Nancy Mujo Baker

‘When our minds are still and open to our experience instead of interfering with it by adding analyses, judgments, excuses, and so forth, we can discover things about ourselves. But more importantly, such stillness and openness allow our experience to unfold and to reveal itself to be something other than what we thought it was.’ (Opening to Oneness)

Suzuki Roshi

‘In our zazen, a big strength is necessary – or big power is necessary. When it is — when Zen students start to move, you can see the power. But when you do not move, you do not see the power of the Zen students. But nevertheless, power is in them – in each one of us who can decide what to do at a certain time. Something which is moving with a great speed has its — is actually the succession of the point – in each point it has some power to express that great speed. And each point should be Zen [laughs]. We are sitting on each point with big energy. That is Zen. It is still, and it is calm, and it is completely peaceful, but that is peaceful power, and peaceful energy – this is our Zen actually. We don’t know our power, how great our power is. But when you acquire the complete calmness, there is big power.

So Zen practice has two faces: one is power, and one is peaceful. One is limitation, and one is universality. When you find out this kind of meaning of your practice, you have nothing to be afraid of. You acquire perpetual life. In this understanding and spirit we have practiced zazen.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)

Charlotte Joko Beck

‘Joy isn’t something we have to find. Joy is who we are if we’re not preoccupied with something else. When we try to find joy, we are simply adding a thought—and an unhelpful one, at that—onto the basic fact of what we are. We don’t need to go looking for joy. But we do need to do something. The question is, what? Our lives don’t feel joyful, and we keep trying to find a remedy.
Our lives are basically about perception. By perception I mean whatever the senses bring in. We see, we hear, we touch, we smell, and so on. That’s what life really is. Most of the time, however, we substitute another activity for perception; we cover it over with something else, which I’ll call evaluation. By evaluation, I don’t mean an objective, dispassionate analysis—as, for example, when we look over a messy room and consider or evaluate how to clean it up. The evaluation I have in mind is ego centered: “Is this next episode in my life going to bring me something I like, or not? Is it going to hurt, or isn’t it? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? Does it make me important or unimportant? Does it give me something material?” It’s our nature to evaluate in this way. To the extent that we give ourselves over to evaluation of this kind, joy will be missing from our lives.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

Red Pine

‘None of the things that fill our lives is by itself false. It is only our conceptualization and attachment that make them false.

Meanwhile, the perfection of wisdom transforms these obstacles into aids to enlightenment…The Buddha likened his teachings to a raft and told Subhuti to let go of all teachings, all dharmas as well as no dharmas. Just as the no dharma of emptiness must be put aside, the dharma of prajna must also be left behind, lest it become a new obstruction or attachment. Thus, such a teaching not only transcends the world of language, it also transcends itself. No other teaching is so self-effacing and yet so sure of itself. It is self-effacing because it asserts nothing. And it is sure of itself because it asserts nothing. It frees us of all assertions and opens the door to all knowledge. This is why it is called the “perfection of wisdom.”‘ (commentary on the Diamond Sutra)

I suspect I have posted this before, but when I opened the book again recently, it jumped out at me again. This is the kernel of everything, and once you can take it on board, things never look the same.

Eric Cantona

‘What I like in life is all the imperfections. How you use the imperfection. How it becomes worse, or the energy gives you something positive that you will never have if you have that second chance. On stage, it’s the same as in life. You have a moment and it’s how you answer it, how you react. It’s great to have this kind of imperfection.’ (from the Guardian)

I have admired Cantona in his many incarnations, so it was good to read some of his wisdom recently.

Campbell McGrath

Why perpetuate myths about fig leaves and apples
when we ourselves are the garden—
and the serpent’s tongue and the unforgiving god

and the naked bodies we have no choice,
as with the knowledge that would clothe them
in reverent obscurity, but to desire?

What calls us here, what carries us across the threshold
into existence, what breathes life into a handful
of dirt and casts it staggering along the orbit of its fate?

Maybe the sun has a message for me after all,
a message written in silver intaglio
long after the molten gold of midday fades.

I stand abased before its annunciation, this light
that carries itself like a herald from the king,
acknowledging its command to waste nothing,

never to misstrike the chisel,
to make of each rough block some essential shape,
of each page a poem fateful as a star.

Make it beautiful and true, that’s all,
that’s all. I’ve done what I can—
take these words, plant them, and tell me

if an apple tree grows there.

Weddings, Family, and Friends

When I pulled out the binder I use for my wedding scripts last week, I was reminded that the last wedding I officiated was for my student back in December, up in Joaquin Miller park (if you were sent this post yesterday, my apologies – I accidentally hit the trash button rather than the copy link button, and then had to republish it).

So it felt fitting to be in the redwoods again last weekend for the first wedding of 2023. Apart from the gorgeous and serene surroundings, the ceremony was memorable for very honest and open words of love that were shared not just be the couple, but by their grown children from their respective first marriages. It all felt very real, and beautiful. As the bride said, she knew that she could have had any kind of ceremony she had wanted. And they they all were, outside in a circle, standing on the earth amid the trees.

With that part done, I got to relax and enjoy some time up in Sebastopol. Myles and Nancy, Zen Center friends, had moved up there last year; they threw a housewarming that I was unable to attend because that was the weekend I had Covid (and also had to miss officiating another nature-based wedding) and so this was my first time visiting. Nancy was away, but Zachary had come up and we all had bikes. So, pretty early on Sunday, as I had to get my rental car back to the city by lunchtime, we all headed west, mostly down a long descending fire road, to the coast right by the mouth of the Russian River, and after a bit of rolling along Highway 1, climbed back up into the hills. It was mostly foggy, with occasional bursts of sun, and was definitely the hardest ride I have done for months. Jumping right back into the car and driving for an hour and a half, followed by riding across town with my bag helped the fatigue. I spent the rest of the day catching up with the end of the Premier League, and was still pretty stiff the next day, when I took a gentle holiday morning ride. 

This week my sister and her husband arrived for a few days on their way to the Cook Islands and New Zealand; they are staying just down the street. We were able to have dinner locally on Wednesday, and with friends of theirs in the East Bay on Thursday. On Friday, an unusually sunny day, we walked around Crissy Field and the new Presidio open spaces – some of the best that San Francisco has to offer.

Heading to the wedding site on Saturday.
We rode down here on Sunday.
It was amazing to ride through the silent redwoods.
Crissy Field with Indian Paintbrush.

Nikki Mirghafori

‘For monastics, any talk not associated with the dharma and the goal of the liberation is considered samphappalapa, a Pali onomatopoeia meaning idle chatter. As lay practitioners, we abide by a different standard as we engage in social conversations to build relationships. Still, it behooves us to be mindful of how we feed our mind: what we say and our media contribution and consumption habits. Are we rushing to fill an uncomfortable silence? Are we indulging in drama, getting riled up with our self-sense? Such engagements threaten to dull our spiritual sensitivities. A great acronym, from Jonathan Foust, is WAIT: “Why Am I Talking?” The Buddha instructs us to speak “words worth treasuring” that are of benefit and in service of goodness.’ (from Lion’s Roar)


‘Who are beginners? Are there any who are not beginners? When do you leave the beginner’s mind? Know that in the definitive study of the buddha dharma, you engage in zazen and endeavor in the way. At the heart of the teaching is a practicing buddha who does not seek to become a buddha. As a practicing buddha does not become a buddha, the fundamental point is realized.’ (Shobogenzo Zazenshin)

Engaging without seeking. That’s it.

David Michie

‘One of the most important meditation in Buddhism is contemplating the certainty of death. When we do this regularly, it helps inform our priorities on how to live. For while material considerations are important in our daily life, we need to avoid assuming that they have any greater value than this.
A helpful view of our life of leisure and fortune is to think of it like a brief stay in a luxury hotel. It’s good to enjoy the view, to make the most of the facilities, to strike up cordial relations with our fellow guests. We may have a favorite seat in the dining room, or we may talk about “my” room, but we are constantly aware that the facilities are only very temporarily ours to use. Most of us don’t suffer from a midholiday crisis on day three, thinking how it’s all going to come to an end on day five – we’re more likely to book in the jet-ski activity or beach massage, or make other plans to extract the full value from our stay. And having been mindful all along that we’re only making a short visit, we’re unlikely to burst into tears in the lobby, overcome with remorse and regret while checking out.’ (Enlightenment To Go)

I happened across this post from a few years ago when doing a search on the blog, which also brought up some lovely memories of visits to England and Tassajara just before the pandemic. If you click all the links, you might be able to spot the search term that links them all, and the post that occasioned the search!