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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years Message To My Little Ladies

Here is a suggestion from Terry Hershey:
"If you need a new year resolution for your list, I have a good one.
A simple act. With a simple verb.
Be willing to light a candle."
(Papa does this almost everyday of his life)
Terry continues...
"We learn from the Jewish tradition that one who is willing to light a candle is a 'rodef shalom,' a pursuer of peace."

Ladies,
What a wonderful way to begin your day. What a wonderful way to begin a spiritual practice.
If you do nothing else to begin your day, just try taking time long enough to light one simple candle in a prayerful way.

And then take that light out into the world.

Happy New Year Ladies!

Love,

Papa

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Memories



Me and my youngest granddaughter Eleanor Grace.
I like to call her Elli.



My oldest granddaughter Caroline Jo.

We call her Care Bear.

May they bring Joy to the world.

Alan


Saturday, December 21, 2013

A CHRISTMAS LETTER TO MY FOUR GRANDDAUGHTERS








A CHRISTMAS LETTER (2013) TO MY LITTLE LADIES

THE GIFT OF CHRISTMAS

DEAR
CAROLINE, ALICE, LILY AND ELEANOR,

AT CHRISTMAS WE CELEBRATE THE GIFT OF GOD IN THE FLESH. AS THE STORY GOES :

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being.
What came into into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.
The Gospel of John
1: 1-5

Mysterious words indeed Ladies!

That Word came to be known as The Christ.
And that word now is The Cosmic Christ.

Jesus revealed in himself, the God who is in all of us.

What a great Christmas Gift!

Believe it or not, you too can be that gift to the world.

You too can be that light to the world.

You too can be that light that cannot be extinguished by the darkness.

You all have a particular gift to give to the world!

SO,

As you receive all your gifts this Christmas (whatever Christmas 

it is while you are reading this) Papa would encourage you to 

discover what gift it is that you have that can become your light unto the world.

Finding that gift is finding that image of God which was given to you at your birth.

And in finding that Christmas gift in yourself you create 

Christmas over and over again in the ways you live, love and be in this world.

And that gift is not under a tree, up in the sky and not even in Santa’s bag.

That gift is and always has been deep inside you.

God, the God in you, is closer to you than you are to yourself.

And when you find it:

The Word becomes flesh again.

So Merry Christmas Ladies.

Thank you for being such a gift to Papa!

I love you all!

Christmas 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

GETTING TO THE ROOT OF THE MATTER



Dogen would appreciate the cook's noticing this beautiful celery root while cooking Thanksgiving Dinner today.

But I don't cook to please Dogen.

I cook to cook.

And noticing is part of the process.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monk-in-the-world,
Alan

Sunday, November 24, 2013

INTAMCY


In December my wife and I turn 64 years old. We have been touching each others body in some form or fashion since we were 171/2 years old, and yes, we continue to touch each other's body.

This morning, finally, we had some cold weather in the deep south. Well at least cold for us.
It was in the mid thirties.

So I started a fire in our little fire pit on our deck, early morning, and we sat together and watched that fire for a couple of hours, never touching each others body.

Intimacy is a wonderful thing!

And so is a 64 year old woman's body!

I love you Laurie!

Thanks for the morning!

Alan

Sunday, October 20, 2013

NOT TWO



NOT TWO



We awaken in Christ's body as Christ awakens our bodies, 
and my poor hand is Christ. 
He enters my foot, and is infinitely me.
 I move my hand, and wonderfully my hand becomes Christ,
 becomes all of Him 
(for God is indivisibly whole, seamless in His Godhood). 


I move my foot and at once
 he appears in a flash of lightning. 
Do my words seem blasphemous?-
Then open your heart to him


And let yourself receive the one 
who is opening to you so deeply. 
For if we genuinely love him, 
we wake up inside Christ's body where all our body, 
all over, every most hidden part of it, 
is realized in joy as Him, 
and He makes us utterly real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly and irreparably
damaged, is in him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
 and radiant in His light. 
We awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body. 


ST. SYMEON THE NEW THEOLOGIAN (949-1022)

Cynthia Bourgeault. Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God (Kindle Locations 24-25). Kindle Edition. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Great Faith. Great Doubt






An excerpt from “Dearest Friends,” Laurence Freeman OSB in the Newsletter of the World Community for Christian Meditation, Vol 32, No. 3, September 2008, p. 4.

When the force of faith is set free in the human person it impels us to experience reality beyond words, images, and ideas. We then discover that the filters of metaphor, however useful and necessary they may be at one level, can also (and need to) be deactivated if faith is to grow. Like all human universals we grow in faith or faith wilts and dies. Faith contains the eternal yearning we all have to see reality just as it is. “Brothers and sisters,” said St John, “what we shall be like we do not know but we do know that when Christ appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is. As he is pure, all who have grasped this hope make themselves pure.” (1Jn 3:2-3) To see God is to become like God. Purity is the condition of this vision. In much of religion, though, where faith is restricted to belief or ritual, purity means piling on the filters, adding to the intervening layers. At the core of each religion, however, is the ineradicable mystical knowledge that ultimate purity is a 20-20 vision of reality, unfiltered and unmediated by metaphor. Most of us never fully attain it but the intuition that this is so is part of the deep nature of faith itself.

To see reality as it is, or at least to free oneself progressively of some of the filters, is a major act of faith. It expresses the trusting face of faith because our attachment to the beliefs and rituals of our tradition (rather than the beliefs and rituals in themselves) become a false and falsifying security. And so, many deeply religious people feel an aversion or antipathy to meditation because it seems to (and indeed does) undermine the secure boundaries that protect our world view and our sense of being superiorly different from others.

A way of faith, however, is not a dogged adherence to one point of view and to the belief systems and ritual traditions that express it. That would make it just ideology or sectarianism, not faith. Faith is a transformational journey that demands that we move in, through and beyond our frameworks of belief and external observances—not betraying or rejecting them but not being entrapped by their forms of expression either. St Paul spoke of the Way of salvation as beginning and ending in faith. Faith is thus an open-endedness, from the very beginning of the human journey. Naturally, we need a framework, a system and tradition. [But] if we are stably centered in these, the process of change unfolds and our perspective of truth is continuously enlarged. 


Bows,
Alan

Monday, September 16, 2013

NO WHERE TO TURN

Wayfarer, your footsteps are the way,
and nothing more;
Wayfarer, there is no
way, the way is in the walking.
Antonio Machado

Panikkar, Raimon (2013-03-18). Rhythm of Being: The Gifford Lectures (Kindle Location 881). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.   The Gifford Lectures (Kindle Locations 883-884). Orbis Books. 






GOING ON RETREAT NEXT WEEK...

BUT I REALLY DON'T NEED TO LEAVE WHERE I AM.





The Holistic Attempt To lead us into wholeness (Paradise) is the most arduous task Beatrice has to perform. Even if for an ordinary pilgrimage each pilgrim has to find a personal path, in this ultimate journey to the real there is no way, because all the paths already belong to the reality we are searching for. There is no method, no way as it has been said. We are already the method, “on the way,” and the real way is precisely the goal, not necessarily the aim. Perhaps real wisdom consists in this experience: that there is no way, not because the summit is far away and has no path, but because there is no further way since there is no-where else to go. We are already there, the way is the goal: saṁsāra is nirvāṇa, each step is the definitive step, even if afterwards we discover that it has not been the last. When Christ says “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” 15 he is not saying three different things, but is revealing that the real way is itself the Truth and that this Truth is no other thing than Life. This is more than affirming that the method is sui generis, a proper and unique method. It amounts to saying that our common habits of research and of thinking are not applicable here. No “Discours de la méthode” is helpful here. Rather than a way to reach the goal, we should speak of how to open up to that very Whole that permeates us, and not just to a part, but to an image, an icon that reflects the Whole. The proper word would be contemplation in its deepest sense. The only “method” is not to prepare the way, but to prepare ourselves. The sages of all traditions have called it the “purification of the heart,” an interior pilgrimage.

Panikkar, Raimon (2013-03-18). Rhythm of Being: The Gifford Lectures (Kindle Locations 983-986). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

PILGRIMAGE


PILGRIMAGE



There's the old zen story about "not knowing". It's one of my favorite stories out there in the zen world. 
As I think about my lack of postings on this blog these past several months, I wonder if I have reached a"not knowing" place in this journey? I wonder if maybe this ordinary guy is just learning how to be just this ordinary guy?

My spirit is tired of looking in this place, looking in that place, hoping to uncover "it".

I just want to sit down.

I'm tired of all the debates.

I'm tired of all the arguments about "it".
I found this quote from Gil Fronsdal that speaks to this a bit:


As a Buddhist practice, not-knowing leads to more than an intimacy and open mind. It can be used as a sword to cut through all the ways that the mind clings. If we can wield this sword until the mind lets go of itself and finally knows ultimate freedom, then-not knowing has served its ultimate purpose.
Gil Fronsdal

Here's the story I was speaking about:

  1. Dizang asked Fayan, "Where are you going?" Fayan said, "Around on pilgrimage."
    Dizang asked, "What is the purpose of pilgrimage?" Fayan said, "Don't know."

    Dizang said, "Not knowing is most intimate.


    A Pilgrimage is different than a journey. A pilgrimage is sacred. This life we lead is sacred. We have been given this body to manifest this sacredness. We are pilgrims! We are just ordinary pilgrims. What a gift we have been given. 
    May we celebrate it!

    Bows,
    Alan



Saturday, June 29, 2013

Willigis Jager

We've been born as human beings to realize who we are and to experience how we participate in the divine. This is what I see as the meaning of life. We are here to become true human beings, to go beyond our individual egos, and to realize that our true essence is the essence of God. When I say this, I am saying it to people who probably have not had a mystical experience themselves. But I still want to say it to encourage them to believe in the possibility of such an experience and to live their lives in such a way that a mystical experience will be possible for them. For this purpose, it is indispensable to offer them something they can trust. I thus have the following words of encouragement for people who come to me with their questions about the meaning of life: "Give yourself over to this process of life and trust that it is God's process!" In traditional religious language that means to obey the will of God, not with gnashing of teeth but with a basic, unreserved trust that life has meaning. To bring people closer to this trust, teaching them how to let go, how to open themselves, seems to be the most important task a spiritual teacher can take upon himself or herself.

From Mysticism for Modern Times: Conversations with Willigis Jager, pg. 72

Sunday, June 23, 2013

As I continue to work through my life's koan of what it means to be a Buddhist/Christian, the following words spoke some clarity for me from the Platform Sutra:





What do we mean by no-thought? The teaching of no-thought means to see all dharmas without being 

attached to any dharma, to reach everywhere without being attached to anywhere...

excerpted from The Platform Sutra – The Zen Teaching of Hui-neng translatedby Red Pine








Thinking back on work this week, this was actualized 

during an encounter with a patient as we

were talking about his very intimate death. He was

very articulate about what he wanted to do about

any treatment at this point and did not want to delay

the inevitable. He even passed up a comfort measure 

offered by his physcian, thinking it would only delay

his death. His wife acknowledged that they had no 

religious affiliation. I told the patient I was not there

to direct him towards any particular faith, I was there

to address any spiritual issues or questions he might

have at this point and wanted to support him in any

way I could. We had a very fruitful conversation re-

garding comfort measures and I affirmed his courage

regarding the acceptance of his impending death.

I reminded him I was available if he needed any further

conversation about spiritual issues that might

arise for him. He thanked me and said there probably

would be some questions come up for him but he was

not afraid of death. End of conversation. I gently 

touched his feet and and said, "I pray you have a 

peaceful and meaningful journey."



" to reach everywhere without 

being attached to anywhere..."



I reached and we did connect. It's hard to replicate 

that moment in just these words but there was an 

intimacy and acceptance in that moment...


"Just This"...


And in that intimacy, "God" was present.


Bows,

Alan








Thursday, June 13, 2013

Happy 42nd Anniversary Laurie


LALA...aka...Laurie...aka...My WIfe of 42 Years!



Growing old together,
Settling into a rhythm of life
Where at times it seems our breaths are one.
Our differences no longer challenged
Just accepted.
Growing old together,
Graced with the gift of seeing the fruits of our love
In four precious souls who, 



Without their knowing it,
Have matured us in ways we could have never born ourselves.
Watching you give and give,
To these little ones
Has been one of the greatest gifts you have given me.
I love you deeply as my wife,
But there are times I love you even more
As Lala to those little ones.
So happy anniversary to a great wife
And an absolutely wonderful grandmother.



Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I will meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.*
–Rumi
Love,
Alan

Sunday, May 19, 2013











...our life is always happening right here while we’re hoping for something else to happen.

Rachel Mansfield-Howlett

Blacker, Melissa; Ford, James Ishmael (2011-03-17). The Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen's Most Important Koan (p. 207). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition. Blacker, Melissa; Ford, James Ishmael (2011-03-17). The Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen's Most Important Koan (p. 212). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.
.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Myriad Things





May 14, 2013

Yesterday I zipped off a quick email to my zen teacher saying,

"Did you ever or do you ever get to the point where you wonder if any of this stuff matters.? Maybe I am just going through spiritual fatigue."

Then on the way home, the weather being so nice,
I opened the sunroof on my car and put some nice quiet piano music on my pandora station. I stopped at a traffic light. I then casually looked up through my open sunroof and beheld the most beautiful green leaves glistening in the sun and shimmering from a slight wind.

I didn't want to leave that place.


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


Bows,
Alan

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Repost For Mother's Day


Grandmother Mind

In my home I'm the one who is always reading about the spiritual life. I'm the one who tries to maintain my zazen practice in an honorable way. I'm the one always wanting to have deep discussions about life, about death, about what matters. I'm the one who loves to write about these matters on this blog. I'm the one who wants to know what it means to actualize this spiritual life, right now, in this moment.



Then there is Susan Moon:

Parents must worry about all the nuts and bolts of their children's care,
but grandmothers, says Susan Moon, can reflect on everything in the background---the water, air, stories, and love. It seems to me that this "grandmother mind" is exactly what the world needs more of.

taken from The Best Buddhist Writing 2008
Grandmother Mind by Susan Moon, pg.247

Then there is Eihei Dogen:

You can understand all of Buddhism, but you cannot go beyond your abilities and your intelligence unless you have robai-shin,grandmother mind, the mind of great compassion

Then there's my wife, Laurie, affectionately known as Lala by our granddaughters.

This afternoon she came home all excited about the blocks and books she had bought for our youngest granddaughter Alice.

I would have come home showing her some new book, new shirt, new pantS or something like that, which I had bought for myself.

ROBAI-SHIN

ACTUALIZED RIGHT IN FROM OF ME ALL THIS TIME

Maybe it's time to burn all my books and just watch my wife.



NINE BOWS TO MY WIFE, AND TO HER ROBAI-SHIN

ALAN

Friday, May 3, 2013

Turtles



I posted the following on the forum today for the 

 VINE OF OBSTACLES: ONLINE SUPPORT FOR ZEN TRAINING

I read David Loy’s The World Is Made Of Stories a couple of years ago and there is a story that comes back to me at this point (we are always on the point whether we realize it or not) in my journey. Here is the story. And then I will comment about how it speaks to me. 
 “According to a Hindu myth, the world is upheld by the great elephant Maha Pudma, who is in turn supported by the great tortoise Chukwa.
An Englishman asked a Hindu sage what the great tortoise rests upon.
‘Another turtle,’ was the reply.
And what supports that turtle?
‘Ah, Sahib, after that it’s turtles all the way down.’
Stories all the way down.”
(I (alan) want to say it another way: It’s Questions all the way down!
And therein is my point.
It seems to me we can so easily get hooked on breaking through MU, breaking through the koan, breaking through, breaking through, thinking we will get to the last turtle (which does not exist) and have all the answers. The answer to what, I don’t know. The most important place we can be, and the only place we can be is standing on top of the present turtle. There is no other place to be. 
Good stories create great questions not answers. 
As Rilke said, “live the questions…” Even if we come up with any kind of answer, my guess is it will create another question.
Enjoy your turtle.
By the way, I think the loggerheads are laying their eggs on the east coast now, so don’t step on the eggs. Life would be so boring without turtles.
Alan

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

LIfe/Practice/Life/Practice


Life/Practice/Life

Photo credit:
i-douxblogspot.com

Working through some training with Dosho Port online. Part of that training is coming up with a Gatha about arousing the way seeking mind.
Here’s what I came up with:


Arousing the Way Seeking Mind
Vowing with all beings
To possess Don’t Know Mind
That I might see.

So this past weekend I was having a conversation with my daughter-in-law about a difficult situation we had both been aware of regarding some friends of mine. During that conversation she was very open about the conundrum of why her life at present had been going so well when somebody else’s life became so very difficult. 
She acknowledged her being grateful for her life at present. And we both acknowledged having this other life to compare it with certainly helped raise our consciousness about how different our lives could be at any given moment.

So here was my Daughter-in-law, looking into the Great Matter. 

And then I became a stumbling block for her, even if she did not recognize that.

I quickly tried to provide some answers for her in regards to certain ways she was struggling with what we both were aware of regarding these other lives.


True compassion would have let her struggle with that without a lot of input from me.

I took something away from her in that.

My “don’t know mind” was not to be found.

I could have been of much greater help to her had I simply let this situation be her koan.

I could have simply said, “So what do you think this means for you?”

Bless my ego!

I report all this to raise our awareness of how important our practice is to our real life situations, which in fact is our practice.

Arousing the way seeking mine
Vowing with all beings
To possess Don’t Know Mind
That I might See

Bows to my teacher,
 my daughter-in-law

Alan



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Learning How To See

Good Morning,
This month is an exciting beginning for me in my oblique, parallel, linear, crooked line, up, down, sideways, backwards, forwards, here, there, everywhere spiritual journey. 

Dosho Port over at Wildfox Zen is offering what he calls

INVITATION TO VINE OF OBSTACLES: ONLINE SUPPORT FOR ZEN TRAINING


This will be my first opportunity to do some really formal training from a teacher on a consistent basis.

This promo is unsolicited by Dosho.

I would encourage anyone who finds themselves interested in the dharma and who has been going this trip alone to give it a look/see.
It feels to me like a great opportunity to receive some solid teaching.

I'll say no more at present.

Bows to his dedication to his vows!

Alan


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

So Tender, So Fragile...Life...Gift...Gift...Gift

For Grace Rhea







I held a friend's dead baby little girl in my hands yesterday. In my hands, not my arms.
It was so kind of her to allow me to hold that tiny little life.
This tiny little being, so few breaths taken in this life,
but the fact that she was here forever changes this world and the world of her parents.
We all matter.
Every moment.
Even when it's just a moment.

Deep Bows,

Alan

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Posted For My Four Granddaughters on Sunday

















ANOTHER WISE TEACHER PUT IT THIS WAY:



“Do not be anxious about tomorrow; tomorrow will look after it self,” he taught. (Matt 6:34)

 Realise yourself, that is, in the present moment, because your happiness and fulfilment are here and now. (JOHN MAIN)

IF YOU GIRLS WILL CHEW ON THIS ONE PARTICULAR PIECE OF SCRIPTURE AND JOHN MAIN'S SHORT COMMENTARY FOR A LONG TIME , YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE.

BUT IT DOES TAKE MUCH PRACTICE. 
IT TAKES PAYING ATTENTION.
IT TAKES MINDFULNESS.
IT TAKES TAKING TIME TO BE STILL.
IT TAKES WORK.

BUT WITH ALL THE "TAKING" COMES A WONDERFUL "GIVING".

PAPA CONTINUES TO WORK ON THIS AFTER MANY, MANY YEARS.

LOVE,
PAPA