Zen 101

Thursday, August 31, 2006

So Much!

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Waking to rain again this morning. This time it is the steady sort of rain that soaks into the ground and offers refreshment to life. I know, still, that this gentle rain could create serious problems though, as the water from the mountains gains speed and comes crashing through the arroyos. When they overflow, we have much flooding.

Local towns have been devestated by such flooding of late.

Too much of a good thing causes as much suffering as too little of that thing. A middle way is the way through suffering. We experience our pain, but not not hold it. We experience our love, but do not hold it. Then, like a ship's rudder knows but does not hinder or try to possess the water, we move smoothly through the waters of our lives.

Not everyday can be a day of joy, not every moment can be appreciated. A wise person realizes a value, but does not possess it. He guides himself with his priorities and practices, but is not mastered by them.

When the floods come, we stay afloat, then do what we can to repair the damage and move on with our lives. Receive everything. Hold nothing.

Be well.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Matter of Perspective

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

We are just matter and energy aware of itself. Knowing our beginning, we see no beginning; knowing our end, we see no end.

Because this is so, you and I, my coffee cup and the coffee within it are all one. Because of this, yesterday today and tomorrow are one. Yet, not always so, to borrow a phrase from Suzuki-roshi.

Always there is awareness. Awareness can be universal or particular depending on where it is placed. Just as when we look at a television screen, the screen occupies the room, but when we look at a photograph of us looking at a television, the television is but a small part of the picture.

As we move through our day, it is good practice to deliberately shift our perspectives of awareness. When angry or intensely joyful, open your awareness perspective. When working in detail, close your perspective. We should practice to do this easily and freely.

And in such practice, our playful, joyful, compassionate Buddhanature arises.

Be well.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Balance as Practice Realization

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

The rain clouds are hanging over us this morning here in the desert and I see it is 66 degrees. I have my running shorts on and am about to go out for a run/walk with the dogs before going to Zen Center for morning zazen.

Going out before the sun rises is a delicious thing. In this way we get to experience the arrival of a new day. Such things are always attended by fresh scents, clean air, and refreshed lines of thought.

I have been considering this whole notion in our culture that we should somehow place our focus on enjoying our lives. While it is a good thing, I am sure, to enjoy our life, we should not want to place that enjoyment in front of other things. What other things?

Well, the suffering of others, the need to take care of our loved ones, the demands of our planet to name a few of the bigger examples. Some things are much larger than we are and when we place our attention on those things it seems our own pleasures diminish in value. On the other hand, to place our attention on increasing the value of our pleasure, we seem to diminish the value of those around us. Those around us become in-service to our pleasure. Not such good inverse relationship.

The Bodhisattva Way charges us to consider the world first and ourselves second. Yet, as we come to realize through our practice, there is no "world" and "us" difference. So, it is important to use our wonderful minds to attain perspective on such things. Today we call this 'balance.' In another age and with a different slant on it, it would be called 'practice realization.'

Be well.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Living in a Cartoon

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

The 5:00 AM bell seemed to come right on time this morning. Awake, I hit the floor and dressed for a morning walk with My Little Honey and the pups. Off we went before the light came over the mountains. I did a power sort of walk ahead with Tripper who seems to run standing still. We did 1.8 miles. A quick shower and off to Zen Center for morning zazen. Vicky was there with me and the Center was so blissfully quiet.
From there to home. I fixed a problem with our sutra book and will print new inserts for both the Heart Sutra and the Hanya Shin Gyo pages (larger print and a bell placement). A trip to the gym for a chest, back, and ab workout, then breakfast of a protein shake and two slices of whole wheat toast with a small glass of V-8 juice completed my morning.

Now, its time to blog.

We had a nice turn out at Zen Center yesterday and a great lunch afterwards. Thank you everyone.

Whoops! Out of the corner of my eye the top of the kitty litter box scrambled in a panic across the hall! It seems Tripper, the ever eager litter eater (yuk!) got himself caught inside the box, freaked, and ran with the top over him. Goodness.

What a morning.

Be well.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Our Mindfull Bell

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
This morning I am so sleepy. I thouht of the story about Suzuki-roshi training himself to literally jump out if bed each morning. Sometimes life is like that. It demands our attention in spite of ourselves.  So few of us seem willing to snap to it, though.  Our tendencies are to give in to our body's base urges: eat more, sleep more, exercise less, park as close to the store entrance as possible, eat fast foods, anything to avoid doing that which we do not feel like doing.  Oh terror.
 
No wonder others see us as a soft bunch.
 
One of the qualities of awakened living is having the discipline to be awake.  And to be awake means most directly to be present, even if, especially if, we don't want to.
 
So, maybe that is what we need in our lives, an internal mindful bell that rings and sometimes gently, sometimes demandingly, brings us to attention. But for what?
 
What is the "so what? of our practice?
 
Why be awake when we so naturally wish to be asleep?  Fit when we would rather be unfit?
 
Our answer is precisely in the question.
 
Be well.


Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Mr and Mrs Buttinsky, Our Neighbors

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
I went to the synagogue last night.  There was a young man on his way to graduate study at a rabbinic school.  He gave a talk.  Big Mistake. He chose to talk about the Ways of Rebuke. Now, imagine a congregation full of people much older than you and you are telling them how to rebuke their neighbor.  Either in one ear and out the other or a rebuke in itself. He could have cast the talk in much more positive terms by suggesting we consider rebuke to be correction or assistance or counsel or whatever, but no.  He stuck to the old, archaic term, rebuke...of course, its a Hebrew word and rabbis, as well as rabbinic students love to talk on the derivations of terms. I can't blame them, I do the same with Zen words. Such talk makes us feel as though we are in the know, you know.
 
I was struck, however, with the history that rebuking our neighbor is a positive commandment and is considered a good thing to do. This commandment places all of us in a position of being the hall monitors at school, the crossing guards, and the parents of the world around us.  It sets us up to be the experts judging our neighbor's behavior and then demands we become a buttinskies on top of it! Oy.
 
Yes, we should aproach those who we feel are injuring us or the world.  Yes, we should attempt to repair the damage, assist them and ourselves in healing, but rebuke?  I'm not so sure.
 
The Buddha taught that teachings must be specific to the situation and needs of those within the situation.  He knew that not all of us are smart, nor are we all artistic or mechanical.  Each of us needs to be approached in a careful way, a way appropriate to our ability to understand.  This requires a great knowledge of our neighbor.  Sadly, few of us bother to get to know our neighbors well enough. And fewer still have the skill to rebuke with care and compassion.
 
So, I wonder about this commandment and am left thinking it better to address oneself before addressing the flaws of others.
 
Be well.


Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 


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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Can You Not Hear a Pin Drop?

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
My disciple, Rev. Gozen, did his Teisho last night on "Buddhism Lite." Another student of mine, a budding Buddha, asks during mondo period if Zen is not "Buddhism Heavy."  
 
I sat silent.
 
If the hall is empty, any sound is like a trumpet.
 
Be well.
 


Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 


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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What's Your Message?

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
Consider your every movement, your every words, thought and deed are teachings. What is their essence?  If, as was once said, the medium is the message, what is your message?
 
I see our children wearing t-shirts that suggest they are selfish or sex toys.  I see parents not paying attention to much of anything but what's on their table. I see people equating prosperity with election (to use an old Calvinist sort of thought).
 
Yet, this obsession with the pleasures of the self noticeably leaves us feeling both empty and oddly angry. We seek fulfillment (a spiritual sort of meal) in Church or Synagogue or Mosque or Zendo and are angry when we leave still craving.  Not understanding that seeking is a sort of sickness in itself. We blame the form or the Teaching or the Teacher.  Sometimes we hold the Universe responsible. It is rare that we really get into it, though.  Rare that we look at our own medium and assess or own message.
 
Perhaps it it time we considered rethinking the notion of looking "the other way" and saw that "way" as our own life.
 
Be well. 


Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 


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Monday, August 21, 2006

Calm Abiding

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
The presentation at Unity Church of Mesilla Valley went very well yesterday.  We expected 25-35 people.  I made 50 handouts.  We ran out!
 
People always seem to enjoy hearing about Zen and the Dharma.  They seem to feel calmed by the message. Yet, so many resist the practice. My sense is that some of people fear letting go of the thoughts and feelings they have, even if they are the causes of their suffering, as those same thoughts and feelings are so very familiar.
 
The thing is, Zen will not remove thoughts and feelings, nor will it stop pain.  It will only alter our relationship to them.
 
The whole notion of "calm abiding" a phrase often used in Buddhist texts, is about relationship. If we are in a small boat in the middle of a stormy sea, our practice of Zen will not calm the sea. What it will do is calm our relationship to the storm itself. We will do what is natural and necessary to do in order to stay afloat.  We will notice the high water.  We will notice our fear.  We will notice the wind. And we will bucket out the water, take down our sail, and make sure all our things are tied down.
 
Within the storm and the things to be done, we are calmly abiding.
 
Now, if we shift our perspective, we see that there is no storm.  We see that storm is a word we apply to a set of circumstances and that such a word arouses thoughts and feelings.
 
So, where is the storm?
 
Calm abiding is the Zen of relationship to everyday life.
 
Be well.


Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 


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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Along the Way

With  palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
The other day, we three roshi's were at the Zendo by ourselves. It was early in the morning after the morning sit. Ken-roshi was installing the shoji screen behind the alter, Fern-roshi and I were talking in the kitchen about our Zen and the progress of our Zen Center.  I sat on the floor, she sat in a chair. 
 
We recognized and honored our differing styles of both teaching and understanding. Noticed subtle differences in our students. It was such a nurturing moment.
 
Some of us take a philosophical approach, some are sitting atop that hundred foot pole living in vast emptiness, others are moving along in the everyday world. Each has an offering.
 
This morning I have been invited to visit Unity Church to recognize the Buddhadharma there. It is a wonderful opportunity to share.
 
The Great Buddha Way is large indeed.
 
Be well.


Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 


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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Our Nature

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
We awoke to a very gentle rain, more a mist really, and it was refreshing to take the dogs outside first thing. I smelled the wet grass and shrubs. I listened to the chatter of birds who have taken residence with us in our complex, and stood erect as I took in my breath in silence.
 
When I opened my eyes this morning, I was listening to the Buddha talk about transformation. My dream suggested transformation was an inside out thing. But I think that is only half right. Transformation is an interactive process requiring all elements to work together.
 
And just what is transformation anyway? It is simply taking the hook out and letting it go.  Pema Chodren talks about being hooked.  I enjoyed this metaphor.
 
We each go through our days encountering situations which distract us from the task at hand. Someone says something.  Another reminds of something. Our jealousy, prejudice, and fear come into play.  The hook is sunk into our flesh and we are caught. 
 
Through our practice, we recognize these hooks for what they are and realize we have the skill to remove them.
 
We do his without much fanfare. It is our simple, but daily work. Just as we recognize our distractions in zazen, then gently go back to our breath in mindful presence, so too, when we take out one of the moment-to-moment hooks, we simply let it go.
 
We are, as I said, each human and we will be distracted.  It is our nature. But it is also our nature to forgive ourselves, nurture our friends and family, and build a loving world.
 
Be well.
 
 


Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 


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Friday, August 18, 2006

Zazen

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning's zazen was made a special event by the presence of our founding Teachers Ken and Fern Roshi. Vicki and I had already completed the opening chants as they slipped in, sat erect, and immediately requested the Kyosaku. Ever on my Ino toes, I raised the stick and smacked them on their shoulders each in their turn.

Sitting down once more, mountains became mountains, and rivers became rivers.

The Zendo Shoji screens are now complete. The shoe box is being built and is paid for. We discussed finishing touches for the Zen Center physical plant. We discussed teaching and our various points of view. All with tea in hand and a joyful heart.

Be well,

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Rain and its Teaching

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

We have been receiving rain. Lots of rain. In the desert, rain is both a blessing and a curse. Since it doesn't rain often, the ground is not receptive to the water. The water hits the ground and bounces. Then flows. Then rages through arroyos. We should all learn from this.

The lesson? The ground must be both prepared and willing to receive.

What does this mean for us? We are a lot like that ground. We harden and dry up. We fail to receive in our hardness and defensiveness.

To receive the blessings of a wet world, we must prepare ourselves to be watered. This means we must do the hard work of reflection and examination. We must be willing to dig up the rocks of our past and expose them to the light of day. We must be willing to aerate our soil with dialog. So when the waters of life do visit us, we are both ready and have the space to receive them.

Be well,

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Our Toolbox

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Have you ever met a person who has had the sense knocked into him?

I have. These people tend to be bitter, resentful, deceitful, and act out of fear.

What is one man's terrorist is another man's liberation fighter. Its all in the point of view. Yet we insist that we can win a war on terror. Hmmm. How should we best go about that? Knock some sense into their heads?

We need to realize that each "war" we seem to engage in (and we love this metaphor for action here in America) requires the appropriate tools. Just as a "war" on hunger does not require Stealth Bombers. A "war" on terror would benefit from a set of tools that might diffuse the terrorist's motivation and support.

So, what motivates a "terrorist"? Ahhh, the problem begins to crystallize. We have no real clue, since we put them all in the same box and mark them up as terrorists. So, this is a one tool fits all war. And the tool is "kill." Rather like that old Arlo Guthrie refrain in Alice's Restaurant, and just so, reveals a level of insanity caused by our unwillingness to talk with people we disagree with or don't understand.

There are lessons for life in this.

Talk with people. Invite them to sit down with you. Listen without packaging up their thoughts before they have left their mouths. Find the commonalities of experience and needs. Be flexible and creative in addressing issues. One tool rarely fits all things. That's why we have soooo many tools.

In the end, it will be our willingness to understand our enemies that will make them our friends. Life is like that.

Be well.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Something Wonderful

With palms together,
Good Morning (barely) All,

Our window is open and the gardeners are taking a break from their work. It is such a delight to sit here and look out a window onto the courtyard. It is green and there are a few trees. We have picnic tables and tall grasses with even taller plumes. It rained earlier and the air is clean and fresh. I wish you could be here to experience this with me. Yet, we each have our own beauty to experience, don't we?

It is so important to stop for a bit and take note of it. In our rush to get here and there, we often miss the simple, natural, beauty that surrounds us. Beauty is everywhere: even in the darkest places. We only need open our eyes and hearts to see and experience it.

Often in the midst of conflict, stress, or suffering of some sort or other, we are so overwhelmed with the difficulty that we just want to close our eyes and make the world go away. Not the best approach, I'm afraid. The world will remain forever. It is our problems that will go away.

What we need to do in such circumstances is work hard to take a moment to see something wonderful there in front of us. Nothing there? Think again. There is always something wonderful. Always.

Be well.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Peace

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
A fragile peace, and there is no other kind, has been achieved in Lebanon and Israel. How wonderful!   Let us all work together to maintain it. Peace is always fragile because life hurts. We don't enjoy suffering and try to stop ourselves from suffering by force. This just increases the suffering of all concerned. A cycle of violence and injury emerges and takes on a life of its own.
 
To stop it we must find a way to accept the blows of others, verbal or physical, and accept them in such a way as to both survive ourselves and nurture our enemies in the process.  Love erodes hatred.  It is like anti-toxin.  But is slow working, demanding, and very difficult to produce in the face of hatred.
 
Still, we must learn this practice.  All of us.  We must stop taking the violent steps that we take believing they will make us safe, and take the far more courageous steps of loving-kindness.
 
We do this with practice. We do this with love. We do this because we don't have any other choice.
 
Be well.


Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 


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Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Great Divide

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Offering a stick of incense this morning, I bowed and affirmed that all beings be free from suffering. I say affirmed because all too often when we talk about prayer we are talking as we and the thing we are praying for (and to) are somehow different or apart.

Prayer is not just a request. In its highest form its an affirmation of non-duality. Just as we resolve a paradox by becoming the paradox, resolve a koan by becoming the koan, so too, we pray.

So, we could say, I pray for peace. Or we could say, I become peace. Or better still, I realize peace. The truest statement is the statement that most reduces the divide between subject and object.

While our language, hardwired in duality, is a tall barrier to our full realization, our practice can be a hammer breaking down that barrier.

Peace.

Be well.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Get to Work!

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

The world is suffering. Each of us is witness and participant. Yet, what are we really doing about it? From the silence of our deepest practice arises the deepest compassion. How so? Because from our deepest practice comes the deepest realization that everything is one, so that when one suffers all suffer; when one is joyful, all are joyful. When one dies, all die.

Not becoming attached to one state of being or another does not mean ignoring a problem when it presents itself. It does not mean becoming stoic and quiet and withdrawing to the mountains. As Master Dogen points out, even the green mountains walk.

As I sat at the Peace Vigil this past Wednesday, I was heartened by the drivers who honked in our support, but was dismayed by the severe lack of people on the line with us. At Zen Center andat the synagogue I am struck by the lack of attendance. At the soup kitchen, where are the food donations that should be overwhelming the pantry's ability to contain them? At the child care centers and homeless shelters, where are the goods, services, and people that will repair the wounded in our communities?

We are a world of great wealth and great intelligence and yet the distribution of basic necessities, as well as social justice is askew. We are a world now embattled by fundamentalism and the fear that drives it. We see the images and want to turn away.

I say turn away, go ahead! Stop the poison from entering your heart. But then turn to something! You want to reduce suffering? Get to work!

Be well.

Friday, August 11, 2006

In the shrill of the night

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

The world is all a-jitter. Terrorists, terror threats, wars: all before our eyes 24/7. I wonder about the impact of such things on our human psyche. How does one live in constant fear and remain a human being? One doesn't.

The truth is, its all noise.

An abundance of caution is just a way of justifying giving sway to fear. Caution, good; an abundance, not so good. In an abundance of anything we swim in craziness. Each voice ramping up the next until there's nothing left but the shrill whine of terror itself. We clone each other.

So here's what to do. Nothing. Doing nothing is always best. Just as there is thunder in silence, so there is peace in vast emptiness. Let the voices rant, be peace in the rage. Smile a lot. Smiling helps. Bow a lot. Humility is always a good thing.

In a placid pond, stones are swallowed whole.

Be well.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Respect

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

I have spent the last couple of days with the Eihei Shingi, Dogen's work on the rules for monastic life. What I come out of this study with is the sense that respect is key.

Our ability to respect, however, comes only with serious practice. We must be willing to set ourselves aside along with our notions and values, our ideas and beliefs and what we know in order to respect the person in front of us. And we do so simply because he is there.

It is our job to find the Buddha-nature within him, not his job to show us where it is.

Be well.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Being a Buddha

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

As we have all read, and some of us practice, to study the Way is to study the self. This has particular meaning for us. It means we must be aware of our responses to the universe as it presents itself. How do we hear our fellow man? How do we read text on a computer screen? What do we add? What do we take away?

Lists such as this offer us a unique practice opportunity. We can take on roles. We can speak from the heart. We can practice deep listening. We can be compassionate. We can be hurtful. Our choices should be our teachers.

Just so in our everyday discourse. Investigating how we interact with our spouse is every bit as important as how we interact with each other in a Zendo, perhaps more.

Being a Buddha is not a part time job, nor is it contained to certain media.

A deep bow to each of you,

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Life is in the Details

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
We are sitting in the Ft. Lauderdale airport and I thought I would post my morning note while waiting for the aircraft to board. I have been reading closely the Eight Gates of Zen by Daido Loori.  It is a rich text, well worth the study.
 
He said something about liturgy being a method we have in Zen of connecting or actualizing the spiritual with the everyday.  He argues that Master Dogen did this when he re-invented the Zen liturgy back in the 13Th century.
 
By liturgy is meant not just the morning and evening services, the sutras, and the vows.  But in a much larger sense, the gathas we recite upon opening a sutra, washing our face, shaving our heads, ea ting, brushing our teeth.  Even wider, the mindful attention we place on our every move, thought, feeling, through the day.
 
To live a Zen life is to live a life awake to the details of the everyday.  We know the Universe in in those details. And each detail is an opportunity for complete, unexcelled awakening.
 
Be well.
 


Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Don't Get Stuck In It

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
How can that which is everything move? Be born? Die? Yet, emptiness becomes form when conditions are correct, then when conditions are no longer correct, form resolves into emptiness. Figure and field are the same, just different; shorthand created by our brain in order to provide a stage for us to walk upon.
 
When seen clearly there is nothing to see. Don't get stuck in it.
 
Be well.
 
 


Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

What to Do

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

True Bodhisattvas do only that which is before them to do. This is because they live in the real world directly, manifesting themselves in the behavior of the moment. No need to go across the universe when they and the universe are one.

So, as we go through our day, pick up that piece of trash someone dropped on the ground, clean the lint filter of the laundry machine, flush your toilet in the public restroom, wash your hands often, be respectful of what you eat, honor the air you breathe, and offer a stranger your smile.

Make yourself a healing balm against an open wound.

Be well.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Create Peace in Your Life

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

We are in Port St. Lucie, Florida and are staying at the Holiday Inn. It is a nice hotel and the weather is wonderful. I have found the humidity at sea level to be a bit uncomfortable, but have adjusted by taking it easy. After a long time at the pool swimming and reading...and a rather large meal (Boca Burger and a banana split), I relaxed in bed and went to sleep.

Of course, this means I am now awake early. I downloaded the pictures from our camera, made my "Yahoo 360" note and "Blast." I am about ready to sit Zazen.

Let us all pray that we human beings stop fighting each other. There is so much beauty in the world, so much to do, and so little time to actualize it. It is difficult to build civilizations while destroying others. So difficult to love people when we are killing them.

In all of our actions today, let us be peace.

How difficult is this? For some who are carrying a heavy load of fear and suspicion, it is very difficult. We must each practice Zazen, practice dropping away body and mind, experience the Universe, in order to begin. We must each be that which we most highly value. Model that which we want to see.

I know I still struggle with this. As a human being, feelings and thoughts are tightly bound and rise up like lightning to become behavior. Flashpoints are everywhere, like little minefields. So, we must be vigilant and determined.

With practice my peace is yours, and yours, mine.

Be well.