most intimate: zen lessons from roshi enkyo – book review

Pat Enkyo O’Hara roshi is the Abbot of the Village Zendo in New York City, a frequent visiting teacher at Upaya Zen Center, and traveller into the Himalayas on medical missions. Now she offers her teachings on Zen in Most Intimate: A Zen approach to life’s challenges (Shambhala Publications).

The book begins with the greatest challenge we encounter on this path of practice: intimacy with ourselves. It widens the circle of inclusion then to relationships and then all the sticky, icky stuff that gums up being with self and others. Sex, suffering, anger, work, death & dying. Joy and peace, too. Like any practice period though, it’s the journey through the sticky stuff that opens us into healing and making peace with who and how we are. Enkyo roshi brings all this to the cushion and mat with a light touch for both the joy and woe of being human.

Zen is a way of being in touch with our wholeness – our self without the overlay of what may have crept through in our history, without the stories we make about our life, without the defensiveness or delusions that we have built up to protect ourselves. Too often what we consciously or unconsciously use as “protection” can become a frame through which we view all of life; it is a distorted frame – a prison actually.

We are very familiar with that prison. Despite its constraints and filtering of our view, we often prefer to lie in it spinning imaginings of a life both unlived and unlivable. Yet what we think is so safe is only an illusion and what we guard against so stridently is the very intimacy that can set us free.  “(I)ntimacy with ourselves…with our lovers, partners, and close friends. (Enkyo talks about) intimacy with the work we do and the colleagues with whom we work, intimacy with our community and with the great earth – intimacy with everyone.”

Chapter by chapter she walks us down these paths we work so hard to avoid. And at every step of the way she shows us her own human side and the Bodhisattva vow that keeps us committed to continually entering into places that are frightening.

A long time ago in China, a Zen student asked if any sages had ever fallen into hell. His teacher answered that they are the first to go there! The shocked student asked, “But if they are enlightened, why would they fall into hell?” The teacher looked at the student and with a smile said, “If I didn’t fall into hell, how could I help you?”

Whether we are facing our suffering or joy, Enkyo reminds us that this is our intention: to willingly fall into hell so we can help each other. She points out that we resist our pain (and therefore our joy) out of habits of mind and by doing so we miss the opportunity to become intimate with what is our life in that very instant. Paradoxically, when we cultivate that open-hearted equanimity, we also are available for the surprise of joy which comes “when we least expect it.”

Through stories of her own experiences, Zen teaching tales, question and answer sections and, most important, clearly described practice sections, Enkyo gives us a map and guide to traverse the most challenging terrain in our lives.

________________

[This book was made available electronically for review through Shambhala Publication’s NetGalley account.]

the blinding sound of a calling

calling

I’ve been feeling more deeply how frustrating my peripatetic spiritual path has been. Is. And, for whatever the reason, it’s been more piercing than ever lately. Even more, it doesn’t escape my symbol-loving mind that it began 9 months ago when I made the decision to forego Summer Ango and Rohatsu so I could be with family, awaiting the arrival of the Gr’Kid.

The intent of Ango and Rohatsu however is not only the ongoing cultivation of my spiritual path but also the process of engaging in the path of the novice priest. It looks strange writing it out; some of you already know of this aspiration and practice and I bow deeply to your patience as I harangued you with all my doubts, convoluted cognitions, and self-serving angst.

This is a huge piece of my spiritual life. I knew in a flash of  a moment at the age of 9 years, standing in a church hall watching a young girl who was part of a diorama of  a Methodist nun caring for little baby (it was a doll, but powerful nevertheless). I knew it again sitting zazenkai at the Montreal Zen Centre with master Albert Low as his attendant stepped up to adjust Low’s robes and set the stage for the teisho. I know it again and again standing across from my teacher at morning services at Upaya, blinded by the power of eye-to-eye contact and heart-to-heart connection.

And I know it more powerfully than ever as I walk the hospital halls with my Chaplain colleagues or sit round-table with them developing more and more compassionate ways to met the great matter of living and dying.

And  yet… and yet… this dewdrop world is far-flung and complex.

When I first tried to articulate this ephemeral sense of a calling, it was met with stunned silence which I took to mean I was unworthy. And then there was the mind-twisting advice to not ask because by asking it showed wanting which meant craving and how could it be a real calling if it was a craving. That was easy to dismiss as zennobabble. The wiser mitras pointed out that the practice was in stepping off that 100-foot pole, in letting it all explode into dust, and to know that asking was just another way of piercing the illusion of something to be had.

While there is truly nothing to be gained from ordination, there is much to be lost from not honouring the calling. The power of that driving force is inescapable. It pervades every thought, word, and action. It is cetanā, intention, of every connection. It is all-consuming and abjects us to all means of being in service. And for many of us, it is not necessarily available. And that is a profound loss for both the individual and community.

In my conversations with two of my dearly loved dharma sisters and brothers, I explored all these aspects. The possibility is that we already live a priesthood; true and yet that begs the point of serving overtly in community. The possibility is that it can be sublimated into a lay form of service; true and yet it contradicts the intent of practice being the realization of our true nature. The possibility is that it can happen but not in the specific community or way one had hoped; true and for some of us, this is the most non-negotiable because ordination is a public celebration of our relationship with our spiritual birth-community.

And then there’s the specific one I face and struggle against: the possibility that there may not be a configuration of time and energy. This takes time, a never-ending series of renunciations of the dew drop world. Months away from family (and work  income that supports all this – a financial ouroborus), reconfiguring all the responsibilities of being a householder, letting go of commitments to be present for birthdays, anniversaries, and the likelihood that this body may no longer be able to withstand the physical rigours of this form of practice. I hold out the hope that being a time being, it – and I – will unfold in time.

Not surprising, this week there was the blinding call of time pressing. James Ford wrote here of what a couple of wrong decisions could have meant and why the evening chant is a deep calling. And Brookie at The Blue Lotus Seed wrote here of the ever-changing identity of the sangha’s meditation space and the heart that continues to be present, concluding with the call to find a seat because time is fleeting. And Ruth Ozeki in A Tale for the Time Being wrote of the merits of home-leaving and Dogen’s exhortation of his monks:

Life is fleeting! Don’t waste a single moment of your precious life!
Wake up now!
And now!
And now!

We lose many things on the path. A sense of entitlement, righteousness, specialness. Gone. Gone, the sense that time limits us. Worn away in the chaffing against time beings.

We take on many things on this path. A sense of duty, loyalty, service. Of being blinded by a calling yet not blind to what it means as it unfolds in time.

____________

About the photo: I chose it for the piercing points of the ice. As I was playing with the image, it revealed the twisting colouration embedded in the ice. A reflection of the pergola caught, frozen into the icicle. Somehow it seemed very fitting to the topic.

robai-shin: entering the heart of ancestral recipes

robai-shin“You understand all of Buddhism, but you cannot go beyond your abilities and your intelligence. You must have robai-shin, the mind of great compassion. This compassion must help all of humanity. You should not think only of yourself.”

I can’t find the source of the quote attributed to Dogen, who apparently said it to the Third Patriarch of Eihei-ji. Upon the arrival of our Gr’Kid, a dharma sister sent me the quote welcoming me into the the community of Grandmothers. Robai-shin, wrote another. It will bring you deeper into the heart of compassion.

Dogen wrote in Instructions for the Tenzo that “in performing our duties along with other officers and staff, (we) should maintain joyful mind, kind mind, and great mind.” Joyful mind arises from our gratitude for being born into this human form. More so that “we have the good fortune of cooking meals to be offered to the three treasures.” Now that I immediately understand because cooking is the heart of my family, its compassionate ground, and the source of all healing. The curries, dahls, rice. The desserts of glutinous black rice and agar jellies. The pungent fermented tea leaves and pickled ginger digestives. Dogen’s exhortations in the earlier sections of Instructions read like a day in my own grandmother’s hotel on Sule Pagoda Road in Rangoon. Well, maybe it was a bit more frenetic than Eihei-ji because my uncle and aunt who helped there were just as likely to swing cleavers at each other as at the chickens.

dahl

My mother, despite not knowing how to cook (why would you need to when your own mother owned a hotel and simply delivered the food each day!), developed her own skills ultimately crafting a pilau rice that earned the title “Gamma’s Rice.” And, the deterioration in its edibility was what first raised the alarms of her encroaching dementia. I’m not sure what dishes will identify my place on this earth but that is the nature of being parent – and now grandparent. I delight in an eclectic range of textures and flavours, only coming into the ancestral recipes later in life. Interesting how I can now say “later” although it’s never been an avoided or hidden idea that aging grants me many somewhat unearned privileges. My own curries are finally edible and I turn more towards the Indian styles of cooking and taste. And yet, my signature dishes tend to be Burmese, likely more for their rarity than their actual craft.

Robai-shin. Grandmother-mind. Kind mind. The second of Dogen’s doors to community is that quality of kindness. Not just kindness but a stance of protectiveness of the present for the future. Kaz Tanahashi¹ translates it as a parental mind. We develop this kindness for our children to the extent that we “do not care whether (we ourselves) are poor or rich; (our) only concern is that (our) children will grow up.” In principle, it is our only concern: that they survive. Of course, we harbour hopes that they will live carefully, in good health, making wise choices, respecting others as themselves, and knowing that the bloodline extends through them but doesn’t end there. The tricky part is that our kindness is offered against this backdrop of hope but cannot be directed by it. Robai-shin is an offering “without expecting any result or gain.” It simply unfolds as that hand reaching for the pillow in the night, the bow that evidences transmission beyond words, the sound of the single hand at death. It holds, it honours, it transcends form as it is called to do so.

Both my grandmothers were iconoclasts in their own right. My paternal grandmother was a rather severe character but with a sharp sense of humour particularly about her love of oversized cheroots. Devoutly Buddhist, she was the quintessential pragmatist. She never cooked, cleaned, or otherwise engaged in tasks that someone else in her life was already doing. I saw her weekly but never among family. She arrived each Sunday to take me to the Botataung Pagoda (while my parents entertained their friends at poker and various gambling games). I don’t recall any words of wisdom or special gifts. That is, until one day I overheard an intense argument she was having with my father over the damage he was doing karmically by exposing me to his high society lifestyle. She was formidable and, as I understand from the family myths, would not have been above picking up a wooden shoe to whack sense into him at any age – his or hers. I never knew her name until I was an adult but it didn’t dim the connection.

dahl-riceMy maternal grandmother ran the Piccadilly Hotel in Rangoon. Now she, along with her only surviving son, was all about food. I lived in the hotel with my  five male cousins and we all became little cook’s helpers. Unfortunately, only I escaped the epigenetic change that enabled the boys to become great cooks. As “Ma,” she made sure we roamed the hallways as a little gang, thereby protecting us from certain characters who lodged there in transit to Bangkok or Delhi. She set the rules for riding out into the Night Bazaar on my uncle’s scooter, clutched to his flapping, open shirt. Being the only girl (at the time), I was forbidden to go though my uncle found ways around that senseless rule. Apparently robai-shin meant something different to him. As “Belle,” she swept through the evening society parties in shimmering gowns with a hairstyle of braids wound upright over her head like a dark halo and an eternal eye cast on negotiating the family’s best future.

robai-shin2Out of joyful mind and robai-shin arises great mind. “Like a great mountain or a great ocean,” it is the nondiscriminatory mind. It is the vast, boundless space which is also robai-shin and joyful mind because it contains everything. Instructions for the Tenzo is a simile wrapped around a metaphor at whose heart lies a mirror. It’s a discourse on how to wash rice, pointing to principles for living a life of deep practice, penetrating that deep question of who we truly are.  In the teachings of the three minds, Dogen reveals the components of both community and the Great Matter, leaving it up to us to craft a recipe that honours why we have been held in robai-shin and are called to embody robai-shin.

————————

1. Tanahashi, Kazuaki (Ed.), Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen. North Point Press, NY.

not yer granny’s buddhism

bear

 

There have been a few posts lately about the true nature of Buddhism, whether that nature has been defiled, and (mostly with erroneous logic and lousy data) whether one of the greatest defilers is the Momentum of Mindfulness. A sub-clause to all this cogitating is a need to prove that the Mindfulness Movement is really a pernicious process of oppressing the masses to be sheep and fodder for the Capitalist Overlords. I actually have no argument for the latter because, in my experience, the mindfulness modality is becoming a bit of a dumping ground for hard-to-treat and hard-to-diagnose mental health issues; those Capitalist Overlords may be the over-burdened health care systems that want relief through a 21st century mode of chemical constraints and the ice-water dunking baths of yore. But I digress.

Justin Whitaker, my favourite male Buddhisty philosopher, wrote a great post on the differentiation of Buddhism as a philosophy and a religion. And it is accompanied by a mind-blowing work of art in which his photo-shopping places the Buddha smack down in the middle of a symposium or a wonder of philosophers. I really liked it. Not only does it place the Buddha in the scrum representing various branches of knowledge but specifically placed in the one related to understanding through the determination of primary causes.  The post riffs on an article by Michael McGhee asking “Is Buddhism a religion?” Other than a bit of a sniper shot at the Momentum of Mindfulness and the NHS (UK’s health care system) decree that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is the cat’s meow these days, there is much of worth in the article.

I am compelled yet again to dig into the reality that today’s Buddhism in North America (being much more driven by the American zeitgeist than we care to admit) is not my granny’s Buddhism. But then again, today’s Burmese Buddhist vihara is not my granny’s sangha either. It seems a tough notion to resolve in our minds. And perhaps that’s the start of the problem: we’re trying to think our way through this evolution rather than actually experience it. But thinking is what we do.

McGhee points out that the while a-religionists claim Buddhism is not a religion, they go on to accessorize their own beliefs with the language and conceptual hooks of Buddhism. This seems to be a bad thing, a sort of theft or spiritual plagarizing – which I can see may be hurtful because if you’re going to say the meal offered is not suitable for your purposes, don’t then walk away with the silverware. But I do feel his pain. And equally, I love the reactivity when I say that Buddhism is about renunciation; the dilemma it poses if positively Freudian!

And although I’ll skip over McGhee’s silly sidebar swipe about therapeutically-used meditation allowing for better killers, it is interesting to follow his reasoning that Buddhism being a program of ethical preparation, ironically may move it into the realm of philosophy. (Hence the serendipity of Justin placing the Buddha at the gate of the philosophers!) McGhee writes:

In that case Buddhist practice becomes a form of ethical preparation, reducing the forms of self-preoccupation that impede a concern for justice. This aspect of Buddhism has led some commentators to say that it is more like a philosophy of life than a religion. This contrast with religion relies too heavily on the assimilation of religion to religious belief and it neglects the ceremonial and ritual and community-building aspects of the various religions, including Buddhism.

Now that leads us to the graphic above about bears. (You were wondering, I know.) In my first retreat, all the talks and exchanges were in French. My friends and the facilitators were very kind to translate everything for me, despite my assurances that I was perfectly bilingual. On the second day of the retreat, we were called to a meeting and warned that there was a black bear loose on the grounds and to be careful. Those camping by the centre were invited to sleep in the zendo. I realized after the meeting that no one had translated any of the exchanges for me. From this I concluded that it was vastly more dangerous to not have an accurate understanding of the Dharma than of a potentially lethal bear.

The evolution of Buddhism and of various modalities of psychotherapy is like that. Better to be accurate in one’s intention to practice which directs one’s attention to the details of practice and improves one’s stance to the inner experience which includes ethical prepardeness. How this plays out in your life of practice will depend on whether the bear gets to you before the Dharma.

trudging the wrong path diligently

moon1 I’ve gone missing. Typically, I go missing in action, meaning that I tend to be so activated that I get lost or even miss who I am or whither I goest. Did I use to write diligently every day? Execute (in many meanings) brush paintings each week? Read books and review them regularly? There’s a fire that is fuelled by longing and a heat generated by desire. It keeps things bubbling and moving forward so that there is for all intents and purposes a semblance of order wrested from chaos. In that blazing it is possible to do all manner of things. It is possible to have insights and revelations, paintings and prose, lovings and lustings. It is possible for each of these havings to be flavoured as  wholesome and unwholesome.

When I wrote every day, it was from a need to clarify my misunderstanding of the dharma, of practice, and of what my life was, is, has become through the generosity of myriad beings, causes and conditions. It was the same in painting or photography. Practice, clarify, clarify, realize, realize, make real. This was and is practice. It is a stepping out into the marketplace, albeit it was a shady, tucked-away nook. I also wrote to create a space between what I practice professionally as a psychologist and what I practice personally as a Buddhist. That’s a tougher process of clarifying because they are so intricately woven together. Neither conduit of a way of being lends itself to segmenting situational identities let alone body from emotions from sensations from thoughts.

It goes without saying that I write because there is an egoistic part of me (only a part? I ask my unrelentingly needy self) that wants to be heard, read, reflected upon and otherwise validated, valued, and thereby mirrored in the neurons of those myriad Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Is it really ego or is it just human to want to feel part of a larger cosmos, some community that is a summation of all its parts and then with added value? It can be that too, I suppose. There is a sense of belongingness that emerges from all our efforts, except that we often fail to see it for all the artificial smoke and fake mirrors the ego throws out.

Write or not, I have come to understand that the path is not revealed in the writing. Nor is the path itself the writing. Every word is wrong and every conclusion is misinformed. Why? Because to start with the idea that something needs to be revealed or that some connections require a mirror to be realized (made real) is already wrong-headed. Now the bottom line in all of this is a simple question: do I actually have anything to say? These days, I would say, “Less and less so.” There are moment when I think, “Oh, that needs a rebuttal!” Or, “Egads, do people actually accept that as the definitive word? Maybe I should saddle up the old destrier nag and armour-up!” Then I sit down, have a cup of tea, and the thought passes.

And yet… and yet… this wrong-headed path needs to be trudged not just by dismissing the myriad dhammas as themselves wrong-headed but by sitting down observing how right- and wrong-headedness arise as co-joined twins discernable only by how we meet them.

playing fetch with the black dog: buddhism & depression

alium

It’s finally a sort of Spring here. I mean “sort of” in the sense that there is no clear delineation between the end of Winter and the start of Spring in the very best of years and it’s more than apparent this year. It would be nice to claim that this is some sort of growth in my awareness and hence degree of enlightenment. But it’s not. Spring just seems to saunter up the laneway and turn the corner to the rose garden, looking for all intent and purpose as if it had simply stepped out for a moment to fetch a pail or a trowel. And then looking shocked at the rampant growth of weeds and frost-withered daffodils.

DSC_0032Lady Spring not being the kind to hang around for the hard labour, Frank headed out into the swarm of mosquitoes and black flies to stave off the advances of the dandelions and their ilk. Two hours later I was summoned to check on his work; the greenery had become more undifferentiated in being flora or possible compost. I was astonished. The roses stood out in solitary splendour, the alium sat happily in their tangle mess of leaves and stems, the Buddha wore a half-necklace of chive – and all seemed perfectly right with the world.

There are moments like that these days. It wasn’t always so. I was deeply moved to read Justin Whitaker’s recent blog post on his journey through darkness. Justin writes about his dance with depression and it’s a worthy read for all of us who have taken long walks with the Black Dog. (Side note: if you Google “black dog of depression”, there are a number of fascinating hits.) Many of us know the pain, despair and devastation that can accompany depression and its cohorts of anxiety, phobias and self-harm. We have gone on voyages and pilgrimages to find cures, salves and resolutions to our pain. Some of us enter the path of Buddhism. Some of us meander, picking and choosing in the exact way that reinforces the clutches of helplessness and hopelessness because nothing can ever be a certainty or give assurance that the clouds will lift forever.

And some of us live in a strange oblivion, unaware of that beast dogging our heels or curled snugly against our chest as we lie in bed wishing the dawn away. Perhaps we notice a regret that we made it through the night and have to face another day of masked frailty. Perhaps we take deep breaths just before an exertion, mental or emotional. Perhaps we turn to Buddhism because it promises an end to suffering despite our insistence that we really cannot be suffering in this mud sty of materialist delight.

I don’t recall if I came to Psychology because I suffered or if I came to Buddhism because it was the best articulation of the psychology of mind and behaviour… and because I suffered from those tangles of mind and behaviour. There are so many memories of sitting in the library stacks researching schizophrenia because that could be the only explanation for the impossible reality I experienced. There was this moment of heart-rending insight when I learned that there was a name for what I experienced. It was called “impermanence.” Of course, there were a few nuances to that.

At a gathering of Burmese refugees, I was asked when I left Burma. 1965, I said. He looked at me perplexed. “1965? What was happening then?” In a single sentence, 35 years of exile were wiped away. I could appeal to no war, massacre, slaughter for having left with my parents who themselves bore witness to a range of subtle and overt forms of torture and torment. But it was there. Deep in my memories lay stories I overheard of people being taken away and returned broken in bone and spirit, visits to families left destitute because of changing loyalties and rampant paranoia. But it was 1965 and nothing was happening so I could not have been suffering.

The story could go on for a long while yet but it is little different from what Justin or others have shared. We twist and turn at the end of our perceptions of what it means to feel helpless and hopeless. In the end, however, we exhaust ourselves and become still – in body if not in mind.

What I really want to put out here in black-and-grey is that we tend to dismiss our birthright to suffering. We seek external validation for it and by doing so we fail to see the simple truth that we suffer. Never mind if there is a diagnosis (I’m not big on diagnoses). Never mind if there’s a label that makes it more communicable to health care providers and insurance providers. There’s a place for all that but all that has no place in turning around and sitting in front of that loyal black dog who is simply trying to do its job.

The practice of Buddhism in the face of mental health issues is to teach us to turn around and sit down. Wait for that experience to show up. Meet it with all the equanimity, fear, reservation and curiosity we can muster. It’s a tough scary call to practice but it is an irrevocable responsibility given the moment we first wailed.

DSC_0011

And some days then, we hear with profound clarity the burbling of the spring behind the house. We see the green in the banks of the brook. We smell the ploughed earth and the mown hay in the back field. We feel the soft fur of the animal at our feet, our own “soft animal body that loves what it loves.”¹ We taste the wild strawberry tucked under the lavender bush. And our mind flashes with realization, this is it. Just this.

We throw the ball and the black dog delights in playing fetch.

__________________

¹”“Wild Geese” from Dream Work, copyright © 1986 by Mary Oliver.

the endless training of zen: book review of A Guide to Zen

Zen training is without beginning and without end.  Some days, when the petty ego takes over and the arbitrary lines are drawn between past and future or gain and failure, that’s a bitter pill to swallow.  On those days, it’s helpful to have a guide that takes the sting out of whatever thought may drift by about gaining and failing.

Katsuki Sekida, author of Zen Training and Two Zen Classics, a translation of the Mumokan and Blue Cliff Records, was a teacher of English and trained in monasteries in Japan.  Editor of this condensation of Sekida’s earlier work, Marc Allen was one of his students at the Maui Zendo and has distilled Sekida’s teachings in a compact, helpful book for beginner and more advanced students of Zen.

Sekida starts with practice.  Acknowledging that Zen is “concerned with the problem of the nature of mind,” he makes it clear from the outset that the workings of mind (speculation and reason) are not separate from personal practice which arise from our body and mind.  Unlike most books on Zen practice which give slight service to posture and breathing, Sekida begins with two chapters detailing posture and breath work.  It’s not just about sitting and different poses; he digs deep into the experience of the breath and unravels the questions we have about the relationship between sitting immobile and the nature of mind.  More than any other book I’ve read, he digs deeply into the physiology of breath and there are some useful practices that surface from this part of the book.

I particularly liked the chapter on Samadhi,

the cleansing of consciousness,
and when consciousness is purified,
emancipation is, in fact, already accomplished.

Complicated words.  Sekida slowly and deliciously unpacks them through his definitions of absolute and positive samadhi and the phases of each. Using Linji’s categorization of the conditions of mind, Sekida describes the permutations and combinations of inner and outer focus (concerns) in clear and easily comprehensible terms.  He also makes an important point of self-mastery as the difference between true samadhi and false samadhi.   This, of course, is my hobby-horse – that litmus test between mindfulness based in ethics and mindfulness as a utilitarian strategy for the petty ego.

Sekida also clarifies the experience of kensho in one simple sentence (underlined below):

It may be, therefore, that the sound of a stone striking a bamboo trunk, or the sight of blossoms, makes a vivid impression, and you experience the wonderful moment of realization we call kensho. In this moment, you seem to see and hear beautiful things, but the truth is that you yourself have become beautiful and exalted.  Kensho is the recognition of your own purified mind.

It doesn’t get more transparent than that.

The book ends with a chapter on the Ox Herding Series.  I found it lovely but too much of a shift away from the dropping deep process of practice and realization of mind that marked the previous chapters.  Nevertheless, Sekida does offer some interesting links of his concepts of the physiology of practice and the spiritual metaphor of herding the Ox as steps in cultivating samadhi.  At times it seems prescriptive or predictive of what might happen as practice progresses.  At times it is reassuring that even on the journey of finding and mastering the Ox, there are ebbs and flows of gaining and failing.  I appreciated this the most in Sekida’s teaching: the Ox Herder is not simply a master of the capture and taming but truly the Everyman, vulnerable yet full of potential.

Finally, kudos to Marc Allen for putting together a very portable book packed full of generous teachings.  It’s one I will certainly stick in my pack and pull out often.