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What are Your Unique Bodhisattva Capacities? – Domyo 2020-11-22
Domyo introduces us to the Avatamsaka Sutra focusing on Book 39 “Entry Into the Realm of Reality”. With an excercise and discussion she asks us to consider the many capabilities we all have to devote to the good of the world. (Audio here)
Loving Our Opponents – Domyo – 2020-11-08
Joe Biden in a recent speech said “We must stop treating our opponents as our enemies”. Beneath it all we are all human beings. We all have much more in common than we have dividing us. We all love and hope and fear. We all want to be happy. Domyo explores how we can come to terms with this concept. (Audio here)
Emptiness of Self and Why It Matters – Domyo – 2020-10-25
Knowing the true nature of ourself is exactly what liberates us from fear and suffering. Domyo begins with a brief overview of the Buddhist teachings on the empiness of self. She continues by exploring what they mean in our daily lives and practice, including why they are helpfull and meaningful. (Audio here)
This Means You: The Lotus Sutra Parable of the Lost Son – Domyo – 2020-10-18 Domyo retells the “Parable of the Lost Son” in language and setting accessable to modern western peoples, retaining the essence and teaching value. So goes on to explain what it all means to us today, in our Practice on the Boddisattva Path. (Audio here)
Bearing Witness Without Burning Out – Domyo – 2020-10-11
Bearing Witness to the suffering of the world caused by greed, hate and delusion is part of Domyo’s Recipie for a Generous Life. Domyo discusses how it is that we burn out when we are witnessing this either in person, or by the news/information services. (Audio here)
Singing the Praises of Zazen as a Practice of Wholeness – Domyo – 2020-10-04
With everything that is going on in the world right now, and also in our personal lives, Domyo tells us how we can divide our practice into three parts or three ingredients all of which are essential, but as we “cook” our life, the proportions might need to change depending on what is going on for us. She names the ingredients “Bearing Witness”, “Taking Care”, and “Taking Action”. (Audio here)
Refusing to be Defeated: Ksanti – The Buddhist Perfection of Endurance – Domyo – 2020-09-27
There is so much going on in the world right now that can cause us stress, anxiety, fear, depression, sadness, grief, mental or emotional pain. Domyo talks about the Buddhist Perfection of Ksanti – endurance, or forebearance, which acknowledges that no matter what we do, how dilligent we are in our spiritual pracice, at times life is going to be uncomfortable, painful and/or tinged with suffering. She explains how Ksanti can help us get through troubling and troubled times. (Audio here)
Using the Teachings of the 6 Realms to Understand People’s Actions – Domyo – 2020-09-20
According to the traditional Buddist Cosmology, we are reborn after we die and our previous actions of body, speech and mind determine which realm we end up in. This is a natural law, there is no one sitting in judgement. This is known as Karmic law. Yet the goal or attraction of our study and practice is to get un-stuck from this cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Domyo explains how to use these teachings to help us understand people’s actions. (Audio here)
Metta Practice as a Way to Free Ourselves from Fear and Anxiety – Domyo – 2020-09-13
Domyo talks about Metta Practice and how it can help us face reality while centered in our true nature. She defines, describes and gives examples of Metta Practice. With excercises she gives us a taste of Metta Practice in the context of our current lives in fire, smoke, evacuations and loss. (Audio here)
How Do You Live a Good Life in a Crazy World? – Domyo – 2020-09-06
Not merely a “Good” life, but also Compassionate, Moral, Just and Generous. And not just how do we maintain, how do we manage, how do we get through, but how do we go above and beyond, even to extend beyond our own concerns, manifesting that life in any way that we particularly aspire to do? Domyo goes on to suggest a recipe for life. (Audio here)
Respect Even for Terrible People – What Does it Mean? – Domyo – 2020-08-30
Most people who are doing harm don’t think that they are doing anything wrong. Most people think of themselves as a good person or at least trying their best at being a good person. If we look at those few people who rarely think beyond their own safety comfort and profit, who think nothing of hurting others for their own advantage or amusement; people with greedy or ambitious agendas who feel justified in whatever destruction it takes to keep their grip on power; people who sow division and stoke fears, what does it mean that we are asked to respect such people? With stories from the Christian Bible and from the Buddhist Sutras, Domyo explores this important concept for our time. (Audio here)
The Way Seeking Mind – Mark – 2020-08-23
All of us are on a spiritual journey, we’ve all learned stuff, we’ve all had experiences and we’ve learned things that are interesting and valuable. Therefore we have things to teach. Mark takes the teaching seat to describe his path and the insights and understandings he has gained along the way. (Audio here)
No Matter What Happens to You, Practice Means You Have Choice – Domyo – 2020-08-16
Buddhism teaches us that no matter what’s going on you always have a degree of choice about how you respond and what you do next. Practice is taking advantage of our moments of choice which arises countless times throughout the day and night and never loosing faith that those little choices matter. Domyo illustrates this with an ancient story from the Pali cannon. (Audio here)
Save Yourself! The Lotus Sutra Parable of the Burning House – Domyo – 2020-08-09 The Lotus Sutra is a very ancient record of the Buddha’s teachings. Domyo goes over its origins and how it is contains a number of parables. Then she focuses on the “Parable of the Burning House”, what it means and how our lives or society may well be like a burning house. An ancient parable that speaks to the difficult times we are living in. (Audio here)
The Experience of Enlightenment – Domyo – 2020-08-02
Domyo uses traditional and modern Zen stories to illustrate the experiences leading up to, and Enlightenment itself. She goes on to describe the variety of ways this works from sudden awakening to “getting wet in a mist”. (Audio here)
Many Kinds of Giving – Jyoshin Clay – 2020-07-26
It seems like this has been a hard year. For everyone. Pandemic, social unrest, economic instability – how does a Zen Buddhist negotiate this visceral, changing landscape of unease and unpredictability? One approach is to turn towards benevolence. This Sunday, Jyoshin talks about the benefits of generosity and making offerings as a path towards spiritual stability and resiliency. Jyoshin Clay is from Dharma Rain Zen Center. Jyoshin is a “Dharma Sister” of both Domyo and Shintai, and has co-led our annual sesshin in collaboration with Wy’East Zen Center. (Audio here)
Bringing Darkness to Conscious – Ryushin Hart Osho – 2020-07-19
Ryushin Hart Osho is a Zen priest and social worker. Ryushin lived and trained for nine years at Great Vow Zen Monastery with Chozen and Hogen Bays Roshi. He was ordained in 2005. Ryushin completed Dharma Transmission in 2019 with Tenku Ruff Osho in the Harada Daiun Sogaku Roshi lineage. Ryushin completed his social work education through Boston University, and provides mental health, addiction, and trauma counseling in Corvallis, Oregon. Ryushin is passionate about Buddhism, social justice, shame resilience, and nurturing all life to grow to its greatest potential. He talks about how studying the Buddha way is to study the self, and as Americans part of our self is the culture we are swimming in, which we inherit from our ancestors. And that includes our family and our society and the slogans we learn. We live in a country that is designed to benefit people with lighter skin and harm at the disadvantage of people with darker skin. Ryushin discuses how the Dharma relates to this. (Audio here)
Giving our Lives Direction, Shape and Meaning – The Practice of Vow – Domyo – 2020-07-12
Vow is central in Buddhism, it gives shape, direction and meaning to our lives. Vows are about optional things. They are a choice we make. Vows are there because we might break them. This is the time of year for our Jukai ceremony where we make and renew our vows. Vows are there to hold our feet to the fire when things get difficult. (Audio here)
Tapping Into Our Deepest Desires instead of Struggling with Self-Control – Domyo – 2020-07-05
A central part of Buddhism is arousing our aspirations – not just our aspirations for a little stress relief, or a little more peace in our human relationships – those things are great. Buddahood is possible for each of us. Domyo talks about how each of us can achieve this. (Audio here)
There is No You There – Domyo – 2020-06-28
When there’s just the perceived in the perceived there is no “you” there, but what we usually do is add our stories (and therefore create a “you”). We naturally attempt to make sense out of the world around us. When new perceptions are experienced, in our mind arise narratives based on past experiences or future fears. Domyo discusses. (Audio here)
Creating a Strong and Sustainable Practice – Domyo – 2020-06-21
Most of us find that our Buddhist practice helps us stay sane, resilient, grateful, compassionate, and more. Generally speaking our practice makes our whole life better, especially during challenging times. But at the same time, it can be very difficult, just like many other healthy habits, to find the time, energy, discipline, motivation, enthusiasm, and all to practice the way we think we should or even just the way we really want to. Domyo talks about the various ways we can give form and structure to our practice. (Audio here)
Suchness – Awakening to the Preciousness of Things As It Is – Domyo – 2020-06-14 All religions and spiritual practices have the purposes of relieving our suffering and to give us hope. Buddhism teaches that all we have to do is awaken to reality, just as it is, to achieve them both. Domyo explains how this can be. (Audio, here)
Buddhist Images of Fierceness – Domyo – 2020-06-07
Domyo explores the place of Fierceness and even anger in Buddhism. Primarily she does this throungh imagry. She shows us high quality images of Kuan Yin / Kanzeon, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and others. She explains the cultural context where Buddhism arose and thus it incorporated the images known and understood by the people at the time. The clarity and determination of a warrior is represented by the image of Fudo Myoo. Domyo then asks “How can we summon that kind of fierce, determined clear energy but keep it focused on ignorance and delusion and not on living beings?” (Audio, here)
Sustainable Bhodisattva Practice: Bearing Witness, Taking Care, Taking Action. – Domyo 2020-05-31
Being a Bhodisattva in a world of immense suffering, how do we stay true to our vows and our aspirations but in a way that doesn’t overwhelm us, burn us out, or lead to despair? Faced with all of this madness, all of this suffering, all of these tricky situations what does it mean to be a Bhodisattva? Domyo gives us her guidance. (Audio, here)
What Zen Acceptance is and Why it Matters – Domyo – 2020-05-24
Zen Acceptance is letting go of that desire for things to be other than how they are. “Acceptance” has a number of meanings in our society. Domyo discusses how Zen practioners use Zen Acceptance to improve our daily lives. (Audio, here)
Cultivating Metta – for the Sake of Self and Other – Domyo – 2020-05-17
Cultivating Metta – Goodwill, Loving-Kindness, Friendliness, or Love – for the Sake of Self and Other. An attitude of goodwill toward any and all beings is incompatible with self-centered cherishing and resentment. Therefore, we cultivate metta not just for the sake of others (sometimes they’re not very “deserving” of it), but for the sake of our own practice and spiritual well-being. Of course, for each of us, cultivating metta for certain people or groups of people can be extremely difficult at times. On Sunday, we discussed not only why it’s worth practicing metta for those we resent, but also how to go about it in a creative way that’s compassionate to ourselves as well. (Audio, here)
Skillful Discipline is Balanced with Gentleness – Domyo – 2020-05-10
If we think of our practice as not just meditation and study but also as living deliberately moment by moment, paying attention and being mindful of our choices, then what does your practice look like throughout the day? Domyo discusses and explains Skillful Self Discipline and its balance with Gentleness, in our daily lives. (Audio, here)
This is No Different a Time – Rinzan Pechovnik, Soho – 2020-05-03
We are living in a different, difficult time. With Relative Mind, everything is different. In a Deep Sense, no difference exists. Our task is to see this blossoming universe for exactly what it is. When our eyes are open, all times are strange, unique and wondrous. Rinzan is a teacher in the Rinzai Zen tradition and runs No-Rank Zendo in Portland OR (www.norankzendo.org). He gave the talk examining various chapters of the Rinzai Roku. (Audio, here)
Not Loosing Faith in Buddha – Domyo – 2020-04-26
In doing our own practice, how well do we think we are doing, at our meditation, at our insights, at our understanding of the Dharma, at our moral behavior, our compassion, our generosity? Even though we think we are doing pretty well, how do we feel when we look around in the world and see the result of all the human greed, hate and delusion? Domyo discusses the many aspects of practice in light of these questions. (Audio, here)
Bright Clarity Appears Before You – Domyo – 2020-04-19
Silence and serenity are both our practice, and the result of our practice. When we sit, for the time being we let go of trying to change anything or figure anything out – in essence, shutting up internally. It’s not that we apply a special meditative process and then silence happens, it’s that we invite ourselves to let go of our constant effort to protect ourselves – an effort that results in constant internal commentary. In this talk, Domyo delves a bit deeper into how this works. (Audio, here)
Inner Peace or Happiness, No Matter What – Domyo – 2020-04-12
Buddhism teaches us how we can have inner peace and happiness no matter what our conditions. Domyo offers her thoughts on how this is possible for us all. (Audio, here)
Prayer for Equanimity – Gyokuko – 2020-04-05
With all the uncertainty in our lives because of the new Coronavirus, the closing of schools and businesses, and social distancing, emotions can run away with us. Gyokuko offers a few thoughts about coping with our current situation. (Audio, here)
Facing Impermanence – Domyo – 2020-03-29
Facing Impermanence? Fortunately, Buddhism Is All About Life and Death. Buddhism’s central point is nothing other than impermanence, or the “Great Matter of Life-and-Death.” Our practice goes far beyond platitudes or beliefs meant to make you feel better about the whole affair. Instead, the essence of our practice is a direct and personal exploration of the experience and implications of being alive in a world where there is absolutely nothing unchanging for us to hold on to. Except, of course, that very fact, and the fact that being fully alive means we don’t hold on to anything at all. (Audio, here)
Audio Dharma Talks (no video):
Embracing or Accepting Not Knowing – Domyo – 2020-03-15
What it means, and why it helps, in this time of global crisis.
Practicing With Fear – Domyo – 2020-03-01
There are all kinds of things to be fearful of in the world right now. How do we practice with fear?
Zazen as Sacred Space – Domyo – 2020-02-23
Zazen has practical value: It helps us feel more sane, have more equanimity and compassion, etc. However, entirely apart from whatever we might gain from our meditation, zazen plays an important role in our lives because it’s about making space for the sacred. What is sacred? Something that inspires reverence in us, something Greater. In Zen, what is most sacred is the mysterious and miraculous experience of simply being alive.
The Two Golden Rules of Bodhisattva Practice – Domyo – 2020-02-16
As aspiring bodhisattvas, we encounter all kinds of challenges: Difficult people, injustice, willful ignorance, and situations that are hard to witness, let alone accept. Through it all, we should be guided by two “Golden Rules” of bodhisattva practice: 1) Always be motivated by goodwill (no matter who, no matter what), and 2) Extend your sphere of care and responsibility as far as possible. Domyo talks about how we apply these rules in a sustainable way in our daily lives.
Maintaining a Strong Practice Outside the Zen Center – Domyo – 2020-02-02
A couple of weeks ago, Domyo asked people to submit questions to be addressed during a talk. Several of those questions had to do with how to keep our practice “alive” when we’re at home/away from Sangha, including: “What is practice?” “How do I make zazen a habit (like brushing my teeth?” “How much time should I meditate each day?” Domyo spoke Sunday on these topics and then invited others to share their own challenges and answers.
Soto Zen Koans from the Denkoroku – Shakyamuni – Domyo – 2020-01-26
By popular demand, this talk will center on a koan from the Soto Zen collection called the Denkoroku, or the Record of Transmitting the Light, by Zen master Keizan: “Shakyamuni Buddha saw the morning star and was enlightened, and he said, ‘I and the great earth and beings simultaneously achieve the Way.'”
Opening to Peace – Domyo – 2020-01-12
What does it like to feel inner peace? How does it manifest for you? What tends to undermine your inner peace, and how do you try to recover or strengthen it? Domyo and Sangha have a dialogue about these questions, and about how Zen teaches us to find peace by opening up to exactly what is.
Giving Shape to Our Lives: The Buddhist Practice of Vows – Domyo – 2020-01-05 Whether or not you make vows for the new year, this time of year naturally makes us think about the near future and what we’d like to see happen. In Buddhism and Zen, we understand that vow is what gives shape to our lives. On Sunday we talked about some classic Zen stories about vow, and discuss how we choose, make, and honor vows.
“Meditation Is NOT about Stopping Thoughts” – Domyo – 2019-12-15
Non-meditators, beginners, and long-time Buddhist practitioners alike tend to believe meditation is all about stopping our thoughts. This is a serious misunderstanding, and, sadly, keeps many people from embracing the practice of meditation. Even those of who meditate anyway tend to be frustrated with, or critical of, our meditation, because we rarely ever manage – if ever – to stop our thoughts. Domyo will talk about why we long to be thought-free, and how meditation is a practice of repeatedly turning our attention to something other than thought.
The Practical Value of Awakening to the Absolute Aspect of Reality – Domyo – 2019-11-30
Next week I’ll be taking a break from my busy life and all of my projects in order sit Rohatsu sesshin, a week-long, silent Zen meditation retreat. Every sesshin ends up feeling different, but based on my experience of the past 25 years, I anticipate next week will shift my whole perspective on life in a very important way. After spending the half-a-year since my last sesshin immersed in the relative aspect of life, the absolute aspect of life will come to the fore. Consequently, I’ll regain balance and see everything in a much larger context. In this episode, I’ll talk about what that feels like, and the value of awakening to the absolute aspect of reality when what you most want is to be is an effective agent for positive change in the relative world.
Engaging the Climate Crisis as a Koan – Domyo – 2019-11-24
In Zen, a koan is a spiritual obstruction – a limit to our understanding, freedom, authenticity, or compassion. We engage koans by leaning into them with curiosity and courage, because “passage” of, or through, a koan inevitably leads to growth and liberation. Our response to a koan is something that we live through our body, heart, and mind. The climate and ecological crisis is a koan all of us are facing, whether we want to or not. How do we respond? How do we live authentically? How do we fulfill our bodhisattva vows? How do we overcome our fear and despair? If we lean into this koan together, it can give us great strength and allow us to bring our many practice tools to bear. Rather than seeing response to the climate crisis as an adjunct to our Zen practice, we can embrace the challenge we’re facing as inseparable from practice.
“Gratitude, Compassion and Resilience” – Shintai – 2019-11-17
What is the connection between gratitude, compassion and resilience? This week, Shintai offers some thoughts about cultivating a spirit of gratitude and compassion for ourselves and others. Expanding our capacity for both of these qualities nourishes and fortifies us during times of difficulty.
Building Sangha – Domyo – 2019-11-10
We come to Brightway Zen Center to fulfill our any number of various needs and wants. Domyo discusses these and how the Center is able to provide such a wide array of fulfilling services. She briefly discusses the many things that members provide in support of the Center, big things to very small things which each make a big difference in our success.
“Brightening the Mind.” – Domyo – 2019-10-27
When we’re stuck in negativity, hopelessness, despair, discouragement, or lack of confidence, our practice obliges us – and allows us – to brighten our body-mind. We need to shift the state of our body-mind to positivity, active hope, a sense of empowerment and agency, and determination. We do this by first acknowledging how we’re feeling and thinking, investigating our experience with gentle curiosity, and then availing ourselves of practice and activities that allow us to let go, and restore our bright state of body-mind.
How do we begin to open a dialogue about race, our own racial experiences and more? – Shintai – 2019-10-20
How do we begin to open a dialogue about race, our own racial experiences and ways that our spiritual practice supports us in working towards racial justice for all beings? The very topic of race and racism can feel risky and make us all feel vulnerable to misunderstandings and confusion. For this week’s Dharma talk, Shintai draws on her own experience in completing the “Awakening to Whiteness” discussion series with Bright Way sangha members and “Courageous Conversation about Race” curriculum through her work place as a starting point to begin conversations with each other and to deepen our own self reflection about racial identity and racism.
“Forms in Zen Buddhism” – Domyo – 2019-10-13
Forms are really just the established customs and traditions of the way we do things when we are together. A dictionary entry describes form as the manner or style of arranging and coordinating parts for a pleasing or effective result. Domyo discusses a few of our various forms, giving us examples and showing us the customary way they are performed. For each one she explains why and how the form came about.
“More on Meditation – Shikantaza” – Domyo – 2019-10-06
Last week Domyo talked about three different kinds of meditation: Centering (or Calming), Cultivating (certain mind states or qualities), and Insight (or Investigating). She led us through short guided meditations of each kind. This Sunday Domyo talked about how Shikantaza (the Soto Zen practice of “just sitting”) relates to these three kinds of meditation, and lead us in a short guided “Zen” meditation. We explored Shintai’s observation after last Sunday’s talk, that in trying to do Shikantaza completely, we naturally employ the other kinds of meditation!
“Four Kinds of Meditation: Calming, Cultivating, Insight, and Letting Go” – Domyo – 2019-09-29
In Zen we emphasize shikantaza, or “just sitting,” which is about letting go of every willful activity beyond physically sitting upright and still. However, there are many kinds of meditation even within Buddhism. On Sunday, Domyo talked about three other kinds, as well: meditation meant to calm the mind, meditation meant to cultivate certain states of mind or qualities, and meditation to investigate, explore, and gain insight into our experience as human beings. We talked about examples of each kind of meditation and how the different kinds relate.
“A Path to Self Respect” A Founder’s Day Talk by Rev. Gyokuko Carlson – 2019-09-22
On this year’s Founder’s Day, Gyokuko Carlson, retired Abbot of Dharma Rain Zen Center, gives a talk about “A Path to Self Respect”. She describes a path available to those who follow the Buddha’s teachings. She also describes some of the traditional methods Soto Zen uses to help us on the path. She illustrates her talk with personal reflections of her various experiences in the monastery, at the Zen Center, and with her students.
“Picking Up and Putting Down” – Shintai – 2019-09-15
In Zen, one of our primary practices is to bring our attention gently back to the present moment again and again. Whether in meditation, working, or engaged in conversation, we cultivate clarity and being whole-heartedly present for whatever we are doing. What supports this intention and what gets in our way? This week’s Dharma Talk is all about this practice of picking up what is in front of us as completely as possible and putting it down again when it is time to move on to the next thing.
“The Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Loving Words” – Domyo – 2019-09-08
Domyo continues our study of 12th-century Zen master Dogen’s essay, Bodaisatta Shishobo, or what she calls the “Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings.” Domyo briefly defined the bodhisattva’s four “embracing actions,” which are practicing nongreed, loving words, beneficial action, and “being in the same boat” as other beings. Sunday, Domyo covered the section of the essay on loving words, or kind speech.
“You Can’t Hold Onto Stillness” – Domyo – 2019-09-01
If we’re lucky, our practices of meditation and mindfulness give us some sense of spaciousness, stillness, and silence. What about when we get up from the meditation seat? What about when we engage in activities more complicated and demanding than potentially calming manual tasks like weeding the garden, sweeping, or washing the dishes? Especially when we need to move quickly, multitask, or interact with others, it can feel like we can easily lose our thread of practice. However, practice in the midst of activity is different than practice in the midst of relative stillness and silence. We can’t carry the stillness with us except in a deep and subtle sense. Instead of trying to maintain the stillness of meditation or silent mindfulness, Zen master Dogen teaches us a better way to practice in the midst of activity: maintaining joyful mind, nurturing mind, and magnanimous mind. These qualities have the potential to grow even stronger as we get busier.
“Turning Towards Joy” – Thomas Bruner – 2019-08-18
Senior student Thomas Bruner shares his thoughts on turning towards joy. Thomas writes, “Buddha did say, ‘I teach suffering…’ but he went on to say, ‘…and an end to suffering.’ I think Zen tends to be better with the first than the second.”
What Does Buddhism Have to Say about Mass Shootings? – Domyo – 2019-08-11
Okay, Buddhism doesn’t actually say anything about mass shootings per se. But it does offer us ways to think about and practice with tragic events that help us maintain our sanity without resorting to denial or the suppression of emotions.
On Right Speech – Shoketsu – 2019-08-04
Right Speech is a central theme and one of our Precepts. Shoketsu explains it, what this concept means to us, and the many facets it affects in our lives. Shoketsu is a senior student at Brightway Zen Center.
Why Lineage is Important – Jyoshin Clay – 2019-07-28
Jyoshin Catherine Clay explains Lineage, how it works and why it is important to our Zen traditions. Jyoshin holds a B.S. in Genetics from the University of Kansas, and is currently working on an M.Div from Maitripa College in Portland. She spent several years as a tech in a neuroscience lab at the Vollum Institute at OHSU. She has been a member of Dharma Rain Zen Center since 2001, took Jukai in 2004, and became Kyogen’s student in 2006. He ordained her into the priesthood in 2008. She spent three months at Zen Mountain Monastery in New York in the fall of 2011. She served DRZC as shuso in 2014, with Hossen in 2015. She received Denkai transmission in December 2015. She has served as tenzo, precentor, and head of the jisha-ryo. Her interests include ceremony and ritual studies, and the use of form as a training tool. She enjoys facilitating small group talks and discussions. She regularly goes to give teaching at the Wy’east Zen Center in Sandy, Oregon. She currently serves as Assistant Kanin.
“Zen Students, Zen Teachers” – Shintai – 2019-07-21
Student-teacher relationship is central to our Zen lineage tradition, but what is it about and how does it function in modern times? This week’s talk offered by Shintai is about what students do and what teachers do and how this relationship can serve to support our practice in modern times.
Koans, Shikantaza and More – Rinzan Pechovnik, Osho – 2019-07-14
Rinzan began his training with the Zen Community of Oregon in 2003, studying under Hogan and Chozen Bays. He did his first sesshin that year and received jukai from Hogan Bays in 2005. In 2008, Rinzan traveled to China where he studied Buddhist traditions and toured and sat zazen at numerous monasteries and Buddhist sites. While still a member of ZCO, Rinzan served on the board of directors and completed training as a lay Sangha leader. He led a Buddhadharma recovery dialogue group, combining the wisdom of 12-Step traditions with the foundational teachings. He also helped codify lay training principles and laid out a path of practice for lay practitioners preceding jukai. He left ZCO and began training under Genjo Marinello in 2012, and ordained under him in 2013. That same year, Rinzan founded No-Rank Zendo as a place of practice that embraces the religious aspects of the Zen Buddhist cultural frame as well as the ordinary, everyday mind that embraces us all. Currently, Rinzan leads sesshin and zazenkai several times a year. He provides Dharma Interview for koan study and enjoys walking and having coffee with sangha members.
Zen Master Dogen’s “Bodaisatta-Shishobo” – Domyo – 2019-07-07
Domyo talks about an essay by Zen master Dogen called “Bodaisatta-Shishobo”, or “The Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings”. Given the many stressful and sad things happening in the world right now, it’s helpful to contemplate and aspire to enact the bodhisattva’s “four embracing actions:” Generosity, kind speech, beneficial action, and “sharing the same aim.”
Nine Fields of Zen Practice, Part 5, Karma Work. – Domyo – 2019-06-30
The self as we usually conceive it may be an illusion, but the self as a bundle of tendencies, habits, conditioning, and concerns is very real, and has tangible impacts in the world. As Buddhists we vow to take responsibility for our unique karma – the result of countless causes and conditions from the past – and learn to act more compassionately and skillfully for the sake of self and other. Taking care of our lives is part of the Bodhisattva Vow, but this work is also complementary to our work in the other fields; as Dogen said, studying the self leads to forgetting, or transcending, the self – and therefore to real spiritual freedom.
Nine Fields of Zen Practice, Part 4, Connecting With the Ineffable. – Domyo – 2019-06-16
Domyo continues our exploration of the Nine Fields of Zen Practice. Connecting with the Ineffable is one of the areas of practice we often find it difficult to get our mind around. To help us, she describes, defines and explains the concepts and techniques of Connecting with the Ineffable.
“Exploring the Journey of a Care Giver – Opening to Love, Strength, and Acceptance” Diana Keishin Saltoon-Briggs – 2019-06-09
Diana Keishin Saltoon-Briggs discusses Zen, Japanese Tea Ceremony, her book Wife, Just Let Go: Zen, Alzheimer’s, and Love, and more. More about Diana, her upcoming talk, and a poem can be found on our website by clicking here.
Nine Fields of Zen Practice, Part 3, The Precepts and Opening the Heart. – Domyo – 2019-06-02
Domyo continues our exploration of the Nine Fields of Zen Practice. She talkes briefly about Precepts (we study precepts annually so this is an aspect of our practice most of us are pretty familiar with), and then about the next field, Opening the Heart: Sometimes we get stuck in thinking practice is all about us, or that opening our hearts – to other people, all living beings, and the universe itself – is somehow extra. However, working explicitly to open the heart not only benefits living beings, it puts us in accord with the Dharma and supports all other aspects of our practice.
Sun Faced Buddha – Moon Faced Buddha. – Shintai – 2019-05-26
There is a koan story from the Blue Cliff Record called “Sun Faced Buddha, Moon-faced Buddha”. The story is this: “Great Master Ma was unwell. The temple superintendent asked him,”Teacher, how has your venerable health been in recent days?” The Great Master said, “Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Buddha”. A Sun Faced Buddha is said to live for 1,800 years, while a Moon Faced Buddha lives for a single day and a single night. Shintai gave this Dharma Talk and led the discussion about this well loved koan story.
Letting Go of the Dharma to Find the Dharma. – Myoju – 2019-05-21
The fruits of Dharma practice often eludes us because we search for it outside ourselves. It is “only when we take the light and shine it inward” that we begin to taste some freedom and liberation.
Nine Fields of Zen Practice, Part 2, “Cultivating Insight”. – Domyo – 2019-05-12 Continuing from last week, Domyo takes up the Field of “Cultivating Insight”.
Nine Fields of Zen Practice. – Domyo – 2019-05-05.
Zen practice can permeate every aspect of our lives. To help lay practitioners appreciate this outside the full-immersion experience of residential training, I’ve defined Nine Fields of Zen Practice: Zazen, Dharma Study, Cultivating Insight, Precepts, Opening the Heart, Connection to the Ineffable, Nyoho (according with the Dharma in everyday activities), Karma Work, and Bodhisattva Activity.
Its Not Enough to Respond to What’s Right in Front of You. – Domyo – 2019-04-21. The core of Buddhist practice is cultivating mindfulness of this moment and responding as best we can to whatever we encounter in the course of our personal, daily lives, but if we aspire to cease from harm and benefit other beings, this is not enough. We also need to cultivate awareness of, and take responsibility for, the repercussions of our actions throughout space and time – far, far beyond the limits of what’s right in front of us.
The Meaning and Value of Lineage. – Domyo – 2019-03-31.
On Sunday, April 28th, we have our first “Dharma Cloud Lineage” day. In preparation, Domyo presented a talk on what “lineage” means in Buddhism and Zen, and why it’s important. You may want to see the page on our website describing the lineage of our teachers and temple: Click Here.
The Five Hindrances. – Domyo – 2019-03-24.
We all know meditation and other aspects of Buddhist practice can be difficult. According to the Buddha, it’s useful to pay attention to exactly what’s going on when we’re feeling challenged. Any obstacle can be characterized as one of five hindrances: 1) Sense desire; 2) ill-will; 3) sloth-and-torpor; 4) restlessness-and-worry, or 5) uncertainty (or skeptical doubt). By identifying our hindrance, we get a better sense of what caused it to arise and how we can best overcome it, because the Buddha offered a number of teachings on the subject.
Unethical Buddhist Teachers – Were They Ever Really Enlightened? – Domyo – 2019-03-10.
Unethical and selfish behavior is incompatible with our Buddhist ideal of true enlightenment, and transgressing teachers are often exactly those held up as especially inspiring examples of realization and practice. What does all of this say about realization and practice? Were the teachers ever really enlightened?
Approaching Your Practice as a Lifelong Path of Growth and Transformation. Domyo – 2019-03-03.
It’s tricky: Our path is supposed to be about acceptance, letting go, and reaching the profound “goal of goallessness.” But we also aspire to the bodhisattva vow, which commits us to working diligently to fulfill vows so grand and noble they’re actually unachievable. On Sunday we talked about how to challenge your practice, honor your deepest aspirations, and cultivate a sense of spiritual urgency without getting caught in dualistic thinking (adequate versus inadequate, enlightened versus deluded, success versus failure).
“To Study Buddhism is to Study the Self” Shintai and Domyo’s Teacher, Rev. Gyokuko Carlson -2019-02-17
In this sad time of polarization and blame we all feel the pull to look for “the cure” and are tempted to despair when the cure seems elusive. Gyokuko talked about just one of the elements of self that can make matters more difficult.
Directed Effort vs. Relaxation in Our Meditation Practice. Domyo – 2019-02-05
Domyo said: “For the last year or so at Bright Way, I’ve been emphasizing shikantaza as a practice of relaxation, letting go, doing nothing, and relinquishing any techniques. After discussions with many people, I’ve decided it’s probably best to present people with two paths to the calm, clear, still mind so important in Buddhism. One is a relaxation/letting go approach like shikantaza, but employing directed effort in meditation (and practice off the cushion) is also, of course, an entirely legitimate and valuable approach.” Tuesday night we discussed the differences between directed effort versus relaxation practice, and how to know which practice is right for you.
Seng Ts’an’s “Faith in Mind”: Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t. Domyo – 2019-02-03
Do you think there’s something to gain in practice? Are you sure there’s nothing to gain in practice? Both wrong! Faith in Mind is a short text is about the koan of practice (we often recite it on weekday evenings) – how we have to find a dynamic, sincere, unscripted response to life without falling into either the trap of complacency, or the trap of striving. Click here for a copy of “Faith in Mind”.
Treating Each Thing as if it is Buddha. Domyo – 2019-01-20
We have a practice in Zen of trying to make even our smallest actions reflect the deep truths of the Dharma, including interdependence, impermanence, no-self, suchness, and Buddha-nature. I’m going to call this practice “Nyoho,” a Japanese term which means being in accord with (nyo) the Dharma (ho), even though this term is typically associated with a precise tradition of sewing Zen robes in accord with the Dharma (Nyoho-e). Nyoho goes beyond moral behavior or even the practice of compassion or generosity for other people, although both of those things are also essential in our practice. When we practice Nyoho, we look for opportunities to act in accord with the Dharma in the midst of our daily lives, and in very practical, physical ways. No act is too mundane or insignificant to perform with care. No object or being we encounter is beneath our respect or attention. We handle things gently, appreciatively, and appropriately – our pillows, toothbrushes, clothing, shoes, coffee mugs, doors, cars, and printers. We engage mundane activities like little sacred rituals, the same way we might offer incense at an altar, even if we’re straightening the kitchen after breakfast, bathing our toddler, or preparing a room for a work meeting.
The Way Seeking Mind. Shoketsu – 2019-01-20
Life is rich with experiences and things rarely go the way you expect them to. Shoketsu Ellen Carlin shares three dharma lessons she has gleaned from ten years of Zen Buddhist practice. She shares about scars from childhood, marriage, being a parent, and the importance of community. This is the first Way-seeking Mind (or Bodicitta) talk at Bright Way, but far from the last we hope!
Directed Effort vs. Relaxation in Meditation. Domyo – 2019-01-13
Domyo said: “For the last year or so at Bright Way, I’ve been emphasizing shikantaza as a practice of relaxation, letting go, doing nothing, and relinquishing any techniques. After discussions with many people, I’ve decided it’s probably best to present people with two paths to the calm, clear, still mind so important in Buddhism. One is a relaxation/letting go approach like shikantaza, but employing directed effort in meditation (and practice off the cushion) is also, of course, an entirely legitimate and valuable approach.” On Sunday we discussed the differences between directed effort versus relaxation practice, and how to know which practice is right for you.
I Shouldn’t Feel Like This – A Practitioner’s Conundrum. Domyo – 2019-01-08
Buddhism teaches that you can change the nature of your experience by changing your own mind and behaviors – increasing the proportion of your life spent feeling calm, confident, positive,and compassionate. Sometimes, after many years of effort, we experience negative thoughts and emotions and find ourselves thinking, “I shouldn’t feel like this.” I discuss how to practice with this conundrum, and suggest that sometimes our internal experience can’t or shouldn’t be changed, but simply tolerated.
Two Buddhist Emotions Important for Our Practice Samvega and Prasada. Domyo – 2018-12-02
“Buddhism is full of fascinating and useful concepts that help us make sense of our experience and engage our lives more skillfully. This week, I encountered two concepts that were new to me, and I feel like I’ve been looking for them all my life!” – Domyo Samvega and prasada are complex emotions the Buddha encouraged us to recognize and cultivate, and they really can’t be translated. About samvega, Thanissaro Bhikkhu writes, “It’s a hard word to translate because it covers such a complex range—at least three clusters of feelings at once: the oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that comes with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it’s normally lived; a chastening sense of our own complicity, complacency, and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly; and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle.” Prasada is similarly complex, but could be translated as “clarity and serene confidence.” Samvega is what inspires us to practice. It’s different than dukkha, which is dissatisfaction created by our own minds. Far from discouraging samvega, Buddhism embraces it, addresses it head on, and even encourages us to keep it alive. However, we need to balance samvega with prasada, a calm confidence in the path of practice that can free us from suffering. Join us for a conversation on these topics on Sunday. And to read more about samvega and prasada, read Thanissaro’s essay: Affirming the Truths of the Heart
The Ten Ox-herding Pictures: Descriptive Rather Than Prescriptive Stages of Practice. Domyo – 2018-11-04
(PDF of the Pictures we Discussed) In Zen, for the most part, we get no clear course of training and few external affirmations of whether we are doing it right, progressing, or achieving anything. How can we maintain our focus and motivation in Buddhist practice? In essence, we are asked to patiently and diligently to apply ourselves to a demanding and repetitive practice, and… well, that’s it. Still – there are stages in Buddhist practice. It is not that no development or progress occurs, it’s just that it is usually subtle and intimately entwined with our lives. In Zen, we have a lovely visual teaching – Ten Oxherding Pictures – that illustrates our stages of practice when we’re not trying to go anywhere besides right here.
Soto Zen Buddhist Association Conference Report. Domyo – 2018-09-30
The Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA) is about 17 years old and, so far, a professional organization of Soto Zen priests (although there’s talk of expanding it in the future to include lay Zen teachers and sangha membership, and Domyo would like to see this). Last week Domyo attended the 8th biennial SZBA conference at Zen Mountain Monastery in upstate New York. For our Dharma Talk, Sunday 9/30, Domyo gave a report on the conference and the important things she’s taken away from it. There’s also a brief report in the online Buddhist magazine “Lion’s Roar” you can read: “Soto Zen priests discuss diversity and privilege at biennial gathering”. That article includes the text of an inspiring equity statement created by members of the SZBA and proclaimed during the meeting.
Vow and Intention. Shintai – 2018-09-23
As autumn approaches, we naturally turn inward and intensify our practice. Shintai offers a Dharma talk and leads a discussion about how we turn towards our deeper aspirations and sustain this effort over time in the form of vows of practice. We explored the usefulness of vows and how to formulate vows.
Buddhist Practice: Dealing with Intrusive Thoughts and Emotions. Domyo – 2018-08-19
“Intrusive” thoughts and emotions arise repeatedly with enough intensity for them to be disturbing or distracting, even though they aren’t objectively relevant or helpful as they’re arising. In this talk Domyo describes how to use Buddhist practice – meditation and mindfulness – to reduce the intrusiveness of irrelevant or unhelpful thoughts and emotions by decreasing our identification with the content of our experience and increasing our identification with our natural, spacious awareness.
Zen Practices in Our Daily Lives. Fumyo – 2018-08-12
Dharma Teacher Fumyo talks on “Zen Practices in Our Daily Lives” also described as “Social Action Zen”, by Peter Matthiessen, and “Living a Life that Matters” by Bernie Glassman. He starts by describing why people come to Zen. In a fluid and cogent presentation, he includes portions of Dogen’s manual on Monastery Rules, Tenzo Kyokun, or Instructions to the Chief Cook.
The Value of Studying and Wrestling with Buddhist Teachings. Domyo – 2018-07-29
There are an almost overwhelming number of Buddhist teachings, and Zen emphasizes practice – particularly zazen and precepts – over what we know. Is it really necessary to study? Isn’t study just an intellectual exercise? Ideally, no. It’s extremely valuable (necessary?) to be familiar with foundational Buddhist teachings so they can give structure to our lives – context, direction, and framing. However, we don’t just accept the teachings in a rote way. The lively, fruitful aspect of the teachings arises when we wrestle with them – when we reflect on our own personal, direct experience in the light of the teachings. We ask, “What do the teachings say about this situation?” Then we wrestle: Do the teachings fit our experience? Do we understand the teachings? Do we resist them? Why? What do we think is true? When we find a place where the teachings and our experience meet, our understanding of the teachings is deepened and our life is truly informed by Buddhism. We can call this process “Dharma Reflection.” Domyo talks about this process, and also about how to go about studying the Buddhist teachings so you have the basis for Dharma Reflection. (What teachings should you know, and where do you begin – or continue – your study?)
Summer Practice. Zen Teacher Shintai Dungay – 2018-07-22
Summer is often a time of outward activity, often including family get-togethers, vacations, and enjoying the outdoors. It can be a time when the discipline we bring to practice loosens a bit–we may not sit quite as often and some of the reminders of practice that we have included in our day get forgotten at times. The relaxation that occurs in summer can be quite useful. It’s a time to reflect and ask “What of my practice feels integrated? and “What could use a little support?” We explored the topic of the practice of summer this Sunday.
Dealing with Fear, Anger, and Hatred as a Buddhist. Domyo – 2018-07-01
Domyo highlights some of the most important teachings of our tradition regarding how to deal with fear, anger, and hatred – our own, or that of others. We discuss how our practice can relieve us of some of the weight and stress of our own negative emotions, and how that doesn’t in any way decrease our capacity to respond with wisdom, compassion, and skillfulness. In fact, our practice, ideally, prepares us for the best possible response – which does not mean accepting or allowing destructive behavior from others.
Expectations and Assumptions. Zen Teacher Jyoshin Clay – 2018-06-10
Jyoshin is a monk and teacher at Dharma Rain Zen Center, a Dharma sister of both Domyo and Shintai. She’s also a regular teacher at Wy’East Zen Center in Sandy, and served as our tenzo for our first sesshin last August.
Our Luminous Mind, our Buddha Nature. Zen Teacher Fumyo Mishaga – 2018-05-27
When we look deeply into our own existence, into who we really are, and into what is our relationship to all that is surrounds, we confront the reality of what we Buddhists express as our Buddha Nature. This essence, our true nature, that we share with all beings makes it possible to realize enlightenment, to become Buddhas. Over the centuries, the experience of Buddha Nature has been expressed in different ways with various nuances. This Sunday, we explored some of those nuances of this life affirming belief and what it means to us personally and how it is manifested in our daily lives. Zen teacher Fumyo Mishaga is a Dharma brother of Domyo and Shintai, and has given a talk at Bright Way Zen before.
Greed: One Of The Three Poisons. Zen Teacher Shintai Dungay – 2018-05-13
This week’s Dharma talk will focus on the Buddhist teachings on greed, one of the three poisons or ways in which we create suffering for ourselves. Greed can show up in subtle and unexpected ways. We can be greedy for non-materials things like more time or more affection.
Greed, Hate, and Delusion: The Buddhist Teaching of the Three Poisons. Domyo – 2018-05-06
The Buddha taught that all harmful action and suffering arises from greed (or grasping), hate (or aversion), and/or delusion (or ignorance of the truth). However, instead of seeing human beings as tainted by these weaknesses or inclinations, Buddhism teaches that our experience is determined by our actions. As long as we recognize greed, hate, and delusion when they arise, we can choose to act based on non-greed, non-hate, and non-delusion instead. Domyo introduces this teaching and talks about how useful it is for navigating our own lives more skillfully, as well as how it could be a powerfully transformative teaching for whole societies.
What’s the Big Deal About Zazen? Domyo – 2018-04-29
Zen master Dogen wrote Bendowa in 1231 to introduce his Japanese students to Soto Zen. In a sense, then, it’s “Soto Zen in a nutshell.” Domyo introduces the text and the context in which it was written, and talks about how and why Dogen recommends zazen – seated meditation – above all other Buddhist practices. She also talks about how Soto Zen elevates zazen far above a mere method for achieving awakening to enactment of enlightenment itself.
Is this Spiritual Practice? Zen Teacher Shintai Dungay – 2018-04-22
At many stages of our practice, we ask ourselves, “Am I really practicing?” Sometimes it feels like nothing is really happening—-or there is the feeling that everyone else seems to know what what they are doing except you. This week, Shintai offers a Dharma Talk and leads the discussion about how we grapple with questions of what practice is and how we know if we are really practicing.
Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva and the Power of Compassion – Domyo – 2018-04-15 Avalokiteshvara is the archetypal bodhisattva of compassion, also called Guan Yin, Kannon, or Kanzeon. The many teachings and stories around Avalokiteshvara express the Buddhist view that compassion is a force unto itself – a reflection of interdependence and something that functions freely when we simply get ourselves out of the way. Rather than compassion being merely a feeling, something we create, or an ideal for personal conduct, we practice in order to tap into and more skillfully manifest the compassion that’s already inherent in the universe.
You Don’t Need to Improve or Get Anything to Fulfill the Buddha Way – Domyo – 2018-04-01
You don’t need to improve one iota, change anything about yourself, or obtain anything you don’t already have, in order to fulfill the Buddha Way and directly experience the ultimate goal of Zen. You don’t have to lose weight, overcome your anxiety or depression, deepen your compassion, end your addictions, or improve your relationships. You don’t have to understand Buddhism, master the art of meditation, or experience special insights. No need to perfect your morality, generosity, mindfulness, self-discipline, or become any more responsible or capable than you already are. Without a single improvement, without the addition of a single thing, this very moment you can awaken.
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Beyond Mindfulness: The Radical Practice of Unified Self – Domyo – 8-7-16 Domyo presents an alternative to mindfulness practice that she calls, for now, the “Radical Practice of Unified Self (or Presence).” She offers this because she believes the concept of mindfulness – at least the way it is typically understood – can limit our spiritual development. It can become a dualistic trap that causes us to reject much of what we are as human beings… She also says, “Before I explain, I want to state that I think it is essential that we start our practice with mindfulness. We also benefit from returning to that practice again and again over the course of our days and lives. What I’m going to talk about here is how we move beyond mindfulness and avoid (or drag ourselves out of) the potential pitfalls of the practice. I discovered these pitfalls by falling into them, so, in part, this is a confession of my own struggles with mindfulness…” Reconciling the Absolute and the Relative in Your Life – Domyo – 2015-02-15 Most of us experience the relative nature of our life more or less as default. This is the realm of duality: large and small, correct and incorrect, self and other. The relative is where we function, and this functioning requires discernment and attention to cause and effect. The absolute is the reality of our direct experience right here, right now, free of any conceptualization whatsoever. Experienced directly, everything is simply thus – inexplicably precious, luminous, and complete. Becoming personally intimate with the absolute nature of life is an essential step in our Zen practice. The absolute and relative are not just complex spiritual concepts. They are at the center of every pressing human question, from the personal to the global. Keeping Vows And Resolutions – Domyo – 1-5-14 Whether our intention is to meditate more, get in shape, manage our time better, keep in touch with family, or be more generous, it is useful to clarify and state our intention in terms of a vow or resolution. But why is it vows or resolutions are so often forgotten or broken? What can we do to help ourselves maintain them? How can we carefully craft our vows so they are doable but still inspiring? How can a vow reflect our deepest aspiration, instead of being a thinly veiled rejection of part of ourselves? Four Elements Of A Bodhisattva’s Social Relations – Domyo – 12-22-13 Dogen Zenji wrote “Four Elements of a Bodhisattva’s Social Relations” in 1243, but it is still very relevant today. A Bodhisattva is an “enlightening being” – one who continues to enlighten her or himself, and works to support others on their path to awakening. According to Dogen, a Bodhisattva does this through 1) free giving; 2) kind speech; 3) helpful conduct, and 4) cooperation. Change Without Violence – Domyo – 12-15-13 How do we identify things we want to change in our lives and in ourselves without indulging in subtle rejection, which breaks the precept “do not kill”? The Noble Eightfold Path – 11/10/2013 We don’t talk about the Eightfold Path very often in Zen, but Zen includes all the same elements – we just refer to them a little differently, or assume they are part of our practice. It can be useful to hear the Dharma phrased and described in different ways – sometimes something sinks in because we hear it for the first time in a new way. The Eightfold Noble Path: Right view/understanding/knowing, Right resolve/intention, Right speech, Right action, Right livelihood, Right effort, Right mindfulness, Right concentration The Four Divine Abidings – 11/3/2013 The Four Divine Abidings, or the Four Immeasurables, are an ancient Buddhist teaching on peaceful and intimate relationship – with other beings, and with everything. They are loving-kindness (metta), compassion (karuna), empathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha). Inviting Our Ghosts to Be Present with Us – 10/27/2013 In the fall, Zen Buddhists celebrate the Segaki festival, or the festival of the hungry ghosts. “Ghosts” can be the persistent and troubling memories of people we have lost, but ghosts can also be unresolved karma of other kinds. It is very tempting to avoid or repress our ghosts, so during Segaki we consciously invite them to be present with us for a while. This allows us to remember and acknowledge them, learn from them, and maybe even take a step toward the resolution that will allow them to leave us in peace. (In this talk we read an article on Segaki aloud, written by Kyogen Carlson, which can be found here: http://dharma-rain.org/on-segaki/) Bringing All of Our Selves Together A “self” is way we manifest at particularly times, in particular situations. A self is always changing, but it does have some continuity in terms of tendencies, energies and habits of thought. Using this manner of speaking, you have lots of “selves:” a parental self, a child self, a politically righteous self, a sad, discouraged self, an angry self, a teacher self, a daydreamy self, a greedy self… We need all of our selves to participate in Zen practice. We may hope to exclude, reform or banish some of our selves, but it’s not going to work. Any self that we fight will only fight back, and prevent us from finding any peace in our practice. Instead, we need to gently and respectfully encourage each self to participate in practice. The more “selves” we get together on the cushion, the more energy and motivation we have for practice. Stages of Practice When You’re Going Nowhere With no clear course of training and no external affirmations of whether we are doing it right, progressing, or achieving anything, how can we maintain our focus and motivation in Zen practice? In Zen we are taught to give up petty ideas about attainment and to realize there is no place to go other than right here. In essence, we are asked to patiently and diligently apply ourselves to a demanding and repetitive practice, and… well, that’s it. There’s nobility in this kind of goalless patience and diligence, but how realistic is it to expect it from Zen practitioners who don’t have their black belts yet? After all, goallessness is a goal, not something that comes easily (unless you are actually just uninspired). Not Needing to Have an Opinion It’s rather amazing, but it possible to experience something without having to judge it, evaluate it, or form an opinion about it. Instead, you rest in don’t-know mind – leaving you more receptive and objective.