retreats and oryoki lunch is included. We will ask for $15.00 per day as a donation to assist us in covering our expenses and we ask that these be offered in advance.

Private interviews are to be conducted either at my residence or at the Zendo. My Jiisha, Rev. Soku Shin will be responsible for scheduling private interviews with me. Her email address is kathrynmasaryk@yahoo.com. Dana to the teacher is part of our practice of generosity and is greatly appreciated. A bowl is provided.

As this year unfolds I will be focusing much of my attention on my own engaged practice. I have asked Rev. Dai Shugyo to help create a file of practice opportunities, contact information, and so forth for your reference so that you each might find something to do to help make a difference in the world.

I will likely be writing much less as my art seems to be eclipsing writing as my voice. Although I do expect to write some fiction or plays and perhaps some poetry, I will leave most of my teaching to my time in the Zendo and in private interviews.

Lastly, I want to thank each and every one of you for your practice and continued support of our small Sangha. 2012 will be my 65th year alive and I very much look forward to living it as fully with you as possible.

Our practice is our foundation. Let us maintain it, treasure it, and nurture it.

Be well.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011



The Buddha once said, “Let us rise up and be thankful for if we didn’t learn a lot today at least we learned a little. And if we didn’t learn a little at least we didn’t get sick, and if we didn’t get sick, at least we didn’t die; so let us all be thankful.”

Just as the Buddha, we often associate gratitude with thankfulness. The word gratitude comes from the Latin, gratis, which interestingly enough, means pleasing. I know when I am aware of feeling gratitude, it feels warm and fuzzy inside. I feel it in my chest and face. It is feeling as though I have been given a warm blanket against a cold night. It is, indeed, pleasing.

Studies of gratitude suggest that with an increase in our sense of gratitude comes an increase in our sense of well-being. Gratitude has been associated with improved mental health, improved personal relationships, increased personal growth and positive self-acceptance.

Having a sense of gratitude means that we have been open to receiving a gift. More, that we are in fact aware of having received a gift in the first place. So often we are not in touch; so often we do not notice. Because it is a treasure to feel gratitude, then, we might make noticing the gifts in our lives a daily practice. Some have suggested a “Gratitude Journal” as a way of accomplishing this. I know from my own experience, I tend to do that which I make note.

When we do feel gratitude we tend to feel a certain indebtedness or obligation to those whom we are thankful. It’s not that we are indeed obligated, its more that when we are on the receiving end of someone’s generosity, our hearts have been opened. As a result are able to express our own generous nature, a human quality we Buddhist call a “paramita” or “perfection.”

May we each be a blessing in the universe today,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Unification Rag

Good Morning All,

Last night was an exercise in practice. I had been working on a new painting and almost had it when I just could not go on… Kathryn and I did what we do and finally went to bed. All of a sudden at 2:30 AM, Suki and Binky were jumping up and down wanting desperately to go out. So, out we went. Cold and wet and dark they were in 7th Puppy Heaven. I, on the other hand, was in the Hell Realms.

After they did what they do, we came in and slipped into the studio where my work was waiting. A stroke here, a stroke there and the painting was painting itself. Meanwhile Suki and Binky were sound asleep on the sofa. So it goes.

At 7:30 we are now up, it is late, I finished the painting, am sipping my coffee, and am about to take the Pups out for a walk before going to the Zendo. Such is life. Hell and Heaven are simply the names we give to the relationships before us. When opposed to it: hell. When entering it: heaven. May we all practice the unification rag.

Be well.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Big Brother Actually Wears A Smiley Face

Good Morning All,

Big Brother Actually Wears A Smiley Face

If I were a member of the elite, I would not want to make sweeping changes to meet my needs, nor would I make changes dark and frightening. I would make them slow and nearly imperceptible, a little at a time, and always with your best interests on my face. I would make my needs your needs. I would make your fears my fears.

You might then say, “Oh, it’s not so bad.” Or you might defend me saying, “We really need to protect ourselves from ‘X’ so if we do ‘Y’ it won’t be as bad as ‘Z’.” Yes, and I would frame all the tiny little ‘Ys’ as nearly harmless and put little happy faces on them all. Much like using Happy Meals® with toys to make fast food not only OK, but downright desirable and affordable.

Yes, if I were an elite, I would be smiling pretty broadly as I go to the bank with bags of money noticing how everyone seems to be thinking maybe sometime it will be their turn to do the same, all the while knowing I have imperceptibly created conditions making this nearly impossible. All the while helping everyone else feel I am the champion of their moral point of view. Even God will be on our side.

We are all equal, right? And, as Mr. Orwell once had it, some animals are more equal than others. Oh, and any attempt to change the hierarchy will be considered treason and the best part? Most of you will happily agree with me.

Be well

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Brad Warner

Good Morning All,

We are excited! Brad Warner has agreed to come to Las Cruces to spend some time with us. I spoke with him the other day and we agreed he will do a talk in El Paso, Deming, and Las Cruces. We will host him at our residence. The dates are March 9th through the 11th.

For those uniformed, Brad Warner received dharma transmission from Nishijima roshi in Japan while he lived, studied, and worked there. Brad has written four books: Hardcore Zen, Sit Down and Shut Up, Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate, and Sin, Sex, and Zen. He has also edited with Nishijima-roshi a translation and commentary of the Fundamental Wisdom of the Way by Nagarjuna. He hosts the blog, Hardcore Zen, and is featured in an interview in this month’s Tricycle magazine. Brad is always refreshing.

We would like this visit to be a practice driven event and not just a public talk. So, each center, we are asking that we coordinate a practice period with a dharma talk by Brad Warner. In addition, we will offer a public presentation in each of the three cities, so look for possible venues.

Our hope is that the various centers in our area will assist us in defraying the costs arising from this effort.

We will, of course, be happy to receive any financial support you may be able to offer. We have agreed to fly him here from Akron, host him, and return him intact with Dana in hand.

I look forward to hearing from you. Be well.

Post Script

It is with a relief that I report our friend Gene survived his brain surgery yesterday. We had sat Zazen for several hours and chanted the Great Compassionate Dharani, the Kannon Sutra, the Life Span of the Tathagata, and the Heart of Wisdom Sutra, as part of our vigil. It is a good thing for a small community to come together in mutual support of each other. Our best to Gene and his wife Anna as they work together to live deeply in the days to come. To paraphrase an old teaching, “life is short, don’t waste time!”

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Good Morning All,

This morning I am ashamed to say that I lost my patience with someone on the Tricycle Community last night. I spent a good deal of time after I deleted both his and my comments thinking about what had happened. My conclusion is that I didn’t exercise good judgment and that I let the fever of concern regarding the political issues of the day cloud my heart/mind. In the end, the man referred to me as a “pathetic old man.” This sort of stuck. I rather think he was right-on.

In any event, I happened to have a review copy of a new book sent to me by Tarcher/Penguin entitled, “Patience: the Art of Peaceful Living,” by Allan Lokos.($14.95, paperback). So, I began reading. The book is an excellent study on the practice of patience, something I am apparently not as good at as I had assumed.

Lokos says, “…the development of genuine patience requires introspection over time so that we can come to the root causes of our impatience” (p. 21). Yes, agreed. So, I began to consider this as I both, sat at my desk, and stood glaring at my easel (which had a fresh canvas on it). Earlier in the text Lokos points out the connection between anger and impatience citing none other than Shantideva, the 8th century Buddhist teacher. And I was angry.

The thing is, I seem to expect so much of people and when my expectations aren’t met or when people are thoughtless or rude, I go to that place I went as a young soldier. I remind myself then of the Arlo Guthrie rant in Alice’s Restaurant, “I wanna kill…” So, here I am, an old fart, some sort of Zen teacher, and off I go. Ridiculous.

The good news is, I do in fact catch my errant self in short order and bring myself back to a degree of equanimity. The bad news is, once the anger cat is out of the bag, its out.

I think though, this is a good thing as we are each human beings and as such we must notice that we are easily caught in our own crap. How would we know if we were full of it if we didn’t let it out from time to time?

Be well.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Sand

Good Morning Y'all,

It is 0'Dark-Thirty here in New Mexico and we are awake sipping coffee and reading the news. I see that our Senate passed legislation allowing the US Military to arrest and indefinately detain US citizens without trial. Is it time to pull our heads out of ther friggin' sand yet?

I wrote a letter to our President and to my senator for all the good it will do. There is just something wrong with this legislatiuon and the irony is it was signed on the annual celebration of the signing of the Bill of Rights to our Constitution.

Here's the thing, suppose we gave another war. Suppose we are in severe economoc hardship. Lots of people out of work with little real hope. Suppose we have a population who cannot read much more than the instructions on how to operate a video game or turn on a big screen TV and who is mesmerized by the fundies in Black & White Churches who support capitalism to the brink. But their congregants can no longer afford to shop even at Wal-Mart. Now, suppose there are a few of us who really are unhappy with having another war. So we demonstrate at military bases, in front of federal buildings, etc. Now suppose Fox News decides to call us terrorists. In dark times without the benefit of civil rights protections seriously bad things can happen. It doesn't take long for fear to whip things into motion and out of control.

I fear for us as our world begins to crumble and governments respond by strengthening the powers of the military. It is exactly the wrong way to go.

Please write to president Obama and ask him not to sign this legislation.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Self: is it real?

With respect to all,

a preliminary exploration:

I have heard Buddhists argue there is no “self.” They argue that mental activity and the constructs derived thereby are an "illusion.” Not so. They confuse the Sanskrit Anatman, translated as “no-self” with no self, as is understood in contemporary English, but in fact these are two different things. The Buddha’s teaching on Anatman was directed at dispelling the idea that there was an independent “self,” or “soul” that might transmigrate. It was the springboard for his discussions of dependent co-arising, that frame that says everything is deeply interconnected and inter-dependent. He also tried to separate the material from the ideal, which is to say that our idea of something is our idea of something and that we ought not confuse the idea of something with the thing itself. But to say this does not deny the existence of the idea, only that idea and material are separate. So, if we say the self is an aggregate and it is impermanent, we are not saying it has no existence unless we are most narrowly defining “existence” as being in the realm of the material alone. To say that nothing exists independently, does not mean that an aggregate does not exist. Just so, to say that something is impermanent does not mean that it does not exist, only that its existence is in a constant state of change.

Just as energy can be measured, but has no form, so too, mental activity, thoughts, feelings, and, yes, the self has no form, but can be measured.

On an empirical level, thoughts and feelings exist as electro-chemical phenomena and can be mapped on brain scans. Just like we cannot see electricity, but can still feel its effects, so too, this aggregate we call the “self” as a construct has depth and can be grounded by empirical referents.

An illusion is, according to the OED, “the action of deceiving…an act of deception.” We tend to think that because something is not material it is not real, so we lead ourselves to believe that because thoughts, and the resultantant constructs of thoughts, are not material, they do not exist. This is a deception. We cannot see electricity. We do not even know what it actually is, but we would be deceiving ourselves if we thought that it did not exist as a result. Just stick your finger in an exposed light socket with current flowing. While I do not recommend this test, you will be shocked to find out that this immaterial, invisible, impermanent energy exists. Just so, the pain of someone saying something hurtful about us is no deception. We can measure its effects on our self esteem and self concept. So, while it has no material form, it does exist as a construct of thought and has a very real impact upon us.


There are people who when reading about Zen make the mistake of believing “emptiness” is “empty,” as a cup without coffee might be “empty.” This is an error. Empty is the English word chosen for some very strange reason to translate “shunyata.” From the Sanskrit sunya, shunyata has three levels of meaning which focus on appearance, impermanence, and according to Conze, liberation from the world around us. The basic thrust is that when we practice we begin to see all things manifest in relation to all other things and that nothing has an independent existence separate from other things. To be “empty” something, therefore, must be, even if it is an aggregate and constantly changing.


This is the crux of the matter. When we see through the veil of delusion to the essential non-dualistic reality of all existence, we realize just how powerful the Buddha’s teaching on the cause of suffering is. He saw that our insidious, ubiquitous, and subtle grasping is at the root of all of our suffering. How can we hold tight to the flowing stream? How can we wish with all of our might that our loved ones will not get sick or die? The essential nature of everything is twofold: it is inseparable from everything else and it is always changing. So, while we have a self, as does our loved ones, these manifestations are conditioned and are constantly changing. Attempting to hold someone or something in a form that is static and unchanging is derived from a poison we call greed.

The wonderful aspect of this is that we are all the same stuff. With practice we find that it is the operation of our mind and linguistic necessity, that create the conditions that separate us and cause us much suffering. Once we pierce this veil and see our true nature, words like you and me, we, us, them, are understood from a different starting point, the starting point of the Absolute.

If I am ocean, and a wave is formed from me, until that wave realizes its true home it will fear the shore. But once it realizes it is ocean, what is left to fear? Once this is realized, however, waves will talk to waves, they will need the convention of a language that is dualistic and deceptive. It is our practice, friends, that helps us maintain the clarity.

Be well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Outside Lessons

Good Morning All,

The sky is gray, overcast with wet clouds hung low and the air is cold and damp. I do not really want to go outside, but the dogs think otherwise. For them, weather is never really a factor (other than snow, which they initially love, but which quickly turns to serious discomfort as their feet get cold). Rain and damp mist? No problem! The scents abound for their noses to enjoy. What do they care if the humans they are walking are miserable as they follow along behind them? So, in a little bit we will tether them to our hands and go out the door for them to play. Oh joy.

I am happy that we have our dogs, Suki and Binky. They demand that we live. Their walks are important to them and to us as they force us to get a grip, get dressed, and go out even if we don’t feel like it or that it might be unpleasant to do so. And, you know what? it is almost always a very good thing. Along the way we begin to feel better, more alive, more awake, more….present in the actual world. As Zen practitioners, however, we do not have something demanding that we get our butts to the Zendo to practice. This has to come from within each of us. The arousal of the thought of enlightenment just isn’t enough in today’s world.

This is unfortunate as our practice enables us to live more full and joyful lives. It allows us to shed the weight of our thoughts and feelings and helps us get in touch with the truth of our existence. Almost always, I feel better, stronger, more alert, more peaceful, and more engaged with the world when I practice Zazen. I am always happier with myself for getting past the negative thinking about going out in the cold to get to the Zendo to practice, just as I feel better after having walked the dogs.

Today and through Friday we will practice at 10:00 AM. Thursday we will also practice at 6:00 PM and on Sunday at 10:00 AM. We hope to see you there. Be well.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


I shave my head that I may

See how by freeing

Myself from attachments

I am released from suffering.

Thus I begin this morning's activity at 4:00 AM.

Next is washing my face, then brushing my teeth, then putting on my robe, then taking my seat in the Zendo. Of course there are a variety of other chants and practices done before, during, and after each of these, but in the main, mine is a simple, straightforward life of coming to attention.

This is Rohatsu and I take it very seriously. It is the culmination of my year of practice and I dedicate myself to doing it with great diligence.

In our tradition, we just sit. But this "just sitting" is not at all about simply folding one's legs and facing a wall. It is far more than that. Just sitting is all encompasing, pervasive, and foundational Buddha Nature made manifest through our relentless activity of just sitting. It is, as Master Dogen refers to it, jijuyu zanmai, the self creating and living out the self wholeheartedly in everyday life.

Rohatsu points to this king of samadhis and demands our complete and total attention as the pinnicle of our year as monks. Just as the Buddha sat relentlessly under the tree 2600 years ago, so we sit in the zendo relentlessly today.

Now, with a clean head, clean body, clean teeth, may I sit with a clean heart to bring the Buddha Dharma into the world.

With palms together,

A bow to each of you.

Monday, December 05, 2011


Good Morning Everyone,

Over the last few days I have given some thought to operations at the Order of Clear Mind Zen. We are lacking a few things organizationally and I am moving to address them. First, I have asked Shelley Tenborin to become our Public Relations person. She will handle all media on our behalf which will include press releases and our minimal advertising. Second, I have asked Rev. Soku Shin to once again act as my executive assistant. She will handle my calendar. If you wish to see me, please call or email her directly. Third, the appropriate venue for asking questions about your practice is in private interview with me. Please, if you have a concern about your practice, make an appointment through Rev. Soku Shin to speak to me. Her phone is: 644-8673. Her email is: kathrynmasaryk@yahoo.com

There is some confusion about our hours. I ordered cards before we decided to change our practice times to 10:00 AM Monday through Friday. So here is the Temple’s schedule:

Zazen: Monday through Friday at 10:00 AM, Sunday at 10:00 AM and Monday and Thursday Evening at 6:00 PM

Zen Group at 7:00 PM on Monday Evening

I am available for Private Teaching Appointments at Temple on Monday through Friday at 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM I am also available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons at my residence. I am trying to keep Fridays free and would appreciate “bundling” appointments so as to maximize my ability to have free time.

Lastly, our sesshin begins tomorrow at 10:00 AM with opening ceremonies. You are invited to attend any part of sesshin. I will have the schedule posted on our website today and throughout sesshin for your reference.

Thank you.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Cold and Warm

This morning comes

whether I like it or not,

and how I face it

is up to me.

The cold wet air

finds a place to rest

on my cheek

and is warmed

by the blood

flowing through my veins.

We resist each other

Or we care for each other.

May my heart/mind embrace them both.

Be well.

Saturday, December 03, 2011


Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday afternoon we met with the director of Holloman Air Force Base’s Outdoor Recreation program. They have a resiliency project intended to help airmen deal with the stress of deployment. Rev. Soku Shin and I have volunteered to offer a contemplative practices piece in this project.

It is always interesting to me to see my response to being on a military installation. I am at first pleased to see so many young faces engaged in service to their country. This is followed by remembrances of how my own young face aged so during combat and after when I was one of them.

Resiliency, like endurance, doesn’t come without cost. All of us today are encountering these costs. The prices of gasoline, heating oil, food, and medical care paired against tighter credit, lack of insurance, lower wages, and fewer and fewer meaningful and productive jobs: these are the everyday bells of mindfulness demanding our adaptation in today’s world. Are we taught how to encounter and deal with these changes in our society?

There are always effects of causes: change will happen and consequences follow. Practicing to open our heart/mind in the flow is a principal way of encountering and dealing with the onslaught of change. This requires faith in the cosmos. It requires a big view, an all encompassing view, of time and being. We cannot get this view without practice.

Next we must practice to engage our world in ways that are meaningful and productive, which is to say, healthy and open. Open systems have the opportunity to give and receive. Open systems are living systems. Without meaning, as Victor Frankl pointed out from the horrors of concentration camps, human beings lose the will to live.

From Victor Frankl: For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment. Read more here: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/v/viktor_e_frankl.html#ixzz1fTksbdRp

So, find something meaningful and do it.

Be well.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Nothing to Say

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I look at the blank screen of my notebook and see the blinking curser. More deeply, I see there is nothing to say that will help you. So I think I won’t say a word. Instead, I will invite you to practice Zazen with us on Sunday at 10:00 AM. I will invite you to practice with us each weekday morning at 10:00 AM. I will invite you to practice at home as you can.

Be well.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Rohatsu Sesshin

Good Morning Everyone,

Our Rohatsu Sesshin begins Tuesday (the 6th) at 10:00 AM and closes Saturday (the 10th) at 2:00 PM. I have included the schedule below. We have decided to try something new and allow participants to enter and leave sesshin through the week. This will allow participants to come at certain hours through each day if they have the time for practice. We have created a schedule that is in two hour blocks with ample break time where a person may go home to check on pets, etc. This is a very flexible schedule and sesshin orientation designed to maximize the potential for participation. Rev. Tamra Kobusshin, Rev. Soku Shin, and myself will participate during the entire week. Rev. Bobby Kankin Byrd will join us on Thursday. Please consider joining us during the week.

Opening Day

10:00 – 12:00 Opening Ceremony, Recite Three Refuges, the Heart Sutra, Tea Service, Teisho, Zazen 3@25

12:00 –01:00 Lunch

01:00 – 02:00 Break

02:00 – 04:00 Zazen 4@25

04:00 – 05:00 Samu

05:00 – 06:00 Dinner

06:00 – 07:00 Break

07:00 – 09:00 Zazen 4@25

09:00 Closing Ceremonies

Full Day Schedule (Repeats Every Full Day)

05:30-06:30 Zazen 2@25

06:00-07:00 Oryoki

07:00-09:00 Zazen 4@25

09:00 -10:00 Break

10:00 – 12:00 Opening Ceremony, Sanpai, Robe Verse, Verse of Atonement, Three Refuges, the Heart Sutra, Tea Service, Teisho, Zazen 3@25

12:00 – 01:00 Lunch

01:00 – 02:00 Break

02:00 – 04:00 Zazen 4@25

04:00 – 05:00 Samu

05:00 – 06:00 Dinner

06:00 – 07:00 Break

07:00 – 09:00 Zazen 4@25

09:00 Closing Ceremonies: Hannya Shin Gyo, Four Great Vows, Incense Offering, Fueko

Closing Day Schedule

05:30-06:30 Zazen 2@25

06:00-07:00 Oryoki

07:00-09:00 Zazen 4@25

09:00 -10:00 Break

10:00 – 12:00 Opening Ceremony, Sanpai, Robe Verse, Verse of Atonement, Three Refuges, the Heart Sutra, Tea Service, Teisho, Zazen 3@25

12:00 – 01:00 Lunch

01:00 – 02:00 Zazen 1@25, Closing Ceremonies: Hannya Shin Gyo, Four Great Vows, Incense Offering, Fueko

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SWAT: Just what we need to feel safe and secure

Just read this http://ning.it/rpSKh7 about a militarized police force who feels it was justified to spray over 70 bullets in a home, 22 hitting the target, when they knew he was an employed man annd could have arrested him at work. Enough.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cracking Open the Heart

Good Morning Everyone,

Something happened this morning . I was writing a reply to a comment on the Tricycle blog when, as I was sharing the back-story with Soku Shin, the reply itself was lost. I felt a real sense of loss, as I know that I will not be able to re-capture the thing. It’s not the words, you see, it’s the gestalt in the moment of producing the words that cannot be re-captured. I must be careful today not to allow this loss to infiltrate my perception. To do this I am going back into the sense of it now.

The theme of the reply was to an Open Heart. Open Hearts require strength. They require authenticity of their own. To be an Open Heart I must be willing to expose my heart to the suffering, anger, and hurt of others, whether those feelings are directed elsewhere or toward me.

Open Hearts require a relentless practice. A practice that involves going inside with hammer and pick to fearlessly chip away at all the walls I have built to protect myself, while calling those walls, clothes. The clothes I use, which is to say, the various roles and accomplishments, skills and assets, I think I possess, are just ways of keeping things out, or keeping myself in, and it is through my practice that I began to see this.

My heart, while open, has been so hidden for so long behind “Dr.”, behind “Roshi,” behind “Dad”, behind “I’m good at…” or “I’ve done…” that it has not been actually open to receive the hearts of others when they were brave enough to become vulnerable in front of me. It has taken many years, particularly the last two in relationship with Soku Shin, to get some serious cracks going.

As Leonard Cohen says, it’s the cracks that lets the light get in. As I posted in a comment on that Trike blog, I am practicing to be an ancient cup with lots and lots of cracks.

Be well.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Good Morning Everyone,

“Spiritual” is a word commonly associated with religous belief and practice. I often say, from my friend Claude Anshin Thomas, Zen is a disciplined spiritual practice. Often people will refer to themselves not as “religious,” but as “spiritual.” In a class I taught for several semesters at the Academy for Jewish Learning, I used a text entitled, Jewish Spirituality, and most students seemed more comfortable with this reference to themselves than as religious people. Because Zen is often not thought of as a religion, it is usually relegated to the “Eastern Philosophy” sections or the “New Age” sections in bookstores, likewise in people’s minds. Clearly, Zen is not something we can easily put in a box, thank goodness.

What does it mean when we use the term, “spiritual”? Especially when posing it as a counter-point to “religious”? Our friend, Brad Warner, goes to lengths in his books, especially, “Sex, Sin, and Zen” to distance Zen from “spirituality” altogether casting spirituality as an idealism. He writes, “It (spirituality)takes the view that the spiritual world, the world of ideas, imagination, and mental formations, is the true reality. Matter is regarded as secondary at best or sometimes non-existent. We are spirits trapped inside bodies…” (p. 13).

In my copy of his book I scribbled in pencil a note, “vocabulary problem” suggesting to myself that we often have a rather narrow view of some words, this one in particular. Let’s talk about this.

Spirituality comes from the root, “spiritus” or breath. Now, let’s say we are standing in front of the Grand Canyon as the sun rises. The visual image, no, the total visceral package, takes or breath away. Then we analyze: 1. “Materialism:” this is a way we have of describing the literal, material, aspects of light striking rocks, impacting our eyes, being interpreted by our brains, and uttering, “Wow!” We try to describe the breath-taking “Wow” and get caught in 2., “idealism.” All of which draws our attention from the actual, direct experience of spiritus. Rudolf Otto, a religious scholar, once wrote a book called, “The Idea of the Holy.” In it he describes this experience and calls it “mysterious tremendum.”

The thing is, we really do not have language for our direct experience of the power of the universe. And the language we do have takes us into the worlds of philosophical discourse and away from the experience of “Wow!”

I think it is a good idea for us to stick with the experience itself, though. It is that total sensation of breath-taking power that is the thing to stay with. In the Bible, it is said God spoke and through his breath the world was created. When we sit outside and the wind moves across our face and through the trees, we could say we experience his breath. The Hebrew word for “spirit” in this context is “ruach” which means breath or wind. The framers of the bible, much like we, did not know what to do with these experiences, sitting as they did, outside under the stars witnessing and experiencing the wonders of the natural world. So, quite naturally, they, as we, thought about their experience, framed it in words, and made wonderful art, literature, philosophies, and even religions, out of their ideas.

Zen, on the other hand, asks us (in my opinion) to go back to the root of the word, spiritus, and it is in the root of the word’s sense, that I argue Zen is a spiritual practice. Our practice is rooted in the breath and our experience of ourselves in the breath without recourse to words.

Zen is not “spiritual” in the sense of soul or disembodied spirits or other ideas about the breath or the so-called vital force or energy supporting life. Zen is rooted in the spirit itself, that which comes before the thought of spirit, the breath. The breath in its actual direct experience. To touch this in a deep and abiding way, we must practice. Hence, a disciplined, spiritual practice. Through this we can begin to see how our breath is connected to everything. It is revealed in how we experience the touch of a cup of coffee, the touch of the keys on our fingertips, the experience of anxiety, joy, sorrow. Our breath is our touchstone and this is why we pay close attention to it.

Be well.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Open Heart

Good Morning Everyone,

The season is upon us. A season of introspection and manifestation of good will. Every year I hope this season’s underlying feeling will spread out like a warm and loving pool supporting each of us with compassion and generosity through the year. My sense is this is exactly what is happening, although sometimes the subtle nature of the pool is difficult to see. Let’s endeavor to bring our heart out into the open not only this year, but the next, and the next after that.

Be well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all

Dear Readers,

Thank you very much for visiting my blog and taking the time to read my notes.  I am deeply thankful to you as only readers make a writer a writer.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Is Buddhism a Religion?

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I would like to address the word “religion.” Religion is a word that is like an intersection with many avenues for discussion. What does it mean to be “religious”? Some say they are “spiritual” rather than “religious.” Are “spiritual” and “religious” synonymous? Are they different? In what ways? Is Buddhism (or the Buddha Way) a religion? Is it a spiritual practice?

The Oxford English Dictionary says religion is derived from Latin roots which meant “bond,” “scruple” and “reverence.” So, the first definition of religion from the OED is, “a state of life bound by religious vows, the condition of belonging to a religious order.” The second definition suggests it means “a particular religious order or rule.” The third definition (and the most challenging): “Belief in or sensing of some superhuman controlling power or powers entitled to obedience, reverence, and worship, or a system defining a code of living as a means to achieve spiritual or material improvement; acceptance of such belief as a standard of spiritual and practical life; the expression of this in worship, etc., also action or conduct indicating such belief.” (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th edition, emphasis mine.)

So, apparently, according to the OED, the driving definition of “religion” is that a religion is a system of belief or practice that binds us to a way of life through a vow. It also suggests a link between religion and spirituality either through a sense of a higher power or to a systematic way of living aiming at “spiritual or material improvement.”

I am impressed with these definitional terms as I believe they identify many of the avenues for discussion I mentioned above. It is significant to me that the OED has bifurcated the turning point definition. The third definition includes a fork: belief in the superhuman or a systematic code of living. It is this bifurcation that allows Buddhism to be considered a religion, especially when coupled with the first two and the Latin origins of the word.

This definition also suggests a significant point: religion itself should not be entered into lightly and is a serious thing as it involves vows, a code of conduct, and a set of practices which we must hold in high esteem and actually practice. Simple belief in something, even a higher power such as a God, does not itself, apparently, qualify. To be “religion” there must be a vow involved and a practice.

In my next post, “Spirituality.”

Be well.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Enough Already

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I read a piece by a professor at UC-Davis in response to the savage pepper spraying of peaceful demonstrators on campus. It was heartening to see a voice rise up, as if in the wilderness, to say, “You know what? Enough!” His point was that we are reaping the rewards of a gradual, but escalating militarization of urban police forces. Our language has been one driver of this with phrases like, “War on Drugs,” “War on Terror,” “War on Poverty.” For goodness’ sake, to listen to us, it’s all we know how to do. So when people get fed-up with the 1% getting richer and richer while crying “poor me” at every effort to balance things out a bit, and decide to say “Enough!” using one of the few methods they have, peaceful demonstration, we now see a war on demonstrators.

Here’s the thing, it seems to me that we are on the edge as a civilization, moving ever closer to a collapse. What has made it possible for the 99% to stay satisfied was the existence of stores like Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, and cheapy gas stations. But a casual look at the prices even in these places reveals a growing inability for everyday people to purchase the basics, to say nothing of their distractions.

For a society being raped by the rich to remain peaceful it needs it’s distractions. The 1% really needs to get this. I am hopeful that it doesn’t appreciate this as, since, as our ability to distract ourselves disappears, the truth rises, and one possible result is a societal refusal to go along anymore.

We have allowed ourselves to be pacified too long. Corporate profits, especially in banking and oil, have gone through the proverbial roof. Meanwhile, we at the middle and lower end of the economic spectrum are barely able to afford to eat, let alone buy a candy bar that once was easily affordable, but now is thought of as a luxury.

Be well, verbalize and actualize your dissatisfaction with your life and find ways to make it better.

Friday, November 18, 2011

On Religion

Good Morning Everyone,

As is sometimes the case, especially on a certain “Buddhist” website, my words create a bit of a irksome response. I posted my note on “Self” sometime ago. It and the follow-up note, “Blog” created a small stir. Some of us coming to Buddhism seem to think that this way will result in a state of peacefulness and serenity undisturbed by discord, words, or thoughts. Not so.

Some Masters have taught that silence is the way, that when we speak we make a big mistake. This is so in some ways, but not in others. The Buddha taught that we are not only wasting our time discussing ideas about something, but that such discussions themselves are an actual hindrance. This is so, but again, I think in a rather narrow context. When Masters say such things I think they are more often than not referring to achieving an aim of realization. When we are in a sociologically homogeneous group this is so. To get to homogeneity, however, we must discuss terms, compare and contrast practices, and work toward coming to an agreement on the foundations of our effort.

When put into structures, our beliefs become a serious challenge for "like-mindedness" to occur. Belief systems and the structures within them are very important to some religions. The Buddha Way, on the other hand, is just that, a way. Ideas about it are often, as we pointed out, a hindrance. Yet, as we can all plainly see, we like to talk about what we know or think we know. To do this, it seems to me, we must hold lots of discussions regarding our definitions of terms. Such discussions can be difficult, but I think necessary for the sake of insuring we are talking about either the same idea or similar experience.

So many ideas branded as "religious" are actually Christian specific, for example, with very specific understanding not shared by other religions which may use the same word. This is my argument with the current batch of atheistic writers who attempt to debunk "religion" but are in fact debunking a rather parochial view of religion instead. If I may be so challenging, I do not think there is a single "religious" word, concept, or idea that is or can be commonly understood amongst those considering themselves to be "religious." Therefore, a dialogue addressing such foundational terms like "self," "heaven," "nirvana," "sin," "salvation" is absolutely essential.

I will begin such a dialogue over the next few weeks as we approach a season considered by many to be “religious” and by some, a pain in the ass.

Be well.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Self, part two

Good Morning Everyone,

The Self, part two,

Discussions of “the self” lead us too often in the wrong direction, the direction of the individual, as if the individual actually exists. When we practice deeply we can see that individuals are actually not individuals, but are rather aggregates of a deeply interconnected and interdependent whole. Care must be taken here, however, as even this is misleading: when we reside in the “whole” or “Universal,” the “Universal” itself is rendered meaningless.

One aim of practice, then, is to penetrate this. This is the place of “mind and body fall away.” With no mind and no body, there is no individual, but no universal either. Relative and absolute depend on each other, just as black needs white to render meaning to itself.

So, when we address “self” we should look outward from our individualistic view and attempt to see the vast, living web of complete existence. This is the true self, the self without a name, the self that existed before our fathers and mothers were born, the self that never is born and never dies. This is everything that is, was, and will be. This is also everything that is nothing. This is no-self, no thingness manifest.

The self makes itself in relation to all other things. It is interactive, seamless and completely dynamic. Without other, there is no self. Without self, there is no other. This is to say, I am the manifestation of all there is, was, and will be. As are you.

So here we are, arising out of nothingness. We are not complete, however, until we make ourselves manifestations of the whole.

Be well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Good Morning Everyone,

So, I have decided to use my blog as a true “blog” (web log), an electronic journaling device of sorts. My teaching as a priest will be offered at the Temple and online through Blogger.com and our Order’s Yahoogroup, “ClearMindZen.” This raises interesting questions as I will, if it is at all really possible, take off my priest’s hat as I both write entries and reply to comments. One such question is how to address morally and ethically ambiguous thoughts and feelings? Another is how much to reveal of my actual life? Still another is what to do with obnoxious, insulting, or attacking comments?

As a priest, I have an obligation to use myself as a teacher or advisor. I should try to understand and contextualize the thoughts and feelings of those addressing me no matter how crude, rude, or abrasive. I have to one degree or another been successful at this, but always have felt inauthentic in the process. It’s as if I have thought priests should not be angry or hurt, and most certainly not respond in-kind. What would people say, after all? Sometimes an asswipe is just an asswipe and needs to be dismissed as just the toilet paper they present themselves to be. As Vonnegut used to say, “So it goes.”

We seem to dislike moral ambiguity. People like clear cut solutions to clear cut problems. The trouble is, most of the most interesting aspects of our lives reside in ambiguity. Yet, for me, this ambiguity has been a lifelong associate. Sometimes an antagonist, but more often than not, a true friend. I once wrote a chapter in a social work textbook about working with moral anguish. Life’s moral problems form the backdrop tapestry of rich and fulfilling life, it seems to me.

Sidney M. Jourard once wrote a compelling little book called, “The Transparent Self.” In it he argued that most of psychology was flawed because it was based on skewed data. The data, he argued, came from people who were trying to out think, out smart, or otherwise influence researchers because we are, as a rule, people pleasers. To get truthful answers, he stressed, we need to do some degree of self disclosure. In my clinical experience I saw this was a profound truth. If I shared a little bit of my wartime trauma story, people let the “Dr.” part of me slip away as they began to see me as a real person. Yet, it is important also to maintain boundaries. The question is where and how to set them.

So, my writing will take a turn. I hope for the best, but I will say right here, I have no clue how this will work its way out. As my late friend, Bernie Schmidt used to say, “Hilbert, it’s a bag of shells.”

Be happy.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Self, part one

Good Morning Everyone,

Lately in dokusan and other venues, people are asking me about “the self.” What is “the self”? From my point of view, self is an incredibly complex tapestry in constant millisecond to millisecond development. If we were to freeze it, which we cannot, we would see billions of interactions processed from birth to the present moment from billions of sources all intersecting in the mind, which frames the whole as “self.” All perception from every sense organ in every moment throughout every contact with every object of the senses builds this “frame” we call “self.” Since we cannot “freeze” it, it is, itself, in constant transformation with both the interior environment of our mind, and the exterior environment of our perception of the universe.

This construction is so complex we cannot predict human behavior with any real degree of certainty. The most sophisticated regression analyses with thousands of variables, may yield a few degrees of explanation, leaving the rest to who knows what. So, what we need to know is that all of the construct of “self,” every bit of it, is a mental work in progress. When we die, the whole thing disintegrates.

When we practice, Master Dogen suggests, mind and body falls away. We begin to see the true nature of this fabrication we call a “self.” We see that the “self” is an elaborate work in progress, and as Uchiyama says, the self is making the self, which is to say, the architect is doing the drawing with all the myriad data being received.

We learn that as we grasp this constantly transforming self we suffer. We do not want to be sick, be injured, or die. We want pleasure, we do not want pain. We want to look like this. We do not want to look like that. We think this or that will make us happy. We think this or that will make us sad. All attempts to hold on to something impossible to hold on to because it never ever actually existed. When everything is in constant transformation, no “thing” can exist.

Our task as practitioners along the Way is to first discover this basic truth and then surrender to it, allowing the body and mind to fall away. In this way we are truly free as the Buddha himself said, we see “the jailer” clearly.

Be well.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Measure of Things

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning we practice Zazen at 10:00 AM and again at 6:00 PM. We follow evening Zazen with Zen 101, our continuing study of the Bendowa. I am pleased. Today will be a day of practice and study. It is always good to fall deeply into study, whether it is of a book or of ourselves. In the end, both intersect and we find change is at the center of it all.

Yesterday we bought a fire pit. I tried to put it together. It had four legs which were to attach to a large metal bowl. The trouble was it was machined poorly and three of the four leg’s screw holes did not match up with the legs themselves. I spent considerable time attempting to adjust the legs this way and that, but to no avail. I suppose we will return it today, but I thought I would first ask the people at the store to try to put it together for me. But then I decided this would be cruel and, after all, the store clerks didn’t machine the thing anyway. This is happening more and more frequently it seems to me. Poor workmanship is just a fact of life today.

I remember my uncle who worked for a steel stamping plant in Trenton, NJ. He took exceptional pride in his work. He spent hours with me showing me how both inside and outside calipers worked, how to use a slide rule, and how to draw a plan in minute detail. His house was filled with rejects: small stamping imperfections in metal trays, cookie tins, etc. Today, I suspect, these would be in stores for sale.

In Zen we pay attention to detail. It is important to hold our hands in a certain way at a certain time. It is important that the bells be invited to ring in a certain way and that incense be offered with great care, grace, and selflessness. When we sit, we sit with care and effort. We work at remaining upright, still, and centered. Precision is important. It shows our respect for that which is in front of us.

Unfortunately, it would seem from the poorly machined products to people walking into stores in PJ bottoms, we have as a people put ease, getting something done quickly, and comfort above all else. Our practice helps us change that, but to make it so, we must actually practice.

Be well.

Monday, November 07, 2011


Good Morning Everyone,

There is no escaping the effects of our causes. Green houses gasses are at record highs. Capitalism’s churches of Greed and the American Way are shouting, “Let them eat cake!” as we bob in a sea of rising prices and diminishing wages. A perfect storm is brewing. There will come a time, fast approaching I suspect, when the distractions will no longer distract and the bubbles will no longer appeal and we will be left with ourselves sitting on the floor (if we have one) with nothing left to do.

May own sense is that the planet itself will cause an adjustment. If we do not stop emissions, do not stop warming the planet, the planet itself will stop us. Our planet could care less if we exist on its surface. It simply does what it does within its biophysical parameters. In the process, if there are conditions for human life, human life will exist: if there are no conditions for human life, human life will not exist.

At such moments human history suggests both scapegoats and heroes arise. At such moments some people choose to rise up against the scapegoats, believing they caused their misery. At such moments other people choose to look deeply inside themselves, and gathering their internal resources, build their world in a bold new way. These become the heroes.

Over the next twenty years or so, our world will change in unimaginable ways. Because they are unimaginable, I cannot say what they might be. I do believe wholeheartedly though, that change will be radical and global. It will be a intersection of environmental and economic transformation. Those who have learned to sit in caves staring at walls, will survive. I cannot speak for the others.

Be prepared. Study yourself.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Good Morning Everyone,

Zazenkai was a challenge yesterday. Rev. Kobusshin (Tamra) and I travelled to Anthony, NM to offer meditation training to young Peace Campers there, and while gone, Zensters at the Temple practiced Zazen, did Samu, and ate Oryoki lunch. I spent most of my Zazen time in the foyer-turned-Buddha Hall-dokusan room. While there, I heard the murmurings from the kitchen, sat through breaks, and listened to my heart speak to me.

Several folks left before the close. Intensive practice is wearing on our bodies, especially if we do not have a daily practice. One cannot expect to run 26.2 miles without having first run one, then two, then three, then five on a regular and incremental schedule. The benefits of intensive practice are enormous, however, so the building of our stamina is essential.

One of the things that “worked,” I understand, was Rev. Kobusshin’s introduction of contemplative yoga practice after lunch. We have eliminated study and writing practice periods as being antithetical to the focus of sesshin. Contemplative yoga is an excellent replacement.

I am still concerned about the continued breaches of silence. Here is the deal: While on breaks we are not to talk; in the kitchen we are not to talk; nowhere and at no time, are we to talk. It is that simple. Every moment is an opportunity to listen deeply to the sounds of our heart/mind as it encounters the situation in front of us. Often our first response is to vocalize. In Sesshin and Zazenkai, we are not to do this. Instead, we are to simply listen to our heart/mind, let go, and return to the task in front of us. This is just as important as the practice of Zazen.

Our next opportunity for intensive practice is the highlight of the Buddhist calendar, Rohatsu, which occurs the first week of December. Between now and then, practice daily, build your practice endurance, and find yourself being more and more able to reside in the moment as it is.

Be well.

Saturday, November 05, 2011


Good Morning Everyone,

Today we will practice wholeheartedly throughout the day. This Zazenkai should not be any different from any other day. The life of a bodhisattva is a life of living Zazen. We live our lives in practice. This means we live in the Great Outdoors, life outside the box of filtered perception. Open your heart/mind, take a breath, and thoroughly enjoy this actual moment: it is the universe itself. Be well.

Friday, November 04, 2011


Good Morning Everyone,

(Warning: rant follows)

So, we get a call from Jerry at the Mountain Music store. He has a drum set I can buy for $250.00, “Come look at it.” We do. It is delightful. A bass drum, chain foot pedal, snare drum, floor tom, and a mounted tom. It includes a floor cymbal with stand, a hi-hat stand with cymbals, and a drummer’s seat. They are made by “Peace” percussions so “Peace” is writ large across the front of the bass. We say they are beautiful. He says, “Take them.” Adding, “Pay me when you can.”

There is something about Vietnam veterans, combat vets in particular. He says we are “brothers.” I feel this. The man was a door gunner. One of the more brutal jobs in Vietnam. I was a grunt. Brutal enough. I cannot put my finger on the what of it, but what I felt was a deep connection with someone I didn’t know, but knew a whole lot about.

Combat vets are a little loosey goosey we might say. We do not abide by manuals well, nor do we appreciate crap. It is said that combat vets have finely developed crap detectors and this is one thing that makes us a challenge to live in society with.

What I have noticed is that taking vows to become a priest has forced me to look at these things. I try to look at the reason for the crap people throw out there. I try to find a way to be compassionate. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I am not. I think more importantly, not challenging crap for being crap is not compassionate at all. It simply enables people to continue in their crap.

Crap in combat gets you killed. Crap in civilian life gets you promotions by those pinheads who either cannot see it for the crap that it is or are for their own crap reasons unwilling to call a spade a spade..

Setting aside the priestly priesthood mantel for a moment to be a tad more authentic, as a people, I think we have suckered ourselves into a pit of self-serving despair here in the United States. Corporations haven’t “stolen” anything we haven’t joyfully given to them in the hope that our egos, our own bank accounts, and our status in the neighborhood would be satisfied. We are a sick, debilitated, anemic society who seems to have lost our will to say “No!” to our need for more and more things, more comfort, more fast food, more convenience, cars that consume more gas than necessary, more and more, more and more, and those awful corporations have been ever so willing to lend us the money to buy them. Meanwhile we ourselves actually produce less and less.

We don’t work hard in school. We are a nation with one of the highest rates of functional illiteracy. We are a nation that cannot write. We have trouble putting three words together cogently. We do not think critically. We lead with our “feelings.” And we make excuses for everything under the sun…or blame the Democrats or the Republicans or other nations (when other nations are simply rising to fill the vacuum our unwillingness to work has left behind).

Frankly, I do not have any answers. I think, however, like combat tends to clear a person’s mind, so too, hard times. Maybe this era of reduced credit, fear, and collapsing greed will get the slugs moving. Maybe we will wake-up to the fact that if we want less greed we must say no to greed. We must work hard. We must not accept excuses from ourselves or others. And most importantly, we must start to actually think. This requires a few easy but challenging actions. First, turn off the T.V. Second, begin to teach yourself to really read, not just skim, a book. Third, know that you are the only person in your life that can actually change your life. Fourth, make a training plan for change and stick to it. Fifth, look at your local community college, take a class. For goodness’ sake, educate yourselves. And sixth, forget your comfort. It is the soma of the 21st century. (If you do not know what “soma” is, it means you have not read a classic of our literature and you really need to get yourself to a library.)

Our nation is failing because we are failing as individuals and communities. We are too often taking the easy way out of “blame” and “finger pointing.”

Be well.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Bodhisattvas are Everywhere

Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday for the first time in more than 40 years I picked up a pair of drum sticks. It was a moment that terrified me on the one hand and made my heart feel warm, on the other hand. It seems I used to be a drummer in my teens, but being shot in the head changes everything. Anyway, we found ourselves at Mountain Music, a small used musical instrument shop in Las Cruces. There we met a Vietnam vet named Jerry. As we walked through the pulled high drums, I pulled a pair of old, used drumsticks from a cowboy boot and clutched one in my atrophied left hand holding it firmly on a snare drum. Some old folks were jamming with guitars in a corner and I quietly kept the beat with them. Jerry must have approved as he gave me the pair of drumsticks as we began to leave the store. Maybe I will duct tape the stick into my hand. Maybe I will just do what I can. Jerry promised to find me a used drum set we could afford. Bodhisattvas of compassion are everywhere. Be well

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

News for 11/2/11

With respect, Good Morning Everyone,

Our water has been turned off at the temple due to our landload not paying the water bill :( So, we will not be open today. We will check on the water's status later today and let you know what's up.

We have created an online Blog Radio talkshow called "Zen Living" and our first "episode" is schduled for 1:00 PM MT. We will talk about Zen 101. The show is only 15 minutes long as we are not purchasing a "premium" account. We are setting up this show to repeat weekly at the same time. People can call in and we will send out information on Monday morning about how to do that.

Other news, we will represent our Order at a local interfaith religious conference tomorrow evening at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM in support of an effort to stop the flood of foreclosures in our area.

It was good to see everyone last night at Zen 101! Thank you so much for coming and we look forward to seeing you next week. Don't forget about Zazenkai this Saturday at 9:00! If you haven't registered and still wish to attend, please email us ASAP.


Monday, October 31, 2011


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Goodness, it is Halloween already. I cannot believe how quickly time seems to be passing. It seems as we age this is what happens. I remember as a child I could not wait for “X” and it seemed as though time was like a pole I had to climb and as I put one hand in front of another, it stretched on up just out of reach. Today, for me, that pole seems greased and slippery and I am sliding down far too quickly. I am confessing here that I do not want to get to the bottom of that pole. Why?

It is not that I fear the end of the pole. The pole never really ends. Its more that I want to slow the fall and live as fully as possible along every inch of the way. When time slips by it means I have not been awake to the experience of each moment. That is the problem with reverie, isn’t it? When holding on to the past or seeking the future we fail the moment. Moments are far too precious to not experience.

So, today, I vow to wake up to each and every moment.

Be well.

Training Plan: Arms and Shoulders weight workout, a two mile easy run, yoga this evening, and Zazen at 9:30 AM.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day of the Dead

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Our dogs are playing with their “Big Dog Bones” and enjoying the cold morning air here in the desert. We have not yet turned on the heat in the house. It seems, like the dogs, we both enjoy the chill. Yesterday we hung out in the plaza with the Day of the Dead memorials. We were going to set up an altar but at the last minute changed our minds. We will set up an altar next year with Jizo Bodhisattva leading the way.

Jizo is a wonderful bodhisattva. He represents that aspect of us which protects and nurtures expectant mothers, children who died as a result of miscarriage, abandonment and abuse, as well as travelers and firemen. He is the bodhisattva who vows never to enter nirvana until all “hell-beings” are awakened and set free.

I think it is important to recognize that the Hell Realms and the Hungry Ghosts are just us in this place at this moment if we are grasping for, and attaching to, any ideas of gain, self, and awakening. To free ourselves we simply open that hand of thought and let our heart/minds open.

Be well.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

The sun is not yet awake in this part of the world, although I have faith that the burning globe will seem to rise over the mountains in the east and spread its warmth out over all of us. Our perception is simply not to be trusted. We think the earth is spinning around the sun and the sun is spinning around in the galaxy and the galaxy is spinning around in the universe, but that spinning itself is just a result of our perception, which is to say, how our brain functions. Spinning is an artifact of our perception. It only is because we see one “thing” in relation to another “thing,” that we see “movement ” at all. Thus, sitting in my chair writing to you I feel stationary, and on this morning’s walk, I will feel I am moving. Yet, I know this is not the case. Movement and lack of movement are in my mind’s eye. So, while we often say everything changes, because of this, we can just as easily say nothing changes. In the relative world, everything is in motion; in the absolute world, there is no motion.

Just now, I hear a rooster crow.

Be well.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Large and Small

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The universe is not large. The tip of your finger is not small.  Large and small are ideas we bring to our perception. Let go of large and small, hot and cold, good and bad, and the tip of your finger, just as the universe itself, has no limits.

Be well.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Training schedules are on my mind as I am about to go in to see my cardiologist and be, hopefully, released to train.  Soku Shin and I have tentatively agreed to do the Honorary Bataan Death March in March.  This is a tough course consisting of 14 miles of desert trails. We also agreed to train-up for a 10k run in the relatively near future.  So, it is important to get our butts in gear. 

We are not certain what 10k or when, but I have designed a training plan that will get us to the Bataan race with relative ease.  J  My thoughts are to find a race in December, some jingle bell run or other.

I am adding in yoga to the schedule, as well as my old weight routine.  It is important to balance things out.  Running does things to muscles and metabolism, stretching and deep yogic breathing aids in the restoration and healing of torn muscle fibers from both anaerobic and aerobic exercise. We will round this all off with an adherence to a modified Mediterranean diet we both can eat. 

As a head’s up on other topics, I have been discussing with Brad Warner a visit to our communities (El Paso, Las Cruces, and Deming).  He is suggesting the dates around March 9th.  I will try to settle on dates and then get in touch with those in El Paso and in Deming (our friends at the Deming Zen Center have voiced an interest in having Brad come there) to discuss details.

We still have three openings for Zazenkai on November 5th if you are interested.  Please sign up at the Temple, pay in advance, and don’t forget your oryoki sets. (We do have sets at the Temple we can rent to you for $5.00 or sell to you for $20.00.)

Lastly, I have edited the reading list on our website.  It is, as always, a work in progress.  Please take a look at it. In the near future we will be adding a link to Amazon on the “Suggested Readings” page so that you might go directly there to purchase texts.  I will post to you when that has been accomplished. 

Be well.