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.