Showing posts from March, 2012

Courtyard Zen

With respect,

Good Morning Everyone,

The morning light has not yet made its appearance in the east. I am barely awake myself. Today we will practice Zazen with the elders at Golden Mesa at 11:00, and later, Street Zen at 4:00, and still later, Zazen in the Zendo at 6:00. In between, a few private interviews.

Lately, I have felt myself feeling adrift. This feeling seems closely associated with a waning interest in painting, writing, and other creative efforts. What I seem to want to do mostly is sit in the courtyard of our house looking up into the depths of the New Mexico sky.

This practice is not unlike Zazen. It is certainly, “just sitting,” but without the benefit of robe and zafu. Thoughts are barely perceptible and float in and out of my awareness without much of a trace. I could not tell you what I am thinking most of the time, because it seems to me, most of the time I am not thinking.

When we loosen our grip, and let go of any attempt to control things, life seems to do jus…

Sweeping Zen

On the front page of Sweeping Zen:

Schedule Changes

With respect,

Good Morning Everyone,

Today at Clear Mind Zen we will practice Zazen at 6:00 PM in the Zendo. We will follow our evening practice with our Zen discussion group. We will conclude our discussion of chapter three of our text and, hopefully, open chapter four.

Please Note: We are making our five day intensives more accessible to everyone by having evening hours beginning Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Saturday will be from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and Sunday from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM. Our fees will be $5.00 per evening, $15.00 for Saturday, and $5.00 for Sunday. If you have already paid for the full five days under the old schedule, we will gladly refund your offering. A reminder: Those who are paying dues at the “Great Benefactor” level are not required to pay, your sesshin fees are included in your membership dues. If you are paying dues at the “Sustaining Member” level you will receive a 25% discount.

A further schedule change: We will no longer of…

Morning Light

With respect,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I woke in a slight funk. The painting I was working on is now finished. Our websites are as completed as I have the ability to make them. And, what was my Mountain Refuge has a contract on it. What was once so meaningful, will be no more. I sat outside watching the sunrise with this.

These last three years have been a time of dramatic change in my life. The dust has now settled, more or less. At 65, I am looking at exploring the wilting of the flower of my life. All that has happened has happened and is past, fading now in memory, and losing its significance to any but me, residing as it does, in some recess of my brain. Our lives open, bloom, grow, and turn. All the while others come up, and others fade away. Everything changes always in every moment and it is all here now. As Dogen teaches, ash is ash, firewood, firewood: each day is itself. We are charged to manifest ourselves in each moment as fully as possible. The fading flower …

Spring Comes

With respect,

Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday afternoon I put the top down on my old Saab. This car is nearly twenty years old and I have grown to truly appreciate her. When the top is down the world is invited in, or shall I say, I have lowered the barriers between the environment and myself. It is a good feeling to be outside in fresh air. It is coming to be spring here in New Mexico.

My hope, now that our websites are nearly completed, is that I will be able to turn my attention to developing our engaged practices and assisting others in establishing sitting groups around the country. Zen is a powerful practice that has the potential to change our lives through internal transformation. We need to slow down and pay attention in this new millennium. Our world has become one vast, instantaneous network of different peoples and cultures. As we come to know in each flash of news what is happening in every corner of the globe we can begin to see our interconnected reality. This reality…


With respect,

Good Morning Everyone,

Practice is the cornerstone of Zen. We practice not to become buddhas, but to realize our buddha nature. Zazen is a disciplined practice. While Zazen can be a home practice and even a workplace practice, our Zendo practice is foundational. Zazen should not be thought of as something to be done when it is convenient, it is not a practice one does if one has the time. Zazen practice is the highest priority for those who have stepped onto the path. It is a practice we make time for, period, end of sentence.

As abbot and teacher, I encourage you to come to the Zendo as often as possible to practice Zazen. Our Zendo is available to you for your practice almost anytime. Our regularly scheduled practice times are Sunday through Thursday at 10:00 AM and Monday and Thursday evening at 6:00 PM. If these times are inconvenient and you would like to come to the Zendo at another time, a simple call to us will open the door.

A word about our up-coming Intensi…

Engaged Zen

With respect, this is the content I put up on our Engaged Zen site at to introduce the topic of engaged practice.

Our world needs our help. Engaged Zen practice is about alleviating suffering. Our social structures are sometimes inadequate and often create conditions for suffering to arise. Our practices are directed toward changing these structures or assisting directly in care-giving. Change and Care-giving must be understood within the context of our precepts. We are not here to impose, but to invite. We are not here to destroy, but to build. Our practice is to invite change, offer nurturance and support, and assist where we can to make our world a better place.

Some possibilities:

Consider vulnerable, disenfranchised populations. There might include, homeless, poor, victims of violence, mentally ill, and those who are ill or dying. Consider what services exist for these populations. Look into your community’s social and human services organizations. What a…

To See

With respect,

Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday’s wind storm is past, so this morning I went outside onto the courtyard, reset the chairs and tables, watered the plants, and picked up my binoculars to see birds fluttering in the trees. It was 42 degrees or so and the sun was just peaking up over the mountains. Suki had a great time trying to eat the water streaming from the hose as I watered and so I had to towel her dry. The smell of her dog dampness, the fresh air, and the sounds of wings aflutter were wonderful. It is a beautiful day.

There are simple things in our lives that so often go unnoticed unless we practice mindfulness. Some of these are pleasant, some not, but all are aspects of our lives and when directly experienced, complete us in unimaginably beautiful ways. If we just pay attention.

An artist sees without necessarily looking at objects, for example. Lines, positive space, negative space, and color all combine to yield something our mind organizes and labels. If we a…

Genjokoan Discussion

With respect,

Good Morning Everyone,

Last night's discussion was animated, thorough, and dynamic. We are indeed fortunate to have such thoughtful, inquiring, and dedicated practitioners coming together in our Zendo to manifest the dharma itself. We had only one open seat, which is delightful.

I saw many of us have our paradigms seriously challenged this evening. The sense of the questions coming to and fro was, "What do you mean, there is no separate and abiding self that survives 'us' after death? " And, "What about 're-incarnations?" and so on...

One thing I would like to say is this, Let's let our practice answer our most disturbing questions. Disturbing questions and challenging teachings are what our study practice is all about! The question I asked Leslee, "Show me one thing about you that is unchanging,." is an "Everyman" question intended to help us cut through our paradigm of a constant "I." This question…


With respect,

Good Morning Everyone,

Along with our spring winds and warmer temperatures comes our Hanamatsuri Sesshin. It is during this time that we, in our Order, honor the Buddha’s birth. Siddhartha was a prince, born into the Sakya clan in India some 2600 years ago. When he heard the suffering of the world he suffered. He left his palace and his family, cut off his hair, and began to walk the path of a bodhisattva. We are very fortunate to have his model as a teacher. He lived an upright life, a life of serene reflection meditation, a life of peace.

Our lives today are not much different from the Buddha’s life. As human beings we all want and need common things. We each feel the poverty of our lives, be it money, time, or relationships. Pressed this way and that, we experience stress and anxiety, anger and sadness, and even joy and sometimes happiness. But all of these are fleeting, just as our lives are short: the candle burns.

What the Buddha taught was a way to live in the e…

Philosophy or Not

With respect,

Good Morning Everyone,

“Mahamati, what I speak of as eternal and inconceivable is eternal because it is based on the attribute of personal realization and because it transcends the existence and non-existence of what is created. …As this (such discussions) distracts people from the attainment of personal realization of the realm of buddha knowledge, it is not worth talking about.” The Buddha, The Lankavatara Sutra, Red Pine trans., p. 91.

In section XVII of the Lankavatara Sutra, the Buddha addresses the question of the eternal and inconceivable first cause. In very few lines he makes short work of First Cause schools, essentially denying creation ex nihilo. Further, as in the above quote, he flatly says such discussions are not worth talking about as they are distractions from our real purpose which is the personal realization of the truth.

At first blush we might say, “What?” Discussion leads to the truth. After all, this is what all philosophy is founded upon. But t…

Matsuoka-roshi on MP3 has an MP3 of Rev. Dr. Soyu Matsuoka-roshi, the first Soto Zen Teacher to establish Zen Practice in America, chanting the Maka Hanya Haramita Shin Gyo.  Cleck it out on the Practice - chanting page of the site!