Saturday, April 22, 2017

How long should I meditate?

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day—unless you're too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” — Zen proverb.



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter 2017

most quotes collected from my 2016 Zen Calendar 

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.
- Rumi

Your sadness, your fear, your loneliness, even your despair is so fragile, friend. It can break open at any moment. A single note in a piece of music can do it. A kind glance from a stranger. The feeling of the spring breeze on your face. A reflection of a bird in flight. In any moment, your sorrow can shatter into nothingness; it has no more reality than that, no more substance than a shadow.
- Jeff Foster

No one asked you to be happy. Get to work.
- Colette


On Meditation and Practice

Practice thirty more years.
- Zen saying

In addition to sitting - cooking, gardening, cleaning, and walking can all be part of our meditation practice, especially if we really connect with present awareness along the way.
- David Nichtern

You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait. You need not even wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
- Franz Kafka

Zen is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake. We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past. Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past, and there is no reality apart from the here and now.
- Peter Matthiessen

It is time to put yourself back in tune... Put your zazen pad somewhere between your bathroom and kitchen. Sit down there in the morning after you use the bathroom and before you cook breakfast. You are sitting with everyone in the world. If you can sit only briefly, you will have at least settled your day.
- Robert Aitken

Leave your front door and back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don't serve them tea.
- Shunryu Suzuki

Give yourself a break. That doesn't mean to say that you should drive to the closest bar and have lots to drink or go to a movie. Just enjoy the day, your normal existence. Allow yourself to sit in your home or take a drive... Park your car somewhere; just sit; just be. It sounds very simplistic, but it has a lot of magic. You begin to pick up on clouds, sunshine and weather, your past... You begin to pick up on a lot of things. Just let them pass like the chatter of a brook as it hits the rocks. We have to give ourselves some time to be. 
- Chogyam Trungpa

Let me give you a wonderful Zen practice. Wake up in the morning... look in the mirror, and laugh at yourself.
- Bernie Glassman

There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness...
- Anne Lamott

Who are you in the silence between your thoughts?
- Gil Fronsdal

Art

To me photography is an art of observation... I've found it has little to do witt he things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.
- Elliott Erwitt

Art does not reproduce the invisible; rather it makes it visible.
- Paul Klee

Art is frozen zen.
- R. H. Blyth

The great artist is the simplifier.
- Henri Frederic Amiel


Beauty

How beautiful the world was when one looked at it without searching, just looked, simply and innocently.
- Hermann Hesse

Everything that is made beautiful and fair and lovely is made for the eye of one who sees.
- Rumi

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.
- Albert Schweitzer

Be kind

Perhaps the most "spiritual" thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with the eyes of wholeness, and act with integrity and kindness.
- Jon Kabat-Zinn

The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do ourselves; is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.
- Pema Chodron

Be silly, be honest, be kind.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be wise. Treat yourself, your mind, sympathetically, with loving kindness. If you are gentle with yourself, you will become gentle with others.
- Lama Thubten Yeshe

Breathe

If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.
- Amit Ray

Being aware of your breath forces you into the present moment - the key to all inner transformation. 
Whenever you are conscious of the breath, you are absolutely present. You may also notice that you cannot think and be aware of your breathing. Conscious breathing stops your mind.
- Eckhart Tolle

Sit and be still
until in the time
of no rain you hear
beneath the dry wind's
commotion in the trees
the sound of flowing
water among the rocks
a stream unheard before,
and you are where
breathing is prayer
- Wendell Berry

Buddha

There is only one important point you must keep in your mind and let it be your guide. No matter what people call you, you are just who you are. Keep to this truth. You must ask yourself how is it you want to live your life. We live and we die, this is the truth that we can only face alone. No one can help us, not even the Buddha. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?
- The Dalai Lama

The Buddha is found everywhere: in other people - even the ones we do not like very much.
- Francis Harold Cook

The great way of the Buddha-Law is: in a grain of dust are all the scrolls of the sutras in the universe; in a grain of dust are all the infinite Buddhas.
- Dogen

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.
- The Buddha

Happiness

The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.
- William Morris


Maybe happiness is this: not feeling like you should be elsewhere, doing something else, being someone else.
- Isaac Asimov

That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.
- Willa Cather

Vipassana is a word that means, "to see things as they really are" and it is this beautiful yet difficult practice that carries one to the end of unhappiness.
- Michael Kewley

Nature

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
- Henri Matisse

If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment.
- Georgia O'Keefe

The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.
- Terry Tempest Williams

I don't know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.
- Vincent Van Gogh

On a bare branch 
a crow settles 
in autumn dusk.
- Basho

In the sun
   the butterfly wings
      Like a church window.
- Jack Kerouac

Distant mountains
   reflected
      in the dragonfly's eye.
- Issa

The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fibre and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.
- John Muir  

Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.
- Henry David Thoreau

Nothing


It takes a long time to understand nothing.
- Edward Dahlberg


Student: "Roshi, what are you doing here?"
Suzuki-roshi: "Nothing special."
- Zen koan


Now

And if there is not any such thing as a long time, nor the rest of your lives, nor from now on, but there is only now, why then now is the thing to praise and I am very happy with it.
- Ernest Hemingway

Nirvana is right here, before our eyes.
- Hakuin

Wherever you are is the entry point.
- Kabir


Perfectly Imperfect

There is no perfection,
only life.
- Milan Kundera

If others had not been foolish, we should be so.
- William Blake

You shall love your crooked neighbour with your crooked heart.
- W. H. Auden

And at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling.
- Shanti

Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.
- Henry Miller

No amount of anxiety makes any difference to anything that is going to happen.
- Alan Watts

Follow your inner moonlight; don't hide the madness.
- Alan Ginsberg

If you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns of running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of the galaxy. You are all just like that, and there is nothing wrong with you at all.
- Alan Watts

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
- Zora Neale Hurston

More to Ponder


We think sometimes we're only drawn to the good, but we're actually drawn to the authentic. We like people who are real more than those who hide their true selves under layers of artificial niceties.
- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross


All great truths begin as blasphemies.
- George Bernard Shaw


Autumn light
fill the room
vacancy.
- Soen Nakagawa

Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow.
- Oscar Wilde


You may not control all the events that happen to you but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone else's cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.
- Maya Angelou



The spirit down here in man and the spirit up there in the sun, in reality are only one spirit, and there is no other one.
- The Upanishads

Don't look for miracles. You are the miracle.
- Henry Miller


It is what I was born for -
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over...
- Mary Oliver

I would believe only in a god who could dance.
- Friedrich Nietzche

Through the ample open door of the peaceful country barn,
A sunlit pasture filled with cattle and horses feeding,
And haze and vista, and the far horizon fading away.
- Walt Whitman

Mental and physical reactions come and go
Like clouds in the empty sky
Greed, hatred and ignorance appear and disappear
Like bubbles on the surface of the sea.
- Yongjia Xuanjue

No matter how much we want it to be otherwise, the truth is that we are not in control of the unfolding of our experiences.
- Sharon Salzberg

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.
- Albert Einstein

All things are in the universe and the universe is in all things: we in it, and it in us, and in this way everything harmonizes in perfect unity.
- Giorano Bruno

A poem has secrets that the poet knows nothing of.
- Stanley Kunitz

Nor love thy life, nor hate; but what thou liv'st,
Live well, how long or short permit to Heaven.
- John Milton

Maybe you are searching among the branches for what only appears in the roots.
- Rumi

Truth cannot only comfort you. At times is has to cut through to the bone, to the very marrow evenm if this is what it takes to set you free.
- Mooji

The truth will set you free - but first it will piss you off.
- Gloria Steinem

The biggest cause of suffering is being here, and wishing you were somewhere else.
- Ajahn Brahm

Confidence, life art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions.
- Early Grey Stevens

You are caught between all that was and all that must be. You feel lost.
- Haruki Mukakami

Life is painful, suffering is optional.
- Sylvia Boorstein

Get rid of words and meaning, and there is still poetry.
- Yang Wan-Li

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.
- Rumi

All endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time.
- Mitch Albom 

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.
- Joseph Campbell

We do not remember days, we remember moments.
- Cesare Paves

May you live all the days of your life.
- Jonathan Swift

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.
- Henry Miller

And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T. S. Eliot

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
- Walt Whitman

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ghosts and demons

I didn't realize how many ghosts and demons were in the plays I've seen at the theatre recently. But they really are constants of so many great stories. Frightening, pathetic, funny, threatening - aspects of our selves.

*****Sheets (Director/playwright Salvatore Antonio) / April
Ghost + Suicide

Veritas theatre offered House Seats tickets and I scooped them up, then the theatre reneged when the play started getting positive reviews. So disappointing! I ended up buying tickets despite being peeved.

Memorable performances by (mostly) naked actors, including the unflinching exposure by a burn victim of their disfigurement and loss.

The stage presented awkward threesomes, inexperienced escorts and clients, suicide and death. Underneath was vulnerability and the human need to be really seen and accepted.

The ghost in this play was omnipresent, from the moment guests took their seats through to the last moment of the performance.

***Picasso at the Lapin Agile (playwright Steve Martin) / March
The spirits here were out of time, not really ghosts so much as displaced souls.

East Side Players staged the absurd comedy, where Einstein, Picasso and Elvis end up in the same bar, competing for drinks and women.

The script demanded excellent comic timing and although delivery was a bit hit and miss, it was entirely fun none-the-less.

**Five Faces of Evelyn Frost (Quebec playwright Guillaume Corbeil) / Feb
Suicide

Can Stage/Berkeley theatre.

I genuinely liked this but thought it was about 55-60 minutes too long. Did I mention it was a 70 minute production?

A critical eye cast on social media, the play made its point quickly with the actors trying to outdo each other with their tweets, Facebook posts and Instagrams. Whispering and shouting and making announcements without listening, connecting or getting to know each other. A lonely, sociable/but anti-social existence.

The stage was heaped with discarded costumes from which bodies rose and descended. Great commentary and strong performances but so so so long.

****Who Killed Spalding Gray? (Written and performed by Daniel MacIvor) / Dec
Demon + Suicide

Can Stage/Berkeley theatre.

A one man production in the tradition of Spalding Gray, with the actor speaking directly to the audience and holding them transfixed with manic confessions. This was a fantastic account of events in one man's life, and his bizarre hypothesis of how angry spirits attack the most vulnerable. Releasing one man's demon means someone else becomes the host. I'm glad I saw an afternoon performance and returned to bright daylight afterward, rather than entering into a dark, cold night.

***Chasse-Gallerie (book adapted by Tyrone Savage / music and lyrics by James Smith) / Nov
Demons

A raunchy and rollicking Quebecois tale , with devils and lumberjacks and innocent girls led astray in a canoe.

The demons make a side bet with one another and take the lumberjack girls to hell, but the women succeed in overthrowing the underworld and return with warning tales.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Egg Moon - April Full Moon

Egg moon. Pink moon. Wind moon.

It is looking full 2 days in advance of its 'official' moment (April 11, 2:08 am). We are full of eggspecatations.


Egg Man in the Moon, Joanna Braithwaite

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spring-winter-spring


Tuesday I felt giddy in the sunshine when I took my walk at lunchtime. It was cold, but bright, with the promise of spring in the air. When I came home from work that night, I snapped a photo of the snow drops nodding. Thursday night it was snowing! Big fat flakes and a sloppy drive home from yoga. Friday morning, snowdrops in the snow drops. Friday afternoon a cold, freezing rain.Saturday the temperatures were rising as I swept the back deck clear of debris. Sunday I clipped back the lenten roses, swept away the dead leaf on the hydrangea, snipped the cedar, and watched bees buzzing in the crocus. I also tagged branches of the Japanese maple for early summer pruning, remembering the advice to allow space for butterflies to explore, visualizing a monarch resting its wings. Thankfully the peony didn't undergo too much damage from the roofers, who had tossed debris right onto the plant, breaking branches. Buds are in progress, and I pruned away the dead wood. Weather is always unpredictable this time of year, but the temperature swings have been 20 degrees in three days. Volatile. I feel my pulse quickening. The heavy heartedness of winter lifting.