Skip to main content


I didn't go to work today. Didn't sleep well- the fiance is sick and I was a bit riled up.

The obsession with the military didn't go away. So I researched and I researched and I sent my e-mails and I'm supposed to take a test this Friday to see what I can do.

And then there was the banging on the door, the car honking outside, the unidentified people on my porch yelling back at me as I yell at them, wondering just who the hell they are and if they're connected to the man who approached my fiance earlier that night.

I called in. My head's spinning. What the hell am I doing?

Living in this city, seeing so much need, I really wanted all of Avalokitesvara's arms. I wanted whatever tool or weapon to work my frustration out.

Reading the news for the first time ever. Just started by asking questions: What is the mission in Afghanistan? I couldn't find any military objectives but plenty of political ones, which must be so frustrating for our service men and women.

I'm feeling torn between what looks like needs doing and what I feel like doing. It looks like our public schools need teachers, so I do that, and have been doing it for three years now, reaping reward and accomplishment. And it looked like the military needed help, too. I really thought that. But help with what?

And so my question extends to the rest of my life: But help with what?

It's dangerous to get philosophical. A lot of my Zen training has been about getting away from the intellectual pursuit of what's right, what's wrong, and just doing. My arena of doing is the New Orleans Public Schools.

I wanted to quit from day one. I wanted to quit on day 365. I wanted to quit half way through last year and almost did. But this year I've really felt successful. Same kids, same school, but some how I'm effective this year. I'm moving along just the way my principal wants me to, but I'm starting to ask, for what?

I hate questioning the mission because I still need to finish it, no matter what. But I think this is the mission at my school- get these kids passing a state test, no matter what it takes, no matter how simple and binary we must become, no matter how much of your life (mine and my students) is sacrificed.

Can't be that simple. We do alot within our parameters. But I'm feeling that I've ignored my heart for the sake of sticking it out. And that this mission might not be the one for me.

My mind returns to Zen and to writing.

You have to be the change you want to see, not the change that is easiest to calculate.

You know, we want to make people proud. But then I ask, who's life am I living today?

This must sound like drippy existential crisis. I think it is, too. But I've had these before. Riding them out is best...actions should occur after the settling. That's something different about me I can recognize.

I used to buy plane tickets the morning of.


Popular posts from this blog

Boredom and Buddhism

To say I feel bored feels disrespectful. How could that be? I have a three month old daughter, I'm training for a demanding job in the temple, I'm a wilderness medic responding to incidents every 4 days or so, and I'm sewing my priest robes for ordination. And I have this sense of disinterest.

I have a few theories as to why I feel bored. One could be the natural come down from having the baby and becoming stable in our schedule. Another come down plays out in the adrenaline crash after responding to a medical emergency or the general up keep work I do at the temple when compared to fixing something crucial to operations. When I hear there's a fire in the area I'm pretty excited to be mobilized for stay and defend duty. I feel pretty guilty about that, too.

So I read Beyond Boredom and Depression by Ajahn Jagaro and I was reminded to be careful about looking outward by this passage:

So what is boredom? It is a subjective experience that occurs when the mind is not i…

How To Become A Zen Monk (or die trying)

"Now, if you have decided to become a monk because you think that life in this world is too hard and bitter for you and you would prefer to rather live off other people's donations while drinking your tea - if you want to become a monk just to make a living, then the following is not for you." -Kosho Uchiyama
So you want to be a Zen monk or priest? Unsui, which means clouds and water? Good on ya. Me too. 
Having googled that very aspiration for the first time in 2003, I was convinced it was impossible. I'll admit I am as thick headed as they come. I was also resistant to meet some figure in a robe. I heard my father's voice when I begged him to get my fortune read in Jackson Square, New Orleans, "I'm not paying some fat asshole in a bathrobe to tell you lies." Instead, for the first four years of my Zen practice, I committed as little as possible to my local sangha, left when they started chanting, and never talked to the teacher. I was so unapproacha…

Goodbye Green Gulch Sama! Hello Tassajara!

About two years ago I left Mid City Zen in New Orleans. I feared I was leaving something, and now I'm about to leave Green Gulch and that same fear has arisen. I imagined there was wealth, a sort of freedom, and a lot to "renounce."  I had a car (a fast one!), a playstation 3, many books, many articles of clothing, and as I look around our little cabin, that same perception has arisen- I have too much stuff! And I like it!

My book collection that I sold or gave away in New Orleans has somehow manifested out here. And I have quite the collection of farm hats and farm boots. Rubber ones, Redwings, Ropers, Bogs to the ankle, Bogs to the knee, a navy seal Solomon for the wet spring weather. Most of them are fit to throw away, glued back together and stitched with fishing line, and just so smelly, so smelly my wife won't let me keep them in the cabin, so I hide them all around Green Gulch.

So I started packing, and while that fear of renunciation has arisen, it's not …