Marian Mountain

‘For years I had been fascinated and troubled by the problem of self. “Who am I?”  The search for the original self, the source of the vow to save all sentient beings, was always in the background of my meditation. Now I had slipped into the center of that original self.
I had known intellectually that to find myself would be to lose myself. But I hadn’t realized how attached I had become to my old self, and how disturbing it would be to lose it. Actually, I hadn’t lost my old self: I had only lost my image of my old self. In place of that comfortable old image was nothing but – how can I describe it? A Vast Emptiness? An ancient power? A not-self? Even now I have trouble finding words to express the nature of the power that possessed me.’ (The Zen Environment)


Even with purity like an autumn flood reaching to the heavens,
How can it compare with the haziness of a spring night’s moon?
Many people desire to find purity in their lives,
But though they sweep and sweep, their minds are not yet empty.

Dale S. Wright

‘The skill of generosity is the ability to communicate courage, the power to stand up and address whatever is painful in life. Courage, in the form of encouragement, is a gift always potentially in our possession but actualizable only if we have cultivated it, only if we have developed our powers of compassionate, sensitive giving in other circumstances. The perfection of generosity consists primarily, therefore, in a system of practices aimed at the development of these capacities and these skills.’ (The Six Perfections)

This is a part of my vows that I take seriously and am always striving to improve in. I don’t feel especially courageous, but I know how valuable encouragement can be, especially compared with denigration, something I had a lot of training in earlier in my life.

Unsettled Conditions

A fearsome wind blew in last Friday, heralding a change from a week of unbroken sunshine to a low pressure system bearing rain. The forecast looked fairly depressing, although it has turned out that the rain is intermittent.

It certainly fell hard as I left Cornwall on Sunday with my sister, who had come down to help clarify some legal issues around the house, and again on Monday as I flew from Bristol to Belfast. On the other hand, my train ride from Somerset to Bristol, through some of England’s finest countryside, was sunny, and since arriving at Djinn and Richard’s, I have been enjoying clear spells as well.

Much of my visit this year is revisiting places I have come to on each of my recent trips – albeit the order is often different – but this was the first time I had seen my sister’s new house, and I have also found new places to go in Belfast: Djinn takes herself off to swim in Bangor, a few miles up the coast, so on Tuesday I came with her and while she swam, I went running along the coast path as far as Grey Point. From there you could see back down the water to the city; turning around for the return to Bangor, distant hills may have been Scotland. It was such a sweet location that the following day I caught a slow suburban train out to Helen’s Bay and walked the whole stretch again in one direction with my camera, enjoying warm air and occasional sunshine.

My next destination is London, and I have been honing the points I want to make in my talk to the Wimbledon group on Saturday, which will also be the theme for my visit to Hebden Bridge next weekend. I am calling the talk The Path to Kindness, and will be invoking Dogen’s Four Methods of Guidance. Watching the unfolding of political events this week, where the announcement of the impeachment inquiry and the almost simultaneous ruling by the Supreme Court in the UK both might act as inflection points in the hideous political shenanigans that have consumed both countries since 2016, I reflect again on Dogen’s reminder that kind speech ‘has the power to turn the destiny of the nation.’

Sun shines through a window at Bath Spa station.

The coastal path at Helen’s Bay.

The coast at Crawfordsburn.

A craggy coastline reminding me of Malin Head and Cornwall.

Perfect terrain for running and hiking.

Charlotte Joko Beck

‘From our earliest moments in life, we are developing an ego-mind. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this; it’s just that we see life only from our viewpoint. Our essential nature remains undisturbed at all times. We can’t see it, however, because we’re now always looking from a limited, one-sided viewpoint.’ (Nothing Special)

So how does this square with yesterday’s post? Or the ones from Monday and Tuesday?

Soko Morinaga

‘The heart, the life that is within you, is born in companionship with the environment. Your heart is the life of the great universe. Our own hearts are the womb from which everything originates, and just as I am a manifestation of Buddha, so are you a manifestation of Buddha. Therefore, the Zen school teaches that we should not set out to know “everything”; we should investigate that which is closest at hand, our own bodies and hearts.’ (Novice To Master)


‘Unsurpassed bodhi is not for the sake of the self, not for the sake of others, not for the sake of fame, and not for the sake of profit. And yet, single-mindedly seeking unsurpassed bodhi, diligently proceeding without retreat, is called arousing bodhi mind. After this mind has already manifested, not seeking after bodhi, even for the sake of bodhi, is the genuine bodhi mind. If you do not have this mind, how could it be the study of the way? Brothers at this temple, single-mindedly seek bodhi mind, and never quit out of laziness. If you have not yet attained bodhi mind, you should pray to the previous generations of buddha and ancestors. Further, you should dedicate the good karma from your practice to bodhi mind and sincerely seek it. (Extensive Record, 377)

Suzuki Roshi

‘We should be, you know, not only able to– being able to talk about– about practice, we should experience, you know– we must have full experience– better experience of our practice. And for– for someone, you know, it is necessary to have– to put confidence in your big mind which is always with you. And you should be able to appreciate things, you know, as a expression of the big mind. In short, you must have some faith in big mind, which I explained.

It is– actually, if you understand what I said now, it is actually more than faith, you know. It is ultimate truth which you cannot reject. Whether it is, you know, difficult to practice in that– whether it is easier or difficult to understand or to practice it literally, you– this is the absolute truth which you must accept. And you must have anyway strong confidence in your big mind which is always with you, which you will find wherever you go. I think this is– if you, you know, have strong confidence, at– I think you are already, in its true sense, Buddhist even though you don’t attain enlightenment.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi Archives)

Shido Bunen

Die while alive,
Thoroughly die.
Then do just as you will,
and all is right.


I feel I need to add a caveat that the expression here is about the death of the limited, self-concerned ego, without which a free expression of the self is naturally skilful and beneficial, not just wantonly free in ways that cause harm to others.

Gesshin Greenwood

‘American culture is not set up in a manner that values preservation. In fact, the message our culture sends us says the opposite—that we should always purchase the new thing, the coolest or freshest thing. We are told that if our refrigerator and pantry are not completely stocked to the brim, we are not successful, we are not providing for our family. The problem with this is not accumulation in and of itself, but that we are not taught how to take care of and value the things we already have.

The same is true with people. People are only worthy of our time and attention if they have value to us personally, if they conform to social norms, if they are easy, pleasant, and attractive. We divide people into categories like “successful,” “failures,” “contributors,” “leeches,” “motivated,” “useless,” “lazy.” Then we allow these words to become the totality of a human being.

We are afraid of difference and weakness. We are afraid of poor people because of the labels we create, and then we become ashamed of our hate and fear. Instead of examining our shame and fear, we keep society’s outcasts at a distance. We treat them like trash and throw them away. We make laws saying they cannot sleep in tents. We make laws saying they cannot sleep on benches. We say they did this to themselves, that they “chose” this life, when nothing could be farther from the truth. (No woman wants to sleep on concrete; it is very painful, not to mention unsafe.) We say they are someone else’s problem. We forget they are human beings just like us.

Bernie Glassman, the Zen teacher famous for his work with the homeless, explained that when we care for the outcasts in society, we are caring for the parts of ourselves that we have rejected, the parts of ourselves we hate or feel shame about. It took me many months before I realized that this is what I was trying to do in my work with addicted clients. Working with people who relapsed over and over, I saw how easily I was frustrated by my clients, how quickly I moved to judgment and then to an impulse to discard them, to punish them by withdrawing kindness and compassion.

Abbess Aoyama Roshi would often say, “How you spend your time is how you live your life.” Spiritual practice shows us that the way we relate to small things—washing dishes, cooking, waiting, cleaning—is indicative of how we relate to everything else. The training in Zen practice is learning how to take care of even the smallest, most mundane task, because the task in front of you is the totality of the universe. So eventually I began to see that the way I was relating to addicted people was how I related to myself. I saw that when I was tired, sad, or struggling, when I didn’t receive labels like “successful,” “beautiful,” “rich,” and “competent,” I hated myself. I felt like trash.

I want to have compassion for the parts of myself I hate—my anger and selfishness, my lust, my introversion, my seriousness. I want to have compassion for these because they are everything that makes me me. But it is hard. We are taught to hate difficult things, difficult emotions, anything that does not contribute to a well-functioning individual. Part of me knows that, in order to have compassion for the world around me, I will have to radically transform how I take care of myself.’ (from Tricycle Magazine)