Category Archives: Zen

True Expression

Hello Friends,

I’m excited to let you know about a brand new retreat I’ll be offering here on Salt Spring Island next summer from July 20 – 27, 2013.

It is one of my deepest convictions that in order for us to live as we were meant to live, we must find ways to express authenticity, intimacy and joy in every way we can.

True Expression is the first time I’ve combined my approach to meditation, yoga, writing and art in a retreat format that will inspire and nourish expression that is authentic, enjoyable and true. In addition to the retreat itself, I know you’ll love the serene and gorgeous environment of the location [not to mention the delicious meals we’ll provide!] so if this sounds good, please read on.

Participation is extremely limited and people are already signing up, so if you’d like to know more about True Expression, please go to the website and have a look. If you think of a friend or someone else who might like to attend with you or on their own, I thank you for sending the link along.

Please also feel free to contact me through this site if you have any questions about the retreat.

Wishing you all the best, I hope to hear from you soon.





It’s been quite some time since I added to these notes, but this morning something clicked in while writing to a dear friend, poet and author Deena Metzger. When I was done writing to her, it occurred to me to post it here for others to read and, who knows?, possibly enjoy. She and I were having a rare visit since I live far north of her digs, and, as we tend to do, the conversation veered toward language and the marvelous possibilities it holds, especially in the realm of the origin of words where, I feel, the extraordinary early intuition of human beings can often be found.  I’m posting this, pretty much as written to Deena, but please consider it might also be a letter to you. After all, given that I’m posting it, it is:

And so —

In Consideration

a funny thought jumps in after reconsidering our conversation about the words consider and its dear cousin, considerate, viz: if, as we talked about, the etymology of the word consider does, in fact, imply that to be considerate is to align oneself with, as it were, the stars,

from com meaning with” + sidus (gen.sideris) meaning “constellation” cf. sidereal,

it could point to two well known phrases that make pre-tty curious buddies, all in all:  “not my will, but thy will” and “may the force be with you”.

Now, even as I write these seemingly odd linguistic companions, with, of course, a smile now I see what they are, especially the latter, I am put in mind of how everything tends to bend one a little more and then a little more again toward the earth as we age. A kind of gravitational pull, then. We grow smaller in body and, often, the head seems to more naturally bow. I like this part especially since, as you know, it is my conviction that we could never bow respectfully or in gratitude enough. Call it spiritual aerobics, if you will, but whatever one says, and no matter how anaerobic this gesture may tend to be, I believe it is, as the fitness gurus tell us, ‘good for you’.

Of course, if things go well, this growing smaller in body does not include the largesse of heart’s compassion, or the expansiveness of the mind in one’s consideration of “the great matter of birth-and-death”, as Dogen said, but even one’s shadow makes a less considerable mark on the planet as we continue to move here and there, as and where we can, and I can’t help but feel the benefit of this as well.

When People Ask Me “What’s my sign?” I Often Think “Enter”

I’m no astrologer, as you know. I continue to refuse to know or even pretend to know anything about how this star, that star, or various clusters of stars and planets may or may not affect who and how and what as we go about our daily lives. When I was a boy I was given a glow in the dark Bulova watch with a silver wrist band that held it snugly to me. At night, I’d place it beside my bed where I could reach it and then, with the obsessive repetition of both the lover and the child, reach over in the pitch dark of my bedroom again and again to see the watch face glow. Often I’d feel that I was looking into the heavens at some marvelous planets or stars, and the steady and consistent turning of the so-called second hand made me feel that I was witnessing the wheeling of the planets around the sun. No one, I knew, could convince me that I wasn’t seeing exactly this, though I never spoke of this with anyone lest they come up with that ubiquitous killer of a child’s imagination when in the hands of a well meaning though pedantic adult: information.

I haven’t lost this quality of fascination, by the way, born of knowing very little but what the imagination produces in response to the world before me, and so my refusal to be involved with signs and houses and all of the language of astrology that I’ve heard since the sixties is rooted in my simple desire to be able to look up at the night sky, as I often do, and see the stars shining without the obscuration of knowing a thing about them except that they are marvelous to behold beyond anything I might be able to say about them or pretend to understand. The stubborn insistence of child’s vision, or a poet’s wanting to be careful not to fill his head too close to the top with unneeded data has not damaged me all that much, I believe, so all goes well. [And, if it has, would I know?]

What The Other Foot Says

Now that I’ve made my case against knowing of a certain kind, and I feel it is rock solid with the absolute conviction of a child who knows his paper sailboat can take him around the world, let me speak briefly while standing on the other foot. I love knowing everything about everything I can know about, since it is often the case that I am equally fascinated by the slightest detail in a way no different from my fascination with my beloved Bulova watch. After all, it is often the case that one minor, usually overlooked detail or fact will consume me for days or weeks as it makes its way through the darkness of the imagination until even I can see the glowing seed it has become, that holy causation of an outbreak of poetry which nothing can inoculate against except that other killer of the imagination: lack of attention.

And, to push my cart further down the aisle just a wee bit more before I end, or at least this note does, I feel it is very much my obligation to know what I can as a way of respecting the thingness of things, the process of processes [prounounced pro-cess-sees in my mind] in this never-ending spin of interconnection that gives us the world we live in and, hopefully, tend with a tenderness it deserves and increasingly needs.

And so now I go, knowing not knowing and unknowing into the day with wonder in my heart and love, as always, at the fore. In other words, Good Morning. It’s so good to talk with my friend.


A wild ride for them what likes ’em – on a day when Easter, Passover, the Buddha and Spring share a cup o’ tea








Caution: Curves Ahead!!

Okay, I admit it; this may be a bit of a ride, but it was an awful lot of fun to write, so if you are able to buckle up, there’s a bit of retelling of some stories that may sound almost familiar by the time I’m done.  My Easter-Passover-Buddha’s Birthday-Spring present for those of you who can handle the turns.  And, with apologies to the others. But, honestly, I do hope you enjoy!

This morning a very dear friend in New York sent a note that included this innocent and quite thoughtful two sentences:

The word “Easter” and most of the secular celebrations of the holiday, come from pagan traditions. Anglo Saxons worshipped Eostre, the goddess of springtime, and the return of the sun after the long winter.

And, so, since this friend is a friend of long standing, as they say, (though I have invited her to sit down many a time) I wrote her a playful reply. But when I was done with my epistolary response, which might be seen by some as an apostle’s epistle (oh, the mood is good this morning, I warn thee) I thought some of the people in our Zen sangha, and some others of you, might enjoy a bit of it, because today, after all, is the day called Buddha’s Birthday by some in our tradition – and so I send my reply to my dear friend as a bit of a birthday card to all of you, with love. But put on yr seat belts, as I said; the line for the ride starts here:

“Dear N —

Ah, yes, but let us go back further to the Greeks, even following this nutcase friend of yours (me!) who once wrote in a poem about Eos, the Greek Goddess of Dawn, from which the Dayglo Saxon’s, to whom you refer in your note and who worshipped Eostre, may have gotten The Big Idea.

And then let’s go back even further, knowing without question that even before language may have reduced itself to greater complexity from the simple, direct pointing of the good old grunt, folks in the old days, like, the real old days before calendars and possibly even before time, noticed and said in their monosyllabic manner: Hey, it’s warmer; look, flowers; wanna do it? Which is why one never truly needs to move past the grunt as a complete means of communication for what “stirs the loins and makes the poor heart sing.”

Of course, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti was sadly too often right when he wrote, “but in the morning, she has terrible teeth, and really hates po-e-try”, for, after all, the pleasures of conversation are not small, tend to last longer than ‘the act’, and definitely are highly valued in our little cabal, wot?

And then around 2600 years ago comes this guy who says, in a way that prefigures the Beatles, “Yeah yeah yeah, that’s nice, but who put all these dead bodies outside my father’s palace?  They’re mucking up my illusion.”

And so he wanders, very much in the style of the Dusty Springfield rock’n’roll hit that went, Just wishin’, and hopin’, and thinkin’, and prayin’, until he finally realized he hadn’t realized anything, and so, dumbfounded (which is pretty much an accurate description of how I’ll be found, though possibly not alone) he sits down and shuts up and after a while has a visitation from the big Sh-zam!

Whoa!  He opens his eyes after sitting for a mere onetwothreefourfivesixseven days and nights and there she is, just like she always was, the Morning Star, only Big Belly (having been an acetic for years prior to this, this image is likely not an apt description) had never noticed it quite as it really was before: shining with no discernable inside or outside, upside or downside, me-side or you-side, self-side or other-side, etc.

For in that moment what came to life, just like a wee daffodil (get the theme, here: dumb founded, daff-odill? I’m telling you I’m hot after this morning’s zazen and the subsequent tiny bit of lovin’ called espresso) was a realization so great that even he couldn’t miss.

So, Old BB let loose with that good old fashioned Buddhist shout out which goes (repeat after me): Whoa! and which is often translated in spiritual communities as Wow! And further which is a major part of what some Buddhists might mean when they bow – infrequently but many times accurately called around my house “the Bow Wow”, which ends the question of whether or not a dog has buddha nature as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway – back to the tatter of story ’bout the glory: Sure enough, the young Siddhartha lad opens his eyes and everything else he is and he sees it and sees it clear: The Morning Star. Me. Whole World. Just One life. Or something of that order.

And all that wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ is in there, too, with its catchy little melody, so, no tears on this Dusty Spring Field Day; not a wet whit or whisper. And so he, like everything on the earth around him, is warmed by the growing enlightenment of what is, as the dawn and his dawning turns into day, and he figures, “Hey! Not bad. Not bad at all. And, not good either – but, why mess with people’s heads?  I’ll stick to Whoa!

And, forever after, as forever before, don’t you know, since we must remember this is part of what in that big Studio in the Sky the Engineers call Recorded History, and in the pre-vinyl days when a needle was something you looked for in a haystack, or a piercing light ray, they probably had this understanding down like feathers on a duck, so don’t get all Extra! Extra! read all about it about it since the real news ain’t new, don’t you know, it’s just us finally tuning in on the Good Old Radio Dial — anyway, forever after, people started saying Happy Birthday Buddha round about now.  And this is part of the why.

And now I must rest, believe me, because it takes a lot of energy to use so many words to say so little when all I wanted to do in response to your missive was break into a chorus of a song by Stevie Wonder (note the name, fellow logos monsters, for right now ’tis the season for it for sure) and sing: I just called to say I love you.

and I do –


For the new






Hi Everyone

I’ve been a nonblogger for a bit longer than I had thought to be, but I suppose all I can say is “I was gone”, and in a most wonderful way.  I had the opportunity, for the first time, to go to Maui in Hawaii – and, also for the first time, to snorkel. I have to tell you, I was so overwhelmed by the immense beauty of our world right there under the water, I forgot to breathe and almost got into trouble. Not the best way to snorkel, by the way, but I couldn’t help it – just to see the astounding life going on right beneath the surface of the ocean was almost more than I could take.

Truly, we know so little of our world, and yet all it takes is a peek below the usual, the expected, the predictable, the world of that lie of contemporary life called ‘been there done that’, which tries to tick off actual life experience as if it was balancing a cheque book. Bah! Humbug!

The Year of the Snorkel Meets The Year of the Dragon

So, here’s a thought, or, something that might like to glorify itself as one: why not make this a snorkeling year, with the proviso that we will remember to breathe; breathe life into our lives, our works, our doing, our understanding, as we make ourselves available to what is right in front of us, though we may not have noticed it before, or forgot, in the haze of living, to keep looking.

Some of you may know, by the way, that the word spirit comes from animus, and animus is rooted in the Indo-Europeon seed syllable ane, which means ‘breath’. So, spirit and breath can never be separated, and it’s a pretty good reminder, not to mention a great ad for meditation. I hope you don’t mind this tangent, but I love how etymology can sometimes show how wise the earliest intuitions or our species prove to be.

Okay, back to snorkeling: we can practice this at first with ourselves and see if we can see beneath the surface of who and what we are a little more than usual. It does take a bit of courage, truth to tell, since we tend not to want to have anything push us off our well worn spot, but it’s worth the doing, especially in a hunt for beauty, or any other salient thing.

Or, if we are really brave, we might try doing this with someone we care about, like a partner or spouse, or even a child that drives us to distraction (there’s a phrase!) I know it’s more convenient to believe that what we think about those close to us is really true – ah, if only they could see it (my way!) – but why not give ‘em a break and see what’s really there.

And, finally, if we find ourselves in an ecumenical mood, how about peeking below the surface of someone we tend not to like so much? Maybe one of those super heroes of our personal pantheon we like to dislike and who might be called, in typical superhero language, one of The Annoyers. I hear they have some extraordinarily beautiful colours and stripes, but we have to be willing to strip down our view of them a little and put a bit more effort into looking in order to see them as they are.

Turtles, Picasso and a Capital A

While snorkeling in Maui, I got to spend a full half hour no more than 5 meters from shore with two feeding turtles. And, I don’t mean little turtles from our childhood aquariums, for these were easily 3 feet in length. Old ones, they were. They were bobbing and eating and floating and flowing with the movement of the current and the waves, and they allowed me to be within 4 feet of them yet remained undisturbed.

Perhaps they could tell I was no threat, more of an amazed onlooker who, this time, remembered not to hold his breath. I can’t tell you the effect of seeing these beauties, but it was not small. And, just to raise the stakes, some fish whose unofficial name is Picasso fish for reasons that are obvious when you see them, (just take another look at the photo at the top) moved in and out of the turtle feeding area. Local colour enough to thrill my heart and blow what’s left of this wee mind.

Here’s to a good year for all – though I might spell that last word with a capital A just to tell you what’s really in my heart. Truly, each one of us (and here comes the pun since despite the fact that it’s early morning, I can’t hold back any longer) a treasure in the swim of things.

If you enjoyed this and feel like letting a friend know about this or other entries, thank you so much.




As the light starts clicking down

[You can read the following entry and those of similar interest by going to Zen in the navigation bar up above.  Hope you enjoy.]

Daylight’s getting shorter. Here in the north country the thermometer hovers around zero Celsius. The smell of snow is in the air; people telling each other at the till when I went to town the other day to get some groceries.  “Soon,” they say, and everyone knows what they mean.

This morning, just after getting the fire going in the woodstove, I remembered a brief passage Gary Snyder wrote in his tanker notes on December 8, 1957, somewhere out in the Arabian Sea.  Just a quick conversation between ship mates, but it’s stayed with me and helped me out on more than one occasion:

Caruso: It’s a long way to Suez.

Duperont: It ain’t a long way, man, it’s just you got a short mind.

I can’t help but notice the date of this entry, December 8th.  It’s the day Zen folks commemorate the Buddha’s enlightenment and remember the story of him sitting with great determination for many days beneath the bodhi tree until that morning, at dawn, when out of the vastness of the night he looked up, saw the morning star, and realized the oneness of all things.  Why that day?  Why that star? To ask the question is to go a little further into our own vast sky and the knowledge of what we are.

Maybe it’s just a story, the kind people tell at this dark time of year to help each other remember the light.  People like such stories and there are plenty of them the world around. Or, maybe it’s true. It hardly matters, as I see it.  What matters to me is to remember that delicious phrase, “it’s just you got a short mind,” and to do what I can about it.

Happy early winter days, everyone. Let’s try and make it to Suez together, any way we can.

Beyond the lines of these hills

there is another line

no one can see — together

may we get across.