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

lundi 12 janvier 2015

We're all in this together

What a strange, tumultuous five days it has been here in Paris. It is no exaggeration to say that I've never experienced anything like it, here or anywhere.

We've gone from stunned horror and outrage to raw fear and anxiety to awe and amazement and much, much more within such a brief time frame, beginning with the violent, murderous attack at Charlie Hebdo around midday on Wednesday and culminating with the magnificent marches throughout France (and elsewhere in the world) yesterday (and Saturday). In between, on Thursday and Friday, there was more murder and mayhem. Those are the terrible facts, and because of them the lives of the victims and their families are changed forever, as are the lives of us all, each and every one of us.

And yet, something unthinkably marvelous has arisen from something unthinkably horrific. What I have found so astounding is what can be called a spontaneous "awakening" to the oneness of all beings by much of the population: Je suis Charlie.

I saw it yesterday in the people packed with me in the Métro on the way to the march. The crowd was quiet and solemn, soft and dignified, without drama, yet fully alive and aware of the moment and the event, the place and time and extraordinary circumstance in the middle of a Sunday afternoon in early January. There was something both transcendent and grounded about it.

The notion of "Je suis Charlie" is, from a purely intellectual perspective, incomprehensible: How can anyone "be" Charlie (Hebdo)? But this is not by any means an intellectual statement. It's a logic-defying "spiritual" view that no one can define but everyone can experience; in fact, any attempted definition only serves to deflate and divide, while the "je suis" formulas (je suis Charlie, je suis police, je suis Jewish, je suis Muslim, etc.) are defiantly, subversively all-inclusive. They "elevate" the infinitely small and personal individual to the infinitely great and impersonal whole in which we are all one.

Whether you marched yesterday or not, whether you say Je suis Charlie or not, whether you "agree" or "disagree" with whatever position, you are a part of that infinitely great and impersonal whole. And within that whole, the only thing we share are our differences, in all their splendid (im)perfection! We're all in this together.

As with all things, this Je suis Charlie experience of oneness will change. The dynamic of unity and peacemaking will, alas, fade. But that so many have experienced this non-separation, however minutely and fleetingly, will not be without consequence.

mercredi 7 janvier 2015

Je suis Charlie


lundi 5 janvier 2015

Every moment is a new year

Time, once again, to acknowledge the conventional "passage of time" that we call the "new year." It's a great moment, in fact, when many of us reflect on what has been and what is to come, when we express our hopes and wishes for ourselves and others.

It's also a fine moment to stop and look right here, now, wherever you are: What is "it" right here? Who is "it" right here? When is "it" right now?

"If the doors of perception were cleansed," noted William Blake, "everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite."

That "cleansing" is actually not about "dirty" or "clean," but rather about opening the doors so that we can see and appreciate things as they are in all their extraordinary ordinary splendor.

Every moment is a new year, every breath a new life, every heartbeat a step into a new world.

vendredi 28 novembre 2014

Giving thanks for it all

Back after traveling to the edge of the continent for a few days of practice in Belfast. Struck by the pale, almost thread-bare northern light cast there beside the Irish Sea and its swift descent almost as soon as afternoon had begun. Night was suddenly upon us and I hadn't even had a cup of tea yet.
So many reference points lost to the twilight.
Now Paris, again and as ever.
The news of course is the same all over, dawn and dusk and darkness, life and love and their torments and joys, coming and going nowhere but here, yearning for what we don't and won't ever have, nothing to win or lose.
A thought all the same for my favorite holiday from my native land, Thanksgiving. Whatever the "meaning" and the twisted history of the fête and the land, the essential objective remains for me: sharing a fine meal with family or friends. And remembering an offering of thanks for it all.

dimanche 16 novembre 2014

Thich Nhat Hanh suffers brain hemorrhage

Word has come from Plum Village that the Vietnamese Zen Master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh has suffered a severe brain hemorrhage and is in critical condition in a hospital in Bordeaux.

Thich Nhat Hanh, 88, is one of the greatest Buddhist leaders of our time, an author, lecturer and popular peace advocate who has spread mindfulness meditation techniques around the world. His peacemaking work began in the mid-1960s, when he was exiled from Vietnam during the war and settled in France, where established Plum Village. His efforts to generate peace and reconciliation inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 and to call him "an apostle of peace and nonviolence."

In a message urging "collective support" for their master, his monks and nuns write that he is being nourished by "each of our mindful breaths and mindful steps." They continue: "Please continue to enjoy the blue sky'' for him, "the fresh morning air and the small pathways in nature," and "especially, please enjoy each other, your loved ones, and our togetherness" for him.

The message concludes: "If possible, you can dedicate a day to eat vegetarian as a way to generate compassion to send to Thầy. You can reconcile with your loved ones, or to let go of your resentment of someone and write them a love letter. And in the same Winter Retreat spirit being practiced at our monasteries, you can participate in your local Sangha more, support the collective energy of mindfulness, consume less and reduce your time online."

vendredi 14 novembre 2014


This (apparent) absence from zenscribe has been going on for months now.
So sorry!

I had stopped posting while we've been developing an updated look and content for the Wild Flower website, with the blog migrating there, too, and given a new look. But as these things often do, it has taken much longer than we'd expected. Probably won't be up and running until early 2015...

So, for the moment, we'll keep working with what we have and I'll be posting here. Stay tuned! And I'll offer you a little something to keep in mind from this experience: It's better not to conduct your life via the things you don't have. Or, phrased differently: It's better to conduct your live via the things you have.

Thank you for checking in.

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.


You won’t go
to paradise tonight
or tomorrow

But look
for a moment

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.


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

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


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"