Here we are again, at the end of one and the beginning of another year of life, another year of practice, a year of love and losses and gains. I hope this past year was a very good one for you and all you love and that this next year brings each and every one of you deeper love and insight, greater well-being and happiness.
I thank you for your practice.
I will be taking a medical sabbatical starting the end of January until our June 14th sesshin at Dai Bosatsu Zendo. It is time for me to rest and to concentrate on self-healing. There is nothing currently critical; my cancer is long gone. It is just the rather unrelenting truth of the first mark of existence, Anicca.
Impermanence is calling to me. It’s time for me to answer the phone. There are some conditions in this aging body that I need attend to.
This brings a smile as I remember what my momma Rosella used to say, “Honey, this getting old - it ain’t for sissies.” Then there comes to mind the famous quote by Janis Joplin, “Get it while you can.”
The Buddha clearly saw the truth of old age, sickness and death, and it inspired him to wake up. So please, let this truth inspire all of us to fully awaken.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a most enlightening New Year.
~ Jun Po
One note of the shakuhachi
piercing the winter clouds.
~ Soen Nakagawa, 1938
I want to thank you from the bottom of my infinite heart for all of your support during my health crisis last month. Many of you called and sent emails, and others sent good energy and prayers. It all helped tremendously, and I am grateful for each of your efforts.
For those of you who didn't know, about a month ago I was sent to the emergency room and discovered that I had a blood clot in my left lung and that my cancer had collapsed my lung. I was essentially written off by the docs at that point.
The next day I went for a treatment and had an allergic reaction (to a medication) that almost took my life. That near-death experience was profound, and I believe it helped to turn things around for me.
In less than a month, I have proven the doctors wrong. I have gone from being on oxygen 24 hours a day to no longer needing it at all in the daytime (and I'm not sure I even need it at night these days); from being unable to walk a block to being able to walk on my beloved dunes by the beach for 45 minutes without being winded or coughing; my lung capacity and energy have both improved greatly.
I spend every second of my day grateful for how well I feel and for the fact that I am still able to be here and enjoy life for a bit longer.
Again, thank you for your support, dear sangha. I have missed a number of sesshins, and I miss seeing your beautiful faces. Looking forward to seeing you all on the cushion really soon.
With love and appreciation,
Honey is Fine for Your Tea
The tea of Silence is always served. To add honey would distract from the deeper, subtler sweetness that Silence brings, and might even disgrace it. Why cover with ideas of “more” and “better” that which is offered to us pure and perfect?
And yet we find that the simplest activity, to be with this effortless essence, to receive a sweetness so sublime that no words can taste it, demands vigor and tenacity.
How can one live as the graceful soaring of a hawk dancing with the invisible? I sense your yearning so will risk giving you some clues. Before flight, you must find the source that allows us to spring from the ground. Once aloft, neither lazy nor anxious flapping will help you stay Here. Make the effortless effort and trust that the wind will hold you.
When we rush or strain or scream to hold This tight, we chase it away, and we find in our grasp the bitterness of endless wanting and scheming. Then comes the pain that we erroneously curse, taking false medicines to numb it, and then the fantasies... such cheap distraction.
Never mind what you think or believe or imagine. Feel in to every stiff or sharp complaint of your sacred animal self. Have you listened deep enough to know what it is asking of you? Have you moved to set it free?
If I show you the key to the whispers you’ve been ignoring, the one that opens every lock in you, will you choose to use it? “Yes,” I pray is your answer, so here it is: hold yourself, all of you, lightly, and simply listen. Breathe soft steps through this lush forest. Listen.
Do not be pulled off the path by vines offering shimmering fruit. They may be poisonous. How would you know? Do not give in to a quitter’s story when the thick roots you do not see tumble you to the ground, scraping and bruising you. No one is to blame. Stand again, and breathe the next step. Listen.
(continued next column)
Twenty-seven people sat at the Rohatsu sesshin in exquisite silence in Wisconsin December 1-7, 2013.
Koren Kathryn Park and Tai Do Diane Burgbacher took jukai.
January 18-24, 2014 - 6-Day Mondo Zen Sesshin led by Jun Po Roshi in Sonoma, California
February 9 -15, 2014 - 6-Day Integral Mondo Zen Sesshin led by Doshin Roshi in Philadelphia
March 17-23, 2014 - Integral Mondo Zen Sesshin led by Doshin Roshi at Venwoude International, Netherlands
May 10-17, 2014 - 7-Day Integral Mondo Zen Sesshin led by Doshin Roshi in Loveland, Colorado
June 14-21, 2014 - 7-Day Silent Zen Sesshin led by Jun Po Roshi at Dai Bosatsu Zendo, New York.
September 13-20, 2014 - 7-Day Mondo Zen Teacher Training led by Junpo Roshi in Loveland, Colorado
October 18-24, 2014 - 6-Day Silent Zen Sesshin led by Doshin Roshi in Sonoma, California
October 20-26, 2014 - 7-Day Mondo Zen Teacher Training led by Junpo Roshi at Venwoude International in the Netherlands
Visit the Retreat Calendar on the website for more information.
The first lie ever told was that we were kicked out of The Garden.
Haven’t we kicked The Garden out of ourselves, then prayed for relief in
some imaginary future? Who and what and where are you right now if not
for the infinite blossoming of Light?
There is a silence that is
not the absence of sound. How can we hear it through the brambles of
our thinking mind? What must one do to be the full depth of the ocean
and mercifully floating upon it at once?
Honey is fine for your
tea. Enjoy it. But do not pretend that you can sweeten This infinite
peace which brought you forth. And accept that before the water can be
poured it must be boiled.
The light is on and you are already home. Tea is served.
Paco Tozan Vérin
Reflections from the Loveland Sesshin
Hollowing Out the Bones
When I had finally suffered enough,
I moved on, choosing a life of longing.
When this longing had grown strong enough,
When it cut through my thick calloused skin,
Through the muscle, the gnarly gristle,
Into the gut of fear, and deep into bone.
I Let it cut deeper into the heart filled marrow;
Longing caught fire, and hollowed out my bones.
When I was willing to sacrifice everything,
To die completely, to surrender unconditionally,
To stand naked and trembling on the very edge,
Willing to jump trustingly into the dark empty void …
Then I was finally ready, and when I least expected it,
Out of nowhere came a flash of light.
I suddenly saw through the dream of self and other,
And realized what already is and has always been awake.
The conditioned mind: the stories, beliefs, and delusions;
The precious little me can only pretend to awaken.
In the primal shadows
At the very root of self,
A big fish swims,
Just above silence.
It cannot be seen.
It cannot be caught;
Nor can it be killed,
Or even transformed.
We know it’s here,
When deep water moves.
To fully awaken,
The trembling terror
Must be felt and freed.
“If the student isn’t learning, the teacher isn’t listening.”