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Bicycle Buddha

We thank all applicants for their interest

August 2nd, 2017

I am applying myself to the exercise of applying for work. Scouring the career sites, working the channels, writing and rewriting cover letters and resumés. Looking for a job is a job in itself, as anyone who has done so will tell you. I had forgotten how much time and energy it takes.

I am interested in working for the City or for an arts organization or a post-secondary institution, and for the most part I have been impressed by how streamlined the application process is. From CEO’s to hot-dog vendors: the job descriptions lay it all out in fine detail, you upload your bumpf, and wham! The auto-responder tells you you’re in the queue, and you wait for a phonecall. Or not. Read the rest of this entry »

Alone in the crowd

July 16th, 2017

Year after year I do this to myself: I go to Cortes Day, the annual island shindig at Smelt Bay. There is the much-contested chicken poop lottery, the Nail Sail and Bail competition, homemade pies and horshoe pitch. I eat my annual hamburger to raise money for the Seniors Center, and I place a bet on a square for the chicken to poop on. I schmooze and cruise and and meet and greet. At the end of the day I go home with a heavy heart.

Small communities are all about families. There are lineages and dynasties, scions and scandals. Every woman over puberty has a new baby in a sling. Couples couple and split and recombine, but at days end most everyone has someone to go home with or home to.

When I am all by myself in my green bus, with the thrushes and the waves for company I am not lonely. It is in the crowd that i feel most most alone.

Photo by Richard Trueman

I am Fukudo

June 17th, 2017

I am Fukudo: pelting through the halls at 4:50 am like a medieval town crier, clanging a brass bell on a glossy red stick.

I begin in the basement zendo, gently bringing the corners of the room to wakefulness, then finishing up with three big cascading peals to rouse Manjushri from slumber. Picking sleep grit from my eyes, I jog out of the zendo and up the back kitchen stairs, ringing as I go. The sleepy cook bends in gassho as I ring to rouse the little kitchen Buddha on the altar behind the samovar, then trot briskly up the stairs to the resident rooms. RANG-A-DANG-A-DANG-A-DANG! I jog around the second and third floor corridors, laying waste to monkish dreams. Read the rest of this entry »

In Canada people are breathing

May 10th, 2017

In Canada people are breathing. I notice this the moment I step off the plane, home for a weekend visit. There is spaciousness here, where people draw breath full down to the belly and then, in a natural and relaxed manner, release the diaphragm and gently exhale. In America it is different.

In America people breathe shallowly, fearfully, like they are hiding under the stairs. Under the veneer of extroverted Americanness is a layer of subcutaneous anxiety. A readiness to duck and cover at any moment. The throat is constricted, muscles primed for fight or flight.

I step out of the tube into YVR and draw cool air deep, deep into my lungs. It has been been four months since I breathed so fully. Fully here, fully home.

Photo borrowed from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pajamas-for-llamas/20022253772/in/photostream/

The perfect science of napping

March 18th, 2017

I am so all about the post-breakfast power nap.

Here’s the routine: 5am wakeup bell, zazen, kinhin, zazen, service, cleanup, breakfast, NAP! The nap can be up to twenty minutes, or as few as seven or ten if I’m in a rush. But that’s all—no longer, or else I feel groggy and am back to square one. When the alarm goes off I bounce out of bed and grab a shower and a coffee. I feel fresh and clear, and the burst of energy can motor me through the rest my day.

I think the trick is to totally commit to the nap. No feeble half-measures. I take off my clothes, arrange my bed, Read the rest of this entry »

Give up meditating

February 26th, 2017


Why would a person spend hours and hours staring at a white wall? I ask myself this question a lot.

On a spring Saturday sixty of us rise at 5am and hustle to the basement for the monthly one-day sit. We hunker down for another big day in the zendo—sitting, slow-walking, sweeping, eating brown rice from little bowls. At break time I dash across the road to Koshland Park, to greedily watch hummingbirds and dog-walkers in the San Francisco sunshine. Then the bell calls and it’s back to the zendo. Back to staring down the wall.

Some people have this idea about meditation that when we do this we float off on a little lotus blossom of bliss, leaving the cares and pains of daily existence behind. In fact it’s exactly the opposite.  More often than not is a masochistic endeavor. Read the rest of this entry »

Zen time is gold

February 19th, 2017

I want to say that the reason why I haven’t posted anything in the six weeks since I landed at San Francisco Zen Center is because I haven’t had time to write, but that would be untrue. The fact is there are  24 hours in every single day, with 60 minutes crammed into each hour and every minute packed full of moments. That’s as much time as there’s ever been and all the time I will ever have. I’ve got all the time in the world, and really, it’s enough.

If there is one overriding lesson to be learned by living in a Zen center it is that time is gold. Every second between every hit of the wooden han as it calls me to zazen—the hits increase in frequency but not in urgency. They all matter equally. From the 5am ringer Read the rest of this entry »

There is nothing I cannot afford

December 20th, 2016

“If you’re passing through the Bay Area,” I wrote to my Bicycle Buddha mailing list, “come visit me at the San Francisco Zen Center. Come sit zazen with me, then take me out for a fancy coffee—cuz I can’t afford lattes on monk’s wages.”

“Hi,” a friend shot back. “With an inheritance that allows you to travel to Mexico to get your teeth fixed and then fly kitty corner across a continent and then off to a zen centre for 4 months I truly think that you should give up this “cuz I sure can’t afford lattes on monk’s wages.” Read the rest of this entry »


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