November 19th, 2005, Serial No. 00975

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in danger
the taste the truth as
first place
good morning

i was trying to think of a a short story to give you so little sense of what my life is like these days and
i was thinking know i'm i'm in this big transition in that i i
after being at zen center for many many years i then started and ran a a publishing company for many years for fifteen years and i i left that company about a year ago and am now
again in a kind of transition although i'm
consulting to other companies and coaching and
and i'm a zen priest and i'm practicing but the other day i
i had just gotten off the phone with an old zen center friend now went upstairs where my wife and teenage daughter my seventeen year old daughter were sitting and reading and i mentioned to my wife that my
my good friend peter had just told me that their twenty two year old son was about to get married and and my wife said will have some how does peter feel about that i saw his supportive but he's kind of concerned know because his twenty two and he doesn't have any idea how he's going to
make a living and my wife said well you know when we got married you didn't have any idea how you are going to make a live in either and i could see my teenage daughter was sort of her ears were picked up about this conversation and and she she waited a few minutes and then she turned to look at me she said you know
dad and you still don't know
this book
this little fire
ticket is that better
actually what i want to i have i have some very large aspirations for what i i want us to accomplish here together this morning which is that i i want us to change the world
that that isn't too much to ask and i don't think and
and i what i realize is that
we can change the world by having conversations that
been having so much haven't been happening in our world and and i think you know it and that's how i really think that that's how change starts at changes by people having courageous and brave conversations
i'm going to use
it is in story to m which i hope isn't too much of a stress stretch to illustrate this point but the story it's a traditional corn from the moment com and it says amongst them to zhao zhao i've just entered this monastery please teach me zhao zhao said have you e
eaton your rice gruel the monk responded and said yes i have and georgia said wash your bowl and the monk understood and that's that's the whole story and then there's one of the traditions in these stories is that
the collector in this case the great teacher move on con wrote mom on wrote this verse which says because it is so very clear it takes so long to realize
if you just know that flame is fire you'll find your race has long been cooked
because it's so very clear it takes so long to realize if you just know that flame is fire you'll find that your race has long been cooked

yeah so this this very simple is very simple conversation that that some have you have you eaten your rice bowl well yes well then go wash your ball
i'm very simple problem and and solution
but this this washer bowl is what does it mean to really pay
complete attention to what we're doing how is it that we can bring everything in our lives alive
so going back to these some of these these conversations that i started to talk about one
one conversation that i want to that i want to research that i haven't researched is
most of you are probably old enough to remember that when you got onto an airplane it was filled with cigarette smoke and and i can remember that for many many years it was people just grumbled about it that you got onto a plane and it was filled with cigarette smoke and then there were smoking sections and nonsmoking sections
but this was an airplane and
and i and i think that somehow there were some some person i want i wanted i would love to trace it back where was the conversation that someone said this shouldn't be let's do something about this and and how that conversation actually lead to
there's now no smoking on airplanes i think it's one of the modern miracles and
but skipping you know i i wonder
why is it there's lots of conversations now about ending the war in iraq there's conversations through some conversations that though not nearly enough about poverty and homelessness but i haven't i haven't really heard any conversations about
to ending war like it's just one of those givens a lot like getting onto an airplane filled with smoke and so this is this is really the
ah the large view of of what it is that i
hope we can accomplish
one of the one of the things that we chant and will chanted today at the end of this talk we say beings are numberless i vow to save them
and so if we if we chant that why are we having conversations about ending violence after all we're vowing to
to save all beings it's a pretty big it's a pretty big problem the saving all beings especially since in our day-to-day lives were so involved in our we we all have so many other problems
like making a living and relationships or for some of us just getting up in the morning might be
major major challenge
big big problems but how can we
live our lives in such a way so that we're living
from this vow about saving all beings like there's a there's a big problem so when
when georgia said to the monk go wash your bowl
he was saying
i think both at the same time he was saying go deal with the problem that's right in front of you go take care of your bowl go take care of your dirty bowl and i think at the same time he was also saying go save all beings
because it's so very clear it takes so long to realize i if you just know that flame is fire you'll find that your race has long been cooked
well what what is it that's so very clear

one thing that's very clear is that we as human beings are so much more than we realize
right that are were just amazing amazing creatures being being a human being
having imaginations and having consciousness
remember hearing this there's a story i heard about this think it was a
a a woman from thailand who had been in this country first for many years and she said i just don't understand these americans they live that they all live their lives like football players every sunday they go out and they have a football game and whether they've won or
last it doesn't matter they just go out and they keep striving to win again the next sunday and she said in thailand
we feel that the fact that we were born as a human being is complete and utter success and we can that we've been given this amazing amazing possibility to be born as a human being
it's also very clear and takes so long to realize that
we've been given you know that we've been given everything that we have we have these
bodies and minds and also this amazing sunshine you know that's coming in through the window that we've been that we've been given this sunshine
and we have this amazing amazing place to practice together you know i also think of the the conversations that must have happened you know with suzuki roshi and with a few other a few other very sincere practitioners that that we're having conversations about
we want to build a practice place and how can we practice together and out of those conversations grew this this amazing place that we sit in and grew tassajara and grew green gulch and grew you know the denture bell that rings that allows us and that calls us to come
i'm into this room so that we can sit here and conspire together and breathed together and begin begin this process of how we can start to have some of these conversations

and partly it takes it takes so long to realize because our our day to day lives and our day to day relationships really are difficult than it really is
how just like the the conversation that i described having with my my wife and my my daughter and all of the you know were so amazing we have this we have these incredible antennas that can pick up the energy of other people around us
i was thinking of a
have an improv i've been i've mentioned i know the last time that i talked here that i've i've started taking improv classes and again it's you know it's as though i need more places in my life to terrify myself
in addition to being up here in in addition to being a parent and husband and trying to figure out how what my own places in the world but i find that these improv classes have been quite wonderful and there is a an exercise we did recently that
i found really life changing which was very very simple the teacher are improv teacher had a stand at one end of the room and on the other end of the room she took up a plastic water bottle so we were standing about you know two thousand and twenty five feet away from the sort
bottle and she said now just look at this water bottle and visualize it now close your eyes and walk with gusto determination and confidence towards where you think this water bottle is stop and just swoop
down and go to pick it up and this was and we spent we spend a long time each each of us taking turns doing this and part of the instructions were that this is how you should come out on stage when you're doing improv that with this spirit because in in improv onstage
age you never have any idea what's going to happen you don't know you could be asked to be
an old man or you could be asked to be you know a woman or a child or a space alien you just you just have no idea what you're going to be asked to do
and this these were instructions for how to come out on stage and then as you swoop down to pick up this water bottle if you got it everyone applauded and if you didn't get it everyone applauded
that this was really a lesson this was a less although this was a lesson and improv i thought isn't this how i want to live my life business how i want to enter each situation what if i enter each situation with that spirit of gusto and confidence
made my best most sincere effort in what in this vision of what i thought was going gonna happen but then to just completely be there to be present and celebratory and appreciative with the situation that i found right in front of me which may be holding this water bottle or may not be holding this water bottle that
it wasn't it wasn't about that kind of success it was about the effort and sincerity
and this is this is one of the things that
this wash your bowl story and that it takes so long to realize that
that everything in our life is story and that what one of the things that meditation practice can help us with is helping us to loosen loosen some of these stories about what we what we tell ourselves
you know even i even think of this ah
this story that i told about the conversation that i had with my wife and my daughter know most you're almost every conversation is taking place on at least three different levels there's the level of what the content is there
is the level of what our feelings are how we feel about the conversation and then there's the level of our of what our own identities are i want to suggest that you may be start to notice that in your conversations usually we just get completely caught we we focus
as we focus on the content pretty much only
we get and then we get caught by our own feelings and then we weave a story about with what our identity is based on what the conversation is
so what i love about this you know
so much so much of what's so wonderful about this zen practice is you have you eaten your breakfast yet have you had your rice real yet will then go wash your bowl very direct
learn everything that you can learn everything you can from this washing your bowl there's this wonderful
there's a line from a david white poem that says
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you and
we're guessing your minds are going as the same place my mind went as well let's see what friends should i get rid off
you know for what what activities should i stop doing but this is this is not at all the intention of this poem the intention of this poem is very much like this your bowl story which is that each of us is responsible for bringing
our lives alive how is it that we can bring
simple activities like washing our ball alive how is it that this a simple
like i one of my favorite activities is to do zazen instruction here on saturday mornings and kind of one of the turning points for me i always i always think of this is going to be very this will be very simple this is is very simple will teach zazen instruction and we'd go downstairs to
the zendo
to the zendo steps and to teach start to teach people how to stand in chashu right how like the instructions the for holding your hand around your thumb and putting it against your chest and then taking your other hand
and holding it over these these very very exacting instructions and then to tell people well you should stand you should put your hands hold them
with some energy but not too rigid not too loose and and i realized that just this simple zen form is this amazing instruction for how to bring your life alive as you're about to walk into the meditation hall that this is
that this is a reminder that i'm alive i'm here i have these hands i have this body you know it's not it's not going to go sit another period of meditation it's like
and and but ten the
ah the challenge is how do we bring to realize that we're we're always doing this posture even when we're not right so if you happen to
work in an office downtown
you know if you're on the elevator by yourself you might just stand in chashu i don't recommend doing it with other people you might find you not employed very long but you can do it by yourself and you can do it you can remember it you can do it with that spirit no or little things like beef you know at all of the back
bathrooms here there are little authors and just stopping and bowing to the altars is a
fabulous way of bringing simple things bringing our lives alive
so it's so clear that it takes so long to realize that everything in our lives is just completely alive
there's a way

no in in zen practice and and spiritual practice we talk a lot about waking up and it is this sense of waking up to our own aliveness that there is a way there is a way that we all get
so easily kind of captured and almost like a jerk you know there's a dream state of our are being in our consciousness the dream so much like the dream state of that we get so caught in our own stories and a particular relationships and problems day to day that we
that we forget that were alive that we can bring our lives alive or we forget that we can live on this larger plane of
saving all beings
one of the things that i
that i sometimes do in my own coaching practice is all i'll suggest to people that they write their own stories from three different vantage points and you can
in a way it might even be so it's your past story and perhaps your future story and that and in some way this is i think we're always always living our lives from these three vantage points one is to live our lives from the vantage point of be
being a victim right cause we're all we're all victims we were all raised by very
most of us by by very very imperfect human beings and we all have lots and lots of difficulties and problems and amazing amazing you know tragedies and stories from all of our lives so we can write we can we can write and think of our
lives from the vantage point of being victims then we can write our stories from the vantage point of overcoming being a victim how is it that we that we despite all of the difficulties that we have and that we face in our lives that we've managed to
overcome these difficulties so we can write that story
and the third story is the story of this vow how can we write our lives from this story of vowing to save all beings what does that story look like and i think of that as the greats the great story of our life the story in which
which were beyond were beyond success and failure were beyond victim and overcoming being a victim
it's the story of our own of our own greatness

i'm realizing in my in my attempt here to change the world during this short lecture i've planned way way too many things and i haven't done one thing here that i've that i've written written out and planned
but two things i i want to
i want to read something
this is this is from a book that i've written and that was published this year called zb a zen of business administration
actually the a title that started out as a joke i was once eating lunch at greens restaurant and some of the person who i was having lunch with introduced me as having my zba a degree
i want to read from this
this is a chapter called meditation letting go of everything
living at tassajara in the middle of a wilderness area provided me with constant lessons in giving up ideas about what i thought was supposed to happen next during my first winter in the valley a week of winter rainstorms transform the creek that flows through tassajara into a raging
as the water came close to overflowing it's banks i along with sixty residents evacuated the meditation hall and quickly walked to higher ground we stood together wearing black meditation robes in the pouring rain holding our open umbrellas wondering if the meditation hall would be washed away
the following summer a huge forest fires surrounded tassajara and all the residents were forced to leave i remember driving out on the dirt road looking to the west and seeing a tremendous wall of fire coming our way
that fall the one hundred year old meditation hall burned to the ground a student had forgotten to blow out a kerosene lantern
meditation practice is the practice of letting go it is the practice of sitting still not going anywhere being completely present to whatever arises it is the practice of giving up the quest for fame and fortune giving up your ordinary view of yourself and the need to be think or up
pier in any particular way
it is the practice of giving up assumptions
about who we are and what we are supposed to be or do
meditation is the practice of open heartedness
in a skip a section here one evening while i was preparing to fill a bathtub at tassajara a bobcat entered the room this was
this was a semi wild some i tamed bob cat that had wandered into tassajara
a bobcat entered the room and took the rubber stopper needed
that was needed to fill the tub
i followed the bobcat as they walked away from the baths with the stopper in its mouth
i followed it as it walked up a hillside i was trying to coax it to drop the stopper
i picked up a long broken branch from the ground thinking i might use the stick to knock the stopper away from the bobcat
when the branch got near the bobcat it put down the stopper crouched on its hind legs and began to move towards me
it was clear that this was time to let go of my perceived need to get the stopper
this rubber stopper and my bath no longer seemed important in the context of life and death i quickly backed away no need for a bath to see them

so the last line in this verse says
if you just know that flame is fire
you'll find that your race has long been cut
it's so i love this this image and it reminds me
reminds me of several different images one is of there's a beautiful roomy pope poem where he says why is it that you keep searching for a loaf of bread when there's a bakery planted on your head
and so that's that's how
it's funny it's great it's so easy it's so easy for me to see that in all of you write all of you are like you know in all of us how it's harder for me to see that and myself but it's so easy to see it in you this is a wonderful thing about practice and about relationships and why
one of the reasons why we practice together why we sit together now walk into the zendo and it's just so completely you know everyone and everyone looks like buddha in the zendo everyone has this immense an enormous bakery sitting on their heads
this incredible ability and imagination and possibility
and then we sit down you know with their own you know oh i forget how did life did i forget to blow the candle out or did i know what did i get get very easily caught in
little things
i think of a one of the things that i've been doing for ten years now is leading retreats for business people with norman fischer at at kringle charm and i was thinking of the last
the last workshop last retreat that we did we have this group of about thirty different people and we usually start by
introduce going around and introducing ourselves and each person says their name and the company that they work at and what they do and it's usually pretty awesome to hear you know the companies that these people worked for and is great and important job
jobs and i'm sure myself and everyone is comparing ourselves to you know gee i'm i'm not working i'm not doing something like that
and then after after everybody introduces themselves we break into small groups usually i have three or fours and an address some particular question about things that are difficulties that we're facing in our lives and suddenly this group of you know very important sounding business people
are sitting there often in tears and but it whether they're in tears or not
we have a visitor

i thought maybe we will see a light a little right jumping around looking for

that's my phone by your way africa

now it takes so long to realize if you just know that flame
i so if we just know
we just know that are
that our breath is freedom that if that this if we just know that this shush you posture
is aliveness if we just know that everything about everything about our
are being everything about our lives is completely immeasurable right that can this idea as i was saying about this
this company time workshop that know we start out we start out in the lives with measuring our lives and being in that world and then quickly letting that go and seeing that
we're all we're all in this same boat together
we all we all and r and we have come you know we have thinking minds we have comparative mind but how can we how can we move beyond that and
live are great lives lives in the lives of saving all beings how can we bring
our lives alive and have the courage to begin to have
real conversations and so i think it in a way i think it starts with right
it starts with washing your bowl it starts with bringing the very basic and simple things that are in our lives alive
and then it's taking that into our relationships and being able to have
i'm loving real courageous relationships and conversations with the people in our lives
one of the words that that i've written for myself that
is a a reminder for me is the word outrageous
and i've been
it's a wonderful
i want to encourage all of us to try and live more
outrageous lives and outrageous doesn't necessarily mean
to be wild or to not be responsible what it means is living outside of the world of measuring ourselves and comparing ourselves and letting go enough so that
we can
bring the ball alive that's right in front of us and bring our relationships alive that are right in front of us and start to have outrageous and world changing conversations
i want i think i'm going to end with a with a david white poem that i just recently discovered that i i think because as you'll see i think it goes really well with this wash your bowl theme

this poem is called everything is waiting for you
i heard i heard david whyte speaking about this poem and he said that people when they hear the title of it you know that everything is waiting for you they think oh this sounds very optimistic but then he comes back and says everything is waiting
include including your demise
you're great mistake is to act the drama as if you were alone
as if life were a progressive and cunning crime with no witness to the tiny hidden transgressions
to feel abandoned is to deny the intimacy of your surroundings surely even you at times have felt the grand array the swelling presence in the chorus crowding out your solo voice
you must note the way the soap dish enables you or the window latch grants you freedom
alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity
the stairs are your mentor of things to come the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you and the tiny speaker in the phone is your dream ladder to divinity
put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the conversation
the kettle is singing even as it pours you a drink the cooking pots have left their arrogant aloofness and seen the good in you at last
all the birds and creatures of the world are unalterably themself on utterly themselves everything is waiting for you

so i hope that
i hope that you will
wash your bowl a little bit differently when you wash your ball and walk a little bit differently
have some
heroic conversations both with the people that you love and also
with our our greater sanga and community that can so that we can all begin to
wake up and he'll and change our world
thank you very much