The Longest Day

The summer solstice seems to have sneaked up on us somehow – no doubt an effect of having been in lock-down since the spring. Nevertheless I have enjoyed the longer days – with my eternal caveat that they are longer in my native country, though I will always concede that not having the shorter days in winter here is more than enough compensation. Right now it is getting light around five, and dark around nine, which, as was true in my years at Zen Center, is pretty much the time I get up and the time I go to bed.

The weather has been a little hit and miss – there have been strong winds and some milder temperatures, but also a few clear, still warm days. I have been glad to ride on those, less so when heading into the dampness of the fog, as I did last Sunday, and to a lesser extent very early on Friday – having been woken by the bin men while it was still dark.

The solstice is not the only notable occasion right now of course, with Juneteenth in the forefront of people’s minds, and fathers’ day, and an eclipse. However, after the tumult of recent weeks, there does seem to be a sense of pause, as people gather their breath and figure out their next moves.

Giving a talk to the Hebden Bridge group this past Wednesday, continuing to develop the conversation in that sangha, in tandem with Catherine Gammon, it was hard to pinpoint a theme – though the word disruption came to mind during the zazen beforehand. So many things have been overturned since the beginning of the year, and we have somehow dealt with that, and try to figure out how we move forward when everything is so different.

I have also been thinking about The Whole-Hearted Way, since I am offering an online class at Zen Center on Dogen’s Bendowa next month. So I have a sense of the continuous practice that we undertake – and that to do that, we have to let go of notions of enlightenment as a one-time cure-all, such as I suspect many of us start our practice with. We continue to practise, doing the work when we don’t know how to do the work, which aligns with our bodhisattva vow. We strive to help, or at least not cause more harm, and we sit with all the discomforts that arise, as best we can.

Maybe it is always like this, but it feels particularly tender right now.

IMG_5769Even as other streets get busier, Great Highway is still thankfully closed to cars. The sun was more or less up, but it was obscured by fog on Friday morning, and the wind was strong.

IMG_5776Further east, a little while later, the view from Billy Goat Hill.






‘A monk named Nan-in received a visit from another monk named Tenno. Tenno had finished his apprenticeship and become a teacher. Since it was raining, Tenno wore wooden clogs and carried an umbrella. After greeting his guest, Nan-in asked, “I suppose you left your wooden clogs in the entryway. Please tell me if your umbrella is on the right or left side of the clogs.” Tenno did not know where he had placed his umbrella. He could see that he was unable to practice mindfulness of forms moment after moment. Though already a teacher, he became Nan-in’s student and studied six more years with him.’ (from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones)

Sharon Salzberg

‘Happiness is another kind of inner resource for people seeking social and political change. I don’t see how any of us can keep giving when we feel depleted and exhausted, when generosity is trying to come out of nothing.
The sense of replenishment we get from our own happiness is a gift not only to ourselves but to others. It’s hard to help others over the long haul without the inner resource of happiness.’

Kaira Jewel Lingo

‘Making happiness central to spiritual life is only self-serving if we see ourselves as separate from others. But in fact, we are inextricably interconnected with those in our lives. When we practice to bring genuine happiness to ourselves, we naturally become someone others want to be around—we are fresh, relaxed, and available because of our inner contentment. In this way we become capable of bringing happiness to others.

The Buddha taught in the Mallikaa Sutta that it is correct to regard yourself as the most precious person in your life. I love how Toni Morrison says it in Beloved: “You your own best thing.” This doesn’t mean we are more important than others. Rather, seeking happiness for ourselves is creating happiness for others. And the reverse is also true—when we strengthen others’ happiness, this also benefits us. Is this self-serving? Only in the best sense of that word. Taking good care of ourselves, loving and bringing happiness to ourselves, is the foundation for being able to love, care for, and bring happiness to others.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

This is a repost – and I think a timely one. Momentum and action need joy and happiness to be sustainable. See also tomorrow’s post.


Dale S.Wright

‘Wisdom, therefore, is the ability to face the truth and not to be unnerved or frightened. It is the capacity to be disillusioned, but not disheartened. It is the ability to consider the contingency and groundlessness of all things, oneself included, and not turn away from that consideration in fear. Wisdom means setting aside illusions about oneself and the world and being strengthened by that encounter with the truth. It entails willingness to avoid seeking the security of the unchanging and to open oneself to a world of flux and complex relations’ (The Six Perfections)

This moment of flux in many directions is as good as any to hear this kind of wisdom.


A monk asked, “What is my teacher?”
The master said, “Clouds rising out of mountains, streams entering the valley without a sound.”
The monk said, “I didn’t ask about them.”
The master said, “Though they are your teacher, you don’t recognize them.” (The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu)

The monk is expecting his teacher to be someone dazzling with words, rather than being able to meet the dazzling reality of the world.


Those desiring speedily to be
A refuge for themselves and others
Should make the interchange of “I” and “other”
And thus embrace a sacred mystery.

Bapu Vaitla

‘Self-love was long in coming, a story to be told elsewhere. But memories of my own struggles helped me think in later years about social change, cooperation, and trust. Love for others, and thus our ability to alleviate suffering in the world, is very difficult to sustain without genuine self-love. Fear is always waiting to rule us, to write our thoughts. When it does, relationships start to fall apart; we hurt ourselves and we hurt the people we need.’ (from the SFZC blog)

Gina Sharpe

‘Activism is not separate from who I am as a practicing Buddhist; it is inextricably connected. If we have compassion and peace, it’s natural to want to help the world live in justice and peace. In some ways, we don’t even have to add the word “Buddhist.” We’re just good people wanting the world to reflect what we feel inside. We’re not limited to our own liberation. Liberation is impossible if we’re disconnected from others’  (from Lion’s Roar)

Lama Rod Owens

‘Healing is movement and work toward wholeness. Healing is never a definite location but something in process. It is the basic ordinary work of staying engaged with our own hurt and limitations. Healing does not mean forgiveness either, though it is a result of it. Healing is knowing our woundedness; it is developing an intimacy with the ways in which we suffer. Healing is learning to love the wound because love draws us into relationship with it instead of avoiding feeling the discomfort.
Healing means we are holding the space for our woundedness and allowing it to open our hearts to the reality that we are not the only people who are hurt, lonely, angry, or frustrated. We must also release the habitual aggression that characterizes our avoidance of trauma or any discomfort. My goal is to befriend my pain, to relate to it intimately as a means to end the suffering of desperately trying to avoid it. Opening hearts to woundedness helps us to understand that everyone else around us carries the same woundedness.’

As I have turned to teachers of colour for wisdom in these current times, Lama Rod and Rev angel come to the fore again and again. I have pre-ordered Lama Rod’s new book, and have been enjoying the passages from it and the teachings he has been offering on social media.