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...]

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...]

Appropriate Speech When Talking Politics: the Buddha’s Five Conditions

Most of us need to talk to others about political matters. We need to vent and process, and try to understand. We need to keep ourselves conscious of what's happening in our world so we can respond appropriately.At the same time, our conversations about politics can get exhausting, depressing, agitating, repetitive, divisive, judgmental, and even hateful. They can discourage us from staying politically engaged - right when we need to stay engaged.The Buddha laid out five things to … [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...]

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...]

Five Sure Ways to Improve Family Relationships during the Holidays

Nothing's better than family at showing you where you still fall short of your own aspirations to be loving, patient, confident, generous, forgiving, and authentic.The thing is, ordinarily you chose who you spend time with. A notable exception is people you work or live in community with - and for the purposes of this article go ahead and lump such folks into the "family" category. Basically, include anyone you have an ongoing relationship with whether you like it or not.When you choose p … [Read more...]

Questions Are More Important Than Answers

Everyone wants answers. We figure answers tell us how to live more happily. Answers let us fix things, while questions are simply problems to be solved with answers. Preferably answers come sooner than later because questions point to limitations in our understanding or ability, and they're often associated with discomfort.I think this view of questions is unfortunate because the process of arousing and engaging a question feels like where all growth and aliveness occurs. We directly en … [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...]

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...]