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...]

Beyond Mindfulness: The Radical Practice of Unified Presence

I am going to present an alternative to mindfulness practice. I do this because I believe the concept of mindfulness – at least the way it is typically understood – can limit our spiritual development. It can become a dualistic trap that causes us to reject much of what we are as human beings.However, before I describe the potential pitfalls of mindfulness practice and offer a different approach that has worked for me, I want to discuss the metaphor of fingers pointing at the moon. “The moon” … [Read more...]

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It’s OK When Things Suck

Buddhist practice doesn’t get you out of experiencing, and feeling the pain of, old age, disease, death, change, loss, trauma, and things being different than how you would like them to be. It also does not relieve you of being a limited being who needs to work hard to overcome harmful habits of body and mind. In short, Buddhism does not help you avoid times when things suck. And sometimes they really, really suck.What Buddhist practice gives you is the ability to stop resisting the s … [Read more...]

The Fallacy “It’s All In Your Mind”: Why What We Do Matters

Spiritual training can result in almost miraculous effects. People training in all different kinds of traditions have discovered that is possible to utterly transform their experiences; they have been able to rise above pain, find optimism in the midst of calamity, suffer injustice with grace, maintain equanimity while surrounded by chaos, and summon immense energy and strength. They do this primarily by redirecting their minds. A Christian might be able to find the strength and motivation to … [Read more...]

Don’t Think You Understand

Don’t think you understand It. On the other hand, don’t think you don’t understand It.It? What is It, a pronoun capitalized this way? What is It, pronounced with the kind of emphasis that communicates great significance?Alternatively It is called the Great Matter, the Divine, Prajna Paramita, Enlightenment, Emptiness, Suchness. These are ways we refer to different aspects of It.When I write these words, what do you think to yourself?You probably think to yourself EITHER that you d … [Read more...]

What in the Hell Is Happening in Our Country?

As I sit down at my computer for a day of work, I take a sip of coffee and yield to the temptation to check Facebook and see what's going on.All I can think is, "Oh God, not again."Two more black men shot dead by police in as many days.While the country still reels from the slaughter in Orlando. Which happened even though Sandy Hook should have been the absolute end of the line for this nonsense.Shock, disbelief, and outrage surge through my mind and body. The scariest part is … [Read more...]

Ten Ways to Energize Your Meditation

Most forms of meditation, by definition, are pretty boring. If a meditation technique was entertaining or exciting, it wouldn't be meditation! Typically, in meditation you notice when your mind is wandering and then shift your awareness back to some simple meditative object like your breathing, or sound, or a repeated phrase. This is what triggers your body's relaxation response as opposed to it's stress response (which gets triggered a great deal in daily life).At the same time, meditation … [Read more...]

Enlightenment Is Real

In Buddhism we have a very useful but tricky concept called, alternatively, Enlightenment, Nirvana, Liberation or Awakening (in addition to countless other terms and phrases, like seeing your own Buddha-nature). As a practitioner or investigator of Buddhism, you probably find the concept of Enlightenment enticing, confusing, troubling or irrelevant - or some combination of those. You may believe Enlightenment is real and possible, and you work diligently at your spiritual practice inspired by … [Read more...]

Self as Both Real and Not-Real – The Teaching of the Five Skandhas

How do you resonate with the Buddhist teaching that our sense of self is an illusion? I imagine you feel very real. You exist, and you are not the same as everyone and everything else. You move through your life with a sense of continuity from one moment, one day, one year, to the next. In what way is our sense of “self” an illusion? Once upon a time a very bold man, King Milinda, put this question to a Buddhist sage named Nagasena. They started out their dialogue like this: “King Milinda asked … [Read more...]

From Delusion to Illusion: The Freedom of Disbelief

I used to believe that life was pointless. Sure, there were enjoyable moments in life, but the hard work life required didn’t seem worth it when I saw all the cruelty and greed at work in the world, or when I contemplated the inevitability of old age, disease, loss and death. This bleak view of the world pervaded all of my activities. It drove me to a despair that, at times, led to suicidal ideation.All of us hold countless views that we believe are more or less true. They are views about t … [Read more...]


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