Jan Willis

‘Nirvana is not a place! Rather, it is simply a view! Remember what the Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna said: “Between samsara and nirvana, there is not the slightest thread of difference.” The only difference is in one’s perception of it. Viewed with attachment, our world of experience is samsara; viewed without such attachment, it is nirvana.’ (from Lion’s Roar)


‘Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings.’ (Genjo Koan)

I am sure there are other words from Dogen that illustrate the first point, but this was the one that came to mind.

Alison Gopnik

‘I think that there’s a paradox about, for example, going out and saying, I am going to meditate and stop trying to get goals. Because I have this goal, which is I want to be a much better meditator. And I have done a bit of meditation and workshops, and it’s always a little amusing when you see the young men who are going to prove that they’re better at meditating. They can sit for longer than anybody else can. But I think it’s important to say when you’re thinking about things like meditation, or you’re thinking about alternative states of consciousness in general, that there’s lots of different alternative states of consciousness. So it isn’t just a choice between lantern and spotlight. There’s lots of different ways that we have of being in the world, lots of different kinds of experiences that we have. And I suspect that they each come with a separate, a different kind of focus, a different way of being. And in meditation, you can see the contrast between some of these more pointed kinds of meditation versus what’s sometimes called open awareness meditation. So open awareness meditation is when you’re not just focused on one thing, when you try to be open to everything that’s going on around you. And the phenomenology of that is very much like this kind of lantern, that everything at once is illuminated. And I think that kind of open-ended meditation and the kind of consciousness that it goes with is actually a lot like things that, for example, the romantic poets, like Wordsworth, talked about. So there’s this lovely concept that I like of the numinous. And sometimes it’s connected with spirituality, but I don’t think it has to be. It’s this idea that you’re going through the world. And often, quite suddenly, if you’re an adult, everything in the world seems to be significant and important and important and significant in a way that makes you insignificant by comparison.’ (from the New York Times)

I found this whole piece pretty intriguing, not least because they brought ‘beginner’s mind’ into the conversation. This paragraph made me smile, as did several others, so look out for further extracts to come.

Jane Hirshfield

1025 molecules
are enough
to call wood thrush or apple.

A hummingbird, fewer.
A wristwatch: 1024.

An alphabet’s molecules,
tasting of honey, iron, and salt,
cannot be counted—

as some strings, untouched,
sound when a near one is speaking.

So it was when love slipped inside us.
It looked out face to face in every direction.

Then it was inside the tree, the rock, the cloud.

Chan Master Sheng Yen

‘There are four components of compassion. The first is that we understand our own conflicts and the development of inner peace. The others are: sympathy for other people’s shortcomings, forgiveness of other people’s mistakes, and concern with other people’s suffering. The first component of compassion allows us to develop the other components. In order to be at peace with yourself, you must have a calm and peaceful mind. To do this, keep in mind the concepts of cause and effect and causes and conditions. This will help you remain calm and peaceful, and you will then be able to be compassionate, sympathetic, forgiving, and caring toward others.’ (Subtle Wisdom)

Gaylon Ferguson

‘If we engage our bodies and minds and breathing and emotions fully in mindfulness practice, on the other hand, that same quality of spacious connection can continue as we rise from meditation. Mindfulness goes hand in hand with noticing the environment around our body, around our breathing, around our thoughts and emotions. We listen to what our partner is saying rather than mentally replay the tense moments from our day at work. We notice the swaying of the trees in the wind, just as we notice the movement of our legs in walking meditation. Same directness, same inclusiveness.

From mindful listening can arise mindful speaking. Here non-effort may provide another helpful hint: leaving pauses in our speech allows for genuine dialogue. Slowing down the impulsive momentum of saying one thing after another is a natural result of mindfulness. Mindful communication is the basis of mindful communities.

Mindless speech is speech that causes harm through gossip, slander, lying, and deception. The result of such speech—as when politicians play on our fears to incite hatred—is a divided society; we feel more disconnected from each other. Mindful speech is acting to heal societal wounds.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

More warm and encouraging words from this article.

Diane Eshin Rizzetto

‘Wholehearted effort is about fully engaged living. It encourages us to question our beliefs about what we think our life should be and to turn our effort toward full presence of how it is. But even though this is simple, it’s not always easy. For one thing, being fully present means being fully present to everything, and that takes effort and perseverance.’ (Deep Hope)

The Great Matter

To say last week was quite a week would be the kind of English understatement that I am quite comfortable making.

Chronologically speaking, it went like this: 

On Sunday afternoon I officiated my first wedding of the year, a small and lovely affair at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. It was a bright afternoon with a chilly breeze. In addition to the fifteen or so people in attendance, family members of the bride were watching on a video link from Colombia. As always, it was an honour to be able to facilitate this milestone moment in people’s lives.

Early on Monday morning I had the first of four extra corporate meditations for the week. I came out of that to a message from my sister to call her. I knew what was coming: my father had died, four and a half years after first developing Motor Neurone Disease (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease/ALS). He had a bout of pneumonia a couple of weeks ago; after some days in the hospital he came home, and had a peaceful last few days. We sent messages over the weekend which he was able to hear and enjoy. There will be no funeral, but it would be hard to contemplate trying to travel to England if there were.

On Saturday morning, I lined up outside SF General to get the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine. It took a couple of hours from arriving to leaving, and while I was waiting, a TV crew asked why I was getting it (‘to feel safe’ I found myself saying) and whether it was worth waiting in line (‘absolutely!’) Even though it was a sunny weekend, I stayed off my bike, and have felt very tired for the past few days. 

This week is relatively quiet, and then next week I have more extra meditations. At some stage, all of this will sink in;  I do not expect the emotions to arrive in a tidy or linear way, but I trust there will be space for that to happen.

Waiting for the guests to arrive for the wedding at the Botanical Garden last Sunday
In line for my vaccine appointment. The drop-in line was much longer, and many people were turned away from that one.

angel Kyodo williams

‘None of us escapes desire, and we don’t want to escape. That is not the point. We would just like to stop holding on to them for dear life. We want to see them for what they are.’ (Being Black)

I used this quote in my talks and classes on the Bodhisattva Vows, so I am surprised that I have never posted it here…


‘Zen master Jingxuan of Mount Dayang once asked Liangshan. “What is the formless seat of enlightenment?”

Liangshan pointed to a painting of Avalokitesvara and said, “That is a painting by Daoist practitioner Wu.”

Dayang was about to speak. Liangshan suddenly grabbed him and said, “This has form. What is it that has no form?”

At that moment Dayang had realization. He just stood there. Liangshan said, “Why don’t you speak a phrase?”

Dayang said, “It’s not that I am unwilling to say something. I just fear that it will end up as brush marks on paper.” Liangshan then approved him.’ (Shinji Shobogenzo)

I say, “A child of three could have done that.”


If you don't pay attention,
You will miss it.
If you think about it, 
In what aeon will you realize it?