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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

You Have to Be Your Own Fan (Even If You’re Pathetic Sometimes)

If your self-confidence never wavers, if you are thoroughly convinced of your own worthiness – whatever that means to you – than this essay is probably not for you. Most Americans are very familiar with self-doubt in all of its forms. We continually examine the circumstances of our lives, and the opinions of those we come in contact with, for the answers to questions like, Are we worthy of respect, esteem, love? Are we competent, intelligent, reliable, useful? Are we insightful, deep, spi … [Read more...]

Practicing within Sickness and Pain

I'm not writing this post because I'm an expert on practicing with sickness and pain. I'm writing it because sickness and pain are the reality of my present moment, and writing is part of my practice.I feel fortunate to have enough energy to sit upright in front of the computer. My head feels bleary and my intelligence greatly dulled, but I feel fortunate to have enough of a brain to get a few words out. There, that's something.I am always struck, on the rare occasions that I feel this … [Read more...]