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...]

Five Things To Do Now That Trump Has Been Elected

One: GrieveHalf of the people in our country (maybe slightly less than half?) just said a big f___ you to immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, refugees, minorities, poor people, women, disabled people, LGBT people, the environment - the list goes on and on. Why? I wish I knew, but here's the political outcome I feel most confident about right now: I'm going to be able to keep more of my money for myself. For a beautiful description of our grief, read "Here's Why We Grieve Today" by John Pa … [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...]

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...]

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...]

Cognitive Dissonance: Being Culpable for Life’s Destruction

From a very early age I sensed there was something wrong. I remember being around ten years old, cradling the tiny body of a dead bird. It was so small it fit easily in the cup of my child-sized hands. The bird had died after hitting our cabin window, and although I was horrified by its fate and my part in it, however indirect, I also relished the opportunity to view the bird so closely. It was an iridescent yellow-green color, and its feathers looked looked like fine hairs. The coloring over … [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...]