Blog

Seeing Water

By Peggy Metta Sheehan

Once there was a fish who had heard tales of the Source of Life, which would bring whoever found it their heart’s desire. The fish swam to every corner of the ocean, asking: “Where is the Source of Life? How can I find it?” She kept getting pointed toward different tasks and to more remote parts of the sea—farther, deeper, higher.

After many years of seeking, the fish arrived back at the place where she had first started. Entering her home waters, she encountered an older fish who asked, “What is going on with you, my friend? Why do you look so worried and dejected?”

“I’ve spent years looking for the Source of Life,” the fish explained. “I can’t even begin to tell you how many things I’ve tried or the number of places I’ve searched—all in vain. I don’t suppose you know where I could find it?”

The old fish smiled and said, “I’ve heard many names for the Source of Life in my day, but the simplest is ‘water.’” (Loch Kelly, Shift into Freedom)

I know we can all relate to this and even profess to how hard it is to see! The path of Zen is fairly simple and straightforward. Sit quietly, unmoving even, so as not to create waves, and water will be revealed. Once we see water, a radical shift in perspective has occurred, and we now know for ourselves that everything, everything is water. And that includes the waves themselves. In fact the waves may even show you the way to water.

The blessing here is that once we see, we can’t not see. Even if our view becomes clouded at times, we still know water. We know we are swimming in it.

And I’d like to suggest that in the same way our Zen practice opens or exposes the way of water, it is long past time to acknowledge the waters of racism that our culture has been swimming in for centuries. Once we see it, we can’t not see any longer. That is a radical shift. And as with any first glimpse, it is just the beginning. Immense work, dedication and ruthless honesty will need to follow. This is our Work, the Way of courage, humility, patience, listening, and genuine inquiry. Will we still be stupid, insensitive, oblivious, hurtful at times? Yes. But we now know this water and we’ll begin to behave and act differently, for it is the natural consequence of true seeing.

We can change. It is absolutely possible to change these tides. It happens again and again in the practice of awakening. In an instant eighty thousand teachings are fulfilled.

There is finally a deep crack in the structure of systemic racism because, at last, enough of us see. Cracks have occurred before, but this time we will not allow it to be covered over again. May we forgive and be forgiven for how long it has taken. From this right view, with openness, inquiry, and letting go over and over of unfounded defensiveness (ego clinging) we will step into water that holds and cares for us all and always has.

Summer Blooms: Temple Landscaping

With summer here, we have made great strides toward completing the landscaping around the temple. Under the guidance of Desirae Wood of Dobro Design, who travelled from Portland, Oregon, to help supervise the project, the crew from Phase One Landscapes spent days placing literally hundreds of xeric plants, including blue and golden columbine, yarrow and snow-in-summer.

In coming weeks we look forward to planting drought-resistant buffalo grass around the yard’s perimeter and to the final placement of gravel in the enclosed Zen garden, which will essentially complete the landscaping. As the years pass and the garden becomes more established, the temple grounds will truly be transformed into a place of beauty and serenity.

Our deep thanks to Desi and the crew from Phase One, who worked so hard to make this dream a reality. Thanks also to the members of our landscaping committee, who have likewise been investing much labor and energy in maintaining and making improvements to the grounds of the main temple and to our adjoining property at 1852 S. Columbine. Gassho!

Compassion Can Be the Cure

By Dennis Sienko

Due to Covid-19, we are living in a heightened sense of unknowing that escalates nervousness in our society and ourselves. This in turn, affects our health almost as much as the virus itself and affects how we relate to others. We see people arguing and getting violent about social distancing precautions, whether to wear a facemask or even to attend a large church or spiritual gathering. How a person acts in relation to other people depends on one’s internal sense of well-being. If one is excited and nervous, they will tend to act irrationally and with judgement.

One of the best cures or remedies for this excited, nervous and irrational condition is zazen. Zazen allows the nervousness, worry and sorrow from these times to become more manageable by calming the mind. After regular periods of zazen, one begins to become more peaceful and poised. We begin to cultivate a deep, wonderful inner quiet from which compassion naturally arises. This compassion helps us to accept life’s experiences as they are. It helps us relate to others in a way that does not escalate into violence.

Yúnyán asked, “The bodhisattva of great compassion uses the many hands and eyes for what?” Dàowú said, “As if it’s night and a person gropes with their hand behind their body for the pillow.”

In other words, compassion flows naturally, without effort. It flows without expecting something in return. Compassion is always present. The secret is to allow it to flow.

You are by nature compassionate. Use your many hands and eyes and bring forth that compassion. First, start by using many of those hands to give yourself a hug. See the world through the eyes of others. Compassion is the cure to this virus. We need to show compassion to people we agree with and to those we disagree with. We need to show compassion to all sentient beings, small and large.

If we can become more compassionate, we as individuals can make the world a better, safer place. Start with daily zazen practice, trust the process and all will be as it should be.

Awakening in Time

By Karin Ryuku Kempe

Some weeks ago my watch stopped working. Because I wasn’t able to get it fixed, it’s been in the top drawer of my desk and I’ve had a chance to be without it. Actually, I find I don’t need it, although at first I did check my bare wrist from time to time. After all, time measured out minute by minute, hour by hour, is an external construct, and there are plenty of clocks about the house if I need to keep track.

The experience of time passing, especially the tyranny of time, is something else altogether. During these weeks at home, some of us have had the sensation of everything slowing down; more of our life is unscheduled. Those of us who work online may feel keenly the difference between the rigidity of the virtual landscape, or even face-to-face demands, and those unfilled stretches which seem to unfold and fill themselves. And those of us who make our own schedules notice the tendency to fill the spaces with plans or maybe a conscious decision to let the day unfold organically. It feels a bit like falling.

The Israeli historian philosopher Yuval Noah Harari wrote in 21 Lessons for the 21st Century that the Buddha “taught that the three basic realities of the universe are that everything is constantly changing, nothing has any enduring essence, and nothing is completely satisfying…You can explore the furthest reaches of the galaxy, of your body, or of your mind, but you will never encounter something that does not change, that has an eternal essence, and that completely satisfies you.”

True…and yet we find we can be satisfied, we can be at ease. What makes that ease possible is our capacity to come to awareness, to be attentive, awake in the midst of this stream we call time. We might call it mindfulness, but that word implies someone who is being mindful of something, a pulling apart of that organic mix into a subject-object relationship. Maybe whole-hearted awareness lives more like a verb; we experience ourselves as what we are experiencing. I seem to remember a quote about Chao-chou: “Most people are used by the twenty-four hours; I use the twenty-four hours.” More like, “I am the twenty-four hours.”

One monk asked his teacher, “What is the everlasting reality?”

“Moving.”

“When moving, what then?”

His teacher said: “Then you can’t see the everlasting reality.” (Book of Equanimity, Case 75)

Like diving into water without knowing its temperature, we are always jumping in. Remember learning to dive? You can’t hold on. Try taking off your watch for a bit. What then?

Spring

By Ken Tetsuzan Morgareidge

The gnarled and ancient silver maple has burst forth

with a thousand thousand leaves.

The lilac blossoms out in glowing royal purple

gems far too many to count.

Tulips emerge in colors from winter’s frozen crypt

and open to the risen sun.

The roses, roused at last from storm-caused dormancy,

send shoots among the dried out canes.

Pruning, trimming, mowing, planting, feeding, watering,

all the loving labors of spring.

Birds flit past in search of a branch on which to nest,

lay their eggs, transmit their dharma.

Just look!—every leaf, blossom, new blade of grass

is nothing but your own true being.

Mindfulness Workshop May 16: Love Is an Awesome Power

The Zen Center of Denver will again be co-sponsoring a half-day mindfulness workshop on Saturday, May 16, from 9:30 a.m. – noon on Zoom with our friend Janet Solyntjes, a certified mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) teacher and co-founder of the Center for Courageous Living.

Love Is an Awesome Power

janet
Janet Solyntjes

“We all need love and encouragement. We need to feel it personally and we need to be able to express it to others.”

In this workshop we will explore how the practice of meditation is the basis for accessing and strengthening the power of heartfulness and love. Specific meditation and contemplation practices will bring focus to the innate qualities of loving-kindness and compassion, allowing for a felt sense of how these qualities can become the undercurrent of our daily lives.

Join in an onlive “live” session which will include meditation practice, teachings, exercises and dialogue.

Saturday, May 16, 9:30 a.m. – noon (MT) on Zoom

Suggestion donation: $50 (sliding scale available)

To register or for more information, please email janet@thecenterforcourageousliving.com.