Q/A: How Can I Face the Daily News?

Lately, I can hardly read the news. I know I’m supposed to know what’s going on, but every day I’m left with a sense of dread and overwhelm with what’s happening in the world. Even though I meditate every day, I’m not sure how my practicing zazen applies to this problem. I just feel helpless in the face of so much suffering.

Dear friend in the dharma ~

You are not alone. To be troubled … full post

Dharma Q/A: Should I Go to Sanzen?

I’m not sure if and when I should come to sanzen. What’s OK to ask and what isn’t? Sometimes I feel like I need more help in practice, that I don’t know what I’m doing, but it’s hard to figure out how to put it into words.

I remember my first long retreat. On the second day of sesshin, I was surprised by a voice in the zendo that said ominously, “Sanzen is available with … full post

Dharma Q/A: Why Do I Seek Realization?

Why do I seek realization?  I only have a very short time to live (years or days just a blink in time).  What is the benefit of becoming enlightened?  It can’t be for me.  I’m as transient as an airborne spore.

When you realize buddha dharma, you do not think, “This is realization just as I expected.” Even if you think so, realization inevitably differs from your expectation. Realization is not like your conception of full post

Dharma Q/A: Zazen – The One Non-negotiable?

There is a huge billboard on W. 11th that says, “Jesus, the only way to God.” I know Zen (unlike the Christian billboard) is not saying that zazen is the only way to realization, but why is it indispensable in Zen practice?    

As I say this often, I can imagine it sounds quite dogmatic, a quality that naturally evokes suspicion. I’m with you. As was the Buddha.

I talk about zazen as “the one non-negotiable” … full post

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