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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Moment in time!



Three Months - Seven Days

What a blessing these four people are to me. 

The first couple will present me and my wife with our first grandchild in (THREE MONTHS) October, Caroline Jo Coleman. We so look forward to loving her. Her wonderful parents are my daughter Katie and son-in-law Sean.
The second couple? That's the SEVEN DAYS couple. That is my son Jason and his wonderful future bride Anne. They are so in love and will publicly proclaim that in a covenant of marriage, seven days from today.

So from the bottom of my heart, I celebrate all the new ways of life entering this family. All of you should know you are one of the most important things in my life. I celebrate your lives together and your lives with ours.

Today I have a grateful heart for these four people in my life.
May your lives go well.

Daddy (Alan)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Long Walk for The Monk In The World

I went on a long walk this morning. The humidity was cleansing. The water exited my body drip by drip. It's almost a spiritual experience to feel the hydration leaving your body in that way.

Long walks have always been somewhat spiritual for me anyway. It was on a very long ten mile walk when I realized I was going to be a monk in the world. Don't ask me to explain that experience. I can only tell you that it was real for me and my life continues to be shaped by that experience.

The experience has not be so much about constructing this life but more about the deconstruction of this life. That is hard to explain in this short post but it is true. A constant dismantling of the self in order to discover the SELF, as it is called in the Christian contemplative tradition and "dropping body and mind" in the Zen Buddhist tradition. 

I realized early on that this deconstruction could not take place without some kind of daily spiritual practice. And so I have seen that practice go from centering prayer to Zazen. Evolving into Zazen was just another step of deconstruction. Stripping away concepts, stripping away belief systems, stripping away conditioning and trying as best I can to let life be what it is and responding to what is with compassion and loving kindness on a good day and having the grace to forgive myself on those days that are not so good. 

So this is who I am. I feel lonely sometimes. I feel misunderstood sometimes. But my life has a deep sense of abiding joy and peace. And I am basically a happy person.

It's a long walk but the only thing that really matters is the very next step because that is where my life will be.

Deep Bows,


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Picking and Choosing

There's a koan about picking and choosing. I'm not going to try and pretend to understand all it's implications for this path I walk. But one way it raises my awareness about this life I lead is in letting go of opinions about a particular situation and letting it be what it will be. This is not to say my emotions don't kick in and kick me around a bit before I raise my heart/mind above those emotions and see them for what they are: my ego, my attaching, my conditioning, my, my, my!!!!

There is so much freedom in this place of allowing things to be as they are. Now this is not a passive stance, this is a stance of awareness and taking the action of dealing with things as they are, not as we hoped them to be.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dogen Lays It Down!

Thanks to for the little monk and Dogen's words presented here:

Now, all ancestors and all buddhas who unfold buddha-dharma have made it the true path of enlightenment to sit upright practicing in the midst of self-fulfilling samadhi. Those who attained enlightenment in India and China followed this way. It was done so because teachers and disciples personally transmitted this excellent method as the essence of the teaching.

In the authentic tradition of our teaching, it is said that this directly transmitted, straightforward buddha-dharma is the unsurpassable of the unsurpassable. From the first time you meet a master, without engaging in incense offering, bowing, chanting Buddha’s name, repentance, or reading scriptures, you should just sit wholeheartedly, and thus drop away body and mind.

- Dogen


The bowl you see here belonged to my great grandmother. Nothing pretentious about this item. It is what it is and it is functional. Simple with no apologies for it's simplicity. A beautiful piece of intimacy incarnated, I think.

Before I sat this morning, I was rambling through some old books and found The Buddhist Path to Simplicity by Christina Feldman.
In it she writes:

Spiritual traditions throughout history remind us that we can live with joyous
simplicity; a life where our mind is our friend, our hearts are loving; where we
are at home in our body and at peace with each changing moment of life.
Simplicity is the mother of creativity and immediacy, intimacy and
understanding, compassion and depth.

My family and friends quite often laugh at the schedule I keep: going to bed at 8pm and getting up around 3:30 or 4:00 am. They do this with kind hearts. They all seem to think that I am missing out on something. Not sure what I am missing out on but I get a good eight hours sleep every night.This schedule allows me time to do the simple things which I think matter to my life and all it relationships.

I surely would not say that I lead some super active, super interesting life. Most would think it a little boring. But I would say that simplifying the little life I have has given birth to "creativity, immediacy, intimacy, understanding, compassion and depth." I don't know that someone could ask for much more in life than that?

No, I am not always creative, immediate, intimate, understanding, compassionate, seeing the depth of things. I can be grumpy, selfish, jealous, envious, greedy and dark ...well the list could go on and on.

But like the wooden bowl in the picture above, I just want to learn how to not be pretentious. I just want to learn how to use what space I have to hold the things that life offers to me with creativity, immediacy, intimacy, understanding, compassion and depth.

This is why I try to keep my life simple. This is why I have a spiritual practice.
It's a simple thing that is very complex.


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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Small Sample

So here is a pic of what I bought today when I went to Cook's.

White corn
zipper peas
butter beans
jalapeno peppers
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Did I tell you they were also peach farmers!!


Home grown right on the Cook's farm in Johnston, SC .
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Here I am with Mrs. Cook. True southern lady!
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It's summer, It's the South, It's local, It's just down right good!!!

Cooking practice.
I had thought about trying the homemade pizza dough recipe I saw at the food blog (by the way, check it out. Some great recipes and great photography.) but it is summer in the south and I really am a home grown southern boy. Here's the thing. I can't pass up fresh butter beans, zipper peas, sweet white corn, okra, ripe tomatoes and hot peppers. Friends this stuff will make you slap your great grandmother when you set it along side some homemade buttermilk cornbread. Trust me. I was raised in Georgia. I know what I am talking about!
So after sitting this morning and working out I headed out to Cook's in Johnston, SC. About a 25-30 mile click from the house here. These folks have been doing this for fifty years in the spot you see above in the picture. If I knew how to post more than one picture at a time I would show you some more food fare with this post. But I will put some more pics up in a bit.
So anyway, this has been my monk day so far. More to come as the cooking takes shape. Need to go sit now.

May your garden go well,

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Monk Weekend

This is what I call my "Monk Weekend".

The wife is in Nashville at a baby shower for my sweet daughter Katie. So here I am "home alone".So what does a monk weekend look like?

Well, Dosho would probably like me to be sitting for eight hours a day or something like that but that won't happen! But I do intend to "up" my sitting to three sits a day in the midst of my work practice, cook practice, music practice and study practice.And I do intend to keep this a silent weekend as best I can, watching my crazy mind do its things and trying to lasso it back to the moment.

Bows to the weekend,


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Losing The Edge

When nothing seems to be cooking, when nothing seems to be boiling, when nothing seems to be happening, when nothing is what is, I feel like I am losing my edge.

Part of that angst is just my addictive personality needing a fix. I just this past week suggested to someone to pay attention to their life just as it is. I said pay attention to the ordinary things. I said these ordinary things are sacred. Talk about projection!

Our practice is no more or no less that what is right in front of us in this very moment. JUST THIS, stupid!!!

"Does a dog have Buddha nature.?"   " Mu."

Back to the edge I go!

Bows to the precious ordinary life!


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Polka Dots!

So what does this picture have to do with my practice. Well, everything. My son and his future bride have started a food blog,, and this is a picture of his wonderful future bride in their little kitchen. You will find the picture in the "about us" section of the blog.

I can't explain it but I just fell in love with that rolling pin and that green and white polka dot dress.
Oh well, it was just a moment of something very pleasing and I just felt the need to share it. I really don't have anything else to say about it. Words just will not suffice! Enjoy.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Barry, over at Ox Herding, caught my attention this morning.
Barry says:
Why do we practice?
When I ask myself this question, my mind usually generates a "gaining idea," something along the lines of getting into the moment, becoming a better person or attaining enlightenment.  Barry Briggs

Again, I am thrown back into Mary Oliver's Summer Day.

...I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Well, dear Mary and Barry,
I plan to continue to do this thing I do, even with my grasping mind.