Shinshu Roberts

‘Our actualized inclusive response is not obstructed by our self-centered views; this is realization. When we respond in an inclusive way, our realized self is in charge of our actions. This realized self does not need to banish delusion. In fact, our wisdom is a result of the problems created by delusion.’ (Being-Time)

In my note-taking while reading, I noted to quote just the last sentence; re-reading it, as I compiled a few posts on a free evening, I added the lines before as they seemed to echo Katagiri’s words from Monday.

Toni Packer

‘For marvelous unknown reasons, once in a while we are completely here. For a moment we hear, see and feel all one. Then the mind comes in to explain it, know it, compare it and store it. This is not an intentional process—it’s habit. No one is doing it. The naming, liking and disliking, wanting to keep something and fearing the loss of it—these are all ingrained mind processes rolling off on their own. If we get a glimpse of that, get a feel for what is purely habitual, then we will be much more tolerant and patient with the so-called others and with ourselves.’ (The Simple Presence of Attention)

Katagiri Roshi

‘When you touch your real self, you experience deep communication between you and the object of your practice, whatever it is. Then you can accept something totally and deal with it straightforwardly without creating any gap. So keep your mouth shut, calm your mind, and just be present in the continuous stream of life energy.

The Buddhist understanding of the self or the whole world seems to be abstract, but it is not abstract. You can really see and touch the self. You can learn that the whole world in the ten directions is the light of the self. How? Action! Try to remember this. In the dynamic activity of your practice, something happens that you have never expected. You can learn something great. That is called wisdom.’ (The Light That Shines Through Infinity)

This is Katagiri telling it like it is, no messing around.

Les Murray

Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, planets, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe.

Even this fool of a body
lives it in part, and would
have full dignity within it
but for the ignorant freedom
of my talking mind.


I saw a reference to this poem somewhere, and indeed it does sum up Dogen’s view of the dharma.

Nothing on my Mind

During the winter at Tassajara, if you are very motivated, you can just about manage six and a half hours of sleep on a regular night. Six is more common. It took me until my second winter there to get used to this amount of sleep – along with the cold and the limited amount of food – but once I had, then practice periods felt pretty sustainable to me.

Since leaving Zen Center, I have continued to keep the early hours that now seem ingrained in my body, and as long as I get at least six hours sleep, I feel pretty happy – for all that I read the latest research about telomeres and the general benefits of getting more.

If you read this regularly, you may have noticed reference, before and after my trip to England, of a bit of a sleep deficit, and even earlier starts. It isn’t hard to be aware of the link between having a lot on my plate, and waking up sooner than desired. It became very clear to me when I was ino, almost ten years ago, was that it wasn’t necessarily having a lot to do that made me stressed, it was having something big at the end of all those things that I couldn’t devote the energy to that I would have liked, because I had to deal with everything else first.

I am not sure if there was one big thing to take care of in this last period of feeling stressed and busy, but with weddings, and writing (not for here, but for the apps), I feel that I have to be on, and presenting a certain way. I suppose my fear is that I won’t be able to come up with the goods at the right time, though I know, given a few free moments to gather myself, that I can access the ‘priest’ part of me easily enough – that is, that part of me that I want to embody as a priest, and which I assume is how people are expecting me to be.

In any case, for the past week or so, my slate has been clear; indeed, with the calendar shifts at Wilbur, I have ended up with a free weekend when I wasn’t expecting one (there will be a roam on Sunday 24th as a result).  I have money in the bank such that I don’t have to be worried about paying the rent at the end of the month, as has been the case for much of the past four years. It hasn’t started to rain beyond a passing shower, nor is it especially cold yet. Out on my bike on Friday afternoon, as I rode along Twin Peaks, on the cusp of the fog rolling in, looking down over different parts of the city, I had that same feeling of being at home as I had experienced a couple of months ago. And I am sleeping almost eight hours every night. Perhaps a part of that is attributable to the clock change, and not enduring the newly longer dark evenings, but I think it has to do with really having nothing to worry about – at least in my corner of the world (I feel somewhat different listening to the impeachment hearings and reading the pre-election news from the UK). And that feels good, for as long as it lasts.

Diane Eshin Rizzetto

‘Taking skillful action is doing the right thing, that which supports life. Yes, we may hope it does good, but we are not attached to that outcome. We do it because it’s the right action, and we turn from speculating whether our action will lead to a specific outcome today, tomorrow, or ever… This is deep hope.’ (Deep Hope)

This encapsulates the Bodhisattva Vow for me.

Corey Ichigen Hess

‘Release wherever you are stuck, anywhere you feel tense. Even if it makes no sense to you. Even if it feels like you are exploding. Even if you are not standing or sitting right. Even if your posture gets goofy at times. Gradually your body will work on auto-pilot to sort this energy out. Have faith in this process!
Deeper states of mind will happen as a matter of course. Often people think getting into samadhi is difficult. But conversely, they think being in samadhi is easy, and it can be, but it also can be a razor sharp process. Give it all you’ve got! Slowly ripen from there. It is such a sublime process. Please keep going.
Go straight. Walk it honestly. Make a choice to realize it at all costs. Be still in this internal alchemy process, don’t look away. Keep going even if you can’t see anything around you, even if you don’t know what is up or down. You may feel like a wild animal about to explode.* You may feel like an electric cord forced to be a conduit for more and more electricity. Or feel completely transparent, completely vulnerable, naked. You may find yourself alone in a space you cannot fathom, but you’ll have a connection to this light there to guide you. More and more open, more and more transparent. Keep going until one day this process fundamentally resolves, and then your life will be permanently transformed. Give yourself to it. Don’t force it, but put it all out there!’ (from Zen Embodiment)

The footnote for the asterisk reminds us that this kind of practice is best undertaken with a teacher. I came across the blog a while ago, and it has resonated with me. Corey did his training in Japan, and now focuses mostly on energy work, neither of which is exactly my experience, but it feels entirely true, and always interesting to read.

Ekiho Miyazaki

‘Humans are filled with attachment for fame, title, reputation, and one’s ego. You must learn how to overcome such desire. Simply be one with your breath. Then, that gives no room or space for your desire to grow anymore.

Zazen means to be straight in posture. To be straight means to keep your back straight neither leaning to the right or the left. To be straight means to be honest and truthful. Body and mind are one. Thus, if you straighten your body, your mind is straight.

People sometimes think of freedom as being self-centered. But at Eiheiji, fitting yourself into a certain form must be the way of life.

Dogen’s zazen means all aspects of life are Zen. Zen is not something particularly special, as many think. Zen means to be one with what is. If you walk, walking is Zen. If you speak, speaking is Zen. Likewise, taking off your slippers is also zazen. Placing slippers together is only a natural thing to do.

It’s not practice. We are only doing what we are supposed to do. It’s ordinary because there is not anything else to do.

Slippers placed in disarray shows your mind is in disarray. Because your mind is in disarray, you cannot place them evenly. Whether your mind is even or uneven is reflected in everything.’ (from Ancient Way Journal)

If you have noticed that several recent posts have been from unusual sources, rather than from the books I have been reading, that simply reflects the weeks of traveling in England without books at hand, and a slow return to the habit of reading on my commute.

Nonetheless, the sentiments are familiar – not least the remark about shoes.

San Francisco Days

Today marks twenty years since I first came to San Francisco. On the flight over from New York I had been chatting with the cabin crew, and, in the days before BART ran to the airport, happily accepted the offer of a ride into town on their shuttle. They were all staying in one of the big hotels near Union Square; I mainly noticed that the address was on Mason St, the same as my hotel, and decided to walk on to my destination. Which was my introduction to the hills of San Francisco, as the gradients of Nob Hill did not feature on the map I was looking at.

After dropping my bags off, I walked up Columbus Avenue, had a coffee, and found myself wandering unexpectedly around Chinatown, quickly forming the opinion that San Francisco would be a nice place to live, without realising that the next day I would meet the person who would change my life and make all that possible.

So I have a residual fondness for November sunshine – not the strong heat that lingers through October, but some bright hours, with the temperature dropping quickly as the day draws in. It was warm enough that time to visit a beach on one of the afternoons I had a bicycle rented…

It was nice to get roaming again on Saturday. The morning fog had lifted around eleven where I live, so I anticipated an afternoon of sun. I was thus a little surprised to be approaching the start point, not far from the Golden Gate Bridge, and hearing the fog horns.  Even though sitting on a foggy beach has its charms, I was wondering about how short a loop I was planning on walking, and decided to add in the little section of trail that runs above the National Cemetery.

The participants had all roamed before, and it ended up being a chatty afternoon, interspersed with sitting not just above the military graves, but also by the old merchant marine cemetery. These days, the dunes there offer a sense of the original landscape of the western half of San Francisco, but not so long ago, there were Nike missiles on the ground…

Amazingly, by the time we had gone along the Lobos Creek trail, there was no fog to be seen – Baker Beach was clear and sunny, and so was Marshall Beach, once we had climbed over and down the new trail. With the extra loop we had hiked, and with one of the participants wanting to make a quick get-away for an evening appointment, we did not linger as much as I had originally intended. The imminent sunset had brought quite a number of people to the bluffs, and once back at the top, overlooking the bridge, we also had a view of the fullish moon rising over downtown buildings reflecting the last of the sun. And then by the time I had ridden home, it was dark and chilly.

The next morning I rode over to Tiburon to take in the Paradise Drive loop. In years gone by, this would have been a relatively short and easy ride for me, just over three hours usually. Where my form is right now, it felt like a good solid spin to gauge how I was doing. The mist was high, and I wore several layers to stay warm, still early enough that riders and runners outnumbered cars out and about. Approaching Sausalito on the way back, I was worried that my legs were getting tired, but they did okay, and I had no residual stiffness afterwards. By the time I got back over the bridge, the sun was out, and the rest of the day was lovely.

Conditions for sitting on Monday were also pleasant, though the shadows get longer every week. We had a good group again, with some of our regulars bringing a work colleague for her debut. I still can’t shake off a little sleepiness over the course of my sitting, and when I went back to the company we had been drawing graphs of wakefulness, a little while later, my graph this time was the one that dipped lowest…

IMG_1622At Immigrant Point in the Presidio, prior to the roam with fog on the water.

IMG_1625I do love this little stretch of woodland trail near Rob Hill.

IMG_1627The fog reached through the bridge as we sat by the National Cemetery.

IMG_1632The hillside above Lobos Creek.

IMG_1641Looking down at Marshall Beach, with the fog nowhere to be seen.

IMG_1646A line of pelicans flying over the bridge.

IMG_1652My iPhone does not really do well with sunsets or other intense counter-light.

IMG_1654Looking back to the city with the moon and reflected sunlight.

IMG_1665.jpgSettling down to sit on the Embarcadero on Monday.


Koshin Paley Ellison

‘Being receptive is essentially being open to learning from everything. Some people hear this and are frightened. Others hear it and are excited, because they love learning – or at least they say they do. But true receptivity is a lot harder than it seems. And yet, if you can stay open to the lessons that are hardest to learn, you can learn to swim, not drown, in the ocean of life.’ (Wholehearted)