Posts Tagged ‘Zen’

Lost shoes, found days

January 2nd, 2009    -    18 Comments


Update: Miracles underfoot!

Tomorrow I’m going to have to drop into my reliable local bookstore to buy a 2009 wall calendar. The kind with trite pictures of lotus ponds and such. I always stick one on my kitchen cabinet to track comings and goings in the heart of our home: vacations, school holidays, washer repairs, flea treatments, the important stuff. It’s amazing to me that I haven’t been given a calendar this year. One or a hundred and one, which heretofore has been the custom. The current lack seems weirdly suited to the state of suspension we’re all in, this limbo in-between the end and the beginning of so many unfathomable things. It’s not surprising that no one could muster the faith this season to look far forward. No matter, I can find the coming days on my own.

Last night I was at the temple for our traditional New Year’s services: chanting and bowing in fusatsu or atonement ceremony, followed by meditation across the midnight hour, then the spectacle, (for us spartans anyway), of revolving the sutras, a kind of blessing ceremony. I was more than once reminded of the power and reach of this anniversary. New Year’s Eve is an anniversary in and by itself, of time’s eternal beginning, and then a personal anniversary in each of our lives.

It is the anniversary of the night my husband lost his shoes in a crowd of Buddhists, for instance. A loss in which everything unexpected was later found.

It was soon after I began my practice with Maezumi Roshi and I then met my husband-to-be in a restaurant in Florence, Italy; a husband-to-be that lived in Los Angeles, glory be, while I was still a wanderlusting south Texan. It seemed too eerily easy that I should begin an affair with an eligible guy in LA, and the obviousness of it prompted Maezumi to say, “Invite him for tea.” So my guy came for the first time to Zen Center of LA to meet Maezumi in the lull of New Year’s Eve before a traditional ceremony much like the one I was at again last night.

Impressionable, my boyfriend and I were both mildly terrified by the extreme auspiciousness of the favor: to be Roshi’s guests in his home on this night of nights. Once arrived, my boyfriend took off his shoes outside the door.

He never found them again.

There were many people there that night, many people inclined to wear the ubiquitous shoe fashion of the time, black Reeboks. After the services, after the time for putting shoes back on, long after everyone but my husband-to-be had his or her own shoes snuggly back on his or her feet, I went around in the crowd inspecting the shod.

“Are those your shoes?” I would say, pointing at the very shoes on their feet. “Are they really your shoes?”

I didn’t find anyone not wearing his or her own shoes. We didn’t find any shoes unworn.

My boyfriend left his first encounter with Zen sans footwear. (I’ve tried to leave everything else since then, but alas, I’m still holding on to a lot of unnecessary freight.) In his socks, he drove me to his apartment late that night, and he was pissed.

It’s easy to see the metaphor in this. He and I left behind a familiar road on that night, a well-worn footpath, the way things were. We went on, of course, getting over it, finding our way, uncushioned, unprotected, by a different route, to an altogether unimaginable future. We left behind more than a pair of shoes, but losing your shoes can indeed be an auspicious start to a whole new way.

Wishing you abundant lost shoes and found days, because sometimes it takes one to have the other, and I want you to have it all.

Something new about the new

December 28th, 2008    -    8 Comments


For the last 15 years, there’s been only one way for me to observe the New Year.

By observing it.

Come, find me there, and let’s get this party started!

I kid you not

December 21st, 2008    -    10 Comments

Stop dwelling on passing days, months and years.
Look with delight in the undergrowth
where chrysanthemums bloom.

– Dogen Zenji

When I tell you that this ancient practice comes alive in my home, you as yet may not believe me. You may not yet believe yourself, or trust your own home.

This is how it flowers. This is how it is. This is how it has always been.

Deep love and appreciation for you on these holidays and everyday. Be of good cheer. Your life is in bloom. Just look.

The Miller Family

Look in your top left-hand drawer

December 19th, 2008    -    9 Comments

Steps of Encouragement:
1. “I understand, I know it’s hard.”
2. “I think you can handle it.”
3. “Want to give it a try?”
4. “When you’re ready . . . “
5. “Look in your top left-hand drawer.”

***
Today, shopping done, leaves raked, laundry spinning and the computer waylaid one more day in repair, I cleaned out my desk. My desk may be no different than the one you have, drawers so full of detritus that I hardly open them anymore. Into the drawers I went, and I found:

1. A short stack of rejections I saved while hunting for an agent. There were eleven of them here, among more that weren’t, because these were the dozen that favored me with a written reply. What struck me was not the disinterest these strangers showed, but the civility of their response. So I keep them still. The most civil of all was the one who called.

2. Scrap papers of notes written on the plane home after my first retreat with Maezumi Roshi 15 years ago. What I jotted: “He says he doesn’t want to flatter me, but he has been waiting for someone like me, someone with a big capacity to learn and teach others.” You can see he still has an infinitely big capacity for flattery! And while I don’t doubt he told others the same thing, I was the one who found it today.

3. A photo of my mother giving baby Georgia a bath. My mom’s head is a post-chemo cap of newly grown, wiry black curls. She is not the radiant woman who still lives in my heart; the baby is not the precious girl who still lives in my home. Time has passed but I’ve lost nothing and no one.

4. A snapshot of El Santuario de Chimayo taken on a visit in 1992, a magical axis from which my life turned in a totally new direction.

5. A print out of the first and only of Maezumi’s teachings I edited for him before his death. It was from three hours of his talks on Dogen Zenji’s fascicle, “Tsuki,” or “The Moon.” It took 36 hours of listening to tapes, craning into the earphones of a Radio Shack portable cassette player, to transcribe one inscrutable word at a time. I had no idea what I was doing.

6. Stuck on the first page of the completed transcription was a Post-It note written by my current teacher when he read it five years ago. “Maezen, Thank you so much! Keep it going – N.” This was the first time I’d read the piece since. I was afraid to.

7. A sheet of paper with the first four of the above Steps of Encouragement given to me by a preschool teacher when my daughter was three. My daughter never needed them; I still do.

8. And thus I found all the encouragement I need right now in my top left-hand drawer. There’s more than enough here, so please take some to tide you over until you look deeper inside for yourself.

Forever again

December 2nd, 2008    -    9 Comments


Never again believe what you read.
Never again fly on the most overbooked air travel day of the year.
Never again go via this airline through this airport.
Never again be in a hurry to get home when fog socks in your destination.
Never again leave your dog at home with a dogsitter who misunderstands/misreads/forgets when you are returning.
Never again get the smell of fear, anxiety, panic and dog poop out of the rugs.
Never again use sudsing detergent in your new front-loader.

Now, never again say never again. Instead, sit a few hours of Rohatsu at the temple this week and make your mind open, your heart forgiving and the world right side up.

Forever again.

A spot of shine

November 10th, 2008    -    11 Comments


This week I have a new article appearing in the quarterly magazine Buddhadharma, entitled “Looking Under the Bed.” It brings to light my rather poorly hidden view of the urgent need for real practice. The magazine is on newsstands this week, and my commentary is partially excerpted here.

I am grateful to the editors of Buddhadharma and the sister publication the Shambhala Sun for their kind and steady solicitation of my work. I encourage you to read as much of the publications as you can online, and to consider buying the current issue or subscribing. It’s true that there is too much debate and discussion about Buddhism in Buddhism (that’s the -ism I can do without) but there is always a need to refresh and encourage yourself in the Way, particularly by reading things that might make you uncomfortable!

You might also have noticed a new entry in my blogroll: the Shambhala SunSpace, a new editors’ blog updated frequently with short bursts of shine. Take a look under it all for yourself.

Edited to add: Find your own Buddha night light here.

Eye of the beholder

October 4th, 2008    -    26 Comments

There is no other way to explain what she saw. You’ll have to go there and trust your own eyes.

I can’t wait for the new season to start

September 22nd, 2008    -    21 Comments


Have you ever noticed that right at the point life gets difficult, demanding more than you think you can give, there’s a nearly irresistible urge to change it? To change the channel, the mission, the purpose? From where I sit it sometimes seems that every mother of a minor child chooses the most full-on challenging time of life, with a newborn, say; or two kids under five; or a son in Iraq, a pregnant teen and a special needs infant; to strike out on a wild hair, try to write a book, start a new business, or otherwise engineer an amazing new life starring an incredible new you.

If you can swing it, hey, great. But most of us can’t. We just use that self-critical impulse – I should I wish I want – to beat ourselves up. I’m not who I want to be! I’m not creative enough, successful enough, and important enough! We’re desperate to fast-forward to a new season in our lives. Never mind the one we’re in.

We are an advanced society of channel changers, and the world, in its mess, shows us what happens when no one, absolutely no one can hold their attention steady for longer than 22 minutes.

Today I sat a daylong meditation retreat with a group of beginning students. A one-day meditation retreat is called a zazenkai. During one of these retreats we don’t do anything except keep company with ourselves. We’re not putting blinders on. We’re not imagining some future perfect world. We’re not sitting in caves. We see the world sinking into insanity; we see the chaos; we feel the fear and disappointment in our own lives and surrounding us. We just practice keeping company with it, for a change. We practice staying put, for a change. We practice noticing our uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, for a change, instead of just impulsively clicking a button to feed the ravenous demons of distraction. This takes utmost courage, perhaps the only courage there really is. The courage to face forward and see how things go.

There’s something you notice when you keep this kind of company, the company of things as they are.

The channel changes by itself. So does the season.


Happy autumn, everyone. Enjoy the show.

12 awesome tips avoided by great moms

September 13th, 2008    -    18 Comments


Hey moms! I just had to share with you something really awesome that keeps turning up when I Google myself. “How to Be a Great Mom – 12 Awesome Tips.” I mean, how awesome! All 12! Tips!

And look! It’s on this site called Zen Habits. That’s so zen!

I’m never again going to wonder, “What does it take to be an awesome mom?” Here we go: 1.Stay true. 2. Don’t be a martyr. 3. Don’t try to be perfect. (That was perfect. Without trying!) 4.Ditch the guilt. 5. Be patient.

Whoa. Just be patient! That’s so zen. Why didn’t I think of that? I’m going to start being more patient right now! But wait, maybe I should kill the patience and hurry through the other tips so I can finally be an awesome and great mom in just seven more steps and start being patient later. Awesome!

6. Listen to your children. REALLY listen. (Yoo-hoo! All caps means REALLY.) 7. Be their mom, not their friend. (That is so “unique” and “original” too.) 8. Teach them simplicity. (Simple!) 9. Don’t push too hard. 10.Teach self-esteem. 11. Teach self-reliance.

Big shout out for self-reliance! A website with 70,000 subscribers latched to their computers reading an endless recitation of inane and superficial tips on how to live life tells us to be self-reliant! Why didn’t I think of that? I’m going to start as soon as I’m done reading this great list of awesome tips on how to be a great and awesome mom.

12. Laugh and have fun.

Photo credit: kmevans

I heart NY

September 8th, 2008    -    12 Comments


Start spreading the news. Jen Lee and I chat in a heart-to-heart over in her hip of the slope.

And as long as I’m at it, see if you don’t find yourself in my palpitations:

I heart Montreal, Cedar City, Commack, Hanoi, Cohasset, Philadelphia, Milton, Pearland, Erie, Sydney, Issaquah, North Billerica, Reston, Madison, Berlin, Den Haag, New Boston, Old Boston, Gilbert, Tyler, Grand Rapids, Seattle, Astoria, Orimattila, Glen Burnie, Louisville, Minneapolis, Silver Spring, Everett, South Pasadena, Burnaby, Buxton, Jacksonville, Saint Louis, Littleton, San Jose, Champaign, Austin, Hitchcock, Belfast, Toronto, Frazier Park, Vereeniging, Boise, Ebern, Los Angeles, yes you read that right, even Los Angeles and especially Hollywould, Norman, Portland, Watertown, Paris every day of my life, Omaha, Phuket, London, Unterhaching, Tacoma Park, Romeoville, Tillatoba, Summerdale, Kingfisher, Lynnfield, Sandy, Coventry, Chelmsfort, Montataire, Moscow, Sant-Ouen, Newport Beach, Bedford, Vancouver, Killeen, McWatters, LaPorte, Fresno, Central Islip, Franklin, San Juan Capistrano, Utica, Lausanne, Somerville, Radolfzell, Liphook, Zurich, Hanford, Asheville, Longview, Port Angeles, Palos Verdes, Wonder Lake, Leesburg, Oklahoma City, Reno, Providence, Wilbraham, Waterloo, Indianapolis, Denver, Wellington, Brooklyn, McKinney, Salem, Midlothian, Plainfield, Englewood,Lynnfield, Bethlehem, Zofingen, Des Plaines, Trowbridge, Hudson, Williston, Havelock, Sherman, Fayetteville, South El Monte, Klaipeda, Imperial, Trostberg, Braselton, El Paso, Methuen, Washington DC, Sliedrecht, State College, Ingolstadt, Orly, Winnepeg, Birmingham, Kailua Kona, Smyrna, Irvine, Scottsdale, Ledyard, Saint Petersburg, Dayton, Columbus, Tampa, Engen, Greensburg, Baltimore, Dallas, Venice, Albrightsville, Douglasville, Lakeland, Mississauga, Oakland, Affoltern, Santa Clara, Calgary, Sterling Heights, Anderson, San Francisco, Walla Walla, Lincoln, Bamberg, Livermore, Knoxville, Charlotte, Caroga Lake, Mesa, Halifax, Dublin, Valley Stream, Parow, Frederiksberg, Kaneone, Dauphin, Stoneham, Cagayan de Ore, Ooltewah, East Hampton, Boca Raton, El Mirage, Eugene, Gteborg, Chattanooga, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Albuquerque, Grafton, Valencia, Russell, Gracemont, Canberra, Dexter, Virginia Beach, Tuscola, Saint Paul, Kansas City, Evanston, Camden, Orange, Brighton, Canton, Lafayette, Ottawa, Phoenix, Houston, Holliston, San Luis Obispo who doesn’t love San Luis Obispo, Overland Park, Chapel Hill, Montclair, Hoofddorp, Queens Village, Ridgway, Atlanta, Newton Center, San Clemente, Maastricht, Trenton, Honolulu, Victoria, Calverton, Farmington, Nicholasville, Cincinnati, Alexandria, Sarasota, Downers Grove, Livingston, Kent, Newark,Westwood, Gooik, Fremont, New Orleans, Chicago, Burlington, Union Grove, Calumet, Little Elm, Scottsdale, Santa Fe, Santa Barbara, Sherman Oaks, Columbia, Raleigh, Davao, Fort Lauderdale, Kurri Kurri, Rockville, Charleston, Watonga, Morinville, Athens, Durango, Westlake, Plano, Rochester, Bailey, Hinesburg, Lubbock, Little Rock, Palmar, Syracuse, Keene, Cambridge, Warwick, Custer, Wellesley Hills, Sudbury, Griffin, and whether you find yourself here or don’t find yourself here, you will still find yourself here, yes you and everyone everywhere who shares this dance floor right here on the head of a pin.

You won’t believe what I don’t believe

September 5th, 2008    -    17 Comments


From time to time I’m asked this question: What do Buddhists believe? I like to respond that Buddhism requires no beliefs, but that’s rather hard to believe. And so I offer this.

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 beginning, no justification and no reason at all. 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.

I believe in truth. Not the truth that is investigated or exposed, interpreted or debated. But the truth that is revealed, inevitably and without a doubt, right in front of my eyes. All truth is self-revealed; it just doesn’t always appear as quickly or emphatically as I’d like it to. This truth does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in freedom. Not the freedom that is confined or decreed by ideology, but the freedom that is free of all confining impositions, definitions, expectations and doctrines. Not the freedom in whose name we tremble and fight, but the freedom that needs no defense. This freedom does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in justice. Not the justice that is deliberated or prosecuted; not that is weighed or measured or meted by my own corruptible self-interest. I believe in the unfailing precision of cause and effect, the universal and inviolable law of interdependence. It shows itself to me in my own suffering every single time I act with a savage hand, a greedy mind or a selfish thought. It shows itself in the state of the world, and the state of the mind, we each inhabit. This justice does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in peace. Not the peace that is a prize. Not the peace that can be won. There is no peace in victory; there is only lasting resentment, recrimination and pain. The peace I seek is the peace that surpasses all understanding. It is the peace that is always at hand when I empty my hand. No matter what you believe, this peace does not require belief, it requires practice.

I believe in wisdom. Not the wisdom that is imparted or achieved; not the wisdom sought or the wisdom gained. But the wisdom that we each already own as our birthright. The wisdom that manifests in our own clear minds and selfless hearts, and that we embody as love, truth, freedom, justice and peace. The wisdom that is practice.

***

I invite you, once again, to join me at another one-day beginner’s meditation retreat at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 21. I know it is too far, too much, too long, too impossible to ask, and I understand. I just believe in asking.

Untitled by anonymous

August 21st, 2008    -    4 Comments


In silent witness to a quiet one, and courtesy of wordle.

All in one load

August 17th, 2008    -    7 Comments


“Those who see worldly life as an obstacle to Dharma see no Dharma in everyday actions. They have not yet discovered that there are no everyday actions outside of Dharma.”

Dogen Zenji, 13th century

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