to handle the weather

March 2nd, 2015


Vast, empty sky, and occasionally a cloud drifts by. — Maezumi Roshi

This photo was taken yesterday morning on my front lawn, looking over the leafy tops of bamboo into the endless sky. When I shared it on Facebook, someone doubted that it was a recent photo, since storms were presently slamming the other side of LA. Sure enough, by late afternoon the sky over my house was low and gray. There was a crash of thunder and downpour sometime in the night, but by the time I remembered it had happened, it seemed like a dream.

Weather is like that. Even during a stretch when it never changes, it’s changing continuously, clouds and shadows. Life is like that, joy and sorrow. Weather makes things interesting, but most of us are not that interested in what’s interesting. We want to predict, prepare, and avoid: be sure and steady, on course, in control. Thinking we can achieve that is delusion.

There is a sad little store I drive by on my way around the city. The sign outside reads “Safe N’ Ready Emergency Supplies Disaster Preparedness.” They sell stuff for your earthquake kit, like water, batteries and generators, freeze-dried food for survivalists, everything you think you’d need to outlast the end of the world. I call it a sad store because I never see anyone inside. But then again, maybe they do most of their business online, to people who are already too afraid to leave their houses. Those who can’t see that things change in unpredictable ways, and not always for the worst.

“You are the sky. Everything else — it’s just the weather.” Pema Chodron wrote that and it’s true, you are the sky. But you are also the weather, which after all, is not separate from the sky. All those ups and downs; thunder, wind, snow and rain; light and dark; doubt and fury; change and sameness — all you, all you. Can’t very well get rid of the weather, can you?

Last week I heard from someone who had attended a recent retreat with me. It was a powerful retreat (they all are), and everyone came home changed. This person said that after retreat they had felt so positive and energetic, so happy, so good, but now they didn’t.

Me too, I said, that’s why we practice. So we can handle the weather.

In some places, last month was the coldest February ever. The snowfall is insane. There’s no end in sight. You don’t know how you can face another day, let alone another year. I hear you; I get it; I know the feeling. And so I always say the same thing.

Come to California.

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat
Sunday, March 22
Hazy Moon Zen Center
Los Angeles


  1. This made me laugh. I hope California gets enough rain with the given weather.
    “Me too, I said, that’s why we practice. So we can handle the weather.”
    Amen to that.
    Have a wonderful day.

    Comment by Simone — March 2, 2015 @ 2:50 pm

  2. The first thing I noticed when looking at photo, was a smiley face in the clouds above the bamboo trees in the middle. I guess when we can smile at our passing cloud thoughts, the clouds smile back.

    Comment by Katherine — March 2, 2015 @ 6:30 pm

  3. This post brought to mind a song by Stevie Ray Vaughn:

    In case you want a little blues rock with your morning. 🙂

    Comment by Kathryn — March 3, 2015 @ 8:03 am

  4. How tempting, to fly off to one of your retreats. But I must stay in the ice and cold of New York state and minister to my husband, who is elderly. My joy is in knowing that this, too, is my practice.
    I am there with you in spirit.

    Comment by Jude Smith — March 3, 2015 @ 12:18 pm

  5. I just finished listening to the audible version of Momma Zen, Maezen. Beautifully read by you, and like all of your writing, just what I needed to hear. My son is 25, and though I do wish I had had this book by my side from the time he was born, the lessons in it can be applied to any and all human interactions, including the one we have with ourselves. Your writing is a gift for which I am so grateful, thank you!

    Comment by Clare — March 4, 2015 @ 9:07 am

  6. Thank u for this. I am reading your Momma Zen book and have a 31/2 month old, being hard on myself when I am caught in that delusion of control…just how can I be right now U asked in ur book as the clouds roll in? Funny if I think about trying to control the weather, puts my strong arming into perspective. I would love to come to a day retreat soon. March 22nd won’t work. Is there one in April? Thank u for the wisdom U share.

    Comment by Mia miller — March 9, 2015 @ 11:11 am

  7. This is my correct email. Mistyped with last post.
    Thank u!

    Comment by Mia miller — March 9, 2015 @ 11:13 am

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