The Rainy Season Starts

All the talk was of the coming rain, and it blew in right on schedule; the transition from the last hot days, Friday and Saturday of last week, was abrupt. 

Luckily I was able to make the most of the last heat and stillness, getting outside on my bike, and on a well-attended and enjoyable roam, as well as sitting on my deck listening to such a variety of birds in the trees. On Sunday, I volunteered with the Bicycle Coalition for the first Sunday Streets in a while; it was wonderful, even in this age of Slow Streets, to experience the party atmosphere of Valencia Street hosting booths and dance troupes; I had many nice conversations with people about bikes and the city. And I made it home before the first wave of soft rain.

Seeing how the forecast was shaping up, I planned to take a short ride on Wednesday after an early class, but the rain got there first, so it turned into a day mostly filled with studying for the final Zen Center class on Hyakujo and the fox. Even though co-leading is way less pressure than being the sole teacher, I noticed feeling stressed about what I was going to present most weeks (except the third week where we focused on Dogen), perhaps because the material is not what I would have chosen, so I didn’t feel like I was on such firm ground; I am grateful to Zachary for all his teaching work and presentations for the class.

I had to get all my wet-weather bike gear out to go over to the studio on Thursday morning, and though it had blown away by the end of the day, I felt a little depleted before the class started; I still managed to say what I wanted to, and we had some wonderful contributions from the attendees, as we have each week, but I could definitely feel some spaciousness at it being over. That said, I have plenty in my schedule that I need to work on, which I had consciously set aside until the class was done.

In the midst of all of that, there was a wonderful response to the public release of the Suzuki Roshi archive, which I have been working on extensively for the past couple of years, and that felt very gratifying. I will write more about that on Monday.

An early morning ride past the Conservatory of Flowers last week
We roamed slowly as the temperatures hit eighty.
Red skies in the morning on Sunday when I went out to ride
Tuesday skies.
Thursday rain clouds.
Checking out a new trail for an upcoming roam on Friday.

Kosho Uchiyama

‘By nature, we are all living out the reality of the life force. Therefore, if we act accordingly, that is, in accord with that life force, the the truth of that life force will manifest. That is cause and effect in practicing the Buddha Way.’ (Deepest Practice, Deepest Wisdom)

Dale S. Wright

‘When the impermanence, dependence, and insubstantiality of all things are absorbed into one’s worldview down to the level of daily comportment, everything changes. A new nonself-centered identity gradually emerges, one that entails reciprocity with everything that previously seemed to be other than oneself. This identity dissolves previous habits of self-protection and self-aggrandizement, opening the “self” to others in a connection of compassionate identification.’ (The Six Perfections)


‘I have no doctrine to give people – I just cure ailments and unlock fetters.’  (Quoted in Zen Essence)

And how do you suppose he does that?

Koun Franz

‘If you want to make a cake, you put all the ingredients in a bowl, but that’s not a cake. That’s just a bunch of stuff in a bowl, and so the act of stirring those ingredients together or putting them in the mixer is not a small part of making a cake, nor is it a really big part of making a cake. It is fundamentally inseparable from making a cake. Without it, there is no cake. The cake hinges on that action, but then it hinges on the next action and the next action, so we don’t measure large or small. This moment is the only moment that is this moment.’ (from Ancient Way blog)

Gudo Nishijima

‘Master Dogen is not trying to construct a self-contained intellectual theory. He is trying to use all the tools of philosophy and logic to point to something else; something beyond them all. In the area of reason and logic alone, we cannot embrace systems of thought containing gross contradiction. But reality itself contains contradiction. We experience those contradictions for ourselves at every moment. So an intellectual description of reality must find room for those contradictions, however unacceptable that may feel to our intellectual powers.’

I don’t remember where I pulled this quote from – most likely it was Hardcore Zen. I had it in hand last Thursday for the class, as we pivoted to Dogen, and it may yet get a run out this week.

Joanne Kyger

Your heart is fine feeling the widest
possible empathy for the day and its inhabitants 

Thanks for looking at the wind
in the top of the eucalyptus
dancing like someone you know
well 'I'm here I'm here I'm here!'

The wind picks up
a rush of leaves waving

wildly for your understanding
—apple, plum, bamboo
rooted and flourishing
next to your home
in the air awake

without defect

Katagiri Roshi

‘There are many interesting things to do in the human world. To do as much as possible keeps you busy making lots of sounds. That’s fine, but you have to understand that these sounds come from no-sound. If you always understand sound as coming from sound, you become confused and lose the direction in which you should go. You have to know no-sound, because no-sound is your nature. Then, very naturally, you will want to come back from no-sound and look at your own particular sound. That’s wonderful. Thank you can know it.
Zazen is to come back to no-sound. Come back to the sound of no-sound and see it. It’s not just your limited territory, it is a vastness from which your capacity, your knowledge, your nature comes, just like spring water coming up from the earth. This is zazen, exactly; this is you.’ (Returning to Silence)

A repost – and this time round I am particularly struck by ‘come back from no-sound and look at your own particular sound.’ This is how we don’t get entranced by emptiness, but remain in the real world of the present.

Shinshu Roberts

‘Dogen writes that if we do not ask the right questions about the nature of our experience, we cannot actualize realization. He poses and answers questions that he would like us to ask. These questions help us to clarify our muddles thoughts, encouraging us to leap beyond the intellect to enact the Buddha Way in our daily life.’ (Being Time)

This is one of the quotes I thought to dust off ahead of yesterday’s class, where we moved from the koan about Hyakujo and the fox to Dogen’s commentary on it.

Ups And Downs

These days, I seem to wear shorts for at least six months out of the year. Right now we are coming to the time where this isn’t always the best choice. Our heatwave the other week was followed by a few days of cold weather, enough to have me turning the heat in my new place on for the first time. Last weekend was pretty pleasant, apart from enduring the high-volume, low-flying Blue Angels. We were scoured by a north wind for a couple of days – sitting on the Embarcadero on Monday felt like a bit of a buffeting – and then colder temperatures again, though the coming weekend is due to be warm, which should make for an enjoyable roam.

I have been teaching in many different arenas, and planning for weddings, classes and other events coming up; it hasn’t felt as overwhelming as it did a couple of weeks ago, when my schedule seemed very full, and I have enjoyed having a little space to think and study. Last week’s class on Hykakujo and the fox had plenty of interactions, which is always the best part of a class, and since we are moving onto Dogen’s commentary this week, I feel on firmer ground.

One of the colder days last week.
A mostly sunny ride on Sunday around Pacifica – it was sunnier even a little way in from the coast. Fog-free at least.
Late afternoon sun bouncing off the MIRA building on Tuesday.
Two-screen version of the dharma seat for the class.
Wednesday morning.
Wednesday afternoon.