Sunday, April 13, 2014

fences, walls, pebble, tiles

Boundless Way Temple, near front steps, April 2014

Spring has come to Worcester, and flowers are poking up through the brown grass and leaves of winter.  Dogen says, in his essay "Mind Here and Now is Buddha" (Soku-shin-ze-butsu, translated by Gudo Nishijima):  "Mind as fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles is nothing other than fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles.  There is no additional mud or water." Just these flowers, just these stones.  Why do I ask for more?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ango talks

The Boundless Way Zen ango retreat is in its second week at Boundless Way Temple in Worcester, MA. We are hosting an "open-house" retreat, with four practice periods each day that include talks and individual meetings with teachers, as well as sitting and walking meditation.  All of the talks are on-line -- even if you can't join us, you can hear the talks and the discussions (dharma dialogues) that follow at this link:

If you can come in person, here is the daily schedule, through March 12. Ango ends on Thursday, March 13 at 1 pm.

 You do not need to register for ango unless you plan to stay overnight.  For overnight registration:  Donations for any part of a practice period will be gratefully received in the collection bowl in the front hallway.

6:00 AM - 8:00 AM Early morning practice period
Includes dokusan (individual meetings with a teacher or senior student)

10:00 AM - 12:30 PM Late morning practice period
Includes sutra service, teisho (dharma talk by a teacher or senior student) and dharma dialogue

2:30 PM- 5:30 PM Afternoon practice period
Includes dokusan

7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Evening practice period
Includes teisho, dharma dialogue and dokusan

note: breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served buffet style, so there's no need to bring your own food unless you have special needs, and you won't need an oryoki set.

Monday, February 17, 2014

just so inspired by this...

My Zen teacher, James Ford, recently posted this on his blog Monkey Mind.  I couldn't agree more with every word he writes here:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

sometimes it's like this

I'm very grateful that I can be in touch with people from all over the world, who want to work with me on their contemplative and spiritual practices.  And, as the comedians Key and Peele demonstrate, sometimes the limitations of our internet connection make it all just a wee bit frustrating.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Upset in Real Life

cartoon reprinted from The New Yorker

For about a year, this blog was being reprinted on another website.  Not being a big star of the "interweb", as one of my young friends calls it, I appreciate the few readers I have, and every once in a while, someone comments on something I've written.

I was surprised that no-one ever commented on the reprinted blog entries, so I decided to check in and have a look to see if they were actually there.  And I discovered that people were indeed commenting on them -- it's just that this particular site doesn't moderate comments, and I wasn't set up to receive them in any case.  I've learned that this is a fairly common practice.

My biggest surprise, though, was the tone of the comments, nasty and confused, for the most part.  And the writers were all talking to each other, not to me.  My writing was a starting point for endless arguments about all things Dharma and Zen.  Everyone who wrote in hid behind a fake name, so there was no way for me to respond without adding to the public hoopla.

Chagrined and disappointed, I asked the person who maintains the site to remove my blog, which he did graciously and quickly.  But not before defending the style of the blog comments as a part of free speech, something he believes in very strongly.

As of course, do I.  But I have to say that I'm a fan of open, civil and transparent discourse.  Sometimes we strongly disagree with others, but we don't have to make a hobby of argument.  Nor do we need to hide our identity if there's something important we want to say.

And as they say on the interweb, this is just imho.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Teaspoon of Salt

One of my favorite metaphors for dealing with suffering is to compare the intensity of our pain to a teaspoon of salt.  When we put the salt in a small glass, the water is very salty.  When we put the same amount in a large bowl, the water is less salty.  And when we pour it into a lake, it doesn't do very much to change the saltiness of the lake water.

Having a big container (Joko Beck called this the ABC of Zen practice -- A Bigger Container) doesn't mean that we minimize or ignore our pain.  But held with a spacious view, we may find that our suffering can be borne just a wee bit more than we ever thought possible.  We even develop the capacity to touch the great pain of the world.  Rather than turn away, we can turn towards it, and then act in a way that takes it into account.

Recently, one of my students, Bob Waldinger, sent me this photo of the landscape of Patagonia, with the following comment: "When suffering arises, this is the kind of place that overwhelms that little teaspoon of salt."  Thanks for the photo and the thought, Bob!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pope Francis, closet bodhisattva

While I know well that Pope Francis and I would disagree about many things, (don't get me started on ordination of women, same-sex marriage, and, well...I'll just stop right now...), I found these words, quoted in the current New Yorker article by James Carroll, reassuringly inspiring.

From the apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel":

"We want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in  their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world."