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, December 11, 2011

Beauty In The Back Yard

All this tree does every year is just be what it is in each season of it's life.
What can we learn from this tree?

Bows to the tree dharma!


Saturday, December 3, 2011

My practice has been different the past two weeks. There was a time when I would tell you that I have faltered these past two weeks, but to me anymore practice is to live, to live is to practice. How I live and practice changes at times.

Mostly these past two weeks I have been doing a lot of reading and a lot of thinking, more than sitting.
That has been the form of my practice.

I am amazed sometimes how I have been able to keep up the form of this practice. I have no sitting group, I have no one in this town to sit and  have a cup of tea (actually I prefer a good Pikes Place Coffee, tea just sounds zenny) with and share our thoughts about our practice. It's just me, the cyber world of Zen and my occasional contact with someone whom I consider my teacher, via the net.
I am a monk in the world.

So when my practice takes up a different form, I'm not too hard on myself. Just this. This is my practice.
It is form and formlessness, is it not?
So to say "this is my practice" would be to say that
"this is not my practice". And would that not be wrong?

What is before me is my practice and if my mind is one pointed maybe there is the possibility of recognizing my true nature.

 Conveying oneself toward all things to carry out practice/verification is delusion.  All things coming and carrying out practice/verification through the self is realization.
Genjokoan (Dogen)

I say all this to say: 

This morning I was reading "MU" again for the "who knows how many times" and the word that caught me was the simple word "have".

" does a dog "have" buddha nature?"

Is it about "having" or is it about "being"?

Those are my thoughts today.


Monk In The World,
(from monos; single, alone)


Friday, November 25, 2011


This is a tricky post. 
Probably several ways to challenge this but I'm going to say it anyway.

All the Buddhisms, All the "isms", all the Catholics, Lutherans, Methodist, Baptists...all "ics", "ans" and "ists" are nothing more than fingers pointing at the moon.

No, I don't think that is a relativistic statement. At least what some would call Truth Relativism.

The doctrine that knowledge, truth and morality exist in relation to culture, society or historical context and are not absolute.

The term often refers to truth relativism, which is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths, i.e., that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture.

I am saying there is an Absolute. I believe we can know It through experience. I believe we can try to put It into words but when we do we limit it.

I am saying this is why I can sit zazen and read Richard Rohr's book Hope Against Darkeness and embrace much of what he has to say with great pleasure, while at the same work on dropping body and mind.

I am saying I have faith!

I am also saying, "Read this book, it is significant!"


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Continued...Bows and Thanksgiving


Siddharth Gautama


St. Francis

Thomas Merton

Thomas Keating

Basil Pennington

Richard Rohr

Marcus Borg

Henri Nouwen

Mary Oliver

Barbara Brown Taylor

Cynthia Bourgeault

Rainer Marie Rilke

T. S. Eliot

Robert Aitken

Charlotte Joko Beck

Edward Espe Brown

Norman Zogetsu Fischer

Bernard Glassman 

Joan Halifa

Taigen Dan Leighton

John Daido Loori

Taizan Maezumi 

Thich Nhat Hanh

Shunryu Suzuki

Karen Maezen Miller

John Tarrant

Kosho Uchiyama





Today I Give Thanks For:

My Arrogance
My Selfishness
My Narcissistic Tendencies
My Wanting to be right
My Vanity
My Prejudices
My Closed mindedness
My Greed
My Lust
My Ignorance
People I don't Like 
My Lack of Discipline
My Parents
My Spouse
My Children
My Grandchildren
My Friends
My Enemies

Deep Bows To All My Teachers,


Thursday, November 10, 2011


A dog! Buddha nature!
All manifest, actual and alive.
But with the slightest touch of yes and no
Dead your body, lost your soul.

In response to the monk's question, "Does a dog have buddha nature or not?" Joshu's answer, just Mu, is "all manifest, actual and alive." He has presented his mind totally, put out all the cash with no part payments. Here Joshu wields his gleaming sword. Here, if you start making intellectual discriminations like "this and that" even a little, it will slash you in two. It is like being deathly ill. If you start saying "Yes" or "No" even just a little, or start wandering around thinking in dualistic terms, at once you lose your life.

The Book Of Mu: page 42

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

One Reason I Love The Kitchen

How the World Can Be the Way It Is:
An Inquiry for the New Millennium Into Science, Philosophy and Perception
by Steve Hagen
Published 1995, by Quest Books

Merging with your object
Taken from

We must see, when we pick up any object of consciousness, whether it be mental or physical, that the “rest of all that exists”—i.e., Totality, Wholeness—must enter into the picture. As long as we operate with discriminating consciousness and see ourselves only as a fragment—a part of Reality which is divided off and intrinsically separate from everything else—we can know only uncertainty, fear, and the misery of that hollow, empty feeling of utter meaninglessness. It need not be this way for us.

I cannot give you the direct experience of knowing that aspect which remains hidden from our common-sense consciousness. I can, however, give an example that may remind you of this hidden aspect of consciousness as it works in our everyday life. Let me tell you about my mother and lefse. (Lefse, for those of you who don’t know, is a kind of Norwegian pancake or bread made from potatoes, cream, flour, butter and sugar.)

Like all real boundaries, the boundary between my mother and lefse is infinitely complex. I witnessed this complexity years ago as a child, though at the time I did not realize just what it was that I had witnessed. The occasion was when my eldest brother and his wife, newly married and inexperienced in the kitchen, tried to make lefse on their own. Once they had put all the ingredients together, they discovered that they could not work with the dough. When they tried to roll it out it would stick to the board. When they tried to pick it up it would fall apart. They thought they had ruined it and were about to throw it out when, in desperation, they put in a distress call to Mom. I went along to see if I could be of any help. I had a major interest in lefse in those days.

My mother appeared on the scene like a midwife approaching a distraught husband. Rolling up her sleeves and taking a sure command, she went to the huge lump of dough rising from the large mixing bowl in the center of the table. I can still see her as she put her hands upon that mound and in a soft but certain tone she said, “Oh, it’s just about right.” Giving us a nod and a smile, it was clear that this baby would be spared. Quickly she dispatched her orders. It needed just a little more of this, and just another touch of that—and in seconds she was rolling out lefse and frying them up. Lefse appeared one after another, until soon the stacks were piling up under steaming cloths.

My mother’s boundary was intimately connected with that of the lefse. The two merged, while nevertheless remaining separate. In fact, many things came together in that moment—not just my mother and the lefse. The dough had to be there, obviously. And though it was “just about right,” my mother had to be there as well or there would have been no lefse. With my mother came the know-how—which, in turn, revealed that many other, previous and unseen events were also entangled in this happening of my mother making lefse. And within the dough were those who produced the ingredients, and who trucked them to market. Within that dough were entangled the potato plant, and last year’s harvest.

Yet all the while these countless hidden things came together in this event, it was nevertheless quite evident which was my mother and which was the lefse.

There’s nothing mystical about what I’m trying to point to here. It’s not a poetic metaphor or a Zen-like analogy. It’s a simple, concrete example of that “other” aspect which must be accounted for if we would avoid contradictions. It’s an example of someone actually becoming merged in an exchange of identity with her object.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Subtle Actualization?

This week when I did my gassho, entering my little homemade zendo, I noticed my breath from my nose on the tips of my fingers. Then I noticed my lips against the sides of my fingers. I immediately felt the intimacy in that. It felt "precious". That was the word that bubbled up in that moment.

All week now I have had the same experience in my bowing.

Bowing while entering, bowing to the altar, bowing to the cushion:

Intimacy, intimacy, intimacy.

Precious moment, precious moment, precious moment.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Super-imposing/ Contemporary Filters?

This is my first painting using "zenbrush" app. The background comes from a drop down menu. Then I superimposed the the rest...

So Dosho,
Maybe I'm not just acoustic.



So I'm reading again the book of MU. Trying to go very slowly with it on the second read. 

I know this is not how I will come to experience MU but I do have "great faith" in that this book will keep pulling me back down on the cushion.

I just started reading it again yesterday. 
In the introduction there is this line on page six:

"Don't believe anything you think."

So any concept of MU that I come up with immediately puts me one step away from the experience. 

I don't mean "one step" that I am closer, 

I mean "one step" that I am as far away from "it" as I can be.

MU is not a thought!

So why don't I shut up and sit down!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Monk Day

 This weekend I am alone. The wife has gone to see the grandchildren and I made the choice to spend a few days like this. The cool mornings have arrived here, finally, so I have declared this a monk day for me. So I will spend this day in quiet cooking, reading, maybe writing, sitting. I will try to make it a day of reflection.

Bows to this wonderful fall season, which always creates pots of soup, cups of coffee and stirs my mind to reflect on the things that really matter, stills my heart and just seems to beckon the monk in me to give birth.

Bows to the season
when the sap begins to fall.
Clear skies, cool mornings

(a monk in the world)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A much abridged symptomatology of modern Nihilism would include: disregard and detachment of all values except the immediate satisfaction of narcissistic, individual and herd impulses…atrophy of all notions of relatedness and responsibility to other humans, to animals, plants, the earth…degeneracy of the sense of beauty, truth, goodness, humanness, hence total mistrust of disinterested service…degradation of all fellow beings to the status of Things…progressive debility of all the higher functions by unrelenting and total bedevilment by electronic noise and imagery, media trivia, spectator sports, laugh shows, quizzes, commercials, propaganda for whiskeys, presidents, celebrities, gadgets, space trips…Unavoidable consequences: alienation from self and environment…consumer addiction---identity crisis---existential vacuum---depression---mass psychosis---violence---sexual depravity---drug and alcohol addiction---teenage and all other categories of suicide, including our own collective incubation.Where the Dow replaces the Tao, all of Life becomes desecrated.

From:What Matters:spiritual nourishment for head and heartbyFrederick Franck

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Two Roads Diverged...

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 
Robert Frost

The Dow or The Tao...

as suggested by Federick Franck

Bows to our daily efforts to choose the right path!


Sunday, October 23, 2011


All of our commentary about our life is just commentary. It isn't our life. We can't do anything else with our life but just live it and be absorbed in it, in the moment that we are living it. After that, the rest is just description after the fact. 
Norman Fischer

Maybe David Loy is right, the world is made of stories. For sure history is made of stories.

But I love a good story and a good story teller. 

It's important then to have eyes to see and ears to hear.
But seeing and hearing don't really take place until we know for ourselves...not according to someone else's commentary.

And it seems all the old farts say that when we do know, it's probably not a good idea to try and put into words. But then that's how I know the old farts said this. What is there to do?




Maybe Dosho Port over at Wild Fox has something to say about this.



Friday, October 21, 2011

Just This

Too lazy to be ambitious,
I let the world take care of itself.
Ten days’ worth of rice in my bag;
a bundle of twigs by the fireplace.
Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment?
Listening to the night rain on my roof,
I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.
Zen Master Ryokan

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Practice of Letting Go And Seeing The Moon and Then Letting Go Of The Moon

Authentic religion is more about subtraction than addition, more letting go of the false self than any attempt at engineering a true self. You can't create what you already have. Contemplation In Action~ Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation

I remember clearly how much I enjoyed and was ecstatic about my learning opportunities while at Emory University.

I learned so much and wished I had had the time to work on a PhD but that was not to be.

And now I have spent the last 15 years, not necessarily unlearning, but letting go of preconceived ideas about reality, about God, about enlightenment.

Rohr reminds me there is nothing to create, only something to discover.

 My practice is to move out of the way, to let go of ideas, conceptions, get rid of the debris (some is debris), to look beyond the finger pointing (all that learning) and





Saturday, October 15, 2011

Spirituality in the Kitchen

Authentic spirituality is intimately related to firsthand, direct experiencing. It may mature through various disciplines, as for instance structured meditation and verbalized prayer. To live in radical openness to pure experiencing in the kitchen, bedroom, subway, newspaper, that is:to everyday life, inside as well as around oneself may, however, be equivalent of both formal meditation and verbal prayer. It is the finding of one's path without being "bamboozled, confused, sidetracked," at every step.    

From What Matters:
spiritual nourishment for head and hear
Frederick Frank

All those pies were cooked on The Big Green Egg!
Brick oven flavored pizza pies!
Now that's spiritual!!!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Getting Out Of My Head

"If you can’t show it and can only explain it, it is not yours"
From a talk given by Norman Fischer

Also by Frederick Franck

The illusion that discursive thinking may establish contact with transcendent Reality/Truth was an ingredient of Western culture long before Descartes imagined he was, just because he thought. This is not a plea against thinking, but for another kind of thinking, that "non-thinking thinking" which includes human intuition and feeling.

It is a plea for a logic in which the absolutely relative and the absolutely Absolute do not necessarily clash, nor are even separated, in which it is not "either this or that." but perhaps "both this and that" or "neither this nor that"which approaches the really Real.

When logic follows experience, it is likely to be valid. When experience derives from logic, it is bound to be self-deception: delusional, spurious, false.
(from What Matters: spiritual nourishment for the head and heart)

Happy October,


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Greg Sitting Zazen

That's my Big Green Egg, affectionately known as "Greg". Now just to look at that baby sitting there like a mountain, you would think nothing is going on but there is a pork butt in there with some apple wood and hickory, all trying to become one.
He looks cool sitting there but the fact is this:

He's cooking between 275 and 285 constantly.

Zazen is like that for me sometimes. I'm just sitting, JUST THIS, and it really doesn't look like anything is going on, but even when I don't realize it, things are cooking and maybe one day all the ingredients will become one.

But the metaphor has been stretched too far.

Nothing has to become, only realized.

Greg has a goal. That sitting is changing something on the inside.

My sitting is just realizing what already is and then actualizing it.

But I will still eat the pork when it is done.

That way Greg's sitting will be actualized~

Bows ,


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tomas Transtromer

Found this on the web while looking for some stuff by the Nobel Prize winner in literature: Tomas Transtromer.

Seems to speak to what I just blogged earlier.

Loose leafs from the New Yorker Books Department.

Two truths approach each other. One comes from inside, the other from outside, and where they meet we have a chance to catch sight of ourselves. (From “Preludes”)


October also seems to be about Masks.

Is zen practice the unmasking of the self and reality,
And finally seeing the "two" as "one"?

But "seeing" is not enough.

The eye that "sees" also has to be the
Seeing is believing but "being" is actualizing!

What profound intimacy!