Sitting: Part 1
(Carl Jerome)

By way of introduction...

Meditation is what charges our mindfulness battery, and mindfulness is the driving force of a clear, peaceful, calm, quiet and confident mind.

Peaceful Forest Tim Schorre

What do we just do? We just sit, still, without moving, and focus on our breath. No numbers, no words, no visualizations, no wondering about the breathing. Just noticing it go in and out: in the diaphragm, chest, or at the tip of the nostrils. When a thought, a sensation, a feeling, a sound, whatever, arises as a distraction and we notice that we are thinking or feeling or hearing, we let go of that distraction and mindfully return to observing our breath.

We don’t judge or evaluate our meditation. We just sit.

Meditation is about letting go, not attaining. How do we let go? We let go by focusing our attention on something else. For example, when we notice we are listening to a bird, we let go by simply (re)focusing on our breath.

Allow the breath to be natural. Don’t try to change it or control it. Simply breathe. Simply observe.

About Xianyang Carl Jerome

A Fox on the Fence
(Sharon Meloy)

Sarah Webb

So I’m learning to meditate, to become more mindful and aware of myself and the moments of my life. Doug and I are sitting in the backyard looking out over trees and yard stuff. We are not paying attention to the pretty sky or the breezy leaves because we are fizzing into an argument and I can feel my skin heat up and my eyeballs dry out. No, fire has not been known to escape my ears, but it sometimes feels like it could. I am not, at this point, capable of invoking the words of wisdom I so desperately want to learn. We are just hitting our high notes, when, very suddenly, a fox appears like a fur ball up on the fence. We are speechless and immediately quiet with wonder. A fox? What’s he doing, where’s he going, how long will he stay? The argument from seconds ago has evaporated; I still barely have a memory of it. Aw, shoot, now that I wrote that I remember the fight and I’m all sweaty again. I need that fox, where is he? That fox really had a way of snapping us out of it. Our attention turned to watching the fox as it navigated the fence line until it came to an old oak tree. It looked up into the branches and jumped. Wow. It jumped up into a tree house platform Doug had built years earlier. It sat there for the longest time observing its aerial view. Next time I’m frustrated I’m gonna call that fox to hurry up and come back to the tree house in my mind. Maybe it will help me snap out of it.

About Sharon Meloy

Is Buddhism Lots of Work?
(Kim Mosley)

He asked if Buddhism was lots of work. Much less than suffering was the answer.
About Kim Mosley

Scent of Sandalwood
(Elizabeth Stein)

Scent of sandalwood:
Does it linger on my scarf
Or are we now one?

I stare at the floor,
Seeing faces in the wood—
Rain, master sculptor!

Bright red hydrangeas
Flank the candle like guardsmen;
Where to when they die?

Robed men meditate
Until the gong calls softly:
“Time to play some golf.”

Backlit by dawn sun,
Her hair a halo of fire …
She rises to go.

About Elizabeth Stein

Fat Cat Stares at Tree
(Sharon Meloy)

Sarah Webb

It’s early in the morning. I just walked up a breath-stealing hill. I’m approaching the top and I see a portly but pretty gray and white cat. He is doing something that seems very uncatlike to me and so I stop. I am under a tree. The cat is on the ground facing the tree. His pink nose is only inches away from the bark. He is simply staring at the tree in front of him. Is he watching a bug? Waiting for the bark to grow? In time out? He has politely acknowledged me momentarily and then gone back to his business. I do believe this cat is a Zen cat. In my meditation group at the Zen Center, we face the wall to help diminish distraction. It does help, because if someone walks into the room late for instance, I watch them and who knows what I start thinking then. So this fat cat is setting an example for me. I’m huffing and puffing at the top of the hill and contemplating a quick sit on the ground to join this cat. It’s a bit of a lesson for me when I feel lazy about my practice. Just stop what you’re doing, stop and meditate, then continue on your way. Oh and you’ll be glad to know I didn’t really sit down then. No sense looking like the fool when half the time I already feel like one!

About Sharon Meloy

Sarah Webb

Meditation for Kids or Why I Sit?
(Kim Mosley)

Thursday I’m teaching meditation to a group of kids in a summer camp. I’m told that they are middle school kids, around 12–13 years old. So I wondered what I’d say to them about meditation and why someone might want to sit and face the wall as we do in the zendo.

Forty years ago I taught art to 6th graders. They were a pretty intimidating lot, being little adults, with attitudes about art that were impenetrable. I went back after that to focusing on younger kids (though I taught college kids at the same time who were always ready for adventure).

In elementary school they would send me to the cloak room when I wasn’t behaving. That seemed to be often, and my record was twice in one day. Now I go to the cloak room (zendo) almost every day to sit and face the wall. What might have been construed as punishment has become somewhat of a necessity like eating, drinking, sleeping, or all the other sundry things we do to stay alive.

I eat because I’m hungry, though I’m realizing more and more that often I eat and I’m not hungry. I drink because I’m thirsty, though sometimes when I’m thirsty I don’t drink, and sometimes when I’m not thirsty I drink because that’s what you do in certain places (a coffee house, for example). I sleep when I’m tired, though sometimes it is because my wife says it is time to go to bed. The water is muddy, at best.

Kim Mosley

Why do I sit? Up to seven seconds before we make conscious (rational?) decisions we make unconscious decisions. Am I sitting because my unconscious is telling me to slow down and/or wake up?

We hear about cars going from 0–60 mph in a few seconds. Earlier today I was thinking about kids and how fast they are still going at “0.” Kids … no, all of us! We sit down on the couch and have the TV on, a conversation ensuing, a bag of potato chips being consumed, and multitudinous thoughts racing through our heads. That is what we call “laying back, zoning out, vegetating.” Maybe in reality we are going faster than ever. Maybe at 60 mph we are going slower than we are at 0 because we are trying to focus on the situation at hand in order to stay alive.

So what happens if we really slow down and simply focus on our breath? Is this “ground 0?” Is this an opportunity, in stillness, to start to notice that we may not really be hungry, tired, or thirsty? Is this an opportunity, in stillness, to notice that we may not be doing the best for ourselves or others?

Suzuki Roshi said that what is most important is to discover what is most important. I suspect that he knew what this was (to know who he was). It is a life journey. I suspect that it may be facilitated by a little“ quiet wakefulness."

That is why I sit.

About Kim Mosley

(Susan Longenecker)

Sitting fixes everything.
Sitting makes everything all right   especially me!
Sitting is a breeding ground for compassion and amazement.
Sitting sneaks up on you.
You turn around and find that something has gone
quietly left you when you were not paying attention.
Layers are coming off like the skins of onions
layers and layers of things you don't need
like the bags that go to Goodwill
and are forgotten.
Sitting fills you up with clear water
that has fermented with joy.
Sitting fills you up with hope.

About Susan Longenecker

Peaceful Forest Tim Schorre

A Dashing Kitty Cat
(Sharon Meloy)

A week later I am a week later into learning the wonders of meditating. I am still driving around baffled and delusional. I have not a clue how to quell these racecar thoughts of mine. At this particular moment I am coming home, going right and left through our narrow streets, and I’m in a rather negative, icky state. I’ve settled my mind on work and am having a replay of a conversation that did not go well for me. I am saying all the things I wish I had said, but of course then I would end up going to hell and who wants that. I’m on autopilot driving. Out of nowhere a white cat with orange spots zooms in front of my moving vehicle. Now this stuff happens to all of us, and it’s a big bummer. Especially for someone like me because I LOVE ANIMALS. I once stopped after hitting a frog and could barely look at the poor thing, but I laid it in the grass to die. But here’s the thing about the orange cat. It would have been flattened under my wheel if it had continued on its path to the other side of the street. I’m certain of it. What it does instead is to make a sharp left and continue its fleeing by running straight up the middle of the street, with me now tailing it. This was an uncanny sense of timing on the cat’s part. I had been braking since I saw the first blur of fur. By now, my truck had slowed enough that by trailing behind the cat I gave it the time it needed to once again, exit left and return to the side of the street. I’m sure it’s feline heart was going ninety to nothing. Mine, on the other hand, had soared from the baseline anxieties to the freaking out oh my god I almost hit a cat. Then wondrously I felt my heart rate slipping down to a calming pace, I was so happy and grateful to see the cat win. So next time I’m darting out onto the wrong path I hope to make like a tabby and exit at the right moment, the right time, the right place. Nothing wrong with going back to home plate sometimes and re-thinking things. Meow.

About Sharon Meloy

Sarah Webb

Doan [Zen Bell Ringer]
(Kim Mosley)

H=Her, M=Me

H: So you aren’t perfect. Is that a reason to burn yourself in effigy?

M: No, far from it. But it is a reason to reevaluate my career options.

H: So what do you do as doan (Japanese: 堂行) that is so difficult?

M: I time the sitting and then I ring the bells during the zen service.

H: What can be hard about that?

M: Well, there are two bells … a big one and a small one.

H: Is that for big mind and little mind?

M: You’re learning, but I doubt it, but kind of because the big bell is for the priest and the little bell is for everyone else. And in a sense you could say that the priest might represent big mind just a little more than someone who is not a priest, though I suspect that any priest worth his robe would deny that.

H: What can be hard about hitting a bell?

M: Only two things. Hitting the bell correctly … and … at the right time.

H: Is that all?

M: No. Hitting the bell the same way, time after time. And hitting it so that it makes music, and hitting it so that you aren’t hitting it, but more dancing with it. And not day dreaming.

H: That’s five things.

M: And hitting it in the right patterns.

H: How hard can that be?

M: Well, some people learn quickly. Obviously they were reincarnated from ancient bell ringers.

H: And you?

M: I was reincarnated from … I don’t know. Something that didn’t play the bells. Maybe a monkey or ape. Something that jumped around a lot.

H: Don’t put yourself down. We don’t want any hari kari.

M: Must be my genes that cause the problem. I could blame my age … but I think I’m learning new stuff as slowly as I ever did.

H: How do you know what bell to ring?

M: There is a schedule. But the chant is in Japanese … and I lose my place as quickly as you can say Jack Rabbit.

H: And when do you hit the small bell?

M: At the beginning and end of zazen, to indicate that the sangha should get ready to bow, to indicate that they should bow, to indicate that the chant is coming to the end, to indicate that it really is coming to the end.

H: And what about the big bell?

M: Oh, that indicates that the chant will soon start, that it will start now, that it started, that the priest has bowed to the mat or to the altar.

H: Is that all?

M: Pretty much!

H: Do you know how … but clutch and do it wrong?

M: All the time … well, almost all the time. But that’s perfectly okay … I guess.

About Kim Mosley

A Flying Gecko
(Sharon Meloy)

Sarah Webb

I’m on the patio and I’m watering a fern which is dangling in front of me from the trellis. I’m wondering if I can forfeit my sitting practice for today and just spend time in the garden. Sometimes I think all this sitting in front of a wall is not very productive. Also, I’ve been meditating a WHOLE MONTH and I have more questions than ever before. I want to ask about things, but I feel shy and foolish. Like, is it okay to sit and just blissfully daydream for 30 minutes, or should I try and re-focus every nanosecond my mind wanders? And why do I feel more anxiety now than when I started my practice? But back to the fern. I’m staring into all the greenery when I suddenly realize I’m staring into two little shiny round eyes. The little gecko is looking right at me from a distance of only about a foot. He is as Irish green as a color changing lizard sitting in a lush green fern would be. His head tilts to one side, then the other. He is really checking me out. I talk sweetly to him and am getting a kick out of watching his funny little head dance, when, out of the blue, he jumps. Right across the abyss between the fern and me. He has landed on my shoulder and I have yelped in surprise. Then he runs off down the flagstone and away. Hmmm. What in the world was he thinking, jumping over to me like that? Did he just need a quick route down to the ground? It seemed like a friendly gesture actually, like he wanted to reach out to me somehow. Maybe he was trying to tell me, “go ahead and ask your questions, reach out and take a leap of faith.” Okay, I know this is an anthropomorphic stretch of the imagination, but heh, I’m such a novice here that I need these anecdotes to help me along. So I’ll take the visual of flying geckos and use it next time I hesitate to raise my hand in curiosity. I’ll try the leap of faith trick.

About Sharon Meloy

Herb Cain
(with reaction by Jamie MacLaggan)

Far beyond enjoying, sitting plugs one in to the “dial tone of the universe.”—Herb Cain, circa 1968

[what's a dial tone]

[one ringy dingy]

About Jamie MacLaggan

A Horse Lesson
(Sharon Meloy)

Sarah Webb

About a year ago I volunteered to work with kids who rode therapy horses. My job was to simply lead the horse around the ring while the child sat in the saddle. Now, I’m a good dog handler. I trained all the dogs in our family, entered little shows, taught them search and rescue stuff. I don’t know beans about horses, but I figured my knack with animals would make this horse naturally do exactly what I wanted. I found out this was wrong figuring. I tried to lead a horse around a ring that refused to be led around a ring. This went on for months, and my frustration level was pretty high. Everyone kept saying, “Don’t look at the horse. Just walk with confidence and the horse will follow.” Or, “Don’t pull on the reins, just hold them and lead.” They even gave me a stable full of different ponies, but they all reacted the same way. They just didn’t like me. Now, I gotta tell ya, I was heartbroken. Horses don’t like me? But I love horses! I just couldn’t accept the realization that I was out of my league. I wanted to be the horse whisperer therapy chick. It just wasn’t meant to be. It is what it is. Just like this morning’s dharma talk. Acceptance. It is what it is. One more time. Acceptance. It is what it is. At least I’ve got good horse sense.

About Sharon Meloy

(Kim Mosley)

About Kim Mosley

Road Trip
(Glen Snyder)

I first learned how to sit zazen in the back seat of a 1959 Chevy Bellaire in the summer of 1964 while crossing America. It was sky-blue, with tail fins and chrome trim just like the one on the back cover of “Coney Island of the Mind” but without the spraypaint. It was on a journey that took us from Michigan through the Corn Belt and the Prairielands then winding through the desert Wastelands of the American West until we finally arrived at the Pacific coast.

Somewhere along the highway that cuts through oblivion, an identical Chevy Bellaire emerges from a distant billowing dust cloud. Its car horn wails: wwwwwhhhhaaaAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHhhhhoooooowwwwwwwwww
as it speeds by, careening back and forth with eastcoast-bound Jack at the wheel, and Albert up front, and Phil sitting full lotus in the back seat and everyone laughing and joking about every haiku they had made up thus far throughout this entire great journey: about the cactuses and the windmills, about the crows and the corn silos, about small Midwestern towns, skinny dogs and fruit stands, and about the myriad other things, both animate and inanimate, that have arisen and blown away behind them somewhere.

Or maybe all of that happened in some parallel universe of the vehicular realm. I don’t know. I was just five at the time and if I was looking out the car window with my eyes wide open it was just to see if there were cowboys and Indians yet. My backseat companion was my sister Cher who was only two, so she doesn’t remember any of it. All I know for sure about happenings going on in the rest of the world was that Kennedy was definitely dead. When that happened, I was on the swingsets behind the apartments and Mom came out crying that they had shot the President and then we saw LBJ get sworn in on our black-and-white in the basement. We sat right in front of the TV for that. This was different because usually I hid behind the laundry hamper with my plastic cap gun so that when stuff got out of hand on Gunsmoke I’d be able to dodge the bullets. When Kennedy died I didn’t squint my eyes at all, but when things got too scary on Gunsmoke, I would squint my eyes almost completely closed so that I could barely see through my eyelashes and that way the people on the TV could barely see me either. That was my way of being invisible. Usually Mom would look up from her ironing or whatever she was doing and say, $#8220;Why are you making that face again?” The day before the trip, Mom gave me a dime and I went to the truck on the corner with my next-door girlfriend Michelle to get a two-stick fudge-sickle and we split it and both our moms tried to explain that we wouldn’t be seeing each other for a long long time.

All of this was after a Saturday leading up to the road trip, when I had been in the front seat with Dad and we went to a gas station and then we went to do errands. As Dad would later say, it was the fault of the gas station attendant who must have not latched the hood after checking the oil. So that when we got back on the highway, a gust of wind snapped back the hood, cracking the front windshield and blocking our view of the road. Dad slammed on the breaks and the hood slammed back down. It was before seatbelts and so I flew forward and smacked my head on the metal dash. I must have fallen on the mat below the glove compartment after that. Dad went out to put down the hood and probably to cuss because back then it was a bad thing to cuss in front of kids. He came back in and said, “Are you okay?” “I’m okay,” I replied, crying a bit. We went home and got ice for the bump on my head. Then we went to a junkyard. There were lots of wrecked cars piled up and next to each other. After some walking, we found a blue Chevy Bellaire just like ours but with the door on the driver’s side all bashed in. There was some dried blood on the car seat. The junkyard man came and marked on the windshield. Then another one came and they took the windshield out of the wrecked car. They glued the windshield into our car and our car was as good as new.

Early before sunrise, Dad packed Cher and me into the Chevy like half-awake luggage. There was a small U-Haul hitched to the back that I secretly watched through barely-open eye, squinting secretly to watch as I pretended that I was invisible. We rolled out of Midland, Michigan, passing by the glowing lights and smokestacks of Dow Chemical Company and then past miles and miles of cornfields shrouded in darkness and we didn’t turn back. We were off for the Rancho Palos Verdes where my Dad and the rest of us had been transferred so that California and the rest of the world would become better places with more plastics and pesticides and napalm and so-forth. But that is another story. After about 4 hours of this journey, it was light out and Cher was carsick, crying and throwing up, and I quickly exhausted all of the games of counting license plates, cows, roadsigns and roadkill until I finally just leaned out the open window enough to watch the highway lines whip by until I felt like barfing also.

I’m not sure if we had any money back then, or if it was just one of my Dad‣s lessons in frugality, but in any case, to save money on hotels, Dad, being a chemical engineer and such, cut a sheet of plywood to fit in the back seat with two two-by-four legs on door-hinges to support it so that there was a flat surface running all the way from the crack in the back seat to the back of the front seat. Then he cut a sheet of 3-inch foam rubber to fit the whole thing and wrapped it in bed-sheets. It was a good idea in principle, he just didn’t account for the fact that the trip was a week long and the port-a-bed that he had fashioned had no place where we could put our feet down. So, Mom and Dad took turns driving and sleeping in front. In the back, Cher and I had to either lie down or sit cross-legged the whole way. And I couldn’t lie down without being on her half of the seat and she couldn’t lie down without being on my half of the seat. I kept whining that Cher was touching me with her foot until Dad, not even slowing the car, just reached back with his right hand and whacked me hard. After that there was just a lot of sitting involved. The car was hot ’ the closest thing to air conditioning was that little triangular window in the front door that would create a wind current when opened. After a couple of days Cher had a fever and would sit in Mom’s lap up front while Mom would wipe her face with a damp washcloth.

We ate sack lunches for the first couple of days, and Mom and Dad would take turns driving. They were kept in a Styrofoam cooler with ice in the front seat underneath Mom’s legs. The sack lunches consisted of butter and strawberry jam sandwiches which were somewhat soggy-red from the jam and kind of wadded up from being in the grocery bag for so long. There were also carrot sticks which tasted a bit like earth and a bit like wood. Also, there were Fig Newtons which were slightly bent and crumbly which were the only thing sweet we had, because Dad didn’t allow us to eat sugar because sugar rots your teeth out, but somehow Fig Newtons were okay in his book. And finally all of that food ran out, and I was jumping up and down happy when we pulled into a real McDonalds, arches and all. I ordered a hamburger there along with french-fries and a milkshake. Dad asked for an extra paper cup, guzzled off the top part of my shake then poured half of the remainder into the extra cup for my sister. Next he ripped my hamburger in half and gave half of the squashed bun and ketchup-and-mustard-bleeding-burger to Mom to help Cher eat. Mom and Dad got their own burgers but I didn’t say anything about my burger. I was just grateful, I think, that I got all of the pickle slice. I do remember thinking, though, that my vanilla shake would have tasted better if it didn’t have Dad’s saliva in it.

Once we reached a railroad crossing where the big wooden arms painted like candy canes came down between our car and the passing freight train. I counted the cars as high as I could count, and finally waved to the engineer who waved back from the yellow caboose. After that, there was some kind of malfunction that made the red lights stay on and the arms stay down. Soon there were many cars lined up behind ours. Cher sat in Mom’s lap as the car got hotter and hotter. I sat in the back seat and we waited for the crossing arms to move for multiple five-year-old-kalpas of time. I’ve learned subsequently that sometimes families in similar situations do strange things like sing Broadway Musicals, play word games, share riddles and such. Not us. When the car was moving, Mom might say something like, “sit still and be very quiet, your Dad is busy driving.” But, in this case, we weren’t moving at all. We just sat there with our mouths closed, breathing hot summer asphalt-air through our nostrils. Suddenly the gate started going ding-ding-ding. It raised up, clearing our way. We continued on in tired silence.

The great promise that Mom made to me was that after a few days we would be in the desert and would be able to see cactuses with arms on them, and tumbleweeds, and real cowboys and Indians. At one point I thought that if I was really lucky, the Indians would block the road with their horses, and after a brief shootout, they would snatch me from out of the car window, and carry me off on horseback to their camp where they would raise me on beef jerky and fishheads and other food left over from feeding their pet coyotes. Unfortunately, things didn’t go that well. There were some little cactuses and blue sky and lots of dust and it was mostly just really boring.

Label of image
Inevitably our trusty Chevy Bellaire started to overheat from towing the U-Haul across the desert. So my Dad pulled off at a gas station. I got out of the car with him, standing by as he opened the hood of the car and found a red oily rag for removing the cap from the radiator. Somehow I too was equipped with a rag in my hand to help out. As he turned the cap, a blast of steam and blackened water sprayed out. I was hit with the scalding steam in my eyes and on my face. Things went blurry, and I remember Dad, being trained in industrial accidents and such, calmly and resolutely grabbed me, wiped my stinging face with his oily rag, grabbed a hose and held my head down to run cold water over my eyes. “Are you okay,” he said. “Yeah,” I whimpered. Once back inside the car, Mom found me a clean tee-shirt and wrapped a wet towel around my head. She gave me a few half-melted ice cubes from the cooler to hold on my face. We continued down the road. After several hours I took the towel off. Things were okay, kind of.

On the final day of our trip we got out of the car at a rest stop. It was a barren place in the middle of nowhere and I was standing by a barbed-wire fence waiting while Mom changed Cher’s diapers, when I realized there was a giant bird staring at me. I called Dad who looked at it and told me it was a peacock that must have gotten loose from a peacock farm. It looked kind of gray and scraggly, with no tail feathers left to speak of. Mom and Dad chased it down and put it in a pillow case. For the final afternoon and evening of our journey, I rode sitting cross-legged with a peacock in a pillowcase in my lap. It was really too big for the pillow case, so I kept the pillowcase over its head. Mom said to hold it that way so that it would think that it was night time. Every once and awhile it would move around and peck at my hand through the pillowcase. I was thinking that perhaps around the next turn, we would come to a sudden stop with Marshal Dillon aiming his rifle straight at me. “Get out of that car with your hands up,” he would shout, mounted on his horse squarely planted in the middle of the road. I would then be arrested, hog-tied, and lashed to a saddle, to be carried off to one of those wild-west jails for the crime of peacock-rustling. This would not be the last time in my childhood that I would worry about getting arrested for something Dad had just done.

It was dark, and late at night, when we got to our new house in Rancho Palos Verdes. The movers had already arrived, and there were boxes everywhere. We let the peacock out on the porch and slept on mattresses on the floor. On our first morning in California, we ate cereal for breakfast. A high-school-age boy from next door came to our house and said hello. He wanted to know if the noisy peacock on their rooftop that woke them up at sunrise might belong to us. After that Dad went off to work. Cher slept in her bed. My bed wasn’t set up yet but I had a room and this was California now and I just sat on my mattress in my room and the mattress still moved gently beneath me like there were wheels underneath rolling over a long highway.

Somewhere along the highway that cuts through oblivion, an identical Chevy Bellaire emerges from a distant billowing dust cloud.
“Phil. Hey,Phil. Wake up,” Albert says, leaning back from the front passenger seat.
“What?...What time is it? What is this? Ohh, looks like Ohio or something” says Phil, yawning.
“Look, up in front of us,” says Albert.
“What are the chances,” says Jack as he hits the gas. “Not even in a million kotis of kalpas.”
As the car accelerates, he suddenly lays on the horn:
The twin Chevy Bellaires rocket towards each other on the empty highway. For an instant panicked faces glance through tempered glass windows, and then suddenly they are no longer driving towards each other but are driving in opposite directions, and they are growing smaller and smaller to each other until each car is no longer perceptible to the other.
“Why’d you do that?” Albert says.
“Sorry, just got kind of carried away. Thought maybe it was us in that car and if I got our attention, we would look up and see that it was us and then we would see ourselves as we are.”
“It wasn’t us, though,” says Phil. “You see that kid hanging out the window. You scared him to death.”
“Nahh,” says Albert. “I saw his face. Hardly noticed. His mind was somewhere else.”
“We are all someplace else in our minds,” says Jack behind the wheel. “ If we were really awake we would see that our present abiding place is right here in this golden sublime realm of cornfield garlands: our vehicle, the adamintine Chevrolet Bellaire color of lapis lazuli, that has transported us all this way moving on the wings of four hundred garudas through all the six realms and ten directions, its chrome trim and majestic tail fins have cut through delusion like thunderbolt vajras, its wheels and hubcaps are the true wheels of dharma, continually spinning and yet instantaneously motionless, the very wind that blows off the very Mount Meru wafts in though its rolled-down windows, its engine hums the song of retinues of lute-strumming gandharvas vocalizing the songs of as many universes as there are grains of corn pollen blowing about in this Midwestern moment of crisp morning air. ”
“Please, I need a coffee,” says Phil. “Let’s stop somewhere. And I can drive a bit, after that.”

About Glen Snyder

The Sidewalk Dog
(Sharon Mcloy)

Sarah Webb

I like to walk the hood. I like it a lot. I try to walk fast to get the benefit of exercise, but a lot of time I end up lollygagging. I live in a cool old West Austin neighborhood with an eclectic mix of architecture and personality. But today I’m walking at a real stride and my thoughts are flying like kites in the wind. Easy breezy. It’s really very nice to have a mind that behaves well. Wish I could bottle that formula. Oh that’s right, the Buddha already did. Anyway, I have the sidewalk all to myself until BAM I walk smack dab into a sweet yellow lab sunning himself out in front of his house. I’ve seen him before, a bit of an elderly four legger, yet aaaalllllll lab. He scoots up into a stance and, I swear, we have a normal conversation about what a nice day it is and, yes, my mind is beautifully vacant right now too. I pet him and he wags his tail and I’m on my way. It makes me think about what life was like before you had words to describe things. You were just a baby babbling. You just had visuals and feelings and a sense of something. Next time I meditate I’ll try not to name anything, to forget I know language. I’ll be like a yellow lab and just be.

About Sharon Meloy

Waiting to Sit
(Kim Mosley)

It struck me funny all the things "sitting" enthusiasts do to sit … like rushing somewhere to sit (a contradiction?). Or better yet, to arrive early and then to wait to sit … where waiting is a skill that the Buddha acquired.

About Kim Mosley

Awareness Practice
(Rev. Joseph W. Hall)


In zazen, we seek to become develop our sense of awareness of the world around us, to open our senses to every detail, and to discover the hidden impact of our slightest actions. We do this by sitting in front of a wall and staring at it. Sometimes this works, of course, and the boundaries between ourselves and the room seem not so hard anymore. Sounds drift in from outside, and we allow them to intermingle and intertwine with our mind as they pass. As the practice period continues, this deepening awareness allows us to see, on the large scale, our connection to the earth and our role in global warming. On a smaller scale, as attendance has grown over the last several months, our practice has also deepened our ability to hear every #*%& sound in the zendo.

Since we are a lay sangha and highly mobile people in a complex world, we face the particular challenge of having to constantly shift gears, most importantly to downshift when approaching the quiet zone that is AZC.

Here's a few ideas about that. You don't have to do this but it might make practice more engaging …

The next time the ending bell rings, make a special note of what you have done, the way you can hear things now that you didn't notice 35 minutes ago. Marvel a bit at how even silence itself has a texture. Please find a sense of wonder here, because you will need this later. Then, the next time you return to zendo, keep this in mind as you approach the zazen zone. If you haven't already, shift into Zen mode before the car door slams shut. As you approach the front door, be aware that if there is no wind blowing or AC running, the people seated on the Zafus inside will hear your conversation on the porch more clearly than you can. As you reach for the doorknob, bear in mind that whatever way you open the door will be part of someone's meditation. You are not just entering a building—you are creating a sacred space and we are all connected now.

(On a personal note, the Ino smiles inwardly when he hears the soft click of the door latch. It means that if you came in late, he will not have to get up and close the door when the breeze blows it open.)

About Peaceful Forest Tim Schorre
Can you set your shoes down without making a sound today? Try that and then walk like an Indian—instead of striking the floor with your heels and telegraphing your arrival, allow the ball of your foot to find the floor first and step quietly into the Zendo.

As you pass through the arch, remember that you are stepping into other people's minds. Every sound you make is part of zazen now. Walk quietly and very slowly in the zendo. Perhaps it a little distracting to worry so much about disturbing others and this is definitely a little stressful and definitely no fun at all. So don't worry about that. We're buddists, so intentions are the thing that counts. You are fearless. You are stalking the dharma. Approach your Zafa, and your true nature, just like you would any other wild animal. Try not to make sudden movements. You don't want to scare it off and have to chase it through the brush of your mind.

As you settle into zazen, remember this, the methods of being silent only go so far. The best way to reach quiet is simply to listen, as intimately as you possibly can.

Do this and you've really arrived at your cushion in true form. But there is one more final thing and it happens as the next person arrives and, despite all your hard work, slams the door front door, tromps across the floor, and decides to sit (and breathe in a very erratic manner) right next to you. This is exactly the moment to remember that the sacred space we make was never about being silent, it was about being real. This is the only real way to learn what happens when we don't like something—how our irritation immediately gets involved and amplifies whatever sound we don't like. It turns out that our mind makes most of the noise anyway. We are an urban sangha sitting amidst the sound of planes, trains, automobiles, and whatever kind of day people bring in the door. Suddenly one sound that we don't like drowns out an entire city. This is the time to remember that silence always surrounds us, it is the white space that allows us to separate the noise into a kaleidoscope of small sounds. Have we yet heard the sound, or are we still just hearing how our reaction reverberates?

About Betty Gross
A Japanese zen teacher once said that zen mind is being able to let the eye wander a tree with one red leaf on it and not get stopped by the one that seems different. Big Mind, in his words, is to learn to see all the leaves, all the time. So the best response is to continue your quiet practice and demonstrate the value of it for the benefit of others. Keep trying to hear the white space, to find silence in noise. If that fails, ask the Ino to send out a note. He does this from time to time.

Perhaps this might be useful to remember ...
1. Everything is connected.
2. The connections clank, vibrate, and thud and otherwise make a surprising amount of noise.
3. You have the power to create beauty in the minds of others.
4. In the zen world, the ability to travel the connections in silence is considered a sign of virtuosity.
5. We are learning this together.

See you on the mat.

A Bow,

About Rev. Joseph W. Hall

Contributors to this Issue

Betty Gross studied Yoga in India, France, and Greece and has taught yoga for fourteen years in Austin. Her Buddhist study started with Chogam Trunpa Rimpoche, and she has studied Buddhism in Nepal and Tibet. She has been a member of AZC for many years.

Rev. Joseph W. Hall is a resident priest at the Austin Zen Center. He attends Shogaku Zen Seminary as part of the Shogaku Priest Ongoing Training program. His energy is enthusiastically focused on the nexus between Lay Practice and the Monastic world, and he is fascinated the ways in which we interpret the world and the means by which physical motion trains the mind. He blogs at .

Xianyang Carl Jerome studied under Zenshin Philip Whalen Roshi at the Hartford Street Zen Center in San Francisco and is now a student of Master Ji Ru of the Mid-America Buddhist Association in Chicago. He teaches at the North Shore Meditation and Dharma Center in Highland Park, IL.  He is a friend of Kim Mosley.

Susan Longenecker says, “I've lived in Austin since about 1993; worked in Florida before that as a marine biologist … I've been married about 15 years, been coming to the Zen Center for six years … have no children … my hobbies are painting and reading and I plan to take up taiko drumming … and I'm involved in the prison outreach program with the Zen Center … ”

Jamie MacLaggan writes “My true path started in 1975, San Francisco Bay area, when I read Frithjof Capra’s Tao Of Physics, and was led to Mu Soeng Sunim’s Heart Sutra: Ancient Buddhist Wisdom in the Light of Quantum Reality. With these tools, it was a short step to Suzuki Roshi’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and I began to sit as he instructed; of course, that was the most powerful tool in the kit! I continued to sit when I moved to Austin in 1978. I have lived in the same house with the same spouse for 28 years, raised a family—I’m a grandpa—and I’m still awed by the whole dance … ”

Sharon Meloy says, I started going to AZC last spring after moving here from Colorado. I'm a cardiac nurse but was once a professional photographer and I'm starting to get back my creative energy. I've never written anything for other people to read. I think coming to the zendo has given me a newfound freedom of expression without having to judge myself. I really love the community spirit of AZC!

Kim Mosley, a co-editor of Just This, was born in Chicago in 1946. He taught at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bradley University, Southern Methodist University, Lindenwood University and St. Louis Community College (where he was also Dean of Liberal Arts). His work is in collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, and the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson. His blog, Diaristic Notations, has over 1300 posts of writing and art.

Peaceful Forest Tim Schorre is a student of Setsuan Gaelyn Godwin and serves as Tanto at Houston Zen Center. He also practices architecture as a partner in Morningside Architects in Houston and practices drawing a lot, as well as photography and video.  His visual work may be seen at .

Glen Snyder grew up in Washington state and in Michigan. He lived in Costa Rica for 14 years, first as a Peace Corps volunteer, then as a high school teacher. At present, he lives in Houston and works at Rice University as a geochemist. His research travels have taken him to many places, including Japan, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, New Zealand, China, and Antarctica. Zen Practitioner and student of Setsuan Gaelyn Godwin, he is currently the Ino at the Houston Zen Center. Glen’s work page is:

Elizabeth Stein is a member of the Houston Zen Center. Her short screenplay, Leaving Death Row, will be published in 2012 in a collection, Demands of the Dead, by the University of Iowa Press.

Sarah Webb, a co-editor for Just This, is an English professor retired from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, where she is the editor of poetry and fiction for the interdisciplinary magazine Crosstimbers. Her teacher is Albert Low of the Montreal Zen Centre. She spends her winters tutoring ESL and writing and her summers traveling the West in her VW bus.





















































Introduction I: Walking as Practice
(Kim Mosley and Sarah Webb)

S: Is walking part of your practice?

K: I’m doan, so Saturday is when I do kinhin. But I also walk every morning with my neighbor. My father said you should never have a walking partner because that ties you down. But he must have done his way of contemplation when he walked. He walked maybe 3 hours a day.

S: Wow! That’s a lot.

K: He would meet people he knew and he would talk to them, and then he would continue with his walking. It was a private thing for him. Even though he walked in a little town, on the coast.

S: In sesshins when I had problems with my back, my teacher would have me go out and walk on a walkway. He said it’s not to be looking at the flowers, just be aware of your walking. It was a pretty rapid pace and the walkway was real rough, so you had to be careful or you’d end up with a splinter in your toe. That consolidated walking in me. Sometimes when I’m walking, I feel like I’m going to the same place as when I was walking in the garden up there.

That kind of walking, it’s not, now my heel is doing this and my arch is doing this and the ball of my foot is doing this, it’s not that kind of close concentration, but it’s being present when I walk.

K: This last weekend I was doing a sesshin with some prisoners in Bastrop, and I told them Reb Anderson’s comment about walking, “You should walk on the earth as if it were your mother’s face.” Then I looked at them and I said, “That’s assuming you like your mother.”

When we started walking, there was a Christian class next door and the guy was telling how everything you needed to know about life was in the Bible, and you could hear every word he was saying. I wanted them to be able to concentrate more on their walking, so I told them that they should create a mantra for each step. I said that for the left foot it could be “Now I step on the earth.” And for the right it could be “Now I step on the sky.” Now I step on the earth. Now I step on the sky. I tried that a couple of hours ago on the sidewalk, and I noticed that the sky step was a lot lighter than the earth step.

About Kim Mosley | Sarah Webb

Please enjoy your walking...
(Edward Espe Brown)

Please enjoy your walking,
the sensations, your breath,
the fresh air—step by step—
"Inhaling … calm … body
Exhaling … joyful … smile"
Having a slight smile for
someone who is angry,
someone who is scared,
someone who can't smile.

About Edward Espe Brown

Stepping into Now
(Krishna Bhattacharyya)

Naked foot on flat, smooth misshapen rock
That is, rock with thin green moss-layer
One slowly, carefully down, then another

That’s cool

Heel mashes onto miniscule caviar-like orbs, green
Carefully, quietly, moving undetected
Soon there are hundreds of rocks, pebbles
Foot comes down toes first, then arch, then body, lastly, heel
Onto smooth, rough, sharp, varied textures
Reflexology at its natural best
Poking here, prodding or pushing there, sometimes giving way
Semi-soft leaves

A slight relief

Brown flakes compact ‘neath the weight
Gravity the helper
Places wet, others, dry

Here, a sun-drenched spot
Nothing wrong with brown warmth

Somewhat comforting
Here a shadow, there a shadow
Today I prefer the sun
There, the bell is rung
Another sitting has begun

k.b. 3/31/07 Mindfulness Day Retreat-UU

About Krishna Bhattacharyya

Homage to Sosan
(Xianyang Carl Jerome)

Which is
About Xianyang Carl Jerome

Stepping Off
(Pat Yingst)

I have always loved our slow kinhin walking. But it took on a new meaning for me several years ago when my Rinzai teacher gave me the koan “How do you take the next step off a 100-foot pole?” I found our Kinhin practice to be very helpful in my working on this koan. Each step taken in concert with the outbreath and with a temporary dissolving of thought became, in my mind, a step off the pole. Sometime I could even imagine the void beneath my lifted foot.

In one way of looking at it, each step is a step into the future—the great unknown. I protect myself from facing this great scary unknown by presuming to know it; I dream that my routine, my plans, my expectations are all true and immutable and that I will get in my car after zazen and proceed to my job or whatever activity I have designed for myself. And nearly all the time my prediction comes true. And so it continues—one predictable day to the next. How safe I am!

I protect myself from fear of the unknown—from jumping off that pole. But If I could drop all this KNOWING what is going to happen next— then I really would be stepping off the pole with every step and with every breath. I might still go to my job after zazen, but there would be freshness and gratitude in the experiencing of it. How exhilarating!

About Pat Yingst

Our Buddha Walked Away
(Nancy Webber)

About Nancy Webber

Introduction II: Walking the Path
(Kim Mosley and Sarah Webb)

S: There’s something about walking that connects to the earth. You’re not so much up in your head. You’re down in your feet. You’re down on the pathway. You’re getting connected to your body and your passage through whatever you’re walking with, or you’re walking on.

K: I love the idea that we’re feeling the earth. When my daughter got married this last weekend, the judge who did the service asked me, who supports this marriage? I thought, it wasn’t just people—it was everything. In the same way we can walk on the earth as if we are the most important thing and the earth is just this receptacle, or we can walk as equal partner, or we can walk as if the earth is the most important thing, kind of like a Chinese landscape painting and we’re just getting a favor from it for a short time

S: Like a blessing or a gift.

K: Yeah.

S: Something that struck me when you were talking about the wedding is that walking is part of the ceremony. People walk down the aisle. They walk out of the church. Walking is a sacred element of the marriage ceremony. Also there have been times when people circumambulate something that’s sacred. Walking—it’s not just in Zen—but walking is a sacred act.

Makena and Jasper

Every Moment
(Kathy Goodwin)

Every moment of every day, every person we meet, is an opportunity to walk the path. How do I remember to remember this?

About Kathy Goodwin

Three Blind Men
(Kim Mosley)

I drove by three blind
men walking down the
street. One had a white
cane. They held onto each
other 4 dear life.

About Kim Mosley

(Ronnie Gaubatz)

I spent some quality time in my garden this morning. My garden is not so much a place to do, but a place to think. I thought about the flowers as I prune them back, trimming off the dead ones so new buds might bloom. It seems a shame to cut off a flower just after it blooms. With a good dose of guilt, I added some weed killer to my soil. I seriously dislike the idea of a weed killer, but I truly hate weeds. I offered my apologies to the environment. Yesterday, I added some cancer killer, round three hundred it seems of chemotherapy, to my body. I hate cancer even more than I hate weeds.

As I water the flowers, I think of the trail of tears that seem to be following me lately. I am blessed with a number of concerned friends who cry for me since this latest season of cancer in bloom. If only tears shed could bring new life the way this garden hose will do for my plants. I both comfort and take comfort in my worried friends. I tell them it’s okay. I remind myself that we are all going through this together. I assure them, and myself, that I’ll fight this time just like I did all the other times before. This is my path, mine and everyone on it with me, my friends, my family, my dear children. I’ll walk it with dignity, courage and hope.

The morning pours on and I weed, I water, I weep and I worry. I pray for strength. I pray for my girls. I give thanks for flowers and friends that cry. After a while, thoughts of errands to run and what’s for dinner interrupt me, and I gather up the cold coffee I forgot to drink when I came down here and the gardening tools and head on up the yard to the rest of the things I’d like to do today. I leave all the sad and sometimes scary thoughts back there in the garden, lying in the warm soil next to the spent buds I had cut back -all of it, just compost.

This is my beautiful path.

May 20, 2011

About Ronnie Gaubatz

Active Thought
(Robert Genn)

The mentally challenging nature of artistic activity may help avoid the inconvenience of early senility. I don't know about you, but a steady diet of crossword puzzles to tune up the mind just doesn't cut it for me. I've got enough mind-benders with my painting.

On the other hand, there's the sedentary nature of our business. Long hours sitting at an easel can be as dangerous as computer work or couch TV. Recent studies by James Levine, a medical researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, have surprised and shocked the conventional wisdom. Specifically aimed at understanding the sources of obesity, sensors placed on the bodies of a wide range of folks with similar diets found that those who moved around more and, most important, stood a lot, tended to stay trim and fit. Levine figures we have to stop thinking of food as the source of fatness and begin to understand that it's inertia that does us in.

People who move around, even nervously, and stand rather than sit, also reap creative benefits. According to Levine, even really bad habits can be somewhat neutralized by sheer movement.

Too Sad for ART
(Kim Mosley)

About Kim Mosley

Kintaro Walks Japan 
(Tyler MacNiven w/commentary by Sarah Webb)

Kintaro Walks Japan tells the video-story of Tyler MacNiven’s 2000-mile hike through Japan. Tyler walks Japan from tip to tip, staying with families who offer him a bed, or camping. His 5-month journey is part adventure and coming of age, part exploration of the country of the Ayumi, the girl he has come to love. His prospective father-in-law had made a walking trip in the Americas (the length of the Americas, 19,000 miles!) and served as an inspiration. (His story is told in George Meegan, The Longest Walk).

Expressive and more than a bit of a clown, Tyler becomes a minor media celebrity. He visits schools and old folks homes, and stays with Japanese families he meets. He says, “I didn’t want to just visit Japan; I wanted to become part of Japan.” Because of his open-heartedness, he does seem to come part of the lives of the people he met. As Tyler says, “If you give yourself to the journey, your journey gives itself to you.” Tyler seems to find it easy to open to another culture and to new experiences. He describes an early encounter with friends on the road: “I had never tasted beer, even in college, but I figured since this was my spiritual quest I had better say yes to everything.”

The physical demands of travel are more challenging. At times the prospect of a thousand-something miles ahead is daunting. At four months in, in a period of deep fatigue, he explains why he hasn’t been taking days to rest from walking: “I was afraid if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to take it up again.” He has to persevere through his exhaustion.

Tyler says of the process of walking, “It’s healthy, it’s natural, and it can’t be rushed. If you’re walking at 3 miles per hour, it really gives you time to interact with what’s happening around you. If you’re driving you can just speed by everything without really taking it in. But walking, you can see every turn, you can look at the trees, watch the clouds, feel the winds, see the insects, smell every smell. And, my favorite, you can interact with the people.”

Kintaro’s journey shows how walking can help us open to the richness of what is right in front of us.

About Tyler MacNiven

Glory ... Amen ... Glory ... 
(Annie Dillard)

“ left foot says 'Glory,' and my right foot says 'Amen!’” —Annie Dillard from A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

About Annie Dillard

(Kim Mosley)

Andy Warhol stopped
walking and used a
wheelchair. After many
days up & down stairs
I'm going to do some-
thing extreme like just
float yogi-style. Start-
ing tomorrow—maybe.

Float away

No more stair-
About Kim Mosley

Encouraging Words from Tassajara
(Kosho McCall)

Stay as present as you can. Each time you see you’ve strayed from the present, rejoice! It is prajna that sees this so what you ordinarily might have called a failure and berated yourself is actually a victory. Clear seeing of what’s happening is wisdom—each coming back is compassion.

We are here to drop away body and mind To drop away body and mind we have to employ body and mind ardently and with great effort. There is no control in this effort. Control only leads to suffering. There is only willingness, a willingness to meet each moment with a fresh, open mind and a forgiving and courageous heart. The Buddha Way, the Way of True Reality is right before us; it’s right behind us; it’s above us and below us; it surrounds us, it fills us; we’re in it, we’re on it. Let’s do it.

Here we are. Each of us tiny monks, sitting on our tiny zafus in this tiny building, nestled in this tiny valley, on the edge of this tiny planet somewhere in a rather small galaxy; waiting for the morning star—when the whole universe awakens to its own heart in each one of us.

“If force doesn’t work, use more force.” Sometimes it works; sometimes it makes things worse. Buddha tried by sheer force of will and determination to break through suffering. It didn’t work; it made things a little bit worse. In the midst of his despair, he remembered sitting under the tree as a little boy. He applied that same compassion to everything that arose—opening, accepting without judgment. The clouds of delusion in his mind parted. He became radiant.

The Buddha said ”We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts; with our thoughts, we make our world.” Everything we see, hear, think, etc., is like an inkblot. We put our own spin on it. No wonder cognitive therapy works: when we change our thoughts, we change our world.

I’ll tell you where you can find it. It’s the place of non-thinking. It’s where there is no involvement, no affair, no good, no bad, no pro or con, no movement, no gauging.

I’ll tell you where you can find it. It’s that space between the thoughts. —Even though it seems tiny, it’s really as big as this room, this valley, this earth, bigger. The space between the thoughts. Give it some attention, watch it grow. Know the end of suffering.

What causes suffering? Perhaps it’s trying to avoid suffering. If that’s so, enter the buddhafield where everything is accepted completely in an atmosphere of compassion just as it is. In the center of the buddhafield sits a serene Buddha surrounded by flower petals. Guess who that Buddha is.

Greed arises: Something out there will make me happy. Hate arises: Something out there, if I get rid of it, then I’ll be happy. Delusion arises: Something is confusing me. Put awareness to it with curiosity, tenderness, gentleness, compassion. What do you find? Greed turns to generosity; hate to kindness, delusion to wisdom.

Some express disappointment saying they expected we’d be stricter here. The practice here is very strict—for those who are willing, dedicated, and committed to waking up.

Most of us have “left home” because of some special sensitivity that didn’t feel “at home.” We have made “our home” here only to continue to discover there is no home; that everything is always changing, adapting to arising circumstances.

Watch a squirrel balancing on a small branch. That animal has and continues to evolve to meet its changing world—its eyes, fingers, tail, metabolism always adapting so that life (changing) continues within an always-changing form and context.

There is no home, nothing to stand on, nothing that isn’t changing. And this we can rely on and make our home—the home that is no-home.

I stand looking up at the canopy of the night sky. I hear that if I were to go straight up I would go on forever, arriving back at the same place. In the zendo we are plumbing the depths of the Self, and because there’s nothing there, we go deeper and deeper forever, until we come right back here, back to the Self. It is as vast and limitless an inner space as any outer space. Don’t know how it is out there, but this True Self is full of peace and joy.

Mind and body becoming One: the Mind, our attention; the Body, our breathing and posture. Attention to breath and posture—Mind and Body becoming One. Doing simple things: sitting, walking, eating, working, resting. Meeting each moment with acceptance, which goes beyond the One and the Many. Opens the true heart: kind, compassionate, tender, forgiving. Opens the true mind: vast, all-inclusive, boundless. True Self revealed: moments of pure joy, moments of complete freedom at the center of it all.

About Kosho McCall

It's Hard 
(Kim Mosley)

We are dogsitting now.
We just walked the little Maya
so I needed to take a little break.
I really was the one holding
the leash.
About Kim Mosley

Thousand Year Old Footsteps in the Snow 
(Maku Mark Frank)

I step outside and watch the snow fall
From darkness into light.
The others have already gone
For dinner in the mess hall.
But the cold feels too good on my face
Not to linger for awhile.

It felt good this morning, also,
After we’d rousted ourselves from slumber at 3:40
To sit straight-backed,
With palms together—
Facing our respective walls
By the time the teacher made his rounds at 4:05.
And after two hours of absolute and utter stillness
Overlaid with daydreams,
And sleepdreams,
And stomach-growling yearning for the bell,
And wondering if I’d make it through the day,
And wondering why the hell I’m doing what I’m doing,
I stumbled out into the pre-dawn blackness
To see a shining silver sickle of a moon,
And Jupiter,
And the black sky—
As black as anything can be.

Ah, but that was light years ago ...
That was this morning.
And anything that is not right now might as well be light years away.
Oh, sure, I’ve glimpsed that absolute and utter stillness
A number of times throughout the day,
But this is why I do this:
So that I can step outside and see the world
With brand new eyes—
Eyes without a “me” to tell me what I’m seeing.

So I hobble though the snow
On my zazen-weary legs,
Leaving thousand year-old footprints in the snow.
And as far as what all this amounts to
Once these bones are in the ground,
And how the hell my sitting facing a wall
For over eleven hours a day
Can make the world a better place ...
Well, I kind of like to think of all of this
Zazen after zazen after zazen
As stitching together the pieces of a robe
To someday be worn
By my great-great-great-great
Granddaughter in the Dharma
As she steps outside into the night
To watch the snow fall
From darkness into light
Before gliding like a shadow to the mess hall
Leaving thousand year old footsteps in the snow.

About Maku Mark Frank

Contributors to this Issue

Krishna Bhattacharyya has been writing and meditating for about 10 years now. She is originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She loves nature, and likes to write and sing about it.

Edward Espe Brown is a former tenzo at Tassajara, author of Tassajara Cookbook and other books. He received Dharma Transmission from Mel Weitsman and is founder and teacher of Peaceful Sea Sangha. He taught a recent weekend at the Austin Zen Center and at that time wrote the message we have included in Just This.

Maku Mark Frank is a member of Missouri Zen Center in St. Louis. His poem “Thousand Year Old Footsteps in the Snow” was inspired by sitting sesshin at Sanshinji.

Ronnie Gaubatz blogs at about motherhood, relationships, and making a life with breast cancer. The selection comes from her blog, Glass Half Full.

Robert Genn, is recognized as one of Canada's most accomplished painters, and his work is well known internationally. While he has painted in many countries, he is perhaps best known for his work portraying his native Canada. Receive his twice-weekly art-letters by going to:

Kathy Goodwin writes, "I just turned 65. I don't feel older, but it feels like some kind of milestone. I want to travel but have no plans yet except to attend my daughter and son-in-law's joint 40th birthday in Denmark. I would like to return to Tassajara as a work study student in the summer season, to visit my aunt and cousins in LA who I haven't seen for more than 40 years, to walk in Ireland, Scotland and/or England, to see Angkor Wat and Yellowstone, and to canoe part of a river.

Xianyang Carl Jerome studied under Zenshin Philip Whalen Roshi at the Hartford Street Zen Center in San Francisco and is now a student of Master Ji Ru of the Mid-America Buddhist Association in Chicago. He teaches at the North Shore Meditation and Dharma Center in Highland Park, IL. He is a friend of Kim Mosley.

Kosho McCall has shared with us “Encouraging Words for the Path” from his Tanto’s talk late at night in sesshin. Kosho practiced at San Francisco Zen Center for 20 years. He trained for 12 of those years at Tassajara Zen Mountain monastery where he became Head of Monastic Practice. Kosho received Dharma Transmission (authorization to teach) from Zenkei Hartman Roshi in 2003 and became Teacher at Austin Zen Center in May of 2009.

Tyler MacNiven’s video, Kintaro Walks Japan, which tells the story of his walking trip from one tip of Japan to the other, was recommended by former AZC resident, Koji Shinjaku.

Kim Mosley, a co-editor of Just This, was born in Chicago in 1946. He taught at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bradley University, Southern Methodist University, Lindenwood University and St. Louis Community College (where he was also Dean of Liberal Arts). His work is in collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, and the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson. His blog, Diaristic Notations, has over 1300 posts of writing and art.

Sarah Webb, a co-editor for Just This, is an English professor retired from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, where she is the editor of poetry and fiction for the interdisciplinary magazine, Crosstimbers. Her teacher is Albert Low of the Montreal Zen Centre. She spends her winters tutoring ESL and writing and her summers traveling the West in her van.

Nancy Webber’s photo of the Buddha in the garden reflects her involvement in making the grounds at AZC an inspiring part of practice at the Center. To this task she brought her experience as a landscape designer and interest in a Texas regional interpretation of the zen garden. Nancy volunteers with central Texas environmental causes and is restoring a 60 acre tract of tall grass prairie in southern Milam County where she hopes to live some day in community with other zen practitioners.

Pat Yingst, who wrote of stepping off a 100-foot pole in this issue, began doing Zen meditation in 1988 and has been a member of Austin Zen Center since its inception. She has seven years experience teaching meditation in prisons and is active in the Austin intra-Buddhist prison volunteer organization, Inside Meditation. She served as co-editor for the first five years of Just This. She is partially retired from BMC Software Company, where she still works three days a week as a software developer.


Introduction: Impermanence and Death
(Kim Mosley & Sarah Webb)

K: I read the other day in Steve Hagen's Buddhism, Plain and Simple, "But how can you be truly happy when you have a death sentence on your head?" This is the theme of this issue of JustThis, Austin Zen Center's journal. What I find amazing is that a part of me believes it is the most important question and yet another part doesn't care about my death sentence. Do we hate a romantic interlude because it is going to end? Of course not. William Blake wrote, "...But he who kisses the joy as it flies/ Lives in eternity's sunrise."

I have known people so fearful of death that they are afraid to live. My grandpa said he didn't want any more dogs because it broke his heart when they died. (He lost his wife and true love after only a couple of years of marriage.) Perhaps there is a limit to how much one is willing to mourn.

So I asked my wife this question and she said that you just have to live in the moment. I wondered if this is a delusion, ignoring the elephant in the room. Is there another way? Can we revere the elephant and revere the moment at the same time? I don't want to forget that impermanence is keenly married to death.

S: As for the question you pose at the end, I'd say (right now in my thinking) that what happens in the moment is awareness and awareness comes from outside the self and does not die. Even if we color it with the self, which we do, it comes from outside (One may falsely believe that it is oneself that hears the bird sing in the spring and sees the leaves fall in the autumn. This is not so.—Dogen)

So right now it seems to me that many things about us die in our physical death but perhaps something—not a thing, hmmm...—continues. Not our individual self but the seeing, knowing, beyond the self. That formless which I reduce down into an it when I call it awareness. More mysterious than that but somehow connected to awareness.

And revering the elephant—yes we do die—and living in the moment—now, which never ends--is like form and formlessness. Kim in form worries about death, the you that is beyond form, equally true, doesn't need to.

P.S. Kim sent his teacher (in Chicago) the link to this issue. He responded, "I suspect Sengcan would say that if you have no preferences (you are as the blog calls itself: Just This), then the whole question of death and impermanence would never come up."


About Kim Mosley & Sarah Webb

One Record of the Impermanent
(Glen Snyder)

It was early evening when you blew into the Zen priest's incredible calligraphy showing, more like some blast of hot air from a racing train engine pulling a hundredcar load of freshly bleeding stillsnowcovered timber out of the mountains of my childhood, more like that than like some lover and patron of the Asian much so that I wondered if anyone else noticed all of the clean blackinkstroked kanji hung out on scrolls for a moment lightly billowing from the walls when you entered. Amongst the shavedheaded priests and some other lessshaved heads filled with urban koan pleasantries and some other heads inside which the reading the Japanese calligraphy was perhaps being done just as easily as reading the newspaper, amongst all that there was the contrast of your twisted yellow hair like wheat fields in the sunset of a clear sky after a bad tornado....amongst the black robes, suits, and December sweaters, there was your crusty spattered denim and wrinkled thriftshop coat looking like they had picked themselves up off the sidewalks on their own accord and just walked inside with you inside them....amongst the muted artistic commentaries of “Oh, this one is my favorite,” there was you just there with not so many words and calloused red hands.

In retrospect, there were reasons why I had avoided telling you I'd be in town this time, even above and beyond worrying that the mind police might indirectly implicate me for your halfparanoid antigovernment manifestos and other ranting essays on injustice that you said you were in the midst of. I mean, who really knows the implications of hanging out with a retired left-wing journalist...perhaps they have airport dogs that sniff that stuff out now, and then they put you on no-fly lists? Yes, and I thought you were the paranoid one. Much easier to let you be the engaged boddhisattva, and for me to be disengaging in everything at that time. Much easier for me to be the good Zen Scout and sit on my cushion looking at the wall with all of the other Zen Scouts and Zen Masters than for me to take you up on the invite and sneak off to a reading at Trieste Café and then later have to duck into the zendo in the middle of walking meditation, uncertain if my own mind or the minds of others could be convincingly wrappable around the nonduality of meditation, beat poetry and anything else in this life and, if that was not the case, of the lame excuse I would feel I was obliged to have to make up as a result. Perhaps I would have told myself something about the nonduality of human experience and the universe both inside and outside the zendo and if there were many universes and not just one, then the nonduality of the myriad universes filled with as many bodhisattvas and other enlightening beings as grains of sand in the Ganges moving about in each one of our sweaty pores, cheering us on, encouraging us, actualizing themselves in us whether we are in the zendo or outside in the chilly December air.

In the months preceeding, there had been the calls at odd hours, the trailingvoiced messages on my cell phone that went as such: “Hey, just got back from a couple of weeks alone in the Sierra Nevadas at the cabin of a friend. Really inspiring there, and wrote some new stuff. What are you up to? Written any new material lately? Give me a ring, my new number is...” And when we did talk you would say: “Oh, just so you know when you call, whatever you do, don't leave a message on the phone. Best just to let it ring twice and hang up. I'll call back. I'm between apartments. And the place I'm staying at here in the city for awhile belongs to an old friend of mine only she doesn't know that I kept a key or that I am hanging out here while she's away.” And so all of that left me worried that maybe like you, I would also become some hermitmonklikebeing that would also wander from place to place: in destitution, hunger, failing health, and lack of any personal reputation. Perhaps by only thinking about it, I was already that...but there was some need at the time to think that I was above that. And also secretly worrying that perhaps you would actually show up knocking on my apartment door halfway across the country sometime. I mean, really, there's not much space in my place anyway and if it's hard enough already to find a girlfriend to hang out with in my present situation, imagine all the harder with you some disheveled homeless bohemian modernday Han Shan crashing out in my place. Why did we share poetry in the first place anyway? You seemed to have an inexhaustible capability for romanticizing about the woman you left in Spain and all of those visceral images of being in love with the Spanish countryside and her voice, and the smell of honey in the air, and on and on, as described in your only book of poetry. I really had no time for any of that realm, since I was busy taking control of my life and looking to the future and not backwards to the images associated with my own failed marriage. The disturbing scenario of your unexpected, and even uninvited, visit played out in my head even though I was so busy with my own selfimprovement things that I never took time to notice that the only disheveled, homeless, halfparanoid poet abiding in my apartment during all those months was really just myself.

So, it was hesitantly good to see you at the calligraphy opening and I'm glad there were no hard feelings, at least expressed. And even though you looked like hell things were looking up, you had found a place to live and your Flamenco girlfriend had come to town and had gathered up a stack of your stuff and had peddled it to the first patriarch of Beat who had looked at it and thought it was pretty good, at least he wrote to you as such, so maybe it would be published after all, at least there was to be a meeting in the near future. It all sounded good. Really good. I was glad for you about that. So, I left you sitting there, more happy than ever in my mind, and went on to look at the calligraphy.

So, six months later, at a random moment, I realized that after the opening, after returning to Houston, without my even noticing, your phone calls had all stopped entirely. Not knowing how to see what's up, since you always were too paranoid, I think, to use email, at least that was my guess, but maybe you had other motives for not using the internet, I ended up using Google to find you...the last place you would really be, and in the end, I didn't really find you, but there was the unexpected memorial. A friend wrote of your life and said that in the end you had died, of kidney failure, in your sleep, with your beautiful Flamenco lover in your arms. And I am sorry I never said goodbye, or even said hello, regretting that I never took you up on the journey to North Beach, but I am happy that things came together in the end. Other poets have now written you tributes, so there is no need for this one, but I shall write it anyway. The strange part is that, of those at the calligraphy opening, no one that I talked to could remember you. I asked around a bit and no one recalled you there or anywhere else that I had met with you. And I find myself somewhat like that bewildered government official running out of the temple chasing after Han Shan in the deep, cold misty peaks. Like Han Shan, you have walked deeply into the mountain itself, and closed rocks and forest in behind you. And I am left only with your verses. In my journeys, I see them written on walls, rocks, gates, and trees. I see them written on clouds, waters, wind, and the reflection of sunlight and moonlight on the waters. I see them written, and I am both uplifted and grateful. Even though I cannot directly thank you, I must directly thank you. Thank you very much.


About Glen Snyder