The Way of Tenderness: the Form and Emptiness of Race, Sexuality, and Gender

“Although my teachers taught us the absolute truths of Zen practice, they seemed to negate identity without considering the implications that identity can have for oppressed groups of people.” That’s Zenju Earthlyn Manuel from her new book, Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender.  This is an important book. Zenju has a powerful, deeply personal, tender, and reflective way of giving voice to the dharma as black, woman, and lesbian. In this post, I want to zero in on... Read more

BTW, We Have to Remove Your Feet: Being Mortal, Waking Up, and Dying Together

I had a “minor” surgery last week and was in the hospital overnight for the first time. That’s me in the photo feeling pretty comfortable with a cap, knitted by one of my kid sisters, warming my bald head. Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Atul Gawandi’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. I bought the book about a month ago but mostly it’s sat on the bed stand while I’ve been curious about the mild aversion I experienced every time... Read more

Dogen Did Not Practice Shikantaza and Even Had a Gaining Idea

More bad news for the orthodox Soto position that Dogen was opposed to koan introspection in zazen. Modern scientific historical research supports what some of us who have experienced koan introspection and Dogen Zen have been saying for some time – Dogen offers wonderful teaching by example of how to engage the wild and rich world of koan. Why does it matter? If you care about enlightenment, it matters. If you care about truth, it matters. If you care that... Read more

Practicing Through Snow and Cold (or Whatever Afflictions May Visit)

We are having one snowy and cold winter here in Portland, ME. Recently, a friend asked, “How are you liking Minnesota by the Sea.” Indeed. So yesterday at Sunday Open Zen, I talked about the Zen way to avoid snow and cold. If you’d like to listen to “How to Avoid Snow and Cold,” click here or here for iTunes podcast. Meanwhile, we have a home-based practice period starting on Sunday. If you’re looking for a way to be one with snow and cold, rain... Read more

On Receiving Inka Shomei from James Myoun Ford Roshi

On Friday afternoon, January 23, a small group of us gathered in Worcester, MA, in the Boundless Way Zen library. James Myoun Ford Roshi and his wife, Jan Seymour-Ford (a senior Zen person), and Melissa Blacker and David Rynick (Boundless Way teachers and also roshis), met with Tetsugan and I to discuss our wedding, scheduled for that afternoon, and to consider options for my inka shomei, scheduled for the next afternoon, but now the public portion was in question due... Read more

The Deeply Settled Heart: Home-based Practice Period Invitation

Sunday, February 15 – Saturday, May 9 Background: Practice periods go back to the time of the Buddha when monastics would gather together during the three-month rainy season. In that spirit, Katagiri Roshi was the first to offer nonresidential practice periods for householders. Our Vine of Obstacles, online, home-based training periods are a time to deepen and broaden your practice. We focus on developing home practice by encouraging creativity, transparency, accountability, and mutual support. The processes that the Vine community has... Read more

A Goose in a Bottle – How Will You Be Free?

“A woman raised a goose in a bottle. When the goose had grown, she wanted to get it out without harming the goose or breaking the bottle. How do you get the goose out of the bottle?” Koans, like this one from the Miscellaneous Series, are reflections of our lives as they are. Here we have an impossible predicament – sound familiar? In this life as it is, we find ourselves as a goose in the bottle of a limiting... Read more

Nothing is Concealed

Once Shishuang was in his room and a monk just outside the room’s window called to him, “Master, why is it that I’m so close, yet can’t see your face.”  Shishuang said, “Nothing in the whole world is concealed.”  I like this quirky monk, seeing his difficulty so concretely in the physical world. “Why is it that I’m so close, yet can’t see your face?” Seems to me that the monk must have been practicing diligently, throwing himself into zazen... Read more

If Dogs Run Free

I’m enjoying a quiet day off here – no zazen or other scheduled activities. Since I retired from the schools and moved to Maine, most days seem like “days off.” I get to sit with others at the zendo in the early morning, walk the dog, bike the peninsula (yup, still biking and enjoying a mild winter), meet students online, and prepare talks or just play with developing Vine of Obstacles: Online Support or Zen Training (added two new courses... Read more

Happy New Year and May All Conditions Be Favorable

May all conditions be favorable! So ends our dedication at the end of “Wake-The-Heck-Up Morning Zazen” and the recitation of the Heart Sutra. The full last passage goes like this: “We pray for the flourishing of the true dharma, harmony among all nations, earth-sustaining human actions, tranquility within the sangha, and that all conditions may be favorable.” This is my prayer for the New Year. What? You might ask. Pray for all conditions to be favorable when we know darn... Read more