July 6, 2015
Falling in Love
My experiences with both Stage 4 throat cancer and now Parkinson's disease have been two huge gifts and two great teachers.
Radical self-acceptance, including the reality of my own mortality, has brought me a new level of clarity and discernment. Properly understood and radically accepted, my physical and psychological angst has become my liberation.
This doesn’t meant the end of my life’s difficulties or pain, but rather the end of my suffering. I get to practice what I preach.......
I am awakening in a new way. While staring into the eyes of my death, I am also overwhelmed with gratitude for the wild, wonderful crazy life that I’ve had. Life and death - they are not separate.
Although my medical prognosis is uncertain for the timetable of my miserable disintegration, I intend to celebrate my physical deconstruction and make the necessary adjustments for at least the next twenty-three years!
Falling in love with my death has been the resurrection of my life. Get it - we are all dying. Do not wait to live fully, love completely, and dance.
Celebrate! Awake! Unconditional love to all of you.
Old Shave Pate,
Gravestones mark the dead
And broken hearts that follow
We are all dying.
~ Sylvie Jacobs
Inka - Dharma Transmission
It is my great pleasure to announce the upcoming Inka Dharma Heir ceremony recognizing Vicara Mary Connelly as my first matriarch dharma heir. Vicara’s teaching of dharma is and will continue to be through her practice of integrative medicine. She perfectly transmits and teaches the dharma through her work as an integrative medicine physician working in oncology, compassionately alleviating all forms of suffering.
Vicara originally took Jukai with Zenkai Taiun Ellison (Atlanta Soto Zen Center) in the Soto tradition in the mid-1980’s in Charleston, South Carolina. She was one of the founding members of the Charleston Zen Group. In 1998 she took Jukai with Jun Po Roshi, was authorized to teach in 2000, and received priest ordination in 2003. She was a founding member of the Wisconsin Sangha.
The ceremony will be held during our annual Rohatsu sesshin at Saint Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin, November 28th to December 5th. I invite all of you to attend this sesshin to witness, support and celebrate this recognition.
How wonderful as well that my beloved wife Vicara is my first female dharma heir.
Gratitude to Vicara!
The Funniest Thing!
"Open your heart," Jun Po said, at the same time using both hands to pull from the center of his chest - as if pulling ribs to expose, to "open" his heart. I watch unmoved by the words and gesticulated reminder of Hanuman - mythological Hindu deity who rips his chest open to reveal Lord Krishna seated in the mystical heart.
Smiling now, he does it again while repeating his words. Hands posed as if gripping, pulling. Ribs parting, tearing flesh, bending bones. Intention without reservation. "Just open your heart!"
I don't argue; he's right, of course. And yet these words and actions fail to move me - have no practical application in this moment. He's spoken as if in answer to unspoken questions. "Which way?" "What now?"
He's trying to guide, though I’ve not asked directly. An unsmiling face tells my story.
"Great graphic," I say flatly. "How’s that supposed to work?" I add with a rhetorical edge.
Home is where the heart is! All those other references to the heart being the "heart" of the matter. Yes! What could be better than an open heart, one that reveals and releases good feeling and orienting emotions. Insight, one hopes.
Yes, open your heart! Wasted words. Wasted when spoken to someone indulging any of a multitude self-centered contractions. And not wasted. Maybe not immediately applicable, but always there, remembered when a reminder is needed... like right now.
"So, how ya doing?" he had asked at first, opening the conversation. I'm tempted to joke - to "accuse" him of asking
(continued next column)
Hollow Bones Dai Bosatsu sesshin 2015 - what an amazing and difficult week. Very intense, very silent, with a lot of pain and joy. What a great group of people, so alive, supportive and kind. All week long breathing Know/No, tuning the mind.
The whole time a palpable feeling of true care and concern from Junpo Roshi and all of the Hollow Bones sangha, for each and every one of us to wake up! Each time I go to sesshin, the clenched fist that is me opens up a little wider.
In deep gratitude.
Sitting with Know/No,
The Han pounds out Know and No
they become One!
The rain falls a thousand Know/No’s
on the zendo roof
as we sit breathing
in the mist of each moment.
Buddha on the lake
A rainsoaked web
veils his face
~ Sylvie Jacobs
During the Dai Bosatsu sesshin June 13-20, 2015, these people took their vows as the woodpecker han played on:
Priests: Guruma Amala Donna Elser, Hokyo Yoi Inu Joshua Routhier, Kodo Aishi Mike Elser, Koren Dojin Kathryn Park.
Jukai: Doru Mattie Decker, Hoji Ali Tataryn, Inago Scott Rebellon, John Shealy (John), Otosan Paul Leech, Shoju Adam Peck
The woodpecker taps on the tree
She is playing a song just for me
The old stories are DEAD
Put them out of your head
There is joy here for both you and me
~ Donna Guruma Amala Elser