Scheduling Groups of People

I have found that instead by far the best way to set a date, for groups of say six or smaller, is for the person with the tightest schedule to send out a comprehensive list of all the dates that they are available during the possible time span, someone else in the group to edit that list down to just the dates that they are also free and reposts, and so on, until, when the last person posts, and you are left with a comprehensive winnowed-down list of date that all people are free.

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Book Review: “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie

Some general themes of the book “Codependent No More” are cultivating boundaries, a healthy sense of separation, solid self-respect, saying “no”, paying attention to one’s own business, and being able to strong and brave in walking one’s path. It’s also about finding balance and general emotional health, and cultivating the ability to love and care for others for real (in a way that isn’t draining).

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Book Review: “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”, by Shunryu Suzuki

“Zen Mind, Begnner’s Mind” is mystical and otherworldly yet also day-to-day ordinary, it is philosophical and technical yet also beautifully poetic and literary, it is challenging and demands your best yet is also gentle and patient, it is traditional yet also modern, it is serious and sincere yet also light-hearted and easy, it is simple yet also deep, it is Japanese yet also American.

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Book Review: “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, by Stephen Covey

“Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People” is a deceptively basic-seeming book that will actually will reward the reader with as much depth as they are willing to seek from it. Some themes in the book are developing a sense of purpose and intentionality in life, cultivating self-discipline and ethical behavior, and ways to create social networks that work (which, in the end, comes down to love). A big theme in the book is taking on practices and self-cultivations in the service of self-improvement.

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Book Review: “I Am That”, by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

If you want to understand “enlightenment” not just as a concept, but actually learn how it feels to disidentify with yourself as a finite human being, and to instead experience yourself as an expressive action of the entire universe, then this may be the perfect book for you. Nisargadatta’s teachings are relentlessly confrontational and cosmically mind-blowing. If you are ready for them, the words in this book can take every belief (and perceptual) system that you have, and blow them out of the water, stretching you wider than you could have conceived possible. Some times in reading it, I have felt that this book is IT, the end point of the whole journey.

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Joining Facebook

I noticed years ago that you can have fun cyber-interactions with folks that don’t actually seem to make a huge difference in the texture or depth of the feeling the next time I see someone in the real world. Even emails often don’t seem to really take a relationship deeper. The thing that seems to really open up and deepen relationships are real time interactions, especially if it involves something relatively intense : traveling or living together, dating cuddling or otherwise physically touching, working on a project together, being a men’s/therapy/personal growth group, or otherwise going through a fire of real life together.

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Book Report: “Mindfulness in Plain English” by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

A straight up masterpiece. This book is filled with deep, true, authentic Buddhist wisdom, and yet is written in an easy, extraordinarily clear Americanized vernacular. It is a comprehensive introduction for mindfulness meditation practice, filled with clear instructions for the path. The book challenges the reader to go deep and to practice properly, but it also has a simple, patient, humorous, kind, smiling vibe to it. It covers a wide ground, and yet touches on each subject in depth.

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Attending The Burning Man Festival and Living in a Zen Monastery: Compare and Contrast

Both of Burning Man and a Zen monastery are roller coaster rides – intensely blissful one moment, then an hour later dropped down into the depths of the pit, and then all blissful and clear again five minutes later.

Buy, at Burning Man, you have many radically new experiences every day. At the monastary, many of the days are as much like the last one as is humanly possible.

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Dance Floor Meditation

With the “Who am I?” part of the mantra, I dissolved whatever felt solid in me. I noticed all the definitions of self that my mind kept coming up with – some of them superior to the people around me, some inferior to the people around me, many neither. As my defining mind did its thing, I felt the heaviness tired constrainedness of those definitions – “I’m this kind of person, and that fact means that”. As they came up and I got caught by them, I kept asking “Who am I?” – i.e, “who is the I that believes this?”, “is this definition of self who *I* am?”.

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Tassajara Zen Monastery: It’s A Long Way Home

One of my favorite aesthetic experiences of my time here is watching the line of monks calmly filing up to the zendo before the first evening period starts. Different heights and shapes of monks, with our simple black robes trailing around ankles, illuminated by the warm lantern light in the clear night air, with the creek calmly and steadily burbling in the background. Especially when it is Friday or Saturday night back home, I am often moved that this is what we are doing with our evening tonight, we all have a date to come sit together and support each other in deepening and untangling.

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Tassajara Zen Monastery: The Demon Dream

Yesterday, we finished our nine day sesshin (meditation intensive). I am been yet again amazed at how deep one can go with this practice.

My experience started with three days of sitting in the meditation hall with the full assembly of monks for the first couple hours in the morning and for the last forty minutes at night, but working in the kitchen in between. I found that, contrary to my expectations, I loved that practice. I cooked six gallons of rice each day, and also ripped chard, sorted beans, chopped vegetables, and washed, dried, a put away a truckload of dishes.

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Tassajara Zen Monastery: Helping The Plants Grow

I hope that you enjoy this letter and are generally happy. I am mailing this out on Valentine’s Day. I wish love and a feeling of belonging to everyone who reads this. The date around which y’all may be actually reading it, the nineteenth, will be the mid-point of my current visit here at this monastery. In the air here on the first week of February was a cold snap, the coldest days since I got here. I had more resistance to getting out of my hi-tech extra-warm sleeping bag and putting my feet on the freezing cold wooden floor slats of my unheated cabin at 3:50 each morning.

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Tassajara Zen Monastery: Growing In The Garden

I am finishing this and sending it out on the twenty fourth day out of my ninety here, a couple days past one quarter done. Yes, I am often aware of every day passing while I am here. At times since I have arrived here it has seemed like the days have crawled by (especially when during meditation intensives, missing my friends my friends back in the normal world, or when I have otherwise been lacking ease). Other times, though, I have been amazed at how fast another day has flown by.

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What Does It Mean To Be A Buddhist?

To me, the heart of Buddhist practice is daily sitting. I find sitting in general makes me less reactive and more aware in life. I tend to feel better about the choices that I make and how I interact with people when I am sitting regularly compared with when I am not. I also have noticed that I enjoy life, going about it more consciously and with greater choice, patience, and spaciousness, when I have been sitting.

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Some Favorite Quotes About Having Healthy Relationships

We’ve discovered certain behaviors and attitudes nurture relationships and help them grow. Healthy detachment, honesty, self-love, love for each-other, tackling problems, negotiating differences, and being flexible help nurture relationships. We can enhance relationships with acceptance, forgiveness, a sense of humor, an empowering but realistic attitude, open communication, respect, tolerance, patience, and faith in a Higher Power. Caring about our own and each other’s feelings helps. Asking instead of ordering helps. Not caring, when caring too much hurts, helps too. Being there when we need each other helps. Being there for ourselves, and doing our own personal growth work helps.

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Tassajara Zen Monastery: Almost Done With Ninety Day Retreat

[Tassajara monastery has no internet and I had no computer there in 1999.  I completed writing this letter by hand and then sent the pages through the US postal service to my housemate and friend Rich, who typed it in, and emailed it out to a mailing list of friends] ********************************************************************************* Starting now, emailing me…

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Mind-Expanding Classes, And Missing Meals

I took a class about “the flow of awareness”. We discussed being conscious of what goes through our minds, both what we are perceiving and what interpretations we are giving to our experience. Then I attended a class on the difference between effortless, “enlightened” non-karmic action done with the awareness that the universe is interconnected, one the one hand, and karmic action done willfully, individually, with a goal in mind, in a compulsive, striving manner, on the other.

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Settling In To The Zen City Center

After three months of living there, I moved out of the San Francisco Zen Center City Center to apply to graduate schools in clinical psychology. Moving back into the building, I have come to feel friendly, or at least comfortable, with most of the other residents and long-time regular non-residential students. I’ve been living here for five months, it’s my home. The beautiful building is a powerhouse of good energy, good chi.

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Moving In To The San Francisco Zen Center City Center

A few months ago, I moved into the San Francisco Zen Center City Center, a Zen temple in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. The daily weekday schedule began for me the next day – waking up at 4:50 am, soon to begin an hour and twenty minutes of meditation (almost all of it sitting, with a little walking meditation in the middle), followed by twenty minutes of chanting, twenty minutes of temple cleaning, and then breakfast.

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Seven Week Retreat at Green Gulch Zen Center

I am writing you from the Green Gulch organic farm/Green Dragon Zen Temple, a Buddhist practice center half an hour North of San Francisco, in Marin County. It is one of the three campuses of the San Francisco Zen Center, along with City Center in San Francisco city and Tassajara in the Ventana Wilderness of Monterrey County. We wake up at 4:30 AM six days a week to the sound of a traditional Zen wake-up bell being rung as it goes up and down the hallways. We have until 4:50 to get into the Zendo and sit on our cushions, and I use that time to dress, use the bathroom, and do yoga.

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Meditation Retreat at The California Vipassana Center

Two weeks ago I returned from a ten-day meditation retreat that I did over New Year’s, from December 29th 1994 to January 8th 1995. Going there was like being a monk for two weeks. or like being in a non-violent prison. The schedule was to wake up at four am, sit in meditation for two hours, eat and rest, sit for three hours, eat lunch at eleven am, rest, sit meditation for four hours, eat fruit, sit for an hour, watch a video-tape discourse on Buddhist teaching and on the theory of meditation starring the head teacher guy from Burma, sit another half hour, optionally ask any questions we had for the assistant teachers (Americans), and then go to sleep, usually at around 9:15 pm.

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Shiva

I associate this focused, dark, unsentimental feeling with the Hindu God Shiva. He represents the cataclysmic, destructive, and violent elements of the universe and is not all sweetness and light, but he is not “evil” and oppositional to the Divine as the Western monotheistic Satan is. So when I am feeling ferocious, but in a spiritual self-aware respectful and refined way, I think of Shiva.

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A Different Drummer: Friedrich Nietzsche and Morality

Sigmund Freud evidently believed that Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche had a more “penetrating self-knowledge” than any other human being has ever had. If Freud’s analysis is accurate, perhaps it explains why Nietzsche’s written output so closely reflects aspect of the human psyche; like our minds, his philosophy is powerful but occasionally difficult to untangle, given apparent contradictions and complications. From among the strands of his thought, however, emerge coherent patterns. For example, although the ideas involved are convoluted, Nietzsche repeatedly asserted that a morality rooted in notions of good and evil originated in weakness, is destructive, and is arbitrary. Instead of morality, Nietzsche affirmed a value system that was based on embracing the worldly, the paradoxical, and the “evil” of noble strength and joyous independence.

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Søren Kierkegaard and Abraham Maslow Confront Hegelianism

“In healthy people only is there a good correlation between subjective delight in the experience, impulse to the experience, or wish for it, and “basic need” for the experience (it’s good for him, and society, in the long run). Only such people uniformly yearn for what is good for them and others. This unity, this network of positive intercorrelation falls apart, however, as the person gets psychologically sick. Then what he wants to do may be bad for him, and his is impulses, desires, and enjoyments then become a poor guide to living. So far as philosophical theory is concerned, many historical dilemmas and contradictions are resolved by this finding.”

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The Human Body as Objectification of Will in the Philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer

In the cosmology of the ninetieth century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, the pure Will-in-itself, like the Christian God, the Hindu Brahman, or the Buddhist Nirvana, exists outside of space and time, beyond the realm of human comprehension or perception. It does, however, phenomenologically manifest itself, almost pantheistically, in our realm as both the unified totality of all of the objects of the physical universe, and as the will to exist and to act that propels these objects along their respective courses.

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