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

Friday, February 24, 2012

Not Knowing Doesn't Mean Not Experiencing

After a short discussion with a teacher about this idea (if you can call it an idea) of "just this" mentioned in my last post, I realize I don't really know what "just this" is, at least to the point at which I could put "it" into words.

I asked the teacher:
"Which comes first,
Mu or Just This?"

He body slams me with:
"What is Mu and what is Just This?"

I still don't know!

I can say that in that moment with the patient I mentioned in the post, it seemed the only thing that mattered in that VERY moment was just what was. I was careful not to stir the water. I did not want to muddy things up to the point where neither of us could see or experience just what we were seeing or feeling from moment to moment.
It was truly a breathe in and breathe out, moment to moment.

And in that I wonder if we both did not actualize  "Just This".

I don't know.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Ash Wednesday work day began with entering a woman's hospital room, asking, "So what did the Doctor have to say?" And like it so often is, I was a participant in a dramatic movie scene, except this was not movie.

She answered, " He says it has gone to the liver and I have three to six months to live."

And then we just sat together as she cried.
Nothing to say, nothing to do but to be with this information, absorbing it in the mind and body.

Part of the liturgy in the Ash Wednesday service for many denominations is "Remember from dust you came and from dust you shall return"

In other words, "Remember your death, remember you will die like all those who have gone before you"

Walking into that room yesterday reminds me that I have many Ash Wednesdays throughout the whole year, being reminded that death will come, death is real.

And I am thankful!
But I still don't know if I believe I am going to die.

James Finley, talking about contemplative wisdom in The Contemplative Heart  says:
What is it that contemplative wisdom looks for in order to discern that we are on the path that enhances rather than the path that hinders our ongoing contemplative self-transformation? I answer this way: Contemplative wisdom discerns our efforts in contemplative living to be effective insofar as our efforts are bringing us, with out our knowing how, into the horizonless domain of serenity in the no-hope-for-recovery situation. We can discern the effectiveness of our efforts insofar as they embody our stepping across the line to join those who have come to serenity in knowing they are about to die.

So often in my work I encounter persons who have just been living their lives without intention to the spiritual, even while professing some kind of faith. And then the news comes "three to six months" and they are at a loss in what to do.
I am not talking about the initial shock and the initial reactions. I think no matter what we have been doing spiritually, initially we will react, not respond. 

The woman I was with yesterday was in shock, yet she had been dealing with this for quite some time.

Now she sits with "just this. "
And I will sit with her as needed as she sits with "just this."

Hoping we both can find that serenity in the midst of this truth.

Remembering we both came from dust and from dust we shall return.

We shall all die.

What does this mean in our living?


Saturday, February 18, 2012


James Finley says, "Meditation is a contemplative practice that is particularly stark, simple and direct in its capacity to awaken, deepen and sustain the contemplative experience of the divinity of the present moment."
from the Contemplative Heart 

From a Buddhist perspective I see him pointing to "intimacy". I have long said and I have said it here before, I am sure, that an any experience of the divine is not different from any experience of intimacy, truly being present to this moment, this thing, this person. 

And Zazen is "stark, simple and direct in its capacity to awaken, deepen and sustain the contemplative experience of [intimacy] of the present moment".

Fingers pointing to "A" moon.



Friday, February 17, 2012

Seeing Our Not Seeing

James Finley, in The Contemplative Heart, speaks of “enlightened ignorance”. For me it speaks of a grace-full way to see ourselves in the struggle for “being present” with loving attention. A way of attending to our “non-attending” which brings us to the moment. I try to practice this all day, every day, as I intend to attend to this, as Mary Oliver would say, “one wild and precious life” I have been given.
Finley says:
“Becoming aware of how unaware we tend to be of the grace of the present moment, pausing to ponder our tendency not to pause and ponder, we enter into a state of what we might call enlightened ignorance. In unenlightened ignorance we do not know what we do not know. We go from project to project, from concern to concern, rarely, if ever, intentionally pausing to ask what it is that gives enduring value and meaning to our life prior to and beyond all our projects and concerns.”
Give it a go! 

Pay attention to your non-attending today. See if you can really "see" . 

There is a "coming home" feeling in the experience.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Actualizing one out of two-

A life time of work,

For me and you.

But when two become one,

Nirvana, Sunyata!

We’ve only just begun!

Don’t you just love new beginnings?

It’s “just this” anyway.

Happy Valentine Day

Love you Babe!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Being Real

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

~ T. S. Eliot        

Every now and then I feel the need to put some kind of qualifier on this blog about my practice and what it is I write here. It's my way of keeping it real, not wanting to appear more than just what I am, this ordinary guy looking for the ordinary mind.
It's about being authentic.
So here I am (the one in the red), ordained in the United Methodist church, actualizing that ordination as a oncology chaplain.
A very lay zen practitioner. I don't even have a group I can practice with but I think I have talked about that on this blog before. I have never sat sesshin but if I live long enough I will.
I continue to do most of this practice in my head with great detriment. But I continue to sit with great faith and great doubt.
My writing on this blog is a huge part of my practice for me. It helps me clarify my life experiences and I think in some way continues to birth me into the authentic person I want to be.
So here I am. Just this. Just me. Just living and letting go, living and letting go, living and letting go.

So there.

Now I feel better.



Friday, February 3, 2012

A Koan For Life

I'm reading ZEN QUESTIONS. I came across a quote by Dogen, translated by Gary Snyder from the Mountains and Water Sutra.
When I read this quote it just kind of stopped me in my tracks.
I felt like I had found my life's koan.
Now I will have to chew on this awhile as see if it actually becomes part of my body and mind.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012