Zen 101

Saturday, September 22, 2012


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


Sunday, September 16, 2012


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. We cannot live our lives without error.  And as this is so, why not use error as a teacher rather than something to retreat from or hide?

Students should know their teachers are human beings and titles and degrees are not guarantees of infallibility.

May we each be well and make ourselves a blessing in the universe.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

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 reach a mediated settlement, the mediator becomes an arbitrator and will issue a unilateral settlement and divorce on the same day. Shortly after that, Kathryn and I will undergo a commitment ceremony as a first step toward marriage. Judy and I have been legally separated for over two years now. It is time we finalize the complete end of our marital relationship. This has been a challenging time which will, hopefully be concluded on the 25th.

Be well,

Thursday, September 06, 2012

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,

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

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 Master Dogen and his use of Tenzo as an exemplar of everyday practice. Cooking and washing are everyday activities, as is Zazen, watching the moon, or study. In a very real way, all activities are our Zazen practice when done in Big Mind. And when done this way, even Zazen falls away. We are simply living with our Dharma Eye open.

I hope that some of you take advantage of our practice times and visit the Zendo. In the meantime, be well.

Monday, September 03, 2012

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 become a psychotherapist.

From my experience, labor requires sweat.  Labor requires the ability to get a job done often under awful circumstances and keep our mouths shut in the process.  It requires us to be deferential and socially appropriate when those "above us" don't give us much more than the time of day...that is, if they actually see us at all. Yet here we are celebrating "Labor" while most of those who actually labor must labor on this day while those who don't labor enjoy a back yard Bar-B-Que.

What would actually honor those who labor would be for us who don't labor to labor for one day in their place.  Never happen.

Be well.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


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 and, as uncomfortable for some of that anxiety is, it can serve us to remain alert. Being alert is akin to mindfulness. When we are mindful things are able to present themselves as they are. It is here that creativity can blossom. 

In college some years ago I had an art professor insist that we feel the things we attempted to draw.  At the time, my mind was closed.  I was clearly unable to feel the leaves of the plant in my still life.  This inability made the drawing dead. That I now can touch a leaf with my heart opens me to seeing a leaf without seeing a leaf.  A leaf is an image in my mind, it is not the leaf's true nature.

Let us practice to see clearly.

Be well.