Monk In The World

To be a monk is to have time to practice for your transformation and healing. And after that to help with the transformation and healing of other people.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Exscuse me, but I need to go sit!



Dosho Port, at Wild Fox Zen , states:


In order to have any semblance of balance, a student needs a lot of zazen. A lot, you hear me? "Oh, it isn't the quantity but the quality," you might say.

And I'd say, oh, stop it. Enough eel wriggling psychobabble, avoiding the cushion. If you don't want to sit, don't do it but don't spew vomit on others.
Not a lot to reflect upon here. I'll just SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!

Thanks Dosho!

Bows,

Alan


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Zen Math


Realizing minus Actualizing = No Bowing Monk

I'm still thinking about Tarrant's words which struck me yesterday.

"The woman's discovery was about her own nearness to things."

Her discovery was her "realization". My discovery of her discovery was my realization.

 Now the question is how do I actualize this fanning monk in my face?

Gassho,
Alan

Saturday, December 26, 2009

INTIMACY





I have been reading John Tarrant's BRING ME THE RHINOCEROS. He tells the story in there about a woman who ran an inn and experienced an awakening in her kitchen. Something that Tarrant said about   



this awakening arrested my heart as I read it. His words about the woman's awakening were:

The woman's discovery was about her own nearness to things.

She started seeing differently. Things was not different, her seeing was different, her experience of just the everyday of everydayness became profoundly intimate.
I think these words (Tarrant's above) speak volumes to what this thing is we are to discover which we already have.
Maybe a knew practice is to practice being near to things. 


Anyway, these words certainly spoke to me today.

Alan




Friday, December 25, 2009

This Little Light Of Mine


In John's Gospel it is stated this way:

John.1
[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
[2] He was in the beginning with God;
[3] all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
[4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
[5] The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
This is the message of his coming into his own ministry, being a light, exposing delusion?




And then in Mary Oliver's poem, we are told about light again, as the Buddha is leaving this world.



The Buddha’s Last Instruction

“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal – a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire –
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.


~ Mary Oliver ~


You can do what you will with these two writings but what draws me to both is the idea of light, and the suggestion that we all can be this light. Jesus himself said we are the light of the world. 
 Light exposes things that we otherwise could not see.
Until we learn, or is it understand, how it is that this light is turned on,we walk in darkness, we walk in delusion, in ignorance. But is it a matter turning it on? I don't think so. I think it is always there. Jesus, in Matthew's gospel...finding life, involves losing your life.
I think another way of looking at this is "getting out of the way". It is because of conditioning that we have all these things that build up as to who we are, what we are...and darkness covers this light for us. But when we discover the "truth", this darkness cannot overcome this light that is in us already. For me this truth is what Merton talked about, calling it our true selves vs our false selves.
Ok, I'm getting a little too wordy here. The point I'm trying to make is this LIGHT is US. This LIGHT comes through us to our world.


But without any practice, any spiritual practice, we continue to walk in darkness.
You have a light in you. How will you go about discovering that light.


Merry Christmas,
Alan


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday? Holy-day? Everyday!



Etymology

]Holiday

Holiday originally referred only to special religious days. In modern use, it means any special day of rest or relaxation, as opposed to normal days off work or school. The word derived from the notion of "Holy Day", and gradually evolved to its current form.


Sitting here this morning with my daughter and her husband, my wife, my son (still upstairs sleeping). Just enjoying the simple fact of being together. Holidays allow for such moments, if you are lucky. These days seem so special and truth be known, a little magical.


When it's all over, the contrast can be emotionally challenging for some. This is where my practice becomes such a significant part of my life. It is here that I am reminded that my life is my practice.
Would I be right to say that when we actualize the fundamental point, everyday is a holiday, every moment is a holimoment (yes, I made that word up)?
So I wish for you, your life to be a holiday!
As a footnote, I think I should say that each moment is not necessarily a happy moment but each moment is a meaningful moment, if we pay attention.

Monk: what is the essence of your practice?
Basho: Whatever is needed…
--Basho

Happy Holimoments and Holidays!
Alan




Monday, December 21, 2009

First Day of Winter (tell that to the east coast)


Merry Winter Solstice!
Shortest day of the year and the first official day of winter.
Of course down here in the South the seasons come and go as much as the sun sets and rises.
Not too bad today. Highs in mid 50's. I would prefer 30-40's but it seems I'm not in control of the weather. Go figure!
So what to do on the shortest day of the year. I got up at 3 am, so that was a good start. Sat zazen with Dosho and Steve at 7 am...I guess you would call it somewhat of a virtual cyber zendo...we sat together via a webinar.
It's off to the store next, cooking chili for the son, who is coming home this afternoon.
Would it be correct to say that each thing done today with great intention, great intimacy would be acutalizing the fundamental point?
One thing at a time, one practice at a time. One solstice at a time.

Bows to the distant Sun,
Alan

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chop Wood, Carry Water


Ok, so I just finished my second 100 day study with Dosho Port at Wild Fox Zen. Also had my first Dharma Combat experience. It was short and sweet. Walked in, said a few words, granted an exit by Dosho, thanked Dosho for his teaching.
And so now everything in my life looks different! NOT! Everything is always what it has been. Do I see it differently? Well, not sure. I'll just keep looking and doing what I have always been doing, living this one beautiful life with as much intention as possible.
What I remember from today more than anything is this quote from Dosho's teacher:
"living in vow"

So it's back to my life of chopping wood and carrying water.
What else is a monk in the world to do?

Deep Bows Dosho,
Alan

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Wonderful Monk Day!



It has been foggy, wet and cold all day. Of course cold down here where I live is 40's. I love days like this. I call them "monk days". They seem to bring out the contemplative spirit in me. Days like this make me wish I had a small hermitage up in the mountains somewhere.
Truth is, I do have a hermitage deep inside me. There is a quiet, still place in there that continues to grow. I am grateful for that.
Now you would think a man would have a big pot of beef stew cooking on a day like this. Nope! I have a big pot of fresh turnip greens cooking and some sweet potatoes in the oven. I will also make some good cornbread muffins to go with that.

I am just grateful today. Grateful for my life, for my marriage, for my kids, for my vocation, for my spiritual practice, for those turnip greens and sweet potatoes.
Heck, I just feel at peace right now.
Just this, this moment, this moment, this moment, this moment...just this moment!

Have a good monk day!

Alan
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Buddha's Enlightenment Day




Dosho Port reminds us at Wild Fox Zen:


Zen lore has it that after sitting under the bodhi tree for seven days, the Buddha looked up, saw the morning star and roared his lion's roar, "I together with the great earth and all living beings, attain the Way." 

May we all commit to SEEING! And then may we all commit to being responsible with what we see!




Mayu was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, “Master, the nature of wind is all pervasive and there is no place it does not reach. Why then do you fan yourself?”

“Although you understand that the nature of the wind is all pervasive,” Mayu replied,” you do not understand the
meaning of its reaching everywhere.”

“What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?” asked the monk again.

Mayu just kept fanning himself. The monk bowed deeply.



Dosho' Question:


What, I ask, did the monk see that he expressed by bowing?
                                                 Gassho,
                                                  Alan



 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Be Your Own Light


Nice glow as the sun sets. Be your own light! Was Jesus a finger pointing to the moon?

Bows to the Mystery,

Alan
Posted by Picasa

Ok, this is mother and daughter, enjoying another experience of Christmas. That little lady next to my wife is 87 years old, and oh, she loves her chardonnay every day! Cool Lady. I would have married her if my wife had said no.

Bows to the Generations,
Alan
Posted by Picasa

Angel doing Zazen


That little angel up there has been sitting for us during Christmas for 38 years...she could give Bodhidarma a run for his money. Did I spell his name right? Oh well, anyway, all the lights are on and the little ribbon the lady of the house loves so much and our faithful angel. We will do the ornaments tomorrow. Not a bad start though. Cold and cozy!

Bows,
Alan
Posted by Picasa

And Then There were Three Strings- Strung



Now if you are left brain, like my wife and son, you are thinking, "Hey, you have some dark spots in there where you need some more light. Now if you are right brain, like this now sixty-year old man, you say," I can see that coming together really well, once the ornaments are hung." One practice at a time, as Dosho has reminded us. Be still, and know!

Bows,
Alan
Posted by Picasa

First string-strung

Hang in there with me. This will take a while and maybe two single malts. But hey, it's my birthday!

Bows,

Alan
Posted by Picasa

Here We Go A trimming

Isn't she beautiful...yes, my wife...and yes, she does the lights...has for the last 38 years...first string going up! Now try to keep a beginners mind in this and you will be surprised what happens.

Bows to my rope climber!

Alan
Posted by Picasa
Now here is that tree unwrapped. See, if we stay all wrapped up, we will never be able to reach out and express the beauty of our practice. It's just one practice, JUST THIS!

Gassho,
Alan
Posted by Picasa

Happy 60th...Trees are better than cakes!

Today is my 60th birthday. Thought we might celebrate by trimming the tree. I hope to chronicle this birthing throughout the day. What a great way to celebrate your 60th. Having a birthday in December is really a great thing!
Yes, that's a real tree. Wait to you see how good my wife is at decorating.

Bows,
Alan
Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cafe Zen Says a lot in a small space


Found this at cafe zen blog site. Great amount said in small amount of words.







FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2009

225 Words or Less

I always find it daunting when trying to describe or talk about the Dharma or Zen or just the practice of sitting when someone asks. After all, words can't reach it. And the Zen adepts of old would often respond in a way that reached beyond all concepts by remaining silent or shouting or even hitting disciples who asked questions like: What is Zen? What's the teaching of the Buddha? What's the point of sitting? But sometimes it's necessary to say something and it's not just zen masters who get asked about it.

I've been co-leading a small, weekly nonsectarian meditation group in town at the local yoga studio and the owner asked me to write something about meditation for the studio's newsletter. Here's what I wrote (see below). What would you say about meditation to a group of people in 225 words or less?

"Meditation gives us a chance to bear witness to and reconnect with our inherent wholeness. It's a radical and ancient practice of throwing everything away and coming home to the breath, to this unique, non-returning moment.

For some reason, our personal narratives don't want to lose their authority over our lives, whether they say we're superior, fundamentally flawed, or both. But with sustained practice and patience, it's possible to loosen their grip and we find that our strictly defined edges begin to soften. The sleep-walking fog begins to lift and we see more and more clearly that, in fact, we and the world are not two. There's nothing fundamentally outside us, nothing alien, nothing lacking. Yun-men, a 13th century Zen master, put it this way: "My body's so big there's no place to put it."

The ongoing challenge is to bring the practice into the very center of our busy lives where it can function for the benefit of ourselves and this planet. The less we're entangled in private agendas, the more we're able to step forth and live freely, authentically, and compassionately. Our work and relationships become fueled more and more—not by incompleteness or insecurity—but by a natural generosity of heart and mind. Many people find it encouraging, supportive, and enjoyable to sit with others regularly. Drop by any Wednesday morning!"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent Begins


This is the first Sunday in the season of Advent in the Christian church. It is a time of moving from darkness to light, a time of waiting, a time of anticipation of some redeeming event for our lives, for the world, for the cosmos. I have always enjoyed the anticipation of Christmas day more than the actual day. If you read the Gospel text for this day you might see why. The Gospel text for this day is about anticipating a "second coming" of Jesus...a bit different from Luke's earlier story, although if you read the story about the first time Jesus came into this world, you will notice a very violent time also...lots of killing of babies. Anyway, here is the text.


Luke 21:25-36

21:25 "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
21:26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
21:27 Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory.
21:28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
21:29 Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees;
21:30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.
21:31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
21:32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.
21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
21:34 "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly,
21:35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.
21:36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man
 A nod to Vanderbilt Divinity School Library for this text


Well, I'm not going to exegete this passage or do any historical research on Jesus' words here but you get the picture. Not sure how I would preach this right off the top of my head but maybe for this moment  I would suggest that we all Stay Awake to the moment...that is where life is happening and it just might be our last moment...however our end will come...because nothing is permanent.

Anyway, I am still enjoying the anticipating, the preparing, the waiting...just this...right here...right now.

Deep Bows to the season,
Alan

Friday, November 27, 2009

Subtle Mysteries

This is my offering for the topping for the tacos we will have later on today. This keeps evolving and evolving. There is a new spice in this family tradition tonight. I'm curious to see if any of those at table will notice the difference. It is a very SUBTLE change. That seems to be the character of this practice. Everything things seems very Subtle. Oh well, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing in the place that I am .


















Meanwhile, I'll just relax and enjoy these tacos.


Evening to all,
Alan
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Opening Up!

    Moving Forward

    The deep parts of my life pour onward, as if the river shores were opening out. It seems that things are more like me now, that I can see farther into paintings. I feel closer to what language can't reach. With my sense, as with birds, I climb into the windy heaven, out of the oak, and in the ponds broken off from the sky my feeling sinks, as if standing on fishes.Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly
This just kind of arrested my mind this morning. 


There is a part of me just opening out these days as I move towards the beginning of my sixth decade of life. My favorite line in this is "...things are more like me now..." I'm not sure how Rilke meant it to be but that doesn't matter. What matters is what it meant to me in this moment. 


Things are more like me now because I choose to risk just being me always, in all circumstances now and that feels open, feels freeing, feels right.


Maybe, just maybe if we become really intentional in living this life, our lives do "pour onward" and "open up".


 How sad the life that just shuts down. How sad the life that becomes closed off. That would be stagnant water, would it not?



How sad the life that stays on the surface and never reaches the "the deeper parts of my life."


Today I give thanks that I am willing to take the risk of overflowing, of opening up, to being able to say "I don't Know." 


Today I bow to the mystery which Rilke speaks of here:

I feel closer to what language can't reach.



Gassho to my friend Rilke,



Alan




Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This is being "Eyes Wide Open"...Seeing things as they are!!

My son's best friend's daughter, little Miss Wamsted! Maybe she can see things we cannot, huh?

Gassho,

Alan

Life And Death Are Of Supreme Importance- Awaken!!!!!


Last night I had dreams about this practice. I can't put any visual details to this but I can put feeling details to it. There was this feeling of waiting, waiting for something. Then this morning I read a quote from the Buddha...something about being an island, being your own refuge...forget where I saw it now...anyway there rose up in me a new determination and a new understanding that even though this life is manifested, there has to be some kind of determination in our efforts in this practice we embrace, it is not just waiting!

These thoughts come on the coat tails of thoughts about being stuck, feeling the need for a break from all this stuff. Go figure!

It's like I said during the webinar on Saturday, I just need to get out of bed in the morning and live my life, and I would say this morning, live my life with intention, practicing intimacy with all that I do. Of course, idealism has left this old man a long time ago but I bow to "intention", that is a good place to start.

Gassho,
Alan

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Only, when their activity is great, their range is large.
When their activity is small, their range is  small.
In this way, each fish and each bird uses the whole space
and vigorously acts in every place.
However, if a bird departs from the sky, or a fish leaves the water,
they immediately die.



No water, no Sky, 
No Intimacy,
Reality is shattered




Bows,
Alan

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Here, There, and Everywhere..".IT"




Posted by Picasa Dosho Port said...

Alan,

"You impute a pure consciousness and something not pure (clinging, etc) - already two - and utter malign the buddhadharma! :-)

Please remember this practice is based on and expression of the simple seamless truth that "form is emptiness, emptiness is form."

"It" cannot be found apart from the flux and flow of life and death. "It" defuses harmoniously with clinging, ego, etc. ... and therefore this work is incredibly portable and efficacious."

Warm regards,

Dosho

So, part of what I think he is trying to tell me is that "IT" is found in both of these
pictures.

Oh, this is my prep for my chicken soup.

Bows,
Alan

This Week's Homework


What story from your life illuminates a piece of this?


When a fish swims, no matter how far it goes,
it doesn't reach the end of the water. 
When a bird flies, no matter how high it flies,
it cannot reach the end of the sky. 
Only, when their activity is great, their range is large. 
When their activity is small, their range is  small.
In this way, each fish and each bird uses the whole space
and vigorously acts in every place.
However, if a bird departs from the sky, or a fish leaves the water,
they immediately die.
We should know that, water means life, sky means life.
A bird is life; a fish is life.  Life is a bird; life is a fish. 
And we should go beyond this. 
There is practice-enlightenment - the way of limited and unlimited life.
Posted by Dosho Port @ Wild Fox Zen


I plan on doing some posting on this one throughout the week.
I forget who said it during the webinar but it was something about "when you are making tea, just make tea...
Reminds me of another thought...forgive me but I forget who said this:
"You can only be where your are, so pay attention to that place"

The thing that hooks me from the Genjokoan this week is this line:

In this way, each fish and each bird uses the whole space 
and vigorously acts in every place.

Maybe paying attention to where you are is no different than "vigorously acts in every place".

I'll be kneading this bread during the week and see what comes out of the oven.

Bows to the cyber Sangha,
Alan

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Geez Louise...Got to think about this one!

So here is my latest conversation with Dosho Port:

Dosho said:


Our practice is to let go of it all, again and again. The view that we're not doing it right as well as the view that we're doing it right. The desire for being (and concomitant fear of annihilation) and the desire for non-being (and the concomitant hardening of the categories).





So Dosho,


Anytime we cling, advert, desire, consciously don't desire, anytime our consciousness separates from pure consciousness the one becomes two...intimacy gone, is lost...yet we can't walk around in "absoluteness" and function in a dualistic, concrete...(I'm struggling here for the right words)world...just for practical purposes there has to be a me/you...right?






So what is the efficacious value of this enlightenment thing,this actualizing the fundamental point?






Alan

Here is his response:

Alan,







You impute a pure consciousness and something not pure (clinging, etc) - already two - and utter malign the buddhadharma! :-)






Please remember this practice is based on and expression of the simple seamless truth that "form is emptiness, emptiness is form."






"It" cannot be found apart from the flux and flow of life and death. "It" defuses harmoniously with clinging, ego, etc. ... and therefore this work is incredibly portable and efficacious.
Warm regards,
Dosho

I got to sit on this one in the zendo. I feel like the village idiot again!

Bows,
Alan

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Texture vs taste



The taste of this chicken pot pie was great...but when it comes to this dish, texture makes a big difference. I'm going to have to work on that next time.

Texture vs Taste...I wonder how this applies to our spiritual journey? Sometimes the taste of the journey can be intoxicating but if there is no texture...well you try to figure that out...

MaybeTEXTURE is no different than "ACTUALIZING"...I kind of think so...but there I go thinking again...experience...experience...that's where the texture is!!!!!!!!!!!!


Bows,

Alan
Posted by Picasa

Hey, just for the record, remind me not become a glass blower either. I don't know how that happened, it just did! Hey, what are you gonna do!? One thing is not to go barefooted in the kitchen for a couple of days.

Bows,
Alan
Posted by Picasa

Ok, before a I forget, if I ever call any of you and tell you I am thinking about opening up a bakery, please send in the people with the white coats. That probably means I have lost it. Well...phew...this is where I am at the moment with the pot pie. Yeah, it does not look too bad...still not cooked...but let me tell you this...I cannot role out a pie crust and then transfer it to another space and time without it falling all apart. Going to have to do some practice with this little feat! But I did finally get it to the top of that deep dish you see there. Hey, who cares that I had to call seven people over to the house and make a circle around that crust...it still got transferred to the dish! The "innards" taste pretty good, so I'm hoping for some kind of success here. We shall see. Check back with you when I take her out of the oven...by the way...the apple pie really is very good!

Bows,

Alan
Posted by Picasa

There it is! Turned out pretty good for the first go round. I struggled with the crust, keeping it from breaking apart. Good thing this wasn't your grandmother's pie. You are allowed to be a little wild with the design of this crust, otherwise I would be looking bad right now. Hey, this is it. Just this. Wife likes it, she's tasting now.

Bows,
Alan
Posted by Picasa

So here is the pie before it goes into the oven. No, this is not your grandmother's pie. Heck, it's probably not you great grandmother's pie. This is The Pioneer Woman's apple pie. Not the kind you see cooling in an open window. You just take this sucker and wrap up those apples and brown sugar and stick it in the oven. More to come...

Bows,
Alan
Posted by Picasa

Those three things with a French Name

There's some kind of French name for this combo but I forget what that is. Anyway, carrots, celery, onions here. They will be sauteed with some butter, add some heavly cream, salt, pepper, flour and eventually the chicken...I'll have a pic of that when it is happening. Surprisingly, I am finding this rather simple. No steps to rush through. Of course, I have not rolled out the pie crust yet. You might lift up a few for me there to whomever, or whatever you lift things up to.

Well, I'm gonna go start working on that apple pie. Later...

Alan
Posted by Picasa

STEP TWO - BAG IT!

So, after cutting in some crisco, adding one slightly beaten egg, one tablesp of white distilled vinegar and five tablesp of cold water...mixiing awhile...separating into two batches...placed them in a bag...roll out (in the bag) ...just enough to make them flat..they are now in the freezer...ready to use whenever I need them...of course you let them thaw for about 20 mins before you roll them out.

Do I know them completely...I doubt it! Working on that.

Alan
Posted by Picasa