Zen 101

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Modest Life

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

In the Diamond Sutra we find a single description of the Way. It is a model for understanding the paramitas. This description comprises the first chapter and simply reflects the Buddha's day.

What does a buddha do? Before noon he puts on his patched robe, picks up his bowl and walks to town. He takes his time, waits patiently in front of a few homes collecting food offerings.He eats, then returns to the grove, takes off his robe, puts his bowl away, washes his feet, and sits down on his cushion. He then turns his "awareness to what is before him."

In this brief description is everything. Buddha demonstrates generosity by making himself available to teach through a variety of means, including asking for help. He demonstrates patience through his quiet standing in front of homes begging. He teaches vigor through walking, washing, and ordering his life after eating. Sitting down on his cushion he practices meditation, And by doing these five without getting caught in them, he demonstrates wisdom.

It is a simple, but challenging life. Simple is not easy. Simple means direct and clear, unencumbered by convolutions of thought and feeling. A buddha's life is one step in front of another, doing what is there to do without jumping up and down in the process.


Does this mean we cannot reflect joy, anger, sadness, or frustration? No. When these arise, they arise and we embrace them for what they are, fleeting feelings reflecting our innermost thoughts. We feel joy, we express joy; we feel frustration, we express frustration. Yet, we do so in ways that are beneficial. Expressing like a cannon is not helpful. Creating hurt and sadness in others is not helpful. We recognize this and work to bring ourselves back to our breath and calm abiding. What is there before us in such circumstances are opportunities to examine ourselves and strengthen and improve our relationships.



The Buddha taught through his simple day, that we should abide in our day as it is. Yet, we engage it with discipline and an eye toward being of benefit to all beings. Let us be that benefit.



Be well.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Paramitas

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There are six paramitas in Zen. These are perfections or excellence's. Some might call them values. The paramitas are six manifestations of the facets of our essential face. They are the "what" of us, rather than the "who".

If I ask myself who was I before my father and mother were born, before my father's father, my mother's mother, what would I say? If I said, "Ridiculous, there was no me before I was born!", I could say, "That's skirting the question! I am only approaching the clothing, not the body."

Under the clothes, who is there? Honestly, I must answer with some reference to core elements, eh? Father is there, mother is there. Teachers, friends, neighbors, lovers, wife, children, all are there. The me of me does not exist in a vacuum, the me of me has been, and always will be conditioned, that is, subject to cause and effect and has thus been in existence in some shape or form for infinity. The who of me is always dependent.

So, any word would be incorrect. A word would lead me away from my essential self and into endless philosophical quicksand. We would be entertained, but we would not be any wiser.

If, on the other hand, I asked "What was I before my father and mother were born?" Now this question focuses our attention on something else again. What am I? What is my essential nature? How do I know it? Again, saying any word would be a mistake, I would have to show me myself.

The what of me is purposeful. It is for the sake of, rather than because of (a different, but useful tack on causation). So, too, my essential self The paramitas are expressions of purpose, the purpose of our essential nature, a universal and infinite nature.

Generosity, morality, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom are the essential, core and universal aspects of our being. They are not values, they are manifestations. They are the what of us. They are also the purpose of our existence.

Our practice is to uncover and release them.

Be well.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Challenges

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

In the morning my heart feels the most grounded. I sit, pay attention to my breath, listen to the sounds of my environment, and typically take care of the kitchen, animals, and getting the coffee made. This morning My Little Honey did these as I slept. Apparently, I needed some extra sleep.

Paying attention and opening to what is there are good practice buddies. Resisting engaging an inner voice that wants to interrupt others, inject itself into something, or direct things, is a good third buddy.

Practicing these can be a challenge on two fronts, however. First they are challenges to our own habit energy. Second, they are challenges for those around us. When we attempt to make a change, that change is often met with confusion or resistance by others.

This morning, just now, I was asked to help Judy with a task right in the middle of my writing. I felt irritation. I took a couple of breaths and attempted to do what she asked. Her computer was hanging up, not completing the tasks I was asking it to do. Added frustration and irritation. My mind wandered over to what she had done to her computer to create this situation. Big mistake. Computers are famous for allowing ghosts to get in them and mess things up. Another breath, a smile. While I was working n her machine, son Jason got out her other computer and got the job done... all before I could even shut down the first machine. All the while I am simmering over being asked to step away from my morning routine. Attention to breath, release, smile. Judy wonders what is going on.

Shifting gears, changing course, altering expectations, all of these are challenging for me. I have little problem doing it when the desire to change comes from within me, but serious problems when the request for change comes from outside of me. With practice, these are becoming much less so, yet still, there they are.

After Judy and Jason left to get our new car tagged, I set this writing aside. I did a scan of Judy's computer, made some breakfast and pulled out the vacuum, the furniture polish, and the Windex. Housecleaning was my name. Afterwords, I felt refreshed and ready to come back to you.

Today looks exciting. Plans are for Judy's writer's group meeting at our house at 10:00, streetZen at 10:30, Zen at 3:00, Study Group at 4:00. A full day of practice. I invite anyone who has an interest to join us at streetZen, Zen, and/or Study Group!

Be well.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tea Cups

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



The day is dawning cold. I feel my body much more acutely than ever before as I age and the temperatures are low. Those first bends and twists to feed the dogs, make the coffee and load the dishwasher are each mindfulness moments in themselves: great teachers!



I spent a good deal of last night studying a wonderful book on Buddhist yoga entitled, "Mindfulness Yoga, the Awakened Union of Breath, Body, and Mind" by Frank Jude Boccio. This is a serious book which relies heavily on the sutras to make its case for yoga as a contemplative practice. I was fascinated by Boccio's depth of presentation using sources from teachings regarding the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Noble Path, the Heart Sutra, the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, the Tao Te Ching, Thich Nhat Hahn, Shunryu Suzuki, his present teacher, Samu Sunim, and many, many others. While I practice yoga daily, even as a contemplative aspect of my morning practice, I never quite related it to Buddhism in general or Zen.in particular.



The other text I was absorbed in, as the temperatures in the living room dropped, was Deepak Chopra's new release, "Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul". Much like some of Chopra's earlier work, this book focuses its light on the notion that we have extraordinary powers to make our bodies better, healthier and more in-tune with the cosmos. He divides the work into two major sections, one focused on body, the other on soul, and presents what he refers to as major "Breakthroughs" in thinking and practice. He draws on multiple sources from Christianity to Buddhism to the Hindu scriptures, reflecting these in the light of science as he understands it. Throughout, but not overly intrusive, are exercises the reader can do which render small diagnostic statements. The message: we have the ability to transform ourselves.



While I reserve judgement on the Chopra text, I do find books like his stimulating in terms of re-directing my own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a way that can only be described as positive. There is a basic existential quality to the notion of taking personal responsibility to awaken ourselves, take care of our body/mind/heart, and so on. Yet, the danger is in believing that this work is so powerful that it can replace normative medicine on the one hand, and that if we do get sick, it is somehow our fault for not doing the "right" things or not having a "healthy" attitude, on the other hand.



This is where the Zen comes in, I think. We take each step, mindful of the step and all that is in each moment. We assume our responsibilities with due diligence. Yet we do not define ourselves through them. Terms like healthy, unhealthy, right, wrong, good, bad, are descriptors of values. We use them, but should not hold onto them.



Life offers us itself. Like it or not, we are one with it. If we oppose life, we will ultimately fail and be miserable in the process. If we reside in life, no problem. Everything becomes our clay with which to create ourselves. We might make strong cups from this clay or weak ones. If the cup is broken we can mend it. It is a tradition in Tea Service that the oldest, most broken and repaired cups are the most highly valued. Let us each become treasured tea cups.



Be well.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



There are so many, many levels of understanding related to Christmas. I see them on a continuum. On one end of the pole is Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth who came to be called a Messiah by some and whose followers later made a deity. On the other end of the pole is a holiday, one among many, but nothing particularly religious. In between, a vast array of meanings, each according to the person experiencing the day.



Another dimension is that of like and dislike: those who go completely and gleefully nuts on one end; those who aggressively go "bah, humbug!' on the other. This is accompanied by still another dimension, that of sacred and profane. It gets so confusing.



Someone could not believe Jesus was anyone particularly special and yet hold the secular nature of the holiday sacred! Case in point, the response to those "bah-humbuggers" out there, which is typically, "Ah come on, its something everyone enjoys!" or "Can't you get into the spirit of the day?!"



In my own family, we have those who believe Jesus was God and those who don't. We have those who wish the whole thing would just go away and those who delight in everything about it except its religious origin.



I confess, most of the "season" I wish it would just go away. But on the day itself, when all the craziness is said and done, I do enjoy witnessing the delight in people as they offer and receive the blessings of the day.



Wherever you might be in the scatter-gram result of my ridiculous multi-dimensional analysis, I wish you some delight today even if its as simple (and as miraculous) as the delight of being able to perceive yourself in the world.



Be well.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Aching Nose

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



My teacher often would say to me, "If I grab your nose and twist it, you would yell!" The trouble with reaching a state of non-duality is those reaching it often believe they will reside there, should reside there, and ought to be able to reside there...forever. Not so.



We are human beings living with a central nervous system and all of it's attendant functions. Our senses perceive, our brain organizes, processes and responds. Even when we realize the reality constructed by our brain is not the reality that exists as it is, we still must deal with our CNS and it's chemical and electrical processes.



Creating a pause between thought, feeling, and behavior is only one step. Some get stuck in the pause. Believing that pause is the same as emptiness. It is not. We must take a next step. A next breath. A next meal. We must continue to function in the world.



So then, what is this function? Is it to sit in serene reflection under a bodhi tree? Perhaps. Facing the world with a clear mind reveals function. When angry, love. When desperately hungry, eat. When caught in the traps of mind, practice. Our universe presents its state to us. When we have a clear mind, we see this state and respond accordingly. It is not a one size fits all world. Nor is it a world we can separate ourselves from.



Be well.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Notes for the Day

with palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



Waking to the patter of rain today. The sky is clouded over. The temperature is a chilly 37 degrees. I am wrapped in my robe and feel content to just be here at my desk talking to you.



A sense of contentment is a wonderful thing. Very grounding. Yet, contentment can be dangerous. It is one thing to feel contentment for one's self and entirely another, to be content with the condition of the world in which we live. Feeling content to me means I have little anxiety about myself, my own path, my desires, hopes and dreams. Yet, I am a deeply malcontent-ed person as I look out into that other aspect of myself, the world.



So much fear and anger in the world; so much suspicion and hate. So much disproportionate wealth, poverty, hunger, untreated sickness. And such fear about people getting what some believe they do not deserve.



On one level, I would like to eliminate that word and its meaning from our language. Deservedness, like merit, suggests undeservedness and a lack of merit. The assignment of these values is based on duality. I am different, separate from, you. I do (or don't do) "x" and "deserve" "Y". Or "not Y". Yet we are all of the same species, living together on an interdependent world. We have the same needs, often start out in vastly different circumstances, but according to some, should accept the value system of the few who "own" 90 percent of the wealth. On the other hand, we are, in fact, a part of an interdependent universe and as a result each have some responsibility to offer something to the whole. My practice of late is how to come to terms with this. Everyone is important. Everyone deserves the wherewithall to live.



Maybe this time of year is a good time to examine the question ourselves. We must exercise care, though. It is easy to think that the needs of others are there to offer us opportunities to learn compassion and resolve some guilt we may ourselves feel for the quality of our own lives. Yet, doesn't this make the other an object to meet our needs? Meeting the needs of others must be for the sake of others and not for ourselves. So we should approach our work with complete personal contentment and deep grounding.



Just so, these holidays.



Be well.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Avatar

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



What follows is inspired by both the film, Avatar, and our weekly discussion group held at my residence.



In a world where species specific ethics is the rule, an organic system cannot sustain itself. In a world of egocentricity, a homo sapien system cannot sustain itself. In both cases, we are on the losing side of the rule. Sustainability requires an aim of system wide sustainability. In Merton's words, 'no man is an island', nor, I will add, is a species.



Classic theology has Man at the center of the world, if not the entire universe, and Self and the salvation of self , is the chief product and process of that creation. It is a theology of death, yet masquerades as a supporter of life. Adherents of this theology place everything in service to a single species and, ultimately on each human being as the crown of creation. Even our care and compassion are placed in service to our needs.



Yet, no system can sustain itself without being open and interconnected to other systems. Our planet depends on such interconnectivity. Our individual lives depend on our interconnectivity to other lives. Energy must be transferred. We must see and behave with the heart/mind of the totality, of One.



Some might call this pantheism. Where everything is God and the universe is imbued as Its central nervous system. Some believe this means an end to a personal God. I don't believe it is so. It is only my need to have something like me as deity that I hold onto such a belief. Release that need, open yourself to the entirety of life and such a egocentric need dissolves.



A system large or small must maintain its equilibrium. If we look at any one part of a system as its key element, then we might understand a system's self regulatory balancing as cruel. But sustainability is both the end and the means.



Only through a willingness to see through the eyes of the other can we understand our actual relationships to all things. The film, Avatar, explores such themes in creative and beautiful detail. It is a rare effort to open our heart and open our eyes to things bigger than ourselves. What a wonderful holiday gift.



Be well.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Recovery

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



There is no where to go that we have not been. Yet, we always seem to seek something new. Brain on drugs. Every feeling, every sensation,smell, taste, touch, sound, we have experienced either directly in life or indirectly through media. There is, indeed, nothing new under the sun, yet there it is, the next step, the next adventure, trip, meal, movie, partner. Its dizzy making.



What we avoid experiencing is stillness. Serene reflection. Our actual self.



This gives a somewhat different meaning to recovery. Rather than seeking recovery from, we experience recovery of. It is a deeply profound difference with very different assumptions and starting places.



Our original self is our original mind, like that great void across the deep in Genesis, it is our Original Nature. We need not recover from our addictions, distractions, and other delusions, instead we take a backward step and allow them to just be what they are: our job is to see them clearly for the nose-rings they are, for the deluded thinking they are, and for the escapes they offer.



In this place of serene reflection,we release our grip on thought, we let go, and reside in our Original Nature. Taking that next step first requires getting to a condition we call the top of a hundred foot pole. Yet here is the rub, there is no top; there is no bottom. Top and bottom are one in the same. Now what?



When things are buzzing around, witness the buzz. Invite the fly out the door. No where to go; nothing to be.



Be well.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Testing is Not Living

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



When we fail our lives seem as if for nothing. Our thoughts scream, our feelings blister, and our hearts feel empty. If failure is a pattern, we begin to think in terms of futility or a corruption of our personality, a loss of soul. Yet, all of this is based in what? A measure we create in the first place and hold out as if it were a litmus test of our worth.



Not so.



Our test is not in our failure or our patterns, but rather in our recognition and willingness to take the next step. Always, it is to do what is there in front of us to do.



Listen to the screams, they are our teachers. Listen to the thoughts, they are our teachers. Listen to our feelings, they are our teachers. Yet, none are the end point, but rather the beginning.



Just so, the successes in life. Another false measure, easy to be mistaken for the moon and not the finger pointing to it. We bathe ourselves in good feeling, positive thoughts and embrace a sense of invincibility. Each are our teachers. Pay attention!



Things always change! Therefore positive and negative are never infinite, but always reside on an infinite continuum. It takes a human heart/mind to assign a point on a fabricated measure in order for them to make any sense at all.



Because everything changes the most important aspect of our lives is how we engage the moment we are in. Just what is our next step, anyway?



Be well.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No Buddhism

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



In spite of all the books, references, and times it is refered to as such, there is no Buddhism. For there to be a Buddhism, there would need to be a set of beliefs, a dogma, something the "-ism" would reside in. If we seek to adopt a set of values, we are lost. If we believe in Buddha, we are lost. We must allow the sword of Manjushri to set us free.



Followers of the Buddha Way take a backward step. We sit down. We reside in stillness. In this stillness our skins fall away allowing us to touch our True Nature, our True Body. Say what it is, and it is no more. Hold it out as an ideal and it is as good as a stuffed animal.



All that we think we know about Buddhism is delusion. We should get rid of it. It is worse than trash, it is toxic to our practice, which is to say, it closes our eyes. To use a phrase popularized by my friend, Brad Warner, sit down and shut up and in the process, allow our eyes to open.



Be well.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Everyday: Think About It

With palms together,

Good Evening Everyone,





Everyday is a wonder. I look at my hand and marvel at it. I look at my other hand and marvel at it, as well. They couldn't be more different, yet are of the same body. One moves with ease and has tremendous sensitivity. The other hardly moves and when it does it curls into strange twists and strains almost against itself. I feel one, barely feel the other. Just so, my heart/mind.



I consider the cause. A single bullet to the right side of my head on May 29, 1966 is the obvious cause. But equally present was my youthful willingness to go to war. My culture's willingness to have me go there. All of the propaganda, all of the socialization, and religions unwilling to stand up and shout against the grain, "There is another way!"



When I returned from combat, I decided I could no longer support war. Talk is cheap, though. So I protested. At that point in the Vietnam War, people didn't like protesters.



All the same arguments I hear today. What would you do if.... You know, enemy at the gates, etc. Sometimes I feel like doing an Arlo Guthrie on them, "I want to kill!"



Killing should be personal. Perhaps if it were, we might have less willingness to do it. Its easy to drop bombs, fire rockets, and artillery. Even easier with unmanned drones. No muss, no fuss. That's not real killing.



Real Killing is torture. It never stops. There are few days that go by that I don't have a memory of killing. My hand and my rather oddly shaped head see to that.



Yet, on the other hand, my heart/mind spoke loudly when I saw the Trade Centers attacked. Some terrible stuff, that. "I want to kill!"



Yes. And then what?



If the violence is far away and the stench not in our nostrils, no problem. Imagination is a poor simulator. For those who do violence, up front and personal, things are different. As we Buddhists are prone to pontificate, a moment is an eternity. As an Infantryman I attest to this truth.



And that dog eat dog crap is just that, crap. Real survival is based on mutual aid. You want to be strong? Love your neighbor even if he hates you.



Practice to create a pause between thought, feeling and behavior. Reject violence and warfare. It leads to nothing but more of the same and, believe me, it stinks. Practice the gentle way, the way of care and love. Hard, I know this, I am still struggling with being loving, tender and compassionate. Yet, I am convinced this is the way.



Life is nothing if not a great teacher to those willing to learn.



Be well.

Violence

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



Lately, I am encountering questions about the use of violence to confront violence in the world. Is Zen Buddhism pacifist? How do we actually live out our precepts, precepts that underscore a position of doing no harm on the one hand, and doing good, on the other hand?



How do we embrace those that would kill us?



How do we deal with those who would have us kill?



I will answer directly:



I believe the Buddha Way does not embrace or support violent solutions to violent conflict.



I believe we are called to directly confront violence with non-violence and to meet hate with love.



I believe this takes a long and deep practice which results in a dropping away of self so there is "no hindrance in the mind, therefore, no fear". We are not always residing in this place, but must continue our practice so as to 'water the seeds' of our compassion.



Because of this, Zen is not for everyone as very few are at a point in their human and spiritual development where such a way is even understandable, let alone possible.



Is violence necessary? I say rarely. We are far too quick to rely on primitive and thoughtless behaviors. If someone is about to cause harm, we must prevent that harm from happening, of course The question is how. Violence should be the absolute last choice and only if the threat is imminent.



The Buddha Way is the way of stillness in motion. It is selfless love made manifest through every bodily organ. We practice to be walking, talking, and doing Buddhas.



Yes, Zen is not for everyone. But everyone willing is welcome to come and train.

_____________

On a personal note, today is very interesting. II will meet with Robert Yee, the filmmaker, and select snippets of video as well as stills that we might use on our Clear Mind Zen website to address streetZen. I also have a doctor's appointment to talk about a sleep study. After that, PrayerWorks at Rabbi Kane's home which takes us through lunch.



In the afternoon at 4:00, it is Meditation and Yoga at TBE.



Be well.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Notes

With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

This morning's streetZen went well. It was delightful outside. Colette and I were sitting alone, but a woman came by and decided to join us. She had been to the local showing of the short Yee film about me and Street Zen and decided to come by. Such good things happen when just sitting.

During the first sitting period I was visited by a spider. After the others left, I stayed for awhile and was soon visited by a curious roadrunner. The spider crawled onto my head, the roadrunner just walked behind me.

This afternoon I have a Study Group meeting at my residence at four. A delightfully diverse group of participants create a truly wonderful atmosphere. If interested, please join us.

Be well.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Winter

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Winter gets a bad rep. In some places, such as Cleveland, deservedly so. Yet, there is something of value about the winter regardless of where we are. The day opens slowly in the winter. A good way to begin any day actually.

"Slow" is rarely encountered and certainly not appreciated today. "Slow" is too often experienced as a hindrance. We so want to 'get there'! Yet, "slow" assists us by allowing moments of thoughtful deliberation to occur, as well as time to appreciate each moment itself. And due to our own expectations of what a reasonable pace is, to go slower than that expectation offers us a teaching about ourselves.

So, I know when I am in a hurry, I have taken to slowing down a bit. Attention to breath, slowly in, slower out, reside in the center. While I am clearly not always successful, as I do not always practice what I preach, I am always successful when I do practice.

Be well, be slow.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Living Zen

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I would like to talk a little about what it means to follow the Buddha Way. It's a deceptively simple path to nowhere. It's a path where the path itself is the end and the beginning. It is a Way where, "Are we there yet?", is a meaningless question.

More BabbleZen? Put your hands on the table you are sitting at. Take in a breath and release it slowly and deeply. Where are you? No BabbleZen, just being there.

When we are 'there', that is to say, 'here', we are able to experience nothing more or less than 'here.' When we realize 'here' is the whole enchilada then we are free to be completely present and eat it. We release the thought of the next moment and the last moment. We release the grip of feelings, knowing they have very short lifespans and are simply reflections of thoughts and discriminations.

No planning? No dreaming? Not so. We have our thoughts and our feelings, but we do not hold them tightly. We practice knowing these things are present moments activities and we do them wholeheartedly. What we don't do is allow let them lead us around by the nose.

Living Zen is living now.

Be well.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is Knowing Enough?

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

From the Soto Zen meal blessings, Gokan No Ge:

First, innumerable labors have brought us this food
We should know how it came to us.

The new farm:

"Find a sheet of printer paper and imagine a full-grown bird shaped something like a football with legs standing on it. Imagine 33,000 of these rectangles in a grid. (Broilers are never in cages, and never on multiple levels.) Now enclose the grid with windowless walls and put a ceiling on top. Run in automated (drug-laced) feed, water, heating, and ventilation systems."

Free range? Make a small opening in the wall, enough for one bird to squeeze through to a 5 x 5 foot dirt patch. This qualifies the mass of birds to be labelled "free range".

Now, after killing, the chickens are placed in a refrigerated water tank, thousands at a time. Referred to as 'fecal soup' by the Government Accountability Project, clean birds are cooled with dirty ones. Hot birds have open pores and absorb the water and "the (new) law of the land allows for slightly more than 11 percent of liquid absorption." (Quoted from "Eating animals" by Safran Foer.)

So its not just the labels that are apparently just 'full of shit'.

Consider not trusting a word, not a single word, of anything written on food packaged in the United States.

Be well.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Opportunity to Help

From a friend:

Hi Harvey

I hope you're doing well this holiday season. The Fresh Air Fund is looking for runners and sponsors to join our Fresh Air Fund-Racers team for the NYC Half-Marathon this coming March 21st and I was hoping you might be able to post something about it on Clear Mind Zen to share with your readers. This is a great way to participate in NYC's premier summer road race while helping Fresh Air Fund children.

Over the last year, support from friends like you helped us give nearly 10,000 inner-city children country experiences that they're still talking about! We rely on donations this time of year to keep our programs strong for the summer months, and helping children is a cause that I'm sure your readers would be interested in. Please feel free to repost anything from our news site here:

http://freshairholiday.org

Being one means?

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

On Face Book yesterday I posted a bit of whimsy, "A universe of one means we are all related." Last night I caught the last half or so of Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God", her one woman autobiographical play on her conversion from Catholicism to atheism. I set my DVR to record the next offering of this show (Sho3, 12/10 @ 5:55 AM MT) as it was a marvelous presentation. So these two points are rolling around in my heart/mind this morning.

Too often when atheists talk about religion, they are addressing a religion with a God framed in dualistic terms. Its a straw man thing. And when we talk about "oneness" we too often talk from with a human centered point of view.

Trouble is, God is no thing we can name. If our argument is with God it must rather be, with our understanding and conceptualization of God. Likewise, if we talk about Oneness we must include everything in that oneness and know that there is no rank order in the One. Just one.

There are profound and extensive implications of this point of view. Regards God, we cannot say anything. Regards oneness, we must consider everything we do as a doing to ourselves and others: Evil and good are one; killing and protecting are one; loving and hating are one.

Why not kill? Why not hate? Why not chose evil? We could and clearly do, but because we are one and our oneness makes us depend on each other, to do so is suicide on all levels. It is this interdependence that is my moral and ethical foundation. The extent that we realize this is the extent of our fullness as a being. Step outside of that realization and we harm ourselves and all other beings. Its an existential thing.

Be well.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Windy

With palms together,
Good Afternoon Everyone,

We have a very windy day here in southern New Mexico. The swing on the back patio was lifted and thrown against the house, creating a small hole in our wall. Looking out, looking in. Meditation and Ygoa at TBE at 4:00 today.
_____________


Wind

Tumbleweed
create a sangha
in the walled corner,
gathering
near Buddha
like so many disciples.

Dry and lifeless
stiff and prickly.
This is how they roll.

Is this what it means
to be aimless?

No.

Look within and see
the seed
grasping to earth
in a flow
as a handless wand
spreads stardust.

A breath.



Be well.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Ice Cream

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Through the graciousness of Disciple Rev. KoMyo, I was able to study the video teaching regarding Oryoki (formal meal taking) from Dharma Communications. A monastic setting certainly demands a formal and efficient approach to things, and respect for food clearly must be a priority, yet I believe sometimes it is far too easy for some of us to believe the type of bowl, what color it is, type of spoon and how it is set out, are more important than their function. We call this Cathedral Zen. At Clear Mind we say, "just eat the ice cream".

The story behind ritual is two fold. First, it offers a tool toward efficient accomplishment of something done often. We brush our teeth in a similar way each day. Brushing our teeth becomes a ritual. If there are a hundred of us brushing our teeth at the same time, we certainly would be well advised to have a plan so that elbows aren't cracking and sinks are available. But is the ritual, that is to say, the plan, the same as brushing our teeth? No. The plan is just the plan. Try not to elevate the plan above the object of the plan.

On the other hand, ritual offers us a tool that directs our attention to each step along the way. It is easy to forget we are brushing our teeth and, as we are doing the task, have our mind elsewhere. When we do this, we don't enjoy brushing our teeth. In fact, it is as if we are sleepwalking. Our life becomes the life of a zombie.

Oryoki, as with other rituals, must be done with mindful attention, but not at the expense of losing sight of what is actually going on, in this case, eating. At Clear Mind Zen we use oryoki during sesshin. Not quite as elaborate, but the same elements are present as those at Zen Mountain Monastery. Because we only do this four times a year, each time seems fresh and alive, offering us an opportunity to experience ourselves in the process. It is this experience of ourselves that forms the teaching of practice.

Always residing in "what's this?", we reply, "don't know" and thereby turn the soil of discovery. But when we say only this way, not that, we discover nothing.

A balance is struck when we lighten-up. Perhaps this is the particularly American aspect of our practice and why Zen really needs to be wrestled away from the stuffed shirts of the Japanese Zen bureaucracy American Zen is "Just Eat the Ice Cream Zen". And when standing in line to buy our ice cream, we say hello to those around us.

Here's the thing: We must stand in line. Ice cream needs a cup or cone. There is a ritual exchange of money for the ice cream. In the end, though, its just ice cream: eat and enjoy.

Be well.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Snow

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

We woke to a few inches of snow on the ground. The Zendo was warm and inviting. I opened the window a bit and as we sat, the cold morning air penetrated my samue (working clothes) to wake up my skin. Disciple Rev. KoMyo is here from California and sat with me this morning. We will begin Rohatsu sesshin this evening.

Our sesshin are weekend events. This sesshin, typically done at our Mountain Refuge, will be done in Las Cruces at my residence' Zendo and on the street. It will be a challenge, but then, Zen is nothing, if not a challenge.

When we leave our comfort zone many channels of awareness open. Even our skin seems to be on alert. This is a welcoming invitation to experience the present moment.
Too comfortable is a problem; too uncomfortable, also a problem. To leave what we know is not to jump over a cliff. But, it is to take a step into unknown territory.



So, this sesshin will be a different experience than what we have grown accustomed to over the last several years. If you are in the area and wish to join us, please do. Saturday morning we will begin in the Zendo then move to Veteran's park. In the afternoon we will be in Old Mesilla, then back to the Zendo in the evening.



Lastly, a reminder, Robert Yee will be showing his independent film, "Street Zen", at the Fountain Theatre Saturday afternoon at 1:30 PM. Part of our Study Period will involve watching this film which features members of our Sangha.



Be well.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Violence

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There is always a reason for violent solutions. Violent solutions seem quite efficient and are often in service to an emotional need. Yet, violent solutions are, more often than not, short sighted and suggest a lack of creativity, skill, and patience, to say nothing of a lack of compassion.

Ruthless enemies offer opportunities for quick, violent solutions so all enemies are ruthless. We sometimes say violence is compassionate as it can, we believe, be corrective. Is this actually so? What is corrective about a bully? A sharp word or crack of a stick gets our attention, but isn't there a cost? Moreover, what causes ruthless behavior? And does violence address that cause?

I have used guns, grenades, sharp words, and a kyosaku. The former in service to killing an enemy and protecting my life, the latter in service to family and students. Or so I convince myself. In Zen we are asked to always question.

Is there not a better way?

Be well.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

War No More

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Does practice change anything? After years of sitting facing a wall, does it at all matter that such a practice was done? In the morning the sun rises. Has millenia of nights made a difference?

Under the sun, a rock. Does the sand in the desert change or not? Does the rock come and go?

Does anything change anything? Of course it does ...and it doesn't. Buddha taught this arises because that arises in an infinite thread; birth, death, birth, death. When we say they are the same, one thing; when we say they are different, another thing.

To live without war is easy. Just give up the fighting and abandon the who that is doing it. More guns, more war; less guns, less war.

And the who that it is being done to? To live in peace is a challenge. Peace requires a willingness to take our hands off an enemy and put them back on a person who is suffering.

Stop, Listen, Practice!


Yours,

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Rohatsu Sesshin

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

We begin our weekend Rohatsu sesshin on Friday evening and will practice a mix of zazen in the Clear Mind Zendo and streetZen both at the Veteran's Park and in Old Mesilla throughout Saturday. A showing of an independent film about streetZen at the Fountain theatre will be considered part of our study practice on Saturday afternoon. If you wish to participate, please email me (if you have not already done so).

For those attending, please bring sleeping bags, blankets, and your own cushion for streetZen. Dress warm, layered, and in dark colors, preferably black. Evening and early morning practice will be in the Zendo. Late morning and throughout the day we will sit outdoors. Gloves and scarves will be needed.

Morning and evening meals will be indoors. Lunch will be outdoors at streetZen. Sunday morning we will practice in the Zendo and Student Joe Weitzell will take Jukai.

A small donation will be welcomed. Please join us to mark the awakening of the Buddha.

Be well.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Listen

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

A headline on the news services this morning spoke to me. It reported that a storm was gathering in the US senate. I immediately saw a senator addressing an empty chamber with other senators huddled in their offices, surrounded by staffers, looking for ways and means to sink or float whatever. The thought occurred to me that this is an exemplar of our most serious contemporary problem: no one listens.

We seem to run through our lives with an agenda in mind. First, get what I want. Second, be as distracted as is possible in the process.

Listening requires stopping first and releasing our grip on what it is we are carrying, second.

Zazen is a powerful tool in learning not only that this is possible, but that it is of great benefit to do so. When we practice zazen, we stop. We gather ourselves together. We take our seat with deliberation. We address the universe as it is, not as we wish it to be.

I have lived a great deal of my life wishing to have each moment be different than it was and I can attest to the fact that such a way is crazy-making. Not only do we not experience anything directly as it is, but we tarnish what is with our attitudes about it. We are like the walking dead. To be alive, we must be present.

Take the backward step to life.

Be well.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Point

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Playing online chess with really good chess players around the world is an exercise in humility. I decided not too long ago to only seek games with players ranked at exactly my rank and upward to three hundred points. This forces me to play with very good players each game. It also allows me to immediately (or nearly so) see my smaller errors. One thing I've noticed is it is much easier to yield defeat after a blunder when playing someone ranked above me. I wonder about this.

Now, that is not the point, the point is to notice such things.

We spend much of our lives (or at least I have) not noticing. We have our eye on future possibilities, as an Argentine opponent once phrased it. Aging, like playing vastly superior players, informs us: future possibilities are less interesting than present delights. Noticing becomes increasingly important, I suspect. And as we practice, we notice more easily.

Again, not the point. Practice for itself is the point, not for insight, not for small awakenings, not for anything we can name.

Just practice.

Be well.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Crazy is as Crazy is Decided

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Overnight I dreamt about thanksgiving and gratitude. How are they the same? How are they different? But this led me to another question, an age old question, the question of measurement.

The measure reveals more about the measurer than the measured. The measure is a set point created by the measurer. Of course, there is no set point except in the mind of the measurer. Absolute zero? No. In relation to what?

With human beings, we measure in ranges. Normal is between this and that range of something. Not going outside of these limits can be very important, say for our health, if we are talking about body temperature, for example.

Measures of value, quality, and behavior, these on the other hand, are a challenge. We measure in relation to our set point. In physics and chemistry, this point may be established through empirical testing. Absolute zero is as low as we can go: no motion of molecules in relation to one another. But in life sciences, the matter changes drastically as the observer is now measuring himself. I say life sciences and include earth science, biology, and psychology in this because even earth science chooses as its set point the ability of human beings and other life forms to survive. Measurement can only occur in relationship and all measure is a mental construct.

From a Zen point of view, a point of view that requires a dissolution of (or complete integration of) set points, measurement is a product of delusion. This is to say, it is a product of dualism. In Zen, the Absolute and the Relative are one.

I am reminded of Alan Bates in the film, "King of Hearts" or Jack Nicholson in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" or one of the core messages of Hellerman's "Catch-22". What is crazy? What is aberrant? We assume we know as we place behaviors in a context of values relative to ourselves. Axe murderer? Definitely aberrant. Why? Because she/he behaves in ways decidedly not like me. Extremes, however, do not make a case.

My point is that as part of our spiritual practice we must be willing to realize that how we see, how we evaluate, and how we then behave are not based on anything but social norms established by the group. As groups change, so too, the basis for evaluation.

This is important to us because we tend to forget the essentially relative nature of our judgements and live with them as if they are the manifest truth. As we do this, we become more and more blind to diversity and its value, change and its value, growth and its value.

We become prisoners of our own minds.

Zen practice is about releasing us from such constraints.

As we practice we are free and easy in the marketplace.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

IP

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The world is still here. I did yet another sleep study last night. This time with a CPAP for sleep apnea which I have, they say, a very mild case. Always seeking a solution seems to suggest always seeking a problem. It is an interesting position being the Identified Patient. Life becomes a laboratory and I become the experiment. Observers understand everything then in terms of this or that. Yes. And then the solutions. Pills, machines, and, of course, more tests.

These are just a bother, to use Willie the Pooh's word, the real issue is the interior landscape.

What is it to live as if there is a problem, an illness, a condition, underneath everything? Behavior and thought suspect? Framed in some pathological picture?

Life lived this way seems to dismiss or diminish the health of a person. No matter what else is, illness is in the scope.

Zen makes it possible not to do this. Zen takes what is, just as it is. Removes the frame and opens the cage.

Fly bird, fly.

Alas, in the end, no where to go.

Be well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When the Cat Becomes a Lion

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Joy is a wonderful thing. Eyes light-up, smiles happen, heart-rates jump, all sorts of healthful chemicals flow through our bodies. So, why shouldn't we desire it?

Desire is one of those kleshas, those toxins we are taught in the Buddha Way to avoid. It is equated with greed, a poison that overcomes us and disallows our awakening.

Sunday at our discussion after Zazen, we talked about how wanting something has been co-opted and transformed into needing something by the marketing forces of corporations. But they are not necessarily to blame. We, ourselves, do this simple conversion. It is rather like the simple slip from "is" to "ought" and not actually recognizing that the two are not connected. We human beings desire.

Desire in itself is not the problem. It is what we do with it. Recognizing desire is just like recognizing a thought or a feeling. No problem. Return to your breath and be still. Increase the space between the desire and the action to obtain the object of the desire. Desire is with us always. So?

When desire becomes need it becomes a "problem". If I desire to feel good and at some point begin to "need" to feel good, I am vulnerable. If I desire to have peace and at some point need to have peace, I also am vulnerable. To what? Behavior that is hurtful and harmful to self and others. The "I" takes on such a central and obsessive role that other cannot be seen.

So the practice is to notice and take the subtle but very important backward step into stillness. What is the Buddha Way? The Middle Way.

Be well.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Suffering

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Sitting with someone who is suffering is very challenging. We wish the person was not experiencing pain, we would like to relieve that pain so the person will not suffer. Our hearts feel. We suffer in our desire to relieve suffering.

What to do. Nothing. Zen practice is to be. Yet, to be in a particular way. This way of being is the way of the Buddha.

Increasing the space between the perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors we experience, we allow for stillness. Moving deeper in that stillness, patience. In that patience, concentration, generosity, morality, and diligence arise.

Through these perfections, we see the one thing that remains: just do.

Be well.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Morning Note

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

A busy night last night. We had a party for Daughter-in-Law Maggie in honor of her completing a course to become a physical trainer. She did her testing for her certificate, but will not know the results for a couple of weeks. It was delightful to see the joy in her face as a cake and special dinner was presented!

This morning Robert Yee of Robert Yee Productions, will visit us in the Zendo. He has been following our sitting for the last week videotaping in order to produce a short video on streetZen. The film will be a part of the Mesilla Valley Film Festival here on December 5th. I am uncertain how he will pull this off: a movie of people just sitting?

That is his. This is mine. A mantra to live by.

We also have an extra dog with us. Zeesa, friend Deana's Labrador. Together with our other three (we are watching son Jason's dog, as well) we are up to our hips in fur. I am learning much about myself with these pets. They are what they are and need what they need. Dogs bark, chase our cat Pete, and otherwise do things that are not always appropriate. If my mind is open, to problem, if closed, big problem. The practice is to keep my mind open. Thoughts in, thoughts out. That's the way.

Be well.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Morning Note

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Things happen. This morning I woke a bit late, spent an hour getting a very messy kitchen cleaned (having a French Chef for a son has two sides) and took care of the animals. From there, into the Zendo for meditation and writing practice. Bella, other son's dog, would not stop barking. I feared Judy would wake. Calmed Bella, began to video, then I heard the washing machine start. Judy was up. Bella barked again. Tripper followed. I followed Tripper.

So, I abandoned the seat, visited with Judy, sipped coffee, and played online chess as she scanned her email. Shortly it will be time to walk. Everything is as it is.

Zen in the morning.

Be well.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Moment

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I woke feeling rested. This is a wonderful feeling, yet it will pass. I just received an email from my walking partners. They will not be going out this morning. He has a sciatica problem affecting his foot. A few days rest are in order.

As we age we really begin to notice changes. Not as sharp, not as strong, not as flexible, not as resiliant, we say, because we recall a time when we were otherwise. Its easy to say, everything changes, live in the moment, and let the rest go. Or to notice that, in the end there is no end and our True Nature is Infinite.

Yet, faced with an inability to walk, or a heart that needs repair, or a brain that is declining, requires a recognition of what was to what is in order to deal with what will be. Just as the monastery's cook must have a time and a place to plan tomorrow's meal, he must also consider the contents of his pantry, the number of monastics to fed and the conditions of the economy and agriculture in his area. So, to, we as individuals must examine and plan. This is also "living in the moment".

Be well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Study

With Palms Together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday afternnon I was reviewing the fukanzazengi, a text by Master Dogen. I was doing this in concert with a review of Uchiyama's "Opening the Hand of Thought". Its funny how one text often inspires the examination of another. In Zen we have such awesome texts to look to for inspiration. Each time I look into one, I feel compelled tpo look into another. There is a great danger in this, however.

The danger, of course, is that such absorbtion points in absolutely the wrong direction. The steps we take in study should compell us to set the texts aside and seek refuge in the our Self through zazen. Zazen is the practice, the rest are ideas about the practice. About is not the same as is.

So, we use our study to inspire us to move toward practice. Practice to get our head away from ideas. Eat our celery without it being "celery". Then study with a clear mind.

Be well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Refuge

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



Often in the morning I ask , "What am I doing?" My answer, "I don't know."



Disciple KoMyo and I talked yesterday. During the Rohatsu sesshin, our seniors will confer. The Order will develop itself. For my part, I want to remain without a Zen Center. My practice is on the street and in the heart. My practice is about being peace. Buildings do not make for much of anything but a place to separate yourself from the everyday and in Zen, as in most spiritual practices, it is the everyday is everything.



Practice in the open, under the sky, on grass or sidewalks, and in parks is precisely how Buddha himself practiced. Today, with pace being so important and distraction being our singular human activity, we fail to learn about ourselves. We do not stop long enough to listen.



It is easy to fall prey to this. I just did. Its a kind of sickness, I think. The trouble is, it seems to define the contemporary human condition worldwide.



Clear Mind Zen is a refuge. To enter it is easy: simply turn off everything and just sit down and shut up.



Be well.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blankets and Buddhas

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



A cold front is moving across the desert and the morning air is sitting at 43 degrees. Shortly I will bundle-up and go outside to walk. We often say in Zen there is no hot or cold. Yet, there it is, The relative scale of the thermometer, the need for our bodies to remain within a certain range on that scale, demand action.



Four of us sat zazen Friday in the rotunda. The wind was blowing very hard, fallen leaves didn't just shuffle along, they absolutely ran! Each of us were forced to put on protective clothing. Again, the relative truth of things came into play.



For those of us convinced awakening frees us from such things, I say that sort of awakening is just another delusion. Air remains is both cold and not cold at the same time. Awakened beings get cold. They then cover up. No problem.



The moment we argue with the cold or with the heat or that we should somehow be little statues, immune to it all, we lose our buddhahood,. Master Dogen says practice is realization. What is practice? Doing what is there to do completely and without an alternative universe of appeal settling on our brow.



Time to bundle. Be well.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Moment in Time

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The dishes are put away, the dishwasher is re-loaded, my laundry is being washed, the coffee is brewed, and I am sitting just now in my Zendo. The window is open. Cool air flows onto my robed knee. It is refreshing.

I spent a lot of time last night just sitting. Its a wonderful way to experience no-time. Notice the language. I do not "spend" time. I do not experience "time". When I am "spending time" I am really not present as I am aware of the memory of one moment to the next, measuring one against another. When I do that there an be no now.

But when I experience "no-time" that is to say, I remain with the present moment, with no last moment, no next moment, no comparing, there can be no time.

What is it like to live without time? Boundless.

Be well.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Practice

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Those of you receiving this are what remains of my daily recipients list.

I have decided to step away from synagogue life, as I indicated earlier. My focus will be on my own practice as a Zen priest and theology student. Practice is a large matter residing in the intimate details. Practice is where our "shin" is, our heart/mind.

My practice, the deepest practice of all, is zazen.

I will post a bit more infrequently than in the past.

Practice periods are 10:30 Monday and Friday at Veteran's Park and at 9:00 AM at my home Zendo.

I encourage each of you to take up this practice daily in your home.

May you each be a blessing,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How is it?

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,


"When birth and death come, how do we avoid them?", Yunman was asked. And he replied, "Where are they?"

This is from Case 166 of Master Dogen's Koan collection. The capping verse goes,

"In arriving, there is no abode;
in departing, there is no destination.
Ultimately, how is it?
Here I have been all the time!"

This morning I entered the Zendo early and sat facing the wall. I decided not to bring a timer. I just sat. It is Veteran's Day today. We are asked to remember. I don't think so. I cast aside memories.

Zen is the practice of just being. We do not practice for today, tomorrow or due to something that happened yesterday. We practice for nothing. Zen practice is a constant letting go of things we think are true, or that we believe in, or that we experience. Sometimes it is a struggle to do so. This morning, for example, I could not find a cat carrier we had borrowed from friends. They asked to have it returned. Embarrassed for not already having done so, I frantically searched for the carrier, but it is no where to be found. I knew I needed to let go of it. Stepping out of the car to walk later, I was tight as a drum. A few words, a few steps: let go. Zen in motion.

It is said that the past informs the future. I say the future is a figment of our imagination. As is the past. When we to live in accordance with the dharma, there is no problem. And missing cat carriers are mysteries, not avalanches.

Be well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Zen & Tautology

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning is cold and fresh. I woke with no agenda. It is both a light feeling and a frightening one. Sometimes our burdens, plans, hopes, and dreams give us a sense of place, direction, and stability, while at the same time, rob us of being awake.

As a Zen practitioner I practice to wake free and stand without bags. This requires a willingness to live without place, direction, and stability. Why? All places, all directions, all ground is delusion. We create our universe in each breath, in each moment, and with each step. We die, the universe dies. And as the universe dies, we are truly born. There is a reason the Ancients taught that we should die to ourselves. One cannot be awake and at the same time live in a fiction as if it were real.

Very challenging.

The world of duality is immensely seductive. I am this; you are that. This is better or worse than that. I win, you lose. Scores are kept. And so on.

One reason I so enjoy cold air (or hot air, for that matter) is that it has a way of bringing me to attention. Like sudden noises. Awake, alert, there, in the moment. In my recent studies I find circumlocution and tautology rule. Its a problem with theology. One puts a finger on something and it slips away, like mercury. Or one uses something to prove itself. Literal nonsense.

Yet, we still seek. We still strive. So, the practice is to remember to stop, let go, and be one.

Bless the chill in the air. It's a bell of mindfulness.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Death

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

One of my Disciples, Rev. Kajo, wrote to the Zen Living list about her experience dealing with the recent death of her father. I am sending my reply to her this morning as my daily message. Below my reply is her original post.

Daiho Roshi

__________________

Dear Kajo,

Personal pain and personal suffering are different, but equally difficult for others to address with the one in pain and suffering. You have experienced the loss of your father's presence in your life as a physical being. You have experienced your family's insensitivity in not informing you immediately. Pain, yes. Suffering, well that is yours. We suffer as we hold on to thoughts and feelings, stringing them like beads on a necklace. Care needs to be taken not to allow this necklace to become a choker chain.

We experience, through our practice, the fact that there is no birth or death, only this moment. How can this help? The thought of it does nothing. The practice of it liberates us.

From a theological perspective, we must be careful not to make too much of a notion of a God with intentions. Does God throw dice? Does He look over every single event on every planet in an infinite universe? Can God even see? These ideas of God are projections on our part, I believe. We wish for, need, or want such a God.

Yet the simple truth of the matter is these ideas are idols in the mind. A deep understanding of the Infinite comes through our suffering. The pain we experience teaches us most specifically about our separation from God, rather than God's separation from us. One with the Infinite, what is loss? One with the Infinite, what is birth and death?

We Jews believe that we are infused with Ruach ha-Kodesh, the breath of God or the Holy Spirit. As Zen Buddhists we might at first blush, say "nonsense!" Yet, I see our essential Buddha Nature as this Infinite Breath. Breathing in, breathing out. What else is there?


May you embrace your pain and look deeply into your suffering,

Be well.

____________________
You must be as nothing in your own eyes.
Then you will be worthy of attaining true
self-nullification and your soul will be
merged with its root.

Rabbi Nachman

Harvey Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D., Roshi
http://jewbu.blogspot.com/
Telephone: 575-405-8522






--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From: celia
To: ZenLiving@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Wed, October 21, 2009 9:25:06 AM
Subject: [Zen Living] Death

With palms together,
Dear Sangha,
I have studied intensiveley about death, accepting death, and not being afraid of it. I have found comfort in TNH's idea that when we die, its meerley because we were no longer able to manifest so we withdraw from the world. I like this thought a lot and it has been helping me accept my fathers death.
Everyone I see hugs me tight and tells me he is no longer suffering and is resting now. This is the hardest part for me. I keep wondering why God didn't take him earlier. I don't mean that to sound bad. I just mean that my dad was suffering for so long. Situations amd environment were not right for him to continue to manifest. What is it that keeps us alive when we suffer so much? ...and why do we still hurt? How, in buddhism can we free the pain that we feel when a loved one is suffering or the pain that we feel when our loved ones withdraw from the world?
Do we sit it out? In Christianity, we ask God to remove out pain and he does- when we let him. How in meditation do we learn to let it float by? Ibam in nob way bashing my Buddhist practice. I am simply looking for a way to find peace.
I know what my dad would say: "give it to the lord". What do we as Buddhists say?

Learning to accept my dads withdrawal from the world,
Rev. Kajo

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is the Point Necessary?

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning is a wonderfully cool morning. My chess was a little better last night. And I began reading a great little book recommended by Rabbi Citrin on the Bible called, simply enough, "Who Wrote the Bible?" It offers a background on text criticism which opens a whole other dimension to Torah study. Agenda in writing is the sleeper to the story. As in most of life, don't we seek to know "the point"?

When we try to transfer something from ourselves to another, duality is created. Other is separated from self. You arises. In this separation, a point arises. Why? Why would you give me that? Why are you talking to me? Why would you take that away? Why would you tell the story that way and not this? What does why mean? Is is really is? :)

Zen Judaism asks us to be our relationship with the Infinite. We don't become it. Why questions cause separation. What questions offer exploration. When we explore our lives for the story, the point of view, the agenda, and the dramatis personae, we begin to brings things back together.

For the sake of what are we doing the dance in the way we do it?

Zen Judaism would say we do what we do and in the do is the Eternal.

Be well,

Monday, October 12, 2009

Where's God?

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Honestly, I do not know why I study through the day each and every day. I've been considering this question (and another) for some time as it consumes a great deal of my time. I suppose the best answer is that when I study, I find connections. Text is my community. The more the better, it would seem. The two major areas I study are in Zen and Judaism, particularly what I like to call contemplative Judaism. [Whenever I come upon the word 'mystical' in a Jewish text it almost always refers to a pointing to something non-dualistic. Must be mystical if it brings us closer to the Infinite, I suppose. In the modern era, mystical sounds, well, too mystical :) ]
Every once in awhile I find texts in the two traditions (actually, more often than not) which say the same thing or point to the same thing, and this leads me to believe that in both cases, the practice is to collapse the self into the Infinite. In other words, to join Big Mind, Spacious Mind, the Ein Sof. In Lawrence Kushner's wonderful text, God was in this Place & I, i did not know, he cites a midrash addressing the question, why did God create both a heaven and a hell. The rabbis say, so one may borrow room from the other. And how much space separates these rooms? "The rabbis said that they are right next to one another...Not even the thinness of a membrane separated Jacob and Esau." (p.68).

In the Zen scripture, the Hokyo Zanmai (Precious Mirror Samadhi), the text addresses non-duality and says, "Natural and wondrous, it is not a matter of delusion or enlightenment. .. ...A hairsbreadth deviation, and you are out of tune." (Soto School Scriptures for Daily Services and Practice, p. 35.)

Duality and non-duality inter-exist, like space and time, they cannot be separated. It is our attention and intention that shifts. Within this shifting, good and evil are born. Interesting. Dukkha is not knowing all the chords of the universe are of the same stuff.

My second question is where's God? Looking for the Infinite has been an aim of mine since I was shot in the head and nearly died. Yet, the question sounds kind of like where's Waldo. The truth is we wouldn't be far off. The reason Waldo is so challenging to find is that he is like Everyperson (the post PC, Everyman). Naming this person as opposed to another person "Waldo" is a big mistake. Just so, naming God, God, is a big mistake. Its like some rabbi took the yod and pointed it. Any pointing is a deviation. Isaiah says, "His presence fills all the earth!" If God is everywhere, then he, as God, is nowhere. Want God? Look deeply at your own fingers, look under the nails; look at the mouse in a mouse trap, or the head of a trophy on a hunter's wall; look under your bed, into your heart, or better, don't look at all.

Just like Zen, we do not find "Buddha" we kill him. Kill your thoughts of God, your images of God, and there he will be. Be still. Be well.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Loori-roshi

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I went outside to eat some raisin toast. While doing so, I feed the birds and picked up things. Granddaughter Livvie has a tent set up and it is full of toys. As I'm picking up, I notice a bird swoop down to snack on my toast. Sharing is a good thing.

The passing of someone like Rev. John Daido Loori-roshi is one of those inevitability's none of us look forward to. The man was a pioneer of Zen in the United States. His monastery, books, dharma talks, and photography stand as a testament to a life well lived in service to others and to the dharma.

I met him once in California at the 800th birthday of Master Dogen. He walked with a slow deliberateness and slightly hunched back. There was a slight smile on his face and seeming twinkle in his eyes. He taught through himself: a manifest buddha. Yet, also, was challenging. His teaching was as historic masters, the kyosaku and a word or bell were always present.

We use his books for Jukai study, especially The Heart of Being and The Eight Gates of Zen. I have studied his translation and commentary of Dogen's koan collection, as well as his many other works. I found him to be an upright man who had great love and appreciation for the ancestors and their ways... and always a deep understanding realized on the page!

I thought there was such a stark contrast between the two dharma brothers, Loori and Glassman roshi. Out of the same teacher, these men took quite different paths, yet both arrived in the same place, having never left, as we say.

May his name be for a blessing.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Paradigm is Cracking

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Last night after a pair of classes at the Temple I came home and read the Responsa assignments for our "Jewish Issues" class. A "responsa" is a rabbinic assembly's consideration of a question put to it by someone regarding Jewish life. In Reform Judaism, Responsa do not hold the force of law, but are considered informed opinions about situations that are meant to offer guidance to local congregations.
One of our reading assignments/discussion topics involves Jews who convert to Christianity, apostasy & synagogue honors. I read this and felt for all "sides". Conscience, faith, and belief on an individual level is always in tension with "group". I remembered another responsa I had read some years ago now on the question of whether or not a Zen Buddhist priest could become a member of a Temple congregation. The responsa declared he or she could not. The issue hung on the assumptions around "ordination" viz-a-viz role conflict with rabbis and the potential "confusion" an ordained Zen Buddhist priest might cause the general public by being a member of a Jewish congregation. Also included were notes about yoga. It is permissible to practice yoga, but not to support and teach the underlying assumptions of the practice. I saw this as smoke on the one hand, and very revealing on the other hand. In reading this I was reminded that recently I was made aware that my own status as a Zen priest will affect and (I assume) limit, my activities on the bema (the place where the official religious stuff happens).

The question is where does the individual stand. With what community? Judaism lives and dies through community. We are "the people Israel" with the same or similar assumptions and connotations as any tribal organization. Subtle questions lurk under the surface: is this person a 'real Jew? Is this person here to convert us? Such questions arise from an old paradigm of place/group defined community. Its limits are being breached millions of times a day, stretching the model to a breaking point.

We Jews are a rebellious bunch, always asking uncomfortable, out of the box questions. How does Rabbinic Judaism address a very aware, individualistic, post-modern, mobile, seeking, and informed populace? Of what real value are rabbis when any member of the tribe can (and often do) lead services and perform ceremonies? Everyone fancies himself/herself the director of his/her own spiritual destiny. Nearly the entire literature of Judaism is on the Internet for anyone to study deeply and fully. We are now a highly mobile society with fewer and fewer strong links to a geographical place-point. Where, exactly, does community reside? Herein resides the real problem for modern Judaism, Reform Judaism included.

Such questions and choices are getting a lot of play in the media. According to a piece reported on CBS's "Good Morning" program, our society seeks to be 'spiritual,' defines itself as spiritual as opposed to 'religious', and notes that a significant portion of the population investigates Eastern methods of practice. The responsa I cited above even notes the value of such investigations, but quickly adds there are "Jewish" models for these practices. I think that is code for 1. if a Jew does it, its Jewish, and 2. if its Jewish its under the auspices of rabbinic Judaism. While at one point in our cultural life this might have been true, it is not so today. People do what they do, have the legal and moral right to do so, and Rabbinic Judaism must relate, adapt, or wither away as arcane relics of another time.

The truth is, alternative spiritual explorations and mind/body practices are re-vitalizing religion in America. Yoga, meditation, Zen, Mindfulness, Reiki, hypnotherapy, running and walking clubs, vegetarianism and related health foci on food, are all being brought to bear on the quest for a sense of spiritual connection, satisfaction, and, perhaps, awakening. Spirituality is being more rightly understood as a holistic event and not a particularized one. Stilted old models which are adapted without flexibility will fail under an informed, awake, and aware eye of this vastly interconnected and interdependent era.

I am a Jew. I am a Zen Buddhist priest. I am neither and both: I am a child of the universe.

Be well.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Moving

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The morning air is moving swiftly over the desert up from Mexico. I am reminded of the koan regarding the flag and the wind. Some might say the flag is moving, others say the wind is moving, still others say mind is moving. In truth there is no "moving". And from the point of view of the Infinite, clearly this is so. Buddha Mind is unmoving. Yet, the clock still ticks as we measure our day and if we don't get to the bank on time, our checks will bounce. What is important about the lesson regarding "moving" is that we learn both are true at the same time: relative and absolute. The Infinite is infinite. It renders all concepts both full and empty. Only No-Mind can grasp this.

Be well.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Noise

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Quiet pervades even in the midst of a cacophony of noise. How? Ask, what is noise? Concordant, discordant, no matter. Noise is nothing but a sensory event we assign meaning to. Some meanings are wonderful; others, not so wonderful. Yet, when we set aside our meanings and exist with the 'noise', when 'noise' is received and accepted, enfolded into ourselves, 'noise' ceases. This is stillness. This is serene reflection meditation. This is Zen. It is without religious assignment, yet is the heart of all religion.

Be well.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Vows

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Vows are inside out. We don't take a vow, we manifest a vow already there deep within us. Like a seed planted by the Infinite, life's various twists and turns till the soil around it, water it, offer it light and warmth, and there...it opens to our view.
I have manifested only a few vows in my life. A vow to serve and protect the United States. A vow to follow the ways of Torah. A vow to be a partner to My Little Honey. And a set of Bodhisattva vows. I like to think these are consonant and not discordant.

It is so: the core vow is that of waking up. Being present, and seeing with a clear mind, resolves all illusion of conflict as conflict can only occur in a deluded mind, a mind divided.

I experience buddha-mind in every moment. We are beings united without separation, yet there is you, and there is me. The golden net is our heart. It is our heart-mind, "shin", that is the source of all vows. Understand, in Zen, heart and mind are not two, but one. This Heart-Mind is the essential nature of the Infinite

As we step into the world this morning, may we step with the light of our own seeds come to full bloom.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Invitation

With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

As a elder in the Zen Peacemaker Sangha, I ask that you consider the following from the Zen Peacemakers:

"For Your Information: Bernie Glassman and the Zen Peacemakers are offering a free subscription to BEARING WITNESS: A Newsletter for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism. This e-Newsletter offers profiles, links and articles on the groups and individuals committed to this practice, emerging service projects and social actions as well as the history, ethical bases and philosophies comprising this multifaceted global movement.

To subscribe, please link to: http://www.zenpeacemakers.org/subscribe Bernie has also created two resource directories for this work, a Directory of Socially Engaged groups and individuals: http://www.zenpeacemakers.org/doing_directory, and a directory of learning resources: http://www.zenpeacemakers.org/learning_directory

Thank you,

May you each be a blessing in the universe,

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Light in the Dark

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

A sore throat and sniffles greeted me this morning. Still there from yesterday, I decided not to go out for a walk/run/bike today. This morning Zen services at 9:00 AM; this evening Erev Yom Kippur services at Temple Beth-El at 8:00 PM. In between, a class on the sacred art of lovingkindness at 3:00 PM. Within each moment, vast emptiness, :).

My altar needs candles. I had my Daughter-in-Law pick-up a bag of tea light candles a few days ago, but she has not brought them over as yet. So, I will use an old round candle nearly burnt to the quick. There is no trash, as Master Soko Morinaga says. May each of us burn brightly and be a light to the world even to the last breath.

Sounds awfully dark, doesn't it, last breath and all. Yet each breath is a last breath. Each moment the universe is created and kpasses away with each cycle of our lungs, each sweep of the second hand of the clock. Going into time deeply, there is no first, no last, just this. Still dark?

OK. How about, there are only infinite moments. Eternal Life opens in each. As a flower with seed seeds to flower, so we open our eyes to see the Infinite. Seeing the Infinite we recognize eternity. Recognizing eternity, where is death, where life?

No bother.

Our compassion and lovingkindness steps forward out of the shadow of fear.

May we each be a blessing in the universe today.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Each Day

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Today is very busy: Talmud class, Shabbat services, Havdalah after dinner. I have moved Saturday streetZen to Friday morning. We are approaching Yom Kippur. This day we stand before the Infinite. All month we have been preparing for this: examining ourselves, our relationships, our words and deeds. On Yom Kippur the book closes.

There is something very wonderful about this process. Examination is followed by an attempt to reconcile, to forgive and be forgiven, and to close the story's chapter in order to take the next step.

These are moment to moment dramas.

We notice. We act. We move on.

Zen teaches us to be present in each moment and notice. Seung Sahn says then 'only go straight.'

We recite the prayer of atonement each morning "All my past and harmful karma, born from beginningless greed, hate, and delusion,
through my body, speech, and mind, I now fully avow."
We might wash our hands three times or once, we might recite prayers or blessings after each step of the morning or not, and mark the passing of each portion of the day with some sort of blessing or gatha...or not. All of life's processes are on a continuum. Each of us steps up differently and in our own time.

The thing is, is to notice and allow ourselves to be grateful...even for the challenging stuff.

So, while we might close the chapter, we retain the lesson by recognizing its value and integrating it into our lives.

Be well.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Puddle Mind

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

An early morning chill in the air adds a sense of freshness to the day. Crisp air feels clean and clear. A mind must be chilled as well to be clear. One of the "kleshas" is "passion". The connotation is heated, stirring, rolling, as the surface of the surf when water is pushed and pulled to form a tumult of waves at the beach. Zen mind is the mind of pond or, better, puddle and residing in stillness.

Chill: to settle down, abide in the moment as it is.

When chill when we let the passion flow without resisting it. Recent rain storms here in the southwest have demonstrated the futility of trying to channel the flow of raging water storming down from the mountains. When passions meet an obstacle, they tend to find a way to roll over it, around it or undermine it. As a hardwood tree in a hurricane, if the obstacle refuses to bend with the wind, away it goes.

How to we become mind like puddle?

Flexibility seems to play a part. Yoga practice teaches us to relax into an asana. Stillness seems to play a part. Zazen teaches us to be still even when we cry. Being present seems to play a part. Watching water as it flows to the lowest place and there residing in stillness teaches us to let go of our idea of self-importance as we touch the Infinite when we touch the earth.
Be a pond? Be a puddle? Your response should be informative.

Be well.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Drama

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

One of my fascinations in life is the role story plays in our lives. In training as a social worker my early mentor, Dr. Howard Goldstein (may his name be for a blessing), taught through demanding we examine story as key in understanding our clients. Somewhat dramaturgical, this idea is that we create stories where aspects (he refers to them as "persons") organize our perceptions and suggest responses.

This seems to me to be an integration of role theory and phenomenology. Oh, boy. We create a story through events in our lives, create parts, put ourselves in the play and then manifest the whole thing as we live out each moment.

Zen practice is the practice of examining this process and cutting it.

We are not a role, nor are we at the center of any story. We are the Universe. Story, while helpful, is a conceit. It is at root deceitful. But more importantly brings past karma into present moments as mechanisms for distortion. As Rabbi Shapiro says in his brilliant synthesis of major religions, including Buddhism, on "the sacred art of Lovingkindness":

"Spinning drama is what this self does. This is how narrow mind functions. But believing the drama to be other than a story is a trap that imprisons you in narrow mind. Anger is how we spring that trap. ...(the drama) is just another belief narrow mind conjures up to maintain a sense of self and self-importance..." (p.132).

This is an arrow in the heart of the matter. Retaining our story puts us in the center of the play, our anger keeps us there. To give up the story, takes us out of the play...afterall, there is no play in truth. And we are not the center of the universe, nor the center of our lives. We are the Universe, one, complete, and wonderful.

Cut the thought: undress the present, return to the present, and stay in the present. Be the buddha you are.

Be well.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Peace Day 2009

With palms together
Good Morning Everyone,

This evening we practice for peace together in support of the United Nations International Peace Day at Temple Beth-El. A number of local religious groups (including Clear Mind Zen) have come together, created an interfaith choir, and will offer songs, prayers and chants in support of peace. The event begins at 7:30 PM here in Las Cruces.

To honor this day I will practice streetZen at the Veteran's Park at 10:00 AM. If any of you are available and are interested please join me.

May you each be a blessing in the universe.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Notes

With palms together,
Good Afternoon Everyone,

Today has been very interesting. It began with an early 4:30 rise, zazen, and putting together an outline for a workshop on "Compassion Fatigue" for a local hospice organization. I managed to get in a short 1.5 mile walk through the desert park with friends Eve and Allen, but had to leave early to get to the hospice in time for the workshop at 8:00 AM

From there to the Temple to hear the finish of a discussion on the differences between the Christian "Old Testament" and the Hebrew Scriptures. On thing that came out: Jews are most interested in asking questions, Christians seek to find answers. As an aside, my sense is that Zen Buddhists just want to live as fully as possible. Scripture is relatively unimportant in Zen; it's the practice that is the Way and through the practice, the "scripture" reveals itself in our own original face.

Anyway, compassion fatigue, for those who don't know, is a potential condition arising from prolonged work with suffering. We used to call it "trauma by proxy" or "secondary trauma" when I was a clinician. Its a troublesome phenomena that can affect both an individual and an organization. It mimics post traumatic stress disorder in many ways and is an extreme form of burn-out.

Many Buddhist practices can be helpful in dealing with this. Practices like tonglen, zazen, and mindfulness practices as taught by the Buddha in his Four Establishments of Mindfulness sutra can be very helpful. Working to know our limits and establishing boundaries are also helpful. I have found that the basic practice of shikantaza to be the most helpful to me. This is the practice of "just sitting" wholeheartedly hitting the mark. No props, no breath counting, no watching the breath: just sitting. Developing the discipline of this practice is key. We are faced with ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, our internal 'movies' and so on, yet we just sit.

This is helpful as it develops the ability to be present in the presence of whatever. We do not take in and keep anything. We take it in and let it go. We become porous and Teflon like at the same time. The value is that we can be present with another's suffering without making it our own.

While this is a great skill, even harder, it seems to me, is the skill of appropriate response. I can be present. I can float like a duck. But I confess, I am often lost in exactly how to respond...especially with words. I would almost rather remain silent.

Sometimes this is good. Other times silence is not so good. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Be well.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Words

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The meaning of words, goodness, they form such peculiar common ground. A word is a vocal symbol for something. To the degree to which we share an understanding of the symbol determines the degree to which we understand each other. The rub is that understanding is never pure. It is always distorted by our prior experience and memory of that experience. Moreover, the symbol itself has an often unspoken social meaning. It all gets so convoluted. Yet, we think we understand each other.

Sometimes shared agreement on a meaning is reached. What becomes important is the shared agreement, not the word. The word is just a trigger, so to speak, which fires up recall of the underlying shared meaning. But even this is not the thing itself.

Just because we share an understanding of something and the common words pointing to it, does not mean we are in actual touch with that thing. In such cases, shared meaning clouds our mind and we think we are in touch, but are only touching a cloud.

So a word is a symbol that points to something, but is not the thing. A meaning is something, a thought or belief, we assign to a word or an experience. And because each of these are thought processes, they are dualistic, produced as a result of sensory data being processes by a brain that sees itself apart from that which it perceives. Its all just chemical and electrical processes that dupe us.

So what is this? What is a cup or a foot or a computer? What is love, compassion, hate, distortion? These are words pointing to something, but not the things themselves. To uncover the truth we must set aside what we think we know, drop our baggage, and take the next step totally naked.

I'm getting a headache.

I take an aspirin. Simple. Not complicated. Zen.

Be well.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Visitors

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This weekend was a beautiful one. Two of my wife's friends from graduate school (class of 1966) visited. It was the first they've seen each other since that time. They used to drive to their field placements in Akron together from the Cleveland area a couple of days a week. All three got married, had children, and then lived out their lives. Now, over forty years later, thanks to the Internet, they have reconnected. Its as if the intervening forty odd years did not exist. It was fascinating to witness.

Much older, grayer, and wizened, these three students, now Masters, came face to face with a sort of timelessness and a shared construction of reality with a few cracks. "Remember? Don't remember?" As each sought common ground, they each differentiated with the expectation of inclusion.

I admire My Little Honey and her two friends. This took courage. Clearly, people can and do care deeply for one another, and the constructions we call memories, can form a sort of knitting that holds each together.

Being in the moment, appropriate is the moment, and each moment's condition demands its own attention and authenticity. Letting expectations drop away like so many bags at a train station, we learn to recognize there is wisdom in letting go of those worn too thin.

Time to create a new story. Perhaps. But this time we should know: our stories don't define us; how tightly or loosely we clutch them does.

This is the Zen of Now.

Be well.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Life Bites

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,


Zen is neither mine nor yours. Awareness is neither mine nor yours. This moment is neither mine nor yours. Awakening is neither mine nor yours. Mine and yours have no place in the world of Zen. Even place itself does not exist. Mine and yours are convenient fictions we live by. We give them legal sanction, moral sanction, and sometimes even spiritual sanction. So: Everything is no thing.

Yet, a mosquito has bitten the back of my knee and it itches. At 4:30 AM Tripper barks and Judy grumbles. Our water is hard and leaves a residue on our glasses. No thing is everything.

We can say these do not exist, that mine and yours, like I and Thou, are based on constructions of a mind created through a neural net. But we live within this net. When our net collapses: so collapses mine and yours. So collapses mosquito, bite, itch, dishes, Tripper's bark. So collapses I and Thou.

Zen is living in both with full awareness of both and acting accordingly.

Be well.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Where Are You?

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Going out into the world, going inside, good grief! Enough going. I practice not-going. Practicing not-going is to practice Zen. Everything is here now: no path, no attainment, no 'other shore'.

Of course, sometimes "I" "go", as in playing iPhone games, wandering around looking at things, diving into Torah or the Sutras, etc., yet, this is just the shift of an eye, isn't it. One "eye" says "this is relative to that", suggesting two. Another "Eye" says "this and that are one and seeing a 'this' and a 'that' is a delusion, a mortal mind-trick". The Infinite is constantly demanding of us, "Where are you?!"

Watch out for shifty eyes.

Practice not-going and witness an eternal Eye.

Be well.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Suffering

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Last night son Jacob invited us to dinner at his condo. He prepared a wonderful dinner, bread, arugula and butter lettuce salad, and sole, all prepared exquisitely. The condo was spotless, extremely well appointed, and very comfortable. I was out of my comfort zone.

Fidgeting, I played a game of "paper toss" followed it by winning a chess game on my iPhone. I wandered around looking at his pictures and books. My Little Honey and Jacob talked and talked.

The other night we had dinner at a friend's. At the dinner table, I checked my email on my iPhone. One of my friends asked me to please put my iPhone away. Interesting. She was right, of course, and others have made comments about my inattentiveness at functions. If its not the iPhone, its wandering, if not wandering, its meditating. Something has changed.

It wasn't all that long ago that I wouldn't be caught dead owning and using a cell phone, when people commented that I was so 'alive' and it was a challenge to pull me away from people. For all my talk of being in the moment, being mindful, and being compassionate, I am very far away.

Maybe its a phase. Maybe I am adapting. Maybe its all the drugs I have to take. Maybe I am bored. Maybe, maybe, maybe. I wish I knew. I read last night about a couple of rabbis. One asks, "Who am I?" The other replies, "Who is asking?"

What I know is this: I practice.

The Buddha taught:

Whoever sees suffering, sees the making of suffering, the ending of suffering, and the path that leads to the end of suffering.

Whoever sees the making of suffering, sees suffering, the end of suffering, and the path.

Whoever sees the end of suffering, sees suffering, the making of suffering, and the path.

Whoever sees the the path that leads to the end of suffering, sees suffering, the making of suffering, and the end of suffering.

(the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma sutra).

Be well.