Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2010

Going Under, Going Down.

As I thought about leaving the office, a gas mask was strapped on to my face and I found myself completely inverted while they put Vaseline on my lips. I wanted to leave because I had waited an hour for my appointment to begin, the dentist is rude, and I could overhear him squabbling with patients about bills.

This was a new provider, up the street from my school, and basically in "the hood." Basically, I live in the hood. I've heard gun shots, I've seen a car set ablaze, and I've had to call the cops for unidentified visitors, banging on my door and demanding I come out. Why do I live here? It's where my students live and hoping to better serve them, I wanted to be trusted, and so I assimilated. It's actually worked pretty well and given me great insight as to why their homework isn't always complete.

Back to hood dentistry. No one spoke a word about the root canal. One minute I was thinking about taking off the bib, and the next minute I was thinking…

Just feeling good...

...But tired.

So, Jiryu's teaching on finding the practice in our life really struck a chord in me. Maybe because it started something like, "I know a lot of lay practitioners who trudge through life pining away for some other life, maybe another life at Green Gulch, where the practice will be better."

That's horribly elaborated and not really a quote as much as what I took away from his talk. But if your interested, it is on the SFZC website.

And then the next day I asked my teacher (I forgot, I actually have a Zen teacher who speaks living words every Sunday, even if they're not the words I want to hear, like "No, I will not ordain you") how we get a handle on our struggle to practice. That coming to the Zen temple once a week is hard enough and going every day was hard, and living there for 9 months was hard and...that's all he needed to hear.

He said "Just make sure you sit. It's best to sit with us, but if not with us, make sure it's…

Sweat in Yoga, Sit in Zazen

What's the big deal?

Why all the ideas and judgements?

Why the hesitation?

After 7 years of Zen practice, why do I expect anything different?

There it is: my practice. Just sit, just stretch the backbone, head presses the sky, knees to the earth. Why is it so hard to just do?

I've tried to save my practice for some other day for too long. I reach the Zafu more often than not, but sometimes I'm dreaming of some other Zafu, in some other temple, and seeing my practice perfect in some other life.

7 years is nothing. Today is everything. This moment, even more.

If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay.

The Gift of Desperation

After a long day of running around New Orleans in a spider man costume, dancing in the streets, standing under showers of purple, gold, and green confetti, we went home, sat Zazen, and met our friends for a late dinner at their place.

These friends are close; one is my dharma brother, though he has completely left the temple. He left for the same reason we all left, but that's another story, one I've told in this blog, one I'm just sick of thinking about, as I float around, semi-teacher-less.

We all talked about how great this Mardi Gras was, and how great Mardi Gras is, and we talked about the horrible parts of Mardi Gras, too. The horrible parts weren't so horrible for us, but maybe they were bad. No one was stabbed or shot, which does happen randomly, but sometimes a drunk participant would say something rude, maybe shove you, or as happened to us, gropes you. Grabs you where you shouldn't be grabbed.

This happened, and I had a very violent reaction. For a couple …

The Art of Zen V.S The Art of Life

Or, the art of true Zen.

Listened to Jiryu give a Dharma talk on the difference between The art of Zen and true Zen. He defined the art of Zen as our formal practice- the black robe, chanting, bowing, sitting practice- and true Zen as what we do with the rest of our day within our limitations of life- the going to the grocery store, teaching a test prep, sitting in traffic practice. The "make love, drive freeway" before and after enlightenment kind of true Zen.

He said that the surrender is what counts, that within surrender there is liberation. He warned that a lot of the time, we're planning the next life in which we will be here and now, trading one set of limitations for another set of limitations.

This was really tough for me to hear again. As soon as I stepped into a Zen temple, I wanted to become a priest. By that time, I was already an inner city school teacher, and I really didn't trust my intention because I figured I was trying to escape in any way possible. …

Um...Who Dat!?

Dad graciously hosted the superbowl. Very interesting to see my parents so fervant about sports. Fervant about food, too, but that's not new. The fiance and I came with about four loads of laundry.

The first half of the game was quiet. We didn't say much as we ate hot wings and jambalaya. Step-mom was on the floor while fiance applied accupressure for her pregnant growing pains. In 3 months, I'll have another baby brother.

I was out back in the laundry room when I heard my dad screaming his head off. The Saints had just intercepted and turned the game around. In a way I was more relieved than excited.When I came in with our fresh load, I found our Who Dat shirts and we put them on. Dad already had his Reggie Bush jersey on.

I like being a football fan, but I don't really like football. It takes me awhile to get into a game. Being a Saints fan in New Orleans is like becoming part of a Sangha...and on game, there's not a place in town where you don't have a friend. …

Into the Dark Box

Dad used to go into confession while I'd wait in the kid's room. It wasn't weird for us to go on self-effacing excursions with Dad. He'd take us to meetings,too. My sister and I would play Monopoly while adults disclosed their character defects in detail. He never really talked about his Catholic faith or his program, but he was steady with his practice. He still is.

I never understood the idea of confession and my notion of the past complicated my view of it. I have a very simple Zen teacher who prescribes more Zazen on a daily basis and treats questions about karma and confession with overt annoyance. He's just not into talking about Zen. There are some things he loves to repeat and I'll be mumbling in my grave, but he doesn't want to talk about precepts, the 8 fold path, or anything "Buddhist." I don't think he's hiding his understanding. I think he's old(77)and cranky.

Although he's old and cranky, he's also well disciplined,…


It just occurred to me that there might not be anything wrong with me, but perhaps something wrong with the way I try to fit into the world. I've been struggling the past couple of days.

I work a lot, and I work a tough 7 class a day schedule, and some of those classes I'm not qualified to teach, but I teach them anyway. A lot of what I do is about picking up one foot at a time. But sometimes I can't pick a foot up. Sometimes the muscles in my rib cage contract and tighten and I can't breathe or move. I've actually had this happen at work and I've had to leave. I've been doing this for three years in one of the worst school districts in the country.

Immediately, I believe I'm flawed. That's not something new- I've always felt that way. Immediately, I believe I have depression or anxiety or alcoholism. And this perception urges me to cover it up- cover it up with more work, or recently, perhaps joining the Army.

My ego is out of control. It thinks…


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.