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What in the world was I doing with so many keys? I actually have no direct answer- I could only guess what those keys were for-and they all went in the trash.

I came to New Orleans in 2007, right after a 5 month winter in Alaska as a dog handler for an Iditarod musher. I went there to hermit out for a while, sitting a lot "zazen" and reading a lot of existential philosophy. I'm not sure what I was doing, but it was a visceral experience, bright with color, smarting with pain.

I thought I'd stay in New Orleans for a year. I leave tomorrow, 5 years later, with a wife, and with a new path.

Funny I'm off to live in a Zen center (again). When I first started sitting, about 9 years ago, I wanted nothing to do with robes, chants, anything "hokey-pokey." Now I want to do the hokey-pokey all the time!

Why? I think it worked. The bowing, the chanting, the posture all pointed at what I wasn't. It was like playing that electrified game, Operation. "I don't like this- Zap! I do like this-zap!"

And the fun never ends. Every day, in practice, deliciously seductive opportunities to do or not do come up. Someone says something mean. I want to say something mean. Sometimes I can observe, but most of the time I make mistakes. About 4 out of 5 times I make mistakes. Can't help myself.

And then there's the sitting which feels impervious to mistakes. We don't do or say anything as we slowly sway with the morning light creeping into our cold zendo. I watched someone take my rakusu by mistake and put it on her head, and I just watched while we chanted:

Great robe of liberation,
Field far beyond form and emptiness
Wearing the Tathaghatas teaching,
Saving all beings.


  1. I wish you'd add a gadget so I could subscribe by email to your posts. There's a line below the comments that says I can do that, but it doesn't seem to work. I do subscribe to "post comments (atom)" which goes into my Google Reader. Also, do you moderate so you know when someone writes? Looking for communication right now I guess.

  2. Hmm, no I don't. But I was also wondering how I might follow Monkey Mind, No Zen in the West, without subscribing by e-mail, because my E-mail is already a mess! Any ideas?

  3. You can create a box and divert Buddhist posts to that if you like. I subscribe to just a few blogs by mail, and they're no problem to me. They're not like mail, in that you're not required to answer or even read them.
    Please do nine prostrations for me, because I can hardly do one anymore - and get up from it.

  4. Thank you. I feel better for it.
    With a (half) bow,

  5. Hi Kogen -
    You write so well..... Miss You.

    I look forward to seeing you again.

    Peace to you..... and YOURS!


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