Posts Tagged ‘Shambhala Sun’

your bed is your head

July 29th, 2013    -    14 Comments

Foot of unmade bed with white and blue linensBefore your feet hit the floor you’ve already run through the reasons. First, there’s not enough time. It’s pointless. You’ll just have to do it all over again. You have more important things on your mind. It doesn’t matter. No one will see it. You don’t care. You’re not uptight about it. It’s a waste of energy. You hate it. After all, you’re not Martha Stewart.

The bed is a nest of egocentric attachments: our cravings and aversions. In the one minute it takes to avoid making your bed in the morning, you can observe the ways you battle the reality of your life all day, everyday. You might think it’s unfair to deduce all that from a tangle of sheets and pillows, but it’s not an exaggeration.

The state of your bed is the state of your head. To be sure, the bed and its adornments are a mirror of your psyche, a reflection of your thoughts and feelings, the locus of your dreams and nightmares. But more than that, your bed actually is your mind. Like all phenomena that arise within your field of perception, your bed appears within your own consciousness. How do you respond to what appears?

By habit, we respond with dualistic judgment, dividing the whole of our experience into the few precious things we like and the greater load of what we dislike, accepting the former and rejecting the latter. We thus move through our lives as if maneuvering through enemy territory, attacked on all sides by the overwhelming forces of displeasure. It’s no wonder that we have the urge to crawl back under the covers as if defeated before the day even begins.

Luckily, this one piece of furniture not only serves to diagnose our ills, but to treat them as well. Transform your reality. Transcend dualistic thinking. Face what appears in front of you. Do what needs to be done. Make peace with the world you inhabit. Take one minute—this minute right now—to enfold your day in dignity. Tuck in the sheets, straighten the covers and fluff the pillows. See for yourself if making the bed makes a difference in your head.

This article appears in the September 2013 issue of Shambhala Sun magazine.

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These are the last three days for Early Bird Registration for the Boise Plunge, one-day retreat on Oct. 5.

 

 

the koan of boredom

September 27th, 2012    -    4 Comments

Please see the link at the bottom of this post to read the entire essay online.

The message comes with good intentions, as do most things designed to inspire, so I click on the link in my email and watch the short video.

First I see a sleeping newborn swaddled in a blanket, followed by a silken black butterfly perched on a finger, a dewdrop dangling from a leaf tip, and a nest cradling two luminous robin’s eggs. Images dissolve to a piano serenade—a foggy meadow at daybreak, the fiery blaze of an ocean sunset, a peach pie cooling on a plank table, and a vase of peonies gracing a windowsill. A boy bites a glistening red popsicle at that perfect instant before it slides off the stick. A golden-haired girl blows the dancing flames from her birthday candles. “Moments,” the voiceover says. “Moments like this are all we have.”

They are happy, captivating shots, drenched in color and sentiment. The eye wants to drink them in and dwell. Compared to this, my life seems mostly washed-out and even wasted.

I stop the show. Something’s wrong with this picture. Pies and popsicles are appealing, but these pictures don’t quite capture the essence of life. Not the whole of it.

Later on, in the bathroom picking up dingy wet towels, I notice the mildew creeping up the bottom of the shower curtain. This is not the life of precious tributes. It’s not one of the moments you want to frame and keep. It’s one you want to throw out. And many of us do. We replace people, places, and things that have grown charmless and tiresome— which they always do. Fascination fades and restlessness stirs.

Chasing the picture perfect, we can lose what we have in abundance—the times that teach us even more than the rare delight of butterflies or a robin’s blue eggs. We lose the hours, the days, and the decades when nothing much seems to happen at all. Time freezes. Paint dries. Mildew spreads. We’re bored out of our minds.

Boredom is the unappreciated path to patience, peace, and intimacy, so who would read a paean to it? Let that be your koan.

Don’t quit now! Continue reading this complete article online at Shambhala Sun.

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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.

love stories

August 22nd, 2011    -    38 Comments

I have two books and one story to give away this week. Like all stories, they are love stories.

A few weeks ago I answered an invitation to read and review this acclaimed new book, To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal. Why am I suddenly saying yes to reviewing books? Perhaps because it’s summer; perhaps to avoid my own writing. That’s okay. When it’s time to take your time, a book is as good as a day on the lake. Here the author dips into a favorite well of mine: how we tell old stories to ourselves; how we salvage, refinish, embroider, store, and vainly, always vainly, try to relive the past. The book has a vintage feel to it, like its solid hardcover heft. The characters are old-school and middle-aged; they can ring false to one another and sometimes to the reader as well. But there is a beating heart here that is pure, placid and wide. It is romance: the romance we can only lose, since romance is by definition long gone. And then when I read that the author was 63 years old, with 12 years between his first novel and this, his second, and that he builds homes for a living, and has an orange grove on his California homestead, well, I loved all that even more than the fiction. You know I have a thing about orange trees: they hold the fruit for a long time before they let it go. McNeal clearly knows how to take his time and he knows how to spend it. I’ll gladly send this one to you so you can love time all by yourself.

The publisher sent me a crisp new copy of that book with a chapter of mine in it, Right Here With You: Bringing Mindful Awareness into Our Relationships. It’s got all the Buddhist regulars in it, and a few of us irregulars, and I’m sure it’s good because the Dharma is always good. I haven’t read it because I don’t read the kind of books that have me in them, but be sure to ask if it’s right for you now.

And finally, I’ll send you a second time to the online excerpt from my most recent magazine article, “Waking up Alone,” in the current issue of the Shambhala Sun. The issue focuses on the wisdom of love, and my article is about how we never know what love is until the love story ends.

Leave a comment on this post with the name of either or both books, if you want them. I’ll choose a winner next Monday.

Less than three weeks til The Art of Mindfulness in Houston.

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with and without you

July 15th, 2010    -    8 Comments

Since my last post on Shambhala SunSpace about practicing with a teacher stirred up so much dust, I’ve not done much writing or thinking about it except when people ask me directly. Usually people ask whether a teacher is necessary, or whether a teacher can be harmful, and how to protect themselves from exploitation.

This is an important question, because it points to the heart of all our relationships, whether those relationships are with a person, place or thing. Frankly speaking, we always expect to get something out of our relationships – something like happiness or wholeness, even something as benign as respect or validation. When we expect to be enriched by a relationship we invest ourselves in an external source of fulfillment. We place the responsibility for our own well being in something or someone else: a better job, a newer city, the right mate, a benevolent teacher or wise leader. If we look closely, we might see how deeply we want to relinquish responsibility for ourselves.

That never works, and if it appears to, it doesn’t work for long.

Continue reading this post on Shambhala SunSpace, and please leave a comment there if you choose. I want to hear what you have to say.

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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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three little instructions

May 7th, 2010    -    No Comments

Luckily for me, my teacher Nyogen Roshi keeps repeating the same thing over and over again. (I’m beginning to realize that’s what teachers do.) In nearly every one of his weekly dharma talks he ends up reciting a set of instructions given to him by his teacher Maezumi Roshi in the early days of his training.

Wisdom teachings are fascinating things. They may not appear to be special. They are never complicated. They can sound so ordinary that we don’t even hear them or grant them consideration. But like seeds, they burrow into us and one day surface in full bloom. Only then are we ready to appreciate them. Here are Maezumi’s Three Teachings, which you’re not likely to find elsewhere.

Continue reading and leave a comment on my blog at Shambhala SunSpace

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it isn’t over until you quit

January 28th, 2010    -    1 Comment

This entire post is up today at Shambhala SunSpace. I won’t make you go over there to read it. I want you to stay right here and keep going. It isn’t over until you quit.

A few years ago my daughter piped up from the backseat, which is where children of her age are prone to do their piping.

“Mommy, if you ever write another book please make it not about Zen.”

I asked why.

“Because the whole idea of Zen is bogus.”

I don’t put this little story in the category of Kids Say the Darnedest Things, although they do. I put it in the category of Ear-Splitting Truth.

It’s true: the whole idea of Zen is bogus. The whole idea of anything is bogus. Ideas are bogus. Occasionally useful, but not real. I promised her I wouldn’t ever write a book about Zen. There’s plenty of that without me piping up from the front seat. And when I get carried away I miss my exit. read more

Your mind on Tide

January 17th, 2010    -    5 Comments

My mother taught me many things, but she didn’t teach me much about homemaking. To learn how to keep house, I had to study under the tutelage of an eighth century Chinese enlightened master.

I’m so pleased to see my new article “Do Dishes, Rake Leaves” in the March issue of Shambhala Sun magazine, and I’m especially pleased to see it under my full name. If you haven’t yet read it, put it on your list of things to do this weekend. If heaven forbid you don’t subscribe to the magazine, put that on your list, too.

And if you don’t have a list, here’s a handy one to start with.

Faith settles it

January 12th, 2010    -    1 Comment

As with all things, too much has been said already about the Brit Hume/Tiger Woods Christianity versus Buddhism thing, including what’s been said by me. In the New York Times, columnist Ross Douthat opened up another front, suggesting that Buddhists man up to the debate, instead of playing what he calls “the victim card.”

“If you treat your faith like a hothouse flower, too vulnerable to survive in the crass world of public disputation, then you ensure that nobody will take it seriously,” he writes. Talk about faith, he admonishes, so you can “compete with other believers (and nonbelievers) in the marketplace of ideas.”

I’m going to take up his challenge and talk about faith. But I’m not going to talk about my faith, because that wouldn’t serve anyone but me.

Continue reading and comment, please,
at Shambhala SunSpace

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Bless this best: a New Year’s message

December 31st, 2009    -    7 Comments

My friends at the Shambhala SunSpace blog asked me to write a New Year’s blessing for their readers. It runs today somewhere over there, and I invite you to have a look. Then I thought, why don’t I just record it and share it with everyone who’s listening? I hope that includes you and that you share it with all you love.

Here’s to your best new year!

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A late entry in the truth category

December 9th, 2009    -    2 Comments


When you’re as easily teased by Buddhist discourse as I am, you can see the same arguments over and over. Among the refrains I keep hearing are the ones I call The Biggest Lies in Buddhism.

I’m not a Buddha. You most certainly are; you may not yet realize it. “Buddha” does not equate to an imaginary celestial being but to an awakened one. When human beings live in their natural awakened state, undisturbed by delusive thoughts and emotions, they live as buddhas. Buddhahood is your birthright. You claim it every time you wake up to the present moment.

My ideas are as good as yours. That’s true, however, neither are any good at all. The practice of Buddhism is not intended to democratize personal views; it does not aim to equalize the worth of everyone’s self-reinforcing preferences; it simply transcends them. We practice Buddhism so we will no longer be blinded by what we think, and wake up instead to how things are.

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Straight on faith

November 29th, 2009    -    2 Comments


My teacher gave a talk the other day and touched on a topic that has coincidental significance to me: whether or not Zen is a religion. He said that a group of scholars once deliberated this and concluded that Zen was a religion because of its use of faith. Of course, it’s not the faith you might be familiar with; not a faith in something or someone or somewhere else. It’s faith in yourself.

I’m sharing this post on Shambhala SunSpace today.

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From time to time I’m asked this question: What do Buddhists believe?

I don’t know what some Buddhists believe, but I like to respond that Buddhism requires no beliefs. That’s rather hard to believe. And so I offer this solely as my own testimony.

I believe in love. Not the love that is the enemy of hate, but the love that has no enemies or rivals, no end and no reason, no justification and no words. Love and hate are completely unrelated and incomparable. Hate is born of human fear. Love is never born, which is to say, it is eternal and absolutely fearless. This love does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

Continue reading and leave a comment on Shambhala SunSpace

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