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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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...]

Dear Emily, My Great-Grand Niece

I have no children of my own, so any descendants of my sister will be my closest relatives in the distant future. My nephew and niece are 10 and 12 years old right now; if they have children about age 30, my grandnieces or grandnephews will be born around 2035; if they in turn have children at about age 30, my great-grandniece - who I am calling Emily because I've always liked the name - will be born around 2065 and come of age around 2085. That's 70 years from now- far enough in the future that … [Read more...]

When It’s Time to Speak Out as a People of Faith

Last week one of the largest Zen Centers in the U.S. published an open letter urging California governor Jerry Brown to ban hydraulic fracking in the state. I was thrilled, but not all Zen folks will be, even if they agree on this particular issue. Speaking out as people of faith can be powerful, but it can also be divisive and confusing. When and where do we - as individuals and as faith communities - take a public stand?I'll offer this simple answer for you to chew on: we should take a p … [Read more...]

A Good Reason to Ignore Global Warming

Okay, let me be clear up front: I'm not saying it's good to ignore global warming! I am trying to point out that not all our reasons for ignoring it are selfish, lazy, or stupid.I've been thinking about this since my post Can We Really Save the World with Lifestyle Change? A Buddhist acquaintance of mine, Satya Vayu, left a long comment on that post expressing many things with which I agree. In fact, he expressed my views pretty perfectly, pointing out that governments and corporations are in … [Read more...]

Can We Really Save the World with Lifestyle Change?

I know I am far from the first person to ask this, but can we really save the world - and by that I mean from the ravages of climate disruption - by changing our personal lifestyles? Or is that a story we've been fed by the powers that be in order to shift the burden of responsibility away from those who benefit most from our current economic system?Perhaps it's a story we've created ourselves in order to feel somewhat empowered: We can make a difference in climate change and environmental … [Read more...]

Bringing Racism and Violence into the Meditation Hall

At my Zen center last night I took the risk of departing from our regularly-scheduled programming to bring racism and violence into the mediation hall. This definitely compromised the peacefulness and calm of spiritual community that many of us value as refuge from the turmoil in the rest of the world. However, it seemed like we were missing a practice opportunity if we ignored the news that another white man had been able to shoot and kill an unarmed black man without facing any legal … [Read more...]

Making Money or Giving Myself to a Labor of Love

One half of me wants to live on the edge and try to make this blog into a book. The other half of me knows it's about time to make enough money to support myself and stop mooching off the hard work of others. After all, I'm 43 years old and the peak of my earning career was in 1996 when I earned around $16,000 working for the US Forest Service. Since then it's been graduate school, training as a Zen monastic in a communal setting while living on a shoe string, and then being generously supported … [Read more...]