Zen 101

Friday, July 29, 2011

July 29

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Today concludes our three week commitment to Peace Camp here in Las Cruces, NM. Each morning at 8:30 AM we offered meditation training to children participating in Peace Camp. It has been, as always, a joy to do this practice. Children are often the most receptive of students, although, on occasion (as was the case this year) there are a few who are such wiggle worms that they find the practice too much to bear. In their presence, my own mind wanders.

This wandering mind catches me in my complacency and teaches me that I am only as far along the way as the next breath allows. Wiggle worm children became my most excellent teachers, then, offering themselves and their discomfort as questions to be addressed through my practice.

Notice. Let go. Learn. Such a deal!

Today: Peace Camp at 8:30, Morning Zazen at 9:30, and Evening Zazen at 6:00 PM.

A reminder: Zazenkai from 9:00 to 4:00 next Saturday the 6th of August. So far, only one reservation. If you plan to attend, please email me. Thank you.

Be well.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 26

With respect,

Today at Clear Mind Zen Temple we will offer meditation at Peace Camp at 8:30 AM, Zazen at Temple at 9:30 AM, again at 6:00 PM, and Zen 101 at 7:00 PM. In addition, we have a Peace Village Board Meeting at 1:45 and dokusan at 3:30.

Please consider joining us for zazen and the Zen 101 group!

Be well,

Monday, July 25, 2011

July 25

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning we offer meditation training to the youngest of the Peace Campers during week three of our three week event. It is always a joy to offer this training. Children come to it very naturally with much less self awareness and perceived threats involved.

When adults come to it, they often bring with them all the issues that have dogged them through their lives: judgments, worries, and stiff, unyielding bodies.

We can learn a lot from practicing with children. Bring an open and unattached mind, allow your body to unfold and go in the direction of the training, and check your ego at the door. We call this Shoshin, “Beginners Mind.”

Today at CMZT: Peace Camp at 8:30, Zazen at 9:30, Zazen at 6:00 PM, Comparative Religion Group at 7:00 PM.

Be well.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 24

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday was a good day, as days go. We rested, we walked, we visited with friends, and I painted. Practice can take many forms. In fact, all forms are practice. This is not to say forms are practice. Rather, anything we do is a practice when we approach it with an unmoving mind.

When I paint, for example, I let the painting speak for itself. I sometimes wrestle with what it is saying, but in the main, open myself to its teaching. The same for writing. I was saying to Soku Shin the other day that when I was writing plays, the characters took on a life of their own and held lengthy discussions in my head. I simply wrote down what they were saying. Likewise, the paining is in the canvas. It simply has to be revealed. It is the same for all other activity.

So, too, our true nature. An unmoving mind is a mind that knows nothing, only perceives, and allows perception to have its place without being mistaken for the thing itself. It leaves no traces, yet is everywhere.

Be well.

Today: Sunday Services at 10:00 AM.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

July 23

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning we woke late as we were up into the night. Our wagessa group did well, although there was a degree of nervousness being reported regarding the actual process of sewing. This is an area where Zen practice is extremely helpful. Just a stitch. Just a breath. Nothing more. Our practice is to stay in the stitch and the breath and let all of the rest go. Practice.

Once the wagessas are completed, we will take them to a shop and have the embroidery applied.

Then, when the student is ready, as determined by the Teacher, we will conduct a ceremony and the person will take The Three Treasures and the Pure Precepts as their own.

What comes after is all about one’s willingness to manifest one’s true nature.

Be well.

Friday, July 22, 2011

July 22

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Today will be a busy day. We have Peace Camp at 8:30 AM, Zazen at 9:30 AM, Dokusan throughout the afternoon, and our Wagessa Sewing Event at 7:00 PM. Our Air Card is supposed to arrive today which will give us 5 gigs of data transfer for Internet services per month. This past billing cycle we used almost 3. So, I will be doing dokusan via Skype today at the Temple while also waiting for the card to arrive via Fed Ex.

The sewing of a Wagessa is a first step in entering the Buddha way. It is offered to those who take the Three Refuges and the Three Pure Precepts. You must have studied for three months with a Teacher in our lineage, completed one Zazenkai or sesshin, and have sewn the Wagessa in order to complete the ceremony. A Wagessa is a single strap that is worn around the neck. It is a miniature Buddha Robe. Compared to a Rakusu, they are easy to sew.

Those who were in attendance at the Rakusu class decided they wanted to sew a Wagessa as well, so Soku Shin organized this event which will happen at 7:00 PM this evening. If you are interested in sewing a Wagessa, please come to this meeting. We have all the materials.

There seems to be some confusion about this process. Let me clarify. In the Order we have several steps students are welcome to take. Each step must be in training with a Teacher. These are Sanbo, Jukai, Unsui, and Shukke. Students continuing after Jukai take either the Dharma Teacher Path or the Priesthood Path. While it is recommended that a student do these in this order (Sanbo followed by Jukai), a Student may, with the Teacher’s permission, enter the path at Jukai and “skip” Sanbo. This is because Jukai includes the Three Refuges and the Three Pure Precepts. If a student has studied with a Teacher for a year, done the required sesshin and Zazenkai, and sews a Rakusu, there is no reason to first do Sanbo, then do Jukai. They may be done as one ceremony. Several members of our Order are in various stages of this process. Please confer with me if you are confused about it and whether or not it is appropriate for you to do one versus the other or both.

As a reminder, August Zazenkai will be from 9:00 AM through 4:00 PM on Saturday August 6th. Please make your reservation soon.

Lastly, we will no longer host a Women in Zen Group due to a lack of attendance. For those whose only weekly contact with the Temple was through this group, please consider joining us for Sunday Services or any of our weekday practice periods.

Be well.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 21

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Last night we received word that our daughter in law, Lynda, who just gave birth to grandson Evan, was hospitalized due to a cardiac issue as yet unspecified. Son Jacob and Baby Evan are doing well, though Jacob is feeling very stressed and is very worried. I offered to go to them to assist. He will let me know soon if that is necessary.

When our children suffer we suffer. We are invested in their health, happiness, and well-being. Our suffering is most acute as we realize our complete powerlessness to resolve their suffering. We move into ”what if” thoughts and create all sorts of awful scenarios thereby, mentally experiencing our powerlessness. In truth, though, there is much that can be done. We can lessen the grip of our attachments by understanding that we are not at all in control of life as it unfolds. We can turn our attention to the teaching that life is now offering us. We can cut-off the thoughts that create the suffering. We can focus our attention on the exact situation at hand, offering our support, researching the issues, and then make changes. But most of all, we can love those around us as deeply as is possible.

Love of this sort requires a letting go of ideas and relaxing into realities. We practice to let go of our ideas about how things should be, and reside in how things actually are. We turn our attention to what we have: our breath, our love, and our attention, knowing that even these are short-lived and impermanent. Yet, these are it. And they are enough.

Today at CMZ: Peace Camp at 8:30, Zazen at 9:30, Zazen at 6:00 PM, Women in Zen at 7:00 PM.

Be well.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July 19

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I wrote a note and thoroughly bored myself with my own words. Zen words are boring. They are often sophomoric. Zen words are empty and too often without real world connection. Words. Just words. Like dead leaves on a concrete floor.

I have been writing Zen words now for over ten years on my blog. What arrogance. Maybe I had to do that to get here. Enough.

I think it would be best if I just wrote about my life as it is and as it unfolds. Maybe there is the best, high-class Zen in that. Forget the Zen words. They get you into trouble.

This morning I woke to love.

This morning the moon was high

This morning Suki needed to go out early while still dark.

This morning we walked along the irrigation canal.

This morning mosquitoes had their breakfast on my calves.

Is there anything more that can be said?

Time for peanut butter on toast and espresso coffee.

Be well.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 16

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Lately, I have been thinking about our mission. We say we are an Engaged Zen Sangha. People who have filled out membership forms have said they would like to find ways to make our practice socially relevant. We have practiced at parks and on the street. We have taught meditation at yearly Peace Camps for five years. We have sporadically volunteered at the local soup kitchen. And, recently, we have reconnected with the J. Paul Taylor Juvenile Correctional Facility to offer meditation to the youth incarcerated there. Members of the Order are volunteers at hospice. One member is going through the initial stages of accessing the Folsom prison network. Moreover, our Temple has opened itself to examining religious diversity and women’s issues through our groups focused on these areas.

With few exceptions, these are often individual projects, not accomplished as a community together. I wonder about that. We are a small group, spread out, that comes together most often through sesshin and Zazenkai. Our practice schedule makes it possible for some of us not to know others in the sangha. We have individuals who come sometimes on weekday mornings. Some who come to groups only. One who was just coming to Zen in the Park.

Then there is the on-line sangha, those who no one knows, except perhaps me, but who feel a part of us through their reading of these posts and, perhaps, Skype interviews. Where do these folks fit in the overall sangha?

Maybe the question is, how do we share our mission?

Here is my two cents: we should do our practice and share our practice. Part of the mission is to model our practice so that others may feel invited to take up the practice and step onto the path as they see it. This is not to evangelize, but rather to model. We are not interested in converts, we are interested in helping others learn to practice for their own benefit. We know that when a person practices, the rest of the universe benefits. We need not underscore this or give it a name.

What do you think?

Be well.

Friday, July 15, 2011

July 15

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

We conclude this week with Peace Camp at 8:30 AM, Morning Services at 9:30 AM, and Evening Services at 6:00 PM. It has been a full week with Peace Camp each morning back to back with our Morning Service, and on Thursday, our effort to bring Zen to the youth at the Southern New Mexico Juvenile Corrections Facility. Soku Shin co-led Peace Camp, Student Steve assisted with the Corrections Facility, and we are now looking at a day of rest on Saturday.

Sunday we will offer our weekly Zen Service with Tea Service and Teisho. We will follow this with a discussion of our recent Sesshin. We will provide coffee, tea, and muffins for this discussion’s refreshments.

We have ordered two copies of the Heart of Being and two copies of the Eight Gates of Zen, texts used in our two discussion groups. The order was delivered somewhere yesterday, just not to us. Amazon has shipped overnight another order. It is supposed to arrive today. We will see.

Lastly, we will offer a Zazenkai Saturday, August 6th from 9:00 AM through 4:00 PM. This is a day long meditation retreat with the contemplative eating practice of Oryoki featured at lunch. Please consider joining us. Email me your reservation. Our suggested donation fee is $15.00.

I hope to see you soon.



Thursday, July 14, 2011

What's What?

With respect,

Good Morning Everyone,

Work with what is in front of you. Sometimes we don’t like our work, the book we are studying or the person we are within the moment. It’s all understandable and our first inclination is to change work, texts, or people in order to make a better situation. This is relatively easy to do, but is it the right thing to do?

In Zen we are asked to work with what’s presented to us. We are taught that everything has value, everything is our teacher and/or a dharma gate. This is a very important invitation as it offers us a teaching or two. First, everything is, indeed, a dharma gate, and everything is, indeed, our teacher. Second, our response to these things is also a practice point. The nature of our relationship between things is critical: do not overlook it. Is it hierarchal or horizontal? Are we “knowers” or “learners”?

How can we appreciate our lives if we cannot appreciate our actual life? As we practice not to live in a dream, to see “things as it is,” we are more able to see what is there for itself. To not do so disrespects what is there, while at the same time deprives us of a learning opportunity.

A child at play is a most excellent example for us. She plays with a pot and it becomes a drum. She plays with a box and it becomes a house. She does not think, “pot” or “drum,” “box” or “house.” She simply explores the possibilities and learns from them. We adults, on the other hand, “know” a pot is a pot and not a “drum,” or a box is a box and not a “house.” This is unfortunate. Our learning has the potential to deprive us of an open heart.

May you be a blessing today,


Sewing the Buddha's Robe

With respect,

Those interested in attending a rakusu sewing group for Jukai Ceremony, please reply to me via telephone or email. Soku Shin has volunteered to lead this group. Our first meeting will be Tuesday evening at 6:00 PM before Zen 101. We will then do a closing service and practice period afterwards. The sewing group is open to any who wishes to learn about the Buddha's robe and how one is made.

Be well.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 12

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

From the outside looking in:

If we spend our day in silent illumination it is possible to begin to see every breath as life itself. Our breath is our life. Breathing in, we allow the universe to enter us; breathing out, we enter it. And in time, we discern there is no inner or outer and that flow is actually just present moment awareness. Then, there is no breathing.

Wave actualizes water. Two depends on one.

From the inside looking out:

We notice we are born in every breath, a birth that separates us one from another. Over and over we ask ourselves “who is this” which notices anything at all? And what does “notice” imply? The moment “we” notice, we create a division: this notices that. I am breathing.

Water notices wave. One depends on two.

“What are the teachings?” Master Dogen asks, the elder Tenzo replies, “One, two, three, four, five.”

Everything is both separate and not separate simultaneously. Thing and no-thing simultaneously. Through our breath we manifest both our individual and universal realities.

Relationship is everything.

Be well.

Monday, July 11, 2011


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

With the morning light comes hope for a day with less coughing and less runny nose events. My joints are no longer achy, but my nose keeps flowing and the cough is still there, though not quite as bad. I think I can actually speak in a near normal voice, as well. The sad news is that Soku Shin seems to have caught this from me. Being ill is no fun. Yet, it does bring a few benefits if we are willing to accept them.

First, being ill is a clear reminder that we are not permanent. We are of the nature to get sick. Sooner or later we will naturally succumb to illness of one sort or another. Second, illness slows us down. It is good to slow the pace from time to time. In such a slow pace it is easier to assess where we are and what we are doing with our lives. With slowness comes the third benefit of illness, appreciation. We are much more inclined to appreciate things when we are deprived of them for a time. Illness deprives us of energy and diminishes our capacity to listen to others, but at the same time it causes us to pay attention to that which we too often neglect, our bodies.

So, while I do not suggest we all go out and become sick, I do think that when we do become sick, we might pay attention to the lessons our illness may be teaching us.

May you be a blessing in the universe today.



Sunday, July 10, 2011


With palms together,

Good Evening Everyone,

Our Summer Sesshin was very good, if not quite challenging for those who had to bear the sound of me with a nasty cold. I could barely speak and was in considerable distress, but sesshin is a potent and important cornerstone to our practice. We had several members of the Zen Center of Las Cruces participate, as well as three people from our El Paso Sangha. It was a packed Zendo.

Tenzo Tamra was superb in her practice. Meals were delicious and served properly: all meals were Oryoki style with our three bowl Oryoki sets. Jisha Soku Shin was our Zendo Jikido who provided supervision in the Zendo. Steve was our Doan who kept the time for Zazen and Kinhin. Rev. Dai Shugyo, our Ino, kept things going even in the midst of confusion which was, thanks to all, kept to a minimum. I was very thankful for the support of Rev. Gozen-sensei, abbot of the Zen Center of Las Cruces, for his willingness to co-officiate this event with me. I am also thankful for Rev. Kankin’s special effort to come Saturday morning from El Paso even though he has spent considerable time on the road over the last several weeks. In passing we had a cordial visit from Ken-roshi and his teacher An Gaio who is visiting from California. Fortunately, they arrived during a period where we could offer iced tea and a short tour of our Temple.

Rev. Gozen offered a lovely teisho opening night, we held an Abbot’s Dialogue at Saturday Morning services, and I offered a teisho regarding Matsuoka-roshi this morning. Tenzo Tamra lead a Study period on Master Dogen’s Instructions to the Zen Cook. Our sitting periods were extensive and strong and mindful silence was maintained most of the time.

This week we begin Peace Camp for three weeks in a row. Also we will begin our work in the youth correctional facility here in southern, New Mexico. As a reminder, Monday through Friday we practice at 9:30 AM, again at 6:00 PM. We host a Comparative Religions Discussion Group on Monday evening at 7:00, an Introduction to Zen Group on Tuesday at 7:00 PM, and a Women in Zen Group on Thursday at 7:00 PM. Please consider joining us for any of these practice opportunities.

Be well.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Summer Sesshin

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

The Order of Clear Mind Zen will retreat into Summer Sesshin from today at 7:00 PM through Sunday at 4:00 PM. We will be joined by members of the Zen Center of Las Cruces and the Both Sides/No Sides Zen Sangha in El Paso.

May you each practice to be awake and thoroughly present in this moment.



Wednesday, July 06, 2011

July 6

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

With the excellent care of Soku Shin I am feeling a tad better. Not that I am going to be all springy and everything, but better. Thanks to those who wished me well.

Our little temple seems to be thriving. We have had drop-in visitors, several new people who had scheduled appointments, our groups, and dokusans, all in addition to our regularly scheduled daily Zazen. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be in such service. It is hard not to be there when I am not well. This suggests that perhaps some of you who are in Las Cruces might commit to opening the Temple at least in the evening on a certain day of the week. I would then not be as concerned if I knew we had coverage in the event I am otherwise occupied. It would be your opportunity to take ownership of your temple. Let me know if this is something you would be willing to partner with me about.

Dharma Teacher Zen Shin had a good idea about Sunday. I agree going to a restaurant is a not such a good option. Why not have a brunch at the Temple? I do think, however, this would need to be coordinated through our Tenzo, Tamra. We have a week or so to think about this as this weekend we will be in Sesshin.

Sesshin will begin at 7:00 PM on Friday evening and go through Sunday afternoon. We will be including members of the Zen Center of Las Cruces in this event. If you have not yet registered and wish to attend, please email or call me today. There are two open seats, I believe.

A few comments regarding Sesshin: Once you arrive for the day’s practice, please understand that if you should leave you cannot come back that day. In other words, no coming and going. Practice periods will start on time. Please be in your seat at the appropriate time. Those attending will have a copy of the practice schedule. If you plan to stay at the Temple, bring a sleeping roll, pillow, and overnight necessities. This is a unisex event, so be sure to bring PJs.

Lastly, due to the cost of our hotspot, I will have to limit dokusan via Skype to 30 minutes. Please understand this. Those who are doing dokusan, please consider this: dokusan is a part of your practice. I will likely ask you “what is your practice?” at the beginning. How you answer this determines the quality of the dokusan period. I make one assumption: we are adult learners. You are your own best teacher and how you present yourself is part of the teaching. Pay attention. Do not think that I will know what is on your mind or that I will know what questions you have. It is appropriate for you to come to dokusan with your questions, but do not expect answers. Again, you are your own best teacher, I will point the way, but you will have to walk along the path yourself.

Practice: it’s a Zen thing.

Be well,

Monday, July 04, 2011

CMZ Temple

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

It is early in the morning. I woke at just before 4:00 AM. I enjoy the early morning hours very much as they are usually quite quiet and cool. The weather here in New Mexico has been exceedingly toasty with daily temps over a hundred degrees. The good news is that this should change as the rains come beginning in July. Mornings, as a result, are cooler and in the quiet provided, I am able to sit in reflection about the coming day.

About the Kitchen:

We have been hard at work in the Temple this past week. Tenzo Tamra has revamped the kitchen, did a deep cleaning, and is now ready to assume her duties for the coming Sesshin. Please honor her work and be respectful of the Temple by washing any cups, glasses or other dishware you may use while there. Also, if you make coffee or tea, prepare food, or something of the kind, please take care to clean up after yourself.


A few words regarding our Order and the Zendo:

Please do not interrupt the officiating priest during his/her teisho. He/She may or may not ask for questions. Only ask one question and do not follow-up with another unless asked. Question and answer periods following teisho are not free-wheeling discussions.

Please wait until the officiating priest leaves the room to get up from your cushion. Please clean your zabuton and refresh your zafu before leaving. All zabutons should be in line with each other against the wall. Replace your sutra cards under the zabuton so that it is not showing. Please do not bring items into the Zendo. This includes bottled water. You will not dehydrate in the hour you are in seated Zen.

There will be times when we will sit for periods longer than our typical 25 minute practice periods. These will not be announced. Rest assured the time-keeper has not fallen asleep. Longer periods can assist us in our practice. Questions that arise during practice (such as “when is that bell going to ring?”) are best left let go: just sit.

Dokusan in our Order has been understood to be more an informal discussion period with the teacher. We will endeavor to make dokusan a bit more formal over the next several weeks. Please understand, interviews with your teacher are considered a part of your practice. If you are a student of a teacher, please make sure you have and maintain regular dokusan times. These are not for a specified amount of time nor are they discussion sessions, but are, rather, examinations by the teacher of your practice and understanding. Dokusan is opened with a bell and a bow and closed with a bell and bow. Silence may be a part of the dokusan time. Allow for this space. Use this space. Include in its use, a short period or a longer period. Everything that happens in relation to your time with your teacher (in and out of dokusan) should be considered part of both the teaching and your practice.


Today at Clear Mind Zen we will practice Zazen at 9:30 AM, again at 6:00 PM, and conclude the day with our Comparative Religions Discussion Group at 7:00 PM. The topic for the evening is the chapter in the text on Confucianism.

Lastly, if you have not already made your donation as Members or Friends of the Order, please do so. The Order relies on your monthly support.

Thank you and I hope to see you soon!