Tuesday, December 27, 2005


I stand in the local savings bank to look at the Christmas tree, allowing time for thoughts to rise to the surface. There it is. Green. Tall. Fat. Unalive. Overpowering the lobby. Invasive. Yelling Christmas. Red bows. Garlands. Pretty in a material-retail sort of way. I am feeling sadness. What is it, this tree. A promise of something coming. Something big and beautiful coming? A promise that material things in boxes wrapped perfectly will satisfy something in me? A promise that someone else will know better than I what brings me happiness?. I wonder now how my Jewish friends from long ago felt in high school about Christmas trees. I wonder now why I had never thought about them before at Christmas time. I wonder how the Muslims in this town feel right now. I wonder how people struggling financially feel. How hard it must be. Are the gifts ever enough for everyone? Is the Christmas day ever all it's built up to be? Are peace and prosperity always tucked away somewhere in the future year? Thich Nhat Hanh says, Peace is every step. There is no way to peace, peace is the way.

This year Christmas Day was a good day. Read books, stayed home, had a lazy day. The gifts exchanged Christmas Eve were just a few things, then we talked. With the wrapped presents out of the way, Christmas Day became free to be with what is. Christmas - just one of 365 days to give and receive, to witness birth of joy and hope and love.  It was a good day.


Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.
Breathing in, I notice that my in-breath has become deeper.
Breathing out, I notice that my out-breath has become slower.
Breathing in, I calm myself. Breathing out, I feel ease.
Breathing in, I smile. Breathing out, I release.
Breathing in, I dwell in the present moment.
Breathing out, I feel it is a wonderful moment.
-Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Emotions. Energy in motion. It is not easy to be what I am when certain feelings come up. Feelings that scream they are solid, the only real thing in my life. The mind senses an urgency and like a tsunami wave, I am swept off, rolling over everything in my path. Do something, the mind says. The mind goes to the past. The mind tells stories, he did this, he did that. The stories lead to a phone call. Blaming, attacking, judging. The mind jumps to the future, I need a better job. I need more money. I need a house next to running water. The mind goes over the past, jumps to the future. Criticizes. Judges. To be what I am is to sit with feelings. Invite them in for seltzer water and fruit juice. Take a good look. What is their texture? Sharp? Heavy? Contracting the body? Rigid? Are they as solid as they think they are? Is there space in their solidness?Is there anger? Is there something under the anger? Are the feelings changing? or will they stay forever as they say they will. What do they change into? Self-pity? Fear? Memories come up. Maybe I am not in the present moment with these feelings. What is the nature of these memories. Can we drop the stories and explore the feelings without the story? What happens then? Come back to my breath, breathing in, breathing out. Come back to resting in the river.

Laps and babies

Chogyam Trungpa talks about how sometimes we want someone to be our "baby," or we want to jump onto someone's lap and be the "baby;" we want to feed others or we want to be fed by others. The lap can also be parent figures: a career, a job, an organization, a community, a teacher. The baby can be a career, organization, group,-anything we nurture and feed. However, we do not need to reduce ourselves to infants or to demands that someone leap onto our lap. We can be what we are in the world. A Buddhist image for compassion is the moon reflected in 100 bowls of water. The moon just shines. Just being who we are in the world without hidden agendas, creates space for relationship. Relating. There is me. There is you. There is this third thing, the relationship between us. This makes space for creativity, exchange. "You simply be what you are in the world, in life." The external situations will be as they are. Resting in the river.


Copy of email to the local Sangha by Tom:
It has come to my attention lately, the importance of taking care of ourselves. Due to the recent additional busyness that we may be experiencing, shopping, avoiding shopping, holiday parties, an abundance of food, heavier newspapers, less sleep, traffic, etc., I have found this practice a bit more challenging. In the midst of all this , I took the time today to take a walk while the sun was out. This did not take a huge chunk of time away from other responsibilities, in fact it makes them a bit easier. I also would like to remind you to ask yourself an important question:

At this very moment what are the causes and conditions present within and without that are contributing to my happiness? I am in reasonable good health, I have a nice place to live, in the other parts of the house are my wife, daughter and two dogs. I have a cup of tea brewing. I am so blessed to be loved by friends, and I live on this beautiful and forgiving planet. I feel very grateful that I live in a time when I have been exposed to the Dharma and experienced some transformation. All these causes and conditions are available to me in this present moment!What a lucky guy! Breathing in I am aware I am breathing in, breathing out I smile. Aware of the present moment, I know it is a wonderful moment. Peace is with you, Tom

Monday, December 19, 2005


During a retreat last summer. I started up the hill to one of the dharma talks choosing a longer path. I noticed a nun a distance in front of me taking her time, even stopping to look at an individual leaf on a bush. I thought, this person is not going to hear the dharma talk. As I started to pass her, she looked at me and pointed towards the sound of a bell ringing, a sign at the retreat for everyone to stop a minute in the middle of what they are doing to get more present. Reluctantly, I stopped, feeling even more pressure now to make up for lost time. In my mind, I decided she probably didn't need to be on a schedule for talks like these. After my minute of getting "present," I speeded up my walk and she was soon far behind. When I turned to check on her progress, I couldn't see her anymore. I got to the Meditation Hall, relieved that I was now on time, feeling a sense of pride. Now I knew I wouldn't miss anything so I could relax and get "present." I closed my eyes and opened them as the presenter began talking. There she was, right on time, the nun I had passed in such a hurry and judged. She was able to be present every step of her way to the talk she was about to do, not worried about getting somewhere in the future.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality.

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child--our own two eyes. All is a miracle.

-Thich Nhat Hanh, "Miracle of Mindfulness"

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The interview

Left house for work. Halfway there, turn back, remember the photo. Drive back to house. Pick up photo. Halfway to work again, remember miso soup. Turn back again. Finish making the soup. I'll look back later and see I didn't have time to use the photo or eat the soup. Great difficulty coming up today. Job interview. Driving to interview, feeling foggy, doubtful. I am not prepared for the questions. The three interviewers sit across from me around a table. My answers to their list of written questions feel awkward, wrong answers . We get to the last question. The interview is done. I take a tour of the place before I go, get in my vehicle and drive home. On the ride home and for days afterward I feel uncomfortable, the interview pulls at me, brings up aversions, aversion to rejection, to being judged, to being little, to being visible. It brings up fear; fear that just one more rejection could tip the scales, fear of not knowing what I want, not knowing the answers. Feeling fear of the future, feeling anger about the past. The interview gives me a lot to put in my compost pile. I have faith some beautiful flowers will grow out of it. Rolling on the river.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Animals and relationships

In relationship, I can go from one situation to the next without regard to what others are saying or doing, wanting only to make things conform to my perceptions, like a pig sniffing and snorting along to eat everything in his path. Doing monologues. Not listening. Justifying what I do in pig-headedness as ok because I am sincere, a "sincere pig," as Chogyam Trungpa might say. In his book, Myth of Freedom, Trungpa heads the section on living the animal realm under "stupidity." Not listening to others, not accepting things as they are. It means struggle. Strong needs to blame. Anger. Lots of pushing the river. Being washed down the river. Rolling along over everything and anything. It is luring someone into my territory. I say I love you so you should come join me over here. See how good I am. My goodness becomes my "insurance policy" that I will get what I want. See me. See how much I love you.

In Buddhist teachings Trungpa says the image for compassion is one moon reflected in one hundred bowls of water. The moon just shines. The point not being to make anyone happy, but to be what we are, allowing external situations to take care of themselves. No giver. No receiver. Just light shining. Like a pebble sinking to the bottom of the river without struggle. Resting in the river.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Friday's lunch

I start the day sitting down to breakfast before leaving the house. Tell myself I will eat mindfully for lunch during work. Pack up raw vegies, canned salmon, water. About 2 pm, I realize I haven't eaten. Standing up in the kitchen, taking a few bites, I hardly chew the food, shoveling it in my mouth. Feel the familiar lump go down my esophagus. Stop. Breathe. I have been dealing with acid reflux, the results of eating this way has consequences, burning stomach, hours of burning.
I breathe. Notice other people in the kitchen. Talk with them. Feel hunger, it's sense of urgency, eat now it says, eat fast it says; there won't be enough. Hunger is loud, insistent, wants all the attention, no space for anything else. Hunger intensifes as the food enters the stomach; acid reflux? Forget that, says hunger. Hunger says eat. Nothing else matters.
I breathe. Note I can eat and chew the food well and remember the five contemplations, that this food is the gift of the whole universe, the earth, the sky, and much hard work. I think of the salmon and people in Alaska, the canning factory, the trucks driving it to the east coast. Everyone deriving income to support their lives and families. The lettuce comes from a local grower, grown here in December; organic carrots growing in lush soil supporting the planet; sun absorbed by these vegies, the sun I rarely see on days I work. May I transform my unskillful states of mind and learn to eat with moderation. How sometimes I get caught up in work and forget to eat. May I take only foods that nourish me and prevent illness. May I accept this food so that I may realize the path of understanding and love. I add to the five contemplations my own, May I be able to stop and breathe and eat mindfully, and rest in the river.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Eye doctor appointment

Yesterday, before I get out of bed, mind is saying I can’t do this. Body numb.

Leave house 6:30 am, two slices of rice almond bread in pocket, miso soup in thermos. Drink soup and drive.

Driving to dad’s, mind says I should be at work, I’m behind at work.
Driving to dad’s, mind says I can’t do this, need to sit and to eat, need to walk and feel fresh air on skin, visit the trees, the sky. Touch Mother Earth with my feet. Car continues. Shoulders slouch, hunch over. Automatic pilot. I stop for school busses, observe the slowness of students getting on the bus. Critical mind kicks in. Don’t kids run anymore? Arrive at the eye doctor’s office with dad 45 minutes later and late. Mind is in a book, getting the book discussion book read. The talk of nurses, the waiting in this room then that room, then in the waiting room, all peripheral to the book. Reading in bright lit rooms that suddenly become dark, book stays open. Stomach starts burning. Eat the rice bread while reading. At the end, when decisions need to be made, I look at my dad. He is thinking aloud about his options for treatment. Someone closes the door to our room. We are in this place. He is talking of pain when the needles at go into his eye. This will be the 7th time this year. When the needle goes into his eye later, I hear him cry out softly, tears form, his lips quiver. I think courage; he is courageous.

Driving home three hours later, Dad sleeps. Nothing done on either job I work makes a difference in the larger scheme of things. No lives in danger; pay - not a living wage. I breathe. I am where I need to be. Jobs, errands, pull at me like the river over the rocks. Here I am, resting in the river, witnessing the courage in dad, reflecting my own, his keeping him going 93 years, me 57 years.

Returning movies

I was determined to get a rented dvd back last week, already late for other things, leaving the house with gritted teeth, feeling the stomach tighten as I drive down the road, hyper-vigilant to what every driver in front of me is doing or not doing, mentally noting, "I don't want to be driving in the opposite direction I need to be going. Don't want to be doing this." Continuing anyway. My happiness is in the near future, not here. Feeling brittle, stretched thin, no time just about to breathe till this mission is done. Determined, rigid. Fists clamped tight on the steering wheel. The mile stretching. "No, I won't stop and turn around. I am going to do this now or it will never get done." Wanting to control something. At the destination, relief, breathe, open the dvd box, no dvd. Dvd still in dvd player at home. Mind continues, "Ok, let's go home and get it, or it's never going to get done." I feel the breath expand my belly. I breathe in the humor of the Universe. I get it. I've been running on habit energy. There is no big emergency here. All this tension is about a dvd. A dvd. I smile, resting in the river. I get present. I drive to work.

Post-Thanksgiving thoughts

Thanksgiving was good this year. Due to acid reflux the past few weeks, I have some incentive to stick to salad and vegies and no sugar and felt good and centered after the meal. Later I skiied around the property while others sat at the table and talked and there I was, a pebble resting in the river of all that was going on, all the temptations for food and for talk.

Pebbles in the river

Thich Nhat Hanh describes how a pebble reaches the bed of the river by the shortest path because it allows itself to fall without making any effort. He says we can allow ourselves to rest like a pebble. We have to learn the art of resting. Our minds as well as our bodies need to rest.