The Sabbatical Begins


It’s hard to believe that starting today I have none of my ongoing responsibilities as minister of a largish and dynamic religious community. And for five months!

What a gift.

I fear I seem quite capable of keeping busy. Perhaps too busy…

I have a couple of writing projects to finish up this month. I’m doing a review for Buddhadharma of the new biography of Ruth Fuller Sasaki, one of Western Zen’s true pioneers. And I need to finish an anthology on the koan Mu for Wisdom Publications. Both projects are well in hand & I hope they’ll be done in the next couple of weeks. Well, the review needs to be done sooner than that…

I’m also doing a wedding for an old friend’s eldest daughter this weekend. Beyond that we’ve scheduled time to have dinner with a few friends, and finally to climb on that sail boat for a day another couple of old friends have been trying to get us on for the past several years. I’m also hoping to run up to Maine to visit other friends before taking off for Chicago.

Lest those who know me think I’ve already squandered the “free” time I’ve been given I’m already giving myself the gift of a little extra time for meditation in the middle of the day. And I’m creating a great pile of books both mysteries and “serious” reading. Before the afternoon is out I plan on sitting down and reading at the current mystery…

But, my goodness, it is interesting how easy it is to squander time. And I don’t mean by reading mysteries. I mean by endless busy-ness.

At the end of the day in Soto Zen retreats there is a haunting verse chanted from somewhere outside the meditation hall:

Let me respectfully remind you,
Life and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive to awaken.
Awaken. Take heed.
Do not squander your life.

The urgency is to be present, to notice, to savor and be with. As the old adage about Zen practice goes: sit down, shut up, pay attention. And if you can’t do all that, pay attention.

The danger is rushing headlong and not noticing anything.

Years ago I was visiting the San Francisco Zen center’s little bookstore. They had a lovely sign: “Don’t Just Do Something. Stand There.”

I hope to slow down over this time my friends have conspired to give me, to make fewer deadlines, and to be a little more present, to notice a bit more, to savor as much as possible and just be with a whole lot more.

I’ll report back from time to time about how successful I am

Just doing


"Thank you, James. Love it. As you may know, we Lutherans have a very robust ..."

A Brief Zen Buddhist Catechism
"Thank you for this pocket version of core Buddhist Logics, James. Confirms how I am ..."

A Brief Zen Buddhist Catechism
"I especially appreciated the commentary on non-duality. Zen has such a great history of leading ..."

A Flash of Lightning in a ..."
"Thanks for these. I always laugh that Dogen is often taken with a veneration as ..."

Four Essential & Brief Zen Meditation ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment