Ode to empty space

30
Jan
2011

I had a friend over last night who had never been to my place before, and he remarked (as several have before him) on the lack of art (or anything) on the walls. I moved into my apartment about 9 months ago, and I plan on being here a very long time. As such, I am in no particular hurry to “finish” the space (a strange idea anyway, as when is anything ever finished?). I have happily taken my time picking out the right table, sofa, etc, only getting them when I feel right about it. It would also be true to say that with limited funds I rather need to be slow and methodical about purchasing things anyway. I don’t have thousands of extra dollars sitting around waiting to be spent on various furniture and nicknacks to fill my apartment, and even if I did I would be extremely cautious about any new thing I acquired. While I admit that my tastes are not in the norm, I am always a little perplexed as to why people find this unnerving. The thing they seem to have a hard time grappling with is how emptiness and simplicity are calming to me. To me, most people are rather like hoarders, and I get the sense that they are unconvinced of their own existence in the absence of a wide variety of things to reflect and prove it. When I left on my world trip a few years back, I quite literally got rid of everything I owned. My friend from last night seemed incredulous, expecting that I would have put a bunch of things in storage for later.

“To what end?”, I asked.

For me, it seems clear that being so tied to so much stuff is poison to the soul. The more we own (and the more we fetishize those things), the more we are bound to them, and to taking care of them, and to our craving for them. Our stuff owns us as much as we own it. To me, an empty space is calming, tranquil, full of possibility, yet already complete. There is no place to get to, we are already there. Being attached to the archiving of my past in the form of (seemingly) solid things, and putting it on display (with some ostentation) is simply not my cup of tea.

Dear friends

16
Nov
2010

After venting my fears yesterday, I was greeted over the next several hours by many words of wisdom and support from friends. It seriously moves me how blessed I am in this regard. Here is one of the responses I sent back to an email I received this morning:

Thanks Querido,

I appreciate the email. In fact, one of the great things through all of this is to realize what sweet and wonderful friends I have, and I feel very lucky for that.

Yesterday was as much about voicing my fear, pain and frustration as anything. Sometimes, we need to give a concrete voice to our concerns rather than push them down and let them fester inside. So that is what I was doing and it makes me feel a little better. I have a trick I sometimes use with myself or that I give in advice to friends when our fears about things get the better of us. It is: Imagine it happens. The very worst thing. Try to really imagine it, then imagine accepting it and dealing with it. This almost always helps, because worse than something concrete happening is often our fear of that thing coming to pass.

And in my case, I had (and have) a lot of fear about the continuing pain, the failure of all I have tried so far, the feeling of being broke and having nevertheless spent 10K dollars on this operation, only for it to be a failure. And the upset at feeling misled by my doctor who promised that this expensive operation would fix my problem once and for all. And also just venting about being worn down from many months of not getting a full night of sleep, because the pain of my shoulder wakes me up.

Giving voice to all of that in my blog was a useful outlet for me, and yet I know and have known all along the lessons to be taken from this. They are the same ones that India gave me, and they have to do with buddhist equanimity and acceptance in the face of what is. It is funny, I feel much more comfortable after that trip with the metaphysical limitations we face. After India, I was no longer afraid of not existing one day, no longer afraid of death per se. My next round of meditation and acceptance training, which I am still working though, has to do with the physical pain and suffering that sometimes accompany our journey here in the world. Interestingly, it is these smaller, more concrete questions which have ended up being more difficult to deal with than the larger issues of the disappearance of self and our eventual annihilation. And yet it is vital to look at them, to lean into the pain as it were, and to come to peaceful terms. This is, of course, a journey and there are many false starts and switchbacks on our way to that place of equanimity. I may not make it there, and I will have days of frustration, but I do know it is where I must head as I get older. I have had some progress in this regard. And I know that being in the here and now with physical hardship is ultimately as important as being in the here and now with existential hardship.

So thanks again for relating your story to me, and thanks for your continued friendship. I hope you know that I am always here for you as you are for me.

Besos,

Stephen

Warranty is expiring much sooner than expected.

2
Aug
2010

I have been having a number of conversations in recent weeks with my peers (in age), and we are all a bit surprised by the increase in physical problems, sometimes chronic, that accompany us these days. I was fully prepared for these kinds of things to happen at some point, but I imagined it to be much later in life (say 20 or 30 years from now). I don’t remember my parents generation having so many physical ailments in their early 40s, but maybe I just wasn’t paying attention as a child. Have we been a more active generation and worn ourselves out sooner? Is there something in the environment that is making us go weak in the knees, back, head, stomach, shoulder and (some unmentionable) places? Are we just a bunch of whiners? I have spent a great deal of time over the past few years getting comfortable with the Buddhist idea of impermanence and decay and death. I have plumbed the depths of fear of annihilation and come out much calmer about it, at least in the abstract, than I have ever been in my life. I stare more plainly and matter-of-factly in the face of death, and have a greater appreciation for life and the manner in which it connects us all. It has become a mantra of mine to say that any of us may be hit by a bus at any moment, and to focus on the here and now, for tomorrow may never be.

And yet, I find myself flummoxed by the aches and pains, especially when they are severe. I find I have a new (metaphoric) mountain to climb to deal with the fact of my body wearing out. It is somewhat more emotional and frustrating than I thought it would be, noting that at some point we can’t run as fast, lift as much, last as long as we once did. And something in the back of my brain questions whether this isn’t some passing thing, since the problems seemed so marked from just a year ago. Perhaps it is because I have tried and failed to treat a deteriorating shoulder that grows more painful by the day that I now look for and notice any pop or crack that seems oddly out of place in any part of me. Whoever said getting older isn’t for sissies was spot on. And probably cranky a lot of the time.

It is what it is

20
Jan
2010

I started out this morning writing a post that was filled with venom and vitriol, aimed especially at certain Democrats who I perceive to be in the pocket of corporate interests to the detriment of the populace at large. But the more I thought about this, the more unhappy it made me. And the more I questioned why I have to live this way. Why take these defeats so personally? Sure, many of these policies do affect me personally. And many of the decisions taken in the halls of power are an affront to the image of a decent and just society. But the anger, the frustration, is merely the result of a feeling of impotence. And it in itself is vulgar and corrosive. I need to find a way to support the causes I think are just without feeling personally injured when they don’t come to pass. And I need to find a way to not vilify those I think are standing in the way of progress or working against it. I need to regain more of the Buddhist compassion and detachment that brought me such peace during my travels. And by detachment, I don’t mean that we don’t strive for a better world and work towards that goal. I mean that whatever the outcome, we accept it with equanimity and calm. We focus on what can be accomplished and plod along without the anger. This anger is corrosive and paralyzing. Questioning the motives of others does no good at all except to raise our temperature and encourage a mean spirited reading of the world. A reading that is rife with conspiracy. I suppose that reading makes it easier on the one hand, for in imagining a dark, vast, invisible and malevolent power controlling things, we make ourselves feel better that we were outgunned or that things were out of our control. We feel small and powerless and although angry, a little less to blame for what has occurred. But this much I know: Our attitude affects everything. We can take the exact same circumstances and make them into something horrible or wonderful. We are best served not by questioning the ethics or morals of others, but to react with equanimity to their actions. The first victim of one’s anger and resentment is oneself. So let us get up, without exasperation, and push the rock uphill once more. And try to enjoy the landscape along the way.

Freedom’s just another word

21
Apr
2009

An old Yiddish proverb goes:

If you have nothing to lose, you can try anything

I was thinking about this today after talking to a friend who was quite distraught over the state of the economy and his low amount of incoming work. He needs to maintain projects and billing at a pretty high rate just to keep his financial life in place and meet all of his obligations. I asked if he wanted to go out to dinner this week and he told me that really, he couldn’t, he was “broke”. When I told him I was surely the far more broke of us two, he assured me that he was the more destitute.  Being quite sure that he generates many times my income, this could only be true in the sense that he has far more to lose than I, and that he is freaking out about losing his multiple mortgages and style of living to which he has become accustomed. And he is not the only one. I have other friends who are likewise entrenched in a certain level of material comfort that they are hell bent and determined to maintain, seemingly for its own sake.

With each passing day it seems, I continue to be thankful that I have so few possessions compared to so many in this country. I mean, I don’t feel deprived of anything (except health care, but I should have that taken care of soon). I really don’t. I go out to eat and drink with friends quite often, I have a roof over my head and easy transportation. I have a gym membership and Internet access and a laptop. I read books and watch movies and meet people. I drink coffee, I take strolls. And of course, I travel. Out of the possessions I have, they could all be destroyed in a fire or taken in a theft and it really would be no big deal.

I keep returning to this theme since I have been back, because I am confronted with it everywhere. The more things people aquire, the more worried they are about protecting them. The more worried they are about losing them. The more stressed out they are about maintaining a certain level of income to be able to support all these things. At my current billing rate, I will make about a third of the money that I made when I was VP of Technology, but I can honestly say that I am orders of magnitude less stressed than I was when I had that position. I also have a great deal more freedom in my schedule. If I feel like working today, I will. If I feel like taking part or all of the day to go to a museum or read or stroll or meditate, I will. The things I have “given up” to be in this way are not in any way necessities of life. I do not “need” expensive clothes, a multitude of gadgets, or excessive displays of wealth. I live very well indeed without owning one or more houses or cars. I feel a great freedom to try new things, consider any life changing option whether it relates to the kind of work I do, the place I do it, who I do it with or how. People often ask me if things are less exciting now that I am no longer traveling. But to be honest, I still feel pretty much how I did while I was traveling. I don’t feel settled or tied to this particular thing or place, but neither do I feel a need to be constantly moving somewhere else.

There are a vast array of potential reasons for our conspicuous consumption, or the acquiring of vast amounts of things well outside basic need or comfort. We acquire them for reasons of status, to show others how important we are. We acquire things out of a false sense that they will make us safe and secure. We do so because in our consumer culture if we do not acquire, we are not participating in the organizing principle of our society. We acquire to fill the loneliness and to pass the time. But is more stuff really the answer?

I am not in principle opposed to having any of these things, but in anything that generates great feelings of attachment there is a danger. Buddhist teaching sure has that part right anyway. They teach that our unhappiness comes from our attachments to some things on the one hand, and our aversion to others on the other hand. Of course, grasping is very much at the core of what it means to be human, and no amount of conditioning or meditation will or should wipe away the sensual responses that are central to who we are. It is the greatest gift to be born into existence, all of it. But we strive so much to contain the uncontainable, instead of appreciating the breathtaking thing our very existence is and sharing it with others. We should be able to enjoy the experiences we have without needing them to continue. In short, we should be striving for being, not having.

Busy busy busy

31
Mar
2009

It has been quite a busy week, both professionally and personally. Sites to work on, drinks and dinner every night, meetings — and nary a moment to blog, or blog well anyway. And yet I am hell bent and determined not to fall into that oh so American trap of never feeling that one has enough time for anything. Our perception of time and pressure is very much self inflicted, I am always amazed at people who act like all this just befell them somehow, that we aren’t responsible, each of us, for structuring our lives (actively or passively) to be so filled with so much…stuff. There is a lot of space available to us if we allow it, but we are mostly a people obsessed with the idea that we are missing out on something, and that is really a shame. The biggest thing we are missing out on is taking notice of the here and now. We are missing out on being present, so wrapped up in the next thing we have to do. I always know I am in this bad head space when I forget something simple, like locking a door or leaving something behind when leaving the house. It means I was already focused on the next thing, and not properly being where I am, with each moment being tended to.

Z Notes

12
Jul
2008

SATURDAY

– All settled in my room. I have 2 roommates, Jordan and Dustin. My orientation will be at 6:30 with Iva in the main area of “Cloud Hall” where I am staying. It is 4pm right now. I walk around the grounds a bit and all seems quite peaceful. I snap a few photos.

– Out of my window, I see a guy go into a room that I suppose contains the showers, but before entering removes his shoes and lights a candle and then incense from the candle at an alter just outside the room. He then bows three times and enters the room. I later notice that the alter has an image of a bunch of bathing Buddhas on it.

– Dinner, as at all such places (ashrams and the like) has a rather strict protocol to follow with some serial bowing and silence while eating. But after the first ten minutes, there is a clacking sound, a bowing to each other at the tables and friendly chatter.

– So far the place seems a bit of a hybrid of East and West, at least compared to my experiences in Asia.

– There seem to be a plethora of bells and gongs going off at all times and one assumes each has its own meaning.

– After a tour of the place, I am surprised by all the comforts and amenities. Internet, wireless network, nationwide phone calling for free, library, workout area, sauna, nice showers with fancy shampoos and soaps, dining hall, snack area – these things seem downright luxurious compared to my time in various ashrams in India.

SUNDAY

– First Zazen this morning. Unsure of what I should look at, how to turn, bow, which way to go, how to chant, what page we are on, what to do with my stool, where to find the cleaning supplies or mop while doing Soji (ritual meditative cleaning period after Zazen and service), and more.

– At breakfast I met two professional women from LA here for a short break and practice to integrate Zen training with their work lives, as well as a young woman from China that likes her job in finance and sees it as Zen practice.

– Met a kid today named “Star Bear”, and because we were on kitchen duty washing plates in the same room, overheard him relay his lengthy “spiritual story” to Mike, our dishmate. Star Bear seems to be practicing a form of what I will call “competitive Zen”, with a dismissive attitude towards others he sees as spiritually not on par with him. This guys seems to want the world to see him as a spiritual sprinter of sorts that has seen and done it all and tried on every tradition imaginable before coming here to grace us with his wisdom as the ripe old age of…21? I think I got off on the wrong foot with him by daring to ask how he came to get his name. I later learn that he comes from a Jewish family in Kentucky, and that he seems not to be very close to them.

– One of my first work assignments here is to take the dishes out of the dryer/sanitizer, stack them neatly and return them to their places on the shelves. This must be done with some speed as there is a constant stream of dishes coming from the people washing them (Mike and Star Bear). However, the dishes are scalding hot as they come out of the dryer and at first I try to pretend that this is one of those walk on hot coals tests of one’s control / strength of will/ what have you. After about six loads of dishes, I feel certain my fingertips will slough off at any moment. It is at this point that Mike (who I am really starting to appreciate) points out to me that there are rubber gloves I can use. (He himself had tried to be macho for a couple of days but then figured it just wasn’t worth it.)

– Everyone more or less wants to know how you came to be at this place, what your story is, your path, your Buddhist/Zen street “cred” as it were.

– I took a walk down through the flower garden, past the fields of chard and other lettuce, past wildflowers, past composting heaps, past fallow ground, through a gate, past horses in a field, around the bend, more wildflowers, past young lovers stealing kisses in the bushes and finally (track getting sandier and squishier) to the beach and the Pacific Ocean. There, were crowds of suburbanites making fires and generally trashing the beach. They were most of them in bathing suits as they are wont to do in Northern California, despite the fog and 63 degree weather. “Damn it”, they seem to be saying, “We have a beach close to where we live and damn it, we intend to use it!”

– Can it only have been 24 hours since I got here? Why am I jonesing so much for internet and phone? Is it because I know they are here at my fingertips? Just seconds away in the basement of this very building? I must resist the urge to get on the web, check my email, surf and what have you. This must be part of my practice this week.

– Why is it that American practitioners of Zen seem so…American? So not other worldly? I wouldn’t exactly call them not at peace, but there is a familiarity to them that takes me a little by surprise. And there is one guy I meet who starts talking after a few minutes about trying to meditate while revving motorcycles were nearby, and how he wanted to take a gun and “blow their fucking brains out” to make them stop. He has been living at the center for more than four years, so he must know better than I, but I have a vague suspicion that this is not, in fact, very zen of him.

– Just spent a lovely hour outside on a bench, in the cool sun. tick. tock.

– A new friend, Antoine invited me to go to the Pelican Inn (a pub that is walking distance from the farm) with he and a few friends for a few beers. A little voice deep within me screamed “Yes!! Get me out of here! Of COURSE I will go drinking with you!! …but then I thought better of it and told him no thanks. Why, after all, am I here? To be mindful and have my Zen experience. I need to sit with myself and push away diversions. And there are diversions a plenty in this place, should I want any. I think I will head to the Zendo (meditation hall) to sit Zazen a bit before bedtime.

– So many diversions. Are some better than others? Newspapers over internet? Books over papers? How about working out with weights? Is it better to take a meditative walk? Beers or phone calls? Smalltalk or silence?

– Just had an incredible Zazen, my eyes not focused on anything and focused on everything. And then a bell rang.

MONDAY

– I notice that mealtime can be quite cliquey, and a sort of popularity contest with who sits with whom. Add to this the fact that the first 10 minutes of every meal is silent, and there is an invisible thumbs up / thumbs down taking place that somehow, in the silence, seems more powerful.

– Just met a really nice retired guy who just arrived from Berkeley. His name is Nobi and I asked him (as we do) how he came to be at Green Gulch. He said, “Do you want the real story or the one I tell other people?”. Unable to resist the truth (or illusion of truth) I of course opt for the former. He told me that last Wednesday he was kicked out of his house by his wife. He had been living in a motel since then but remembered hearing about the Zen Center and thought it would be nicer than the motel. He is staying for a week. I asked him if he will return to Berkeley and he asked nervously, ” To my house or the city?” “Either one,” I responded and he said “To Berkeley yes…” and then his voice trailed off.

– The food here is (of course) all vegetarian, and fairly simple, but very good.

– What a day. We worked in the fields (composting) and then later on the grounds where I trimmed a few hedges. Other than the fact that my back hurts from the work and my head hurts (from the lack of caffeine or some other essential nutrient) I can totally see the work as a kind of meditation. I forgot to mention that we do the dishes every day at lunchtime for the whole damn place and I actually like it.

– Karl, (one of my new friends here) I discover lived in France for a number of years and we practice our French in the field. There are many opportunities to speak foreign languages here, which is a lot of fun. There are nice people from everywhere.

– One of the little things that is very nice here (as is is anywhere btw) is the fact that people are always saying “Thank you” in a heartfelt way for any work we are doing.

– There is this little locked hand gesture that we are supposed to make here in moments of still reverence (but not so reverent as to make the prayer hands gesture). The left hand makes a kind of fist with the thumb tucked into it and the right hand wraps around and places the thumb on top. The whole ensemble sits mid level roughly at the sternum. It was eerie to me how familiar this gesture seemed to me, but I couldn’t quite place it. Then it hit me, and it was pretty recent. I saw this exact hand gesture made by characters in the animated movie “Kung-Fu Panda“.

TUESDAY

– During Zazen this morning all I could think about were my aches and pains from all the work yesterday and how I couldn’t get into a meditative “zone”

– And what is with all the fake and useless ritual in the “service” part of the morning Zazen? (This is the last 30 minutes before Soji, which if you ask me, is like prayers). It seems a parody of ritual actually with a priest holding a special stick and waving it around like a magician, solemnly pacing around the alter.

– Today Mike and Samuel and I were pulled away by Arlene (the current director of Green Gulch) from regular duty to reorganize the downstairs dorm to accommodate more people. The place was pretty disgusting and it took us several hours to clean and rearrange it all.

– Arlene makes snap judgments about people and can be a little impatient, but other than that seems rather nice most of the time. Her cleaning style reminds me of my mother.

– Star Bear, we discover, has a dirty secret. (Not so secret when I think about it, we could have guessed by looking at his fingernails). But his dorm cubicle (in the room we are reorganizing) is absolutely filthy. He lives like a slightly schizo homeless person, squirreling away all manner of small food item, dirty clothes strewn everywhere, weeds, a “dream catcher”, and plastic tubs filled with nuts and berries and something unidentifiable. As far as I can tell, there is no Soji happening here. Ever.

– Mike, who has a very pleasant manner and is a nice guy to talk to, keeps disappearing for 10-15 minutes at various intervals during our re-org of the dorm, for reasons I can’t figure out. Smoking habit? When he returns he is barefoot and I notice with a slight discomfort that his toenails are very, very long.

– After the dorm re-org, Arlene drafted me to do some..drafting. I feel certain I never should have let on about my past life as an architect and techie. I can totally appreciate that the farm has skill needs ( and I have them aplenty) but is this type of work really “zen” for me?

– My old roommates moved out today (down to the newly re-orged dorm I worked on). One of the other guys I met here, Esteban from Columbia (who goes by Steven, and is Samuel’s brother) moved in. I can tell it is gonna be a little bit of a challenge keeping away from the things I have been trying to leave behind (computer, music, etc) as he is an avid consumer of these things and seems to always be on his laptop in the room. I will consider it another Zen challenge for me.

WEDNESDAY

– Zazen this morning was (as per tradition) cut by half so that the entire community could do some meditative work on the farm together. I really enjoyed it, it was great working side by side with everyone in silence, feeling very much a part of the community and getting into the work in meditative fashion. Our particular job was to cut tall grasses with scythes. It was interesting. And back breaking.

– Sigh. On Architecture duty again. Spent a good part of the day doing work I feel complex things about. I was drafted (pun intended) to do some draft/design work. While all the other kids were out doing menial labor, I was dusting off old skills to help space plan. I feel more “connected” to the community while doing the same work as others and doing it with them. The manual labor that we all do, ok, but what is skilled work worth? Should I be getting paid or getting a discount for this? Is this even a proper question to be asking myself in this context? If I were to stay for a longer period, how much of this type of work should I put up with? Isn’t any “work”, “work”, no matter the type? Shouldn’t all work be a meditation? What is the value of work? Add to this a vague feeling of being used and there we are.

– I feel like I repeat my story a lot to people here. They seem to really want to know what my last two years have been like.

– Today is the first day that I knew all the names of everyone at my table.

– I find out that I can get cell phone reception if I take the 20 minute walk to the beach, and this seems like a good compromise to make. I will walk 20 minutes each time I wish to make a call or check my email, which isn’t much. The only thing of importance is waiting to hear about possible contract work in LA.

– I am bothered by the prayer service in the morning and have a few other questions, so I make an appointment to talk to Daigon, one of the elders (for want of a better title) here. I discuss this with several people and find varying opinions on the service, some in total agreement and some in total disagreement.

– Hey! Isn’t an all vegetarian diet supposed to be a good way to lose weight? I am definitely developing a belly here, and a quick survey of others confirms the trend. WTF?

– As you might imagine, people are pretty touchy about killing things here, anything, and so during the week I have watched a spider weave a web at the top of my window, wondering if I should remove (ie kill) it. Just moments ago I watched this spider attack another insect, carefully rotating it for a good few minutes while wrapping it up in webbing to prevent escape or survival. It then carefully placed it in its web for a future feast. Oops! Scratch that. Current feast.

– Had a very interesting talk with my roommates Steven (Esteban) and John this evening about Buddhist practice and ritual and ornament. They seem in agreement about the use of icons (we are against them) in the Zendo and the strangeness of the prayer service. They are curious to know how Daigon will respond to my questioning tomorrow.

THURSDAY

– Had a long talk with Daigon this morning regarding the practice and service. He is a very intelligent and funny guy, and very easy to talk to. After starting to go into great detail about the prominent historical lineage of the prayer service, he basically agrees with me that it is bullshit, but says some people like it. He points out that my aversion to it may be reason enough to sit with it, but I tell him I also have an aversion to slavery and the like and see no reason to sit with those. That said, how awful is it really? I resolve to sit through it and try to see it as nothing but form, devoid of its content and hierarchy.

– I think I have been (like a dog with a bone) hapring on this prayer and religion thing a bit to much. People are starting to glaze over, and they are right. I should just shut the hell up already, the subject has been investigated. Case closed. I do realize that my focus on it is because all other parts of the practice seem so self evidently positive and helpful on the path.

– Today is my last day, I will leave around noon tomorrow. I have been saying my goodbyes to some of the lovely people I have met here. Vicky from Houston who is one of the most genuinely nice and selfless people I have met, always quick to volunteer to help out. Marcy from DC, who knows a lot about Chocolate (has written a book on it) and gives us a fascinating presentation (with tasting) on it. Nobi, John, Samuel, Steven, Jordan, Dustin, Mike, Iva, Karl, Sabine, Jeanette, and others from around the world. All of them have some to this place to be a part of this practice and community, and I feel lucky to have spent time with each of them.

– Green Gulch has been pretty crowded the whole time I have been here, partly because on of the sister sites, Tassajara has been mostly evacuated because of fires raging in the area. We find out that they had been asked to evacuate completely, but some of the senior members decided to stay to “fight the fire”. This seems incredibly stupid and ego centric to me. Property and things matter not at all when compared with life, and yet people here seem to have a vague hero worship for these actions. Not very Zen if you ask me.

– While doing one of our last dish washing services, we are being too much the chatty Cathys and are told to shush.

FRIDAY

– Friday is a day off for the majority of people.

– A very sweet last morning of exchanging emails and heartfelt gratitude for meeting and sharing talk, meals, work and experience. I am surprised by how peaceful I feel and how connected I feel to this community and way of life. I resolve to come back for another guest period in the future, to explore this life a little more. If not here, to something similar.

Now Zen, where was I?

12
Jul
2008

Just got back from a week at Green Gulch Zen Farm, which is part of a larger Zen community that includes a center in SF and one in Tassajara. I decided before going not to take my laptop, or music, or books, but I did take a blank journal and have a lot of notes from the experience that I will post above. I also took a few photos and will post those. After that, some other analysis. Overall, the experience was wonderful and surprising in a number of ways, and the people were genuine and welcoming. I can highly recommend the experience.

Unchained Melody

2
Jul
2008

I came across something rather funny this morning. Around the corner from where I am staying there is a little coffee shop with a sort of public sitting area out front. There are benches and plants, a kind of small and sparse urban garden. Next to one of the trees, there is a laughing Buddha. As I was looking at it, I noticed something around the feet of the Buddha. It had been chained to the tree, one assumes so that no one would take it. I find this hilarious. One of the main insights of Buddhism is that our unhappiness in life is very much tied to our attachments to things, yet here is one of its surest signs in this poor chained Buddha.
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