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

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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PIE CRUST - STEP ONE

So here is my flour for the pie crust (chicken & apple)...see that little knock-out rose peeking in...guess he wants to know too, if you can really know something completely.
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Ok! There are about as many ingredients in this days offerings as they are questions and thoughts I have about the webinar I listened to this morning for our 100 days practice. But even with all these ingredients and all my thoughts and questions, I can never get to the bottom...can't know anything completely it seems.

Well I am going to try and get to know homemade chicken pot pie and homemade apple pie, at least better than I know them now.

Here we go!

Gassho,
Alan
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Saturday, November 7, 2009


Here is the flower and other stuff in there...don't know what it is...that I mentioned in the previous post.
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Being An Adult

We moved into a townhouse about two years ago. I have enjoyed the heck out of it but everytime the time changes I have these adult things to do. So today was one of those adult days and I did what needed to be done to make all things well with the world.

Yes, I'm cooking today. Nothing worthy of a picture. Not a lot of colors. Simple meal. Ground sirloin and chuck, cooked with onions, garlic and some portebello mushrooms, some green beans, wedge salad and sweet potato. I know, I have had sweet potatoes a lot lately but they are so good and so good for you.

Anyway, I had to be an adult today and take care of some things around the house. Spent most of the morning getting the mildew off the back of the trim of the house. Heck, I even had to pass up my webinar study with Dosho Port. Hey, I love my wife and my life, not Buddha. Anyway, that was my practice for the morning.

I have to confess though. It involved climbing a ladder to reach certain parts of the gutters. Did I ever tell you that I have trouble driving over large bridges? Anyway, I have a thing about heights. As far as I can tell, I don't have wings, so going high just isn't in my DNA. Anyway, again, my little wife (If she was interested in cooking, I think she could be the pioneer woman) climbed up the ladder that I could not climb up and she finished off the places where the birds should be. Heck, I just enjoyed watching her climb that ladder in her pajamas.

Anyway, again, we will now have an evening cocktail and sit on our deck out back...talk about our wonderful children, enjoy the cool weather, comment on her fall flowers...oh, that flower in the post after this is the one I took a pic of earlier when the season was changing...see...it has started manifest itself in a beautiful way...and we will just be together like we have been together for the last 43 years...ain't that nice?!

Bows,

Alan

Sunday, November 1, 2009

WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME...COMFORTABLE PLACE...CHEERS!



That's a spatchcock chicken in the oven with baked sweet potatoes on the bottom there. We will be having that with some homemade cole slaw and yeast rolls. Pecan pie for dessert. No, I want mess this one up. I've done this too many times. On top of those sweet potatoes will go some brown sugar, butter and rosemary...something from the Pioneer Woman...I may have mentioned that before.

There nothing pushing me to the edge with this meal. That's comfortable but at the same time I'm not sure that comfortable is always the best place to be. It reminds me of the story from the Gateless Gate by Mumon...I think I spelled that correctly. Anyway, it goes like this:


Sekiso Osho asked, "How can you proceed on further from the top of a hundred-foot pole?"
Another eminent teacher of old said, "You, who sit on the top of a hundred-foot pole, although you have entered the Way you are not yet genuine. Proceed on from the top of the pole, and you will show your whole body in the ten directions."

Don't ask me what that really means but I think it has to do with feeling comfortable and thinking you have "arrived"...As I think about our study this past week it may be talking about going beyond...who knows...I will just continue to sit.


Anyway, I did not jump off any flag poles today...I did yesterday with the polenta...you saw what happened there... Oh well...

Bows to the saints,

Alan


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Zazen and Cameras



Took my little camera with me on my morning walk. Having the camera actually caused me to look, to see things I would not have noticed if I hadn't had it.

Zazen
is a camera that helps me to see also. I start noticing just how much my mind pushes me here and there. Then I have to refocus my lens on the hara, follow the breath. But it isn't just in the sitting, my zazen camera carries over into my whole life. Not unlike the camera I took with me this morning on my walk, my zazen, in some kind of funky way, goes with me out into my life each day.

But if you don't practice on a regular basis, the batteries seem to die out. Best to plug in your zazen batteries each day. Hey, then you will look and see like I did this morning with my camera. Well, at least I think so. It's not magic, it's work!

Bows to the Saints,

Alan
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