angel Kyodo williams

‘Acting in tune with our original nature means that we are not restricted by all of the buildup of information. There’s no hesitation in our actions because we don’t reference our long history of experience. When we train this area, we bypass every single piece of information that told us we couldn’t say or do this or that, that we weren’t good enough. Not only is it a fear of failure that holds us back; if we have long believed the myth that we are not good enough, we can even become frozen by a fear of our success. There is a place that we find when we look deeply into ourselves that allows us to be completely free of our histories, our stories, our hang-ups. Once we realize that we cannot really control the outcome, we can let go of the procrastination that comes from being fearful of results.’ (Being Black)

Gil Fronsdal

‘Part of the effort to take responsibility for the quality of our mind involves cultivating two particular qualities of mind, which are said to be centrally important for the task of becoming free from suffering.  These two qualities are the qualities of mindfulness and concentration.  To cultivate the ability to see more clearly, and to see with a mind that is stable and still, allows us to begin seeing into the depths of places where we have only seen shadows in the crevices, in the deep cellar of the mind.  This allows us to understand things that we normally can’t understand at all about ourselves.  Why do we suffer in certain ways?  It can be a mystery—why do I suffer so much, why is it so hard for me, why am I doing this?  You need to have a very mindful, alert mind to have the ability to be still and get down into the cellar of the mind.  The more you develop mindfulness and concentration, the more ability you have not to be caught by what is happening.  You have more ability to stay dignified and balanced in the conditions of the world.’ (from the Insight Meditation Center website)

Long Weekends

My recent weekend at Wilbur was as lovely as always, but being there does also involve some work, albeit of the most pleasurable and relaxing kind. While I was there, I was looking at the calendar and seeing if I could navigate having a few days with no obligations at all (the freelancer’s curse is not wanting to turn down work, and having some things to do all the time). I realised that I could beg out of the Monday sitting – especially as Zachary was already out of town – and the Dogen study group, and take an entire Sunday and Monday off. I could then follow this up with a day and a half of work and go into a Thanksgiving weekend where all I had on the calendar was a roam on Friday.

We have had a long stretch of dry, warm, and windless weather, which made my free time most enjoyable – and there is rain coming in the forecast, thankfully. I spent last Sunday night in Calistoga after a day out; it is a lovely place to spend some time, and was delightfully cold first thing the next morning. The trees were probably showing their best autumn colours, in ways you don’t see you much in San Francisco (I posted some photos on Patreon).

For Thanksgiving, apart from a sweet small dinner with friends, I planned for two long rides, as well as the roam, and on the Saturday got to spend some time out on Point Reyes, which was stunning in the warm sun. I got to see a whole string of gorgeous sunrises and sunsets (most of which have been shared on Instagram).

And in between times, I could spend many hours watching the World Cup – allowing myself to put all the political aspects aside – as a familiar way to relax and do nothing. Typing this on Sunday evening, I am tired, but mostly from the longest ride I have done in several months. I hope to be bouncing back to work this week refreshed and ready for the rest of the year.

Yellow leaves on new trees growing in a landscape that completely burned a few years ago.
Early morning light on a picturesque scene in Calistoga.
First sun on the bridge from one of my early rides.
Afternoon sun from the same vantage point towards the end of Friday’s roam.
Morning sun on the recently closed Circular Quay.
Afternoon sun at the end of the roam.
Thanksgiving morning ride along the Crystal Springs reservoir trail, which I haven’t visited for a while.
I did not go swimming at Limantour beach, but others seemed to enjoy it.
The serenity of the Bay Trail looking back towards the city on Sunday morning.
Sunrise over Crissy Field on Friday.
Sunrise at Duboce Park on Sunday.
Sunset and new moon over the city from the 580 on Saturday.

Layman Fu

Where the East Mountains float on the river
And the West Mountains wander on and on,
In the realm of this world beneath the Great Dipper:
Just there is the place of genuine emancipation.

Sharon Salzberg

‘One thing I’ve learned from my own meditation and from teaching others is that while you may think you’re getting nowhere with meditation—I still get so sleepy, I’m so bored, I’m not getting an ecstatic charge out of this—change does happen in your life. You might look in vain for the change during that ten-minute period each day, but not notice that when you made a big mistake, you didn’t beat yourself up quite so much. Or you met a stranger and really paid attention to them instead of being self-absorbed. Or a conflict arose and you didn’t treat it with the same desperation. That’s how meditation can help more love seep into your life.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

Can confirm.

Suzuki Roshi

‘If we don’t, you know, feel some actual feeling of practice, some warm, you know, big satisfaction in your practice, that is not practice. Even though you sit, you know, with right posture, trying to have right posture, following your breathing, you know, and following all the instruction which was given to you, but maybe still, you know, it is, you know, empty [laughs] zazen.

Why it is empty zazen is you are just following instruction, you know, following form of, you know, practice. And you are following what the way you should do, even though you are counting, you know, you are not kind enough with yourself. That was the point of Tatsugami Roshi’s saying this morning. You should be very kind, you know, with yourself. Not just count your breathing to, you know, to avoid your thinking mind, but to take best care of your breathing, you know. There is big difference, you know. Even though you are following breathing, you know, just to follow your breathing doesn’t make sense. If you, you know, if you are very kind with your breathing, then, one after another, you will have, you know, refreshed warm feeling in your zazen.

Perhaps, you know, we are not kind enough with ourselves, with our practice. We understand that our practice is, you know– Still we understand, you know, our practice by following some instruction. Or if you only follow the instruction given by some teacher, then you will have good zazen, but [laughs] it is not so. Why you have instruction is how you are able to be kind with yourself. That is, you know, purpose of instruction.

If you don’t feel Buddha’s mercy in instruction, and if you don’t feel, you know, Buddha’s mercy on your form and breathing, you know, and take care of your practice, then there is no warm feeling in it, and it is not, you know, well-satisfied zazen. You should be fully satisfied with your, you know, practice. Or you should be very kind with yourself. So, you know, when you are very kind with yourself, naturally you will, you know, feel satisfaction, you know.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)

Chan Master Sheng Yen

‘If enlightened beings live, act, and think as we do, what is the difference between the enlightened state and the ordinary, samsaric state? The difference is attachment. The thoughts and actions of ordinary people are projections of a notion of self; the thoughts and actions of enlightened beings emanate from wisdom.’ (There Is No Suffering)

In the Dogen Study Group recently, we dealt with the lines ‘Buddhas and ancestors of old were as we, we in the future shall be Buddhas and ancestors.’ What will make us like them? Just what he says here.

The Scrupulous Hermit

‘When Xuefeng, Yantou and Qinshan were traveling together on their Zen pilgrimage they lost their way in the mountains. It was growing dark and there was no monastery to ask for the night’s lodging. At the time they happened to notice a green vegetable leaf flowing down along the stream. By this they naturally inferred that there was somebody living further up in the mountains. But one of the monk-pilgrims argued; ‘That is quite probable, but a man who does not mind letting go the precious vegetable leaf is not worth our consideration.’ Before he finished saying this, they saw a man with a long-handed hook, running down after the lost leaf.’

This was a story I remember reading about in my very early days of practice, and it took me a while to find it again. Now I don’t even remember where I found this version. But the moral of the story is still good.

Dale S. Wright

‘What is nonduality? In this Mahayana Buddhist setting, it is a vision of reality that derives from the “emptiness” of all things, the truth that nothing exists in and of itself, that things are always in the process of change, and that this change occurs through their fundamental dependence on other impermanent things. Nothing is ever completely separate from other things, and nothing remains the same over time; hence the duality of division between things is ultimately an illusion. From this point of view, reality as it is bequeathed to us through our culture’s common sense is an illusion, a dream from which we must awaken if we are to see the truth. This new truth, however, is not simply a new set of beliefs. On the contrary, it transcends the very conceptual form that the old truths once assumed. It is not graspable, not something that can or must be believed. It is not an assertion about how things really are, because “all assertions can be refuted and confounded.”‘

That’s it in a nutshell.


‘Xuejian asked, “All Zen worthies at the capital say that we must practice zazen and learn samadhi to be able to understand the Way. There has been no one who had attained liberation without practicing zazen and samadhi. I wonder what your opinion about this is?”

Huineng replied, “The Way can be realized by the Mind. What does zazen have to do with it? In a sutra it is said, “If you view that the tathagata sometimes sits and sometimes lays down, you are walking in the evil way.” Why? Because the Tathagata never has a place to come from and to go away; is never arising or perishing. This is the pure Zen of the Tathagata. All dharmas are empty and quiescence; this is pure sitting of the Tathagata. Ultimately speaking, there is neither verification (awakening) nor sitting (practice).”’