Sunday, May 6, 2012

Once again I have a new location for these occasional observations about the unexpected wonder of being alive. 

Hopefully this will be my last move for a long time. Thanks to all who found your way to this site, I look forward to you finding your way to my new web site and blog home.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Borders, Barnes, and Noble Dreams

Four years ago, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in the high desert of New Mexico with a Native American medicine woman named White Eagle.  While with her, I had a dream in which the book I was then beginning to write was prominently displayed on the front table at Borders.  It seemed like an impossible fantasy.

     But I recently went down to New York City to have lunch with the head of purchasing for the religion section in Barnes and Noble book stores.  She was a delightful and unassuming woman who brought along a dog-eared advance copy of THIS TRUTH.  She told me how much she liked the book and how much she thought her readers would too.  She said she especially appreciating reading a religion book that was not preachy or dogmatic.  
     I was delighted to hear her positive reaction.  Having my book appreciated is a little bit like hearing how wonderful my daughter is.  I could listen all day.  I feel proud and also, in some important way, it's quite clear that it's not really about me.
     I was also delighted when she told me that Barnes and Noble will be featuring THIS TRUTH in the front of their largest stores across the country when it is released in early June.  So be sure to visit your local B&N in early June and look for my book on one of the front tables.
     So maybe in the dream I just misread the logo on the front of the store.

     To pre-order a copy of THIS TRUTH from Barnes and Noble Click Here

Monday, April 30, 2012

First Lilacs of the Season

Memories of grade-school summers as I walked down May Street this afternoon.  And the smell....

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Smartphone.

Radio Interviews and Sock Puppets

Melissa posted a lovely duet between Kermit the Frog and Liza Minneli  on her blog a few days ago.  I watched it for the third or fourth time yesterday and began to wonder about Kermit - or, more accurately, about the person attached to Kermit.  Where is she?  Is she lying one the floor at Liza's feet?  Is she crouching between Liza' legs?  Or is it a guy?  Maybe a very small person?
     Obviously, thinking about things like this changes one's experience of Kermit and this sweet duet.

     I'm thinking about this because I'm doing my first radio show interview about my book this afternoon at 1:00.  Dennis Raimondi - the host of 'Speaking Freely With Dennis.'    

     I just realized that my book is a little bit like a green sock that's over my hand.  Two buttons are sewn on for the eyes and the lips drawn on with red magic marker.  I'm crouched behind the table that has a sheet over the front so the audience of my friends and family can't see me.  And I get to speak through this green sock - through this book of a hundred some odd pages.  
     What does this book have to say?  What is the essence this collection of reflections, wanderings and wonderings?  Kermit's voice is so particular and lovely.  How do I discover that essential voice for this particular manifestation of God that has come through me?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

In Memorium

Marine biologist, Zen teacher, and nature writer Anne Rudloe died yesterday.  I had the opportunity to meet her and sit with her on a few retreats George Bowman and I had led in Tallahassee, Florida, near where she lived.  We connected most recently because she had just written a book: Zen In A Wild Country and was looking into how to publish it.  She was a long-time student and recently full teacher in the Kwan-um School of Zen so we shared the same grandfather teacher.  Anne was a dedicated practitioner with a great love for the creatures and the aliveness of the sea.  Hard to believe she has journeyed beyond this realm of water and waves - of alligators and oil spills.

May the Buddha and Bodhisattvas guide and protect her.  And may the spirit of compassion and kindness be with her family and loved ones as they journey through this time of sadness and mystery.

Link to Anne's blog and info on her book:

Friday, April 27, 2012

The New American Zen

I’m thinking this morning about what’s different about Zen as it is developing here in America.  While we feel our current practices are an authentic expression of the tradition of Zen Buddhism, almost all our practice centers would feel quite foreign to a Zen practitioner from Japan, Korea or China. 
These changes are an unavoidable and natural outcome of one world-view being understood from new perspectives and practiced in a new context.  These cultural changes and adaptations are a part of the history and living tradition of Buddhism.  They occurred when Buddhism went from India to China – when it traveled from China to Japan and Korea – and now, as this ancient tradition comes from Japan and Korea and takes root in America, more change is in process.
Three major areas of change occur to me:
Egalitarian impulse – Zen, as it has come from Japan and Korea, has traditionally been extremely hierarchical.  In the US, there are still clear lines of authority, but we are also creating governance structures and practice structures that honor the wisdom and counsel of all participants.
Non-monastic practice – American Zen, from it’s beginnings in the late 1950’s has included a strong emphasis on lay practice.  You don’t have to be a monk or a nun to seriously practice Zen.  There is still a vital monastic stream in American Zen, but Zen meditation and retreats are now practiced by a vigorous lay community who are balancing daily life with practice life.
Whole person focus – There has been a broadening of the range of what is discussable in Zen practice.  It is clear that ‘spiritual attainment’ by itself is not the complete answer to the human situation.  Spiritual practice has to be balanced with emotional/personal/daily-life growth and practice.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Coming Quickly

This early morning the welcomed rain continues to fall as the sky edges from black to gray.  The trees through the window are no longer lacy branching silhouettes but have nearly fully leafed out in the past week.  I swear it was just one week.  I wanted it to be slower, but there was no holding back. 

This spring feels like a young man who is so thrilled by the beauty of his lover – so utterly taken with the flesh and touch of her, that he cannot contain himself – cannot be measured in his response.  Despite all the books he’s read and desperately recalling the batting averages of his boyhood baseball heros, he comes on contact.   Almost immediately and way too soon for anyone’s liking. 

But uncontained exuberance is also perfect timing.  The issue now is simply how to continue to enter into the full and sticky mess of  spring.  I recommend to my imaginary friend the we simply continue to appreciate what we love. 

It’s not really over. 
It’s just beginning.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Early Morning Manifestations

Friday morning.  Cars rush by in front of the Temple.  Trucks too.  Out here on the porch, I can guess the size of the vehicle from the volume and texture of the sound.  At this time of day, they mostly head east on Pleasant Street – toward downtown.  Like bees streaming out of the hive toward a freshly found patch of flowers, each one seems full of purpose. 
As I listen, it’s a mystery to me – that each passenger in each vehicle is following something of great importance.  Their quick apprehension in my ears is just a glimpse of a particular and unimaginably complex unfolding of a human beingness.
Each life a whole universe – a singular big bang – an inexplicable manifestation of matter out of nothingness.  And each only here briefly.  Each one on a journey to twinkle out of existence.
Meanwhile the crab apple blossoms float effortlessly like so many tiny white negligees hung out to dry. 
The ground under the greening azalea is littered with purple petals. 
The tip of my inspirational nose is pleasantly cool in the fresh morning air.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Mysterious Journey Begins Again

Waking up this morning, I discover that I’m quite happy about the seeds I started yesterday.  Just nasturtiums and zinnias, but an abundance of each.  Enough to cover the barren hillside behind the Temple with lush late summer green and orange.  Enough to edge the by-then-boring hostas near the granite Buddha with pastel blossoms fit for an occasion of great importance.
The flaky brown chips and small withered balls I poke carefully down into their separate little dirt homes reveal nothing of their destination.  But I already see their fruition of bright blossoms.  
Knowing they are beginning their mysterious journey gives me great comfort as I contemplate writing the perfect ‘pitch letter’ and making decisions about my upscoming new web site and accomplishing the other impossible tasks that are my lot today.
Where does beauty come from? 
How can it be so persistent and dependable despite my perpetual misgivings? 
I go inside and stare at the wet cubicles of dirt on the counter of my office to see what I can learn.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Haphazard Campaign

            Moist air.  
            Almost warm outside at daybreak, but I still wear a light jacket and wool hat for comfort. Slowly touring the gardens, my tea steeps in a glass pot on the kitchen counter.
Though this is a pleasure stroll, I occasionally stop and engage in my ongoing battle against the wild mustard.  Last year, I noticed just a few of these cute little weeds with roundish leaves.  They looked innocent enough and I ignored them.  But by late spring, they revealed their true intention---now three feet tall and spreading, they had monopolized whole swatches of the back landscape.  
So I’ve begun a haphazard campaign to abort this year’s crop before it flowers and seeds. 
Every time I walk through the back woodland gardens, I stop to pull up four or five, or ten of the little fellas.  Extracting them, roots and all, I toss them into a small pile and leave them there to melt back into the earth. 
I try not to do too much.  Then it would become work.  Just a little here and there gives me a sense of satisfaction, and, I hope, makes some cumulative difference. 
I pull a few and just keep walking.  I don’t want my tea to get too strong.  Or miss the best part of the day for writing.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Am I Becoming a Twit?

          Just now standing on the edge of social media as a way to communicate.  My book (This Truth Never Fails) launch is only nine weeks away and ‘everyone’ says that social media is an essential part of getting the word out.  Though, to most of my generation, Twitter appears an undifferentiated sea of words sent out randomly by people too tethered to their smart-phones and distracted from what is around them.  But now, in just dipping my toe in the water, I begin to see the patterns and personalities and meanings that were not visible from a distance. Or is it just me? 
     Follow me at davidrynick@davidrynick   (or something like that)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Azalea Dreams

Still cold in the early morning spring – I put on my shiney orange super-hero jacket and my blue spirit-of-the-water hat.  Then out back to the azalea – the purple-full-blooming-beneath-the-bare-crab-apple azalea.  (As I write, I notice that I like the word azalea.   So many a’s and the precious z – as if there were a zebra hiding in there or this were the perfect solution to a mysterious set of Scrabble letters.)  
     In this cool weather we’ve been having – the pinky purple azalea blossoms have been out for nearly two weeks.  A long life for these extravagant and tissue thin creations.

      I stand in front of this particular bush trying to learn something.  

     I wonder if the ancestors of this azalea wandered the hills of China?  Maybe one once grew near a hermit’s hut.  I suspect he was only a mediocre hermit.  Not one of the real high class guys who lots of people visit and then tell stories about how awesome he is.  Just one of the hermits where it was hard to know whether he was on a spiritual path, or just a kooky guy living in the woods.  It wasn’t clear whether his life was a success or a failure.  And maybe he doubted too, but was somehow faithful.              
     Whoever he was, I imagine he loved the azalea that bloomed near his hut.  Through the cold winter he was content enough, but secretly he longed for the easy warmth of summer.  This azalea may have been his unrestrained reminder of returning life.  How could he help but smile deep in his belly?   Facing this quick manifestation of the irrepressible fullness that is already proceeding - even while the trees are still barren and the chill of winter lingers in the air.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Making the Right Decision

My forthcoming book has become the focus of my life.  New energy swirls around me as I have conversations with booksellers, web site designers, social media consultants, public relations specialists.  There is no end to what could be done.  I’m thrilled.  Delighted with possibility.  And slightly overwhelmed. 
Who to choose to work with? 
What to do and not do? 
How much is enough?’
My forever personal consultant and sister gently reminds me, when I speak with her on the phone, to step back and trust the feeling that arises in my body.  She’s right.  I find my body wisdom much more reliable than my head wisdom.  I’m liable to get excited about almost everything I encounter.  And from the place of heady possibility, I don't know how to decide.  I'm constantly afraid of making the wrong decision.  
So today – to remember to take what our Zen ancestor Dogen called ‘the backward step.’  To step back from the momentum of the forward leaning excitement and worry.  To notice my fleshy life of THIS moment even as I dream into some bright and wonderful future. 
Feet on the ground.
Breath in the belly.
Trusting the subtle sense
still quietly arising
amid the hubbub.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Faded Flowers

The daffodils that were drooping outside after the hard frost last week didn’t last long when I brought them into my room.  Just a few days.  Their already thin yellow petals became quickly even thinner and more translucent – almost like the skin of a very old person.  The formerly extended petals curled back in toward the center and lost their liveliness.  There was still water in the vase, but the flowers were clearly dead. 
            I’m not very good at taking out the dead flowers like I should.  For one thing, I’m never sure they’re really dead.   I always suspect some lingering life.  And weren’t they dead when I cut them from the plant?  Is it that I appreciate the fading – the slow vanishing of the intimate wetness of life?  Or is it more inertia and laziness?
I don’t have a philosophical or aesthetic problem with dead flowers sitting on my desk.  Of course, I often don’t have a problem with a pile of clothes on the floor of my room.  Something else shiny and bright catches my attention – the next thing blooming buds in the garden – the next project that has me putting things together.  I am easily distracted by the quickening of life.
But yesterday, I brought the faded flowers down to the kitchen.  And this morning, I took them out to the compost.  And I just hung up some random shirts and put some sox in the laundry basket in my closet.  Now if I can just sort though the pile of papers on my filing cabinet, I’ll be all set.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Happiness Springs

Happiness springs from hidden sources, 
bubbling up in ordinary places 
gently abducting us into realms of delight and 
uncovering wondrous worlds in plain sight.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

First Sighting of 'This Truth'

One of the chapters of my new book has just appeared on line in elephant  Here is the link:

and a preview.      Please visit it and make a comment.

Photo: David Webb
This is an essay excerpted from David’s forthcoming book, This Truth Never Fails, A Zen Memoir in Four Seasons (Wisdom Publications), available this June.

"I woke up this morning wishing I were William James."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Book Launch Party June 11th

Mark your calendars: 

Monday evening, June 11th at Boundless Way Temple in Worcester, MA.  We're having a book launch party for my new (and first) book, This Truth Never Fails: A Zen Memoir in Four Seasons. 

It's been a long and amazing journey and I'm looking forward to celebrating with friends, colleagues, and sangha.  As an extra bonus, I have convinced Josh Bartok, my editor at Wisdom Publications, to come and be part of the festivities.       

I'm scheduling other readings at bookstores, churches, and meditation groups and would be happy to talk with you about arranging an event to support the book if you've got an idea.

This Truth is now available for pre-order at and and will be released on June 10!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dream After Dream

            My week in paradise is almost over. 
I sit here on the third floor veranda of the Blue Spirit Retreat Center in Nosara, Costa Rica.  It’s still dark and I’m in my special place—a corner I’ve claimed in the early morning darkness.  I look north toward the ocean a ½ mile down below and east to the horizon over the dark hill nearby.  The curve of the ocean bay is barely visible—a dull oval jutting into the inky black mass of the land.  But the sound of the crashing surf is unmistakable.  Later this morning those waves will be dotted with surfers of all shapes and sizes who are mostly visitors in paradise like me.  Guiones beach is a surfer’s Mecca with its consistent waves and two-mile sandy beach.
In the northern sky, over the sound of the surf, the big dipper hangs.  Handle pointing directly up as if it had been hung on a hook in God’s kitchen.  As a New England boy, I’m used to seeing the big dipper in Vermont in the summer where it appears in the early night sky just a little over the northeastern horizon.  It’s is always—every year of my life—at a slight angle.  Handle a little higher than the cup.  And the two pointer stars describing the far end of the handle reliably led to the less dramatic but much more dependable north star and the related little dipper.
But I’ve never seen the big dipper standing on its head.  Not until this week on a hill by the blue ocean in Costa Rica.  It’s the roosters' fault.  They begin their full throated call to the universe at around three a.m.  At first it’s just a few malcontents, proclaiming the coming day though the darkness is still full.  But soon they are joined by others.  If you listen carefully you can imagine the shape and size of the body of each of these amazing beings when they call.  Some quite scrawny and half-hearted.  Others colorful and proud.  The pitch is higher or lower, the volume varies, the rhythm of the crowing changes, each one a brief solo in the symphony of God. 
Of course, most of us here at the resort complain about their inconvenient cacophony.  This is not music, this is merely irritating sound. 
But the roosters are nothing compared to the howler monkeys who join in as the sky shows its first light.  These relatively small black-faced monkeys live in the trees around the retreat center and beyond.  During the dawn and twilight you can actually see them traveling unseen roads in the tangled branches of the nearby trees.  The don’t really ‘swing’ from branch to branch, they go surely with an easy confidence—even the little ones.  They don’t mind the branches bending down under their weight, they simply reach out with a hand or a foot and grab another thin branch while their monkey tails hold on surely till the new perch is attained.
But I meant to talk about how annoying they are. 
These creatures with opposable thumbs on their feet as well as hands, make the most surprising and resonant sound.  Hearing them call out in the dark of the first morning here, most visitors assume they are surrounded by some form of lion or tiger—though someone did once guess wild pig too.  They make a roaring-howling sound with intricate variation.  One calls out for a few minutes, then goes silent.  Then another.  And another.  The sound is loud and weirdly arresting.  When they are close to the building we are staying in their call reverberates through the hallways and into our still darkened rooms.
And the birds, I almost forgot the birds' sweet calls.  They enter after the roosters begin the party and the howler monkeys have joined in.  Squawking and chirping and tweeting—a delightful wash of sound.  They are like the woodwinds coming in altogether in a trembling manner after the blare of the trumpet and the wild growl of the double bass.
Still, as I write, the sun is not yet up, though the light has come.  The green tree-covered hills have revealed the steep sides and white waves are visible on the still gray water that runs up toward the beach.  I clearly see my hands on the keyboard of my laptop and the glass of water resting by the base of the column that holds up the roof.  It’s quarter to six and six is when the coffee is put out.  Ten is when my shuttle leaves for the airport.
A soft breeze blows and all the animals of creation sing their hearts out.  I try to hear God’s voice in each one.  I am grateful that no one holds back, even that first annoying rooster.  Yesterday I was galloping down the white beach, past the surfers on a gentle and eager Costa Rican horse.  Tomorrow I’ll be groggily waking up in my unfamiliar own bed and walking down the cold wooden stairs to make my own coffee drink. 
The sun has risen once again over the eastern hills.  I squint my eyes and think about packing.
So it goes.  Dream after dream.  Life after life.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wheelbarrows, Woodchips and Curves

            On Sunday, I went out to work in the garden for the first time this season.  It’s only February, and it feels way too early to be out, but the sun was shining and no snow was on the ground.  A sweatshirt, hat and light pair of gloves were plenty to keep me warm.
            I used the green plastic wheelbarrow that is getting a lovely patina of scratches from its usefulness, to move wood chips from a pile by the compost, over to a path I first made last year.  It’s a path that goes off of the official brick walkway for about twenty feet to a clump of three trees on the eastern edge of the Temple grounds.  The three trees, all mature maples, have grown as a sturdy triangle.  When standing between them facing west, one tree is behind your back and one on either side.  It’s a natural ‘room’ – a place to be in the universe that has some orientation – not just floating in space – but the vertical presence of steady trunks guarding the flanks and protecting the back.
            I first put a bench there, but simple benches, while nice to rest on momentarily, are not actually very comfortable to sit on.  To be truly inviting, a garden bench needs a back of some sort – something to lean against – some relief from the insistent uprightness of our lives.  It’s hard to stand up all the time – though of course I love it – we love it – to be head toward heaven and to move through space – sitting, running, walking, standing – the postures of human aliveness.  But sometimes, I just want to sit back – to be held and supported – even a wooden back will do sometimes.
But back to the green wheel barrow with the scratches that demonstrate its happy service.  And back to the triangle of trees.  Last year, we made the path to those trees, put a small circle of crushed stone under the trees and then a bench there.  I have since replaced the simple bench with a cheap white plastic chair that looks to me like a throne between the trees.  Now it’s a place to rest and survey the kingdom from the safety of the redoubt.  We tried to make the curve of the path inviting to those walking on the main path.  We fiddled and got something OK, but it never felt quite right.
            But on Sunday, I took several loads of woodchips to refresh the path that was by now almost invisible – what with the weathering of the woodchips and their natural inclination to disperse.  My intention was just to add another layer, but as I worked, it occurred to me that the path needed more curve.  The most enticing path to the triangle throne needed more playfulness. 
Even though just a short distance, I saw clearly that it needed to start off headed due east, then swerve to the south, and then back to the east.  A simple curve was not enough, it needed more change to be inviting.  So I amplified what was there in possibility – made it stronger – more eccentric. 
And for me, some subtle delight in shaping the curves – getting the sweep of the outer edge just right and then the transition and change of direction.  Like the shaping the side of a voluptuous pot, the belly curving out in a fullness and then diminishing.  The swelling and the return forever moving—even in the finished piece.
            Then the inner elbows of the curves called for decoration – so I moved one sculpture ten feet closer – into the crook – as if it was the reason the path did not go straight.  Then the other elbow felt empty so I moved a broken cement pedestal that was languishing in obscurity by the shuffleboard court to fill the void.  And the obligatory round zen rock on top to mirror the shape of the sculpture. 
            Later that afternoon, I made two friends come out and see what I had done.  I felt like a little boy who wants to show off what he has done.  But my excitement outweighed my reserve and my pleasure was amplified in the sharing.
For the past two days, I’ve been looking out the window of my room at the back of the temple.  I can see the beginnings of those wood chipped curves and a piece of the white chair is visible between the trees.  I am filled me with a subtle delight and I smile.