Zen 101

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dirt

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



In the Vimalakirti Sutra, the bodhisattva Manjushri addressing the Buddha, says, "Noble sir, one who stays in the fixed determination of the vision of the Uncreated is not capable of conceiving the spirit of unexcelled perfect enlightenment. However, one who lives among created things, in the mines of passions, without seeing any truth, is indeed capable of conceiving the spirit of unexcelled perfect enlightenment.



[For] Noble sir, flowers like the blue lotus, the red lotus, the white lotus, the water lily, and the moon lily do not grow on the dry ground in the wilderness, but do grow in the swamps and mud banks.



Just so, the Buddha-qualities do not grow in living beings certainly destined for the uncreated but do grow in those living beings who are like swamps and mud banks of passions. Likewise, as seeds do not grow in the sky but do grow in the earth, so the Buddha-qualities do not grow in those determined for the Absolute but do grow in those who conceive the spirit of enlightenment, after having produced a Sumeru-like mountain of egoistic views.



Noble sir, through these considerations one can understand that all passions constitute the family of the Tathagatas. For example, noble sir, without going out into the great ocean, it is impossible to find precious, priceless pearls. Likewise, without going into the ocean of passions, it is impossible to obtain the Mind of Omniscience."



Our Bodhisattva of Wisdom is saying something very important here. A flower grows in dirt. Its roots are dirty and wet; it’s stem is upright, strong; and its flower rises into the open air as if to touch the sky. Which is pure, which impure? Which is dirty, which is clean? We cannot have the flower without the stem, nor the roots. The dirt is as necessary as the air, sun and sky. Moreover, which is not the flower? Where does the flower begin and end?



This morning I dug two small trenches, filled them with rich soil, and planted two rows of onions. I covered the tiny bulbs with more dirt, then the sand that is our native soil. I added water. My fingers felt the wet bulbs and the tiny roots. I was careful to set the greens upright. I cannot say any of this was impure, nothing was dirty. Each time such a thought arises, I work to put it in the largest context possible. See the particular, but never forget its context; see context, but never forget the particular. Both inter-are.



Be well.



Today at CMZ Temple: 5:30 Women’s Zen Group at our residence, 7:00 PM Zazen at Temple Zendo, Yoga at 7:30 at Temple Zendo.



PS. My thanks to Students Kanu and Ron for joining Team Zen!



Monday, March 28, 2011

Morning Note

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning I woke stiff and a little sore. I lanced two blisters and taped them. Today was a arm and shoulder workout, which I did with a little lighter weights than usual, and only did two sets each of the exercises in my plan, plus my normal ab workout. After this, Kathryn and I went for a 1.5 mile desert jog. A little light stretching and I am feeling much better.



I went over to son Jason’s and borrowed back my Trek bike, washed and lubed it, and then waxed the frame. It looks pretty nice. Kathryn and I will do a little riding soon.



We sat down yesterday afternoon and looked at some up-coming charity races. We think we will do the “Iron Bunny” (5k) in El Paso toward the end of April (supports ALS disease association) and a Run for Public Health (8k) in May, which supports the Wounded Warrior Project. So, if anyone wants to join Team Zen to benefit these causes, let us know.



At our post race dinner last night we found Student Alice had, indeed, completed the race! She started far behind Yubao and I in the starting lineup, though, so we never saw each other. She was very pleased with herself, as were we with her, “Bravo Alice!”



This evening at Clear Mind Zen Temple we will practice Zazen at 7:00 PM and Yoga at 7:30 PM.



Be well!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bataan Race Report

With palms together,


Good Afternoon Everyone,



This morning Student Yubao and I lined up in the chaos of the White Sands Missile Range’s Bataan Death March Memorial race with 6500 marchers. We could not find Student Alice and neither of us had her cell number. The wind was horrible, gusting easily into the 40 MPH range, and steady at 20-25 MPH. It was chilly and dark. The wind made fast work of Yubao’s hat which he bought on our last long hike through the desert.



As the start time approached, after the Star-Spangled Banner was sung by singer Ricky Lee, the announcer did a Roll Call of those Bataan Survivors present and one’s who died over the year since the last March. Three survivors voiced “Here!” There was an eerie silence as the deceased were called out. A fly-over by the Air Force ended the opening ceremonies and the cannon blasted our start.



I felt great. The weather got better as the sun rose over the mountains. The huge crowded field made it seem easy to get through the first two miles of the race. It did not thin out until about mile 9. At mile 5-6, we made a left turn and began our ascent. It was here I felt the flush I sometimes feel. It’s as though I cannot feel my left arm and hand and a sort of halo feeling arises. It’s the sort of thing I used to feel years ago when I was epileptic (from the gunshot wound to my head in Vietnam).



I checked my pulse and maintained my pace. But did tear open a “Zone” bar as I climbed. It seemed as though that hill was going to last forever. In fact, it was about a 3.5 miles according to my Garmin. Anyway, the relief of getting to the top was short-lived as winding through these desert trails led to the infamous “sand pit,” a stretch of about two miles of ankle deep sand. I immediately recognized the value of those silly looking cloth ankle covers some fortunate, smarter than I, hikers were wearing.



Student Yubau, a Chinese man in his mid-forties, called me on my cell phone (he had slipped into the Gulf Stream of Speed-racers early, leaving me in the dust) to tell he had finished the race. Good grief. But it was good to hear his voice.

As we approached the finish line at about a mile out, I decided to pick up my pace by jogging. Kathryn Soku Shin was to greet me at the finish, but alas, I was too quick for her and went over the finish line at 4:24:18, according to me Garmin.



The crowd support was marvelous and the volunteer support was superb. It was a pleasure seeing such dedication and support from so many people along the way. A tired soldier with US Army Spandex was struggling under a tree to get his long pants on. I assisted him. In return he offered me his really cool Army space blanket, which of course, was Olive Drab on one side, and silver on the other. I thanked him and sat down on the grass to inspect my blisters. Along came Kathryn, which was delightful. We had some lunch, a beer, and a truly delicious ride home.



While I do not support war, it is good to know we have such wonderful people in service to protecting us from those who would do us harm. Let us never again confuse the war with the warrior. It was an honor to March with them.



Be well.





Friday, March 25, 2011

Dharma

With respect,








Thank you very much Kobutsu for both sharing this insightful and powerful piece of writing, but also for the person you are. Thank you also for taking the time to call me, it is always a moment pregnant with the possibility of awakening to speak with you. Reading this piece reminded me so much of my ten years of work in child protective services, work as much for myself as for the children and families I was asked to work with. How to feel compassion for a perpetrator of sexual violence on a small child? How to understand a family system that produces and allows such behavior?





Such work changes us and also, I think, invites us to examine deeply, the phrases and jargon we Zennists drape ourselves with. Buddha nature is nature and nature is the universe: not all sweetness and light. Stars collide, civilizations brutalize one another, and individuals eat each other for lunch. All dharmas. Life unfolds.







Releasing ourselves from the grip of our thoughts and feelings about such things to just enter the situation is, I suspect, the best approach. When beings suffer we are there, not to help as your quote suggests, but to liberate.







Here's the thing, it seems to me we all live in cages. We all use our situation and condition to justify our behavior regardless of that behavior's morality. To free ourselves from the cage is to free ourselves from the whole structure: ego, id, and super-ego, on the individual level, but also from macro social structures, as well. We brutalize ourselves daily with our ideas, our values, and our economicic systems. A cage by another other name is still a cage.







To use the logic of the Buddha in his Diamond Sutra, to free ourselves from Dharma labels, such as being Zen practitioners, we must realize we are not Zen practioners. Because of this we are Zen ptractitioners. So, what does this mean? It means to me, just do what is in front of you to do.







Be well.







Daiho





"You need not enter a monastery, but make a monastery of your heart."

Soyu Matsuoka



Harvey Daiho Hilbert

Order of Clear Mind Zen

Telephone: 575-680-6680







--- On Thu, 3/24/11, Kobutsu Malone wrote:





From: Kobutsu Malone

Subject: Re: Greetings

To: "Harvey Daiho Hilbert"

Date: Thursday, March 24, 2011, 5:13 PM





http://www.engaged-zen.org/articles/Kobutsu-Paradox.html























On Mar 24, 2011, at 7:01 PM, Harvey Daiho Hilbert wrote:



With palms together,



Kobutsu, I hope you are well. I am writing to ask if you would offer a few words/insights to one of my students who has expressed an interest in prison work. He is a very bright, engaged scientist, who also holds a 3rd degree black belt, and will become a novice priest in April.





Again, I hope you are well. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



In gassho,



Daiho







"You need not enter a monastery, but make a monastery of your heart."

Soyu Matsuoka



Harvey Daiho Hilbert

Order of Clear Mind Zen

Telephone: 575-680-6680



Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Wholehearted Way

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



The morning began at 2:00 AM with Suki being sick. I cleaned the carpet and walked her. She seemed to feel better, went to sleep, as I tried myself to recover my dreams. Soku Shin was dead to the world. Good. She really needed the rest. So, up again at 4:30, I began with Zazen, did a arms and shoulders weight workout, and followed that with a yoga routine. After writing this note, I will head out into the desert for a 2.8 mile hike. Then return to paint. My afternoon is filled with dokusan interviews. This evening the women gather for their Zen group and I will practice Zazen and yoga at the Temple beginning at 7:00 PM. Such is my day.



A new student and I have been studying the Bendowa, an essay by Master Dogen on the practice of the Wholehearted way. I consider this often through the day. Am I wholeheartedly present? Is my mind divided? I notice, that often it is, and I gently bring it back together in a simple breath with my shoulders open and my eyes cast downward. I think this is a good practice, to notice and return, notice and return. It should be a moment to moment practice.



In this practice, as I breath in, I release my mind and let the present environment in. Who is there before me? What is going on? How am I responding? Release. Release. Release.



Soku Shin just left to take her car in for servicing. Suki and I need our morning aerobic work. It is time, then, to close.



Be well.



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Morning Practice

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning we rose early. It feels good to get up early sometimes, but then again, it feels good to sleep in on occasion. This morning I went through my morning yoga routine feeling ever-so-tight and feeling as if springs were uncoiling in the process. Yoga when done slowly and mindfully is such a centering, contemplative practice. I followed this with an easy leg workout with weights: squats and calf-raises, then for abs, crunches and knee tucks. In a week or two I will increase this day’s workout to include lunges and much heavier weight.



Last night at Temple we explored a few fragments of Master Dogen’s “Fukanzazenji.” It was a good discussion, I thought, about coming to experience what is true and already present within us: our buddha-nature. Once this unfolds and we see it clearly, everything in our lives has the portent of teaching and learning: from downward facing dog to making coffee in the morning to typing such a message as this. Once our eyes are open, we can actually see.



I like to think of it as similar to walking in our own authority, the authority of substance. Knowing, one need not speak. Everything is there in every gesture. Now, to get ready to go out the door for a walk.



Be well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Day

With palms together,


Good Afternoon Everyone,



This morning I am still nursing a blister on my left foot’s Big Toe…I need it to heal for Sunday’s race at White Sands Missile Range. So, I have not walked but a half mile or so over the last two days. Kathryn (Soku Shin) and I did go down to the Rio Grande where we biked two miles the day before yesterday. (It was very beautiful at sunset!)



What I have been doing is yoga twice a day and weights. This morning I punched up my weight routine, pulled out my old workout log, and re-did it to reflect a few changes. As it stands: Monday and Thursday are Arms and Shoulders, Tuesday and Friday are Chest and Back, Wednesday is Legs, Abs are daily. Yoga is twice daily. Tai Chi Chih is Wednesday. I am going from three sets of 8 reps heavy, building to five sets of 8 heavy.



On the aerobic side: After the Bataan Death March on Sunday, I thought I would move back to running, since I think I have solved the foot issues (at least temporarily) so Monday is a Slow Run, Tuesday is a Walk, Wednesday is a Tempo run, Thursday is a Walk, Friday is an Easy Run, Saturday is a Long Run, Sunday is Off.



This said, Zazen is my main contemplative practice, although I work hard to train in a contemplative mode in all things I do. Zen, as I taught last night, is an every moment thing: Zen is life itself. In everything we do, we should do it aware that we are doing it. There is no room for auto-pilot in life. Life is far too short for that sort of thing.



This evening at Clear Mind Zen Temple, we will host Zen 101 at 6:00 PM, practice Zazen at 7:00 PM, and practice Yoga at 7:30 PM. Please consider joining us!



Be well.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Peaceful Nation

With palms together,




Good Afternoon Everyone,







This morning we woke in good time, a few stretches (I wouldn’t call it yoga) a few reps of the dumbbells (I wouldn’t call it a weight workout) and a trip to the Temple to don the vestments, open the service, sit Zazen and then leave to join Rev. Gozen-sensei, my former disciple, as he gave Shukke Tokudo to one of his disciples, Rev. Kim Vajramanas Pries. After the festivities, we regrouped at the International Delights Deli for a wonderful lunch. Rev. Dai Shugyo completed the service in my stead at the Temple and Dharma Teacher Zen Shin offered a talk. Afterwards, Soku Shin and I took Suki for a walk in the desert, albeit, a short walk, as MY DOGS are tired and still sore. Now resting, I have some time to write to you.







The wars of the United States seem to keep increasing, all very legitimate I am given to understand, yet wars, none-the-less. I am wondering where our resolve to find peaceful solutions to conflict went. What? Oh, excuse me, you’re right, there was never any such resolve. Must be all in my mind, but I thought our president was elected to bring an end to this nonsense. I must be mistaken, as there seems no real end in sight and now we have joined with other nations to fight another war.



Maybe I am just getting old, but frankly, this is such old news. Here's the deal, I will be conned no more. I was born shortly after the conclusion of World War Two. So, I just researched our war efforts since I was born. Since then, we have been involved in the Korean war, the Vietnam war, and the following “operations”:







1. Operation Urgent Fury-Grenada (1983)



2. Operation Just Cause-Panama (1989)



3. Operation Desert Storm-Iraq (January and February 1991)



4. Operation Restore Hope-Somalia (1993)



5. Operations in Europe-Bosnia (1990's)



6. Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan (2001-present)



7. Operation Iraqi Freedom-Iraq (2003-present)





And now, Libya. (for a very detailed and eye-opening index of US Military operations, see this link. I feel sad for us. We have been led to believe for so long that we are a peaceful, peace-loving nation, but the record speaks for itself. For me to consider us a peaceful nation at any time in the future, I will need to see evidence that we can actually live in peace. I think I will be dying long before that ever happens. Until then, let’s be peaceful and peace-loving individuals, communities, and even cities.







I will be resuming my Peace Witness Vigils on Monday and Friday mornings at the Veteran’s Park tomorrow. In addition, I believe I will begin again to sit for peace at the Federal Building in downtown Las Cruces on Wednesday afternoons at 4:00 PM.







Please consider joining me.







Be well, be peace.



Saturday, March 19, 2011

13.1 Today

With palms together,


Good Afternoon Everyone,



Students Yubao and Alice and I finished our last long training hike this morning in preparation for the Bataan Death March Memorial race coming up this Sunday, the 27th. I left them at a corner about a mile from my apartment and when I walked in the door I had done 13.1 miles. My toes were killing me. A cold bath helped, Aleve helped more! And now, after lunch, a cold beer is topping off a wonderful morning. Soku Shin and I are planning a trip into Old Mesilla today. She wants to look at a proposed biking route. I think we will rest after that…or at least I know I will!



Be well.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Morning Note

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Today is a full day. Walking this morning with friends, Allen and Eve, Peace Village Board Meeting at noon, a birthday greeting for a friend at 1:30, several dokusan interviews this afternoon, and the evening’s Zazen and yoga tonight. I have been quite busy for a retired guy who is a monk.



We have put together a small team for the Bataan Death March: I will join students Yubao and Alice on the March. Yesterday I ordered special t-shirts for us to wear. On the front, Clear Mind Zen with our Order’s logo. On the back, “Stillness in Motion” with “Team Zen” underneath.



So far each evening we are chanting the Heart Sutra for our brothers and sisters in Japan. I have few moments in the day where that nation is not on my mind. Such suffering makes my worries seem thoroughly insignificant, even embarrassing. The Japanese have much to teach us, I suspect, about handling adversity. No looting, no craziness, just a determination to do what needs to be done. No doubt there will be introspection and a desire to do better with the results. I have watched their 24 hour news show on my PC and see none of the sort of talking head, faux news, emotional screaming we see in the United States. Yes, there are lessons. We might benefit from paying attention to them.



So, off to take a desert trails walk and enjoy the conversation of friends.



Be well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Change

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Many thanks, and nine bows, to the individual who offered a new Buddha statue at our Temple’s gate. And for the care given to our plants along the side. It was a delight to arrive yesterday afternoon and discover these gifts.



Last night’s Zazen was powerful. Just before the bell rang we got an update on the tsunami/nuclear plant catastrophe. So the loss of life, devastation, potential for even greater devastation, and great suffering of the Japanese people were foremost on our minds. Our Robe Verse, Verse of Atonement, Three Refuge Chant, Heart Sutra and Four Great Vows seemed especially meaningful and suggestive.



A glance at the news pages this morning revealed death and destruction, war, wanton killing, and environmental crisis. On a student’s Face Book page, I saw a video of a young woman thanking God for answering her prayers by raining down destruction on the “atheists” in Japan. Soku Shin and I saw a documentary about a new craze in the UK: cosmetic surgery for vaginas. A diet of this sort of thing feels quite toxic, yet is what it is: our condition today. What are we to do with it?



Some might suggest we not turn on a TV or read a newspaper. Some might suggest we do nothing as there is nothing we really can do. Some might suggest we do what we can to help: offer food, clothing, medicine, etc. These are each ways to cope, and in the latter case, actually help, albeit on a very small scale. Yet, these do not address the toxicity of the images, nor do they touch the fundamental issues a spiritual and religious life demands of us.



How do we make sense of such events? Is God punishing us? Or, framing it differently, is the earth making adjustments to compensate for conditions, some of which might be manmade? Are these random? Are these karmic?



When faced with death and destruction on such a scale we often feel there is nothing to do but clean up and rebuild. Yet, there is something else. We can pause and look deeply in all directions. What are we here for? Just to multiply? Simply to build factories that have the potential, and in some cases, actual capacity to harm both life and that which supports life? What is our relationship, as individuals, to these things? Do we support industry that pays little or no attention to its impact on us and our home?



If so, this is a time to re-evaluate and say “Enough!” No more war, no more taxing to support industry harmful to animal and plant life; no more “Progress is our most important product” or “Better living through chemistry.” Such delusions are not in-service to humanity. What is in our service is our willingness to touch one another, love one another, and care for one another. What is in service to us is our willingness to care for our homes, beginning in our own neighborhoods and working our way outward toward the entire planet. To use a phrase we are using this year at Peace Village, we might consider thinking globally and acting locally.



Be well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Stillness

With respect,


Good Morning Everyone,



Yesterday at Temple I spoke about seated Zen practice, about how we often think of discipline incorrectly and thus push against it. There is a source of strength deep within us. I know it is there; I have tapped it in Vietnam, on long motorcycle trips, in Sesshin, in Ango, and on long runs. The conventional wisdom to developing endurance is that we push ourselves to tap into it. Wrong. This strength resides in stillness, in the heart of our being. To push to touch it actually pushed it away.



In our struggle to achieve something, say running 26.2 miles or say, sitting in zazen for Sesshin, it is our goal and push to achieve it that forms a barrier, or resistance, to its actual achievement. Our practice is a gentle way, but a resolute way, none-the-less. Our practice is to release ourselves into our practice.



Sitting in zazen we often want to move, we want the period to be over. We say things to ourselves, we say things to the timer, and we sometimes struggle against these. What I suggest is not to surrender to the pain or the thought or the feeling, but rather to surrender the goal and touch our inner stillness. When we release ourselves and just reside in the exact moment, the exact breath, the exact feeling, it is possible to open our grip and let it go. For runners, this is stillness in motion, the “zone.” For Zensters, it is Zazen. It is the stillness of the heart/mind.:



This is discipline of a different sort. This is a discipline of self-awareness in the process of opening selflessness. This is Zen. Practice touching that strength of resolve we already possess. With every out-breath we touch our true self.



Be well.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dharma Gates

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



There are mornings when the air is just right. This was one of them. We went out for a short desert walk (my long walk is tomorrow), and we had the top down on the old Saab as we drove over to the trailhead. The air was crisp and delicious. Out of the car and on the trail, we could feel the morning sun warming the air as we walked. Suki, of course, was searching for rabbits and quail, crossing this way and that, but always keeping us in view.



Sand, sun, stones, cool desert air, these are dharma gates. I struggle at times to keep myself upright in them, especially with others along the way. Mindfulness is clearly required while hiking in the desert or for training of any kind. Concentration, for me, often disallows conversation while exercising. Focus is critical. Its like my brain will not allow stereo, everything has to be monaural.



So, we often walk in silence, though at times I say a word or hear Soku Shin say a word or two, we do not need the words: the beauty is that we are on the path together. Suki’s darting keeps us alert, as do the sand, stones, and sun. In the end we return home feeling connected, present, and ready for the day.



Be well.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Buddha Nature

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Suki has taken to sleeping on the top of the back of the living room sofa. From this vantage point she can both sleep and scan. In the car she sits upright on the center console. Suki is awake. If a dog has buddha-nature, what does it say about the nature of that nature?



Is it still buddha nature when not realized? And what exactly, would that say about the buddha nature, if it were, or, on the other hand, if it weren’t?



One aspect of buddha nature is that it is inherent in everything. It pervades the universe and some argue it is the universe itself. We might think of it as a Buddhist form of panentheism. It is in everything, but is not the thing itself.



Another aspect of the buddha nature is its manifestation. I have said the buddha nature is essentially universal process, a sort of infinite, in all directions and all times, metabolism. We might say that whatever it takes to support this metabolism is an aspect of the manifestation of its nature. Some might argue, therefore, that killing in order to eat is a manifestation of the buddha nature. On our walks in the desert we see hawks seeking mice. We might simply assert this is the natural way, but such an assertion is not quite accurate. We could say, “poor mice” or “happy hawks.” In this we recognize the buddha nature of killing to survive, but also recognize our feelings about the predator and prey.



Dogen says flowers fall even though we love them and weeds grow even though we do not like them. In this he is saying something about the buddha nature. It is pervasive, contained in both weeds and flowers, but it is also in our feelings about these things and their fate. We might realize our attachment to flowers and our disdain for weeds, but we practice to recognize they are all part of the buddha nature itself.



So, hawks are happy when they eat mice. Mice are happy when they eat grain. Grains are happy when they eat from the soil. The soil is happy when it eats from everything that dies. When we realize the universal oneness of this process, there is no birth or death. We each experience our birth and death and realize the value we place on these, we realize our buddha nature. We are happy when we realize our truth.



Be well.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Be Resolute

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



I have been meaning to write this for some time now. It is about our practice...or more accurately, our relationship to our practice. Please take it in the spirit it is intended, that of a support to our practice, a reminder of what we are about.



Our Zazen practice is best not done as a solitary experience, nor is it one done as we please. Zazen is a disciplined practice. Zazen is not a practice we can chose to do or not do on a whim or to quit doing for any reason. For buddhas and bodhisattvas, Zazen is our life. We should set a time, set a length of time, and set a place: then follow our schedule. Practice alone is a weak practice: It allows for far too many bad habits to develop and continue.



Zazen is also not a practice that allows for wiggling, hesitation, bathroom going, water sipping, or other activities that reveal our lack of concentration and discipline. Zazen is seated meditation where our eye is steady and our resolve firm. We notice and let go, returning to our present mind. We notice and let go, returning to our present mind. Oh, did I say, we notice and let go, returning to our present mind?



Where is wiggling? Where is hesitation? Where is bathroom going? These are preparatory activities do them before the timing bell rings or during kinhin.



Practice to reside in stillness. Gently disallow an urge to move around. Encourage yourself to remain resolute. From my own experience, when I sit, often my left leg begins to spasm. I could easily excuse myself, get up and go to another room. I work hard at remaining on the cushion, making small adjustments here and there. I work at dealing with thoughts that I might be disturbing others in the Zendo. This work is done on the cushion, not off of it. I have faith that each of us has the capacity to do this, but we must develop the willingness to resolutely do so. The reward is an ability to be present in the midst of whatever is swirling around in your life, as well as an open heart.



Be well.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Adaptation

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



We woke up a bit later than usual with a degree of stiffness related to the weekend’s training both in Zen and in Half Marathon. The combination of seated Zen, hiking, and bike riding, coupled with some yoga, was a bit much…not over the top, but enough to push the muscles to adapt.



Adaptation is part of our evolutionary process. In Zen we call it “unfolding.” We always begin where we are and take a step. As a result of the step, especially if it is outside of our comfort zone, we are stressed a bit and essentially forced to adapt. This is not unlike the koan process John Daido Loori discusses in his edited text, “Working with Koans.” Nor is it unlike the shikantaza of Soto Zen. In either case, our practice is to go deeper, go deeper, only to come to who we are, which is essentially universal adaptation or universal change.



Accordingly, it is against our nature to try to remain the same. It is against our nature not to let go and adapt. I feel for those suffering in sameness, or those wishing to return to some prior state of an imagined “happier time,” as such desires are the cause of great suffering and act as a barrier to living fully in the here and now.



Today, step out of your comfort zone. Do something that pushes your limits a bit. Allow your humanity to do its thing. Adapt.



Be well.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Zazenkai

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



So, it is 4.7 miles from the apartment to the Temple, more or less. I say more or less because it depends on the route. As a pedestrian or bike rider, we add 3 tenths of a mile because we must loop around a sweeping and complex intersection to get to a tunnel which takes us under I-25 in order to continue down Main Street. Main Street itself is a poor example of pedestrian or bicycle –friendly traffic. The sidewalks are sporadic and the bike lanes, if they exist, are in serious disrepair. I noticed, however as I went along, that these “flaws” became generous teachers along the way.



Anyway, yesterday was Zazenkai day at our Zen Temple. We began at 10:00 and closed at 4:00. It was wonderful. We had four Zen participants, including myself. We added two more as the day passed. Then in the afternoon, two women walked in with a small child. They were interested in what we were doing. At the point they came in we were in the middle of a study group discussing Master Dogen’s Genjo Koan. They listened and began to participate When the bell for Zazen rang, we accommodated them, shortened our sitting periods and taught them the practice. Soku Shin, during the first period, took the little girl into the library/office and offered her drawing materials.



Student Alice taught our newcomers the proper technique for kinhin, and Student Yubao offered Tea Service, filling the cups to the brim and knelling down in service without spilling a drop! Disciple Dai Shugyo was our energetic and ever mindful Ino, inviting bells to ring and clappers to clap. As for myself, I practiced great love for all who were present. As Tenzo, I prepared the midday meal and served our group. Each time I practice this role, I gain a renewed appreciation for Master Dogen and his teaching regarding cooking our life.



In the end, our group coalesced into a group that sat upright, offered the Dharma to world, and with the fueko, transferred the merit generated by our practice to all beings.



To me, this is how a Zen Temple operates. Rigidity, clinging to forms, is a curse; no forms and no diligence is also a curse: it must take on the way of compassionate understanding.



I was very pleased that our steadfast little group opened their hearts to newcomers in this way.



So, the walk to the Temple was 4.7 miles and the bike ride back was 4.7 miles, and each mile was spent in mindful contemplation of the joy of simple things.



Be well.



PS. Hannamatsuri Sesshin will be held in Las Cruces April 8.9. and 10. Please consider joining us for all or part of this practice period. Let me know by email if you plan to attend.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Westboro Baptist Church

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



The news this morning assures us that the US Supreme Court stands with the First Amendment of the Constitution, even when that speech is loathsome. As abbot of the Order of Clear Mind Zen, I offer my response to the Rev. Phelps below:



The Order of Clear Mind Zen responds to Rev. Fred Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas.



Dear Rev. Phelps,



I have just read that the US Supreme Court upheld your right to free speech. I am thankful that they did so and, personally, I want to thank you for offering us the opportunity to work on compassion and to practice forgiveness of your hate and the great suffering you and your Church inflict on human beings in the midst of their own great suffering. It is a challenge to offer you love, I admit. The suffering you cause in the name of your faith is very great. My first instinct is to want harm to come to you, to want you to suffer with the rest of us. But your anger and your pain are evident and I sense they offer you protection from those who hate you.



From this I learn that hate is a barrier to compassion. Hate protects us from pain, but prevents us from touching our own humanity and it is this loss that is most tragic in your life. The fact is, you cannot love. For you to love would require you to drop the barriers your hate provides. That would be far too painful for you.



So, while my disgust is there, and my desire to harm you is there, it arises out of my love for those you harm, and my desire to protect them from your hate. I could say I practice the Buddha Way for you, to free you from your suffering, but ultimately, though, I practice the Buddha way for myself, sir, because as you stumble in your darkness seeking light, you cause me to examine my own heart and I am able to see my own humanity. Powerful feelings are great teachers. Yet, we must be willing to be taught by them. In your freedom to speak, may you learn the responsibility of that speech; may you look upon the hearts that you harm and feel their pain. In this feeling the opportunity arises to experience compassion and the way for you to be truly free presents itself.



May we both, then, be free from suffering.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Notes

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Today at the Temple we will host Zen 101 at 6:00 PM, practice Zazen at 7:00 PM, and practice Yoga at 7:30 PM.



After two months or so meeting at 3:00 PM for Yoga and rarely having anyone come, we have decided to move our yoga practice to 7:30 PM Monday through Thursday, following Zazen at 7:00. Each practice period will be approximately 30 minutes in duration.



If anyone should wish to practice yoga, t’ai chi chih, Zazen, or have a personal teaching interview at anytime in the day, please call me at 575-680-6680 for an appointment.



Tai Chi Chih continues to meet at 6:00 PM on Wednesdays.



Our Friday 4:00 Zen Group will continue to meet and is followed by Zazen at about 5:30 PM.



Lastly, we will conduct Zazenkai this Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Please call or email your reservation. A small donation of $10.00 would be appreciated.



Be well.