Calming Your Mind Buddhist-Style – A 30-Second Method for Non-Buddhists and Buddhists Alike

In recent weeks, given the political turmoil in the world, I've heard from a lot of people who are wondering how to calm their minds. It's painful and unhelpful to be caught up in anxiety, anger, reactivity, despair, fear, and worry about the future. In addition, these kinds of emotions are what Buddhists call afflictive - that is, they are self-perpetuating and suck up a lot of our energy. Stewing in anxiety, for example, generally leads to more anxiety and exhaustion, not to solutions or re … [Read more...]

The Wise Use of Anger – A Lesson for (Us) Namby-Pamby Liberals

In my last two posts I have counseled thoughtfulness, caution, and compassion in our speech and actions as we navigate our new political environment. That's my job, as a priest and Zen teacher.However, the other day I watched this video, Aftermath 2016 by Tess Rafferty (click here for 3.5 minute version), and something in me recognized a truth I can't ignore. In sharing this video, part of me worries that as a priest I shouldn't associate myself with anything embellished with f-words and … [Read more...]

Appropriate Speech When Talking Politics: the Buddha’s Five Conditions

Most of us need to talk to others about political matters. We need to vent and process, and try to understand. We need to keep ourselves conscious of what's happening in our world so we can respond appropriately.At the same time, our conversations about politics can get exhausting, depressing, agitating, repetitive, divisive, judgmental, and even hateful. They can discourage us from staying politically engaged - right when we need to stay engaged.The Buddha laid out five things to … [Read more...]

Five Things To Do Now That Trump Has Been Elected

One: GrieveHalf of the people in our country (maybe slightly less than half?) just said a big f___ you to immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, refugees, minorities, poor people, women, disabled people, LGBT people, the environment - the list goes on and on. Why? I wish I knew, but here's the political outcome I feel most confident about right now: I'm going to be able to keep more of my money for myself. For a beautiful description of our grief, read "Here's Why We Grieve Today" by John Pa … [Read more...]

Politics and the Buddhist Precept “Do Not Speak Dishonestly”

13th century Zen master Dogen taught that "to study Buddhism is to study the self." Let me tell you, studying the self is a lifelong process! I constantly learn new things about myself, and much of what I learn isn't flattering.Most recently I have begun noticing how often I speak dishonestly when expressing my political opinions. Oh, don't worry - I'm not speaking dishonestly about how I feel. I'm completely honest about that. Here's how dishonesty creeps into my political speech:I ex … [Read more...]

The World Is Burning and Yet I Garden: Reflections after a Session on Climate Change at the Soto Zen Buddhist Association Conference

I feel that it is very important to say something right now, but it is very difficult to do so. I don’t think it’s so much that I can’t find the words. That’s not usually a problem for me. What’s difficult is to even get in touch with my current experience. Part of me is reeling from overwhelming shock and grief, another part of me is dumbfounded with confusion and disbelief, and yet another part of me continues to energetically and joyfully live my life as if the other two parts don’t even exist … [Read more...]

Step One – Commit to Stillness, Don’t React

When we decide to study our life, when we are determined to face the truth no matter how difficult, it is very useful to cultivate a determination to sit still through it all and to not react too quickly to anything we learn. We want to build a strong base for our practice – a strong, stable, established routine of healthy, rational, moral behavior we can rely on when our life gets turned upside down. Ideally it will become second-nature for us to regularly sit zazen, spend time with Sangha, c … [Read more...]

What Zen “Acceptance” and “Non-Attachment” Really Are

The practices of acceptance and non-attachment are critical to Zen and Buddhist practice - but they are easily misunderstood.It can sound like we're being asked not to care about things, or not to try to change things for the better. Fortunately, this is not what Zen means by acceptance or non-attachment, because 1) it's impossible (or psychologically and spiritually damaging) not to care, and 2) trying to change things for the better is the bodhisattva path itself!So what does it mean … [Read more...]

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How to Open Your Eyes but Not Lose Heart

You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a radical thinker to conclude humanity is on a path toward the kind of dystopian world imagined in the bleakest of scifi novels. We can't keep trashing our planet without dire consequences. We can't keep using up our non-renewable resources as if we have an infinite supply. We can't keep acting as if it's each man for himself (or country for itself) without the social fabric of our world completely disintegrating.If we keep on this path, we'll have a … [Read more...]

Slackin’ Off in the Summertime: Cycles of Spiritual Practice

I've come to trust the cycles of practice.I know that sometimes I'll be on fire for the Dharma - acutely aware of the impermanence of life and willing to devote time and energy to meditation and study.I also know that, at other times, I'll be caught up in enjoying my life and... well... practice? What's that again?I am a Zen priest, and when I run into members of my Zen community "out in the world," such as in the grocery store, in a restaurant, or on the street, people often feel … [Read more...]