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

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Nice Posture

Meditating Hummer!

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Humming Along

Spent this early morning watching these little fellows /gals get their sweet fix.

Speaking of sweet, can we say life is sweet just as it is?

That is certainly not true for some friends of mine who have been in the ICU for the past month with their 17 year old daughter. She was to begin her senior year this year. She was heading for band practice in early August when her car went off the road and ran into a tree. Still don't know what the outcome for this will be neurologically. This is their sweet life for the moment, waiting , waiting, waiting and hoping, hoping, hoping.

How will these parents be different? That will be up to them but they will certainly be different!

Can our practice make this situation different?

Can prayer?

Seems to me the SITUATION is just what it is.

Our practice can make a difference though in how we respond to this situation.

Just This. It's always JUST THIS. What will you do with THIS?

Be intimate with life!

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Saturday, August 22, 2009


"Fayan was going on pilgrimage. Dizang said, "Where are you going?" Fayan said, "Around on pilgrimage." Dizang said, "What is the purpose of pilgrimage?" Fayan said: "I don't know." Dizang said, "Not knowing is most intimate."

I had a chance to do a didactic with some chaplain interns this week. I used this little zen story for the teaching tool. I thought it went really well. It was my first time to use Buddhist literature to teach a group of Christian pastoral caregivers.

I find this story most appropriate. When one goes into a hospital room where there is a health crisis, having a "not knowing" mind is profound freedom. I talked about how "having an agenda" is like putting up a wall between what you think is the reality and what actually is. And removing that wall with "not knowing" is the path to being intimate with just what is.

Again, I think this is a wonderful teaching story for pastoral care.

The two become one. Most intimate!

Be intimate with life today,


Sunday, August 16, 2009


I got an email from my son Jason yesterday. Jason is quite the interesting human being. Very intelligent, like his mother. Quite a resume. Vanderbilt University, Georgia Tech, five years as a mechanical engineer with Flour/Daniel, photographer, great musician (got those genes from me) and now a middle-school teacher in a small Christian School in Atlanta, Ga.

The email simply said, "Why do you meditate?" My initial response was, "Who wants to know and why?" His response, "I want to know because you are my father." Then I said, "May I ask why this question has come up?" "Sure, he said. I have been thinking about this for quite some time, for many reasons."

I won't get into all the details of my conversation of me trying to come up with a answer that would make sense to him. But it seems to me, it's not my answer that matters. What matters is his willingness to ask the question. And that question has become somewhat of a koan for me now. I want to give the appropriate answer to this very important question from my son.

This morning I was re-reading a portion from ON ZEN PRACTICE and ran across this statement by Roshi Aitken:

We learn in Zen practice the infinitely precious nature of each particular entity, person, plant, thing, and their complete equality. it is not an easy path. It is not easy to brush away the delusions that cloud emancipating truth. Without religious devotion, Zen becomes a kind of hobby. Without the Great Death and Great Rebirth, it becomes a kind of self-improvement exercise. It is not a subject to be mastered with a certain form or a certain curriculum, but a lifetime training...
Hobbies. Self-improvement. I have been deluded on both these fronts in my spiritual journey. But it is my Zen practice that has helped me to SEE these delusions. Reflecting on my conversation with my son, I sense he sees this practice as some kind of self improvement work. I don't want to give that impression or any impression. I just want to SIT!
He does not know the preciousness of that question for me! Thank you Jason.
I hope we can continue the conversation in the future.
Deep Bows,
Your Father

Monday, August 10, 2009


"We want enjoyment, we want to avoid pain and discomfort. But it is impossible that things will always work out, impossible to avoid pain and discomfort. So to be happy, with a happiness that doesn't blow away with every wind, we need to be able to make use of what happens to us — all of it — whether we find ourselves at the top of a mountain or at the bottom of the sea."

The above is part of a piece written by Norman Fischer in an op-ed for the New York Times.

Making use of all that happens to us is a difficult practice but for me it speaks to our maturity as human beings.

Would it be correct to say that we can always choose? We may experience victimization but we can still choose how to respond to the experience.

This is something I try to shine a light on for those who are grieving in unhealthy ways.

Grief is one of the greatest Dharma teachers we have.

Be Intimate with life!


Monday, August 3, 2009

Equanimity and Grief

...when we look at healing as creating space for the stranger, it is clear that we
should be willing and able to offer this so much needed form of
Therefore, healing means, first of all, the creation of an empty
but friendly space where those who suffer can tell their story to someone who
can listen with real attention.
Our most important question as healers is
not, "What to say or to do?" but, "How to develop enough inner space where
the story can be received?"
Healing is the humble but also very demanding
task of creating and offering a friendly empty space where the stranger can
reflect on their pain and suffering without fear; and find the confidence that
makes them look for new ways right in the center of their confusion.

Excerpted from Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out: Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, pp. 65-68.

It's time for our semi-annual memorial service. I always do two short reflections on grief during the program, trying to awaken people to where they are in the process. Sometimes I speak to those who are trying to comfort the grieving. This time I am going to talk a little about the connection between equanimity and the grieving.

All this to say that the quote above by Nouwen speaks to equanimity, when he talks about providing an empty space for those who need healing, for those who need to just tell their story.

Nothing to fix, nothing to change, nothing to resist, nothing to attach to. Just being there, there in the middle of the pain.

Be Intimate with Life,