Dharma Q/A: Does Atonement Make Peace with the Past?

Does atonement address making peace with events in my past that happened to me, and that were not my doing or my fault?  Webster defines it as “reparation for a wrong or injury.”  Is the Buddhist definition broader?  If not atonement, how does the Dharma teach us to deal with past wrongs done to us? 

This practice of at-one-ment deepens over time as this act is renewed again and again. Reparations for past wrongs may … full post

Dharma Q/A: Frustrated by Koans.

Zen koans are totally frustrating and make me feel stupid. It’s as if everyone gets this but me. Am I missing something?  

Most definitely not! You have everything you need if you’re willing to get a little closer to the koan to find its gem. Even anger at a koan, when realized, becomes most intimate.

Before dismissing them out of hand, consider koans as good medicine, maybe bitter at first, but goes right to the … full post

Dharma Q/A: What Are We Doing When We Bow?

Could you say something about bowing in terms of the form, practice and spirit?

Truly, there is no Zen practice without bowing. When I place my hands palm to palm, immediately this brings alignment, connecting the inner and outer world in a way that is openhearted, accepting, ready and willing. Even if we don’t emotionally feel this in performing the mudra (maybe we’re distracted or irritated) something inevitably shifts as we do this ritual over … full post

Dharma Q/A: How Do I Work with Jealousy?

What can we do when we notice that we have stepped away from the connectedness that we know is true and are instead suddenly faced with feeling separate, protective, or threatened by the other, for instance, in the case of jealousy? 

The most powerful response we have towards any mind state is to mindfully befriend this “birth” that is coming into being. Only then can we look deeply into its source. If we resist and … full post

Dharma Q/A: What About When the Newness Wears Off?

After the newness wears off, how do I sustain my practice and make sure it doesn’t end-up in the closet next to the saxophone I don’t play anymore? 

I can empathize! How many of us have that great thing we started and never continued? I also have a dusty violin in the corner of my study and a 20 year old quilt that just needs its vine appliqué to be completed. When we come to … full post

Dharma Q/A: What Is “Leaning Into” Zazen?

This morning I was contemplating before and during meditation what it means to “lean in.”  I get passive meditation, because I have done plenty of that, but how does one lean in?  Is it with my mind?  Should I be invoking something?

An excellent question to ask about this kind of vague directive I often talk about! Sounds like you understand that zazen isn’t “passive” – already, right there, you invite the aliveness and curiosity … full post

Dharma Q/A: Overwhelmed by the News?

I have a hard time reading the daily news – I find myself getting angry and overwhelmed either by other’s opinions or what’s happening in the world. Yet part of me feels like I need to keep informed, but there’s so much out there that’s really confusing.

You are not alone. We live in an unprecedented era of information overload. In less than a minute, I can learn that North Korea just tested another nuclear … full post

Dharma Q/A: How Do I Practice with Extreme Pain?

How can enduring continuous physical pain be a useful gateway to realization, especially when the pain is extreme or all consuming? 

Extreme pain is the most exacting of teachers – there’s no “maybe I’ll practice with that later” as it commands our attention and primal instinct to get away from a cause. In many cases, however, this is just not possible, and in some chronic conditions, we may never know a “cause” of pain in … full post

Dharma Q/A: What’s a Zen Teacher?

What is the difference between you as a teacher and the rest of us in the sangha?

On one hand, nothing. Teachers and students are both subject to delusion and enlightenment and both practice the way. On the other hand, while there is no essential difference between teacher and student in the Zen sangha, in our lineage, we say that a teacher is someone who has thoroughly clarified what it means to be a student. … full post

Dharma Q/A: How is Awe Connected to Wisdom?

Your question reminds me of my teacher’s oft quoted passage from the Prajna Paramita, the ancient teaching manual, if you will, describing how to rely not upon our usual feelings and opinions but instead, rest in emptiness, or boundlessness, as the source of wisdom.

A bodhisattva does not stand in form, perception or in feeling, in will or consciousness, or any skandha whatsoever. In Dharma’s true nature alone is she standing. Then that is a  full post