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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

And Then There Was Rumi

Only Breath
Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or in the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Thoughts on the "Shedding" thoughts posted earlier...

I know we have to have some identity to function in this life, in this world, but the more I dig into this practice, the more I just simply want to be human. And being TRULY human probably takes a life time.
A tree does not have to work on being a tree but we do seem to have to work on being human.

Because of my ordination, I have all kinds of assumptions made about me.
I try my best to let people know titles truly are not important. They limit who we are based on our particular cultural orientation and that cultures understanding of that title.

It seems more real to say, "Hi, I'm working on being human, but you can call me Alan."

I don't mean I want to become faceless, odorless, vaporized or anything like that.

I just want to get to the core of what "this" is.

Even "Alan" creates certain assumptions from those who live close to my life.

Shedding, Shedding...

Looking for that "true nature"

Trying to be human

Saturday, June 25, 2011


I copied the following from Wild Fox Zen by Joko Beck:

" ...everything in our life will continue to take place – the problems, the emotional difficulties, the pleasant days, the ups and downs, which are what human life consists of – but it is the ability not to get caught – to enjoy what is happening when it is “good”, to have equanimity when it is “bad” and to observe it all, which is the continuing work.  The mark of maturing practice is simply the ability, more and more and more, to notice what is going on and not be caught by it.  Easy to talk about, but probably 15 to 20 years of hard practice are needed before we are like that a good bit of the time."

 One of the benefits of zazen seems to be what I like to call this "witness" that is born out of regular practice.
This seems to be a tool to help us not get hooked, not get "caught", as she says.

It has the image of that place where no one else is sitting. A place where there is a stepping back in order to see more clearly.

It is noticing!

How about "The Noticing Witness"?

Just a thought.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Not Knowing Really Is Most Intimate

Today I have rambled quite a bit here. Not sure what this is about but these are the thoughts and words that bubbled up for me this morning.

If I, me, mine do not dissolve,
 I, me, mine are always
 separating what is one
into two.
I still don't know this. I can only write about it and believe it is so.

I wonder if he knew this?

Was this "oneness" actualized when "the word became flesh"?

He says, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father."

He says, "I and the Father are one."

Was he not a Bodhisattva?

Was he not a finger pointing to the moon? 

But at the same time was he not actualizing that moon in his life?

And throughout history, that moon has been called many things.

But let's not name it.

Then it's not mine and it's not yours.

IT just is.

Not knowing is most intimate.


Shedding names, 


and just breathing,

Just This,

What Freedom!

What intimacy!

A constant practice!

Day in and day out.

Right before us in everything we do.

Please let us remember,

Not knowing is not the same as ignorance.

Not knowing is being open to what is.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Realize, Actualize

“…there is never anything to attain, only something to realize and actualize.”

Got this little tid-bit from David Loy’s book, The World Is Made Of Stories. I won't go into the context of which it is said because I have seen this statement over and over again in some form or fashion in my readings. It just seemed to be a pebble falling onto the bamboo shoot for me this morning, making a very noticeable noise, again.

What “is”, is given. Don’t ask me from whence it comes. I don’t know.

No need to run off looking for “it”.

The question then is how does one realize and actualize “it”?

Maybe there is no question.

Maybe I just “MU”!

There is work to be done.

And the work is just this, done with great intention, great mindfulness…

Ah intimacy!

This wonderful life!

I am grateful!


Sunday, June 19, 2011


Last night my daughter and her husband and my oldest granddaughter, as well as myself and my wife were over at my son's house celebrating each of the young men's first Father's day.
My son and his wife had our second granddaughter just 19 days ago.
The evening got late for my Sweet Caroline (6:30). She was beginning to act sleepy. I wanted to take her but my daughter said, "I got her, she's tired."
My daughter knows what her daughter needs.
This knowing comes from the deep intimate relationship she and Caroline have.
And this picture is an incarnation of that relationship.
This picture is incarnation of intimacy.
This picture is the holy, standing right before me as I snapped a quick shot of mother and daughter.
This picture is the two being one.
This picture is my granddaughter, fast asleep in my precious daughter's arms.
This picture burst my heart wide open.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Everything Belongs

"What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them. My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God {INTIMACY} (MY WORD) apart from real life in the real world."From:An Alter in the Worldby Barbara Brown Taylor

I came across the above quote from here:   I highly recommend the site. Universal offerings on spiritual practice.

I was struck immediately by the succinct way she summed up my own spiritual journey and how she has described for me, in that short little paragraph, what my zen practice has opened up for me.
I insert the word "intimacy" for God because "God" for me anymore is more of an experience than some "thing or person" I want to conceptualize. 
 Taylor points to this intimate experience  when she says:  
 My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them.

What a beautiful way to translate mindfulness: "Exquisite attention".

This practice is like a magnet that constantly draws all my metal back to the center, back to where I am right now, this moment, just this, trying to practice "exquisite attention" to what is before me.

 "There is no way to God (INTIMACY) apart from real life in the real world."

 As Richard Rohr has said,


Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I noticed this week that there were some presidential debates going on somewhere with about six or seven would be, hopeful republican candidates.
I did not listen to the debates. I have lost interest in politics. 
I don't have the time to go into all the reasons but may I suggest one word?


So I thought it would be a good time to offer this little piece from the book I am now reading for the second time by David Loy

Take what you will from this:

This particular section is talking about "Power or desire for power"

"...craving for power reveals a defect in the soul'
The devil took Jesus to the summit of a mountain and tempted him with all the world's kingdoms. "I will give you authority over all these things, if you will worship me." Jesus responded: "It is written: worship only the Lord your God, and serve only Him." Worship power and all power will be given to you-and you will end up serving power. Jesus will serve only God.

If the devil is power, what is God?

Augustine says: You must be emptied of that with which you are full, so you may be filled with that whereof you are empty.

A sage told Siddhartha's father that his son would become either a world-conquering king or a world-renouncing buddha. His father did everything possible to insulate him from awareness of illness, old age, and death-and when Siddhartha eventually encountered them he was so shocked that he renounced his patrimony and disappeared into the forest. According to this legend he too rejected the worldly power that was offered to him. Both Jesus and the Buddha established communities that were physically powerless and dependent upon the good will of others.

The Sangha founded by Shakyamuni was originally a motley crew of wandering mendicants, with few possessions except robes and sharing bowls. The Buddha sent them out in all directions to preach the Dharma "for the good, for the benefit of many."

Jesus charged his apostles to go out and preach that "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, and do not have two tunics." The Sermon on the Mount tells us not to lay up treasures on earth. "Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on...Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, and yet your heavenly Father takes care of them."

What were both saying? Let go of your fears about yourself: just do your best spreading the word and have faith that you will be taken care of. Open up and focus on giving to the world rather than taking from it, trusting in it rather than trying to protect yourself from it.

Their teaching offers an alternative to power-over-others. Jesus and the Buddha lived in ways that challenged the conventional stories of their times and challenge just as much the dominant stories of our times. Despite hypocritical deference--the homage that other stories pay to this one---this message has had limited success. Yet it persists, with the potential to transform the world."

David Loy

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Up above are Alice on the left  (12 days old) and Caroline on the right (eight months), my granddaughters.

Two Reasons to practice!

I have been blogging to each of them since before they were born, sharing things about life, love and relationships and my own personal experiences with them.

They have expanded my heart in ways I could have never imagined but there is another side to this coin.

Not long after Caroline  was born I discovered the two sided coin of grand parenting.

The joy of receiving and the fear of losing.

Nothing happened to create this except the fact of my own awareness of the fragility of life.

Dukkha exponentially entered my life.

 Clinging, grasping,wanting to protect, wanting to control.

What great teachers these two little people are.

One heart expanded,
Love's precious gift to Grampa.
One heart contracted

Hands together,

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I'm cautious anymore when it comes to writing about something I "sense" somewhere inside of me. It can seem a little too "feeling" and in some ways too sentimental. 
I have been at the beach all week with family and have had a lot of down time. That too can cause me to think I am sensing something that isn't even there.
Having your first two grandchildren in the last eight months may have something to do with all this also.

Anyway, one of the ways I work through these things is to write about them. So I will write.

The word that has bubbled up for me is "shedding"...
I've never thought of "shedding" in spiritual terms. Usual the phrase "letting go" seems more appropriate.
But as I think about it, shedding seems more intimate, letting go seems more external.

So I'm thinking there is some shedding going on and I have no idea what that means.

I will say that the sense of it is calming and peaceful.

I'll just stop here. If I keep going with this now it will just be me trying to create something that does not exist.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011


In the above picture are some of my great nephews and nieces, their great grandmother and my wife's oldest sister.
This was a shot just before the other adults sat down to our meal.
This picture is a wonderful reminder of impermanence.
Notice how my wife's sister is kind of fading away, and there's the great grandmother who started this crowd, and here is the next generation sitting by themselves, not realizing that someday, if all goes as planned (ha, ha), they truly will be sitting at the table all by themselves.

I actually stopped all the noise and clatter in this moment and invited everyone to take notice, without all the detail, of course!

It was a precious moment for me and a precious reminder!

To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening.



Saturday, June 4, 2011