Tag Archives: buddhism

In the wood grain

fullsizeoutput_8aaLast night I was meditating, staring at the old WWII ammunition chest that belonged to my grandfather.  Inside the grain I saw the image of an old man leaning over a worktable.  The brain struggled to make sense of the wood swirls and, somehow, labeled a particular pattern in this way.  I looked away for a few minutes to unsee the old man, but it was no use. Each time I returned to the swirl there he was, still pouring over his project.  He could not be unseen once identified and labeled by the brain.

This is the way the mind works and it is difficult to see through the trap of the conditioned grasping, clutching, and labeling brain.   It is easy to get carried away by the thinking sickness, the checking and judging and struggle to make sense of things that, in and of themselves, are senseless.  This is not a reflection of our True self. It is social conditioning, a ravenous virus of habit mind that feeds on pain and suffering.

This morning during a 5am meditation the brain and eyes wanted to re-see the old man. . .to search, label, and cling to an image from the past. I did not react to the urge, only witnessed it and let it pass.

There never was an old man. There was only a random swirl in the wood grain. It was beautiful just as it was.


Top of the Mountain


I hiked at Phoenix Mountain Preserve on Good Friday with quail, lizards, saguaro, and chipmunks. At the top of the mountain I sat on the ground and waited for nothing.

A man and his two children –teenager and a tween—soon arrived.

What did they say when the reached the top of the mountain?

“Nice job, buddy,” the man told his son. “Alright, we’ll chill for a minute.”

They posed for photos of themselves against the cityscape: selfies, group shots, never turning to view the side that held no streets. What did they capture inside their camera?

I heard the flies buzz, felt the sand against my palms.

“Okay, let’s go down, we’re done,” said the man after three minutes.

A middle-aged couple soon came to the top.

“Is this it?” said the woman, disappointed. She searched for a higher point, found it, and led her husband to the next crest. I watched them climb and once they reached that peak, they immediately turned for the descent.

What did they find at the top of the mountain? More rocks and sand perhaps. Something they climbed for, but could not name and could not touch; something always there, but unseen, untouched, unheard, un-experienced by sleepwalkers.

What do you find at the top of the mountain?

Teaching of Jane’s Bamboo


In Paradise Valley I have a neighbor named Jane. Jane’s bamboo plants creep into my patio area, dropping dead leaves onto my rock garden.

Each week I clean the dead leaves from the rock garden; sometimes twice a week, sometimes more.

Within half an hour after each cleaning, a slight breeze blows and more dead leaves fall from Jane’s bamboo.

Jane’s bamboo carries a great teaching about the impermanence of all things.

The World is Already Spiritual


“Real spirituality is an acceptance of the world as spiritual already. So you don’t have to remold the world. For those who believe in a traditional view of mysticism, the world is mysterious. They can’t experience mysticism in its fullest sense because they expect too much. They become deaf and dumb to the teaching. It is highly mysterious for them. But it isn’t mysterious for those who actually relate to mysticism in its fullest sense. The reality of the world could be called self-secret. Something spiritual or mystical in this sense means something that strikes the truth. True spirituality is an absence of frivolity, an absence of belief in good and bad in the religious sense, an absence of religiosity. So spirituality seems to transcend the religion of an established church. It is that which is contained in the living situation, which speaks truth, which reminds you of the natural situation of things as they are.”


— Chögyam Trungpa, from dharma talks compiled as Work, Sex, Money: Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness

Understanding will not help you

whole-world_-single-flower“Zen means understanding your true self. “What am I?” That is a very important question: What is the one pure and clear thing? If you find the one pure and clear thing, you will have freedom from life and death. How is it possible to attain freedom from life and death? First, it is necessary that your direction becomes clear; if your direction is clear, then your life is clear. Why do you practice Zen? Why do you eat every day? You must find that!


“Put it all down –your opinion, your condition, and your situation. Moment to moment just do it. Then there’s no subject, no object, no inside, no outside. Inside and outside already become one. Then your direction and my direction, your action and my action are the same. . .


“Most people understand too much. This understanding cannot help your life. Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” So “I” makes “I.” If you are thinking, then what? Even if you have a big experience, if you cannot attain the one pure and clear thing, then all your understanding and experience cannot help your practice. Therefore Zen practice is not about understanding. Zen means only go straight, don’t know. “


–Zen Master Seung Sahn, The Whole World is a Single Flower



Many things help you with concentration, like chanting or bowing, so they can be useful parts of practice. But finally, there is no substitute for insightful seeing or for understanding how you create suffering for yourself; and in the process—in seeing into and through it—how to let go of it. It’s a life of awareness.

—Larry Rosenberg, “The Art of Doing Nothing

The seeker becomes

During the mornings, we have the world to ourselves. . .before human traffic stirs and fills the air with noise.  A lone bird cries somewhere, he and I, and no one else.  Oh that no one else would wake and ruin this peace.  And if this peace were constant it would no longer be called peace, would it?

early sun

The seeker becomes the knower because

the thing to be known is already there.

There is nothing else to know.

And there are not two things,

because the seeker is both the

knower and the known.

–Ramana Maharshi

Cross over it

Country Bridge 2

If you give up everything you own,

You will experience a reality that is not of this world.

What you think is a place of power and position,

Is really a prison.

Your lust for the things of this world makes it

Impossible for you to leave good and evil behind.

Your hair turned white without your permission

And in the end passions bring you to shame.


“Life is a bridge. Cross over it. Don’t install yourself upon it.”  –Jesus

Oak leaf tears – Where are you going?

oak leaves

Tears came yesterday morning while considering the oak leaf.  Bud in the spring, strong and green in the summer, yellowed in Fall and then brown and back to the ground to serve as mulch for earth and tree.  Human life is the same.  Where do you come from?  Mother.  Where will go when you die?  The ground. The ground is the end of “I-me-my” and the return to vastness: to the new grasses that push soil in April and become flowers, to the bodies of deer, bugs, and birds who eat the blooms. And back to Earth again, in another form, but always back to earth.  No fuzzy split apart soul, for we are not so special. We are blood, bone, hair, and skin, the stuff of Mother and Ground.  This is the miracle: birdsong through traffic sounds, a full moon so close it smells of glass and dust, a backache in the morning before coffee.

Now, some words from Dainin Katagiri.

“We always misunderstand what human life is. We always think that ripples as form are formalities; but ripples as form are not formalities. . .Sooner or later you will be fed up with your daily life.  You get up in the morning, wash your face, say, “Good morning,” have breakfast, have dinner, go to bed, get up in the morning, repeating the same things, but there is no quality to your life. . .Where are you going? Do you know where you are going? It should be clear. You are heading for emptiness.  Simply speaking, you are heading for death. It there anything that you can carry with you? Whatever your teacher gives you may make you happy, but we all have to die; it will not always be someone else’ death. It’s not anyone else’s problem but mine. And when I die there is nothing I can  carry with me.”      –from Returning to Silence


Knowing is closing

“The mind that knows is the mind that is closed. The mind that doesn’t know, is the mind that is open.”  – Zen Master Bon Soeng