Tuesday, August 16, 2011

some other points of view

I think I sometimes write and talk about Zen practice in a cavalier, glib sort of way. I know that's shocking, because I never talk about anything else that way. </sarcasm> I do know that at least a couple people in my sangha have found it a bit frustrating or discouraging that I talk about practice as though it were simple or easy: "When I start getting angry, I just notice I'm getting angry, and then I choose how to calmly and carefully respond." I'm not sure that's actually useful to anyone, and every day I learn how to communicate in more meaningful ways. It's hard because it is simple. It is literally simpler than we can imagine, but that doesn't mean it's easy. In fact, I'd argue that being engaged and present, and able to create appropriate and spontaneous responses to events, is the most important thing I do in the world. (More on that later.)

The way I talk about Zen practice has a lot to do with how I started, which is:
  1. I discovered Zen when I was 14,
  2. didn't do anything but read books until I was 22,
  3. failed to develop a meditation practice,
  4. drifted away and got more and more unhappy until I was nearly 30, and then
  5. BAM! it was time to start practicing, which I did, wholeheartedly and without angst.
I'm not sure it was obvious how unhappy I was before I came to Zen practice, and of course the Zen people only know me from that time on, so I think that without the context of the earlier decades of angst, I sometimes act or sound like I just skipped all the difficult early stages that most people experience.

For some other perspectives, I've added some other Zen blogs in the sidebar there, who all happen to be practicing at San Francisco Zen Center:
  • Zen Beginner - Someone in their first year or two of practice.
  • compassionate teacher - A third-grade teacher.
  • The Ino's Blog - Currently written by Shundo, who has been practicing for many years and is currently the SFZC ino, or head of the meditation hall, responsible for most of the logistics around the temple.
I'm enjoying their writing, and I hope you do too.


  1. For what it's worth, I thoroughly enjoy your zen postings (both the content and the attitude/writing style). It's incredibly encouraging and motivating for me to interact with someone "in real life" (as opposed to just reading strangers' buddhism blogs) who has a very practical approach to practice.