Michael Stone

‘When we are safe in our own bodies, we have a ground from which to step out into the world.’ (Awake in the World)

I always get a lot of reading done at Wilbur, and when I was packing for my recent trip, I chose to take the one book of Michael’s that I possess. Opening it at the bookmark where I had presumably stopped reading the last time I picked it up, perhaps six months ago, it was deeply poignant to find myself in the midst of his deep exploration of suicide.


Sharon Salzberg

‘Fear is the primary mechanism sustaining the concept of the “other”, and reinforcing the subsequent loneliness and distance in our lives. Ranging from numbness to terror, fear constricts our hearts and binds us to false and misleading ways of viewing life. The fallacy of separate existence cloaks itself in the beguiling forms of our identifications: “This is who I am,” or “This is all I can ever be.” We identify with a fragment of reality rather than with the whole.’  (Lovingkindness)

I might add that often we are very choosy about the fragment we identify with, and make an effort to push away other parts of our selves that don’t fit that narrative. I have many parts of my self that aren’t especially flattering, but I try to keep them with me rather than push them ‘out’ through shame. I also try to keep with me kind things that wise people have said about me, rather than choosing not to believe them because that would not fit my self-story. And also trying to stay with the slippery realisation that all of these are just fragments of an unknowable and ever-changing whole.


With an empty stomach I look at smoke rising from nearby kitchens.
Having bidden farewell to dumplings and steamed bread last year, my mouth still waters thinking of them.
There is little room for mindfulness but much for despair.
From a hundred neighboring houses, no one gives to the monastery.
Visitors come for tea, but not finding a treat, they leave unhappy.

Mary Farkas

‘When in recent years I was asked if we were given “instruction” in Zen, my considered answer had to be “no.” To those of us who received Sokei-An’s teaching, the word “instruction” is a misnomer. His way of transmitting the Dharma was on a completely different level. One could say he “demonstrated” SILENCE, but that would still give no indication of how he “got it across”, or awakened it or transmitted it.’ (Appendix to The Zen Eye)

Once again, reading about Sokei An brings Sekito Kisen to mind, in this case the first line of the Sandokai: ‘The mind of the great sage of India is intimately transmitted from west to east.’ This ‘intimate’ is the secret.

Shohaku Okumura

‘When we see emptiness, we realize there’s no hindrance, no obstacles to block our life force, it is soft and flexible, like a plant that tries to go round a big rock and continues to grow. There is always some other way to live, to grow.’ (Commentary on the Heart Sutra)

Wind Caves 8.jpg
This little pine did not survive the fire of 2008, but before then, every time I visited the Wind Caves near Tassajara, I marveled at the way it grew; I could not help but add this picture to the quote.

Koun Yamada

‘All the anxieties and suffering of humanity stem from the paradox that while we are by nature perfect, we appear in the phenomenal world as imperfection itself – limited, relative, mortal, and all too fallible – unaware of our true nature.’ (Zen: The Authentic Gate)

Kobun Chino

‘Remembering the advice of Dogen Zenji, it is said that in order to admit and observe exactly how you are, sitting in zazen is the best way. Nobody can tell you what you have been; you have to see it yourself, what you have gotten and how things are going. You naturally see. That is the beginning. But a lot of problems continue to go along with our life. It is truly strange to be born as a human being. Maybe to be something else, like a rock or dewdrop or something, would be a little easier. Every day, somewhere hurts. There is something wrong every day. But the wonderful thing is, certainly something is new every day, although we cannot say quite what it is. But something is new. That new thing must be something we already knew, but had always forgotten. It’s essential characteristic is to allow us to live another day.’ (Embracing Mind)

When I go to England at the end of the month, I will be teaching on zazen, and it is helpful to have contemporary descriptions to set alongside Dogen’s Fukanzazengi. Kobun Chino is quite allusive – do you feel what he is getting at here?