Get woke

January 31, 2017

Last night as I was sitting, a sentence passed in front of me, seemingly out of nowhere:

“If you’ve let yourself sleep for that long, of course you’re afraid to wake up.”

It struck me as pretty right on, both in the general sense of challenging one’s lifelong beliefs as well as the more specific case of samadhi.


Highlights from Eido Frances Carney and Ryokan

March 14, 2015

Just finished Kakurenbo: Or the Whereabouts of Zen Priest Ryokan by Eido Frances Carney and thought I’d share the sections highlighted. Some are Carney’s words, some are Ryokan’s.

  • To see one’s limitations and the piling up of beliefs and projections heaped into an assembly that we think is ourselves and to see this mirrored against Zen practice convinces that compassion is at its core.
  • How do we create a Zen Buddhist ministry in the United States that can become organized enough to address the problems we face as a society, to hold the line against charlatans, to care for the health and welfare of the clergy and yet not become entangled in privilege and power?
  • First, innumerable labors brought us this food, we should know how it comes to us. Second, as we receive this offering we should consider whether our virtue and practice deserve it. Third, as we desire the natural order of mind, to be free from clinging, we must be free from greed. Fourth, to support our lives we take this food. Fifth, to attain our Way we take this food. First, this food is for the Three Treasures. Second, it is for our teachers, parents, nations, and all sentient beings. Third, it is for all beings in the six worlds. Thus, we eat this food with everyone. We eat to stop all evil, to practice good, to save all sentient beings and to accomplish our Buddha Way.
  • … all these contrivances against discomfort distance us from the natural world and cause us to forget the true human condition and the right of all creatures to exist. Such privilege allows us to exert power in ways that diminish the recognition of Buddha Nature and our openness to the totality of existence.
  • the question becomes: what is enough? What is too much? When does having become greed?
  • The Buddha, who lived on as little as possible, would come to say that the origin of violence is poverty.
  • The powerful stay in power whilst those who seek to confront it rise and fall. Someone who makes the news today quickly becomes yesterday’s forgotten hero…” (Spin Watch, March 27, 2005)
  • If the origin of violence is poverty, then the origin of poverty is privilege.
  • Let me drop a word of advice for believers of my faith. To enjoy life’s immensity, you do not need many things.
  • We want to identify with success, with accomplishment, and therefore we will be generous where we can see some sign of economic protection or the legitimate use of our money. We want our gifts to be insured. We want accountability for our judgments of worth. Thus, we will give to the successful organization but not to the homeless.
  • Americans must discard any notions of casual practice, must give our lives, fully committed to the Dharma. We cannot see Zen practice as faddish or exotic. It is work at its core.
  • Till darkness wrapped us complete.
  • Friends don’t actually give a gift to someone else; they give the gift to the friendship and both share and benefit equally in the exchange.
  • If Ryokan lost a game of Go, he paid his betting debt with calligraphy. Since he was a poor Go player, it was easy to get a piece of calligraphy out of him.
  • Keibun Roshi wrote that we should live in an invisible way and not seek to hand a body of work into the future. We should not seek fame, but live totally in the present so that our thoughts and actions are loaded, like the brush is with ink, in the expression of Buddha Nature.
  • We should not be concerned whether anything we have done will live beyond us. In other words, the mind should not attach to anything. If something we have done lives beyond us, it is none of our business. Fame does not actually belong to the person who becomes famous but only to those who make others famous.
  • If many ghosts dance in Ryokan’s poems, how glad they must be to have their bones still rattle.
  • There is a fine line between allowing people to work out their issues and really helping to relieve suffering. We don’t have all the answers.
  • It is wisdom to step aside even though one may feel regret.
  • Freedom seems to be in the ability to manage our commitments and to sustain older commitments with care when we decide to take on a new one. Happiness is found in the practice of devotion surrounding our work. As with the man in the sandpit, apart from situations of abuse, it is about not looking to escape the life we have but embracing the work we are doing.
  • This is why commitment or vow is such a treasure. The person chooses to be constant to a particular way because it is true for their lives, and then she continually chooses it, not just once, but again and again.
  • We misunderstand compassion and misinterpret empathy as a standard for ethical behavior.
  • Without this balance, we can become invested in our own needs and performance while forgetting there are others in the animal, vegetable, and mineral world. Or we can become so outwardly directed, perhaps even to the point of interfering, as to fail to see our own shortcomings. We must ask: for whom do we practice? We have the paradox of the self in the world, focusing inwardly in order to manifest outwardly. The inward look is the outward view.
  • Straight glances of honest eyes break a pile of swords. Strides of steady feet scorn the heat of boiling water.
  • This plainest truth must be implanted time and time again,

Permanent happiness doesn’t exist…

June 29, 2014

“… nothing can bring us permanent happiness or unhappiness.”

– Bhante Gunaratana



July 27, 2013

Live life without regrets.

Don’t do something you’ll regret later.

Don’t dwell on what you regret about life.

All of these are common attitudes toward regret, that shame we feel at something we did (or didn’t do) at some point in the past. We’ve all got regret and I find myself traveling with it pretty closely most days. I regret having failed at writing that book I traveled for, researched, and started writing. I regret not focusing more intently on my music production ten years ago because if I had kept with it, I think I could have gained some level of notice and success. I regret getting complacent careerwise and as a result feeling stuck, unable to do what I’d really like to do. I regret at letting fear and anxiety get the best of me and prevent me from trying new things.

I thought about it a bit recently and I’m not entirely convinced there’s anything terribly wrong with regret. I think people consider regret a way to beat oneself up, to be self-critical and negative about choices we’ve made. But here’s the thing: regret is just another thought. It can be acknowledged without being assigned a negative (or positive) value. I found that when I started to look at my regret not as something I should try and avoid, but rather something to analyze and learn from, something interesting emerged. I found that most of my regrets were based on decisions I’d made that reflected what I thought someone else would advise me to do and not what I really felt good doing.

For instance, I regret not finishing that book because the subject matter I was writing about was something that was truly important to me. Instead, I let my fear of not writing the absolute perfect book mentally sabotage me.

My regret about not making music is a regret in making the decision to do things I thought I should do (freelance in order to bring more money in, clean house even if no one was coming over the next day, making a big dinner rather than settling one night for a quick microwave dinner).

I regret being complacent about my career because of fear of failure, going broke, and losing everything. Good old fatalistic thinking at work.

Regret is what happens when we make a decision based on anxiety or fear rather than what the current moment actually calls for.

Thinking back even further, I recall a number of times where I was kind of a dick to someone. Those times have stuck with me for years and years, even if they were just a simple choosing of one person over another in high school. I deeply regret acting out of the fear of not fitting in or picking the “wrong” friends even if it was only one or two times where that particular anxiety took control of me.

When realized properly, the regret we feel about past decisions can help shape our current and future decisions. Note that this doesn’t mean being ruled by our regret or making a decision only because we worry we’ll regret it later. Rather, let’s realize our past patterns, the types of actions or decisions we’ve regretted, and figure out why we don’t change those patterns now.

I’d love to hear about your past regret, the fear you acted on that caused it, and whether you’ve been able to change your behavior as a result.


The Wizard’s wisdom

January 21, 2013

“… those who are contented have nothing to regret and nothing more to wish for.”

– The Wizard of Oz in The Lost Princess of Oz


Things won’t always be this good (or bad).

July 30, 2012

The most important thing I’ve learned recently in my (severely lacking) practice is this:

If things are going well, that will eventually not be the case.

I realize that sounds extremely pessimistic, but it’s just the flip side of “don’t worry, things will get better.” The point being, of course, that that current moment is fleeting and things are constantly shifting and changing. “Good” days will have to end, but that’s OK, because the “bad” ones will, too. There’s something oddly comforting about accepting that things will be worse at some point, possibly very soon. In fact, I’d venture to say it’s more comforting than knowing that things are going to get better during a rough patch.



Inevitable pain

March 7, 2012

It is possible to experience the inevitable pain of life in a straightforward, uncomplicated way. If pain is inevitable, life is a lot easier if we don’t resist it.


– Gil Fronsdal, “Issue at Hand”