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Showing posts from 2012

Notes Regards the Order

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



In a meeting with a student this week, we discussed several issues related to the practice of Zazen in the Zendo, the role of teacher and student relations, and commitment to practice in the Sangha. If became evident that we should offer reminders from time to time about a few things.

Before I address these, please keep in mind, our Zendo is a training facility of the Order of Clear Mind Zen. We are established to practice Zazen in the Zendo, practice Engaged Zen in community, and train students to become Lay Priests or Dharma Teachers in our Order. Those who are Novitiate Priests and Full Priest are expected to manifest their priesthood in their communities through some sort of Engaged Practice or through the establishment of a Sitting Group in their area.

Regards the Zendo: First, it is important to arrive about 15 minutes prior to the clapping of the han. When we arrive just before the bells that begin, it is disruptive to the serenity of the…

When It's Dark

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



It is the day after Christmas and as I read through the religion section of the Huffington Post I was struck by the number of posts addressing gun violence and war.. It is clear to me that we live in a violent world and, it would seem that religion is going through some soul searching, as well it should. But it is also clear to me that we live in a loving world, a world that cares that there is violence, cares for those who suffer, and cares that the suffering has not stopped. Stories of heroic teachers, firefighters willing to risk their lives for others, and so on, support this. One post written by a rabbi was particularly interesting in that it took to task those who would claim God was punishing humanity for its fall into moral neutrality if not downright moral fall. He argued we should question God and ourselves regards the continued suffering of humanity. I agree, not so much on the challenging of God, but more on our need to challenge ou…

The Loving Way

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



The Buddha Way I know and live invites difference. It is a Way that is completely and totally inclusive as there are no beings outside of the One. So, while in the One there are many, none should escape our love and compassion. When we fall into delusion and see one among many without the context of interdependence hate may arise over the behavior of the one. The Buddha taught that the antidote for hate is love.



When people live outside of their humanity it is easy to lose sight of a social context. This loss is like an arrow that flies simultaneously in both directions. The outsider frames the insiders in ways that allow the outsider to do harm. The insiders do the same to the outsiders. In such situations it is a challenge to apply the Buddha’s medicine for fear of being wounded. As the arrow flies toward us, do we drop our shields? Perhaps.



I know when someone deeply hurts me or the one’s I love I am not so quick to love them. In fact, as a …

Dues and Donation Request

With palms together,




Please consider a donation to our Order this week. And if you have yet to pay your dues, please consider doing so. Our Order and temple is dependant on your generosity. You may make your donation by going to our website and clicking on the "Donation" button at http://clearmindzen.org Thank you very much.



Yours,

Appreciation

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Sitting out in the courtyard of our residence in 38 degrees was refreshing, if not brisk. I could see that the sky, though dark, was cloudy and our weather report for the day id cool and cloudy. We are blessed here in southern New Mexico with sunny days a majority of the time and so, when it is cloudy, we learn to appreciate those sunny days.



Appreciation and gratitude are important aspects we should develop in our practice. They are not the same. We develop gratitude for what we learn to appreciate. In our everyday practice, our focus should be on seeing that which is in front of us, not just simply looking at it. Appreciation is the act of opening ourselves to that which we see. To look at something simply means casting our eyes upon it.



To see we must look more deeply. What is it? Form is just the beginning. Texture, tone, hue, taste, touch, and feel are all part of seeing. Connection to other things is the next level, as well as interd…

Conditions

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



We will be having quite a wind storm here in Las Cruces today. The air was cold against my skin while I sat outside under the stars. Now, sitting at my desk, having finished another painting, my face seems warmed by the contrast of the heated air in our house. We are so fortunate to have such a luxury. There are those I think about who I see walking the streets without a home. I wonder how they survive or how it is they continue to live, knowing that many do not.

The other day the Southern New Mexico Harley Owners Group did a Marine Corps. Toys for Tots “run” to an elementary school. I had signed up to be one of Santa’s escorts. After arriving, a disheveled father with rotting teeth came up to us with his little girl. She was tightly holding her Christmas packages. Both were dressed in rags. They both thanked us for doing this and the father said that without this help his daughter would not have had Christmas. The image of these two hungry, poo…

Announcements

With palms together,




Good Morning All,







We begin Rohatsu sesshin this evening and will continue thru Sunday at noon. Rohatsu is a very special time of year for us as we celebrate and honor the Buddha’s enlightenment through our practice. On Saturday at 10:00 AM we will honor Polly Skikan Perez as she becomes a novitiate priest and Rev. Soku Shin as she undergoes Shukke Tokudo and becomes a full priest in our Order. On Sunday at 10:00 AM we will also honor Tucker for taking the Refuges, Mitsugo for taking Jukai, Ryugin for becoming a Novitiate Zen priest, and, of course, Revs Daishugyo and Shoji as they undergo Shukke Tokudo becoming full priests in our Order. Friends and family are welcome. Please consider joining us for these events as well as to take advantage of our many opportunities to practice.







May you each be well and free from suffering

Sesshin Update

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Arriving this week will be John Shoji and Kathi Ryugin Sorenson from California and Ron Mitsugo Zacharski from Virginia. We hope Ron gets here in time for sesshin! Rev. Shoji should arrive Tuesday or Wednesday I understand, and will be staying at the Temple. Ryugin will arrive Thursday. We also have Jeff Zenshin McGuire arriving from Santa Fe. Jeff, John, and Kathi will be attending the entire sesshin with us, along with Tucker, Kathryn, and me. I am uncertain as to when Rev. Kankin and Polly Shikan will arrive from Texas, but I am under the impression they will be in attendance at least Saturday. There are still seats available so if you are interested in sitting with us, please email Rev. Soku Shin ASAP.



We begin on Thursday evening. Our opening Dharma talk will be presented by Rev. Tamra Kobusshin and will serve as the introduction to her lecture series on Master Dogen’s Fukanzazengi. The series will continue each Thursday for three week…

Rohatsu

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,

The following is our sesshin schedule. Please consider joining us as much as possible. We ask for $5.00 donation each for Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, and $15.00 for Saturday. You are welcome to stay in the Temple Friday and Saturday nights. Bring a sleeping bag, pajamas, bathroom necessities and a willingness to practice as often as possible through the night. Remember, sesshin is silent.

We will serve snacks on Thursday and Friday evenings after closing ceremonies; breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Saturday; and breakfast only on Sunday. It is important that we know if you will be attending and what meals you will be present for. Please confirm your reservation with Rev. Soku Shin ASAP.

Be well.

Tentative Sesshin Schedule:

Thursday PM

06:00-09:00 Welcome. Opening Ceremony, Recite Three Refuges, the Heart Sutra, Tea Service, Dharma Talk, Zazen: Three Periods

09:00 Close, Recite the Hanya Shin Gyo, the Four Great Vows.

Friday PM

06:00-09:…

The Buddha Way

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



It is said Master Bodhidharma sat in a cave for nine years. He taught that Zen was a way beyond words and letters. He was pointing to a fundamental truth, the world we perceive is a perception, a construction of our mind, and the actual truth is not the perception. Thoughts are about something, not the thing itself. Concepts are our thoughts about our thoughts. Constructs link these together to form an understanding. It is easy to see that all of this, our construction of reality, is not reality itself. Understanding is just as false.



The fundamental truth, the absolute truth, is not to be conceived of, but actually experienced. Bodhidharma said, when asked who he was, “Don’t know.” When we “don’t know” we free ourselves to directly experience without the chimera of thought. So, we say, “just sit.” It is not the sitting that is key, but the “just.” When in a state of “just” or rather, in that place just before thought arises, the thinker i…

Thanksgiving

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



So, today our thoughts are to turn to giant sales and spectacular savings as we rush around the giant Turkey which has become the sales symbol of the season. Store ads are relentless. Internet sites with pop-ups remind us that we are missing out unless we HURRY to Wal-Mart or K-Mart or some other Big Box store waiting anxiously to soak up our money, providing us with the delirious joy of spending that which we really don’t have.



I, like the infamous character in Melville’s short story,” Bartleby the Scrivener,” would prefer not to. Instead, I would prefer to struggle through the process of uncovering that which I am grateful for. It’s not easy, you know, to see that which we take for granted. What does it take to see the invisible, the commonplace?



I believe the place to begin is in our own heart/mind. Sitting quietly at this keyboard, I realize how much I depend on the many lives and hands that makes it possible to have and use such techn…

Compassion and Mindfulness

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



For whatever reason, I went to bed very early this evening and now woke at 11:00 thinking it was morning and feeling as though I had slept the night. Oh well, I’m sure if I slip back into that nice warm bed sleep will once again grace me with its restorative powers.



A student has been writing a lot about compassion and mindfulness. A good thing, as we all need to bear in mind that being present and being compassionate are true gifts for all beings. From a Zen point of view, compassion and mindfulness naturally arise from our non-dualistic state of being. When in a state of duality, sympathy is the more likely experience. If I practice mindfulness by saying, “picking up the cup, I am aware that I am picking up the cup,” I am practicing mindfulness, but not being mindful. In a true state of mindfulness, there is no separation between the “subject” and the “object” of our practice, there will be just the direct and intimate experience of the …

Students

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Waking early this morning I had an opportunity to experience the weather change from stillness to windy. Not a good day for a motorcycle ride, so I will stay home or nearby, paint perhaps, read perhaps, and practice Zazen on my cushion.



I’ve been writing about teachers lately, so perhaps it is an opportune time to write about students. How should a student relate to a teacher? What should a student do to be a student? What are the expectations of a student held by a teacher? How does one end a teacher/student relationship?



First, it is important to say from the outset that there are as many Buddhisms as there are teachers, centers, and temples. Each led by a teacher who has his or her understanding, often gained through years of practice with their teacher. So, any answer I might provide will, of necessity, be mine and my teacher’s, his teacher’s and so on. There are definite differences.



In Zen, there is a long history of teachers saying…

On Teachers, Part Two

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Recently, I’ve been caught up in the questions of what it means to study Zen, what it means to become the student of a teacher, and what it means to train for the priesthood. These are important questions in the world of Zen. And they are challenging due to a variety of factors.



First, one does not “study” Zen. For Zen Buddhists, Zen is not a subject to be read about; it is a practice to be experienced. Reading too often fills student’s heads up with “ideas and concepts” and these actually get in the way of true study, which is the study of the Buddha Way, the study of the self. Yet, we read, as reading is what we Westerners do. We want to “know” something. We Google, go to Wiki, read books, journals, and magazines. We watch YouTube videos, movies, and documentaries. But the result is not true “knowing.” Such knowing is shallow and superficial; it can impress, but not sustain. True knowing is something else again. It is eating the waterme…

Everyday Zen

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



The Zen of everyday life: wake at 4:30 AM, make coffee, wash face, brush teeth, do laundry, put away books, wash dishes, sit Zazen in the courtyard, put away laundry…not necessarily in that order. Someone asked , “How do we take the cushion with us?”



In a text conversation with Soku Shin last night (she’s in El Paso to lead the Sunday service there) we talked about Zazen and being. We came to the conclusion that Zazen and being were one and that to take it off the cushion was a sort of ‘being in action.’ The cushion is a metaphor for our state of mind through the day.



So, as I go through my morning tasks, I go through them as directly as possible, letting non-task related thoughts fall away and returning to the task at hand. This is what we mean when we say, “just” in front of something like sitting, walking, or doing samu.



We sometimes call this ‘mindfulness,’ but I believe mindfulness can also be a trap as it often creates a dualism be…

On Coffee Cups

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Sitting outside in the courtyard this morning was refreshing. It was 39 degrees and the sky was clear. I sat on a Mexican blanket folded in quarters. The patio is split level, so I put the blanket on one level, sat down and placed my feet on the lower level. I find with my back pain this is helpful. The sky was clear and the stars were bright. My heart opened and I sat with myself until myself decided to leave. What remained I do not know.



One of my students is struggling with the principle of “not knowing.” Many, if not most of us, struggle with this. Our culture places such a high value on “knowing.” We cannot get into college or graduate school without knowing, nor can we get a good paying job without knowing something, but this is not what “not knowing” is about.



Not knowing places its focus on seeing. When we look at something or encounter something we too often don’t ask what it is, we assume we know what it is. This assumption lit…

Teachers

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning I sat on my living room floor amid my teacher’s artifacts. His robes, papers, books and boxes of incense surrounded me. I found the guest book from his Dharma Mountain Zendo where I first met him is December of 1994. I felt so alone with my memories of him. He had an imposing demeanor, tall, bald-headed, and robed, Hogaku-roshi worked hard to bring the dharma to his students. In his work with me I loved him, hated him, chewed him up and spit him out and he did the same with me. Together we struggled to know our truth.



I am now alone, his Dharma successor, and charged with the task that his teacher, Matsuoka-roshi, gave to him. It is a heavy load and I feel it in my bones. It feels like an onerous task.



A Zen teacher is alone. He or she must rely on his or her practice. It must be strong, yet fluid. Like water surrounding a root, the student and teacher must consume themselves. At some point there is no wood and the water is no…

Free & Easy

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



It is a Sunday morning and I woke at the late hour of 5:00 AM. I sat outside in the courtyard for 30 minutes paying attention to the morning starlit sky, my breath, and our two small dogs, Binky and Suki, as they sat with me. Attending to the moments as they arose and fell away I felt myself doing the same: Arising, attending, and falling away. Right Effort, one of the eightfold noble paths, requires concentrated effort on the task at hand; not too much, not too little, but something in the middle. This something is non-grasping.



What does it mean not to grasp? It means letting yourself be supple. We want, we need, but we do not hold tightly to these desires. We go in the direction of our goal, but are not alarmed when we either do not reach it or start to deviate from it’s accomplishment. We make easy adjustments in our relationship to it. When we cannot, we are said to be “stuck.” Rigidity is an anathema to the Middle way.



As we go thro…

Romancing Zen

With palms together,


Good Afternoon Everyone,



At 58 degrees, the early morning air is approaching cold for us here in southern New Mexico. It is 3:30 and I am awake reading email after sitting Zazen in the courtyard under the stars. One of my students wrote to me about Brad Warner having just discovered this rather unique Zenster. He asked if Zen were not “supposed” to be a personal practice and whether the precepts are to be personally understood.



My student’s confusion is a common one as he, like many others, brings an assumption to what he studies as regards what Zen is “supposed” to be. In an earlier discussion with one of my disciples today, I quipped, “D. T. Suzuki did a lot of damage to Zen while he popularized it.” I say this because I think Suzuki’s work romanticized Zen for an American audience who, at the time, had a view of the East as something mystical and inscrutable. Alan Watts, ever fond of Suzuki’s thoughts, continued to popularize the koan/satori inscrutability fl…

Dana Request

With respect,



If you would like to make a donation to our Order, please do so ASAP as our rent is due on Wednesday. You may do so by using the Paypal donate button. Your generous support of our temple will be greatly appreciated!

In Gassho

Hours, Students, etc

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,

Forgive this second note for the day from me.

It has recently come to my attention that there is some confusion as to when we are practicing at the Temple. Admittedly, we have changed our hours several times this year in order to answer requests by those in the sangha for additional times to sit, etc.

We originally sat on Sundays at 10:00 AM. This was so since I re-opened the Zen Center of Las Cruces in the year 2000 and continued on at Clear Mind Zen Temple. Some months ago the sangha suggested we adjust the Sunday time to 9:00 AM in hopes of making it easier for people to attend. This did not help, as we remained at the same number of steadfast sitters. We agreed, then, to return to our 10:00 AM time. It was also suggested that we add a second evening for those who could not make it to our (one time) Monday night Zen 101 or our more advanced Zen Study group on Thursday evening. I diligently came to sit on that added evening and found my…

Anxiety

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



There are times when anxiety simply overwhelms us as a wave overtakes us forcing our bodies to bend and roll out of control. Just so, the best response is to allow the wave to do what it does and resist fighting with it. Waves are far more powerful when we fight them, as when we roll with them. So, too, anxiety.



Anxiety is simply fear. We foresee issues coming at us like the waves on the beach. We fear their power to bowl us over. Yet, here’s the thing: their power is our power. When we yield to our fear and let it wash over us without resistance, we begin to feel like water resting in its lowest place, a calm pool on a quiet afternoon.



Even if the weather is raging there we are, calmly abiding in our own reality, a reality composed of our easy breath in the long view, the universal view, the view of the moon and stars opening themselves to us each night as they have throughout infinity. We are able to calmly abide because we have practic…

My Zen

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



I became a novitiate priest in the Matsuoka-roshi lineage in 1999. At that time my teacher, Ken Hogaku McGuire-roshi did not use clear guidelines for progression through the “ranks” as it were. Instead, as many Masters before him (including the Buddha himself) he used his own intuition. Matsuoka-roshi, it is said, ordained people before they were “ready” and by this his critics mean before they knew the appropriate blocking in the grand theatre of Zen. Matsuoka’s perspective was, as I understand it, students would ‘grow’ into the priesthood. Of course, as has been the case with me, when your Sangha is small you must use the people you have to fill the positions necessary in order to make the Zendo function. This requires appointing people before they are ready and working with them as they grow into the role or not.



Matsuoka-roshi was a true pioneer of Zen in America. He knew Americans were excellent candidates for the practice of Zen. He a…

Quality

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Fall is clearly upon us in southern New Mexico. The morning air is decidedly cooler even though the late afternoon temps still reach 90. I am waiting patiently for our first real cold snap, that event that triggers leaves turning and pumpkins to be carved.

Patience has never been one of my virtues.  I have always been an intuitive person who leaps onto something and makes it happen. Lately, however, I seem to be doing much less of that, hell, much less of anything, preferring instead the comfort of sitting quietly with my Soku Shin, our dogs, and perhaps a glass of wine. Perhaps this is a result of the pain I experience daily, but I think it is more likely simple aging with a loving partner who enjoys my company.. 

We often do nothing but sit together and talk, yet we've noticed our most loving and life enhancing conversations are those we have while laying next to each other in our bed on our sides facing each other under blankets.Such in…

Bodhisattvas

With palms together,


Good Afternoon Everyone,



An old acquaintance who once visited me at the mountain refuge wrote:

Dear Harvey,



Thought you might like some reaction to your rather down news lately. We haven't known each other much or long, but you feel like an old friend. I very much do appreciate your openness in posting about your health and relationships, and it certainly is powerful Zen teaching in showing how a person of Zen responds to challenges. You have my admiration.



At the same time, I feel sad for your sake. If only the words of Dick FariƱa were true for me and you —



Well, if somehow you could pack up your sorrows,

And give them all to me.

You would lose them, I know how to use them,

Give them all to me.



But I am far from that kind of Bodhisattva as yet. This is the best I can do. Hope this helps.



____

I replied:

Dear ____, it’s not sad, really, it’s more exciting than sad although there are sad moments. I feel invigorated by the prospect of divorce and committing t…

Zazenkai

We will host a one day intensive meditation retreat on Saturday, October 6th at Clear Mind Zen Temple from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  A modest $15.00 donation is requested to cover food and supplies.  If you wish to attend, please reply to me at harveyhilbert@yahoo.com

Gassho

Transparency

With respect,

Yesterday I posted a note that included information about my personal life. A member replied saying politely that my personal life was none of his business.  Those who have been reading my posts over the last 12 years or so know that I frequently use events in my personal life as exemplars of the challenges of Zen living. While this is useful to students, I think there is another more fundamental reason for such postings. 

In the world of Zen there have been far too many examples of secrecy among teachers leading to the very real possibility of harm to their sanghas. I have always felt I should be as transparent as possible so as to avoid this. But more importantly, I see personal and professional as an artificial dualism. My life has been an open book.  Seamless, if you will.  I believe strongly in self disclosure as both a teaching tool and method of insuring authenticity.

Clearly I have made mistakes, but I see these as teaching tools both for myself and my readers.…

Schedule and Personal Note

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



This week at CMZ Temple we will practice zazen Monday through Friday at 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM. Park Practice is Wednesday at 9:00 AM. Elder Practice is at 10:30 AM on Wednesday. Zen Study Group is at 6:00 PM on Thursday. For future reference I will offer a talk on Zen Buddhism on the 27th at 10:00 AM at Morning Star United Methodist Church. We will host a Zazenkai on October 5th.



On a personal note:

In the interest of transparency, as most of you know, I am currently legally separated, not divorced, from my wife, Judy. Our separation was complete down to division of property and income, but as are all separation agreements, this was a temporary state. We were still married in the eyes of the law and this has caused a lot of stress on my relationship with Kathryn. So, on the 25th of this month Judy and I will be going through a mediation/arbitration process which will end in a divorce on that day. Our arbitration agreement is that if we cannot rea…

Dana and Dues

With respect,  It is that time of the month when I ask that we practice dana paramita, the first of the six paramitas. Your generosity supports our Order and our Temple.  Please consider making an offering today.  Thank you and nine bows,

This Week

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



As most of you know, I have taken up residence at our Temple for retreat. My practice schedule is Zazen M-F at 7:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, Sunday at 10:00 AM. We conduct our weekly Zen Study Group on Thursday evening at 6:00 PM. On Wednesday we do park practice at the city hall on Main Street at 9:00 AM and practice with the elders at Golden Mesa retirement community at 10:30. If you intend to practice with me during the daily morning and afternoon periods, please email or call in advance as it is possible I will have other commitments at those times.



Temple practice requires a commitment to moment to moment practice. I am alone most of the time. I often sit through the day, mixing sitting with study. Occasionally, I will sit on the stoop and just watch the sky. This morning I did that and watched the moon as it appeared behind some lovely white clouds.



I am cooking and washing dishes for one. Each time I wash the dishes I think of Mast…

Labor Day, Not!

With palms together,

This is Labor Day and I think we have forgotten its meaning.  Contrary to the comments back that I receive in passing about this weekend being a long weekend, it is in fact  meant to honor those who actually labor to earn a living. Labor is a word we tend not to apply to ourselves.  Labor conjures up images of factory workers, construction workers, and laborers, not management-level desk jockeys, bean counters and pencil pushers. Labor Day honors those who actually work for a living. And most of us really don't have much of a clue as to what that really means. 

My father was a house painter most of his life and a maintenance man in a hospital in his later years.  I remember him coming home with overalls covered in paint spatter.  My brother was a refrigeration man.  And I spent a good part of my early adult life as a dishwasher, short order cook and pie maker, before I "moved up" into management, graduated late in life from college, and went on to …

Creativity

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday I had the most wonderful experience of presenting a teisho to an Advanced Art Class at a local high school which specializes in teaching the creative arts.  The students in attendance were bright, intensely curious, and described as "risk takers" by their art teachers.  I was grateful for the opportunity to meet them and learn from them.  Its this sort of thing, as well as today's opportunity to marry a couple, that makes the Zen priesthood so rewarding. 

I spoke to them about taking on and developing a creative mind that arises from the Zen Peacemaker Precept, "Not Knowing."  When we approach a canvas, sketch pad, or writing paper with a "Not Know" mind everything is possible.  Just so, life itself. 

Such a mind can be developed through our practice, but also through the surprises that life itself offers us.  When we are surprised by something our mind feels open and fresh. We might feel anxiety…

Changes

With respect,

It would appear I am facing yet another major change in my life. Kathryn and I have decided we will no longer live together. I am moving back into the Temple and will take it as my residence. This will mean some reconfiguration of the space, but is possible. I do not want much space and do not need most of the things I have collected.

Its odd how these things unfold. In this case it was a rather sudden and deeply disturbing change. I do not wish to share the details, but suffice to say, it was necessary.

I will share more as I am able and the situation allows.

Be well.

On a Friday Morning

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning we spent quite a bit of time cleaning and organizing the residence.  Clearly I am limited in my abilityand capacity, but Rev. Soku Shin seems to have inhereted genes from the Energizer Bunny.  I did manage to organize the studio/study and re-organize the courtyard funishings.  But this pales in comparison to Ms. Bunny. 

This, as well as some discussions with my physical therapists have taken me aback.  It is becoming quite clear that I will not recover to a state similar to that before I began experiencing leg pain.  I will likely not run again, hike, or even walk very far.  For someone who identified himself as physically active, a marathoner, and so on, this is a challenging reqality.

Yet, every loss has the potential to be a teacher.  Every moment, an oppoprtunity to rebirth myself.  Closing one door, we often say, opens another.  So, here I am with doors closing and other doors opening. The Zen of the Every Moment lies in this:…

Clouded Sky

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning I woke at 3:45 AM. I fell asleep at 9:00 PM. So I managed to get a bit over 6 hours of sleep. Anyway, I went outside into the courtyard and sat looking at a solitary star (which, I am certain, was a planet). There were no other visible stars as the sky was filled with clouds masking them. The stars of the night sky were there to be sure, but I just could not see them. Our everyday life is like this. The universe we create with our mind is like the clouds hiding the stars. Remove the clouds and the actual sky appears.

No Hot, No Cold?

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



The sun just rose over the Organ Mountains, offering both brilliant light and searing summer heat. We in Las Cruces are desert dwellers. Our environment is typically hot and dry. We are now, however, on the back side of the rainy season, although not much rain has come our way, still, the air is wet and the heat creates a sauna within which we sweat. Those of us with refrigerated air are prone to stay inside; those with swamp coolers, well, let’s just say swamp coolers are not at all effective in humidity. People who live with swamp coolers in a humid environment suffer. Yet, refrigerated air also brings suffering. When we stay inside and our bodies adapt, our ability to go out of doors is compromised. As with Old Tozan in Case 43 of the Blue Cliff Record, “How do we escape heat or cold?”

In either direction, there is suffering. Life is like this, with every in-breath there is birth and the construction of our world, with every out-breath t…

Blog Follower's Invitation

With palms together,
Good Morning Bloggers

I would like to that you for being "followers" of my blog.  I realized this morning that I rarely post anything on Blogger that I don't post in other venues.  So, I want to invite you each to post a comment on the content of this blog and let me know how you feel about something. 

If you have followed my blog for some time you will know that I have often taken personal life and commented on it from a Zen perspective.  I have done less of that of late.  Moreover, I have not posted much about Zen and its practice either.  What I want to know is this: do you prefer straight Zen talk or content from my everyday life with a Zen commentary?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Gassho

Nothing

With palms together,




Good Morning Everyone,







It is the middle of the night and I have greeted it’s darkness over and over again with an open heart. The sounds of a sleeping world are my companions. A cooling breeze is my blanket. What’s this? I feel as though I am but a shadow in the corner . The fox and the monk are one as karma is the product of a deluded mind.







I realize I have not been posting much and what I have posted has had more to do with my pain than Zen itself. This realization brings me to the question of Zen in Everyday Life, a theme I am exploring in my new booklet under the same title.







At our Zen study group this evening the question came up about practice realization in our daily life. It sprung out of the text of Master Dogen’s Genjokoan. In that text Dogen Zenji says in the comings and goings of practice realization we are deluded, but in practice realization, comings and goings are practice realization. Rather like form is emptiness and emptiness is form, if you g…

Status Update

With palms together,


Good afternoon all,



It seems the two procedures I have undergone to correct my lumbar spinal stenosis have not been effective. My condition is worsening and an appointment with my doctor today resulted in scheduling another procedure called "mild" which is supposed to be effective in most cases. I am scheduled to have this procedure on Friday at Mountain View Hospital. The procedure involves inserting a needle into the part of my spine that has calcification, removes the bone matter, thus relieving the pressure on my spinal cord. It requires about a three day recovery according to the literature. Due to my current condition and this coming procedure I must cancel all temple activities including dokusan until Monday. My jiisha, Rev. Soku Shin, or myself will keep you apprised of my progress. I apologize for this inconvenience and hope to be back at work on Monday.

Bodhisattvas

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



On August 3rd I will travel to Upaya in Santa Fe for a weekend retreat with Roshi Bernie Glassman. I am most interested in his way of engaging people toward engaging the world in order to make the world a better place. It seems to me we spend next to no time on this question. Yet every day we recite the four great vows of the bodhisattva.



How do we live our lives? While obsession ought be addressed as something that leads to suffering, some obsessions are better than others, don’t you think? Are we self obsessed belly button watchers or are we bodhisattva warriors obsessed with creating conditions for improved living? If we are to have one obsession, which would it be?



Our every breath as bodhisattvas ought be directed at freeing others from suffering. Yet, to say such a thing creates, in itself, a duality which traps us in our own suffering. Because this is our choice, we are not actually suffering. The freedom of others is dependent on …

Thursday

With respect to all,




Today is a full day of interviews, class and zazen. This morning, however, I will ride over to the Pain Management Office and camp out hoping to see my Doctor in between her appointments. The piriformis muscle is still inflamed and is creating continued sciatic pain in my left hip and leg. I was hoping to be done with this for awhile, but it seems I am not. So, we will see what she says, if I can manage to see her.



This afternoon we have several interviews and this evening we will address chapter 9 of "Realizing Genjokoan." We follow study with a period of Zazen, the Hanya Shin Gyo, and the Four Great Vows. The chapter of the text is about "The Moon in Water." This is the section where Master Dogen refers to realization as moon in water, using moon as self, as emptiness, and in the water as 'the middle way.' As many of you know, Dogen had a thing for the moon. He stared at it alot, used it in many of his teachings, his poetry, and in …

Tuesday

The sky is cloudy with heavy rain clouds. I am sitting in the courtyard with you. Suki and Emma are sitting withme. Binky is with Soku Shin who is not yet awake. The courtyard is awash with sounds of birds and insects.




I woke this morning with no pain in my leg, but the piriformis muscle is still very tight or I have a bruised hip joint. At least it is localized and not shooting down my leg.the procedure yesterday was simple and quick, as well as nearly painless. The Dr was terrific and asked for a card. She wants to learn zazen.



We never know where or when we will meet a student of the Way.



I would like to thank student Craig for his assistance yesterday. Craig came over in the heat of the afternoon and put together our inversion table for us. Thank you Craig!



We will practice zazen tonight at 7:00 pm at the Temple. Please consider joining

us. Gassho.



Memorial

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Driving to my Teacher’s Zendo in the winter of 1998 was a challenge. I lived in Las Cruces and his Zendo was in Cloudcroft. The drive distance was about 90 miles and the elevation went from 4000’ to nearly 9000’. In the winter there was no predicting accessibility. I first had to climb the mountain to Cloudcroft, then climb a long dirt road up another mountain to get to the Zendo which was tucked neatly into the side of a hill. Snow, ice, and whether or not a plow had cleared the road were potential obstacles. In Zen, our relationship to our teacher is not dependent on our likes or dislikes or our convenience. It is about relational commitment to the teaching and practice of Zen.



So each week I would get into my car, often after a 70 hour workweek as a private practice therapist, and make the drive to practice with Ken-roshi in his Zendo and following that, meet with him for his version of dokusan. Ken-roshi was formidable. It’s not that he…

Living and Dying

With palms together,




With the death of Reverend Fern-roshi and my recent bouts with my body, my mind has been on living and dying. I just went through a stack of old photographs and found some very old pictures of myself and my brother as young boys, pictures of my travels, the development of my body through my body-building phase, through my horse phase, and into my priesthood. It has occurred to me that unless we are actually living we are dying.

By “actually living” I mean being aware of our bodies as they are in this very moment, living in them, with them as fully and completely as is possible, and with them as they relate and interact with others. I fear too much of my life has been squandered on activities in youth not worth remembering, sleep walking, as it were, through the days and nights of middle age. Grasping for youth in late middle age. And worrying far too much as an elder. Frankly, I love the sentiment in that old phrase, “Don’t worry, be happy!” Yet, it is so diffic…

Current Status

With palms together,




As most of you know I spent three days in Mountain View hospital with extreme pain in my back, hip, and left leg. I am not allowed to have an MRI due to the fact that I have some metal in my head as a result of being shot in Vietnam. This meant that I needed a myelogram. This is a procedure where the physician injects radioactive dye directly into the spine so a CT image reveals more detail. I will tell you this was extremely painful, but the result was a diagnosis of spinal stenosis. I have two buldging disks at L4 and L5 which causes extreme pain, numbness and loss of movement in the left leg and hip.



Monday will bring a call from my doctor who is setting up an appointment with a pain specialist who will likely inject a steroid into my spine to relieve the inflammation and allow things to heal.



What all of this means is that I am facing some life altering issues. I will not be able to do the running and walking I have enjoyed in the past. I will likely not be …

Schedule

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Sunday morning we will host our formal Zen Service at our residence at 2195 Calle Del Norte in Mesilla, NM at 9:00 AM. We look forward to serving you. It looks as though this will be our weekly schedule:



Sunday Zazen at 9:00 AM Residence

Tues. – Fri. Zazen at 7:00 AM Residence

Mon. Park Practice at 7:00 AM in Gardens

Wed. Park Practice at 9:00 AM in Veteran’s Park

Wed. Elder Practice at 10:00 AM at Golden Mesa

Thurs. Zen Study at 7::00 PM Residence

Please note: It is possible that we will host Brad Warner later this month. He has contacted me and indicated he will be coming through our city and would be happy to offer a talk. I will keep you posted.



Be well

June 8

With respect,


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning I sat in the courtyard for Zazen.There was an early morning chill in the air and the neighborhood roosters were crowing in apparent delight. Some motorcycle, a crotch rocket I believe from the sound of it, was screaming down the highway obliterating the birdsong that otherwise would have caught my attention. Motorcycle engine, birds singing: our mind catches sound and evaluates it. One pleasant, one unpleasant, which is which? Soft and melodious, loud and mechanical, each in accordance with its nature. Accept both, hold neither.



Formal Zen Sunday @ 9:00 AM at our residence.



Be well.

Schedule

With palms together,




This morning comes with a bright, hot sun rising over the eastern mountains as if in a hurry to brighten the world. Soku Shin and I spent the morning discussing how we will offer Zen services in our home and when. We also talked about park practice and are looking at spaces on the Mesilla/University side of town as a venue. One area we thought of is the garden that’s just on the Mesilla side of the railroad tracks on University Avenue. We have the following practice opportunities thus far: Street Zen one Saturday per month at the Farmer’s Market at 9:00 AM; one Park practice per week at the Veteran’s Park at 9:00 AM; one Elder Practice per week at Golden Mesa retirement community at 10:00 AM; and one Sunday formal service at 9:00 AM. We would like to add an early morning park practice at the garden at 7:00 AM. We will practice Zazen at our house each morning at 7:00 AM (except, of course, on the day we decide to go to the park) so the question is what day to go t…

Changes

With palms together,




Our last session at the Temple was last night. We held a lively class on Chapter 7 of the text, Realizing Genjokoan, and agreed to move the group to Thursday evenings at 7:00 PM at our residence in Mesilla, NM. Our Sunday service will be at 9:00 AM at our residence, as well.



We are entering a new stage in the Order of Clear Mind Zen, a stage that harkens back to the ancient days when practitioners of the Way simply practiced in parks, offering teaching when asked, but generally modeling the way rather than lecturing about it. We are not here to support a corporation or a formal organization. We are here to support a practice.



We are here, then, to offer opportunities to practice together. We are not here to talk about Zen, per se. So, if you are a student of mine, please understand the following. I will not continue to see you in dokusan unless you practice with me at least once during any given week. If you miss your practice session, your dokusan time will be …

Temple Closing

With palms together,




Over the last several months we have noticed a steady decline in our member’s Zendo practice and participation. We understand many of us have had vacations, gone on travels, etc., but these do not explain the overall lack of attendance at Zendo for Zazen periods. All too often either Soku Shin or myself drives to the Zendo only to sit alone, something we could more easily and economically do at home.

At this point, I do not believe there is any reason to support a Temple or Zendo. I have approached our landlord and asked to be released from our lease. It seems promising that she will allow us to get out of the last year of our three year lease. I will maintain the Order, but not as a corporate entity, but rather through a series of teacher student relationships without an organization. Historically, this was how it was done. The materials we have, equipment, etc., will stay in my possession for safe keeping in the event we will at another time want a facility.

Now

With palms together,








It is 11:50 PM. Everyone (Kathryn, Suki, and Binky) are asleep. I am wide awake. Kathryn Soku Shin asked that I offer services in El Paso tomorrow while Rev. Tamra leads them here in Las Cruces. Rev. Soku Shin wants me to talk about how I spent my summer vacation, meaning, what did I learn from riding my motorcycle nearly 4000 miles in order to visit my son and his family.







At first I thought I could say something quite Zen like, but I soon recovered from that temptation. The most important thing I learned was not to make assumptions or promises. At each step in our daily life anything is possible. For me, the weather shifting and changing, my body’s unwillingness to adapt quickly or heal from the sciatic nerve inflammation, all came together to betray my promises. I wanted to visit the Atlanta Soto Zen Center, for example, but each way weather and timing conspired against a visit, to say nothing of the gigantic traffic nightmare which defines Atlanta as a place …

Journal

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

After riding nearly 500 miles yesterday I hobbled into a Days Inn to rest for the night. I was pleased with myself and my bike. Over the road I managed to avoid a few serious thunder storms, but did get rained on once. Fortunately, the cheapy rain suit I bought at a Wal-Mart on the way out to North Carolina worked. Somewhere in Alabama the over cast skies cleared and the sun shone down on me. After rain and cold, overcast skies, the son was a very welcome sight.



The ride itself was broken up into 100 mile pieces so I could fill my small gas tank and stretch out my tightened shoulder muscles. Road work is ubiquitous. Causing much caution to be needed. One detour in Jackson, Miss. took me out of my way and on a trek to find out how to get back on the closed Interstate. I am learning to relax a bit more, recalling an earlier time in my life when my motorcycle and I were partners on the road. It is a real pleasure when that moment arises. It makes itself know afte…