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...]

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...]

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...]

The World Is Burning and Yet I Garden: Reflections after a Session on Climate Change at the Soto Zen Buddhist Association Conference

I feel that it is very important to say something right now, but it is very difficult to do so. I don’t think it’s so much that I can’t find the words. That’s not usually a problem for me. What’s difficult is to even get in touch with my current experience. Part of me is reeling from overwhelming shock and grief, another part of me is dumbfounded with confusion and disbelief, and yet another part of me continues to energetically and joyfully live my life as if the other two parts don’t even exist … [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...]

The Fallacy “It’s All In Your Mind”: Why What We Do Matters

Spiritual training can result in almost miraculous effects. People training in all different kinds of traditions have discovered that is possible to utterly transform their experiences; they have been able to rise above pain, find optimism in the midst of calamity, suffer injustice with grace, maintain equanimity while surrounded by chaos, and summon immense energy and strength. They do this primarily by redirecting their minds. A Christian might be able to find the strength and motivation to … [Read more...]

Not Just Guns and Madmen: Our Whole Society Is Insane

Just about every blogger will have something to say in the wake of the Umpqua Community College shooting. Some will just be sad, others will point out this or that as the primary reason for such a tragedy.I just want to point out how screwed up this is. This is insane. This is a sign of the decline of our society. Seriously, folks.Without excusing anything, I ask you to imagine the mindset of these mass shooters. They are not just crazy. Maybe most have some degree of "mental illness," bu … [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...]