‘This very body and mind are not merely the five skandhas. Our wondrous existence is most excellent, and should not be an object of desire. Without coming or going, we simply respond to sounds and colours. Further, we turn around from our center, and move out in the eight directions. Negating all dualities, our feet are on the ground. How could there be arising and perishing, as our magnanimous energy pierces the heavens? Although it is like this, do not say that killing Buddha after all has no results. The genuine cause of attaining buddhahood is zazen.’ (Extensive Record, 286)



‘Thoroughly observing each thing with the whole eye is a patch-robed monk’s spontaneous conduct.’ (Cultivating the Empty Field)

What I Think About When I Am Running

The weather has shifted in the Bay Area: we had several decent bouts of rain, and now the skies are clear and the temperature is in the seventies. The wind has dropped, leaving a rare sense of peace and stillness in this generally windy city.
My life has been quite full recently, with some lovely things happening, and others that were less welcome. In the midst of it all I have noticed myself not feeling motivated to write about goings-on in the way that I sometimes do on here…
My vicarious marathon training has come to an end. After the twelve-mile run at Wilbur, the following weekends saw fourteen and sixteen miles covered (last weekend I let my friend do the eighteen-mile run unaccompanied). The fourteen mile run took in the trail to and onto the Bay Bridge, which I had never done before, but which I had assumed I would discover by bike sometime. The path is wider and less vertiginous for me than being on the Golden Gate Bridge, and there was a rare treat in store as well: whales were breaching right underneath us, to the delight of everyone on the path.
For the sixteen mile run, we traversed many parts of San Fransisco, from the Panhandle, to the Presidio, Mountain Lake, Lobos Creek, the Land’s End trail, the Cliff House and Ocean Beach, returning via Golden Gate Park, all under spectacular clouds and luckily no rain. It was like covering several roams at once, and the route felt very familiar to me. My friend, who had never run that far before, was having a fair amount of pain, and with it, motivation problems. It has been a few years since I ran that kind of distance (perhaps ten years ago, attempting a twenty-mile run around the mountains at Tassajara, which was pretty brutal), but I was doing okay plodding along. I was wondering if the long-term body memories of being able to cope with that kind of distance (and the three marathons I ran many years ago) helped, or if it was perhaps due to the more recent experience of sitting through sesshins where I would rather have been doing anything else than continuing to sit on a cushion, but nonetheless I persevered in following the schedule. Either way, I have in my body a sense of equanimity about sticking things out, which helps when life is throwing less pleasant things at me.
Last weekend, with a roam scheduled, I took the streetcar up to West Portal to run the course I had planned, up to Golden Gate Heights, the Moraga Street Stairs, and Grand View Park. I even made a detour to check out the steep dune that is Hawk Hill, before deciding again that it was not suitable to include on a roam. As I headed south and reached an uphill block of 10th Ave, I remembered how tired people had been at that part of the roam, having already got over several significant climbs. For myself, since I had only covered a few miles compared to the previous weekends, once I had crested that climb, I continued home via Twin Peaks, and still did not feel so worn out at the end.
I did resolve to re-plot the route of the roam though, to minimise the climbing, so we ended up doing the planned route almost backwards. A highlight was sitting on a south-facing rock in little-used Golden Gate Heights Park, out of the bracing north-westerly wind which subsequently made Grand View a bit of a challenge.
We also had a real bonus at the end; having come down the beautifully tiled Moraga Street steps, which are increasingly crowded and photographed these days, one of our number requested that we head towards the N Judah rather than back to West Portal. I had a memory of running down a set of steps that connected with Judah a year or so ago, and was happy that we found them. What I had not realised on that run was that they were also beautifully tiled on the vertical part of the step, with an earth theme to Moraga’s marine theme. And not one single person was there with a camera. We all had a chuckle at the way such trends can emerge.

Shohaku Okumura

‘Without this being, there are no other beings. This is called wondrous dharma or true dharma. We cannot grasp it with our concepts, and yet, as a reality, it’s right in front of us.’ (Living By Vow)


‘Gentlemen of affairs these days, though, are quick to want to understand Ch’an. They think a lot about the scriptures and the sayings of the ancestral teachers, wanting to be able to explain clearly. They are far from knowing that this clarity is nonetheless an unclear matter. If you can penetrate the word “Mu”, you won’t have to ask anyone else about clear and unclear. I teach gentlemen of affairs to let go and make themselves dull – this is the same principle. And it’s not bad to get the first prize in looking dull, either – I’m just afraid you’ll hand in an empty paper. What a laugh!’ (Swampland Flowers)

Marc Lesser

‘The true benefit of focusing on and taking a break from busyness is that it brings more kindness and love into our lives. With less busyness and unnecessary effort, more kindness and love can rise to the surface, leading to more effectiveness, energy and focus. When we feel depleted, love is the best replenisher – which includes the love we feel for ourselves, the love we freely give to others, and the love that comes to us from the people we care for and admire most.’ (Less)


Break open
A cherry tree
And there are no flowers,
But the spring breeze,
Brings forth a myriad blossoms!

Taigen Dan Leighton

‘The ultimate purpose of spiritual practice, universally awakened heart/mind, cannot be set apart from our own inherent being and our immediate moment-to-moment awareness.’ (Introduction to Cultivating the Empty Field)

angel Kyodo williams

‘Many people mistakenly believe that the way to be spiritual and find peace in their lives is to wrestle the “me” to the ground. To conquer it. To force themselves to submit to a set of ideas about how they should be. They begin a process of tightening themselves, cutting off their feelings or pretending not to see, in order to reach their goal. “I am not angry,” they tell themselves. “I will stop drinking alcohol right now and never drink it again.” “I will not do anything wrong, ever.”
This doesn’t work. Instead, this new desire to achieve a goal takes over and is just another desire. We can’t simply look in the mirror and say we want to be better and believe that such thoughts will make it so. The wanting takes over again. Wanting is wanting is wanting. What we are looking for is not-wanting.’ (Being Black)


‘When you realize buddha dharma, you do not think, “This is realization just as I expected.” Even if you think so, realization inevitably differs from your expectation. Realization is not like your conception of it. Accordingly, realization cannot take place as previously conceived. When you realize buddha dharma, you do not consider how realization came about. Reflect on this: what you think one way or another before realization is not a help for realization.
Although realization is not like any of the thoughts preceding it, this is not because such thoughts were actually bad and could not be realization. But since you were seeking elsewhere, you thought and said that thoughts cannot be realization.
However, it is worth noticing that what you think one way or another is not a help for realization. For this reason, you become cautious not to be small-minded. Indeed, if realization came forth by the power of your prior thought, it would not be trustworthy.’ (Shobogenzo Yuibutsu Yobutsu)

This is what the monk in last week’s story needed to hear. I found this passage very helpful myself, as it let me shed any last lingering hope that I would think my way to enlightenment. That in itself made a nice difference to my practice…