When I Practice Not-Knowing Instead of Trying to Figure Everything Out

I'm really worried about the 100 days following January 20th. As if there weren't already enough things to worry about in my personal life and the rest of the world! My way of reacting to this kind of stress is to try to Figure Everything Out. I read, watch videos, familiarize myself with schools of thought on politics, economics, and activism. I discuss how to respond as a the leader of a religious community with leaders of other religious communities. I ask myself how I really feel about this o … [Read more...]

News Getting You Down? Don’t Check Out! Just Witnessing Helps

An awful lot of my friends have been complaining lately about how overwhelming and depressing it can be to read the news. I sympathize; right now the headlines seem like an endless litany of reports about situations that are already incomprehensibly bad, or examples where hope for positive change appears to be swirling inexorably down the drain.But wait! Before you decide to check out - to deactivate your Facebook account, stop checking the news, or absorb yourself in activities that make … [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...]

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...]

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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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...]

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...]

Transforming the World by Transforming Your Heart

I suspect the phrase “transforming your heart” resonates with many of you, even if you aren’t quite sure what is meant by it. I think there are two reasons for this. First, we want transformation - of our selves, our families, our communities, our culture, our government, our economy, our world. Something needs to be done. Even if we are able to forget this for some periods of time because of our good fortune, all around us are reminders that weigh on us: the homeless person we walked by today; … [Read more...]

The Buddhist’s Powerful Political Response: The Middle Way between Anger and Resignation

It's difficult to figure out to respond when a large percentage of our population rallies behind a political candidate who is overtly and proudly prejudiced against numerous groups of people, who eagerly promises to respond to the world with violence, and who rejects rational discourse in favor of yelling more loudly and rudely at his opponents than they do at him. This isn't a simple matter of opinion anymore. This isn't about whether you lean more toward trickle-down economics or socialism. … [Read more...]

Why Life Is Worth It

There are a lot of awful things happening in the world. If you were able to make a list of the "pros" and "cons" of life - all the wonderful and awful things - it is debatable whether the "pros" would outweigh the "cons." At times I've wondered whether we human beings cling to life mostly because we're afraid of the alternative.But then I experience something wonderful directly, without analysis or comparison, and I remember that evaluating life in terms of "pros" and "cons" is a fallacious, … [Read more...]