Archive for May, 2014

A friend brought in a bunch of books this morning to the zendo to share and for us to take if we wanted them.  One little book of poetry caught my eye, The Poetry of Zen, translated by Sam Hamill and J.P. Seaton so I took it in my hands, quickly opened it at random, and read.

When I got  home I made myself a delicious iced coffee with hazelnut creamer and sat down with great expectations.  I was not disappointed, as usual!  The poetry of the great Zen and Taoist masters is profound. I hope you enjoy this small sample as much as I did.

Shih Te

(8th Century)

Five Poems

You say, “If you want to be happy

There’s no way, but to be a hermit.

Flowers in the grove are better than brocade,

Every single season’s colors new.

Just sit by a creek and turn your head

To watch the moon’s ball roll.”

And me? I ought to be at joyous ease,

But I can’t help thinking of the people in the world.[1]


It seems as though if I am part of the “people in the world” and I want to be happy all I need to do is to stay in the moment, appreciate the flowers, the season’s colors, the moon, appreciate everything that comes within my vision or my grasp.  Choose to really see it, really experience it, and really let it penetrate my mind, body, and spirit.  Allow myself to be at ease and joyous.  If not, forever, at least for this moment.

Then what?  Remember that there is only “this moment” so “if you want to be happy” and have a peace filled life simply allow yourself to be happy!  Be at peace with yourself, your thoughts, and your surroundings and the happiness will spontaneously appear. Don’t try to force it or manipulate it or even hope for it, just be it.

Peace to the people in the world starts with me—right here, right now.



[1] Hamill, S. and Seaton J.P. (2007). The Poetry of Zen.  Shambhala: Boston, MA

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I felt compelled to share this beautiful writing with all of you and hope you are blessed and moved by it. In gassho, Shoaki

Zen Warrior

mountain sunriseFor What is Life

For what is life if we have not bowed to a sunrise on top of a mountain
or climbed a tree because it was there
or breathed the dew off a honeysuckle like a newborn
or felt the tears of a cloud as we danced in the rain

For what is life if we have not given our heart fully, without condition
or cried all night with a loved one
or laughed at the insignificance of it all
or stared at a child in wonder and awe at the beauty of a human being

For what is life if we do not live on the edge, far away from ordinary
or let go of fear, and words like CAN’T and NORMAL
or live with love, completely without boundaries
or find grace and humbleness in every action that we take

For what is life if we do…

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I began thinking this morning about writing a new blog on my series on peace and just could not come up with a good idea, so I decided to go visit my friend who is in the hospital. I am helping her learn some breathing techniques and some Unity principles on health and healing so she can get back on her feet for GOOD! I figured the driving would clear my mind and sure enough it did.

When I got in the car I turned on the radio and one of my favorite Bette Midler songs came on, kismet you might say! She was singing From a Distance what a beautiful treatise on peace. So in case you haven’t heard it lately here is a link to the song and the words [emphasis and changes mine]. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bettemidler/fromadistance.html

“From A Distance”

From a distance the world looks blue and green,
and the snow-capped mountains white.
From a distance the ocean meets the stream,
and the eagle takes to flight.

From a distance, there is harmony,
and it echoes through the land.
It’s the voice of hope, it’s the voice of peace,
it’s the voice of every man.

From a distance we all have enough,
and no one is in need.
And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease,
no hungry mouths to feed.

From a distance we are instruments
marching in a common band.
Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace.
They’re the songs of every man [person].
God is watching us. God is watching us.
God is watching us from a distance [from within].

From a distance you look like my friend,
even though we are at war.
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
what all this fighting is for.

From a distance there is harmony,
and it echoes through the land.
And it’s the hope of hopes, it’s the love of loves,
it’s the heart of every man [person].

It’s the hope of hopes, it’s the love of loves.
This is the song of every man [person].
And God is watching us, God is watching us,
God is watching us from a distance [from within].
Oh, God is watching us, God is watching.
God is watching us from a distance [from within].

This is given prayerfully from my house to your house this Memorial Day Weekend in memory of all those who have been killed or injured in a war ever, anywhere on planet earth and beyond.  Namaste…

In gassho, Shokai


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Life is ever changing filled with to-do lists, projects, family, children, work, play, birth, death, life, sickness, happiness, love, leisure, health, and hopefully some lollipops and kisses…

Which pieces are you missing? Which pieces have taken over your life? Which pieces have left you without peace, contentment, or joy? Today is the perfect day to sit down and take a truthful look at your life. There is an old saying that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” I may not agree with that quote; however, I do think it is a good thing to examine one’s life on occasion. Today might be just such a day.

Many people believe that they are great muti-taskers and that it helps them get done much more than the next guy or gal. However, multi-tasking has been described in the recent research as “a road map to disaster” and leads to: confusion, tension, mistakes, madness, melancholy, missed steps, forgetfulness and much more. Some days when I try to multi-task I feel like all of these things are happening to me simultaneously! How about you?

There is the most wonderful book on the planet written by a brilliant woman, Christian McEwen, entitled World Enough & Time on Creativity and Slowing Down (2011). She writes about this subject beautifully in her book and she calls it “Hurry Sickness.”

Such “hurry sickness” (the phrase originates with Dr. Larry Dossey) speeds up our heart and breathing rates, leading to ulcers, hypertension and high blood pressure, along with a growing dependence on alcohol and cigarettes. The Chinese ideogram “busy” is made up of two characters, “heart” and “killing,” and this is accurate: the new emphasis on speed and efficiency is quite literally, damaging our hearts. Computers operate in nanoseconds, and we try, vainly, to keep up, like an old dog panting along behind his master’s sports car. But a nanosecond is only a billionth of a second, and humanly cannot be experienced, so our effort to synchronize ourselves is doomed to failure. Are we happy nonetheless? Are we enjoying ourselves? We are moving too fast to come up with an answer (page 21).[1]

She is right you know. When was the last time you can actually say you were “happy”? When was the last time you laughed so hard tears rolled down your cheeks? When was the last time you laughed so long that the muscles in your face actually hurt? Is it so long ago that you can’t even remember?

McEwen goes on to write:

Consider a world without sidewalks, a world where loitering is forbidden and musing is seen as a synonym for befuddlement or confusion. It’s a world stuck in fifth gear, a world where there is no time to look forward or backwards, only the bleating nanosecond of the present. It is becoming, alas, the world in which we live (page 21).[2]

In our Buddhist and mindfulness training we learn to live in the now moment where wellness exits, where we make time for the simple things, where we do one simple thing at a time! “Oh, what a relieve it is” as they say in the Alka-Seltzer commercial. And why do we remember that line so easily and quickly? Because our lives are so frenetic and busy we always have a packet of it in our purse, or desk drawer, or medicine chest!

So here are a few suggestions to help you live a piece of your life in peace and tranquility:

Make time for the simple things:

Simply listen

Simply see

Simply hear

Simply feel

Simply love

Simply laugh

Simply sing

Simply be

Doing these things will create simple wellness in your life!

Do one simple thing at a time:

When walking simply walk

When eating simply eat

When listening simply listen

When looking simply see

When feeling simply feel

When cooking simply cook

When living simply live!


Peace of Mind: The wealth without which you cannot really be wealthy.

This I wish for all of you! Namaste, Shokai


[1] McEdwen, C. (2011). World Enough & Time on Creativity and Slowing Down. Bauhan Publishing: Petersborough, NH

[2] Ibid.


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Throughout this series I have stressed the idea that “peace begins with me” and so long as I am not at peace with myself how can I see peace in others or be a part of a community of peace. I remember someone saying that some of the most un-peaceful people he had ever met were at a peace rally!

Thanissaro Bhikkhu writes in this wonderful book MEDITATIONS2 , “The Buddha said that the mind can be at peace only when it’s one, but for most of us there are two, three, four, five, six voices going at it, with all their different values and preconceptions… (page 150)”[1] You see we can be at war with ourselves as easily as with other individuals, groups, religions, countries and in the future maybe even worlds!

Peace is an elusive thing. One minute I have it and the next minute I don’t. It can be as simple as hearing something on the news that will yank me right out of the peaceful state I’ve been in. Or maybe it is the ringing of the phone in the middle of my meditation. Or perhaps a judgmental or critical thought pops up about a friend or relative. One minute I am practicing mindfulness while eating and the next minute my mind has moved out of peaceful contemplation on the plate of food before me into criticism or jealousy or pain.

Why oh why is peace so hard to maintain? Thanissaro Bhikkhu goes on to say, “We hold onto so many things not because we like them but because we’re afraid that if we don’t hold onto them something even worse is going to happen (page 150).[2] And thus these thoughts pop up at any time and in any place! The power of the mind is incredible and will draw us away from the most beautiful meditation for what seems to be no reason at all. So what is the solution?

He gives us some simple advice to deal with the rambling persistent voice in our head!

If anything gets in the way of concentration, put a question mark next to it. Do you really believe that? Is that kind of thinking really right? Is it really useful? When you start asking yourself this question, you begin to see how much you’ve been holding onto things you’ve never really examined in the past. You just accepted them because other people said they were true, or they sounded right, or maybe they worked once, and then you held onto them as a habit. So you have to make it a rule within yourself: An unexamined voice isn’t worth listening to (page 150-51). [3]

Thus it is important for us to learn how to examine our beliefs about the things that are drawing us away from our peace.

He goes on to say:

You need to learn how to see through those voices. That’s what they are: just disembodied voices floating around there in the mind. Learn how to put a question mark next to them saying, “I wonder if that’s really true? Maybe I can look into it some other time.” Then put the issue aside and go back to work, focusing on the breath (page 151).[4]

What appeared to be that elusive peace can return easily and you can regain your composure and focus and simply: be peace. Let’s try it now. Close your eyes, take three deep slow breaths, and count one on the in breath and two on the out breath. . .be one with your breath.

AHHHHHHHHH that felt great! Peace at last in mind, body, and spirit. Keep it up—I think you’ll like it if you do!


[1] DeGraff, G (Thanissaro Bhikkhu), Meditations2 Dhamma Talks, The Abbot Metta Forest Monastery, Valley Center, CA

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

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April 28, 2014 azaleas 010

Chasing after the world
Brings chaos.
Allowing it all to come to me
Brings peace.

Zen Gatha

Photo by Woodland Gnome 2014

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