Katagiri Roshi

‘In the realm of science, or business, literature, sports, the arts, or whatever you do, these is a way to touch eternity. That is spiritual practice. Doing something as spiritual practice is to invoke the life force energy deep in your own life and use it to grow your life. Growth gives you room to cultivate wisdom and compassion, love and generosity, enough to create a wonderful world for you and all beings.
We study and practice Buddhist teachings in order to go deep into our own life. There you discover your original place, the place where all beings live together in peace before we exist as individual beings. From that place you can join the flow of life, living in harmony with all beings and walking together hand in hand. This is the guideline for Buddhist study and practice.’ (The Light That Shines Through Infinity)

Suzuki Roshi

‘We are Buddha. This is rather difficult to accept. So we say, Zen Buddhism is very easy to understand intellectually. It is not difficult to understand, but it is difficult to believe in it completely. We cannot accept ourselves as Buddha. This is very difficult point. But intellectually each one of us is Buddha. That is quite true. But emotionally or actually we cannot accept ourselves as Buddha, or we do not like to accept ourselves as Buddha. If we are Buddha, we think we should behave. It is rather inconvenient for us, but intellectually it is quite true. We can accept it intellectually but it is not so convenient for us to accept it actually. We want to escape from it always. So, this is our weak point ….’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives, via Cuke.com)

In my archive browsing, it was wonderful to come across this original type-written transcript, reminding me of the effort that typing used to take before word processors came to be. I wondered about the care and attention that was taken to produce even these two pages from a scratchy reel-to-reel recording. Then I discovered that cutting-and-pasting from the pdf provided a less than perfect copy of the typed words, so that, to turn that into smooth English, I was doing just what the original editors would have done with Suzuki Roshi’s less than perfect idiom.

What Comes Alive?

After the rains, it has been clear and milder on the whole. I drove up to Wilbur on Friday, taking my time in the old van, under blue skies, with glimpses of snowy peaks off to the east, and a couple not far north of Wilbur as well. Just a month after the solstice, the afternoons already feel longer. I took a run up to the medicine wheel after I arrived, warm where the slopes were in the sun, and cooling already in the shade. After I had eaten, a great scattering of stars in the sky, though the temperatures did not drop below freezing as I had imagined. Saturday was hazy, but Sunday sunny again. It felt good to sit in the sun in the middle of the day, and to run up to Coyote Peak after the meditation sessions.
In fact, turn-out was not great this time. It seemed that there were a lot of very chatty guests over the weekend, which made the bath-house less contemplative than it can be, and I told myself that perhaps introspection was not on the menu. For those that did come, I posed the question, which has been rich for me in my recent visits: what comes alive in the silence and stillness?
I was glad to have John there, leading tai chi in the mornings; it was the first time I had seen him since the Camp Fire, and he seemed as joyful as ever. Since so much of what I do feels linear, or static, tai chi feels like something I need to keep incorporating into my life.
Apart from the sun, and the water, and the running, I did spend a lot of time reading, getting up-to-date with the New Yorker again, continuing to read Shohaku’s commentary (and rather wishing I had been able to cram more of his insights into my class), as well as  polishing off a cheery memoir by Bernard Cribbins which my sister had sent me for Christmas, and which did, as she hoped, invoke many happy memories of childhood.


I didn’t get my camera out until Sunday morning, when I went roaming as it got light.

Dana Velden

‘A kitchen chore will often tether us to a place: the sink, the chopping board, the stove. This is a good thing. On the surface, this tethering may feel like a restriction but it’s actually really helpful to restrict our options sometimes. This is in part what seated meditation is all about: quieting the external distractions so we can turn our attention inward in order to see more clearly what is happening there. Standing at the stove or a sinkful of dishes, it is possible to touch some of this stillness and insight while still in the midst of activity, especially if the task is simple or repetitive or one we know very well. Like chopping celery or stirring a sauce.
Think of this chore-doing as time for integration, where we can fold in the experiences of the day and assimilate the lessons learned – the mistakes, the triumphs, and all the mundane stuff, too. Taking time to allow the day to settle and register like this is a key component to a happy, richly experienced life. Rushing through a dreaded chore just to get it done is a missed opportunity; relaxing into the rhythms of simple work and allowing the body and spirit to align after a busy day is golden.
This is how when you wash the dishes, the dishes also wash you.’ (Finding Yourself In The Kitchen)

I checked back to see if I had posted anything from this book before, and indeed I had – I was borrowing a copy for a while. Now I have my own copy, and I shall use it in teaching, since the lessons are gentle but worth absorbing. And since the previous posts were a while ago, here is what I wrote about Dana after the first quote:

Dana lived at City Center when I first arrived, and she was one of the people there whose presence and way of being encouraged me to trust the practice. She was so often kind, patient, generous, even if things weren’t going perfectly for her. I have a particularly fond memory of Sunday evenings around one of the tables in the dining room, where a group of us helped to sew a new okesa for Paul, I believe (it was the first zen sewing I had done, so I don’t think I was much help), while she read sections of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

Terrance Hayes

American Sonnet For The New Year

things got terribly ugly incredibly quickly
things got ugly embarrassingly quickly
actually things got ugly unbelievably quickly
honestly things got ugly seemingly infrequently
initially things got ugly ironically usually
awfully carefully things got ugly unsuccessfully
occasionally things got ugly mostly painstakingly
quietly seemingly things got ugly beautifully
infrequently things got ugly sadly especially
frequently unfortunately things got ugly
increasingly obviously things got ugly suddenly
embarrassingly forcefully things got really ugly
regularly truly quickly things got really incredibly
ugly things will get less ugly inevitably hopefully

Silvia Boorstein

‘Wise intention is what keeps our lives heading in the right direction. If I want to drive north to Seattle from my home in the Bay Area, I need to keep checking that the sun is setting on my left to be sure I’m heading in the right direction. The practice of wise intention is like checking the sun: it’s a way to make sure our actions and our lives are going in the direction we want.
Wise intention is the cornerstone of wise effort, of actions that are wholesome and positive. The instructions for wise effort call for us to continually evaluate our actions and choose those that lead to less suffering and eschew those that lead to more suffering. This is easily determined by checking if the action is being fueled by wholesome or unwholesome intentions. So clarity about our intentions needs to be present to inform wise effort.’

Another from my collection of quotes around intention.

Multimedia Extravaganza!

Sometime last year I decided to send some money WordPress’ way so that I could host audio on the site. I know some people click over to the audio page, though the stats don’t tell me if anyone actually listens to any of the talks there. Should you need some encouragement, I have added recordings of the Dogen class I just offered at Zen Center, partly for those people who couldn’t make one of them, but if you want a hefty dose of me waffling about Dogen, there it is.

Also, up in the menu there, having stopped updating my Tumblr at the end of last year, I have also added some portfolios to this site – after the initial batch, I realised that I need to add one for Tassajara and probably also one for Wilbur too, but there are some photos to peruse.

angel Kyodo williams

‘The question is: how do we allow people to be deeply in touch with themselves, and allow them to become deeply in touch with others?
They have to cultivate their capacity for presence. Presence is Grand Central Station and the place people arrive from wherever they’ve originally come from – fear, anger, disappointment, anxiety. Through the practice of being present to their situations, to the suffering that they felt as a result, not to mention the power of being seen as others are present with them, they can then travel on to compassion, to courage, to caring, to love.
We don’t have to fix people at all, We have to trust the evolutionary draw that is. What pulls you forward is presence. Presence is what motivates people and what you get out of it. As you choose to be more present, you are more present. What does presence allow? It allows us to see ourselves and others. By choosing presence we learn to let go of our own discomfort, and experiencing ourselves in a trusting way allows us to trust others more. As a result, we are drawn deeper.’ (Radical Dharma)

I have posted this before, but was stirred on reading it again.


A monk asked, “What is the mind that the Patriarch brought from the west?”
The master said, “This chair leg is.”
The monk said, “That’s it, isn’t it?”
The master said, “If it is, take it away with you.”‘(The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu)

Another one falls into grasping.

Sharon Salzberg

When we feel conflicted about a particular decision or action, our bodies often hold the answer – if we take the time to stop and tune in. Our minds tend to race ahead into the future or replay the past, but our bodies are always in the present moment. A tightness in the chest or a squeamish sensation in the gut may signal harm, even when reason may suggest that a given choice is perfectly ethical. A feeling of calm or a sense of expansiveness throughout the body sends us a very different message.’

I don’t remember where I picked this quote up from, but I dug it out again recently as part of a teaching on intentions. Interestingly, the same day I read an article in the New Yorker about decision making. As often is the case, I appreciated the ideas put forward while at the same time feeling frustrated about the terms of the discussion. There was some emphasis on decisions based on personal values (which holds pretty strongly for me); I enjoyed the exposition around aspirations (which reminded me of way-seeking mind), and that the person who lives with a decision (that of becoming a parent was one of the prime examples in the article) cannot be the same as the person who makes the decision (which I would also suggest helps us to think about death – I remember realising while I was at Tassajara that the present me who was scared of death was not the person who would have to face it in the future), but it seemed that everything was, and should be, underpinned by rationality, which, in the case one of the authors whose work was cited, led, perhaps inevitably, to large blindspots:

‘Still, Johnson writes, decision science has lessons for us as individuals. Late in “Farsighted,” he recounts his own use of decision-scientific strategies to persuade his wife to move, with their two children, from New York City to the Bay Area. Johnson starts with intuitions—redwoods are beautiful; the tech scene is cool—but quickly moves beyond them. He conducts a “full-spectrum analysis,” arriving at various conclusions about what moving might mean financially, psychologically (will moving to a new city make him feel younger?), and existentially (will he want to have been “the kind of person who lived in one place for most of his adult life”?). Johnson summarizes his findings in a PowerPoint deck, then shows it to his wife, who raises objections that he hasn’t foreseen (all her friends live in Brooklyn). ‘

Not that listening to the body is infallible, as our capacities for self-delusion are pretty far-reaching, but I usually think it would help, not least in reaching a compassionate decision. And there is also the place of not-knowing, which we invoke often in our practice. Wondering if I had told this story before, it turns out I was talking about intentions again…