Archive for the ‘Zen & Dharma’ Category

I am Fukudo

Saturday, 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. (more…)

Give up meditating

Sunday, 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. (more…)

Zen time is gold

Sunday, 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 (more…)

Dreaming of a small world

Monday, November 7th, 2016

I dream of a world where people live small. It’s happening. It’s a meme.ben-chuns-friends-tiny-house

Small houses, small gardens, small vehicles, small pleasures. Small incomes. Small needs.

My path is to live and to model that life. Enrich my networks. Take care of what I have and get rid of what I don’t need. Place myself in situations of humility and of trust: monasteries, communities, neighbourhoods, islands. You can’t be small in isolation. Living small means asking for help, accepting it, giving it back.

My caution is to resist letting my needs mushroom mindlessly. The goal is to simply stay small.

 

Mountains and molars sesshin

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

View-from-the-Lookout-at-SSRC-AfternoonI sat this sesshin with my best buddy, the angry Molar.

The Zen retreat was at a small Tibetan Buddhist center at the foot of Black Tusk, in the forest near Squamish. I got a ride up to the retreat with Kaye, an RN specializing in mental health care. She counselled me to take Ibuprofen at regular intervals, and if my face puffed up,  to get myself to the hospital pronto. She also divulged my job assignment for the sesshin: I was to be Ino. The Ino’s job is practice coordinator, aka, mother hen. My job was to care for everyone else’s pain. (more…)

Sangha

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Dai_Bosatsu_Zendo_Kongo-Ji_2Silent in the zendo face to the wall, Sangha surrounds me. Conventional wisdom says that the reason we gather is to support our practice, but I wonder again whether really the practice is just reason for sangha. Stripped down to essence of presence we don’t even pretend to drink coffee or walk or even talk. We just sit. Together. That’s enough.

I am thinking about Sangha:community. About why we need other people, and the ways we have of satisfying that need. I call up a friend to have coffee, play Scrabble, walk in the park, go to a show. (more…)

A twig in my teeth

Monday, March 14th, 2016

danger-sign-cliffA daydreaming monk falls off a cliff. As the monk is plunging downward he sees a twig sticking out from the side of the sheer cliff, and he manages to grab the twig with his teeth (yeah!). He is hanging by his teeth, above certain death, when a student arrives on the beach far below. The student calls up to the monk: “Oh wise monk, why did Bodhidharma come from the west?!” Obliged to deliver the dharma, the monk knows that if he opens his mouth he will fall to his death.

The power of the question is lost in the answer. (more…)

A little pink notebook

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am having an identity crisis in the fancy-ass stationery store on Granville Island. A little pink notebook is messing with my head.

You see, I am the Kind of Person who carries a notebook all the time. It is the repository and record of my life, from to-do lists to major epiphanies. I get twitchy when I don’t have a notebook (and working pen) within reach. It is what people see when they see me. The notebook is me, it defines who I am. I am the Kind of Person whose notebook is black—serious, beat-poet, anarchist black. (more…)


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