All This Awful S**T – Can We Boil It All down into a Single Fight for Values?

Every time I look at the news, I'm greeted by a new, awful report about how something I deeply value is about to be thrown under the bus. It's mind-boggling, not to mention emotionally exhausting. Just out of curiosity, I made a list of what is currently under direct threat (be sure to scroll down to the rest of my post, because this is a long list):A no-holds-barred fight against climate change, the most dangerous challenge we're facing (with the possible exception of nuclear … [Read more...]

My First Protest Rally

Just thought I'd write a little report about my first protest rally. I'm guessing my readers will fall into two basic categories with respect to protests: Either you have attended them before and they're no big deal to you, or you haven't attended one before and they present awkward, uncharted territory. Until yesterday I was in the second category.The rally was pretty cool and only took a little over an hour. It was held at noon next to the offices of our U.S. representative and senator, … [Read more...]

Back to the Drawing Board with Meditation for the Homeless

I thought it would be a good idea to post an update on my efforts, chronicled earlier on this blog, to work up close and personally with people experiencing homelessness. My downtown Portland meditation group is on a hiatus as I go back to the drawing board to create something more in line with my passion and with unmet need. Part of me hates to quit anything and worries that I'm flaky, but actually I think the last couple months were very informative (and enjoyable) to me and helped me clarify … [Read more...]

The Problem Is, Most People Hate Themselves

Brittany is a new friend of mine who lives outdoors with her big black dog, Padfoot. A couple weeks ago we talked for almost an hour, sitting outside a Starbucks. Her main teaching of the day was this: a big factor in the persistence of homelessness is that people get sucked into self-hate and can't find their way back out. And that one of the most helpful things we can do is express our unconditional love for people no matter what their situation.I met Brittany when she came to my downtown m … [Read more...]

Homeless or Not, People Are Just People

On Wednesday our downtown Zen meditation group had a delightful meeting. It gave me a deepening, visceral conviction that homeless or not, whatever someone's history or current challenges, people are just people. This means they live a complete life with its own rhythm, richness, joys, sorrows, views, philosophies, hopes, regrets... you name it.This may seem like a pretty stupid realization - I mean, isn't it obvious people everywhere are just people? However, I have realized that when I … [Read more...]

Our First Meeting – the Ideal Becomes Actual and… Ordinary

Last night was the first meeting of my Zen Center's "Downtown Portland Group." Over the course of one short evening, an ideal manifested as something actual. The strange thing was it didn't feel dramatic or particularly significant to me. Instead, it felt somewhat uncomfortable, somewhat normal, and just as constrained by my humanness as everything I have ever done. In other words, ordinary - in the sense of "neither very good nor very bad, not particularly impressive or special."At one p … [Read more...]

Hello, My Fear and Ignorance

My Zen meditation group for "the homeless" hasn't even met yet (we meet for the first time next Wednesday), but already I've gotten to meet my own fear and ignorance about what I'm trying to do. I wanted to write something on this topic now, before I start getting over my trepidation and learn more about reaching out to people living outside or with little or no income.I hope the ignorance and concerns I reveal here don't offend the friends I make through this work in the future, but I want … [Read more...]

Timidly Reaching Out to the Homeless

Last week I went downtown, flyers in hand, to get the lay of the land for our Zen group for the homeless and the housed. I wanted to be in the space we will be using at the actual time of the week we will be holding the group: Wednesdays, 6:30-7:30pm, in the St. Stephen's Episcopal Parish Church. What was the lighting like, what was the program taking place in the other part of the building like, how many chairs were there, after all?The scene at the church on Wednesday evenings is quite … [Read more...]

Zen Meditation for the Homeless and the Housed*

*[that is, the Housed] who consider themselves friends of anyone who is notDespite the general busyness of life recently, I have managed to keep moving forward on my vision for a Zen group for those who are homeless, no-or-low income, and those who are transitionally housed.The hardest part right now is deciding how to describe or name the population I want to serve. I definitely want those who are currently or formerly homeless to feel especially welcome. However, the state of h … [Read more...]

Up Close and Personal with Acute Need

Two weekends ago I volunteered at a place that serves meals to people experiencing homelessness in downtown Portland. It was a nice thing to do, but I had an ulterior motive: One of the things I've identified as essential to my journey of conscience is encountering, in person, what I'm calling "acute need." This means venturing out of the realm of ideas - even good ones - and exposing myself to people who are suffering in a concrete way.The irony is that I'm a Zen priest. I'm exposed to peop … [Read more...]