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If You Hang Around Buddhists, You're Gonna Get Your Hair Cut.

My dad used to say that all the time. When he said if you hang around the barber shop, you're gonna get your hair cut, he meant that the company you keep can influence your actions. Mostly he was warning me about drinking, but I'm extending this maxim to positive influences in my life too, like Buddha.

My dad literally got his hair cut once a week as a career Marine. And I tend to keep my hair short too, shaving on 4 & 9 days (that's any day that ends with a 4 or 9, like the 14th, the 19th, the 24th, etc.) And when we take precepts, our teacher ask if they can cut the first lock of our hair but admonish that only Buddha can cut the last lock, which I'm pretty sure is not in reference to anything that will grow on the top of this head.

I think when our teachers say that only Buddha can cut the last lock they mean we're on a path of perpetual cutting away- and one thing that is happening at Tassjara right now is the cutting away of white ignorance around white p…
Recent posts

Little Black Shorts, Mermaid Babies, Poetry of the Mountains

I'm out on another shop run for Tassajara. Dump, chlorine, straw for compost- nothing too exciting. Dropped the garden manager off at the dentist, ran into the work leader at REI. I bought a bathing suit- first time in...10+ years? I usually just swim in running shorts or shorts. Callio really likes to swim.

She went completely under for the first time when we were visiting my mother two weeks ago. Shes was down on the beach of our lake house getting braver and braver. First she got her foot stuck in some muck, and turned to us and said "Up, up, up." She says it like a little tyrant. She also says it when she wants down. She must have got both feet stuck where the imported sand turns to soggy leaf litter and mud, tried to jump, and then fell forward. She turned to her back and I could see her sharp blue eyes staring up at me from under the water. She looked like a mermaid, comfortable and curious down there.

I yanked her out. She cried a bit then pooped on the beach and …

Out of the Womb of Tassajara

The 99th practice period at Tassajara ended this morning. We visited each alter as we did three months ago when the practice period began. Except then I wasn't present for the entering ceremony, because I almost drown in the creek the day before.

One of our bridges washed out as the creek rose almost 15 feet. Was it more? 15 seems fair. It was raging, being fed by our huge watershed of steep young mountains. That bridge got tangled down stream and threatened some of our cabins. It was catching logs and starting to dam up. For 5 days before this day I had mitigated similar situations. Make a cut here or there, and whoosh, it would break up and wash away. After this summer's fire we had 3 times the rain we have had during the drought, over 60 inches.

I'm glad I brought my whole crew on this job. Usually I'd just bring one person to look out and hand me things. But this time I brought Jody, Elliot, and Julianna. Julianna stood up on the bank and looked up river to make s…

My Bowl Can't Hold A 401k

The urge to participate in capitalism arose one day; I think it was fall, dying leaves falling to the ground and all of us monks trying to corral them onto muddy paths. They make a nice mud stifling mat for our paths at Tassajara.
My inlaws have an aging parent who lives in a retirement facility and needs support from many of the kids. I thought of how hard that might be, and how it’s unlikely I’ll be able to help my parents in that way.
It brought two questions to the foreground: Who do I think will take care of me when I’m 90 and what will I offer my parents when they’re 90?
Cue up this image: Me in a dentist chair getting a twice root canaled tooth with a yearlong abscess finally extracted. The dentist worked up a sweat, as the tooth broke into 4 pieces. What could I do in that moment to help him? Well, I tried to be as still and “cool” as possible. I silently recited the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo for protecting life. And I tried to talk my tooth into letting go while it felt like …

Milk Squirts Out of ShiShi Bodai and Beyonce Gets Up Dancing

I’ve a got a new lease on sesshin. Since we have a baby now, Lauren and Calliope leave Tassajara for the sesshins. My teacher suggested this, it’s what she did when she had children living here. It’s great for the three of us. Lauren doesn’t feel isolated out of the schedule, Calliope doesn’t have to interpret all our silent eyes cast down, and I’ve been getting to sit sesshin in whole hearted fashion. I feel young again!
We sat two sesshin this practice period, a 9 day and 7 day Rohatsu. Rohatsu is the celebration of Buddha’s enlightenment and most Zen temples sit from December 1st to December 8th. To think we’re taking our seats with thousands of others all over the world!
Our first 9 day was really “good” for me. It’s hard to talk about sesshin in conventional terms. I think they’re all good, eventually, when time has passed or I hold them as concept, like “Running is good for you” while acknowledging sometimes I have a good run and sometimes I have a bad run, get injured maybe. But…

I offer what I have, I offer what I don't have

As soon as we stepped up to the Zendo I realized I was empty handed. No flowers to offer. I whispered to my teacher. Should I go back? She said let’s mime it. Okay I said and continued to follow her. She said, no, really mime it, raising her hands as if she had the bowl of flowers. So I brought my hands up ceremoniously, nothing but empty emptiness between my fingers.
As I walked in the ino smrked. Though half of me wanted to smile, a healthy sense of embarrassment kept me deported. At the altar my teacher reached into my empty hands and offered invisible flower petals to the Buddha.

 Dogen wrote about flowers of emptiness. I offer what I have and I offer what I don’t have. It’s all offered.

SF Chronicle Features: Kogen the Dreg Slurper

Huangbo said to the assembly, "You people are all slurpers of dregs. If you travel like this, where will you have today? Do you know that in all of China there are no teachers of Chan?" At that point a monk came forward and said, "What about those who guide followers and lead groups in various places?" Huangbo said, "I don't say there's no Chan, just that there are no teachers."

I'm no teacher.
I was recently interviewed for the SF Chronicle and almost died upon reading it. I was quoted twice and what was quoted were the dregs of what I stole from teachers or one writer in particular, Colleen Morton Busch.  She wrote on page 104 of her book Fire Monks something about non attachment and when interviewed I regurgitated some version of her metaphor and didn't cite her. Nor did I cite Suzuki Roshi or Seung Sahn when talking about Don't Know mind or Beginners Mind. This all passed for personal insight and was published.  How did this happe…