Jul 31, 2011

Jul 28, 2011

Food Food Food

Here there is a meal chant. It goes:

We reflect on the effort that brought us this food and consider how it comes to us.
We reflect on our virtue and practice and whether we are worthy of this offering.
We regard it as essential to keep the mind free from excesses such as greed.
We regard this food as good medicine to sustain our life.
For the sake of enlightenment we now receive this food.

And then there's some more stuff. But in my head I was thinking about making a rhymier simpler version of this to say. It goes something like:

We think about this food, and how it came to be.
We think about ourselves, and whether we should eat.
We look inside our mind, to get rid of our greed.
We give thanks for this food, since it fulfills our need.
So that we can live, we will eat this food.

It's not quite right, but there's something in it that I enjoy.

I think that this way of thinking about food is radical and useful.

First, it is radical because we are conditioned by our entire society to not think about the entirety of the effort that went into producing things. We shouldn't think about the plastic wrap that's filling up the landfills and will never decompose because then we might not use it. We shouldn't think about the forests that were destroyed or the way the animals were treated or the predatory business practices that made this food because it might make us feel bad enough to find alternatives.

And then to consider whether we are worthy of all this effort. It is heartbreaking.

But we do need to eat. And so we should eat what we need to eat in order to live. In order to gain enlightenment in order to best help everyone.

It is helpful because it is a dangerous thing to take advantage of things with hidden costs. All of the things we are conditioned to ignore have costs. Costs in land, resources, suffering, cruelty. These are costs that we are not paying now and that someone will have to pay in the future. If we can slow down the rate at which we are incurring these costs now, it will be a lesser debt when the collectors come around.

Jul 27, 2011

In Which: A Question is Asked, A Math Joke is Made, and Reflections on Impermanence Occur

Late post tonight. I'm not really getting tired today. I don't know why. Maybe I finally took an appropriate amount of naps. Maybe I'm adjusting to the schedule. I don't know. There are a fair number of life updates that I just consider unimportant like: there is a 1-week guest student who is staying in the men's dorm with me. Or: I got a blister from chopping onions yesterday. Are these updates what people are interested in?

I have made no real progress on recording my song. I have made some imaginary progress. At least the progress is not complex.

In the wake of the suicide, there have been lots of responses from the community. I have thought to myself, this is truly a remarkable place after having seen the way that the community has come together to support each individual as well as the whole.

Another thing that I have repeatedly experienced is the uniqueness of each moment. The things you interact with, the people you see may be gone at any moment. This is a fundamental truth about existence. When you ignore this truth, you take things for granted. I imagine that when you can hold this truth always, it is a full embodiment of ichi-go ichi-e. Every moment only happens once. Seems like a good practice to me.

Jul 26, 2011

Poem and Food

Sorry that last night's update was so lame. I was basically falling asleep and thought "Oh, I should just post anything so that I keep up the habit." Mission accomplished. And I am really excited about Magic and about Go, I just could not really express it in that state.

Today I have for you a poem and something else to make up for it!

Yourself in the Mirror

The moment when you see yourself in the mirror
and you don't think to yourself
this is me
or
this is the mirror
and the bottomless pit of existence opens at your feet
and you walk into it
and you are darkness in darkness
there is no more fear
until the moment when you see yourself in the mirror.

So that is my poem for you to make up for the lameness of yesterday's post. I was struck this afternoon when having lunch. There is a courtyard that has a big glass wall facing the street and I could see parts of myself in it, obscured by some of the plants and chairs and I did not recognize myself. It was a very relaxing feeling.

Today has been a day of thoroughly enjoying food. For breakfast there was amaranth, orange juice and bread pudding! My favorite breakfast so far, except possibly the day of french toast. For lunch there was white rice and a delicious cauliflower and mung bean soup. I don't know that it was technically better than any other lunch soup I've had here, but every bite was particularly delicious. And then for dinner there was roasted broccoli, roasted carrots and medicine bowl (which to my understanding is a combination of various left-overs into a new meal). The broccoli was super delicious, the carrots were lovely, the medicine bowl was a rice and vegetable mix that I found delightful.

As I was eating dinner and reflecting on how well food has tasted today I thought to myself "it is kind of ridiculous how far people will go to make delicious food, when this bowl of amaranth, this heavily salted broccoli, the soup with white rice can taste so delicious." Of course, I have always really enjoyed eating, so it may be that other people have unpleasant experiences when they eat poorly prepared food, or bland food, or over-seasoned food. It is just one of those things that I find very difficult to thoroughly empathize with, another being people who do not like physical contact. I know there are people like this and I have heard explanations for why they feel this way, it is just hard to understand being how I am.

I will definitely be recording the song I posted. If I have not uploaded it by Sunday's post, please send me angry notes.

Jul 25, 2011

Games games games

So since Friday I've reignited my addiction to Magic: the Gathering and also started on what will likely be a long term relationship with Go. Unfortunately for you, the reader, I am too tired to properly link to explanations for either of these games so you are forced to research them on your own. Suffice it to say they are pretty awesome.

One of the other young males at the zen center brought a few magic decks (I did not bring any cards at all!) and so I played with him a few times and then over the weekend I stopped in at a games store and got Knights vs. Dragons duel deck series, which is fantastic! The decks are really well matched and at a pretty high power level for casual decks. I am a bit concerned about getting really back into it. I don't think I will have the time to burn, so probably I won't.

Another of the young males at the zen center plays Go on a regular basis and offered to teach me, which I have accepted and started. We played a game and I've started reading an introductory book written by the best player in Japan in the 90s. It is a really intriguing game where there isn't combat or conflict so much as making territories, shapes and lines. A very interesting form of strategic thinking is required.

Jul 24, 2011

Song

Here is a song I wrote in my head over the past few days.

Sittin in the shit of all my lies and misbehavior
Nothing's growin now but maybe soon
I shift and then I waver as I'm waitin for a savior
Who's comin from the dark side of the moon

And I don't know what I can do
Cause I know I'm gonna leave this too
When there's nowhere left to go
I'm comin right back to this pile of shit called home

I'm sleepin and I'm slayin and the girlies' hips keep swayin
And my heart is turnin cold and hard and blue
My lips are made of clay from all the truth I just can't say when
All you needed was to know I love you too

And I don't know what I should do
Cause I'm scared you're gonna leave me too
Now there's nowhere left to go
But I'm not going back to this pile of shit I've known

Please don't take this personally
But my world ain't even big enough for me
I know you're gonna blame yourself
but it's not you who put me into this hell

Come look at all my thoughts there's my success and all my failures
Piled in the corner of my room
Right by me sits my end, my final breath, my undertaker
Please won't you understand it's them not you

And I don't know what I have done
Cause I know everyone's left this too
And there's nowhere left that I can see
So I'll just drown here in this pile of shit I've grown

And I don't know what I can do
Cause I know I'm gonna leave this too
When there's nowhere left to go
I'm comin right back to this pile of shit I've grown

So that is the song. If several people so request it, I can record the vocals for you. Otherwise, I guess it's stuck as poetry!

Jul 23, 2011

Archive Trawl

Today:

A treat for me, because I will enjoy it. A treat for new readers because they will get to sift through my otherwise daunting archives. And! A treat for old readers because they will finally get some explanation about a few of the more confusing cartoons I've done.

I have decided that what I would like to do today is trawl through all my old (pre-zen center) posts and talk about some of my favorites, giving explanations where necessary!

Silent Cartoons
(cartoons with images and no words)

For me, this is a recurring event. You present yourself with an obstacle and think "this will be hard, but I can do it!" You struggle and work and time passes and you're still struggling and eventually you look up and you're almost there and then you finish and! You look up!

I tend to identify with the first person in this cartoon. My desires are very commonly straightforward: I would like this person to do this thing. But also, there are many second order desires that I have or come across: I would like this person to like to do this thing. These things generally come up in relationships, where the internal life of the partner is a thing of great interest and value.

A melancholy reflection on melancholy reflection.

Another common complaint here. Why is there always a gap between thought, expression and understanding? I don't know, but there always is.

In this one, I identify more commonly with the second person. When I do a thing, it is generally because I like doing the thing. I feel in some way dishonest when I am focusing on goals or outcomes instead of simply doing what I need to do right now. But of course, I do this also.

This is one that seems to have been difficult in terms of gaps in understanding. What I meant with this was that internal darkness and torment and suffering are internal. When you're talking about the weather with someone it doesn't really reveal what's going on in your head.

Comics
(they are supposed to be funny)

A turn of phrase I really enjoy.

A pun with a drawing I really like.

Every time I read this it makes me laugh.

One Liners
(image paired with a brief text)

A lot of the time my mental self-image is a mirror. This is a good reminder to me that even when I am thinking of myself as just reflecting that is not who I am.

Probably no one ever stops seeking.

Effortless effort. A good explanation I heard was: when you are doing stretches, you should stretch. You do not need to also grit your teeth. It is not helpful.

This one is just entirely sincere. Live like this.

Interaction and fear of rejection are strong forces. Trying to stay open to love even when there's no response is very difficult.

There's a great gap between having something to say and being able to say it. Practice helps with the second part even when you don't have the first.

Multiple Liners
(longer text paired with image)

In the original version of this, I wrote "Sadness" instead of "She". I prefer that. Something about how when I am able to be sad there arise more good things than when I pretend to be happy.

I feel this way toward many many people. If you are uncertain whether I feel this way toward you, I do.

Haiku
(image paired with haiku)

This is a lovely reminder for me that I should stop being so unbelievably pretentious once in a while. Also an excellent example of how text that is not incorporated but just shoved into the image is jarringly terrible.

I really like this conception of the wind. It's not that it is pushing the leaves, it is that the leaves are sad to see it go.

How to be Human
(from the long-running series)

I totally did not intend to make a pony, but once I wrote it it was all I could see!

This is a pretty true one. It's not that I was raised by tv shows, just that I was able to express my emotions in easily recognizable forms because I had seen them so frequently on television.

Guest Week
(a week with friends drawing cartoons from the same script)

I really like looking through all the guest week strips. I recommend going through them all and seeing how the story you get changes each time. It's a very useful way to see how thoroughly we create the stories that we read or see.

Tales
(stories without images)

I really like fairy tales, folk tales, etc. This is my favorite of my series of human tales. I like them all, and my sister made music based on them that I also greatly enjoy.

Food Lessons
(ways to remind myself how to live)

Something about glib rephrasings of existential crises really appeals to me.

As with the above, there is something about not viewing your life as something more complicated or valuable than a cup which really illuminates the dark corners of our problems. For me, at least.

Europe Diary
(one of my picture diaries of my Europe vacation)

Probably illegible, so you can avoid this one if you'd like. I don't normally document my existence at all. I kept up a picture diary of my Europe trip, but didn't do London. I've kept up this blog for five weeks, but this might be a warning that I don't know if it will continue forever.

Stupid Gag, Easily Misinterpreted
(not really even important)

Game time. It is Game time. Not mega meti. I don't even know what that would be. That is all.

I hope you've enjoyed this trip through the archives. Sorry that it is so long, with multiple links and everything, but it's what I wanted to do so I did it! Love!

Jul 22, 2011

Somber and Sad

Last night a new guest arrived to share the room with me. Later in the evening, he noticed an ambulance and firetruck outside the window. I said "I hope everyone's alright" and did not think much more about it.

I woke up twice in the middle of the night. Once from a text, once from a vague sense that I was late. I woke up to my alarm clock. I headed down to the zendo and took a seat. I noticed that my shirt smelled like cigarettes, probably from either hanging out on the roof with smokers or just from not being thoroughly enough washed to git rid of the smell from the thrift store I got it at. The person sitting next to me got up and had a quiet conversation in which I could have sworn I heard the word cigarette. I became slightly agitated by the thought that I was disrupting practice, but convinced myself easily enough that that was not that big a deal and I would just wear my sweatshirt tomorrow despite its distracting design.

I sat cross-legged because when I had sat lotus yesterday it was a bit much. Shortly after sitting began the Ino announced that anyone who wanted to participate in the bell ringing could go quietly to the bell. I stayed seated because I was not sure what was going on and knew someone would tell me if I was needed. I sat. I don't remember much about this period of sitting, but I knew that even sitting cross-legged my legs hurt enough to make me sit in rest position for a while before returning to cross-legged. For the final few minutes of sitting my inner monologue was a profanity-laced refutation of practice and sitting and being awake and I made a firm decision to get up and go back to sleep as soon as the bell rang. This was largely prompted by an immense headache.

When the bell rang it became obvious that in fact we had skipped kinhin (walking meditation) and done both periods of sitting as one. This explained the physical pain and my discomfort as I have never sat more than forty minutes and I imagine this period was more like an hour and twenty. We made our way up to the Buddha hall for service and the service was not the normal Friday reading of the Diamond Sutra but instead a memorial service. The information that I learned has been wonderfully presented by the Ino at his blog: The Ino's Blog.

So began a sad day at the zen center. Here is what I drew.

Flashing into the vast phenomenal world.



Jul 21, 2011

Rest and Struggle

To begin with, Marley was dead and you should read http://rice-boy.com/.

AH! Now I've looked it up and that's a misquote. Unfortunate!

I think I have fully recovered from my various excursions beginning with visiting my brother and ending with the big farewell to the archivists. I think this because I feel rested again. Along with the rested feeling there is the desire to create some more. There was that song that I wrote most of, and I've been drawing a bit. I've been thinking about getting back into acting again and even briefly considered trying to make this blog a piece of art and a piece of diary every day instead of one or the other. I quickly realized that would be ridiculous.

I asked a question in class today that got an unexpected laugh. The abbot had made a joke, something like "You're always waiting for the next unpleasant thing, and how can you practice if it doesn't come?" and I basically asked it back as a serious question. His response was something like "Ah, yes. What to do when everything's too wonderful." The follow-up explanation was that when things are good, you should allow them to be good. Practice does not always have to be draining, and you should take advantage when you are able to rest.

The explanation also strongly reminded me of "The Myth of Sisyphus" by Camus. In it, there is the assertion that Sisyphus actually enjoys his supposedly terrible existence of constantly pushing a rock up a hill only to have it invariably fall back down. Something about the human drive to struggle. For me it is difficult to feel like I'm doing anything when I'm in the groove. When I'm ecstatic or uncomfortable, I can see progress. When things are just falling into place and the world is neutral, for lack of a better word, it is hard to ignore the notion that the progress is not progress, and that I'm just staying still. This is a difficult concept for me still, even though it more and more seems to be the truth. What better way to face staying still than zazen?

Jul 20, 2011

Impermanence

It is really surprising every once in a while how quickly everything changes here in the zen center. In my time I have spent months lamenting a single decision or overjoyed by a single event but here everything takes no longer than a day. Half a day is more common. I will be angry and then all the wind lets out of my sails and I'm just not angry anymore. I will be happy and then suddenly I think to myself "I am not happy right now, I'm just acting that way because I was happy". This seems helpful in terms of acting, the ability to be impermanent. Although perhaps it will read as unbelievable.

I wrote most of a song for my anger this morning. It has the first two verses, a chorus and an idea for a bridge. Probably it wants another verse and then repeating the first verse with variation and that will be all. I will post it when it's ready.

Tomorrow is Thursday, which means Guest Student Tea with a senior member of the community. Which particular member is TBA at the moment as everyone seems to be busy with the intensive. I imagine it will be nice, as the teas have generally been. Although it will be very weird to do it without the archivists! I will have to ask so many questions!

Jul 19, 2011

Nothing Special

I just had a lovely dinner at the Indian restaurant Amber with a friend from college. The food was delicious, the service was excellent, the ambience was lovely, the price was reasonable. The company was unbelievable (of course!). All in all a lovely time.

In contrast to this post I talked a lot throughout dinner, but I did not feel myself rambling or saying meaningless things just to be talking. For a fair bit I was just monologue-ing, but she seemed interested so I kept going. There was also some nice dialogue, and really just a wonderful conversation and evening. It's amazing how much better I am at doing things when I sleep all the time!

Speaking of which, this morning when my alarm went off I took stock of myself and thought "Self, if I go down to the zendo for meditation, I will be completely useless. Why don't I just sleep in instead?"

"Self," I replied, "go down anyway!"

So I did, and I was useless and half-asleep the whole time and hopefully not fidgeting too much although I may have been and definitely terrible posture (which I later suffered the effects of) and all in all I was not any good at sitting. But I sat anyway.

There is a line that I will paraphrase because I do not remember it exactly. It goes something like "It is important to remember the emptiness of the three wheels; giver, receiver and gift." I have been thinking about this a lot, especially when I've been feeling bad or making mistakes. It reminds me to accept the practice in the spirit it is given. Accept feeling bad, because it means things are important. Accept making mistakes, because they are reminders to pay attention. Allow yourself to be the giver, the receiver and the gift. Or for me: the obstacle, the traveler, and the path.

Jul 18, 2011

Everyone Tried So Hard

EDIT: Watch Out! Very Sad!

Once upon a time there was a young boy who never left his house. Every day his mom would come into his room with breakfast and a grin from ear to ear. He would eat the sweets she invariably prepared ("No video games until you've finished your crepes") and roll out of bed to the floor. After wading through his legos and bears, he would put on some clothes and tidy his hair. Every morning he'd think to himself without fail, "If I'm a good boy today maybe I will be allowed outside."

Once upon a time there was a young girl who suffered. At school she was teased, at home she was ignored. When she was at college she never had friends or romance. One night she slept with a boy. She does not really remember that night, but she was pretty sure she wanted to. He never talked to her again, ignoring her few texts and looking through her when they passed. She dropped out to take care of her son, promising that his life would not be filled with suffering.

Once upon a time everyone tried so hard.

Jul 17, 2011

Further Photo Feature

Here are some more photos of the zen center!


I moved rooms! These are the beds I'm not sleeping in.


This looks more like a typical Stephen bed!


The Roof! There are solar panels and way over there (you can't see it) are bees! That make honey! And probably do not wear wigs!


A nice view of the walkable areas of the roof. There are a lot of pallets that support the roof and it's best not to do too much walking around off them, is my understanding.


One part of the amazing view from the roof.


The opposite view.


The middle view.

Jul 15, 2011

End Evil, Cultivate Good, Free Beings

The first portion: Tomorrow is going to be a one-day sitting. I will be sitting, working, or eating all day without checking my phone or computer. As such, tomorrow will be the first day that I do not post since I have gotten to the zen center.

The second: I have found some words to say about my practice here.

It is our job as beings to become, in every moment, exactly ourselves.

The third: Last night I lost my wallet. I discovered this when I had returned to bed and saw that I had received a facebook message from a stranger saying that she had found my wallet. This afternoon I walked to her office to pick it up. Along the way I met a homeless man who offered to guide me. When I got there she returned my wallet, cash and everything.

May we all realize the Buddha way.

Jul 14, 2011

I thought I would tell you a story that I'm not pleased with

Once upon a time there was a man who lived in a hut. He was not the only person who lived in the hut. Also his wife lived there. And his kids. Several rats and hundreds of ants. Bacteria beyond counting (although with sufficient randomization approximations can be made very accurate).

This man spent all of his time making sure that he could eat food. At first he thought that he could just get enough food for himself to eat and everything would be fine. But then he realized that getting the food was so tiring that he could not also prepare the food. So he had to feed his wife in order to have her prepare the food.

In order to make sure he had enough food for himself and his wife, he needed help. This meant that he had to feed his children too! The man was starting to get fed up feeding all these people when he saw a rat scurry across the floor with a morsel of food. As he looked in the closet for a rat trap he saw a line of ants carrying grain through a crack in the wall.

"I just want to eat food! Why must I slave away for all these ants and rats and kids and my wife!?"

That night, the man was taken to a place where he could see all the beings that lived in his hut. He could see his family, the rats, and the ants. They seemed to dance around him, forming intricate patterns and rhythms without any music, leader or routine. Their random movements brought them closer and closer to the man until they started to enter him.

The man watched as creature after creature passed through his skin and became a part of himself. Eventually, he was all that's left. As he woke up, he heard a voice say "Just feed yourself."

Jul 13, 2011

Final night with the Archivists

As the title implies, tonight is the final night for the archiving program here at SFZC. It was truly wonderful to have these people here to teach me how to practice and how to live and how to have someone else apply to library school in your name. Gasho and Thanks and Love.

Jul 12, 2011

Webcomics Review

I have been reading lots of webcomics lately. To begin with I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 webcomics that I check daily along with another dozen-ish that are updated infrequently that I check weekly or so. But a few days ago I embarked on another round of finding the links from webcomics that I enjoyed and reading the entire of these new comics' archives. So far it looks like I will have a couple new daily comics and a couple new infrequent ones. The rest are either uninteresting or finished.

Without any ado, my top five webcomics:

Honorable Mention: Gunnerkrigg Court
Updates: M, W, F very regularly.
By Tom Siddell

This is the story of a group of young students at Gunnerkrigg Court, a strange school with mysteries lurking underneath every corner. Despite being a definitively technology-based environment, magical things occur with surprising regularity from the forest outside the grounds.

Number 5: dinosaur comics
Updates: Weekdays very regularly.
By Ryan North

This took me a long time to start to enjoy because reading the complete archives of a webcomic is normally my first step when starting out, and the archives are incredibly difficult to go straight through. Why? Because every comic has exactly the same art, changing only the text and occasionally the text bubbles or panel frames. Over time however, I've come to love these dinosaurs and enjoy their zany antics and conversations. The strange choice of repetitive artwork is particularly useful at defining the timing for a lot of the strip's jokes.

Updates: Randomly
By John Campbell

This is a wonderfully downbeat comic that will make you a sad child if you were not to begin with. Unless you're me, in which case you'll enjoy the great tragedies as essential elements of human life. Simple, elegant drawings complement the soul-crushing spirit of the comic.

Number 3: xkcd
Updates: M, W, F very regularly
By Randall Munroe

The original, definitive stick figure comics. Randall is not limited to stick figures because of his drawing ability (unlike some of us) and shows that with occasional strokes of artistic genius. His clever wordplay, geeky insight and absurdly sappy love poems are irresistible.

Number 2: Scary go Round
Updates: Weekdays very regularly.
By John Allison

The story of a group of plucky young british kids who solve mysteries. The characters, pacing, plot, ridiculousness of the background characters and general attitude of this comic are all amazing. It's like if the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew teamed up with Ricky Gervais. Wonderful.

Number 1: ErfWorld
Updates: Several times a week, fairly regularly.
By Rob Balder and various artists

The ultimate geek-trip. This is the story of a fat loser with a dead end job who lives in a basement spending all his time creating tabletop rpg scenarios for the only people he ever interacts with, his gaming buddies. Except! He is magically summoned into a world exactly like one of the campaigns he had been planning and now he must use all the hours he wasted on playing meaningless games to fight for his life and the survival of an entire kingdom. The universe is completely crafted for consistency and comedy, with curses literally unspeakable, giant teddy bears and marshmallow puffs that can kill even the strongest knights, and more pop culture references than you can shake a stick at. Fantastic.

Jul 10, 2011

Lazy Sunday

True Believers!

Today was a wonderful day. I slept in all the way until 10! Well, almost. I had some breakfast, looked at the internet, went to the bathroom, maybe had a little nap, read the newspaper, got some ice cream, had some more bagels, maybe had some more nap, talked with my parents while basking in the hammock on the roof (Oh! You guys need roof pictures!), played some Yahtzee, went to a lovely italian place for dinner, played some more Yahtzee, and now a little more internet and then sleep for the 5am wake-up call.

I have become very cognizant of the cracking of my bones. I do it a lot, and it is very loud and rhythmic, making it hard to ignore for others. I have been ignoring it for a long time, so it's nice to have it come back up as a thing to pay attention to.

The ordination yesterday was very nice. There were some distractions. The seating was packed, there were a few rambunctious kids, etc. But the ceremony itself was wonderfully profound and simple. There were some jokes, some hesitations, some serious moments and some emotion and it all came together wonderfully.

I am about to embark on my fourth week at the zen center. Time and effort have become very strange things. It is not like some times back with the CTC when we had to work all the time and effort was given to the point of exhaustion. Effort is draining, but also refreshing. Time passes quickly, but every moment is full. Just living is enough.

Busy Day, Late Night

Sleepers:

This was the busiest day I've had so far. Wake up at 6:25 for schedule activities until after lunch (which ended at 12:30ish). Then free until 2:30 when there was an ordination followed by karaoke followed by more adventures, resulting in me arriving home just a few minutes ago. I guess 18 hour days are de rigueur? Sleeping in tomorrow. Goodnight!

Jul 8, 2011

Blog Post

Dear Internet,

The past few updates have been not in the blog entry form for a few reasons.

First, I feel like the first couple weeks of posts did a good job of giving people the sense of what the day to day tasks of the Zen Center are. I am still doing an hour and forty five minutes of sitting, four and a half hours of work practice as well as assorted services, soji (temple cleaning), meals and breaks every day. I am still waking up at 5 (although sometimes a bit later) and busy until 7 or 7:30. Sitting is difficult or easy, work is frustrating or fruitful, everything else is exhausting or invigorating. If people would like more minutiae, just let me know and I can keep it going fairly well.

Second, the more I am practicing, the more difficult I find it to say anything meaningful about practice. Talking around things has always been very easy for me, so I was a bit surprised to find out how difficult it is to talk straight at things. A lot of the time, what I understand is just something I've read reformulated. A lot of the time, I don't understand at all. Words are just not a medium I'm able to use for this purpose yet.

Third, I had these ideas and drawings floating around, ready to be used and I did not feel like it would be wise to let them go.

Recently I've been making some of the best mistakes I've made while here. A shining example is one morning I was going to enter the zendo (meditation room) after kinhin (walking meditation in between two sessions of zazen (sitting meditation)) and was at the front of the line. Everyone who was leaving after kinhin had left, so I thought it would be a good time to enter. I telegraphed my intention and lifted my foot to take a step. Before I could take a single (inappropriate) step, a hand reached out from behind me and held my shoulder. Simultaneously the Ino (the head of meditation) held out a hand in a stopping gesture. Later (at the appropriate time) I received a welcoming gesture and entered the zendo. Sitting was filled with a palpable feeling of trust and ease. I have not always treasured sangha (community). I did then.

Jul 7, 2011

Not Answers. Questions.

Anyone?

Why am I doing this?

If everyone feels this uncertainty, why do people try so hard to be certain? If I am the only one, why do people try so hard to seem certain?

If people are naturally good, why is it so easy to be bad? If people are naturally bad, why does it feel right to be good?

When you feel emptiness, is it a bad thing?

Intellect, Wisdom, Wisdom beyond Wisdom. What is next?

When people ask questions, do they normally want answers? Why?

Jul 4, 2011

Dependence Day

Brethren,

Another wonderful day in San Francisco. Today was a more relaxed day, in preparation for a return to a 5am wakeup call tomorrow morning. Naps, reading the newspaper, phone calls and short walks were the order of the day for a long time. The evening followed up with some Yahtzee, (vegan) sausages, sitting in the park dogwatching, and fireworks.

The sad note of the day is that a wonderful Mother/Daughter combo that had been guests for the week left this evening. The daughter (an adorable girl of about 3) was willing to be my friend and we had many adventures looking at the fish in the pond (named 'Nemo'), reading books and generally causing a ruckus. Tricycles may have been involved.

Further updates on the term of my stay will be discussed this week and I will likely let you all know when a conclusion is reached. The odds are staying on until December or perhaps a few weeks more. Further than that will likely not be discussed for a while. Shorter than that seems unlikely, barring some major disaster.

Now for sleep. Sweet dreams, all!

Jul 3, 2011

Lobster = Sunburned

Comrades!

Another full day today!

Did not wake up until the end of the wimbledon final. Had breakfast and then headed out for a day around town with the archivists. We had pizza, we went to the beach, we ate dinner, we had drinks. A very nice day. Now I am a lobster, unfortunately. I foresee lots of peeling.

Very tired. Going to sleep. No plans tomorrow. Lots of rest!

Jul 2, 2011

Trip!

Kin,

Today was a busy day! I woke up for zazen at 6ish and after sitting got ready and went on a trip to Palo Alto to visit Andrew who is in town for a wedding! We had lots of yummy food and walked around Stanford's campus and sat around the koi creek in his hotel with giant creepy koi in it who followed you around because they expected you to feed them. It was very nice all around.

Then I tripped back to the zen center, took a nap and had dinner. After dinner was a rousing round of Yahtzee on the roof. I had four yahtzees in two games (354 and 419!) and enjoyed the incredible view and the wonderful sunset and some nice early nineties music.

Now I am on the roof by myself. The weather is very pleasant and there were some independence related fireworks and the city looks really cool at night.

Sitting was pretty good this morning. Effort, but no struggle.

Tomorrow early I will be watching the Wimbledon final. Should be good!

Jul 1, 2011

talko talko talko!

Readers,

I have been talking a lot lately. Probably a response to being quiet a lot before.

It is strange to watch yourself saying things just to be talking. I know the things are not important to be said but I can't help but say them. Sometimes I will say things as if I know what I'm talking about. This is particularly strange. I will pay attention to this.

Went to the park today and napped and played frisbee. It was very nice. I was grumpy because I was tired. Thanks for convincing me to go! Sorry I was grumpy!

Very tired all day today. A full week is just much longer than a four day week. I wonder if this means next week will be easy.

There are not really any hugs here. This is probably a thing I will need to watch out for. I like hugs.

Sitting has been marked by restlessness recently. One session I had to change posture not because I was uncomfortable physically, but because I just could not stand keeping still any longer. I wonder if this will continue.

And the nautical, like all things, fades.