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

(Sarah Webb, 2007)

A moment ago I went into the kitchen and stood looking into the broom closet. What was it I wanted? I had to go back to the computer and start to type before I could remember. It happens a lot these days—car keys lost, cell phone lost, idea lost. Everyone over a certain age is acutely aware of the litany of all the things we lose: figure, hair, easy health and easy vigor, suppleness of mind. Our parents are dead or in ill health. Some of our friends have died. Old age is full of loss.

I could try to ignore the loss—thicken my makeup, get a tummy tuck, pretend I wasn’t losing names and dates—but I haven’t chosen to go that route. In fact, I rarely wear makeup. I tell myself that the face in the mirror looks wise. Maybe. Or maybe it just looks faded. At any rate, I’m not trying to hold back an inevitable tide.

The changes are not all bad. Whether or not I am actually wise, I have learned many things. I tutor Mexican immigrants (legal and illegal) in English and use my years of teaching to find the best ways to help them learn. It comes much easier than when I was a teacher starting out. And I have won through to a peaceful life. I wouldn’t be 31 again for anything—such melodrama!

But there is this slow decline that draws my attention. Arthritis makes it hard to hike and impossible to backpack, and it cuts my sesshins down to four days. Pain is a constant. Aging and death are often in my mind, like a loose tooth the tongue wiggles. So I use it, grist for the mill.

Let it go, I tell myself, practice for letting harder things go. You forgot your friend’s name? Let your embarrassment go. My body has thickened and softened. Increased exercise has a place, but I also have to do some letting go. My body is never going to look like it did at 20. It’s a practice, turning away from clinging. Sometimes I am able to give way and accept the loss. Sometimes it is harder, but the thing about old age is the issue will come up over and over. Here’s a loss, deal with it.

Another practice that comes up is turning-into. I was always one to run away from what I felt. Numbness, denial, a muffled depression. In Zen I learned to turn into the feeling, like turning into the current coming down a stream. At every stage in my life I’ve had to work on feeling what I feel. So I look into the grief I sometimes feel and let it emerge from the muffling folds that have hidden it. When my dog Shasta died this summer, I found the loss very hard. She had been with me for sixteen years, and since I live alone since I retired, she had been my primary companion for the last four. Nursing her through what turned out to be a fatal illness was very hard. Her deterioration horrified me and brought up memories of how my mother wasted away in Alzheimer’s. But after her death I gave myself quiet to feel the grief. I chanted for her. Gradually the sorrow eased.

Shasta’s death brought up questions. Do we die? Does some part of us live on? What are we at root?

I can’t say, as I did when I was young, Oh, I’ll live to be an old woman. I remember counting up how old my grandmothers had been when they died (82 and 88) and telling myself, So, you’ll live that long anyway. My brother’s death at 50 taught me that there are no guarantees. And my mother’s long, hard death at 89 taught me you don’t necessarily want to live as long as possible.

I hang around with a friend who is 100. She’s an amazing woman who survived the bombing of Berlin with toddlers in tow as she ran for bomb shelters, a dancer once, still a writer and a naturalist. She was a camp host in the National Forests until she was 96. So she’s kept her physical and mental abilities far longer than most people. But this last year, she’s been slipping. I arrive to take her to a club meeting, and more often than not she will have forgotten we are going anywhere. When we went on the yearly Bird Count, she, who had been the key identifier, could no longer remember the birds’ names. She said she did not recognize her daughter when her daughter came to visit. Who was that wrinkled, yellow-skinned old woman sitting on her sofa? That disturbed her. Yet I find her bright-eyed and funny, still herself, when I come to pick her up.

I think of my mother, with her brain so eroded by Alzheimer’s she rarely woke, staring at me with a long silver gaze. She could not speak but she could look, and she looked and looked. She died later that week, and I realized that had been her goodbye. What was she as she looked? And after she died?

The decline of old age is not just a matter of losing words and keys and physical strength. It is a drifting away of many things we thought we were. As they go, we mourn them and, I hope, we let them go. We ask ourselves, does anything last? Does anything of me and those I love last? And we look inside to see.

Postscript: Since this essay was written in 2007, many things have changed. Sesshins went from 4 days back to 7 and maybe now to 0. I shared my house with a little stray dog for a couple of years, and now with a giant, puppyish hound dog. My friend passed away this month at the age of 103.


About Sarah Webb

In 99 Years
(Kim Mosley)

Her gray hair was thin,
tired of many years
of endless
combing and brushing.

The silvered strands
were expertly cut—
they could not have been
better cared for,
considering her

She smiled for the lens.
Her mouth formed
a polished camera
facial expression.

She had been
on that side
of the lens
many times before—
it was apparent

as she was able to combine
a wry suspicion
with a pseudo-authentic smile,
making it all seem pleasing in the end.

There was a hard,
Eastern-European texture
to her face.

She had not chosen mud
and other beauty facial treatments,
rather had lived an adventurous
yet privileged life.

Her smile said,
"I've seen much of life
in 99 years, and
now it is yours
to enjoy and tend."

She wore a black scarf
wrapped around her neck,
giving some dimension
to her very small body

that sat onto
a polka-dotted shawl,
which was inside
and partially covered by
another larger shawl,
laced with gold thread.

Her forearms and hands
from the third shawl.

The arms were larger
than one might expect
coming from
such a petite figure.

These (almost workman) arms,
as familiar
as editing books,
lay one upon
the other
in a warm gesture.

There was no tension,
but the weight of one arm
on the other
seemed a little more
than she could bear,

causing her smile
now to tighten and
not seem
quite as relaxed
as her face
first suggested.

Her skirt exhibited
a similar
but darker dot pattern
to the smaller of the two shawls.

Her legs
appeared to be tired,
at 99,
as they struggled to
hold up her arms,

with dignity,
as a pedestal holds
a death mask.


About Kim Mosley

The Fall
(Vickie Schubert)

First heavy frost,
early in the frigid morning,
silence is punctuated,
by sounds on roof and screen.
Dawn has arrived and
the kiss of the sun
has nudged the pecan leaves,
persuaded them to free themselves
from the trees’ control.
Against the cerulean backdrop they fall.
Some drift and gently twirl,
others plunge in kamikaze dives,
yet others drop in clusters,
exquisite ballet troupes in group step
as they spiral to the ground.
One by one,
each leaf letting go and
descending gracefully
in its unique way,
accepting its destiny
at the perfect time.
Melting frost dusts
the lawn with cool wetness onto which
this waterfall of leaves spills,
creating a delicate mosaic
of citron, gold, and green,
a tribute to the magnificence of impermanence.


About Vickie Schubert

Tree Image
(Amy Lindsay-Joynt)


About Amy Lindsay-Joynt

I Ask for Silence
(Glen Snyder)

NOW just leave me be.
Now get used to being without me.

I am going to close my eyes

And I only want five things,
five preferred roots.

One is endless love.

The second is to see Autumn.
It cannot be without the leaves
flying about and returning to earth.

The third is the deep Winter,
the rain that I loved, the caress
of fire in the wild cold.

In fourth place is Summer
round like a watermelon.

The fifth thing is your eyes,
my Matilde, beloved,
I don't wish to sleep without your eyes,
I don't wish to be without your gaze:
I  trade in Spring
for you to keep on looking at me.

Friends, this is what I wish.
It is nearly nothing and nearly everything.

Now I want you all to go away.

I have lived so much that one day
you will have to forget me on purpose,
erasing me from the blackboard:
my interminable heart.

But just because I ask for silence
do not think that I am going to die:
for me it is just the opposite:
it so happens that I am going to live.

It so happens that I am and I continue.

It will not be, though, unless inside
of me there will grow cereals,
the grains that first break
the earth to see the light,
but mother earth is dark:
and inside me is dark:
I am like a well upon whose waters
the night leaves behind its stars
and continues alone in the countryside.

It is all about how much I have lived
that I want to live a bit more.

I have never felt so sonorous,
I have never had so many kisses.

Now, as always, it is early.
Light flies on by with its bees.

Leave me alone with the day.
I ask permission to be born.
Pablo Neruda

(Glen Snyder, trans)


About Glen Snyder

Over Town Lake
(Betty Gross)

Moonlight strikes water
Ending, beginning entwine
No harm to water


About Betty Gross

Along the San Gabriel
(Sarah Webb)

Along the San Gabriel

on the river where my father died
water wavers over stone


About Sarah Webb

(Brandon Lamson)

I cannot climb the narrow path
to Suzuki’s shrine, above the creek
that floods during thunderstorms,
turning spring gardens to mud.
Legend says that Koi strong enough
to swim upstream against the current
become dragons once they reach the source.
Students spread his ashes beside
his favorite tree, an oak
whose limbs sculpted by light
and wind reach over the valley.
Sunrise, fog burns from the peaks
of the Santa Lucia mountains,
my friends’ laughter carrying
as they find Lupine, Humming Bird
Sage and Indian Paintbrush.
I don’t need to see it, the tree
or the wildflowers or the makeshift altar;
I can bow right here in the dirt
and surrender, burrow like a mole
underground into mulch and loam,
a compost turning the center
of my fear: shavings of red
orange bark, bear berries, wolf scat.
We practice this way, in the dark,
opening to our blindness
like the barn owl I often visited
that was rescued and taken
to a wetlands sanctuary near my house,
placed in a small aviary with a sign:
Blind owl struck by drunk driver.
Very sensitive to noise.
Please do not disturb.
Those eyes, luminous inkwells
in a white clock face
that followed me as I stood outside
its wire cage, feeling my lungs expand
with fetid air from the marsh below,
an understory where spirits hissed
curled in the roots of cypress trees,

rising in clouds of mosquitoes
that furred my arms and drank,
the owl a stillness inside them,
a ghost monk drenched in his robes.


About Brandon Lamson

Death Row at the Dentist
(Kim Mosley)


About Kim Mosley

No and Yes
(Kim and Jasper Mosley)

A letter to my four year-old grandson:


The other day I refused to read the book that told me about the rest of my life. Good thing, too, since the book does not exist. I like the fact that each day brings us something new.

This morning I received your video, where you so beautifully discuss the meaning of yes and no. That is such a quandary in Chinese, since they don't have words for yes or no. If you ask, "is the soup ready?" they simply answer, "it is ready" or "it is." So you see, we can function without those words "yes" and "no" that we use so often. It is a lot faster to say "yes" in answer to "are you ready for dessert" than to say "I am ready for dessert." But the Chinese were not in a hurry. At least, that is what we were told. Now they are in a hurry, rushing around like there is no tomorrow (that's an expression that you can figure out yourself).

I received another email today, this one from my Austin teacher asking me to consider a poem for the Zen journal I edit. It was a fine poem, but it was about now (the present moment) rather than about birth and death, which is the subject of the next issue. So I wrote him that it wasn't about birth and death, but maybe we could make the issue after birth and death to be an issue about "now," since now is between birth and death. He wrote back that there is no in between birth and death, and that, anyway, birth and death are ideas.

I wrote back that death being an idea would be an interesting defense in a murder trial. Suppose one of the mouse traps went off that we set in your house and "caught" the mouse. And suppose it was against the law to end of lives of mice, as it is to end the lives of dogs. So then whoever set the trap would be arrested and they would stand trial for ending the life of a mouse. And the lawyer for the accused (I think I set the trap, so I'd have to come back to Philadelphia to stand trial as the accused)... the lawyer for the accused would argue that I can't be accused of breaking a crime because ending the life of a mouse is just an idea, and we don't have laws, at least criminal laws, about ideas. I'm sure you follow this, and if you don't, that's ok too.

So I took a nap (because your grandma told me I needed to do that if I wanted to go out...which I do) and when I woke up I thought about there being nothing in between birth and death. So if you think about it then I think you'll see that it makes sense. Since you are growing you are being born. It is a gradual process. When you started your life you were smaller than the head of a pin. When you were about as heavy as brick, you came out into the world from your mom. Now you are as heavy as 5 or 6 bricks. Your dad is as heavy as almost 25 bricks. At some point, we stop growing and we start dying. Nothing to worry about though, because, like "birthing," that takes a very long time. Except for the mouse who is hungry for peanut butter.

But don't worry about the mice in your house, because any good Philadelphia mouse prefers peanut butter with sugar to your better-for-you Trader Joe's peanut butter. So the mouse, you, me, and everyone else who are around are still birthing to deathing. And so birth and death are really one, and they really are just ideas in our minds, and now... what is now? Maybe that's for another letter. OK?

Grandpa Kim

P.S. I sent this to my teacher. He replied, "Kim Oy! The rest of the idea reads thus: There is no absolute birth and no absolute death, and what is born is born and what dies dies. Smiles,..."


About Kim Mosley

(Dwayne Bohuslav/Joanne Brigham)

The Vernal Equinox, which was on March 20, 2010 this past year, is an important day in the Buddhist calendar because it is a day of harmony. Midway between the solstices, light and dark balance one another. It is, therefore, an opportunity to reflect upon BALANCE in life.

Emerging from winter, the Vernal Equinox marks the beginning of spring. Out of death, life re-emerges in an endless iteration. It is exactly the time when dark and light/death and life/moon and sun are in balance with one another, and so it is seen as a time when our lives are in balance – or can be. It is an important time in Buddhism for that reason, since Buddhism is about the Middle Way.

Hell, evil, pain, old age and death. Heaven, good, pleasure and birth. On the days of spring and autumnal equinox, accordingly, there is no predominance either way. This has been described as, “The Buddha delights in the Middle Way.” But the Equinox is fleeting…

This “Middle Way” is not achieved after death, it is not separable from life. It is not another place; it is a way of being in this time and place. You are in Hell and you are in Heaven depending on how you see the world and by the manner in which you are in the world. However ephemeral, the Equinox is a reminder of where we want to be internally. It is a reminder that the Buddhist view of the
world is that everything is one.

HCG Gallery

Suspended from the structure and in response to the space, an inclined plane became our “floating world”.

The nature of the ephemeral object leads to investigations of Tibetan Thangka painting and The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, the oldest surviving Japanese work of fiction, and haunting images of its heroine, Kuguya-hime’s, “Return to the Moon”. Steel, metal fabric, mechanisms…

Field and objects are set in motion from the rhythms of the moon and gravitational pulls, “Spring tides/Neap tides”; bellows/ breathing; male/female. A “physical response” to the physics of the space, here maintaining equilibrium in a place where polarities exist. Sticks, strings, beads and bottles…

All of this process arrives at the Vernal Equinox, the date of the opening performance.

What divine source or cosmic source or human source brings us to places of harmony?

The Comfort of Gravity.

After the opening performing installation, BALANCE remained in place for one month and then was disassembled back down to its individual components. No thing lasts. This helps us live. Impermanence.


About Dwayne Bohuslav

Atacama Desert photos
(Glen Snyder)

Journeying through the Atacama desert, a land where wars had been fought to secure the world's only saltpeter deposits just over a century ago. Now there are only ghost towns, abandoned since the 1920s. We stopped by the cemeteries where the wooden crosses are the only remains of a cruel life in the desert. Of the flowered wreaths that once adorned the cemetery, only wire hoops remain.


About Glen Snyder

(Kim Mosley)


Friday morning: My cousin wrote yesterday about Treme, an HBO dramatization of Katrina's impact on the Treme neighborhood. I watched the trailer (below) and requested it on Netflix, so someday I'll see it.



Not only was Katrina a terrible tragedy, but the recent oil spill has added "insult onto injury."

That said (and felt), I started to think about the elephant in the room. We are all on death row. (You probably didn't want to hear that.) Today our circumstances maybe be a lot better than Treme. But we are essentially in the same boat (some may crucify me for saying that). We are prone to sickness, heartbreak, and death. Prone is a euphemism. All our attachments will depart someday. Even the Earth, as we know it, will go away. And yet we smile. And yet we feel compassion for those less fortunate.

In the 80s, I met a few who were struck with AIDS. They knew they were on death row, and they could predict when their execution would occur. Yet they had an air of contentment that I had never seen before. In spite of (or because of) their certain demise (medicine is prolonging that now), they were able to have a certain strength to enjoy each moment for what it was. No more pretending about the elephant.

Later Friday: All was going well in my life, though my cough comes and goes (mostly comes, or at least, so it seems right now). In any case, a terrible tragedy occurred today to a different cousin and we all mourn for him. The elephant sometimes appears at the least predictable times or places. I dedicate this drawing to my cousin.

My son and I visited him last fall, and shared with him a bottle of wine watching the Oregon sunset. He loved the ocean as he did telling a good story. We shall miss him.


About Kim Mosley

Not Enough
(Rick Wadsworth)

When I left you (there in the hospice bed) I knew it would be the last time I’d see you.
The next time I’d see you, you would be dead, not there, a corpse.
And I knew this.
It was not, I may never see you again
(well Rick you may never see him again)
No it was not that.
It was certain
I was certain I’d never see you again.

So I threw my face onto yours
My arms over you withering
Trying for molecular fusion
Squeezed hard
And pled
I love you Dad,
I’ve always loved you ,
You were a good father,
I knew you loved me.

And no matter how hard I squeezed
No matter how long I squeezed
No matter how often I said these words…


Maybe to stay would have been enough.
Maybe to stay until the last moment of our life
Would have been enough?
Enough for what?

So no , no, no
Nothing, no time, no words, no touch, no smell, no taste, no sight, no thoughts, no words
NOTHING will ever BE Enough.


About Rick Wadsworth

(Phil Gable)

The following blog entries from Phil Gable are slimmed down from his longer blog chronicling his life this last year as he fought cancer. The full blog is accessible at

Sunday, July 5, 2009
The love in my life

When I first announced that I had been diagnosed with bladder cancer I expected the usual flurry of "get wells" and "best wishes" all the usual Hallmark greeting card expressions that I'll admit I've often relied on over the years. After all, what do we say to someone who is contemplating a possibly imminent death sentence? "Well, good luck with that"? The response in my case was something I found quite surprising. Over and over, I've heard: "I love you."

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009
The hundred foot pole

Several kind people have commented to me that my Zen training must have prepared me well for what I'm facing. That notion is lovely but I have a sense that if I start believing it, my suffering will become greater. I fully expect that I will fail to keep my sense of self as victim in conscious perspective at all times. In those moments, I'll hopefully want to avoid the gaining idea that somehow I didn't train hard enough, or I wasn't a good enough Zen student. Between now and Monday I will focus on doing what's right in front of me. Right now that doesn't include much bodily pain. When I wake up from surgery, I expect the pain will provide a powerful focus for my mind just as it does during extended meditation periods.

Sometimes I think we are like the guy who falls off the top of the 10 story building and about half way down the people on the fifth floor hear him exclaim: So far, so good! I've spent a good part of my life ignoring the ground rushing up to meet me. Can't ignore it anymore. I've jumped off the top of the hundred foot pole. Nothing to do but trust the universe completely. Nothing to do but live this life I've been given.

Friday, July 10, 2009
Hurry up, wait

Just when I think I can actually see through the illusion of personal power, something really surprising comes along and forces me to see how much I was relying on my plans and strategies to deal cope with life.

(Amy Lindsay-Joynt)


About Amy Lindsay-Joynt

Every Grain of Sand
(Keith Kachtick)

Miami Beach is not a place you'd expect to stumble upon a gathering of Tibetan monks. But one New Year's Day several years ago, during the final weeks of a dissolving four-year marriage, I did just that. My wife and I had planned to fly to Miami from Manhattan—our five-day trip to warmer climes intended as a last-gasp attempt at reconciliation. But, long story short, I ended up spending the holidays in South Beach alone. Boy, was it depressing.

On the day I found the monks, I had barely eaten. After trudging for hours along the deserted dunes, bundled against a surprisingly chilly wind in a wool sweater and faded jeans, I peeked into a small community center on the beach near my crumbling art deco hotel. A sign above the entrance read "Enjoy Tibetan culture and art." Inside, six Buddhist lamas from a monastery in India huddled quietly over a six-by-six-foot platform. The monks were on day two of a weeklong project to create a sand mandala, a richly metaphorical depiction of the universe made of millions of grains of vibrantly colored sand.

I joined a handful of visitors seated in chairs arranged around the cordoned-off platform. Some guests closed their eyes. One silently chanted a mantra and thumbed her mala beads. Most of us were barefoot. The only noise came from the gentle crashing of the ocean waves, no more than 50 feet away, and the tiny stick each monk stroked over the grated surface of his chakpur, the metallic straw-like funnel through which he directed the brightly hued sand, grain by grain, onto the slowly blossoming mandala. One monk kept a fold of his maroon-and-saffron robe pulled over his mouth to prevent his breath from scattering the sand.

After a short while, I felt an unexpected calm wash over me; it was the first moment of genuine ease I'd had since first learning from my wife that she was considering a divorce. For months I'd been holding tight to broken promises and spending so much energy wishing things were different that I felt as though I'd forgotten how to breathe.

No Need to Panic

Sitting there, I recalled hearing that a spiritual journey is akin to falling from a plane without a parachute. Terrifying. And that's what my life felt like at the time. Like many other people, I sometimes desperately grasp for material comfort and cling to expectations for the future in a misguided attempt to stop the sensation of plummeting into oblivion. But watching the mandala unfold reminded me that panic is unnecessary because the parachute is unnecessary. Why? Because—as yoga teaches us—there's no ground to ever hit. We're all in perpetual free fall. One breath to the next. One exuberantly lived life to the next. The monks weren't going to preserve the intricate mandala for future generations; they were creating a symbol of the transitory nature of all things and would destroy the design almost as soon as it was complete. But the mandala was no less beautiful for its impermanence.

The monks' absolute mindfulness, punctuated by an occasional hushed comment or chuckle, proved both mesmerizing and deeply soothing. I stayed for more than three hours, until the center closed for the night. During that time, the monks never stretched their backs nor glanced at the clock. No matter how far they leaned over the table, they somehow never disturbed the sand. Despite a dozen arms stretching over the mandala, the effect of their collective work was a sense of profound stillness.

The proximity of the monks' delicate artwork to the briny mist and rolling whitecaps of the Atlantic Ocean reminded me of another unlikely shoreline meditation I once witnessed: the Santa Barbara Sandcastle Festival, held every summer on East Beach in Santa Barbara, California. From dawn until dusk, bare-shouldered teams equipped with buckets and rakes, melon scoops and putty knives, deliver wet sand to 16-by-16-foot plots to make enormous and impressively detailed sand sculptures, some as large as a mobile home. Past entries have included scaled replicas of the Taj Mahal and the Manhattan skyline, a 20-foot dolphin morphing into a mermaid, Hogwarts Castle, and an eerily realistic laughing buddha as rotund as a VW van.

While they're diligently working, the sand artists are intent, as if nothing in the world is more important than crafting their sculptures. And yet, at the end of the day, as the sun sinks beneath the horizon, the artists and their friends and families gather cross-legged on the dunes, sunburned and quietly exuberant, to watch without complaint as the tide washes their creations away.

Like the sand mandala, this event is for me an inspiring illustration of sunyata, a fundamental tenet of yoga. Sunyata, often translated from Sanskrit as "emptiness," is what Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, represents: that everything eventually falls apart and becomes something else. This cosmic recycling dance is implicit in Shiva's jig-lifted leg, with which he's often depicted in Indian statues and paintings and in Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose). Realizing sunyata's significance, not just intellectually but also experientially, is essential for becoming enlightened. For truly awakening.

Nothing Lasts Forever 

Though it sounds paradoxical, sunyata is the core of what yoga and Buddhism generally affirm is a coreless reality. To fully understand yoga and Buddhism, you must not only recognize but also be OK with the fact that everything—every thing—is a sandcastle, and that material stuff, any compounded phenomenon, sooner or later falls apart and washes away with the tide. This magazine is a sandcastle.
My marriage is a sandcastle. So too are the yoga studio I own, the bike that gets me there, the century-old pecan tree in my backyard—even my achy but faithful body. I find this a sobering and empowering truth, and it leads to some compelling questions: Who am I really? What am I? And what, if anything, actually dies?

In Miami I began to more fully appreciate that moving toward enlightenment means, in large part, knowing that the wisest way to hold something (or someone) is with an open palm. William Blake understood sunyata when he wrote,

He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy; But he who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity's sunrise.

The challenge—and it's a challenge that can separate enlightened behavior from unenlightened—is to love the sandcastle no less for its transitory nature. To treat each precious moment as if it's the most important thing in the universe, while also knowing that it's no more important than the moment that comes next.

I returned to the Miami community center the following morning and sat alongside the Tibetan monks and their evolving sand mandala for much of the day. And the morning after that. Three days after my return to an empty Manhattan apartment, the six monks completed their work. What had made watching them hour after hour such a sweetly challenging meditation was my knowing from the start how it would end.

After a collective bow of respect, they'd brush their beautiful creation into a multi-colored heap, pour the heap into an urn, and empty the urn's contents into the ocean. Similarly, with a growing sense of peace, I gradually surrendered my dying relationship with my wife to the tidal pull of the cosmos.


About Keith Kathtik

Moonlight Marine
(Amy Lindsay-Joynt)

About Amy Lindsay-Joynt

Our life is like a candle flame...

Good morning!
The morning star is high in the sky clean and cool.

Before I came here I read emails and found one from
Brittany informing me of her grandmother passing away.

Our life is like a shooting star, suddenly appearing and
disappearing. Once appearing anything must disappear
like a tree sprouting and decaying. When compared with
a tree which can live hundreds or thousands years, our
life is brief and brittle. Compared with a star, our life is
like that of a firefly, small and dim.

Our life is like a candle flame, bright or dark, long or
short, blown off by wind or burning itself and others…
Our karma makes birth and death, great or small,
brilliant or dismal…

We want to make our birth and death in truth, peace,
harmony and holiness. That’s why we practice in limitless
life, light, liberation and love.



About Dr. Osamu Rosan Yoshida

Contributors for this Issue

Dwayne Bohuslav is an architectural designer/installation artist/educator. He currently is an Assistant Professor teaching in the Architecture Program at San Antonio College. As a design instructor, he emphasizes community-based projects that focus on the needs for students to be meaningfully and directly engaged as stewards for their cities. Simultaneously he pursues an intensive artistic practice engaging unlikely sites with large-scale, temporary architectural installations often activated with the collaboration of students and performance artists. Over the past decade he has collaborated with his partner and spouse, Joanne Brigham, on site-specific performance installations in Texas and abroad. Dwayne regularly practices at the San Antonio Zen Center, where he currently serves as Ino. His website is

Phil Gable was Stagen’s most tenured coach and had been a professional communicator and educator in various fields for over three decades. His lifelong passion for communication led him first to advertising, then to mediation (he was a Certified Professional Mediator), and finally to coaching. He had over 25 years in the marketing communications field. He helped numerous blue chip firms achieve their marketing communications goals, including DuPont, Sun Information Services, Armstrong Floors, and Gore-Tex. As a Certified Professional Mediator, Phil logged hundreds of hours in the field and had developed a series of conflict resolution courses. Phil was also a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. For the past 12 years he studied and trained intensely in various monasteries and Zen centers around the country. In 2010 he was ordained as a Zen Priest at the Austin Zen Center.

Betty Gross has lived in every quadrant of this country, attended university in Florida and Maryland, and borne children in Boulder and Austin. She has worked as a bus driver, groundskeeper, and microbiology research technician. She 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.

Keith Katchtik is the director of Dharma Yoga, down the street from AZC. He served as instructor for the Lineage Project, a Buddhist nonprofit that offers meditation and yoga asana in New York City youth prisons. Before moving back to Austin, he taught at Bliss Yoga Center in Woodstock, was on the faculty of the Omega Institute, and led yoga and meditation retreats in Manhattan, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Italy. Keith's yoga classes in Austin combine elements of the Jivamukti and Anusara traditions. He is author of two books on Buddhism: Hungry Ghost and You Are Not Here & Other Works of Buddhist Fiction. Keith offers a deep bow of thanks to the inspirational teachings of Tias Little, John Friend, Lama Surya Das, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as to the wonderful Dharma Yoga sangha.

Brandon Lamson has practiced at the Houston Zen Center since 2005, and is a co-founder of the Houston Dharma Punx. He recently received his Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston, and before moving to Houston he taught at various schools in New York City, including at an alternative school for inmates on Rikers Island. His poems and essays have appeared in various literary journals including Hunger Magazine, Brilliant Corners, and Joyce Studies Annual.

Amy Lindsay-Joynt has worked as a professional artist for many years. She writes, "The images are not planned but revealed through a process that begins with random marks. The end result is contingent upon what these random marks suggest. Often the works are landscapes, seascapes or inspired by a poem or story. Whatever the end result, the common denominator is that the image, its texture, its light are metaphors in a visual vocabulary that I have been developing for over 20 years. What I find interesting is not what they mean to me but what others see or how they respond.” See more of her paintings here:

Kim Mosley, a co-editor of Just This, was born in Chicago in 1946. He lived, worked and 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). Kim received a photographer's fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1981. His work is included in collections throughout the country including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, and the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson. He now lives and works in Austin, TX. His blog, Diaristic Notations, has over 1300 posts of writing and art.

Vickie Schubert has lived in Central Texas her entire life, growing up in Niederwald, attending UT Austin, and living in Austin ever since. After a long career in accounting and finance she is now semi-retired and spends her days gardening, exercising, sitting, playing with her dog, and traveling. Vickie has been involved in contemplative Christianity for over 15 years and has attended the Austin Zen Center for slightly over a year. This work, as with most of her poetry, was inspired by the wonder that abounds in nature, the wonder that is always present, even when you aren’t.

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:

Dokan Rick Wadsworth, a former editor of Just This, is a member of San Antonio Zen Center. Rick describes himself as "an eclectic therapist utilizing a combination of behavioral, cognitive and emotive approaches to assist my clients in change and in experiencing happier lives." The poem came from his experience with his father in hospice.

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 Poetry and Fiction editor for their 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 van. She walks along the lake in the evening with her rambunctious hound dog Rex.

Dr. Osamu Rosan Yoshida, founder and director of Missouri Zen Center, was ordained by Katagiri Dainin Roshi in 1989 and also by Tsugen Narasaki Roshi, after training at Zuioji Monastery under Tsugen Narasaki Roshi, et al, in 1990. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia Univ. and M.A. from Tokyo Univ. and taught philosophy, religion, global ethic, etc. at Washington Univ., Univ. of Nebraska, Toyo Univ., etc. He authored NO SELF—A Systematic Interpretation of Buddhism, Limitless Life—Dogen’s World, etc. and is active in participating in the Parliament of World’s Religions, etc. and promoting Global Ethic and peace, initiating Global System Ethic Association in Japan and Global System Ethic Society in the U.S.