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)

To me this echoes the piece from the other day.

Tea And Biscuits Zen

The invitation from the Dancing Mountains group was to come and sit shoulder to shoulder with them, and that’s what I did over the weekend.

I had a split night of sleep on Thursday (and again on Friday), and started the day with a rush hour tube train through central London. After that, things got much more relaxing with a train through East Anglia, through several stations I associate with places where my uncle used to live – I had hoped to see him this time, as I did on my visit to Carol and John’s last year in the same part of England, but he was traveling.

I was very encouraged to arrive at the venue after lunch just as both Carol and Rebecca were pulling into the driveway. After some hugs and catching up, we began to transform the Christian-themed place, a lovely building, solid and familiar with its red bricks and tall gables, setting up a sweet zendo for twelve in an upstairs lounge, and arranging the sitting room chairs downstairs and the dining room tables to accommodate everyone.

As people arrived, the rain that had been threatening all day finally passed through – the first I have seen since the end of May. We got settled, had the first of our delicious meals, and moved into silence with two evening periods – though I was being sucked under by sleep and did not enjoy them much.

The schedule managed to pack in sixteen periods of zazen before Sunday lunch, which really helped everyone get quiet together. I had sat with eight of the group before, and there were three new to me, one of whom was unused to the amount of sitting, but stuck it out well. I offered a talk on Spiritual Friendship – the theme for the retreat, so there was a request that I speak to that – and I felt that I stitched my thoughts together reasonably enough.

We had opened all the windows on arrival, as the place had been a little stuffy, and a chilly north-easterly breeze made its presence felt on Saturday; Sunday was much warmer and sunnier.

A discussion had been scheduled for Saturday afternoon (as well as the Dancing Mountains AGM for Sunday morning), and over tea and biscuits, people shared honestly about their own practice, and how it felt to be practising in the UK. For those who had spent time at Tassajara and Green Gulch, the issue seemed especially poignant; from my persective I pointed out that English tea-and-biscuits zen, which I have experienced in the groups in Brighton, Hebden Bridge, and last year in Glastonbury, has its own wonderful flavour. There is an ongoing wish for more practice opportunities, and questions as to what shape that will take. Along with a few other teachers – now including Djinn who visited Hebden Bridge for the first time recently – I will do what I can to help.

For this occasion, though, after our sitting and our sharing, and a final meal together, forty-eight hours after setting it all up, those of us who didn’t have to travel across the country stayed on to return the place to its former state, leaving no trace, before our fond goodbye hugs. And at this point I have to thank Wendy and Carol especially for inviting me and doing so much work to make the retreat not just happen, but be a great success.

Since I had hoped to stay with my uncle, I had arranged my next stay, down on the South Coast, to start on Monday, so I had ended up taking an Airbnb in Newmarket. It was nice to have a little time to explore the town; I had looked on the map to see if there was anywhere I could run, but hadn’t been able to parse the open spaces. I discovered, and perhaps should have guessed, given the town’s strong association with horse racing, that they were training gallops. In the end, walking them in the afternoon sunshine felt more appropriate for my energy levels, though if we visit again I will do my best to fit in a run on the sloping grass and tracks. It was a lovely outing, the only disappointment coming when I found the supermarkets had closed at four; it is a while since I have been anywhere where that happened.

Our venue for the weekend.

The zendo was equipped by different sanghas.

The participants for the weekend.

The training gallops on Side Hill.

Sunday Poem

The moon outside my window
Is usually the same moon,
But as soon as there are plum flowers
It becomes a different moon.

(from Zenrin Kushu – ‘parallel seven-character phrases’ section of koan capping phrases)

Diane Eshin Rizzetto

‘Freedom from the boundaries of the self rings true joy.’ (Deep Hope)

Before I went to England, I stopped in at the bookstore to pick up some incense that Djinn in Belfast had asked for. Arlene, who you will know if you have spent time at Zen Center over the years, and who is the embodiment of grandmotherly mind (one of the three minds Dogen extols in the Tenzokyokun, though I find I have not excerpted that section anywhere on this blog), not only handed over the incense, but also a book for Bev’s kids, and encouraged me to pick up this book on the paramitas, knowing that I am basing most of my current teaching on them…

The Mind of Jet-Lag

In the days before I left for England, I was waking up so early that it felt like I was getting my jet-lag in ahead of time. On Tuesday morning, I basically woke up in the middle of the night, and realised that I still hadn’t checked in for my flight, so I did that, and then barely slept again afterwards.

I had had an idea to ride for an hour or so that morning, but was tired enough to let that go. I did head downtown on my bike to run some errands once the fog had burned off, which felt like enough, and I could do everything I needed without any sense of rush.

During the long overnight flight, I did close my eyes for a few hours, but I couldn’t really say that I slept at all. It was nice to arrive on a sunny afternoon, and also nice to enjoy my little gifts to myself, put aside after my last visit: £25 in cash, and another £25 on my Oyster card, which will keep me moving round London.

I was struggling to stay awake after six pm, but when the friend I am staying with got back home, with another friend of hers also arriving for dinner and staying overnight, the conversation and food kept me awake for a few more hours, after which I did have a tremendous sleep.

The morning was sociable, and I offered a meditation for my two friends before heading into town. I didn’t really have an agenda, beyond trusting that walking in the sunshine is the best cure I know for jet-lag.

I had a double sense of dislocation when I got out of the tube at Tottenham Court Road – not just the thin veil of perceptual strangeness caused by the jet-lag, but also walking down streets and alleys around St Giles that have been rebuilt since my days of living in London. There seemed to be construction underway everywhere I went.

When I got on the plane, I had wondered how much the political events in England would have changed by the time I arrived; quite a lot, as it turned out, so it seemed worthwhile to wander down to Parliament Square to take in the scene.

I went via the National Gallery; remembering how a friend and I always used to meet in the room that corresponded to the day of the month, I headed to room 4 for a quick burst of culture (not having moved my internal calendar on correctly). I was rewarded with some well-known, and some less well-known, Cranach pictures, but the room was dominated by Holbein’s The Ambassadors. I could not help wondering, looking at their fine garments and the array of instruments of learning on display, what a modern-day remake would look like…

Trafalgar Square, naturally, was filled with tourists, but I mainly noticed how much more pedestrian friendly it is now, compared to thirty years ago when the traffic dominated on all sides – I remember only feeling safe riding around it on one occasion, when Critical Mass managed to take it over with hundreds of bicycles riding in close formation.

Down past the grand offices of Whitehall, I came across some protestors with Palestinian flags, and many yellow-jacketed police in front of Downing Street – I had read that Netanyahu was in town. Parliament Square was filled with barriers and banners. I realised how real the terrorist threat is here, and also how civilised the disagreements between the two sides of Brexit were, on the street at least, perhaps neither expecting to be able to convert the other. It seemed more a display to be caught on the cameras that filled College Green. I heard one police officer at one of the entry points for the Palace of Westminster say to his colleague, “You have to give Boris his due, he has tried.”

A couple of tube stops later, I walked over to Battersea Park, drawn once again to walk along the river, and to enjoy some quiet among the large trees. I remembered a fabulous day out there as a child, when the permanent funfair dominated the park; and also how alien the peace pagoda, with its large golden Buddhas, had seemed to me when it was new.

I walked downstream as the tide rose, past huge swathes of bankside residential development that were totally new to me, all the way to the Putney railway bridge, by which time my feet were sore enough that I was happy to get the tube back to where I was staying.

The grand young men of The Ambassadors.

Street entertainment, Brexit-style.

A quiet corner of Battersea Park.

It was actually a sunny and warm afternoon along the river.

Dale S.Wright

‘Some gifts are so light and insubstantial that they can be given to others on a daily basis. One such gift is simple recognition, an affirmation in speech, gesture, or action, that someone else exists, and that they matter. Often we fail to grant this simple gift of recognition, and the more often we fail in that the more alienating our social world becomes.’ (The Six Perfections)

This is a practice I undertake whole-heartedly whenever I can. I have written on Patreon about the benefits of feeling the support of community, even as it manifests as people out on bikes offering recognition to each other. I extend this to other people out in the world, offering nods and greetings to those working on road crews, or driving buses, or considerate drivers. I feel the benefits of these connections, however insubstantial, and I trust it adds to the positivity of other people’s day as well.

Rev angel Kyodo williams

‘Spiritual tradition is comfortable with paradox, whereas many political movements are not. But all truth is paradox. What it is to live in  space of transformative change is to engender greater and greater comfort with paradox. So that paradox becomes something that we not only acknowledge but also live more truthfully. We discover that Truth is relationship. And relationship is.‘ (Radical Dharma)

A nice companion to the recent post by Enkyo.

A Long, Hot, Slow Weekend

This past weekend at Wilbur was going to be a long one, even by my standards; I was determined not to be in a rush to get there, but it is always good to get out of the city early on a Friday. As I drove out past Walnut Creek, looking at Mount Diablo, I realised that exactly a week before, I had been on its slopes on my bike – and that next Friday, I would be starting the sitting with the Dancing Mountains group in Newmarket.

It was just shy of a hundred degrees when I arrived, and just over a hundred on Saturday and Sunday. There were familiar faces there, apart from the friend I was expecting; it was nice to catch up with people, and I even treated myself to some bodywork with Shalamah, who gave me a serious going over as she has before. It is a time of transition in the staffing there, and I joined in a little celebration for Claudia and Chris, who keep things running very smoothly and will be heading to Europe very soon.

I only had one run planned, and I went out early on Sunday morning to do the ridge trail. I had trepidation – just for the climbs that come after you have already got up to the ridge, and they were as tough as I remembered, just touched by the first sunshine and already warming up. As I reached the top of the final short steep slope, I caught up with a guy walking along, sweating in camouflage, with a hunting rifle – always somewhat expected, though perhaps we were both surprised at each others’ presence. He said there were a couple of guys ahead of him, but I didn’t see them or hear them, and it was quiet and still enough at that time to hear the occasional cars passing down on highway 20, way down below.

The stillness added to the sense of heat, and I relished every minute of it, feeling, as Labor Day came around, that it really did mark a cusp in the seasons. I woke up early each day, mainly from being unused to the temperature shifts during the night, and earlier, even by my standards, on Monday morning. My first thought was that getting up would help me adjust to the time change (since it was already late morning in England), so I got up and lay in the outdoor pool, floating and looking up at the abundant stars.

The place was full all weekend – and they even managed to squeeze in a few people who had left Burning Man early; I saw the tell-tale dust-cover truck in the lot on Sunday morning, and there were a few people who stood out rather, drifting around somewhat less focused than most people at Wilbur. One made it to a couple of sittings, though I was not convinced he was totally present…

I had full houses for both the Sunday sessions and on Monday morning, even filling the cushions ten minutes before the Sunday evening session. I wondered if we had been trending on Instagram, but someone pointed out that it was a long weekend – I think people had run out of alternative things to do… I was motivated by the numbers to try to say something interesting, but by Monday, the fifth session of the weekend, I wasn’t sure I had anything new to say. I was just trying to enjoy the sitting and the heat, and not be in a rush to get back and do my laundry before heading to the airport on Tuesday afternoon.

DSCF9383.jpgPart of the light show on Friday evening.

DSCF9390.jpgFrank was unconcerned, even though the lighting flattered him.

DSCF9416.jpgNew moon following the sun down on Sunday.

DSCF9458.jpgFirst rays at the bathhouse on Monday morning.

DSCF9446.jpgThe path to the yoga deck, which was well trodden over the weekend, in the morning sun.

Koshin Paley Ellison

‘The regrets of the sick and elderly are almost never that they weren’t busy or didn’t achieve enough. No – it’s always “Did I love well?” “Did the people I loved know how much I loved them?” This is why the crux of doing good for others is loving action, which means to reach across the gap, without hesitation. Loving action has to begin with taking a real look at how we’re actually functioning in our relationships and start acting like our true selves and not as we want others to think of us.’ (Wholehearted)

I feel very grateful to have met many people over the years who are strong teachers and excellent human beings, and Koshin, who has been part of the Gen X sangha, is one of those. My room-mate picked up this book from the library, and I was glad to get to read his lessons.


Although wishing to be rid of misery,
They run toward misery itself.
Although wishing to have happiness,
Like an enemy they ignorantly destroy it.