Inspiration Ripples Unknown

Long ago,
my neighbor, two doors down,
a woman of many decades,
drove to her family in Vermont.
The steep hills and ridges of suburbia,
no problem for this young mother then,
yet knowing,
one day,
I too might be
a woman of many decades,
banishing my fear,
and like a being
looking into the abyss,
entered the world of drivers.
The woman never knew.

A Dharma brother,
fighting the ravages of AIDS,
doing retreats,
with bags of refrigerated medicine,
going on lone camping trips,
doing zazen,
in the wilderness,
eating from his bowls,
in the wilderness.
I too would do that,
with a trusty tent,
and the ripples of inspiration
from a friend who didn’t know.

And now, my dear Dharma friend,
soon to be a teacher,
already teaching,
with his body,
exuding ancient peak energy,
has passed on,
his presence ripples unknown,
his inspiration ripples unknown.

Obstacles, obstacles, obstacles,
beyond fear,
beyond age,
beyond illness,
beyond death,

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Oh Bear!

Oh bear!
You lived in a beautiful wild place,
and you were wild too.
Scavenging, scampering, maybe climbing trees.
Maybe you were confused and sad,
maybe angry, scared or threatened.

Out of ignorance and wickedness they took you too soon.
It might have been fear or economy that made them take you.

We honor you magnificent wild bear!
We honor your wild world.
And we vow every day to save the wild things
on this crazy planet Mother Earth.



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I can’t capture the cherry blossoms
rustling in the wind,
swaying as they gently
open their hearts
to the universe.
they have changed
since last seen,
when we stood there,
under the tree,
trying to capture a memory.
even in the ten seconds it took
for the camera click,
there was an infinitesimal difference.

Today, as we did kinhin,
I watched the faces
as we turned
at the foot of the hill,
and how we’re all
different from the last time,
subtle signs of age
creeping up on us,
yet, we walk,
step after step, after step.
That is enough!

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Something we do on a regular basis at the Zendo is to stand up after every 30 minutes of meditation to walk and stretch our legs. This is not like taking a break after working. This is a continuation of our meditation practice. This is walking meditation. In Japan this walking is called Kinhin.

We maintain our focus and turn our attention to our feet and our breath.

Kinhin is a true embodiment of our practice. It is the manifestation of the one-body. A chance to set aside our independence, set aside our ego, our “self”.
We become the Kinhin line. We become one-body.

During Kinhin we each play a role. There is the head, the tail, and the body.
Each role has a function.
The head cannot be the tail. The tail cannot be the head. The body cannot be disjointed.
Maintain the line.
Maintain the one-body.

If you are the head then you must maintain awareness and take into account both the faster and slower members of the “body”. Your pace should accommodate both. Always look to maintain the line. Maintain the one-body.

If you are the tail you must maintain awareness and not fall behind. Maintain the line. Maintain the one-body.

If you are the body you must maintain awareness and not become disjointed from the group. Maintain the line. Maintain the one-body.

No separation.

No gaps.

People leaving the Kinhin line will do so with a brief bow.

People rejoining the line will wait and enter at the tail of the line. They will then assume a new role.
The roles in the line can change many times within one walking period.
This is not unlike our very lives where we are constantly changing our roles and positions.
Maintain the one-body.
One Body.

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On Taking Vows

A talk given by Joan Hogetsu Hoeberichts, Roshi, on December 6, 2014, during our Rohatsu retreat.

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Two by Tansui


The ferns are on their way out now; yellow, brown, a few green holdouts.

This ancient plant: somewhere in its DNA, dinosaurs roam.

Now I see these ferns lushly green in summertime; tall, too, waist-high on me.

That which came before—it isn’t gone.


Ferns at the Grail House (photo: Tansui)

Sesshin sounds

Bird song and squeaky saliva sounds mingle with imaginary conversations about work.

Which is most welcome in Buddha’s house? Which is the guest unwanted?

Not for me to say.

Our substance is the same.


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There Is No Way To Peace, Peace Is The Way

It is generally understood that meditation is a way of attaining peace, and many believe this peace will only come after many years of intense, dedicated practice.  As a meditation instructor, I find most people come to meditation believing this to be true. It is quite natural for those starting on this path to feel as though meditation will give them something that will somehow fix or cleanup the messiness of their lives, and through much effort they will no longer experience their pain, anger, depression, anxiety, confusion, or cravings. As naive as this sounds, many of us have this subtle hope that our meditation practice will lead to some ultimate comfort, security, and satisfaction. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is as Suzuki Roshi used to say, “Not always so.”

“There is no way to peace” is the first line of a quote I once read by Thich Nhat Hahn, the second line reading, “Peace is the way.” I find this saying very profound, and only recently, have I started truly appreciating and understanding its message. The first line explains how we are not going to find a way to peace; the way to it is unattainable. Not because it doesn’t exist, but rather because it must be something we bring to each moment of our lives. Peace is gentleness, compassion, and wisdom in action, right smack in the middle of ordinary, everyday living. Peace literally is the way!  Meditation is not a means to gain peace, but rather a way to practice bringing peace to whatever is occurring in that moment. I am not saying meditation does not bring about tranquility and inner calm, but naturally the feelings from deeper meditative states dissipate like an early morning fog on a sunny day. The warm fuzzy feelings come and go; nothing can ever be static in an ever-changing universe. If we believe peace is only a feeling we must attain and maintain, it will always be waxing and waning, but as we mature on our meditative path we find peace to be what we choose to bring to every moment – pleasant or unpleasant.

Understanding peace in this way allows our meditation practice to become the training ground where we are able to bring peace to ourselves, all of ourselves. By sitting with our monkey minds, difficult emotions, body pains, and storylines, without judgments or labels, we are actually bringing peace to our entire being. Naturally, this begins flowing into each moment of everyday life, such as doing the dishes, being stuck in a traffic jam, working, eating, going to the bathroom, etc. Instead of waiting for peace, our life becomes our expression of peace moment-by-moment. We eventually realize peace doesn’t necessarily mean feeling good, but rather is our approach to all the circumstances we experience in our lives. Maybe the Zen masters weren’t crazy when they claimed: practice IS enlightenment, or peace IS the way!

What are you waiting for? Be peace right now!

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Be Here Now: How To Practice Mindfulness In Daily Life

By Mark Van Buren

The path of meditation is not limited to just sitting and following the breath. In fact, our true meditation practice is right smack in the middle of our daily lives. Meditation throughout our day involves simply doing whatever it is we are doing. If we are walking, we just walk. If we are eating, we just eat. If we are sitting in traffic, we just sit in traffic. The only difference between someone practicing in daily life is the attention and precision in which things are done. Attention and precision come directly from two important tools: mindfulness and renunciation.

Mindfulness is our ability to pay attention to the present moment without judgments or labels. With mindfulness our awareness is like a mirror, simply reflecting whatever is placed in front of it. Mindfulness doesn’t get involved with concepts such as right/wrong or good/bad, but rather sees everything clearly, just the way it is. From this open state of mind there is no picking and choosing, but instead a clear-seeing, which allows us to relax into the present moment regardless of the circumstances.

Although concentration is needed for mindfulness, mindfulness is not concentration. Typically, concentration is a goal-oriented practice; keeping the mind focused on one object to attain a special state of mind. Mindfulness, however, has no goal as it is a full presence of mind. Instead of narrowing our awareness to one object of meditation, the entire present moment becomes our focus. If our mindfulness practice is based on a goal attained at some future time, we are literally missing the whole point of the practice. Don’t worry about results, attainments or goals, just simply be open to and aware of the present moment. This is mindfulness.

Renunciation, on the other hand, is our ability to let go of resistance to whatever we find ourselves facing each and every moment. We literally renounce struggling with our lives and ourselves, learning to open our hearts even when everything is screaming within us to close it down. Renunciation teaches us to stay, keeping us from our normal means of escaping life when it becomes uncomfortable or painful. It retrains us to be with the uneasy feelings which underlie all our painful habits, addictions, and harmful behaviors, rather than quickly finding expedient means to get rid of them. The more we practice renouncing resistance and escape, the more we learn to not take the bait of our habitual ways that keep us from fully experiencing the present moment, no matter what its flavor may be.

Renunciation, like many of the meditative practices, is much easier said than done. It sounds like an inspiring and profound idea to not act out when you are angry, or not grab a glass of wine when you feel the onset of anxiety, but the actual practice is not so easy. This is because we have been habituated to escape discomfort at all costs, and true renunciation is not always very comfortable! Liberation is not just rainbows and unicorns like we all hope it will be. Meditation master Ajahn Chah explains it in this way, “There are two kinds of suffering: the suffering that leads to more suffering and the suffering that leads to the end of suffering. If you are not willing to face the second kind of suffering, you will surely continue to experience the first.” In this case, the first type of suffering is acting out on our impulse to escape. Our quick fixes become addicting and ultimately lead to an endless cycle of suffering. Facing the discomfort without acting out on the other hand, although uncomfortable, leads to freedom and peace.

Together, mindfulness and renunciation lead to a peaceful life. Mindfulness allows us to actually be in the moment, and renunciation gives us a chance to fully rest there without struggle or resistance, regardless of the circumstances we may find ourselves in. Although difficult at times, I encourage all of you to practice wholeheartedly. The world will appreciate your practice, no matter how small. I wish you all well on your journey.

Mark Van Buren, a yoga/meditation instructor, personal trainer, and musician, has been promoting health and wellness for over 10 years. He has run dozens of workshops and retreats, and has been asked to speak at numerous colleges including Columbia, Montclair State and Bergen Community. A handful of yoga studios have already opened their doors to his message, allowing him to give talks and run guided meditations and retreats. He has also worked with autistic children and adults, and released two solo albums, based on his inward journey through meditation, under the band name “Seeking the Seeker.” Van Buren holds a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from Montclair State University and two Associate Degrees from Bergen Community College in exercise science and music. He is currently the owner and head instructor of Live Free Yoga Studio in Northern New Jersey, and recently published his first book, Be Your Sh*tty Self: An Honest Approach to a More Peaceful Life.

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She who hears the cries of the world. . .

Kannon Bodhisattva—

Invisible and with a light, almost imperceptible touch—

When you’re with me, holding me,

I don’t feel you.


I don’t feel you

Until after you’ve done your work.


Only then I know you’re with me—

Always with me.


Always watching and never sleeping,

So you can sweep in

To work a miracle

When I need saving.


February 3, 2014

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Hogetsu’s Stone Bridge (after Case 52, Blue Cliff Record, Joshu’s stone Bridge)


Even with wrinkles, a crack-
maybe some patchwork-
Hogetsu’s great Stone Bridge
supports our strivings. Then,

————————————————————-at the apex,

above the echo of laughter
and masonry of Mind,
——————————————————she thrusts up the shore.


———————————————————–you are here.

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