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That Which We Already Know

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  I’m so excited that this labor of love is coming to fruition! Final editing is underway. The beautiful cover artwork by Sophie Binder Designs is complete. I hope to have this book in your hands soon! That Which We Already Know  is about stillness of mind. Part childhood memoir, part spiritual enquiry, part psychological and philosophical exploration,  That Which We Already Know  paints a picture of our fall from grace and ultimate redemption via the recollection of childhood truth: that we arise in this world with an innate capacity to experience stillness. There is nothing for us to learn in this regard. We simply need ease our adopted selves out of the way in order to realize how very much we already know. That Which We Already Know  began as a flash of inspiration upon waking one morning. It seemed that in an instant I saw the arc of my life with perfect clarity. Raised Christian, I’ve been a practicing Zen Buddhist for nearly thirty years. This book recounts how I found solace a

Dear People of Ukraine

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Flag of the nation of Ukraine Dear people of Ukraine,   You are in my heart. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be so brutally invaded on false pretexts by the Russian military. Reports of your fighting spirit in the face of this illegal aggression bring tears to my eyes. I must admit, however, that I feel guilty cheering you on from my place of safety thousands of miles away. You are the ones risking life and limb in this battle, not me. You are the ones whose lives are now so disrupted, not me. So please know that I support you in your choice to fight or retreat or surrender in the face of an untenable situation as your needs and conscience dictate. I am sad, too, for the Russian invaders and their families back home. Due to the lies and manipulation of their immoral leaders, they have become murderers. They have brought shame to themselves in the eyes of the world. We in the United States know the reality of such lies and manipulation. Our previous President was a master o

One Last Time: A Ritual for Letting Things Go

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  I consider myself a fairly non-materialistic person. Yet I never seem to go long without feeling the need to let go of something. Some of this is due to my tendency to hang on for a long time to whatever I do obtain – whether it's something I’ve been given or have bought for myself. Running shoes are a good example. I use them exclusively for running for about a year, then for casual wear for another couple of years, then as house and yardwork shoes for a few more. Lately, though, running shoes have become so delicately constructed as to throw off this gradual transition. They barely make it through the running phase. But I digress. As you may have guessed, I tend to part with things mindfully. Recently I’ve been making my way through a stack of CDs that I’ll most likely donate for a local library sale. I engage in this little ritual of listening to them one last time before letting them go. It’s an interesting exercise. Clearly, if I knew that I still wanted them, I wouldn’t h

New Year's Zen

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  I awoke to the sound of drizzling rain on the eaves. Darla remained fast asleep, so I had the house to myself for most of the morning. New Year’s Day is one of intentionality, at least that is how I intend for it to be, and this one started well. I set a pot of bean soup to simmering on the stove, and sat down to mend my meditation cushion. If you’ve used a meditation cushion (zafu) for any appreciable length of time, you know that the seams will eventually start pulling apart at the weak spots, thereby allowing the kapok stuffing to escape in little puffs whenever it’s compressed. Now, some may think this is a sign that it’s time for a brand new cushion. Au contraire! Sitting zazen is a very intimate activity, you see. One gets used to his or her zafu as one gets used to an old pair of blue jeans. You cannot simply replace an old pair of jeans, and you cannot simply buy a new zafu. It is far easier to learn how to use a needle and thread.   Zafu with seam mended I’ve had this

The Battle for My Zen Soul

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  “Get behind me, Satan!” Is it possible to have grown up in this Christian-influenced land without hearing quoted Jesus’ rebuke of Peter’s counsel? I doubt it. Certainly even non-Christians have heard it echoed in one form or another, if only in faux reproach for having tempted a friend with a decadent dessert or something! Buddhism, similarly, is a tradition in which demonic influences tempt our hero, perhaps most notably right before he realizes enlightenment. Just as Jesus was tempted to act contrary to divine plan, so the Buddha was tempted by Mara’s efforts to foil his ultimate awakening.   Are we to take literally these struggles of good against evil, for want of a better description, or are they best interpreted figuratively? I think most Western Buddhist practitioners would lean to the latter. Largely, we’ve moved beyond the dualistic thinking that leads us to think of this thing or that person as inherently good and another as inherently evil. And yet we still sometimes

The Intersection of Spirituality and Religion

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  My experience of falling away from formal Zen practice can’t be all that unique. The factors that precipitated my estrangement may have been different. And maybe my Zen practice since “the path disappeared beneath my feet” looks different than that of many others. But Zen practitioners can’t be immune from the experience of “losing one’s faith,” can they? So I write these words with at least some degree of confidence that they’ll resonate with others; not necessarily with those who know me, or even those fellow practitioners who lived through the very same spiritual turmoil as I, but with some. You see, some of my erstwhile fellow practitioners took up formal practice with other Zen teachers in fairly short order. Others diligently set about creating a new place of formal Zen practice to take the place of the old one. I even labored with them for a time on that endeavor, departing just as the bylaws of that new practice community were formally voted into being. I suppose I just w

Are You Here for the Tea or the Ceremony?

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  The disillusionment that I spoke of in my previous post left me questioning just about everything related to formal Zen practice – with the exception of the zazen, that is. I’d never had reason to doubt that. But how much of what we consider Zen practice is merely cultural artifact? How much is religious accretion? What is essential, and why? What do I really believe, and why? And what do the answers to these questions mean for how I actualize practice in my own life? Obviously, these aren’t questions that can be resolved overnight. They must be “lived into,” tested out for efficacy and authenticity.   Bowl of Green Tea I had the good fortune to practice with a number of teachers while living into these questions. One was the abbot of a Korean Seon (Zen) temple from whom I learned, along with other things, the Korean form of the tea ceremony. Over the course of some months she taught me how to arrange the various cups, bowls, and utensils, how to use the just-boiled water for w