Posts Tagged ‘Retreat’

hand me the flute

September 23rd, 2011    -    11 Comments

The farther I roam from home, the more I realize the disservice I do from this distance, from this page, with these clumsy, wooden words.

The other day I heard from someone I met at a retreat nearly 20 years ago. She asked me if I was the one with the story about the flute. I was astonished that after all this time she’d found me. I heard an echo that’s been running through my mind lately, the echo of a flute.

The dharma is never what we think it is. Nothing is what we think it is. Nothing has the meaning that we manufacture.

It was only my second retreat when I begged a ride up into the San Jacinto Mountains to sit 10 days with Maezumi Roshi. I admit I was beginning to feel rather privileged, the way newcomers can feel favored just because strangers are nice. When I got my daily work assignment, I knew what it meant.

My job was to dust the altar in the teacher’s room.

The teacher’s altar. You know what that means.

Other people were cleaning latrines and clearing brush.

And so I reported daily to the big altar in his small quarters. He was never there. I took great care with the strange and wondrous objects, the flowers and offerings arrayed on the polished platform. A statue of something-or-other; a figurine of who-knows-what; incense; a candle; a funny-looking stick; a whatchamacallit; a thingamajig. I’d never seen an altar up close. I didn’t know what anything was called or what it was supposed to do. I picked each item up and held my breath as I dusted beneath it, praying that I’d remember where to set it down again: a high and holy rite.

One day Maezumi came in while I was there. He smiled and said something to me. What he said was:

Hand me the flute.

The flute? Everything looked foreign to me, but nothing looked like a flute.

I handed him the stick. He laughed.

No, the flute!

I handed him the thingamajig.

The flute! The flute!

Suddenly I knew that I didn’t know what anything meant. You know what that means.

He came closer and stood over me, pointing directly to the meaning I had misunderstood. I looked down the bow of his finger and saw:

A plum. I handed it to him and he took a bite.

What’s the matter, he laughed. Don’t you speak Engrish?

That day I learned the difference between a flute and a fruit. It’s something you can only taste for yourself, in person. After you taste it you can tell a story about it. A story that has meaning, even if it’s only to you.
***

On this, the eighteenth anniversary of the day I met Maezumi Roshi and started to see, to hear, to taste, and to live.


The Plunge one-day retreat in Pittsburgh Oct. 1
Beginner’s Mind one-day meditation retreat in LA Oct. 9
Love Beyond Limits parenting workshop in Athens, GA Oct. 22

in the middle of forever

September 19th, 2011    -    8 Comments

The plane home was very late last night. The car battery, nearly dead. The house was dark. My mailbox was full. The violets on the kitchen table, wilted. To leave others at peace, I pulled a quilt from the hall closet and settled on the sofa, my mind still lit with the radiance of a weekend under the sun, the moon and the stars.

Sometimes you think you’re in the middle of nowhere. And then you look through the pitch blackness of the night and into the inconceivable shine of a mountain sky and know exactly where you are. You’re not in the middle of nowhere. You’re in the middle of forever.

If you can’t see the stars, see the moon. If not the moon, then the sun. And if you do not see the sun, watch your step and keep going.

Because this is what I found in my mailbox last night.

***

Where to learn how to watch your step:

The Plunge one-day retreat in Pittsburgh Oct. 1 (Now with a partners’ discount)
Beginner’s Mind one-day meditation retreat in LA Oct. 9
Love Beyond Limits parenting workshop in Athens, GA Oct. 22

small packages

September 13th, 2011    -    3 Comments

These days I feel as though the world doesn’t need one more person to say one more thing. And so I leave you these small packages to unwrap if you like, to use if you need:

What mindfulness looks like – a sweet reflection through the eyes of one participant in last weekend’s Art of Mindfulness workshop in Houston.

What Buddhism sounds like – Melvin McLeod, editor of the Shambhala Sun magazine and its numerous anthologies of Buddhist writing, updates the simple story of our tradition in this excerpt, his introduction to a new volume of teachings.

What your family is worth – Offering a new couples discount to The Plunge one-day retreat in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Oct. 1. Use and share with those you love.

I’m off this weekend to Shambhala Mountain Center in northern Colorado where a small circle of us will sit, walk, talk and wake up. I can’t imagine a heaven any greater than the one in your hands. Please take good care of it.

(pretending to) sit

September 4th, 2011    -    No Comments

At the Art of Mindfulness this weekend in Houston, and all the upcoming retreats, some of us will sit like this. And others of us will pretend to sit like this. Practice is an elegant pretense, and even so, it beats all other options.

I love all the videos by Patrick Burke, starting with this one.

One week before The Art of Mindfulness Retreat in Houston
Two weeks before The Practice of Everyday Life Retreat in Colorado
Four weeks before The Plunge Retreat in Pittsburgh
Five weeks before the Beginner’s Mind One-Day Retreat in LA

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warm to Texas

September 2nd, 2011    -    No Comments

Texas has a heart like the sky, and a mind of its own.

I’ve just learned that my sweet hosts at The Art of Mindfulness are giving away four passes to my workshop in Houston next Saturday, Sept. 10. If there’s any way you or someone you know can drive, fly, swim or crawl there, this is your invitation to come on down and get even warmer. Enter before next Monday, Sept. 5 when the goodies will go out. Details on entering here.

One week before The Art of Mindfulness Retreat in Houston
Two weeks before The Practice of Everyday Life Retreat in Colorado
Four weeks before The Plunge Retreat in Pittsburgh
Five weeks before the Beginner’s Mind One-Day Retreat in LA

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secret message

August 29th, 2011    -    5 Comments

I am being cautious here, mindful of what I say and don’t say, because of how earnestly we all seek and how easily we misunderstand.

I am not telling you how to live, how to improve yourself, how to make the right decisions, or what the right decisions are. I am not suggesting you live like me, think like me, or choose what I have chosen. It is easy to elevate what appears to be the sage or guru, the expert, the coach, the one “who has it together.”

In my long career as a consultant, I came to realize, after the first years of doubt and pretense, that I didn’t have to know any answers. All I had to do to be successful was tell people what to do. I could even make it up on the spot! Because everyone – no matter what their station or status or position – wants to be told what to do. Regardless of whether we do it or not – and we usually don’t – we think there is some secret message we’re missing. But every message is the one you already carry. It’s only a secret if you haven’t yet noticed what you have in your hands. read more

easy rest inn

August 6th, 2011    -    4 Comments

When I was growing up we used to snicker about my dad and his hankering for road trips. He would plan for days or weeks, map alternate routes, fill the tires, top the tank, load the car, and wake us in the dark to start the drive so we could get there – wherever that was – ahead of schedule. And then he would be perfectly miserable in the place and with the people we had come to see. These trips always ended the way they began: uncomfortably early.

Near the end of his life, he made one last road trip across country to visit me. He never made it. He stopped at a hotel an hour from my home and called, asking me to come up and meet him for lunch. After a hamburger and a side of fries, he hugged me in the parking lot, turned around, and drove back the twelve hundred miles he’d come. His affliction was no longer a quirk. His sickness had prevailed and overtaken him, and he was utterly without a single square inch of home.

I ache to think of his lonely exile, but I don’t think he was so different than anyone else. His curse is mine and yours, too. The road is pitiless when the company you can neither keep nor avoid is your own. And yet, by degrees of habit, this is how we all live. We are all lost in the dark until we see the light up ahead and aim for it. There is always a light ahead. read more

read this sign

July 31st, 2011    -    20 Comments

From time to time someone writes to me with a question that silences me. They put their heart on the page, and I know there is nothing I can say or do for them. Although I’m not ever able to provide the answers someone is looking for, these missives always help me to articulate something that speaks to people where they are instead of where I am. I sent this reply to someone today, and looking it over I realized it could help me and others take a hard look at where we are.

Where are you?

Readers are almost never where I am, sitting side-by-side with me in a Zen retreat, using the medicine for human ills prescribed by Buddha 2500 years ago. But the distance between us still compels me to try.

I am not a bestselling author, and I don’t have the first idea how people become a success. I don’t know how to fix a relationship, manufacture happiness, or realize one’s passion. I don’t know the alchemy that turns fiction into fact or pain into pleasure.  If I did know how to do that, I would be doing things the easy way. But I’m not. I am doing things the hard way. We are all doing things the hard way, as best as we can.

In short, I am not in the manifesting-your-dream business. I am in the waking-up-from-your dream business. The former is more popular and lucrative than the latter. I’m sure it is more temporarily uplifting, inspiring and entertaining. What it entertains is fantasy. I don’t put my faith in fantasy. I put my faith in the path you least desire, the path you most avoid, and the option of having no other option. read more

sitting

July 25th, 2011    -    2 Comments

meet me in the middle

June 20th, 2011    -    4 Comments

Sometimes people ask me when I’m going to come to their town. That’s a reasonable question. The answer is, it beats me. I never go anywhere unless someone else takes the first step. And then the step after, and then another step. Everything I say and do is for the sole purpose of encouraging people to take the next step.

The only place we can meet is in the middle.

That’s where I hope you’ll meet me this fall, as I have this incredible patchwork of visits set up, none of which was my idea to begin with. Neither do I have any idea earthly how they will turn out. But they usually turn out quite lovely, in their own artful way. You can see all of these programs detailed on my Retreats page, but I’m hanging them out here in the middle of the open road for you to bump into, in case you thought you were on your way somewhere else. See if you can stitch together a way to make it. I would be so happy to see you.

The Art of Mindfulness retreat in Houston, Sat., Sept. 10. Just announced and open for registration. Do you hear me Texas? I’m coming home.*

The Practice of Everyday Life weekend retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center outside Fort Collins, CO, Fri., Sept. 16-Sun. Sept. 18. This is as midwesterly as I can maneuver this year. If it makes a difference, apply for a scholarship on the SMC site!

The Plunge one-day retreat Sat., Oct. 1 in Pittsburgh. The absolutely farthest northeast I can make it for the foreseeable future, and Pittsburgh figures so keenly in my past that I’m delighted to see it again.

*Pssst: plug in the discount code MAEZEN at check out for a special give-back on the Houston event.

Red & Indigo Quilt by Jean Hall Painting.

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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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a retreat is like this

December 5th, 2010    -    3 Comments

Everything comes out in the wash.

The Plunge at Asilomar
Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Asilomar Conference Center, Pacific Grove near Monterey, California
Registration $100 per person

Sign up on the Retreats page.

P.S. Gone on retreat. Be back when I’m soaking wet.

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the gifts of ordinary

July 18th, 2010    -    6 Comments

One of my favorite finds this year is Katrina Kenison’s memoir The Gift of an Ordinary Day. And if you still haven’t read this elegiac rendering of a family in transition, I know you’ve cried a tear over this video. I’m spilling over with the news that Katrina will be my special guest at the Mother’s Plunge in Boston on Sat., Sept. 18. Now you really have to come and bring a friend to share a cup with us. Katrina will read and talk and sign books, while I carry on in my blah blah customary manner.

One of my favorite finds this year is Katrina Kenison herself. Our new friendship is a pretty amazing story that Katrina began telling on her own blog. I’ll fill you in on the rest when I see you in Boston. It will be an extraordinary day. Or, if you believe in magic as much as I do, you will find it to be another perfectly ordinary day.

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