Friday, April 30, 2010


This week continues the themes of slowness, more tears (and adds the theme of "lineage"). It begins with a package that arrived on Monday that looked so big for a CD. Wasn't until I opened it that I realized I'd purchased the vinyl version of Dengue Fever Presents: Electric Cambodia. So I got my parent's turntable out of the storage locker and gave it a spin...

The drala principle like the out breath is analog, orbits at 33 and a third and can decorate the walls if the grid goes down. Finding the beginning of more tears wasn't hard watching the album spin on the dusty turntable and suddenly feeling my body thirty years ago, before answering machines, cell phone radiation and light emitting diodes. The digital stimulation we carry in our nervous systems is a shared subtle suffering, a speed up and faint daily torture. I long for my manual typewriters yet have committed myself to the Macbook screen. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

On Tuesday I received an e-mail from my longtime friend Don Myer (who has been helping me edit an article I'm writing; Don can spot a typo across the room whereas I can be looking at one for three minutes and still not see it). Don has journeyed from a house stocked with bone white dinnerware, Bose CD players and other gizmos to homeless though not broke mendicant (he sold house and has the proceeds) to moving back in with his mother to shepherd her as best he can in advanced old age and dying. He takes care of her body and declining mind, along with his now sick and dying dog, Pele. Don has offered me countless meals and a place to sleep and his daughter Haley and my son Devin (both now age 26) were born within three months of each other.

Don Myer, 2009

Don is a generous and genuine human being and I adore him. This selection from his e-mail shows the sense of humor, curiosity and empathy that must be the weave of the human heart; a three-fold coil of joy that allows us to confront it all:
Thunder and rain here as I watch my procrastinations all evening to get down and read the article with note pad in hand. Twice I fell into a deep slumber, laptop a warm blanket but still feeling the exhaustion of my almost all-nighter. Pele shit right near me. It was the largest thing I'd ever seen. Like some alien movie. Poor thing. The disease makes her voraciously hungry and thirsty and she has access to unlimited dry food that usually she is not that interested in. That got my attention and woke me.
Don teachers Kundalini Yoga and is also a photographer. He worked many years in commercial photography and his own photographs are universally admired among his friends and family. He stayed up all night, getting around to editing my piece and finding some photographs - both "found" photos and his own - that  I could use on this site. I don't really know the history of them, or if he's given them names (so I've used the JPEG titles)

House, Ice, River

New Egypt Hudson

These previous found photographs, in Don's words: "The first two images you used in today's journal were from a beautiful old picture album from the twenties. I love the image of the woman standing on the banks of the frozen lake. I wanted to blow it up very large (6 feet?). I have made many pictures like it.


Blur Branch

Man Skater

The vertical

What I notice in the selection of photographs Don sent me, along with their obvious shimmering sensitivity and non-invasive touch, is their verticality and angles. In House, Ice, River and New Egypt Hudson the verticality of trees; in Man Skater, that of the human body. These verticals, photographed into the exquisite portraits that they are, echo the theme so articulated in Chinese thought, joining the earth and the heavenly spheres, which is a north south, vertical movement, a cosmic stroke.

My friend Tom Pathe, lifelong rolfer and meditation aficionado (led by "the drala principle" into deep investigations and insights into the "inner" dimensions of the human body) made me aware of 45 degree angles  (as do all of Don's photographs, but especially Blur Branch). These angles, it seems, are universal aspects of awake as well as drala-delivery systems; they include the natural aesthetics of nature, lines in the human body from, say, the sternum to the sacrum, as well as the angle of the vagina and the erection (for those familiar with the Ashe practice, consider that also).


Finally this week, I offer something on the theme of "lineage." Another friend I am fortunate to have is Jim Yensan; reader, gardener, photographer, father, adjunct professor of meditation at Naropa University and "Mac Therapist" (he recovers lost files, solves printer glitches and saves computer neophytes from themselves).

Jim's vegetable patch

Jim is a lifelong student of Chögyam Trungpa and in the five-minute video clip below, Jim talks about first meeting Chögyam Trungpa in the early 1970s as well as first beginning to teach Buddhism. This is a story about lineage; making a genuine connection with a lineage and lineage holder, and about trust, how lineage establishes or restores trust in ourselves. Here is an inclusive definition I gave to lineage on my website:

A lineage, as the word is used here, means any tradition that evokes and propagates drala. A painting, say, of Cezanne is loaded with drala. A man like Cezanne does not simply happen, but is someone who received the training and inspiration of countless ancestors before him and then put what he received into practice. That Cezanne apocryphally painted until his eyes bled is a measure of the work and sacrifice required to become a great lineage holder. Spiritual or religious lineages have no doubt produced our greatest lineage figures, but the path of drala cannot be defined as strictly sacred or secular. It could occur wherever genuine goodness and devotion are manifested. We might not even realize the lineages we are already part of; anyone who has ever read a poem has made contact with one of humanity's most universal, primordial and wonderful lineages.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


"My first sight...

My first sight of Cambodia came from the window of a Russian Y-9, an aging prop-jetliner that departed from Bangkok. Through the round window I saw Cambodia and felt a kind of urgency that said, “Look, I’m seeing this for the first time!” I saw mostly forest, brush, an occasional road. Then fields, terraced and delicate. Roofs of corrugated steel. Palm trees, white oxen. No water.  -  Phnom Penh 11-Feb: 2005

I wrote the above during a three-month “pilgrimage” I took in late 2004, a trip that took me to Italy, Malta, Turkey and Southeast Asia. Shortly after my return to the United States I taught a weekend meditation program. On Sunday afternoon, at the end of my final talk I decided to let myself have no idea what I would say next. I said that to the group, “Now I’m going to say something and I have no idea what it will be.” Four words came to me and I spoke them aloud: slowness, more tears, water.

Now, five years later, these words are a kind of root for everything I do, or fail to do, or want to do. Also a root (route) for wherever it is I am going.

Slowness. John Cage advised us to “quiet the mind, thus making it susceptible to divine influences.” Chögyam Trungpa said, “The most important thing one could ever do for oneself or others is to sit down and unravel the confusion in one’s mind.” The Slow Food movement believes taste, nutrition, pleasure, community, sustainability and social justice are all indelibly linked by the word slow.

In Bangkok I began to witness an uncanny lack of haste in an otherwise apocalyptic megalopolis of thirteen million people and countless hurdling vehicles. Yet within all that, people walked quite slowly, very naturally and beautifully. I began to witness an elegance my own body was seldom capable of. It was only when I began to walk more slowly myself that the invisible dunce cap I felt myself wearing vanished from my head.

One can talk very fast and still be slow, or run quickly and be in slowness. It is a matter of staying connected to the dralas, that intangible feeling or atmosphere and presence that is always available to us.

As for the second word(s), more tears, I will let this video segment speak for that. It’s a YouTube find, a piece about Cambodia and is bit long, twenty-three minutes (with an awful commercial in the beginning). It is a document of the tremendous pain inflicted through haste (you could say), the quick grab for profit none of us are immune from reaching for. It brings home the situation for many in our world-community. I guarantee it is rather unique and stunning and the necessary stuff of more tears.

Cambodia Land Grab - Is Cambodia's Prime Minister behind an illegal land grab? All over the country, hundreds of thousands are waking up to find the homes they owned have been sold to developers. 

Water will come in future weeks...

Friday, April 16, 2010


 - Allen Ginsberg

This week I will speak on an aspect of the drala principle called “not deceiving.” I say “speak” because, as in normal conversation, we don’t exactly know what we will say next, nor do I know what I will write next. In that spirit, I am not an expert on the drala principle (which at best would be a silly thing to claim) but a contributor, a gatherer, an explorer.


Chögyam Trungpa taught that the dralas are attracted to us or “invoked” when we tell the truth. On the one hand, “telling the truth” is often a dubious expression of our opinions (always relative) or ideology (often dubious and dangerous). The truth he meant – the truth the dralas are drawn to - are things such as candor, simple emotional honesty and “naming the path of our heart.” The latter is typically only vaguely known to us at best, but if we don’t speak, it stays hidden. Telling the truth is often about disclosing things that are not convenient to say; speaking up when we see injustice or simply not lying to our partner, children or parents.

Truth-telling is also the principle that runs through art, all the arts. As Vietnam Vet-poet Bruce Weigl wrote, “Say it clearly and you make it beautiful, no matter what.”

Two accidents crossed my path after I chose this subject. I received an e-mail from a friend, AnaVictoria Pabelon who lives with her husband Seth and two children in Fairfield, Iowa. Earlier in the week I e-mailed AnaVictoria and asked how she was.  AnaVictoria replied to my e-mail with a generous, thorough and effortless candor. She and Seth were kind and daring enough to let me share what she wrote:

I am well indeed. I think back to when I was in Colorado and I am very grateful everyday. I feel like I escaped from a massive human prison called Civilized Western World. I enjoy technology more than ever and Eastern practices are my refuge from the overwhelming aspects of my culture yet a challenge to maintain because of my conditioning, so overall it has been an intense time of purifying and serving. I so love that I have had the time to focus on rearing my children. The laundry, the groceries, the inflow of mail, and stuff is both tedious and lovely. I am not searching for meaning or God anymore. It is bliss. I am here struggling to get up in the morning not because I dread the day’s tasks, but because the silence is yummy and so is the stillness and so is listening to the birds once they get started. And because I love just about everything, my thoughts, my stories, my joy, my suffering. I am in very good health but in delicate condition. I have crying spells, lots of involuntary twitching and facial muscle release, there are no particular reasons, so I am able to carry on as normal. My family is both amused and bored with the whole thing. The girls are doing great , though Marisol goes to preschool for three mornings a week, I am homeschooling both Paloma and Marisol. This has been fun for all of us. Things are also going well with Seth. He is sweet and kind, generous and supportive and grateful. It is a good connection and I have to admit I look at him and I hardly ever see Him. I understand that I see a male collective that I misunderstand and do not trust, so mostly I have to see him anew each moment and go by feeling him and then seeing him, because just in looking at him I can not recognize the essence of him.

Alice Walker

In the second accident I came upon an (Amy Goodman) interview with with Alice Walker who has much to say about the process, reasons for, demands of and necessity for truth-telling. It is not only in the subjects alone that Alice Walker speaks with candor and truth, but equally in the inner-truth she lives by, one that seems to compel her to become ever more keen, modest and sensitive.

Jakusho Kwong Roshi

What follows is a letter from Soto Zen lineage holder Jakusho Kwong-roshi, recently sent to his students and friends. Roshi speaks the truth of dharma - the clearest, most unmediated and most direct expression of things-as-they-are, the simplicity of non-deception.

S  O  N O  M  A   M  O  U  N  T  A  I  N   
Z  E  N   C  E  N  T  E  R

April 5, 2010

Dear Mahasangha,

On March 18, about 2 weeks ago, I felt excruciating pain below my abdomen and lower back.  Red welts began to appear in that area.  After a few days, I went to Kaiser emergency clinic, and I was diagnosed with a severe case of “shingles”.  It is extremely painful, and it is known that it flares up because of stress.  My Chinese herbal doctor had warned me for the last ten years that my immune system has become weaker and weaker, and had advised me over the years to cut back on my responsibilities at the Zen Center and also my travels to Iceland and Poland.  I didn’t heed his advice, so now I am suffering the consequence.
Behind the illness—it’s deeper and mysterious.  The Dharma appears in this way—it feels like a Rite of Passage.  Dealing with intense pain moment after moment challenges my whole being, my spirit and wisdom.  I am so grateful for Zen Practice.  I can’t imagine how others can endure without this wisdom of acceptance.  I suppose some people manage to find it within their resolve towards greater acceptance.
Alone in silence, I see the beautiful oak trees, the madrone, the tall pines— the most brilliant Gold in 37 years, ushering Spring.  Even they have to endure the cold winters, rain, strong winds, heavy storm before their renewal.  It is their passage of change.  It feels like labor pains before the birth of of something new---deep presence, intense pain, breathing—demanding change and renewal on a cellular level.  The Dharma is wondrous and inconceivable—cannot be located or seen.  In this way, whether I am here or not, I am always with each one of you.  You will find that this is true. I urge you to step forward and renew your Zen practice with spirit and vitality of Sonoma Mountain Sangha.
There is nothing more essential that you can do in your lifetime.  It will help you to actively  accept and receive the unknown that is yet to come whether it is negative or positive. True zazen is the expression of your Buddha Nature.  With constancy it will prepare you for everything that you will encounter.
I’ve been listening to this Gaelic Blessings that was inspired to put into music.  I listen to it every day, and it penetrates me like the repetition of a mantra.
DEEP PEACE of the running waves to you

DEEP PEACE of the flowing air to you

DEEP PEACE of the quiet earth to you

DEEP PEACE of the shinning stars to you

DEEP PEACE of the gentle night to you

MOON AND STARS pour their healing light on you


In gassho,

Shinko helped me edit this.

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