Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Year's End

My year as Ino will end on Saturday.  Deep gratitude to all of you who took a moment to read these posts.   Deep apologies for not writing as often as I should have to keep you apprised of temple life.   On too many days, exhaustion and grief silenced both creativity and voice, despite my joyous love for a job that maybe helped a few people to sit, settle and discover the inner heart-mind that’s better than any I. 

On Monday, I’ll depart for an autumn leave to continue closing out my father’s life and mourning his passing, and prepare for Dharma Transmission in December.

As our Full Moon Ceremony says:

No coming, no going.
No surplus, no lack.

Or, better yet:

Awkward in a hundred ways, clumsy in a thousand, still I go on.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Guest Students

Five guest students are with us this week -- people who have arranged their lives, and perhaps used their vacation, to try out temple life.   They are always such a delight, full of heartfelt questions, eager to get to the zendo, curious about what it means to sit and be quiet amidst the American dream of progress and acquisition.  You get the impression that they're no longer enamored with manifest destiny (or maybe never bought it in the first place).  One of them asked me about the role of ambition in Buddhism.  His face lit up at the possibility that he could have an ambition to be kind, compassionate and wise in whatever profession he chose.

We talked at length about she shin, Tibetan for the alert awareness that watches our mind.  It's that capacity within us that sees how the rest of us is doing -- the part that notices we're angry/sad/happy/vengeful/calm -- but is none of those itself.  It is, in a sense, the ultimate refuge to which we can return again and again, a capacity that sees keenly into our nature, that is obviously present, but is empty (in the Buddhist sense) of any defining characteristic except unconditional acceptance of what is.

And this is the trait that makes guest students such wonderful teachers.  They just accept the ways of the temple, so odd in so many ways from what they're used to.  They have questions, of course, but mostly they just do what we ask, follow the schedule, eat what's offered, and sit facing a wall.  Some of them come back.  Some of them move in.  Suzuki-roshi would be grinning and clapping at their whole-hearted leap into beginner's mind.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Yesterday we ended a one-week retreat that was just for the residents of Beginner’s Mind Temple.  That’s odd, you say.  You temple folks live the retreat that the rest of us go on for our vacations.  Yes, and running a place that others go for refuge is tiring.  Truth be told, we’re a bunch of exhausted introverts. 

But oddly enough, we weren’t itching to do something wild and crazy with our week off.  Guess what emerged as the most-wanted retreat activities?  Sitting zazen and having time to study Buddhism topped the list, along with (no surprise) getting more sleep.  We also wanted time to just get to know each other and feel more connected, even though we all live in one block, eat in one dining room, and sit in one zendo.

So lest our week sound a bit self-indulgent, we might recall Wu-men: 
If there is no harmony in the Buddhist temple, how can its residents bring harmony to the world and fulfill their vows?
Or Dōgen:
Pure intentions without energetic functions are not sufficient. 
The temple doors are open again now.  Thank you for your patience while we re-charged our energy.  Please don’t be shy about doing the same for yourself.  Retreat.