angel Kyodo williams

‘Well, I think it’s actually uncomfortable un-knowing ourselves. [laughs] It is this willingness to keep being willing to come undone — to do what we can to understand the world around us and how we operate and what is impacting who we are and how we are, and to allow that to keep coming undone. That’s what I think is really the paradox in what is possible, from a liberatory standpoint, is to recognize, oh, we’re not trying to become something, we’re trying to un-become. We’re trying to undo ourselves.’ (from On Being)

And, as Dogen would pipe in, ‘to forget the self is to be actualised by myriad things.’ Which is nice.

Kenneth Folk

‘For some people, the enhanced focus and creativity that often comes from training the mind through meditation might translate into Getting Shit Done. For others, greater intimacy with their bodies and the inner workings of their minds might result in Getting Less Shit Done as they reconsider what is most important in their lives… Using meditation as a productivity tool is like using your car for a greenhouse. It’s not that your car wouldn’t be a good greenhouse; it very well might… [But] your car is good for a lot of things, including driving to the market on the odd chance that your own garden fails.’

I screen-shotted this quote from one of those newspaper articles about the value of mindfulness, and I find it helps me to remember that, whatever people might do to sell meditation (and I do it myself in the marketplace these days), really it is beyond any of that. If you want a more in-depth version of this thought, and the difference between zazen and shuzenperhaps you should join my class tonight!


As I step slowly along to the sounds of running water
My wandering gaze catches the traces of flying birds.

The Dharma Seat

I am grateful for all the teaching opportunities I have right now – and also for the fact that many of them are paid opportunities. I am not struggling  for money in the way I have been for just about all the time since I left Zen Center. And I am aware that nothing is guaranteed. Since this is my vow and vocation, I will continue regardless.

What has struck me in the last couple of weeks is the sheer range of teaching I am getting to do. I am half-way through the four classes on the Bendowa for Zen Center. I found the first class very enjoyable, as there were enough people on the Zoom call to promote a lively discussion; this past week I felt we dived deep into the weeds of everything that makes Dogen hard to understand, and I hope I did not send everyone away with a head-ache. I feel good about testing myself to get across what I want to communicate, and have that be helpful to people.

There are corporate guided meditations, my ongoing student group, silent sittings, the continued intimacy of the Hebden Bridge meetings (you can listen to all of my contributions on the audio page – I have edited out the discussions that follow, for privacy reasons), and the sessions on Instagram, which often land half-way between guided meditation and dharma talk.

I hope that, despite all the different contexts and levels of accessibility, there are a few way-seeking minds being aroused, and that people feel helped and supported by what I have to offer, and what I can share of the dharma.

IMG_6237Shelter-in-place dharma seat, online class version. I had to have my laptop close at hand, as there is so much juggling of screen sharing, reading my notes, checking the chat window, looking to see if the participants are still engaged…

Kobun Chino

‘We experience some kind of dying in sitting, which relates with what’s true and what’s not true. What’s not true dies, so we suffer. We wish to hang on to the self which we believe exists. The contents of what “I” means, or the pieces of the idea of the self are consistent, but when you sit you observe no substance in those pieces of self.’

I was browsing through an archive folder this week (trying to find a translation of the Soanka, which I wanted to include in my talk to the Hebden Bridge group), and came across a lot of texts and quotes that I had rather forgotten about. I can’t find a source for this one, but it feels typical of Kobun, not wanting to hand out sweets, prefering to tell it like it is.

Chenxing Han

Here are some shifts I’d like to see in the future of American Buddhism:

From hubris to humility: fixating less on expertise and celebrity and focusing more on an honest acknowledgement of our blind spots in order to examine the ways we (intentionally or otherwise) harm others through our actions, speech, and thoughts.

From assumptions to curiosity: suspending our stereotypes to make room for questions and deep listening.

From narrowness to diversity: getting outside our limited experiences and viewpoints to meet and learn from those who are, too often, after- thoughts in our Buddhist circles.

From enclaves to interconnections: moving past our tendency to stick with those who are similar to us (and to alienate those who aren’t) so as to build communities that honor differences and cultivate empathy.

From two Buddhisms to intersectional Buddhism: because why constrain ourselves to simplistic dualities when a vast kaleidoscope of possibilities remain unexplored before us? (from Lion’s Roar)

I appreciate these points very much. I sometimes feel that some sanghas have not tried to re-imagine themselves in decades, and I trust that this generation of Buddhist teachers, and the next, will be doing their best on this front.


Rindo Fujimoto

‘I will now speak of the proper functioning of the mind during zazen. Beginners often ask me about their problems; however, it is very difficult for me to be of any help to them. Neither a short nor a complicated answer to peoples’ questions is really helpful. It is all right to ask me questions, but it is not enough. One must experiment for oneself and then one will understand. After reading a book on the subject of swimming one must get in the water and find out about it first hand. A book cannot give one the experience.

There are various ways of “quieting” the mind. The first way is “putting the mind In the left hand,” which means projecting the mind into the inzo, or hand position. The inzo symbolizes the Buddha. When our mind is in the inzo, the body and breathing will be right.

In Rinzai training, the kosoku koan is used to quiet (to clear) the mind. This is a good way to cultivate the Zen way of seeing; however, I think it is better to develop the Zen condition by shikantaza. This means devoting oneself solely to sitting; by quieting the mind and putting it in the. left hand. The “Zen eye” finds its source in the Zen condition, and the Buddha’s enlightenment is not the Zen eye, but the Zen condition. In Soto Zen we just sit; this is the most natural way. The main aim of zazen is to “let go of mind and body”; however, Buddhists sometimes pay too much attention to the mind and therefore they cannot get rid of it. The kosoku koan may be useful; however, shikantaza is better because one has a tendency to cling to the koan and to one’s mind. Although we should “put the mind in the left hand,” we must not pay attention to the mind. When we pay too much attention to the left hand, we are preventing satori. When we consciously put the mind in the hand, it is wrong. There are various kinds of good meditation. Satori is beyond all of these, and it is necessary to pass through the many regions of the mind before enlightenment.’ (The Way of Zazen)

Apparently, this booklet was one of the few zen texts available in English to Suzuki Roshi’s early students – I found it an interesting read on how Dogen’s zazen is currently understood.

Issho Fujita

‘Buddhism teaches that we human beings cannot be fully satisfied after all, however hard we strive for it. I think that is the true meaning of the word dukkha in Sanskrit which is the first truth of Four Noble Truths. This word is often translated as “suffering” but it should be understood as a description of the fundamental fact in life that it is impossible for us to get ultimate satisfaction in this transient world.

When this feeling of unsatisfactoriness is driving us, we are never able to be settled and rest in peace and relaxation at the bottom of our heart. We need to let go of our deep-rooted tendency to look for exciting experiences to fill up the empty feelings of unsatisfactoriness or to try to distract ourselves from confronting unsatisfactoriness by indulging in all kinds of diversions. And we also need to settle down to unsatisfactoriness itself without trying to change it. To do zazen, we should clearly and deeply admit that there is no other way to authentic peace and just sit down with unsatisfactoriness.’ (from the Soto Zen Journal)

We always want to scratch the itch as we think that will make things perfect…


‘Thinking that practice and enlightenment are not one is no more than a view that is outside the Way. In buddha-dharma, practice and enlightenment are one and the same. Because it is the practice of enlightenment, a beginner’s wholehearted practice of the Way is exactly the totality of original enlightenment.’ (Bendowa)

A good point to chew on as we sit down to the second class on the text tonight.

Rupert Brooke

These hearts were woven of human joys and cares, 
  Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth. 
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs, 
  And sunset, and the colours of the earth. 
These had seen movement, and heard music; known 
  Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended; 
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone; 
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended. 
There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter 
And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after, 
  Frost, with a gesture, stays the waves that dance 
And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white 
Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance, 
  A width, a shining peace, under the night.