Your Word is Your Bond

“From a young age, our parents impressed on us the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed us values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that we continue to pass along. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

American Dream
The Cheese Has Moved

To journey without being changed is to be a nomad.
To change without journeying is to be a chameleon.
To be changed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.

To journey without arriving is to be a refugee.

Bumper sticker: I’ll keep my guns, money, and freedom, you can keep
the “change.”

No man with four aces and a Smith & Wesson ever asked for a New Deal.

The cheese has moved.
  My calendar is now in pencil
for a year or more.
  Faint lines show where
a cheese moved.

“. . . we were left feeling
helplessly bypassed, as if
  the processes of the present
did not include us. We felt
  unheard, angry, and frustrated.”

This is a collage of sayings (Mark Nepo), bumper stickers, a mash up of folk wisdom, some original poetry, and lines from a Zen journal. I now understand the artistry of a good collage (even if I don't achieve it). 

—Jeff Taylor


The American Dream, Betrayed

In American, anyone’s child
  can grow up to be President.
Still, everyone knows they’re talking
  about straight, white boys, but
someone forgot to tell that nobody,
  or maybe she didn’t listen.
Now there's a Black man
  in the White House and . . . 
I mean, that’s not how it’s
  supposed to be.
If a cynic’s an idealist disappointed,
  what's the promoter of
the American Dream to do, when
  the “wrong” person
achieves the Promised Land
  putting the Unspoken’s
business in the street. Whatever
  it is, the mark has won,
the con man's lost and the rigged game
  is broken.
How true is . . . a rags to riches story
  that's only open
to Harvard men?

—Jeff Taylor


Awesome Poem

I told my wife 
“I’m going to write 
a poem tonight.”

And then 
Caroline brings this prompt, 
and it didn't seem like a prompt,

at all.

At least, not one
to inspire 
a poem, 

at all. 

I've started to notice,
more and more,
how some things tick me off. 

As we read the prompt,
together in unison, 
I  found myself 

somewhere between 

being ticked off, 
(very) supremely ticked off,
and wondering if 

these words were part 
of Michelle Obama's 
wonderful speech 

the other night (at the DNC).

I read 
she had no political intentions 

in her speech—
unlike the others 
she followed.

And yet, 
after the speech, 
many said, 

”she ought to be president.”

The prompt seemed dated, 
perhaps it was from 
the Cleavers 

in the 50s. 

My wife said at dinner 
something about how,
if we had better schools, 

things would be different. 

We ended up realizing
it would take about 
three generations 

to really make a change... 

A profound 
that is.

I think this tirade started 
with her 

how so many people 
could vote for 
a bully. 

I told her 
that the odds were…
he'd win.

My friend just texted me, 
“write something awesome.”

If I didn't know better,

So there, 
I tried to write 
an awesome poem. 

And then I wanted to say
“I'd pick my nose”
and you can't say that 

in a poem. 

In high school, 
did you ever read a poem 
about nose picking? No!

Or even about bullies, 
or the Cleavers? 

I heard the other night,
on NPR, 
a poet was told 

he had a terminal illness.

He became very depressed 
and wrote 
the best poems of his life. 

I thought, God, 
grant me 
a terminal illness. 

Oh, just kidding, God.

Let me try again:

The lime I stole from
the Zen center was so
delicious, it made my 
smoothie so great that
my friends drank it 
with such gusto—
so much gusto, 
in fact
that I didn't have 
any left today.

That's a dumb poem. 
Glad there are only 
two minutes left.

I can blame 
the advancing clock 
on my not writing 
anything close to awesome. 

Or I can blame it
on my lack of
having a terminal illness, 

Or maybe 
I wasn't raised right, 
like my neighbors, 

who had their mouths, 
washed with soap,
when they swore.

Kim Mosley

Your Sailboat

The idea of this piece is to reach the root of your sail boat; your journey. The soul and the mind. I wanted you to connect more with your right brain. Your intuitive creativeness. The faces reflect your own path and where you wish to see yourself. The open areas are for you to fill in for yourself and the flowers are ideas blooming. The lines represent strength and boldness. I didn't incorporate color because I like the person seeing this to create color with their eyes. I think it tests the brain of what you see and what you don't and some see things differently. The sail boat can represent something meaningful in your life. I hope this helps you in some way leaving our Zen Writing group today. Maybe this image will be stuck in your head on the ride home and slowly ideas or color will gravitate to the image in your head. Its the big idea for you to sleep on. It's your sail boat.... 


Sailing On A Breath

Exhaling we help feed the trees.
Through the magic in their leaves, they
give us substance for our life’s breath.

Breathing, the veil that separates
life from death, manifests Oneness
in this moment, and as always.

So our breath is not truly ours.
Since it can’t exist on it’s own.
And neither can we, nor can they.

The breath that we exhale vibrates
air around us, somewhere pushing
the sails that move boats forward.

Thoughts, memories, experiences,
feelings, emotions, desires,
sail through my mind when I sit.

Who has breathed these, causing them
to sail on my horizon,
urging me to follow along?

Did I breathe them or did I just
intercept them on their way to
elsewhere, not intended for me?

As I try blowing them away
from me, instead I scatter
fragments of chapters of my life.

I did not know that a breath could
scatter fragments of lives to be
rewritten in other lives.

My breathing fans the flames that are
dancing uphill toward me, pushing
me to a higher consciousness.

So breathing consciously I can
set my universe in motion,
toppling the confusion away.

Until the moment of my last
Breath, when I will sail freely,
no need for form, boundary, or me.

—Elena Rivera

The Other Side

Original photo by with addition of Dash by Kim Mosley

I search and search... The perfect this and that. One day it is searching for the perfect diet, then the perfect exercise, then the perfect shampoo, then the perfect friend. The dissatisfaction is looking for the perfect me... How would I really like to be, what would I like to know?

I totally confused a man at the free sample sushi table at Central Market today. I've never seen it without someone handing out samples before. There is a little story here. A few weeks ago I was handed a piece of sushi by an Asian looking guy. He said, have a kamikaze roll. I wondered if he knew what it meant and finally found out that it also referred to a drink that was a mixture of various ingredients.

So I figured that kamikaze must have more meanings than the one who gets in an airplane and rams it into an enemy plane, killing all. 

Today the chef/pilot was nowhere to be seen. I was a little worried about him. 

An old man was there, also waiting for a sample. I put a sample in a cup and handed it to him. He declined the gift, and so I ate it myself. Then he said, “Oh, that was very nice of you." So I said, “Yes." I think I more surprised him than anything... but probably should have responded better.

How would the I who I'd like to be respond? If I'm already me, who was it that was responding? Would/should we be the person who'd we like to be? Since our friends like us as we are (I don't think they'd wait around), would we have to find new friends?

Suzuki Roshi said, “You are perfect just the way you are... and you could stand a little improvement? Could both parts of the statement be true? I

If I am perfect just as I am, why do I have to do anything? And also, why do I have to change.

A high school classmate recently wrote, “You don't marry the perfect spouse. You marry to become the perfect spouse.” But where do you start? I’m full of loose pages and frayed edges and need a lot of tender conservation.

I certainly often think it is better on the other side of the stream. I waited breathlessly until I could get a drivers license... but by the time I did get it, at 23, it wasn't such a big deal. And I waited breathlessly to get through with high school, to get through with college, to have a real job, to retire from the job, to this and that. I waited breathlessly for what would make me happy. All things on the other side of the river. Where is the boat to take me across?

Wait, the wise man says that I'm already there. Can't he see I want to be on his side, where the grass is greener? How can I be satisfied with this stuff that isn't the perfect this or that... or is it?

Kim Mosley


Zen without Kanzeon

From Zen Flesh, Zen Bones by Paul Reps, story 78 of 101 Zen Stories.
Real Prosperity
A rich man asked Sengai to write something for the continued prosperity of his family so that it might be treasured from generation to generation. Sengai obtained a large sheet of paper and wrote: “Father dies, son dies, grandson dies.”
The rich man became angry.  “I asked you to write something for the happiness of my family!  Why do you make such a joke of this?”
“No joke is intended,” explained Sengai.  “If before you yourself die your son should die, this would grieve you greatly.  If your grandson should pass away before your son, both of you would be broken-hearted.  If your family, generation after generation, passes away in the order I have named, it will be the natural course of life.  I call this real prosperity.”
When I first read this, I was in my twenties and a smart-mouthed young man. I found Sengai’s answer to be a smart-aleck answer to a trick question. Somehow I did not hear the last paragraph, heard another version, or a re-telling by a smart-aleck.

Many years later, I helped my wife by working the sound system to do the funeral of a young man who died of AIDS.  Six months later, his family was back.  His younger brother could not go on without him.  He committed suicide. The parents and the remaining son grieved and I grieved with them.  The knobs on the sound system, thankfully, were large enough to be seen through tears. This was not the first funeral for a young person I attended.  At this time, I thought to myself, “Our children are dying too early.”  At this point I understood Sengai’s compassion for the rich man.

I’ve attended funerals for friends and children of friends where the parents and even a grandparent was there.  This is not prosperity.

My problem with tonight’s prompt is that I hear it in my own voice, maybe the voice of the smart-mouthed young man part of me.  I wonder if I had heard it direct from a compassionate teacher, would I have understood it differently? On my first reading, I just heard a smart mouthed, trick answer.  It sounds like so many I met in academia, just waiting to zing you and show off in response to an honest request for help or information.  On considering it again, maybe the master is pointing out the self-centric nature of the question, the answer depends on where you stand.  Or maybe telling the initiate to look inside himself for the answer that he already possesses.

I wonder if encountering some other tragedy will reveal the wisdom in this story.
Lady Wisdom always speaks.  She sets her own pace.
Zen writings without a teacher too often fail to carry the compassion.  My home shrine has no image of Kanzeon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.  Maybe I need to keep her image before me while reading Zen stories and ask for her wisdom.

—Jeffery Taylor