zenscribe

That which is before you is it, in all its fullness, utterly complete.
--- Huang Po

samedi 26 juillet 2014

Wherever you are

Off to Portugal for a weeklong retreat.
Join us wherever you are...

jeudi 24 juillet 2014

Coming down to earth

Just a thought that has come to me via the late great Tibetan master Chogyam Trungpa:

"The only way to experience things truly, fully, and properly is through the practice of meditation, creating a direct link with nature, with life, with all situations. When we speak of being highly developed spiritually, this does not mean that we float in the air. In fact, the higher we go, the more we come down to earth."

What else is there to say?

vendredi 11 juillet 2014

Serving at the World Cup

Someone recently passed along this quote to me (from someone named Rachel Naomi Remen):

"Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life:
When you help, you see life as weak.
When you fix, you see life as broken.
When you serve, you see life as whole."

Among the questions these words may raise: What does "serve" mean and what does "whole" mean? And who am "I"?
Amid these World Cup days that have been captivating millions and millions of people the world over all at once (something amazing in and of itself, to be addressed in a later post), an example arises again and again: The players who "serve" in the interest of their teams have had far more outstanding results in the tournament than those who play for themselves, who want to be the "one" who "helps" or "fixes" the situation. It's no accident that the two teams left standing to play in the final Sunday (Argentina and Germany) have played collectively, the "stars" putting their skills to work for the common "good."
What if we all did that?

mercredi 25 juin 2014

The passing of Malgosia Braunek Roshi

It is with heavy heart that I must write again about the death of a great teacher in our lineage: Malgosia Jiho Braunek Roshi died on Monday at the age of 67 in Warsaw after fighting cancer for a little more than a year.
Although we saw each other barely once a year, I learned so very much from her. I always listened closely when she spoke - which wasn't so often - because there was always a pearl or a diamond in her words. And there was her smile! And her laughter! And her tears! And her eyes! And that vast, open, warm heart! She was wise and compassionate and gorgeous inside and out.
Instead of adding more of my words, here are links to two fine reflections on her by two other teachers in our lineage: one, by my teacher, Catherine Genno Pagès Roshi, and another by Eve Marko Roshi.

vendredi 20 juin 2014

Almost-summer gladness

Another fine almost-summer day here finds me happy again to offer another poem to my zenscribe comrades, near and far.
Many thanks for comments on previous posting... Glad we're back, having never left.


ANNALS OF ASTRONOMY

You won’t go
to paradise tonight
or tomorrow

But look
now
for a moment

Constellations
of you
are new here again

lundi 16 juin 2014

An offering for Bloomsday

It took Bloomsday to bring me back to these pages.
If you're reading this, I owe you deep thanks for keeping zenscribe in mind even without any sign of life and words here.
So with gratitude, I offer a poem from my forthcoming book, Here We Are, to mark Mr. Bloom's never-ending day in Joyce's Ulysses, that timeless story of everyone and everything, just as you are, just as it is, here and now.


THE WHOLE STORY

Who you are
is waiting here
barefoot and speechless
unknown perpetually
in your sequence of tenses

Inverted-pyramid constructions
of why and how
you are here
miss what
rests always
not beyond

Sun still high and half the moon
chalked in
is where it starts and ends
now

Take it all along

You are
the whole story
and all of its parts

jeudi 10 avril 2014

Farewell Peter Matthiessen

"Zen is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake," the Zen master and great American writer Peter Matthiessen once said. "Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well.''
Until he died on Saturday at age 86, Peter served as a sterling example of staying alive and being awake. His was an extraordinarily rich life. He was a prize-winning writer of both fiction and nonfiction who explored the wilds of nature as well as those of our inner life, and championed endangered species and the oppressed, particularly Native Americans.
Here are some links to get a feel for him:

A profile
An obituary
Some words about him from his teacher, Bernie Glassman (Peter was Bernie's first dharma successor)
An excerpt from a radio interview in which Peter discusses his Zen practice

His last novel was published on Tuesday, three days after his death. Called "In Paradise," it is the story of a group of people who come together for a retreat at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. Peter had been trying to write this book for nearly 20 years, since his own participation in such a retreat at Auschwitz in 1996, at which I first met him. How is it possible to write anything about this place? we both wondered. Eventually, we both did it - or tried to - for better or worse.
His was a grand life of adventure and inspiration. On the last postcard he sent to me, about a year ago, he wrote that he hoped we would have the opportunity to see each other once again "before the smoke clears."
On Sunday, after learning of his death, I sat in my garden in the city, beside the little apple tree in bloom, the spring birdsong rising and falling with the breeze. It could have been the Himalayas, it could have been Long Island, it could have been Poland, it could have been New Guinea or any of the lands near and far that Peter visited and loved and appreciated moment to moment. But it was right here that I sat with him in the afternoon, wishing him safe passage on his journey, now that the smoke has cleared.

mardi 25 février 2014

Easter in Portugal with special guest Catherine Genno Pagès Roshi

Ten years ago, in October 2004, the first seeds of our Wild Flower Zen community in Portugal were planted when the Porto Buddhist Union invited my teacher, Roshi Catherine Genno Pagès, to visit for the first time. I accompanied Genno Roshi for that ground-breaking trip, and have since returned alone to Portugal year after year, cultivating those first seeds and helping them flourish with the help of innumerable dharma friends and practitioners in Portugal.

Now, it is my immense pleasure to announce that for the first time since that 2004 visit, Genno Roshi is returning to Portugal as the special guest of our Easter retreat near Lisbon, April 17-21. Genno Roshi is founder and spiritual director of the Dana Zen community in Paris and is among the leading Zen Buddhist teachers in Europe and the West. This retreat offers a rare opportunity to not only meet a great Zen master, but also to experience directly the living, embodied lineage of which we are all a part and to share with Roshi the fruits that have matured in Portugal since her first visit.

I'm hoping that the Portuguese Wild Flower Sangha can thank Roshi for her years of devotion to the dharma by welcoming her with our own wild, rich and deep practice that has blossomed thanks to her. Please join us for this exceptional retreat. For info and registration: wildflower.pt@gmail.com

mardi 18 février 2014

Generosity

It's been days since my last entry. Nothing special to note here tonight except this, which came to me via email, among a variety of "inspirational" quotes, and I couldn't let it slip away without sharing it with my zenscribe friends:

Generosity is the ornament of the world.
Through generosity, one turns back from the lower realms.
Generosity is the stairway to the higher realms.
Generosity is the virtue that produces peace.
From "The Sutra of the Recollection of the Noble Three Jewels"

dimanche 2 février 2014

The same again: Happy Birthday James Joyce

Feb. 2 is so many things for so many people: an ancient pagan day of celebrating light, as the days begin to grow longer after winter's long darkness; a Christian day of celebrating Christ's "presentation to the temple;" a French festive day marked by making crêpes; Groundhog Day in America, which is another version of celebrating light and the coming of spring... It also happens to be the day James Joyce was born, in 1882, and the day on which his books A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (in 1914) and Ulysses (in 1922, on Joyce's 40th birthday) were published.
So happy 132nd birthday, Mr. Joyce.
And in case you're interested in a taste of Joyce, here's a recording of him reading from his last book, Finnegans Wake, in 1929. A wonderful, rare example of language as music, written and performed by a master. I call this literature as koan, for like koans it opens us to a direct experience of the true nature of all things.

mardi 28 janvier 2014

Rest in peace, Pete Seeger

Sad day: The indefatigable songman and peace activist Pete Seeger died today, at the age of 94. He was a national treasure for all those Americans who stood up and spoke out, who refused to let the country pursue its hateful ways of war and oppression. His banjo was decorated with the message: "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender."
Many of us grew up with his songs in our heads, and his greatest gift, perhaps, was inspiring everyone to sing along, to follow his joyful songline.
"Realize that little things lead to bigger things," he once said. "And this wonderful parable in the New Testament: the sower scatters seeds. Some seeds fall in the pathway and get stamped on, and they don’t grow. Some fall on the rocks, and they don’t grow. But some seeds fall on fallow ground, and they grow and multiply a thousand fold. Who knows where some good little thing that you’ve done may bring results years later that you never dreamed of?"

mardi 14 janvier 2014

Yes in hazy moonlight

There was a hazy moon in the dark sky tonight. I noticed it earlier this evening when I was returning home after a day at work. And I saw it last night, too. But each time, when I checked for it later, the haze was nowhere to be seen. Only a brilliant moon remained. All alone with me.
From where I sit now in my warm house, in a chair at a desk tapping on this keyboard, the night seems to be so deeply quiet, as if it's there but invisible under a blanket of silence.
And yesterday I came upon a book designer's cover for Joyce's great "Ulysses." The lettering looked like this: UlYssES
Like hazy moonlight and the night, yes is always there.

mercredi 8 janvier 2014

Keep touching the ground

Back at work and other activities this week after the traditional holiday "break.'' Seems a bit strange, like I've been away for a long while, and strangely just the same, as if I've never left. I guess the truth is that both are true...
I've also been thinking how lucky I am to have "activities" like work and family and household tasks, which at times I consider to be burdensome obligations. How nice it would be to have "total freedom" to write and to devote myself "fully" to cultivating my Zen practice and work as a teacher! Actually, though, I know from experience that the way my life unfolds - just as it is, busy or not - is really, truly the very best "place" for me to "fully" live an awakened life. Right here at my office desk is the ground of awakening!

Yesterday I came across this perfect view from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are three precious jewels in Buddhism, and the most important of these is Sangha. The Sangha contains the Buddha and the Dharma. A good teacher is important, but sisters and brothers in the practice are the main ingredient for success. You cannot achieve enlightenment by locking yourself in your room. Transformation is possible only when you are in touch. When you touch the ground, you can feel the stability of the earth and feel confident.

Please stay "in touch" all together in the coming year, my friends.

mercredi 1 janvier 2014

Completion and renewal

As 2013 has come to a close and we enter 2014, it's a great moment to remind ourselves where we have been and also to look clearly at where we are: at both an end and a beginning.
Think of a circle, which is both a completion (2013 is complete) and a renewal (a new year, 2014, is starting, not even 24 hours old yet). The possibilities for awakening and embodying loving actions are thus endless, whatever the circumstances, at every moment of life!
May we deepen our practice together in the coming year, realizing the full potential in our lives and enriching all those around us.

vendredi 29 novembre 2013

After Thanksgiving

Fog started rolling in last night, hovering along our street as my son and I returned late from a Thanksgiving feast. He noted the odd brilliance it cast, affording a seemingly incongruous clarity to the briskly chilly night lit only by street lamps. We were filled to the brim with autumn's singular pleasures. And most thankful for it all.
Fog remained over the city this morning as I descended through a forest of high-rise office towers to my own place of work for the day job. Air was warmer, but it was as pristinely clear as it was last night.
And now, I'm as thankful, too, for the unexpected invitation to the Thanksgiving dinner, the shared pleasures of food and drink and conversation, a photo of a wild and beautiful beach across the Atlantic sent via text message from another Thanksgiving celebration, and a foggy autumn night and day in Paris.