Making Money

I have been in a very good mood the last week or so, and there are two likely reasons, in my mind. First of all, I completed my taxes and found I owed only half of what I had set aside for them. Also, once the showers on Monday had passed through, warm weather set in, which is always good for my psyche. The two of those things combining caused me to start thinking about perhaps buying a ‘new’ road bike rather than waiting for my old one to get rebuilt, so I started looking on Craigslist. I barely have enough money to be able to do that, but it feels important for my well-being, and at the same time, it seems I might have a couple more sources of monthly income becoming regular, so I might not be struggling just to make my rent payments every month now.

In the midst of all this, I got an email from WordPress suggesting ‘Five ways to monetize your website that you might not have thought of’, or ‘Five Different Ways to Turn Your Passion Into Profit’. The first of these was ‘Refer products you love through affiliate linking.’ I suspect this works well for more lifestyle type blogs – I would be happy to plug some of the products I do rate and care about, and for which I am happy to pay money – but somehow I don’t think I could call Dogen an affiliate, let alone monetise him. Ditto with the ‘sponsored post’ idea. And while I would be happy if anyone wanted to buy one of my photographs, I am not going to set up an online store for that.

Which leaves ads. WordPress has encouraged me more than once to upgrade my plan so I can include more targeted ads that I would make money off, supposedly. Personally I try to block ads from as many sites as I can, as I find the whole set-up pretty obnoxious. Last year I upgraded so that you wouldn’t be subjected to ads while looking at the site, and I don’t want to be bombarding anyone with more. I don’t look to this site to make a profit – it is a practice for me, and I hope it is beneficial for you. Of course if you want to contribute, there is always the Ko-fi link (hopefully just to your left as well), which many kind people have already used to support me.

IMG_0012.jpgIMG_0019.jpgI was going to write that sunshine makes more photos likely – as the iPhone does quite well in bright light – before realising that the second shot is the moon rising.


Shinshu Roberts

‘Each moment is a fresh moment that we can enact to the best of our ability. Each moment is another birth of continuous practice. This is living being-time. This is the shared being-time between ourselves and all beings. Again, this is not abstract. It must be enacted while we wait in line at the supermarket or drive to work. We do not need extraordinary circumstances to actualize our realization.’ (Being-Time)

I am very happy to be dipping into this again on my commute – not exactly a drive to work, and I am not sure I am actualising my realisation at each moment, but it is a great reminder of how we can.

April Showers

The roam on Saturday drew a nice crowd of regulars and occasionals. The weather could not have been finer; warm and with not so much wind. It was mostly too late to see the magnolias in the Botanical Garden – which had been my initial intention, scuppered by too many rainy weekends – but the rhododendrons were coming into their own, and the various blossom trees there, and throughout the parts of the park we visited, were doing splendidly. There was also much bird life to enjoy – red-tails circling and mewing, and occasionally putting up with crows trying to unsettle them. In a couple of trees on the lake, we could see nesting herons, which had been pointed out to me when I had been there a couple of weeks ago. It was hard to make out exactly what was going on, but there were a few heads and wings for sure. It reminded me that it was time for one of my favourite occasional summer pastimes, tuning in to the osprey cam in Scotland (indeed, three eggs are already laid!) I enjoy not just the close-up of the birds’ life in the nest, but the soundtrack of all the different birds around the loch, from geese to little songbirds, all familiar from my childhood.

There was a front of rain forecast for Monday; as with other times this winter, as we got closer to it, its arrival was put back a few hours, so I decided it was worth the risk to sit outside. With Zachary at Tassajara for a couple of weeks going through his dharma transmission, I have been borrowing a trailer from the bicycle coalition and taking the cushions and goza mats down with me, which is fun if a little laborious.

In the end, even though it clouded over as we sat, and got a little cooler, the rain did hold off until later in the afternoon, and I was glad we had been able to be outside. There were birds there too – hummingbirds and parrots, seagulls and pigeons of course, and also cormorants skimming over the water in a line. Some familiar dogs were frolicking in the grass as well, and we were photographed several times by passing tourists, which I suppose is an occupational hazard when you are not sitting in a zendo.

Apparently that is the last of the foreseeable rain, which at least bodes well for the Zen-a-thon ride to Green Gulch this Saturday. I am glad to be helping out with it, even if I don’t feel as fit as I would like for getting over the hill on my fixed gear.

IMG_0402.jpgBlossoms in Golden Gate Park a couple of weeks ago.

Cheri Huber

‘Recently a woman came to see me with a difficulty in her life, which was that she was starting an affair with her husband’s best friend. She wanted me to take a position, but my response was the only one I can imagine: “Hm. Yeah. Ah. No kidding.” And there’s always “Wow.” I keep that right at the forefront of my arsenal of clever Zen responses. I mean this sincerely, in the sense of “Yes, I know what that’s like. A truly fine spiritual opportunity.”
What else is there to say? We talked about how she expected me to tell her that what she was doing was wrong and she should stop, and how she would then go ahead and do it anyway because nobody was going to tell her what was right for her. But because I did not tell her what to do, she was left with what she believes about it. There was no encouragement for her to do or not do anything. She got to hear her story, and that experience was like a mirror in which she could see herself in this situation.’ (Trying To Be Human)

My first thought, when I read this, was of how Daigaku, when he lived at Zen Center, would most often respond “Is that so?” to any kind of pronouncement – echoing the famous story of Hakuin. But then I also thought of how different teachers had responded to the times when I acted unskilfully – sometimes I would hear about it very clearly, sometimes I would be left to figure it out for myself. Probably I caused more damage than I might have because I was slow to learn and my habits were deeply ingrained, but the lesson is better learned from your own realisation than from the scolding of another, even one in authority.

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

‘True home is not an object to acquire or item to check off a to-do list. Nor is it a marker of enlightenment. Our true home is in this moment, and this moment is passing and we are changing. If there were no change, none of us would have come into being. Home is a groundless force of nature that transforms our existence.’ (Sanctuary)

The Unavoidable Perfection of the Universe

Editing, processing and uploading the Zen Center dharma talks is one of the things I do as I create a livelihood. Sometimes I have to supply a title to the talk, so I listen through for the first five or ten minutes to find a resonant phrase that isn’t just part of the preamble. Very rarely do I listen to the whole talk. I made an exception recently for one or two of Norman’s talks as he embarked on leading his first Tassajara practice periods in perhaps a couple of decades – his clear, deeply experienced, articulation of what monastic practice represents was inspiring.

Last week I was listening to Bryan’s talk, and I was so struck by his way of talking about things that I stayed glued until the end. It isn’t as long as most talks (not a bad thing in my book – forty minutes is the standard length, but I find twenty plenty! I am not sure how well most people concentrate after that anyway), so if you would like a crisp take on Dogen, koans, and reality, I highly recommend it. Writing about his shuso ceremony just a year ago. I had wondered what his dharma talks would be like. Now I know; I wish mine were as good.



Suzuki Roshi

‘Actually, if you are a Zen student, then you should be very– or you should be always alert. How to be alert is– alert is, as much as possible to– to be attentive to your surrounding, without having personal preference, or without being involved in your own feeling. That is very important point.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)


‘”It knows without touching things” [from Hongzhi’s Zazenshin]. Knowing, here, of course does not mean perception. For perception is of little measure. It does not mean understanding, for understanding is artificially constructed. Therefore, this knowing is not touching things. And not touching things is real knowing. Such knowing should not be measured as even universal knowledge. It should not be categorized as self-knowledge. This not touching means when they come in the light, I hit them in the light; when they come in the dark, I hit them in the dark. It means sitting and breaking the skin born of mother.’ (Shobogenzo Zazenshin)

So how can you know this? Can you avoid falling into one side or the other? As Dogen says in the Genjo Koan, ‘It has not carried over from the past and it is not merely arising now.’ How can you meet it?