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...]

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...]

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...]

What in the Hell Is Happening in Our Country?

As I sit down at my computer for a day of work, I take a sip of coffee and yield to the temptation to check Facebook and see what's going on.All I can think is, "Oh God, not again."Two more black men shot dead by police in as many days.While the country still reels from the slaughter in Orlando. Which happened even though Sandy Hook should have been the absolute end of the line for this nonsense.Shock, disbelief, and outrage surge through my mind and body. The scariest part is … [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...]

The Radical Effort of Non-Effort (Meditate Is Not a Verb)

I teach 8-10 new people to "do" Zen meditation every month. At times I feel kind of radical, but more and more I just want to tell them to sit still and do nothing at all. After 20 years of Zen practice, 14 years as Zen priest, and 5 years as a Zen teacher, I am becoming deeply convinced that the transformative and healing power of meditation has little to do with what we consciously do. Basically, just deliberately put yourself in the position of not doing anything, and everything takes care of … [Read more...]

The Joy of Having No (Versus Low) Expectations for the World

There are two kinds of expectations. One is a belief that something is likely to happen. The other is belief that something should happen: Someone should be able to achieve something or act in a particular way, or circumstances should unfold in a particular way. This second kind of expectation is what we're referring to when we say we have high expectations for someone, or for the world. It's usually meant to be a compliment.For example, I cherish an expectation that people will be re … [Read more...]

We Have to Do Something AND Everything Will Be Okay – AT THE SAME TIME

On the one hand everything's going to hell in a hand basket and we have to respond. On the other hand everything is complete and luminous just as it is. The amazing thing is these aren't just two different views that one can choose to adopt at different times - these are two aspects of reality that are true simultaneously. Of course, this is much easier said than experienced!A number of my recent blog posts have dealt with this apparently paradoxical nature of life, which for Buddhists is … [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...]

"Not Knowing" and What It Doesn’t Mean

The post I made last week about wearing my heart and doubt on my sleeve has gotten over 600 views so far. Considering that the next-most-popular post in this site has gotten about 50, I find this pretty remarkable. I've also gotten phone calls, emails, and heartfelt personal comments in response to my Great Doubt post. What does it mean that my posts about what I know are mildly appreciated, but a post about not knowing what the heck is going on resonates deeply with a large audience?As far … [Read more...]