“And in the case of superior things like stars, we discover a kind of unity in separation. The higher we rise on the scale of being, the easier it is to discern a connection even among things separated by vast distances.”
― Marcus Aurelius,
Dem Bones

Toe bone connected to the foot bone
Foot bone connected to the heel bone
Heel bone connected to the ankle bone
Ankle bone connected to the shin bone
Shin bone connected to the knee bone
Knee bone connected to the thigh bone
Thigh bone connected to the hip bone
Hip bone connected to the back bone
Back bone connected to the shoulder bone
Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone
Neck bone connected to the head bone--
Now hear the word of the Lord.

We read the quote and the song, both about connections, and then we went outside for a thought experiment, which was

Sit as long as you need outside, noticing how things are connected. You may write as you look or you may look and then write.


I listened to a dharma talk last week about emptiness by Norman Fisher: Prajna Paramita. He spoke about how we and the objects around us are empty of an essence. We can call a chair a chair all we want, but all that it is, for the time being, is some apparent collection of impermanent objects that will support us, should we want to sit on it. And what is an object, either from a Buddhist or modern physics perspective? Is there really anything there?

He said that “we only exist in relation.” So my face exists only as a conceptual relationship of its elements (nose, eyes, skin, etc.). And my body exists as a name for an another assortment of elements. We exist in our minds as we relate to one another.

There is something there in the way we are connected. I wondered, when I went outside and looked around, how I had not noticed that "everything is connected" is not a theory, but rather an observation. The sidewalk is connected to the ground that is connected to the bamboo that rises up into the sky, touching the clouds that are touching the moon. So how many things are there if they are all interconnected? And is the past, present, and future connected in the same way?

We do not create this connection in our minds. Rather, these things that surround us are touching each other. We touch each other, either on a friendly day or a mean day. We don't like all our connections. But, like it or not, they are connections which are special and very real.

I didn't like the role I was playing in my dreams. Who makes up these dreams? I asked. And why am I the same person in my dreams? How am I connected to that stranger who lurks in my consciousness?

My grandson, age four, has been telling his mom his dreams. In the dreams where his mom has a role, he asks his mom in the morning how the dream was for her, believing wholeheartedly that his mom must have had the same dream as he, since she was a participant.

I had an art teacher who would tell us that all space was variation of densities. This really challenges the idea of separate objects. Another art teacher would tell us that there are no lines, only edges. The way our language structures reality, for things to be connected, they need to be separate. We don’t say that an apple is connected to itself. But it is connected to its stem, as it is to the hand that holds it. We look at our fingers. Yes, we have ten little Indians... But where do they stop and our palms start? Are they separate?

Giving seems pretty goofy sometimes. We give as if we are separate. But if we truly separate, we would have no need for one another. We get satisfied when our friends have their wishes fulfilled. We get disappointed when our friends are lacking in what they need. But in the sense they are our friends, like our fingers, we are, in the end, one and the same. And some believe that the divine permeates it all.

This morning I would like to talk about prajna paramita. The perfect wisdom the Buddha opened up to on this morning. As we were saying, wisdom means the wisdom of emptiness. Completely seeing and truly knowing that all dharmas are empty. So let’s see if we can investigate a little what this actually means. So when you hear the word empty it might give you a sinking feeling. Maybe the word sounds a little bit chilling. Maybe it gives you this creepy feeling that nothing actually exists. That everything is an illusion. Could that really be what emptiness means? Well, yes, sort of. Everything is an illusion. Nothing exists in the way we think it does. As a fixed entity with its own being. And when you study the emptiness teachings, that is exactly what they say. What are things empty of? They are empty of any own being. So nothing has its own being. Everything depends on everything else for its being. You depend on everyone and everything for your being. Without other beings, clearly, you are not here. Your parents for a start… And everyone else who feeds you and takes care of you every single day. The sun, the earth, the air. You completely are dependent on everything. All by yourself there is no you. And you have no being of your own. None at all. You only exist in relation. What happens when you really understand this point. You feel grateful. Of course you do. Gratefulness is the feeling of emptiness. Every minute. Thank you, thank you for this life. So this is what emptiness is. There is no you alone, only you in relation. It means if you look for yourself closely you will not find yourself. The more you look the more you’ll find there is nothing there. And this is definitely the case. If you look for your face you will not find your face. You’ll find nose, eyes, cheeks, eyebrows, skin, and so on, but no face. It turns out the face is empty of anything other than the word face, a concept upon which we put some feeling. And it is empty of anything of the various parts that we put a word on and say face. But then if you look for the nose and the eyes the same thing happens. It turns out that words such as nose and eyes are just concepts.

—Norman Fisher

Kim Mosley


A Conversation About Dreams

The talk turns to dreams.
Kim says his grandson dreamed his mother
was walking with him.
When the boy woke, he asked her,
Did you see the mouse? What did you think?

We are so alone in dreams, says Sarah L.
My children sleep and they cry out.
I don't know what trouble they are facing
and I can't go in and help them.

Yes, I think, for the child in the dream,
the running is real.
A chasm opens in front of her
as monkey creatures scrabble at her legs.
A monster steps heavy through the night,
his breath closer and closer.

Maybe a friend is there in the dream,
standing beside her, or a mother,
but the child is the one who decides.
She must run away—and she does,
thrashing in her sheets.
She must lift the sword heavy in her hand.
We learn to be heroes this way,
turning, lifting the sword.

Sarah Webb



part of each other:
—the left shoelace is the same lace as the right shoelace
—branches slant and twist, each in its own way, all of it oak

reaching each other:
—the walkway flows into the sidewalk, which flows into the street, which flows into the cross street east, which flows to Lamar and on to the world of roads
—water splashes down into stones

the same as each other:
—leaves scatter over limestone and cactus and gravel
—our minds know the night garden

in a pattern with each other:
—twigs fork from the branches, branches from the oak
—stones in the pavement, large and small
—our bodies and our pens

—rotting leaf and dirt and cactus root and the little animals of the mulch
—porch lights and streetlights and car lights, lights on the oak, on the Buddha, Christmas lights

—left hand and right hand press each other in gassho
—we read each other what we have written and laugh

coming out of the same underlying force:
—all of us, all of everything
—the ache in my heart says, apart, apart, one and apart

Sarah Webb


The Water That Connects

Metal bowl setting on a bed of rocks.
No, they're connected by flowing water.
They are a fountain of metal and stone.
The pump that drives the connection
is connected to the city power grid,
that's connected to the wind generators out west
driven by the subtropical jet stream
coming off the Pacific.

The stone Buddha watching over the fountain's
connected to the historical Buddha
2500 years ago, half way round
the world.  It's all connected,
the farther you go, the farther ago.
The 2 million light-year away
Andromeda galaxy is showing
its 2 million years younger self
in our night sky.

—Jeffrey Taylor

Do Something New

The assignment was “Do something new.” l tried to sign up for piano lessons—free as part of a research project at University of Texas... but I'm sure they will reject me because I was honest in the application, saying stuff like I have an information processing disorder, attention deficit disorder, was not one who listened to music and didn't do a lot more stuff. I'm sure I'll end up to be a reject even after meeting the requirements of wearing a hearing aid and being over 50.

And then there is the thing of assignments. Ugh. I hate assignments. When am I going to do assignments? I wasn't going to be busy when I retired. I was going to just roll out of bed and wonder what I should do.

Trump said that the government could only add a program if it eliminated two. I eliminate one program and add two.

The assignment was “Don't read pages 98–102 in the biography on Gandhi,” but I read the pages anyway—and as a 12-year-old, I was rewarded with some juicy details about Gandhi's mental wanderings.

About an hour ago, I panicked a little. I had pangs of guilt—deep dirty guilt.  I had made up this assignment and then not done it. Thankfully, I then I remembered that I did do something new this week. Something that I'm ashamed about, but I'll share it anyway.

I'm a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. But I've lost my status (temporarily) because I've gained ten pounds since a year or two ago. I think I might have cheated to get the lifetime certificate... which was a charm for a charm bracelet and a postcard (above) from one of the leaders. I wore a lot of heavy clothes when I first weighed in and then lost a few pounds. I say I might have cheated, because now I don't remember whether it mattered what I weighed in the beginning. It is getting down to your ideal weight that is the goal. And now I’ve learned that getting there is not the goal—that staying there is.

In any case, I'm back now, recording everything I eat and trying to stick to 26 points a day, which is what worked for me before.

I think they suggest not weighing yourself every day. So, taking “not weighing” as the assignment, I did the opposite, compulsively weighing myself each morning and logging it on my iTrackBites app. One day I'd behave myself and gain weight, and the next day I'd eat bbq chicken and lose weight. So what I did new was to eat more than 26 points since there appeared to be an inverse relationship between how much I ate and the weight I gained. I did that for a few days and got completely satiated, and, unfortunately, gained a few more pounds.

Whoever wrote that book Calories Don't Count was from another planet—a skinny one at that.

Today I was pretty hungry around lunch time and didn't have any food around. I stopped by Natural Grocers and bought a package of four muffins that looked pretty innocent. In the past I would count them as two pointers. This time I made the dumb mistake of scanning the barcode to reveal the truth. I thought to myself that this was ridiculous to waste my time scanning because the muffins seemed to be made by some Ma and Pa organization. But no, I was wrong. A muffin turned out to be an eight pointer! I had only eaten half, and saw that a portion was half a muffin, at four points. Any reasonable person with a little self control would have stored the other half for a rainy day. But, no, I felt guilty for misrepresenting the muffin in the past and ate it all.

So I had three left. I stopped by a friend's house and gave her one. Did I tell her it was an eight pointer? No. Did I feel guilty because I didn’t? Yes. But if I had, it would have ruined the idea of a tasty gift.

And besides, you don't gain weight from one muffin, do you?

Something new? Well, I also decided that whenever we do the same old in a new way, that's something new. And maybe it is more new than the unchartered waters of newness.

Kim Mosley

P.S. Just received this piano class rejection (I’m sure this rejection was a gift from Heaven):

Hi Kim,

Thank you for filling out our project questionnaire! Unfortunately, you do not meet the qualifying criteria for our study. If you would like for us to keep your information for any future studies, please let us know.




with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you ....  
—W.S. Merwin 1927


I have made it
 to the two year mark,
thankful.  I made it with a wife
 who was the light out of the dark place
where I was not sure I could go on.

The chem doctor says “Two years is key
 though for three, we’ll watch carefully
and then free you to fly on your own at five.”

I’ve learned compassion, to suffer with,
 because now I have enough
suffering of my own to begin
 to hear, to understand, to relate, though
no two sufferings are the same.

I’ve learned humility, painfully, bumped
 off the place of privilege
that an 800 lb gorilla mind carries.
 I now see sometimes where it sat
was on me and my relationships.

I’ve had a rainbow of guides through a place
 where there are travelers
but no natives; caravans in fact
 because solo travelers
seldom thrive.

Though insurance picked up
 most of the bills, I can pay more
in the coin of the realm: in thanks,
 in good news, in being a success story
where not all
 are so successful.

—Jeffery Taylor


Writing Group
November 29
Thanks by W.S. Merwin
Sarah brought the prompt

Bro. Stendl-Rast says,
“If thank you is the only prayer we ever say
it will be sufficient.”

Thank you.
Here is the key,
Centering Prayer—
the prayer of silence—
teaches me to listen
and the world
of trees, and birds, and fountains,
small kitten-size fountains,
sunrises and sunsets,
glows and shimmers with new light
after the silence of listening.
Thank you.

Other things, too,
come sharply into focus
with listening.
Swastikas on churches,
churches burning,
violence done—victims blamed.
To say thank you
is not so easy as
thank you to small, kitten-size fountains.

To say thank you
is Bhakti—devotion.
Is it also Karma—service?
And is it Jana—knowledge?
Re-incarnation—to be made flesh again—
would be thank you
in this system
and the spiral would
come round again.
A single incarnation is perhaps not enough
to encompass so vast a response
as Thank you.

—Janelle Curlin-Taylor



WS Merwin begins the poem which is our prompt tonight, with the word


on a single line.

...but I'm all thanked out, so I guess I can talk about anything else.

Oh, just before arriving here, I went to Wheatsville to buy coffee beans, and ate half of a rosemary & salt bagel with some Gouda cheese. And you can probably smell the aroma of French Roast wafting out of my orange colored daypack. If that bothers anyone here, let me know and I will go shopping after Zen Writing in the future.

While walking into Wheatsville I met a fellow gardener from Sunshine Community Gardens where we both have plots.  She said she had been looking for me. Seems her eggplant plants have more produce than they can eat, and she invited me to  pick all I can use.

Thank you Marianne & John.

In my 'checkin' before we started writing tonight I mentioned making crockpot beans and having the electricity turned off by Austin Electric to allow the Asplundh crew to safely clear some tree limbs from the wires on the next block.

My building was not notified, but that's another story.

The power went off promptly at 9 AM. The Pinto beans had been going on high since about 7:30 or 8:00 AM.  I had just added the sautéed onions, garlic and green bell peppers from the frying pan when the lights went off and so did the crockpot.

During the power outage I rode my bike to the HEB grocery store at 41st Street and Red River, even though the HEB at Burnet Road and Koenig Lane is closer. I had to use up some time before the 1 PM scheduled power outage was over.

The terrain to 41st Street is mostly flat with some gentle slopes, whereas the route to Burnet/Koenig is up, down, up, then going back it is down, up, down. Added to that route are 2 four-lane road crossings, always difficult for pedestrians and cyclist.

I'm always thankful when I get across a busy avenue either on foot or bike. The four lane roads are more dangerous even at intersections with traffic lights because of vehicles making turns.

Those beans turned out real nice.... eventually.


Stomach full

Mind dull

Second guessing every thought

Better to Listen on empty.

—Dave Royal


Do we just say thank you for the good things that have been happening? Are there even “good” things, or is everything a mixed bag? Does everything glitter just a little? Are we being over dramatic when we say “this is bad”?

It was so cold we invented the furnace. Someone's kids moved far away, so the telephone was invented. Is it not worth saying "thank you" for anything?

Buddha was continually harassed by Mara, who tried to take him off the path. Some say Mara was evil and even the devil. I think we should say “thank you” to Mara, who so skillfully kept Buddha on the path by challenging him over and over again. How steadfast would Buddha have been without Mara? Would his journey be worthwhile if it wasn’t met with challenges?

On a beautiful day, my wife had to walk to pick up the kids because her car didn't start. “This isn't how I wanted to spend my day,” she said. Thank you. David's electricity was turned off. Thank you. His life became a little more surprising. Thank you.

I bought really good five cheese macaroni for my four year old. He didn't say "thank you", nor would he eat it. So I bought kid’s mac and cheese tonight. “Take the cheese off,” he said. “Thank you for four-year-olds,” I thought.

Gomer Pyle said “Thank you thank you thank you.” (Or was it, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!"?). He pretended, at least, to be really appreciative.

It seems so easy to bemoan that the world isn't as we'd like it to be. But if it was, it would be boorrriinnng. So thank you for that. I'll wake up tomorrow morning and say "thank you"... because I don't know what the world will serve me for breakfast. Just like when I sit zazen. What will come into my little noodle? Or when I open my mail. What will I see? Will someone scold me because I was a little too this or that? Will someone tell me that I won the lottery? Will faux Microsoft Bodhisattvas call me to tell me that they will fix the virus on my computer? Will all my machines work right? My gadgets? Thank you (I hope they don’t… they’ll have time to rest).

I love surprises. I like when the car doesn't start. I love when I'm at Home Depot and told that I should come right home. I love when I try to go home, and the road is closed. Thank you for making this life so unpredictable and so exciting.

What will happen next? Will I say "thank you"? When my four-year-old says thank you he doesn't look up. So I say to him, “Charlie,” and then he remembers and looks up, and says once more, this time with a smile, “Thank you!!!!!!”

Kim Mosley


In Face of Dark
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is —W.S. Merwin
Figures are fading from us
into the trees, high-branched and dark.

We reach for them, for the hands that clasp back,
the fur and claw that surprise our clutching fingers.
We know these things we love may go—
the wind may blow them from us,
trail them in smoke from us
as this world passes, as it spills
its wrong and its beauty like coin.

We turn toward the dark
that has risen from the sea below us,
the fingers of fog that run up the notches of the rivers,
and we bow and we say, welcome.
You have come to show us a new way
terrible in its newness, terrible in its beauty.

We do not know what lies in this dark.
We do not know if any way can be walked through such a dark,
such a fog blind and cold and reaching for us,
but still we turn to it and bow.


When the Cup

When the cup has fallen,
we do not lap the water from the sand.
It has gone and our hopes with it.
We set it upright for rain to fill,
a drink for some other traveler.
Come now, we will climb the rocks together,
follow the line where feet have worn away the lichen.
We will trust that scuffed line.
We will trust there is water ahead in some crevice.
We will trust there is a way.

Sarah Webb

Zen in the Martial Arts

Writing Prompt Nov. 22, 2016 
The legendary Zen master Takuan Sōhō said: 
“The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing,’ for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. 
When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword, which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man’s subconscious that strikes.”

or in a single line: 
"When you seek it, you cannot find it" 
after reading Joe Hyams’ Zen in the Martial Arts

Escaping Bandits

Let's say you are running from bandits
and you know, you know to run zigzag and random
but your random isn't random enough
and the shots are stinging closer.
The plan you had to make the juniper to the right
is forestalled by a hail of bullets.
What will you do?

That's when you tumble into the river,
down the clay bank with a splash.
You knew the river was there, you knew.
You'd planned on it, you'd planned to go into the chaparral,
then across the river and into the brush on the other side
and up the draw into the hills.
But now you have tumbled into the river
and it is carrying you faster than you could swim
but not across—down and under and around,
big boulders lurching toward you.
The bandits race along the bank.
Sometimes they see a head bob, bob up
and suck under and swirl away.
Their guns peck peck across the top of the water.

And now what?
That river is taking you fast and far and you have to let it
but you do your doggy paddle and you plan, you plan again
for the soft yellow of a beach you know lies ahead
and the brush that reaches to its edge.

Huh! bandits know how people think.
They are waiting at that curve of sand, their guns aimed.
The perfect place to land, they think, to crawl into the shallows
and we will get him then.
But that's not what the river has in mind.
It ducks you under, crashes you against a boulder,
and, dizzy, you have to let yourself go into the current

right on past that bank where the mass of horses wait.
You do not even know you are going past
because you are floundering deep under the green water,
fighting for breath, and when you come up—
ah, you are far beyond that beach
into territory you do not know, places you cannot plan,
a route that leads you away from bandits, away from the life you knew.
You are free to go upon your way.