Friday, April 22, 2016

Buddhism 101 -- making the road by walking

Danish footpath

Last Wednesday evening we had our second class of the Buddhism 101 series.

This time we focused on the second two marks of existence, impermanence and no-self.  Through guided inquiry and contemplation, we looked into the reality of change in our lives.  When good times come, we realize they won't last.  And when bad times come, we have to remind ourselves that even these things will pass.

From this awareness of change comes the first hint of the malleability of the self itself.  Even the person we think we are changes moment to moment, breath to breath.

Suffering without the understanding of change, and how this awareness even applies to our precious self, leads to rigidity.  The path to awakening is one of fluidity.

Dharma Holder Diane Fitzgerald gifted us with this poem by Antonio Machado, translated by Willis Barnstone.  

"You walking, your footprints are the road, and nothing else; there is no road, walker, you make the road by walking.  By walking you make the road, and when you look back, you see the path that you will never step on again.  Walker, there is no road, only wind trails in the sea."

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Buddhism 101 -- The Anxious Quiver

Danish anthropology museum -- Chinese musician
Last night we had our first Buddhism 101 class, taught by the guiding teachers of Boundless Way Temple:  David Dae An Rynick, Roshi, Dharma Holders James Cordova and Diane Fitzgerald, and myself.

This particular 3-part series is about the Four Marks of Existence, and last night we explored the first mark, which is the Sanskrit word "dukkha,"  commonly translated as "suffering."  The word is onomatopoeic:  it sounds like what it is.  It refers to a wheel on a cart that's out of alignment, and so makes the sound "duk, duk, duk" as it heads on down the road.  One of the discoveries in our discussion was that suffering is almost certainly the wrong word for this constant, out-of-balance accompaniment to our life.

Some Buddhist teachers posit that there can be moments when dukkha disappears, but our contention is that it persists, as a "mark" of existence, sometimes in an extreme fashion that could be called suffering, but most often as a "the anxious quiver at the core of our being" in Ezra Bayda's wonderful words.  To be able to settle in to the granular quality of this subtle quiver is the beginning of our practice of waking up.  We meet the experience granularly by becoming as intimate to it as possible, noticing any sensations in the body that accompany it, any emotions, and any thoughts churned out by our endless internal narrator.  
And in this way, we discover the second mark of existence, anicca, which means "impermanence."  Even suffering, or the more quiet version of dukkha we might call "unsatisfactoriness" or "imbalance" has a life of its own, constantly changing, intensifying and diminishing.  This is the beginning of finding our freedom, leading to the last two marks of anatta (no-self) and nirvana (awakening in the midst of everything.)

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Daffodils

The Daffodils

After spring snow has melted
some are bent and broken down
some are blooming oblivious
to the weight of the past
open to the present good luck
of being able to show up fully to the day
and some are budding,  yet to be born
all equally daffodils
greeting life just as they are

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Boundless Way Spring Sesshin talks

Thanks to Steve Wallace, the talks given at our Boundless Way Zen Spring Sesshin are now available to listen to at:

Spring Sesshin 2016


Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Doorways -- Italy
The Chinese Master Yunmen once asked his student Dongshan, "Why do you wander about, now west of the river, now south of the lake?"  Yunmen was asking about a common type of human wandering, familiar to anyone who has ever watched his or her own mind for even a few minutes.  We are endlessly addicted to chasing after thoughts, moving backwards and forwards into the past and into the future, never being fully where we actually are.

Many things have been occurring recently in my life that are unsettling.  Strange weather, friends getting seriously ill, people dying.  None of this is unusual, and in many ways I am lucky, spared from great disasters.  But still, I notice my mind wandering, to the past in regret and to the future in worry.   Moments of settling into this present moment are so precious, but not permanent.  I find myself longing to be settled physically, emotionally and cognitively, to be at home in this ever-changing world.

And perhaps this is the whole point of Zen practice:  to be comfortable in the wandering itself; to be at home in every place.

Yunmen's words caused Dongshan to have a great awakening.  This is what he said to his teacher:  "Someday I'll go where there's no one around and build myself a hut.  I'll store no rice and plant no vegetables but will receive worthy friends coming and going from all directions.  Pulling out their pegs and yanking out their wedges, snatching away their grubby hats and ripping off their smelly robes.  I'll make them clean and free, I'll make them people with nothing to do."

Yunmen responded, "You're no larger than a coconut, yet how big your mouth is!"

Dongshan is talking about my own job description!  Here at the Temple we gather, gradually becoming people with nothing to do.  And then, off we go again!  Every moment is a doorway to the Great Matter.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

On Eagles Wings

My husband's father, George Rynick, died this morning.  He had a complex and varied life, but he never lost his faith in a love that held him no matter what he did or what was done to him.  What I might call the Dharma, the lawful love that fills the universe, he saw as embodied in a personal and ever compassionate God.  He requested that his favorite song, "On Eagle's Wings" be sung at his funeral.  Here is a version by Josh Groban:

May you be carried on eagle's wings, George, and find your rest at last.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Inside Out Review

Inside Out just won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Film.  You can read the review I wrote last fall for Shambhala Sun here: