Zen 101

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Morning Musings

With Palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Morning comes in silence. As the occasional car passes, it’s like a streamer of sound, a wisp through the morning light. Even the pups remain asleep. So, why am I awake at 4:30 in the morning? Why ask why, I answer myself.

A painting is calling me to it. The courtyard seems to await my presence. The bed feels as though it is throwing me out. With all of that, I have little choice but to get up and do.

Outside, I sit quietly just being there in the cold air. My robe barely fends off the chill. Yet, the sky and ground are my home and the air, whatever its temperature, is me.

Inside, I pick up a brush, squeeze out some paint, and throw it on my canvas. It’s a painting of a fearless bodhisattva, it feels fierce to me and I’m almost afraid of it. Yet, there I am, Dharma combat, perhaps? I don’t know. And I try to remain as ignorant as possible. Knowing is a dis-ease of the mind and becomes an obstacle to seeing clearly.

Today I vow to live without violence. It’s the least I can do.

Be well

Monday, March 25, 2013

On Wind and Other Matters

With Palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning it is a little on the chilly side and I hear a breeze already kicking up. It is the “windy season” here in New Mexico which means we can expect winds of between 20 and 50 mph most days. The wind picks up sand and dust and our air becomes a challenge for breathing. I sat in the courtyard this morning, early, before the breezes came. It was quite peaceful.

Today we will bear witness for peace in the park in front of the Branigan Library next to City Hall at 4:30. Please join us if you can. Practicing meditation in the open air can be a powerfully serene experience… if the wind doesn’t get in the way! Still, the Buddha sat regardless, as did all of the ancestors, accepting what came without resistance. This is the heart of the Buddha’s teaching: remain calm even in the midst of a storm. His practice of serene reflection meditation offers us the opportunity to develop the discipline to do just that.

I’m planning a road trip to Austin on my motorcycle to visit my son and his family. I will leave Friday morning and return in time for sesshin on Wednesday. The plan is to go there and paint paintings for his new restaurant. He and his wife, Lynda, like my work and think they will be an asset to the restaurant’s environment. We’ll see. Right now I am ‘all painted out’ having done a number of paintings one after another. So, I’m taking a few days off from the easel until I get to Austin.

If you are planning to attend sesshin, please let me know ASAP as our Tenzo, Emily, will need a number in order to prepare. We will begin sitting on Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM, sit again on Thursday and Friday evenings, and then begin at 7:30 am on Saturday morning. I will post the schedule in a day or two.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Be well,


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Allowing Your Mind to Rest

With Palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Looking at the world I do not see. To see I must quit looking. This is the Zen way. When I look for something I become attached to that thing, a thing that only resides in my mind’s eye: a thought. Becoming attached to a thought is rather like becoming attached to an ice cream on a hot summer’s day. It will soon be gone if I eat it or not.

When I see, I allow my mind a rest, so to speak. I do not give my mind a rest; I allow my mind to rest. Seeing requires not looking, not seeking, not imagining. It requires simply opening our eyes and allowing what is there come to us.

When I paint or write I am simply reflecting what is already there. It is that something that exists before during and after: it is timeless. It is something not manipulated by me. We might call it our original nature, but I can’t be certain. What I know is that when I allow my mind to rest and just express what comes up, that something which emerges is so often completely new to me. I do not try, for when I try; the work is almost always not pure. It is color or words manipulated by me to express a thought, not a reality.

Try this: just put a blank piece of paper in front of you and stare at it. Do not write or draw. Just stare at the empty page. Let your mind go; allow it to flow. Forget thinking about what you might write or draw. Allow the page to teach you. When the page begins to speak, just follow its teaching. Do not be afraid that what you put down will be “good,” “bad,” or anything else. Just let the page complete itself.

In writing we might call this “stream of consciousness.” In art, who knows? No matter what we think, it’s unimportant. What is important is that we practice allowing our mind to rest so that we can practice seeing clearly. In this practice we are able to witness our thoughts and feelings point to our fears and concerns regarding what we do. We might think, “This isn’t good.” Or we might think, “This isn’t what I wanted to express.” In such a case, look under your thoughts and examine your feelings. Begin to see how your thoughts and feelings put you in a sort of prison. Know that you are your own jailor and that you have the ability to set yourself free.

Be well.