Rapture ~ Michael Quam
Nelson Lee - Shakuhachi Music ~ Karen Mueller with Poetry by Theresa McLaren
Why Meditate? (Why Not?) ~ Barry Evans
Dharma Gates are Boundless ~ Edited and Compiled by
Book Review: The Biology of Belief (Bruce Lipton) ~ Erika B. Makino
Even at low tide the breakers
Begin their majestic swell far out,
Lift and fill the horizon, then
Release their long curling cascade.
Its delicate spume floats
For a moment, and is gone.
Small flocks of snowy plover
Scurry to and fro, intent on their
Watery task at the tidal edge,
While scruffy old man raven
Walks stiffly along the upper shore
Rapt in thoughts of carrion.
We might think that all is driven
By blind necessity, gravity and hunger,
That the myriad beings all mirror
Our own rampaging appetites
And our blind cold terror
Of a world without boundaries,
But the serpent in the dunes
Suns himself, with no thought
Of the red-tailed hawk on watch
In his dead tree perch, awash
In an ocean of wind’s roar
And flashes of shadow and light.
Nelson Lee - Shakuhachi Music
Karen Mueller with Poetry by Theresa
artist and teacher Nelson Lee presented a beautiful, informal evening
of shakuhachi music and poetry in the AZG Zendo when he, and his wife
Jennifer, visited Humboldt County in October 2005. AZG member Theresa
McLaren provided the poetry. (Her poems follow below.)
Nelson, playing honkyoku is a deeply meditative experience, a
practice of “blowing Zen” (suizen in Japanese, a term coined by
the komuso Zen monks who first began playing honkyoku on the
shakuhachi). “I love honkyoku because of its haunting qualities and
its use of silence,” he says. “The music can be found not only in
the sounds, but between the sounds.”
favorite audiences are Zen centers and other spiritual communities
because he enjoys connecting with others who, like him, are on a
spiritual path. Nelson Lee is a first-generation Chinese American and
a native of San Francisco. He has studied and performed shakuhachi
for more than ten years. Four years of shakuhachi study were spent in
intensive study in Japan. Lee has also completed graduate studies in
music education at San Francisco State University.
comes from a distinguished line of shakuhachi players. His teacher,
Tajima-sensei, is famous for his mastery of honkyoku and for playing
long shakuhachis. Lee now lives in Santa Cruz, California, where he
performs, studies, records, and teaches shakuhachi. Bamboo Bell is
his organization, formed to educate the public on honkyoku music as
part of a multicultural society. Nelson and Jennifer are in the
process of moving to Humboldt County and will, we hope, become
another resource for our local community. For more information, see
Nelson’s Website at: http://home.earthlink.net/~neljen/
shared by Theresa McLaren during a Shakuhachi Evening in the Zendo
avoid the truth
thrives in the desert
one hears late at night
am absolute zero
value with no value
by any number
result is still the same
fear of the oblivious
am what the impoverished possess
pot at the end of the rainbow
you feel for an ex-lover
what is sacred in war
I am more
and night share
and dark in balance
only for a day
Billow Over Mountains
billow over mountains
heavy with moisture
down the valley
away hill tops
for the sun
beauty of day
engulf another day
are by Barry and Pete)
Vale of St. Thomas, Jamaica, 1865
Why Meditate? (Why
tell [Kyodo Roshi] I want to "take my practice to a deeper
level." 'Deeper level'?" He laughs again. "What you
mean 'deeper'? Zen practice only one level. No deep, understand?"
Lawrence Shainberg, Ambivalent Zen
just why do you meditate?" The question was asked with a
certain tone of frustration, annoyance even. I'd been trying to
explain to a fellow sangha member my belief that meditation wasn't
necessarily good for anything, and that as soon as I thought it was
good for something, it became like many other things in life: yet
another opportunity to strive for something that I didn't yet have,
but--provided I had sufficient discipline and tenacity--might yet
struggled with the question, unsure of myself. "It isn't like I
think about meditating, and then make a decision to go sit, and then
do it. It's more like, the bell rings--often it's me doing the
ringing--and there's this moment of astonishment to find myself on my
zafu or chair, yet again, wondering, 'How did this happen?' "
what about when you decide, in advance, to sit a sesshin, say?"
a bit fuzzy. There's the time before the decision, when I'm not sure
if I'm going to go, I'm weighing it in my mind. Then I realize the
decision's made--I am going--or I'm not going. But the moment of
decision itself slips by unseen, unnoticed. One moment I don't know.
Then I do. Why I do, I don't know."
was reminded of this conversation a couple of weeks back, when
Reverend Master Hugh Gould spoke to our sangha in the Aikido Center
on Sunday morning. He was making a strong, articulate pitch for a
practice of discipline and effort, for acknowledging and looking for
guidance from teachers, and for committing to and advancing along
one's spiritual path. I thought, we're of two camps--more or
less--here in this room: those of us who can easily relate to his
beliefs and accept his encouragement; and those of us who find the
whole idea of a path, much less any notion of advancing along it, the
exact opposite of what we appreciate about soto zen.
then the happy thought came, "It doesn't matter!" We don't
generally label ourselves, and don't find fault with those who don't
go along with what we believe. That these two camps--which seem to me
quite antithetical, like Catholics and Evangelicals--can co-exist
quite happily, is rather wonderful.
just words, of course. I really don't know. For everyone who
claims to know something about zen, there's someone who claims the
opposite. In fact, this seems to be the kernel of whatever it is that
we call 'zen'--that we don't know what it is. It's the not-knowing
that defines us, that we cultivate--apparently--each time we sit.
if I did know, this is what I'd say…
in the latter camp, the no-advancement gang. It wasn't always so,
but--after all these years--I've pretty much given up on the idea of
achieving something, getting somewhere, making progress, deepening my
practice, strengthening my meditation, or generally expecting that
life will ever be substantially different from what it is today. I
suppose I just got bored with wanting to be somewhere other than
where I was, with all the attendant beating-myself-up for not already
being there. I didn't experience any great revelation or catharsis,
rather just a slow realization that life is never going to be
substantially different from the way it is now. That all my yearning
for greater awareness, compassion, selflessness and--most of
all--freedom from desire was itself a never-ending spiral of desire.
not like I haven't experienced many changes, insights and moments of
bliss in this long adventure which started the first time I tried
Transcendental Meditation. But the net result seems to be that I've
discovered new and more interesting ways of making myself unhappy. So
long as I believe things can be any different from this moment, I'm
is life. Whatever it is I long for--happiness, freedom from pain,
Truth, an end to delusion, awakening with all beings, being done
(finally!) with desire--therein lies my pain. The self that seeks the
solution is the problem.
a great fan of the new science of evolutionary psychology, whose
claim that we're designed to be blue, lonely,
dissatisfied--that these are the very emotional tools that ensured
our ancestors' survival--is a great comfort and relief.
heard many claims for meditation over the years. That it's about:
gratitude; deepened and/or heightened awareness (!); compassion;
emptiness; spaciousness; experiencing one's true self; dissolving the
self; being present in the moment; opening to the wonder of it all;
finding peace; encountering our Buddha nature; seeing the
connectedness of everything; letting go; (fill in the
seems to me, though, that meditation isn't about anything.
Meditation is meditation, and any attempt to define it in terms of
something else simply confuses the issue and makes it vulnerable to
being treated like any other system, technique or process to enhance
our lives. Lord knows, these days we have enough ways to be better
people, to get closer to God, to find ourselves and to enhance our
circumstances. We're swamped with therapies, self-help books and
spiritual techniques which treat human lives as projects to be
tweaked and fixed in order to improve our inner experience.
if it's anything at all, is a relief from all this. It's the opposite
of fixing and adjusting and striving and perpetually wanting things
to be different from what they are. It's the haven away from the
ubiquitous world of self-improvement. So when I hear words like
'effort' and 'discipline' and 'deepening one's practice', I wince a
there are such sublime rewards for doing absolutely
nothing--unbidden, breath comes and goes, eyes see, ears hear,
thoughts flurry like leaves in fall--that to set out to experience
anything else (even an end to desire!)--feels like a rejection of
this life lived in this moment. Mere existence is sufficient.
Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate)
Dharma Gates are Boundless
Edited and Compiled by
Welcome to the first edition of this
new column for the AZG Newsletter. We expect this column to appear
frequently and we’re happy to accept contributions from our
readers. What we’re looking for are items that express the Dharma,
albeit they are not expressly intended to do so. I often encounter
examples of this kind of revelation—in writings, art works, music,
stories, anecdotes, jokes, etc. I’m always greatly encouraged by
these delightful encounters. By appearing everywhere, so to speak,
they confirm the truth of the Dharma.
So, please send us such expressions
when you find them. I’ll exercise some editorial oversight, but
we’ll try to keep a sense of boundlessness.
For this issue, we have five
expressions of the Dharma found in poems. One AZG member submitted the following two:
[from] The Abyss, part 4
In this, my half-rest,
Knowing slows for
And not-knowing enters, silent,
And the fire dances
To the stream's
[from] Notes for Canto CXX
Do not move
the wind speak
That is paradise.
In a recent Dharma talk at AZG, Alan
Senauke gave us the image of “turning toward” whatever presents
itself in zazen and in our life. Here are two poems about active
receptivity and response.
Arriving Again and Again Without
I remember all the different kinds of
Angry, or heartbroken, or afraid.
I remember feeling like that
walking up the mountain along the dirt
to my broken house on the island.
And long years of waiting in
The winter walking and hot summer
I finally fell in love with all of it:
dirt, night, rock and far views.
It’s strange that my heart is as full
Now as my desire was then.
[The New Yorker, January 16,
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest
He many be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
[The Essential Rumi, translated
by Coleman Barks, 1995]
Another of the AZG sangha members received
a copy of the following statement:
Message from the Hopi –
People of Peace
You have been telling people that this
is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell them that this is
And there are things to be considered:
Where are you living? What are you
What are your relationships? Are you
in the right relation?
Where is your water? Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth. Create
Be good to each other. And do not look
outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and so swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold onto the shore. They will feel they are being
torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The Elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle
of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above water. See who
is in there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take
nothing personally, least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we
do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over.
Banish the word “struggle” from
your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done
in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we have been waiting
Book Review: The
Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton
Erika B. Makino
wanted to write a detailed report about this book which I find very
important. However, a bad case of flu got me and the deadline was
approaching. I decided to forget all my notes and just write about
what I remembered. On the third day, I crawled out of bed to the
computer, wrote a few lines and back to bed. After some naps, I
continued. And so on for a few days. This is then a fuzzy head
Lipton comes through as a very alive human being with a gentle sense
of humor. It doesn't happen often that a scientist makes a connection
between his research and his life. The results of his explorations
changed his attitudes and reach far beyond his own life.
of us have heard the axiom: Your thoughts influence your health and
your life. We may have responded with a "Perhaps so, but…"
and went on living with a not so happy and not so healthy self.
this time I listened. Here was a cell biologist who had observed the
minute details of the cells' architecture and function. Lipton has an
unusual talent for making complicated processes clear with the help
of images that stick in your mind. He explains that the DNA in the
nucleus of the cell provides only the blueprint. It is the receptors
on the cell membrane that pick up signals from the environment.
Sometimes there are even signals
that alter the genetic code. We are definitively not the victims of
receptors respond to physical signals, for instance histamine
molecules. Others read energy fields like sound, light, microwaves,
radio frequencies and thought. The cell system is powered by positive
and negative electrical charges. Receptors, effectors, strands of
proteins and amino acids are engaged in wild dances at 100 beats per
second. Our body is made up of a family of 50 trillion cells.
about those positive thoughts? Why don't they work better? I imagine
our subconscious as a fat, old toad. It is filled with survival
mechanisms but also with limiting beliefs we picked up in our
childhood. When it hears a pep talk from above like, "I'm
loveable, I'm loveable, I'm loveable," it chuckles, opens its
wide mouth and gulps down those thoughts as if they were flies. So
first we must reprogram our unconscious. It takes some work. You
know how toads are. But it can be done.
physics still applies to the organs of the body, but on the cellular
level quantum physics is necessary to understand the processes. In a
quantum universe, alternative treatments that are based on energy
fields like acupuncture, herbs etc make sense.
quantum physics is not taught at the medical schools. And here is
some shocking news: According to a conservative estimate, the third
leading causeof death in this country is iatrogentic death, meaning
death as a result of medical treatment.
you don't want to read the whole book don't miss the chapter on organ
transplant. You get a hint whose music the cells are listening to
that makes them dance.
want to quote Joseph Chilton Pierce, Ph.D., author of Magical
Child and Evolution’s End. "Bruce Lipton's book is
the definitive summary of the new biology and all it implies.
It is magnificent, profound beyond words, and a delight to read. It
synthesizes an encyclopedia of critical new information into a
brilliant yet simple package. These pages contain a genuine
revolution in thought and understanding, one so radical that it can
change the world."