Sunday, December 26, 2010

Late, as always - But Merry Christmas / Happy Winter Break Y'all

What ever this season may represent to you, I hope you find some joy, hope, peace or see the great matter, your choice. I spent the day mostly in action in the kitchen from morn till night. Exhausting but rewarding.

Bows and bows.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Real Mud

"It was all I could do to say as few hurtful things as possible."

Friday, November 5, 2010


I may well stumble through this.

Saw a post that introduced a "new" concept to me, entheogen. Seems to be the use of new chemical constructions to play with the brain, i.e., trip.

I think that is a foolish path. The brain has evolved to present our consiousness the information needed for our body to survive. I won't insist it is the "truth" that we normally experience, but it will say it works, as averaged over the millennia of our evolution.

What I feel certain about is that tripping is never, ever, "closer to the truth."

Our sensory system and our consciousness system is made up of biological circuits. "wet electronics" if you will. If we pour odd substances into the soup of ourselves it will cause bizarre conduction paths and twisted images and feeling and thoughts will result. In the same way tinkering with the settings in a camera will yield fantastical pictures. But this is not closer to the truth of the object out from the lens.

And, I would wager, that all tripping experiences are objectively farther from the truth than sobriety when you are otherwise healthy.

The clearest meaning of entheogenisis is that someone is trying to make money from you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Predisposition for life.... Consciousness after death

It seems clear to me that existence (i.e. "the universe") has a complex, awesome and wonderful disposition to yield humans. When one considers the number of things that have to just happen to interact with one another in the way that yields us, it is mind boggling. But the indisputable (I think) fact is, it does. The main evidence: we are here. This planet swarming with people and other "life" is just what happens in a universe made of the stuff this universe is made of (e.g. what we currently understand as matter and energy behaving the the strange ways they do). 

When you remove anthropomorphic notions from statements of how things happen, such as white blood cells "seek out" viruses, or natural "selection", the magnitude of the improbability of our existence is astounding... and yet, here we are. 

Consciousness is a description we use for this experience we have of "I." But consciousness is seated in the interaction of particularly joined, accumulated, aggregated matter. That is, a brain. When the brain is gone, de-aggregated, non-functional, I think consciousness is gone.  There remains in the universe the potential for aggregation into a new consciousness (a baby), and the matter that was aggregated as the old consciousness returns to the universe, but a specific, identifiable link between the old and the new is not suggested.

The stuff of one wave is falling is the same as the stuff of a new wave arising, but they are not the same waves.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Boundless Ignorance

By being truthful but skill-less I have become, I think, the cause of another train wreck in my family. There is some lesson lurking in this I can barely see. Some aspect of considering how others will react to what I say rather than just focusing on allowing I was honest. Seems so obvious in retrospect, but the real trick is how to address the "honest" reaction before it can cause harm.

With people you are close to, you communicate your honesty in the set of your face or the posture in your body. It's more than just controlling your words. It's what you communicate with your being. I suppose the only way to make your full being-reaction skillful is to practice sitting and doing careful audits on where you are in relation to the eightfold path. All aspects of the path actually do, I guess, inform your being, give rise to the set of your face or the posture of your body when confronted with adversity (or anything).

I can't just focus on words, or deeds. Its the full life, fully integrated, that does harm or not. I've got to look at it all. I've got to strive for the right action with every step but yet remain fluid.

My ignorance is indeed boundless.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mara Attacks

I had two days of very focused practice. Yesterday Mara stopped by and attacked. Now I feel shame, self-disgust, paranoia and anger. Picking up. Brushing off. Another step. Am I close to real change, or just creating drama to kid myself?

Reading about the dark night of the soul convinces me I may be near real change.

Thinking I may be near real change convinces me I'm fooling myself.

This is where a teacher/guide would be handy. Gotta find me one of those.

Bows to all you good people.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Suffering Over What is Not. Who Is Responsible.

WARNING: A bit of a ramble.

A friend of mine has trouble relating to her father. To her he seems quite lonely and shut down, focused only on a news channel all day long, and engaging in very paranoid and depressing conversations about the state of the world when she calls.

She is reluctant to freely respond to this person he is. She is in so much pain about the the father he is not.

It is so much easier to see the outlines of someone else situation than my own. In her I see she must differentiate the pain over what he is not from how she might like to be with what he is. Her fretting over what he is not, gets in the way of enjoying who he is (perhaps not "enjoying" but at least reacting honestly in the moment to who he is).

What he is not is all hers - is all her. No one can actually be *not* something. How can I blame someone for not being kind? How does one actively not be kind - not be xyz? Everyone is always not being everything and so, has no responsibility for not being any particular thing.

Sure, maybe this is just clever semantics, but I think there's a nut of importance in it.

If I think "he was mean." That's fine. Maybe I've got unrealistic perceptions, or maybe he was indeed mean. There is a chance "he" has some responsibility in that. But he has no responsibility for "he was not kind." He was also not green, not flying 20,000 miles an hour, not a woman, not singing a song. There a million things he was not. He can not actively not do something. So all my suffering over what he is not, is all my responsibility. If I was really aware of myself, I would say "I wish he were kinder." Now it is clearly all mine to deal with.

This leads to another idea. You could say "well, kindness is the opposite of meanness, so you are saying the same thing." That, I feel these days, is a huge fallacy I have been operating under all my life. There are no true opposites in these things. Opposite are a semantic and organizational convenience, not a fact. The universe is not in balance because there are equal amounts of love and hate in existence. That ying yang circle thing is not true. The biological processes and brain pathways that get exited by sensory input that bring us to feel hatred or anger are not one side of a processes that also bring us to feel love or peace. Each emotion, each judgment is its own absolute "thing." There is no collection of dipoles balancing.

What does this mean to me practically? Perhaps don't try to balance, strive to respond. When something or someone annoys, differentiate my disappointment/suffering over my unfulfilled wishes of what they are not (that is my shit) from my spontaneously arising response to what they really are. Was my shit is out of the way, I might be surprised at how appropriate that response is.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Compassion & Anger

Jordan asks in his last blog [here] "Is my intention kindness, love, compassion like that which one might have for a small child?"

I wonder if it useful to be clear that there is a difference from feeling and action. And, given that clarity (if it is there) where does "intention" fall? Is an action "compassionate" because of some intrinsic nature of the action, or is it "compassionate" because of the feeling in the person undertaking the action? This may be some tricky ground. I think one can judge an action, but perhaps not along strict moralistic lines. Something like, did the action help in the moment? Did the action move the situation along so that all benefited as much as was understandable in the moment?

Therefore, I guess I don' believe in compassionate actions. Compassion is far too complicated an idea. It is not immediate. It is thought out and pondered over. What may have been an action taken for a whole variety of emotional impetus, including anger, can be judged as compassionate even if there was no such forethought in the actor.

We can, I think, also speak of true compassion. True compassion, it is said, is like a hand reaching back in the night for a pillow. I still haven't gotten to the bottom of that explanation, but it seems to me it is saying compassion has no thought. It does what is needed for "the good" in the moment, and it is never quite clear.

I think I as a Buddhist cannot, and should not encourage people to have any particular type of feeling. I should not care what emotion a person may be under when they take action. My focus should be on the effect of the action. I should learn to practice seeing how what I do, including what I speak, or write, impacts the world, did things improve or did things go wrong? Did the wheel turn?

If I can learn to see what I am doing, I can help the world along even in a fit of anger.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Two Camps in my Brain

Harry got my wheels turning with his post on vow and intent

For my own sanity I've been starting to look at the origin of emotion, and its links to the "sub conscious" (or to put it in less Freudian terms, the activities of our minds/brains not available to our awareness). What I have found so far is that these two camps he speaks of are co-resident and struggling(?) in our minds.

Both camps are skills that have given us evolutionary bumps (advantage)and engendered survival. One (grossly simplified) is the cortex by which we do complex "what if" pondering and detailed analysis in attempting to predict the future. The other is a "lower", or more evolutionarily aged brain system that tends to function outside of awareness, but whose decisions, (or, acknowledging a less conscious driver, "outputs") get thrown "up" to the cortex. Those decisions, I think, tend to feel like direct knowledge or intuition.

The cortex activity tends, I think, to get in our way. It takes real input, mixes in a fountain of imagining, and yields unhappiness, or euphoria, or other "false" state.

What interests me (and what I seem to currently understand the lesson of Buddhism, or at least zazen) is that it seems to take a cortex to quiet a cortex. We are hooked by logical arguments to us, or within us, about the value of zazen, and strive to learn how to drop such value decisions, to stop picking and choosing.

The low brain knows to reach back for the pillow at night, and the cortex is troubled to know what rules or values make that the right thing to do.

But the high brain (cortex) also has some value added tricks up its sleeve in addition to the intellectual curiosity that gets most people hooked in zazen to start with. Things like compassion are very high brain constructs, and very beneficial.

We often like to simply think of the brain as one organ with a uniform purpose. It seems that it really is a complexly evolved layering of systems, some which have a long history in other animals and mammals, and some which are rarely seen in other species.

Perhaps enlightenment will be revealed as the suddenly developed ability to see the action of the cortex in our lives and not be pulled along in its tide of anticipation, worry, and picking and choosing. Perhaps it is the ability to have an identity that is a more holistic composite of all the brain systems and events rather that just the hyper analytical cortex. Perhaps it is like the story of Helen Keller who suddenly one day just "got" what all that input was indicating.

Early ideas, but exciting for me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What Good is this Sit?

I currently believe that zazen does nothing in itself. It is not the "vehicle of change."

I think the point of zen is to live without picking and choosing. To live without clinging to ideas and ideals. To take what is here now in your face, and at your feet, and all the other metaphors of immediacy, and grasp that this is all "it" is. The wood is wood until it is ash. Then it is ash, it is not "was-wood."

Zazen is a great barometer of how well that's going for you, it ain't necessarily what gets you there.

I find I have tons of trouble these days just sitting for 30 minutes. Seems almost laughable when written. "What, you can't just sit for 30 minutes? What's your problem? You call yourself a Buddhist?" Fair engout, but what does it *mean* that I can't sit for 30? It means that my "self" has not accepted "now" as reality. It's churning so hard on things that are not real and are not here and are not now that it can't abide "just sitting."

The intellect is important to we humans because it is with the intellect that we must tee up this shot. We must conceive of the 100 foot pole. We must frame the idea of climbing through the window. But then we must abandon intellect. We must swing with our entire life. We must jump into the nothing around the pole. We must pull our tail through the window without a concept of tail and window to work with.

At least that's how I suppose it should be. That is all intellectual pondering, of course. I won't know what it's like until I stop the pondering, and step fully onto the path of no-hinderance. I think my ego has been partnering with Mara to keep me from this. Secretly giving me "goals" and "embarrassment" about zazen to trip me up. They are conspiring to bind me up in endless strings of thoughts, excuses and pondering.

Who can give me one true word to cut through to the gate-less gate? Come take this seat.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Nothing to Attain.

A light on in the house does not change the landscape of the surrounding fields. No matter how bright it shines, or what newly is revealed. The fields are unchanged.There is no shift. Nothing is achieved or attained by the clearer vision. The sun rises the next day, and bugs crawl. All is as it was whether the windows are clear or dirty, or the light is bright or dim.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Shibaraku desu ne.

I haven't written in so long. It feels quite awkward, like I owe an explanation or report.
Seems I've got two more people following me since I went on this un-intentional hiatus.
Perhaps people get more out of what I don't write than what I do?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Drummer

Just saw "The Drummer" on an airplane. I really enjoyed it. There are some hard edges to it, but not so very different from real life.

"The Drummer" is a pretty common search term, so look for the movie directed by Kenneth Bi with a main character of "Sid."

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Eleventh Picture

Let's not cross alone to the other shore (though we must).
Leave bread crumbs so that the smallest mouse can follow you.
Be not inscrutable, clever and "wise."
Be plain, straight forward and simple.

It takes great effort to realize there is no place to go.
Never forget this when asked a question.
To much talk of moons and fingers could earn you "the finger", and well deserved.
No, you can't get them there in a single sentence.
But you don't need to protect your secret with special language and incantations.

Remember where you started, and what a great mystery the gateless gate can be.
Like the hand of charity reaching for the pillow at night
Swoop in with exactly the right thing to say for the need at hand.
When a pillow is needed, don't offer a book.

There should be an 11 ox herding picture.
It should show old Hotei sitting fat and happy in the market place, drinking from his gourd
Telling stories to all the common people
Stories that get them all a half step closer to wondering where the ox might be.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

No Locks

Inspired by Uku's latest posting.....

There are no locks on the box.
There is no special combination you must know to get in.
It is just here and now. There is no hindrance.
Not the image flying from you to the mirror to your eye.
Just you, the mirror, and your eye.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


I had some spare time so I went to doddle through my (current) favorite Zen sites. There's a holy war raging over at Brad's (Hardcore Zen). I find that makes me really nervous and sends me back thousands of years to my childhood (how often does *that* happen?). I was either cowering or a peacemaker in a rather messed up family unit.

I would like the Zen community not to be that way. That is, so argumentative. That's naive, I know. People are argumentative. None the less, the feeling I have is that I don't like it. If limited to the five basic feelings, I'd say its anger and fear. Someone has told me anger is always proceeded by fear, so I guess I've got to bottom out on fear. Fear of what? Maybe that the fundamental issue I thought we Zennist are pursuing is really a crock. Not strong enough to overcome, or convince practitioners to "let it go" when it gets going like its going at Brad's.

What a large tangle of poop it is (that's going on at Brad's). So to interceed, 'cause I am the peacemaker, I don the personna of Thing 1 and Thing 2, trying to pour a few lines of humor and introspection into the fight to calm it a bit. Such vanity! And then pain when no one seems to notice. I've been acting out my old role with certainty, and to the same result. What a silly goose.

The value of my attachment to the role of peacemaker, trying to make the "adults" stop fighting, is questionable, but I enjoy the impish response it brought. Here for fun, and posterity, are the musings of my alter egos Thing 1 and Thing 2, with some commentary unless you can't just tell how clever this stuff is.

Dead roadside Buddha.
Fleshy bones lay in the dust.
Watch hungry dogs fight.
Allusion to "if you find the Buddha on the road, kill him"

Allusion to the book "Zen Flesh Zen Bones" which itself comes from Bodhidharma's famous transmission to his student's, one of which cut off his arm.

"hungry dogs fight" is the thin tip of a wedge of allusion to a much vaster meaning. In Kruosawa's "Jojimbo" we see the movie start with a dog trotting by through clouds of dust with a hand in his mouth. The whole tone of one clan fighting another is captured in this, along with the role of Mifune's peacemaker (okay, body-count machine, really). And, of course, the link back to "flesh".

Furious minds spin
Webs of detailed argument
A fat horse's fart
Not much "hidden" in this one.

A bit of a nod to "O, what a tangled web we weave..."

The last line is a nod to Basho (or is it Basui?) who likes to refer us back to the natural and immediate, its-all-good, Buddha-is-a-shit-stick, aspect of Zen.

"A rap on the nose can be, quite continental,
'cause dharma is a girl's best friend
A zafu is grand but it won't pay the rental
On your humble flat, or help you at the automat
the spark grows cold as we all grow old
And we all lose our lives in the end
But square cut or pear shaped
This bright pearl won't lose it's shape
Dharma is a girl's best friend"
Theft, of course, from the *old* song "Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend." It links into part of the allegations flying around over at Brad's blog regarding someone who was, allegedly, struck on the nose. In light of the history of striking in Zen, it seems trivial to fret so much over it. There are koans ending "Answer 'Yes' and I will hit you 30 times. Answer 'No' and I will hit you 30 times. Do not answer and I will hit you 30 times." But the offense of striking is clearly context driven.

Yes "square cut or pear shaped" doesn't quite fit into the gemology of pearls but it was close enough.

"One Bright Pearl" was one of the first topics I engaged in on a blog (Harry's, I think) and it has been one of my favorite ever since. How can these guys spend soooo much time fighting in the middle of "One Bright Pearl" (also, of course, a chapter in Shobogenzo)?.

To post, or not to post--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous comments
Or to take arms against a sea of bloggers
And by opposing end them. To lie, and sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say we stop
The broadband, or the thousand natural shocks
That Dish(tm) is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To wake, read, and weep--
To weep--perchance to scream: ay, here's the rub,
For in that screen's refresh what posts may come
When we have shuffled off this ego's spoil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calm threading so short of life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised thoughts, the law's inlay,
The insolence of anonomi, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his on inputs make
Like a bare boobkin? Who would their souls lay bare,
To grunt and sweat in a weary online fight,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles us all,
And makes us rather spread those ills we have
Than to sit in silence that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make bloggers of us all,
And thus the native hue of one bright pearl
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And a turning step of great pitch and moment
With this regard its reflections turn awry
And lose the name of real action.
If you don't recognize Hamlet's famous soliloquy in this, please go back to school.

"Dish" might not work for international audiences as it refers to "Dish Network", a wireless internet provider, in the 'States.

"What posts may come" was probably my favorite bit. I often find myself returning the next day to a blog to see if anyone reacted to me, me, me! I am often disappointed that post did, indeed, *not* come.

"Weep, perchance to scream" was also a lot of fun.

"shuffled of this ego's spoil" --- blogging, at least for me, is so much about showing off. Yet I still do it.

Not much change from the original in the list of things we bear (i.e. the oppressor's wrong), Shakespeare really did have a good bead on the human condition. "The insolence of office" was not quite right, and I enjoy my change to anonomi, which I hope is the plural of anonymous posters. The "laws inlay" is probably semantically and grammatically flawed. In the arguing there was a lot on who wouldn't say what because of the threat of law suits, so "law", was "laid into" (thus "inlay") the conversation.

"on inputs" should have been "own inputs"...pooh.

I hope "boobkin" is an existing word. If not, it should be.

"Sit in silence we know not of" is a nod to Seung's "only Don't know" (thanks, again, Barry).

"Thus conscious does make bloggers of us all" -- I often wonder that a *real* good Buddhist would be too busy pursuing real action to be bothered with blogging. It is certainly the pursuit of our empty concepts of thought.

For the third and second to last lines, I was trying to work in the bit from Shobogenzo about a turning and reflecting step, or something like that, but I couldn't find the exact reference quick enough through Google, so I may have gotten the allusion a bit wrong.

"Real action"... it feels like a basketball game and Shakespeare gave me the perfect set up for that one. It is, of course, a common phrase from Gudo Nishijima's writing (and of course, many others, I guess), but I carry it from his use in "To Meet the Real Dragon". As the last line I hoped it would get the attention of all those engaging in the argument, all heirs of Gudo's teachings, but my self-centered wish was not fulfilled.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wet Dog

A wet and whiny stray dog.
Some days clean and bright, other days a mess.
Soggy, I may snap.
Or I may defend you.
Pat my head, I am your friend.
I sleep on your porch and sometimes run away when you approach.
I'm glad you are there.
I fear you see me only as ugly-dog, unkempt, crude.
I sniff an old bag of chips outside the temple wall,
And sit, in dog zazen, to listen to the chanting, 'till a flea bites, and I am scratching-scratching.
Watch my shiny eyes as they follow a falling cherry blosom.
Even I have buddha-nature.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


It seems I either have too little or too much to say.

I cannot speak one true word.