Skip to main content

Posts

We Are The Ones Who Can Die

This is me hunting hogs with a semi-automatic weapon. This was a past life( about 8 years ago.)

A lot can change in 8 years.

I grew up around guns. I received my first when I was 10 years old. I went to a high school with a shooting range in the basement, for the high school competitive rifle team. My dad, a career Marine, gave thorough instruction, you better believe. And for most of my life I could take them or leave them. I wasn't into guns like a lot of my friends, but I knew how to shoulder a carbine so the shell didn't eject and hit me in the eye.

That was in Pennsylvania. New Orleans was a completely different scene and the reality of gun violence really hit home (sometimes too literally). I have friends who have been shot in street violence and in combat zones. I have been threatened with a weapon and I have loaded guns with a notion of self defense.

And I used to believe that it was my right to do so.

But today I'm sad and I want to touch that sadness. I lost my …
Recent posts

The Transformation of Ceremony

Ordination Day

I want to say something about the transformational aspect of a ceremony. Like wine to blood, from person to priest, practice enlightenment as transmogrification. Like cucumbers to pickles, surprise! 
I underestimated the ceremony. After pursuing ordination for nine years I had visualized it into nothing. Having junior monks pass me by, then disrobe, then put the robe back on before I even got to wear it once lent a sobering perspective. Imagination dispensed. I sat and stitched and lived practice in a way where oryoki wasn't a treat, Zazen wasn't something I could talk about, and robes started to have gravity- they were not without weight. 
And I think that's the first element of my ceremony: a period of discernment and someone to discern with. In the case of ordination, my teacher, our tanto, and other priests served as mirrors and sounding boards for these two questions: Why do I want to be a priest and what is a priest? It was about as clear as wine tran…

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…

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…