Anything I write about myself seems unimportant in the context of a boundless reality – not to mention that any story about my Self would be quite tainted with my inexhaustible and untransformed delusions. I love to write but I don’t take the time. I love to take photographs but I don’t do much with them. I love to practice but I tend to drift into intellectual backwaters and whirlpools of thought. There are no transmissions I can claim nor great realizations.
i’m just a practitioner who struggles with all the same things every human does. And this blog is just another way to practice.
A long time ago, in a moment of angst, I wrote an email to a friend. That in itself is not noteworthy because I tend to (1) be in angst a lot, (2) write emails to friends, and (3) do both. The difference was that this email was all in lower caps. I was, in fact, copycatting my Taoist friend dave who liked to write that way. He often said it was pointless to live from the small-i ego unless you embodied it in every moment. dave could also take a vacation in one sip of his coffee.
But the friend who received my email had a different lens and insisted I use the shift-i because i needed to state clearly that I mattered.
The I which practices Right Livelihood as best she can is a psychologist, engaged in various ways to create space for the individual’s intimate truth to emerge. Buddhist practice informs my clinical approach and blossoms in the Mindfulness Clinic where my partner and I enjoy sharing our practice with class after class of incredibly wise beings.
I often say I’ve been practicing Buddhism for 30 years. That’s debatable – and has been. How do i count when practice actually begins? i don’t. But sometimes I have to when it’s a metric for belonging. Thich Nhat Hanh says there is no beginning, no ending, no coming, no going. That gets me off the hook. I’ve been part of a number of traditions: a Tibetan tradition (9 months), Zen in the lineage of Kapleau (commuted 4 hours for a year), and 9 months with a weird Zen group where I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone anytime and the godo told me to stop flicking my eyes in dokusan. Eventually, I found my way to Thich Nhat Hanh and discovered a practical and user-friendly way to live. It’s been like coming home.
My partner and I are lay ordained members of Thich Nhat Hanh’s fourfold community and lead a sangha which is a realization of a way of practicing. We are also an Upaya Sitting Group, under the guidance of Roshi Joan Halifax, Abbot of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe NM. I’ve been studying in the Buddhist Chaplaincy program at Upaya since 2009 with ordination approaching in 2012.
Another among my meditative practices is a ragged dance with the Japanese brush, shodo. My very Japanese teacher used to cringe at my efforts and plead, “Pray with the brush, pray!” It took me a while to realize she was saying, “Play with the brush, play!” By then it was too late. I had fallen into a fundamentalism about grinding black ink and collecting exotic brushes. Some of my brushwork (cropped smartly) will occasionally be flung into the posts here – as will some photoartography.
Actuallly, shodo practice lead me to Upaya Zen Center on what I thought was a 5-day workshop with Kaz Tanahashi whose calligraphy retreat I had attended at Zen Mountain Monastery. It wasn’t a 5-day calligraphy workshop but a 5-day sesshin on Dogen. I had never been to a sesshin let alone one that required oryoki. i survived. A lot of other things didn’t.
Practice now is very simple: Make the choice in every moment to be as skillful as i can be.
I hope you enjoy my peripatetic directionless wanderings and share your thoughts and teachings in the comments sections of the posts.