What is the purpose of practice?

Download PDF

To realize the fullness of experience.

Its pregnant nature: holding birth, beauty, wonder, awe, gratitude, happiness.

…and…

Its potential for overwhelming suffering, debilitating pain, mental anguish.

…and…

The healing that arrives with compassionate awareness, tenderness, love.

…and…

Recognizing that to be awake, the prerequisite, the mandatory command, is stopping.

…and…

Resting our attention in this very moment.

Sitting with Thay

Download PDF

Sitting with Thay

Bell

Line forms, patiently waiting

Shuffling of feet, clinking of bowls, heaps of deliciousness

Stepping outside, inhaling freshness

Walk

The sun, it shines

Entering the hall, seeing a path, straight ahead: emptiness

I’ve arrived, I’m home

Sit

Breathing in, breathing out

Opening my eyes, directly in front, I see Thay

Posture straightens, thoughts abound

Breathe

Present moment, wonderful moment,

Following my breath, curiosity steadily rising, who are you?

Zen master, reading contemplations

Eat

Consuming energy, digesting freedom

Looking at Thay, I crave acknowledgment, who am I?

Be free, my friend

Stand

We turn, we bow

I stall awkwardly, hoping that perhaps, we might speak?

He passes, without words

Calm

Woman approaches, announces suffering

Asks for support, my heart opens, I am here

Deep listening, loving speech

Care

She bows, I smile

An insight manifests; Thay isn’t gone, he’s within me

No discrimination, no discrimination

Peace

Who is playing the piano?

Download PDF

DubaiPiano

Was it you?

She asked politely.

That expression of beauty, serenading, masquerading in the form of sound?

Looking deeply, I search for an answer…

There is a piano before me.
But this piano is born of plastic, metal and wire constructed by people I’ve never heard of.

There is a sheet of music facing me.
But this music is born of genius, effort and persistence by people I’ve heard of but will likely never meet.

There is technique within me.
But this technique is born of lessons, guidance and feedback by people I’ve met but which are not me.

How can I say it’s me?
It’s more like the piano, the music and the technique played itself.

The Guest House

Download PDF

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi

Thank you

Download PDF

“Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance. What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?” -Hal Borland

A benefit of experiencing four seasons is that each time of year carries its own distinct mood. The transition from autumn to winter is a contemplative one, a time of acceptance towards the cold days to come and a reflection on the final colors of autumn. Thanksgiving accentuates this time well, and provides a natural space for expressing gratitude.

I have many things to be thankful for this season, and they are summed up in a song by Native American singer-songwriter Joe Reilly, called “Thank you” Continue reading Thank you

The Art of Conscious Living

Download PDF

This poem is from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s first book Full Catastrophe Living. The book serves as a detailed introduction to mindfulness, and is placed in the context of healthcare and healing. Published in 1990, it helped lay the groundwork for mindfulness in the US, particularly from a scientific end. I’d like to share one quote from the book that resonated deeply, on the art of conscious living:

“You can’t sail straight into the wind, and if you only know how to sail with the wind at your back, you will only go where the wind blows you. But if you know how to use the wind’s energy and are patient, you can sometimes get where you want to go. You can still be in control.

If you hope to make use of the force of your own problems to propel you in this way, you will have to be tuned in, just as the sailor is tuned in to feel the boat, the water, the wind, and his or her course. You will have to learn how to handle yourself under all kinds of stressful conditions, not just when the weather is sunny and the wind blowing exactly the way you want it to.

We all accept that no one controls the weather. Good sailors learn to read it carefully and respect its power. They will avoid storms if possible, but when caught in one, they know when to take down the sails, batten down the hatches, drop anchor, and ride things out, controlling what is controllable and letting go of the rest.

Training, practice, and a lot of firsthand experience in all sorts of weather are required to develop such skills so that they work for you when you need them. Developing skill in facing and effectively handling the various ‘weather conditions’ in your life is what we mean by the art of conscious living.”