Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

Zen isn’t

March 28th, 2011    -    23 Comments


Zen is a special transmission outside the scriptures with no reliance on words or letters.

I’d like to topple the tower of babel about Zen.

Zen isn’t a habit. It is the absence of all habits and conditioning. There are no habits in Zen, because everything, everywhere, everytime is altogether new.

Zen isn’t simplifying your life. Zen is simply life. When we don’t fuss with it, life simplifies itself.

Zen isn’t cleaning up your house so you have a calm and orderly mind. Zen is cleaning up your mind so you have a calm and orderly house.

Zen isn’t waking up so you can get out of bed. Zen is getting out of bed so you can wake up.

Zen isn’t eating less, spending less, talking less or working less. It’s wanting less, fearing less, worrying less and striving less. The latter takes care of the former.

Zen isn’t extra time, extra effort or extra attention. Zen is nothing extra.

Zen isn’t running, golfing, archery, flower arranging, gardening, golfing, lying down, sitting up or motorcycle maintenance, although it doesn’t exclude any of that.

Zen is not a second. Zen is not even ten seconds. It is eternal. It is now. Zen never ends.

Zen isn’t about making a change in your life. It is about living the change you already are.

Zen cannot be found, because Zen is never missing.

Now, how do you come to see and believe this for yourself? Certainly not by reading about it, although one or two good books every now and then won’t hurt. (And I’d even sign them for you.)

This post has been republished because a sharp-eyed reader reminded me about it, and another one pointed out that my next one-day meditation retreat was shortsightedly scheduled for Father’s Day. I stand reminded, and I thank everyone for their close attention.

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat Sun., June 12 in LA

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before you were a victim

February 15th, 2011    -    25 Comments

Yesterday my teacher said something that I can’t seem to shake. It was in the course of an ordinary conversation and not a teaching per se, but that’s how you know your teacher: he or she says something that sticks with you like a needle under your skin, and it works its way in.

He said, “I knew you before you were a victim.” He wasn’t talking about me, but he might as well have been. As is the custom in a lineage tradition like mine, I can only repeat what my teacher has told me. So I will.

I knew you before you were a victim,
before you were a wreck, a mess, and a bomb.
Without a crowning success or crippling failure.
Before you had an issue, an axe, or a cross.
No disorder, no syndrome, no label –
undiagnosed,
without a blemish or scar.
Before that night and the morning after,
before the after and before the before.
Before the fall, the crash, the crime,
without an upgrade or makeover.
Version 0.0
No story,
no narration, no closed captioning,
no footnotes and no bonus features,
before you remembered to forget and forgot to remember.
I knew you before you were what you say –
what you think, what you fear, what you know.

Do you know yourself before?

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat March 13

The long curve of kindness

January 5th, 2011    -    50 Comments

Love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13:4

There is a lot of talk about love. There is a lot of talk about kindness. There is a lot of talk about something we might think is a high-potency spiritual blend of the two called lovingkindness. Oh, that’s the kind of kindness I want!

Everything we say about these things is one degree removed from the thing itself. But here I go in my infinite unkindness.

Lovingkindness is the absolutely emptied, undisturbed, vast and open state of mind we realize through meditation practice. Here she goes about practice again. I’ll find my brand of kindness somewhere else!

There is nothing else.

At the bottom, beneath it all, without any intention or elaboration, is lovingkindness. It is what we are; it is what everything is, as it is. When you actually experience it, not just talk about it, you find out for yourself. These days some people in the “help” business might sprinkle the mumbo-jumbo of Buddhist lingo on top of their talk to give it a little spiritual flavor. But unless you practice, the language alone is unfulfilling. It is inauthentic. When you serve it, no one can taste the truth. What is true?

Being is love; being is kind.

It is immediate and eternal. It is ever-present, absent the insidious self-centered spin we persist in putting on things.

Kindness is the long, gentle, never-ending curve we walk on.

Kindness is what we breathe. Kindness is what we eat, when we are not swallowing the bitter aftertaste of our own unkindness. The kindness of real food is what nourishes and sustains life, which is an act of love. read more

look at why I practice

September 13th, 2010    -    9 Comments

An acknowledgment of all those who joined me yesterday at the Beginner’s Mind Meditation Retreat at the Hazy Moon Zen Center. You know who you are. More importantly, you are beginning to really know who you are.

When wisdom is a concept, look how ignorant I am in the name of wisdom.
When love is a concept, look how hateful I am in the name of love.
When charity is a concept, look how greedy I am in the name of charity.
When kindness is a concept, look how mean I am in the name of kindness.
When beauty is a concept, look at what I defile in the name of beauty.
When freedom is a concept, look who I imprison in the name of freedom.
When truth is a concept, look who I deceive in the name of truth.
When faith is a concept, look how fearful I am in the name of faith.
When peace is a concept, look how much chaos I create in the name of peace.
When life and death are concepts, look what I destroy in the name of life.

To overcome my own ignorance, hate, greed, meanness, defilement, imprisonment, deception, fear, chaos and death. This is why I practice.

If you’re on the other coast, there’s still time to join me this Sat., Sept. 18 at the Mother’s Plunge in Boston. I’ll be looking for you!

never farther

August 9th, 2010    -    2 Comments

I am inspired by questions I get about practice. That tells me that you’ve heard the most important thing I can tell you. That tells me that you’re trying.

I am inspired by posts like this.

I am inspired by the talks I’ve been listening to and transcribing every day. Old dharma talks on dusty cassette tapes, in which Maezumi Roshi tells me loud and clear, “This life you are encountering is nothing but the life of the Buddha.” And his question, “How are you living your life as the practice of Buddha Dharma?”

So here I show you what my practice looks like most days, and I snare you into seeing through my eyes. Where is your practice? Only you know; only you can answer. I hope you will.

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a short history of Zen practice

July 25th, 2010    -    4 Comments

People used to think they couldn’t practice because they were only human.
They couldn’t practice because they had families.
Children and jobs.
Too many things to do.
And not enough time to do them.
They couldn’t practice because they were poor.
Because they lived in a certain town and not another.
They couldn’t practice because they didn’t know how.
Hadn’t read the right book.
Met the right teacher.
Found the right place.
Weren’t lucky, fated or called.
Were hobbled by time, space and circumstance.
And that practice didn’t matter. (At least not that much.)
People used to think a lot of crazy things.
And then they practiced.

Be back soon.

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baggage carousel 2

May 15th, 2010    -    3 Comments

I hit the jackpot at an amazing Kitchen Table potluck in Reno last week and now I’m about to plunge north for a sold-out mother’s weekend in the Bay Area,  so here is another short spin in lieu of a stop. Setting down these few things for you to open as your own:

Giving the moon to the Sun – Every time they ask, I give the moon to the Shambhala Sun.  If you have silver to spare, check out their first-ever Auction for a Mindful Society opening this week. It includes many treasures worth pondering. And then there’s this, which is only worth a little.

“How do I begin?” – A question I’m asked over and over. Here is your personal invitation to start with me as I lead a beginner’s one-day retreat at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles on Sun., June 6 from 9-5. Informal, sincere, intimate, meaningful instruction on how to begin a meditation practice. You’ll be on your way in no time. Contact me with your questions. Overnight accommodations can be arranged for long-distance travelers.

“Soul Centered” – A destination I’ve added to my Kansas City itinerary. Join my friend Jill Tupper and me on Sat., May 29 for a morning retreat at Unity on the Plaza. Because nothing brings you back home faster than a friend.

“I was asked to write a book.” – a dharma sister from the Hazy Moon Zen Center interviews me on writing as practice. Here’s where you’ll find the story behind the story, and how Zen infuses it all.

“Now I’m asking you to review it.” – If you’ve read Hand Wash Cold, please consider writing on online review on Amazon, Goodreads, or both. You have no idea how much you matter in the scheme of things. And if you think it is beneath an author to request a review, once you’ve read it you’ll know that absolutely nothing is beneath me. Thank you.

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baggage carousel

May 10th, 2010    -    3 Comments

Home from the awe and astonishment of my visit to the Rothko Chapel and a wave of new friends in Houston, heading on to Kitchen Tables in Pasadena and Reno this week, here is a short spin in lieu of a stop. Setting down these few things for you to open as your own:

“I was asked to write a book.” – a dharma sister from the Hazy Moon Zen Center interviews me on writing as practice. Here’s where you’ll find the story behind the story, and how Zen infuses it all.

“All she got was a lemon.” – Author Katrina Kenison writes about our fast friendship, sharing  the magic of companionship on the literary and spiritual path.

“Soul, a center” – A destination I’ve added to my Kansas City itinerary. Join my friend Jill Tupper and me on Sat., May 29 for a morning retreat at Unity on the Plaza. Because nothing brings you back home faster than a friend.

“How do I begin?” – A question I’m asked over and over. Here is your personal invitation to start with me as I lead a beginner’s one-day retreat at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles on Sun., June 6 from 9-5. Informal, sincere, intimate, meaningful instruction on how to begin a meditation practice. You’ll be on your way in no time. Contact me with your questions. Overnight accommodations can be arranged for long-distance travelers.

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everything happens

April 14th, 2010    -    5 Comments

It doesn’t look like anything happens in those torturous few minutes of motionlessness. But everything happens when you meditate. Whole worlds are dismantled, innumerable scores are settled, grievous deeds are undone, and the entire universe settles at rest.

Please click here and read an exclusive excerpt from Hand Wash Cold featured by my good friends at Shambhala Sun magazine. Then, everything happens. I’ll award a signed book to one commenter on their post by this Saturday, April 17.

2 minutes of grace

February 24th, 2010    -    28 Comments

I’m reading a biography of Grace Kelly right now. Why would I need to do that? I know perfectly well how the story ends: it’s how all stories end. One way or another, each of us drives off a cliff at the foreshortened end of a long and winding road. Still, grace stands in perennial service.

As we do with other earthbound deities, we invested so much in Ms. Kelly. We made her the paragon of the good girl, the icon of good looks and the fairytale princess of the good life. She bore it, needless to say, with grace.

I bring this up because of a message recently received in complete sincerity from a dear friend endeavoring in all ways to be good. She said she was scouring Momma Zen to re-read those parts that might help in her search for courage and patience. I told her to give that up.

Words you read won’t transform your life. Words I write won’t transform my life. Only one thing transforms my life: practice. I mean both my formal practice on a meditation cushion, and my everyday, standing-at-the-sink, emptying-the-hamper practice of giving up my chronic search for something else. The life we are most devoted to is the life we don’t have.

More to the point, I told this friend of mine that if I didn’t have a practice of silencing my inner screams, I would have hurt someone a long time ago. I would have hurt either myself or someone I profess to love. I cringe when people ascribe to me such heavenly virtues as calm, peace, patience and wisdom. They don’t yet realize that I do what I must to keep from destroying my life and everyone in it out of anger, fear, frustration and resentment. read more

300 pieces and counting

December 26th, 2009    -    9 Comments

Perhaps it was
the new game the new speakers the new camera
the boxes the manuals the cords
the plastic the paper the ribbon
the fudge the cookies the cinnamon sugar
the sour cream in the enchiladas
the tres leches
one leche alone wouldn’t do
the coffee the soda the wine
the puzzle on the coffee table
300 pieces
a pair of rat terriers under your skin
27 pieces left and I can’t quit
although I’m done
marinated, roasted and fried
so in this idle between one holiday and the next
I’m ducking out as is my custom
to quietly come undone
because every year is the same and I know it:
happiness is simple
everything we do to find it is complicated.

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Triple strength stainfighting color booster with fragrance crystals

November 8th, 2009    -    6 Comments


If you come to the end of another week feeling as though you’ve missed out on something, this will help.
If you have difficulty relaxing, this will help.
If you think you can’t live without your iPhone, your computer, your TV or your Baby Cry Translator App, this will help.
If you struggle to go to sleep most nights, this will help.
If you are afraid to turn on the news, answer your door, speak to a stranger or knock on your neighbor’s door, this will help.
If the thought of the holidays, and the end of the year, fills you with anxiety and guilt that you have not accomplished enough so far in your life, this will help.
If you are worried about your partner, your children, your parents, your job, your health, your finances, your HDTV signal or anything at all that might fall apart tomorrow, this will help.
If you think you’re not good enough, this will help.
If you think to yourself I’m not getting any younger, this will help
If you think to yourself I’m not getting any wiser either, this will help
If you are afraid, this will help.
If you are angry, this will help.
If you are sad, this will help.
If you are confused, this will help.
If there is no way you have the time to do this, this will help.
If your alternative is to stay at home and scream at the kids, this will help.
If you tried meditation once and didn’t like it, or if you don’t know how to do it, or think you’re doing it wrong, or think that you’ll never be able to do it, this will help.
If you want to know where the truth comes from, where the love comes from, where the words and music come from, this will help.
If you think this is something you’ll get around to doing someday, this will help.

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat
Hazy Moon Zen Center
Los Angeles
Sunday, Nov. 15, 9-5
Register here

If you wonder how doing one thing can possibly help in all these ways, it’s because it won’t hurt.

Why will I be there? All of the above.

Chapter and verse

August 20th, 2009    -    4 Comments

Blah blah blah. Meditation is good for you. But I’m bad at it. It’s boring. Who has time for it? It’s hard to do. Too spiritual. Not relevant. Some day soon you’re going to have to stop reading about it.

But when?


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