Mirror of Zen Blog

Family Teamwork

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Work on the online course proceeds apace. The urgency of getting this material edited and packaged properly, has caused the “meditation app” project to be idled for the time being. It seems appropriate that a curriculum of clear, structured guidance in developing a home meditation practice come first, as an online course, and only then would the release of the meditation app make more practical sense. Zen means “follow situation”.

Today, from this little stone hut located in a gorge outside Kalamata, in the Peloponnesus mountains, in an Airbnb location rented without WiFi, I was able to piggyback off the hotspot on one of our iPhones here to have a video conference with our creative team, my supremely beautiful Dharma family. Stefanie is in the control tower directing things from Zen Center Regensburg; Pablo is doing the cutting and editing in Graz, Austria, spinning wonderful graphics, as well; while meanwhile Ioannis is, well, doing a really excellent job at being Ioannis in Thessaloniki, keeping the hawk’s-eye of a film school graduate on the “feel” of the whole thing. (He is currently occupied with helping a TV crew from the USA which is in Greece on some film shoot for a few weeks. But he still advises us on all aspects.) And our other Ioannis, vacationing in a village near the Turkish border, meanwhile builds the programming infrastructure for this whole architecture of Zen guidance to function with an interactive user interface. And precious CB — oh, Christina B.! — meanwhile refines the UX and “look” for our meditation app from the island of Syros, deep in the Aegean.

It’s already a huge blessing to know and practice meditation with such people. On top of that, to have these skills on your side, in a project such as this, is priceless.

I don’t know how we got here – – there wasn’t a plan for any of this. I honestly have no “gaining“ idea or ambition for it all. Even if just 10 or 15 people use any of this, and get even a smidgeon of workable benefit for their everyday lives, it will have been well worth the effort if it helps them to have more clarity for navigating the looming mental shoals of life in our current world experience.

This Summer of Apocalypse, 2021

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It is impossible to describe the intense feelings of doom and dread – – yes, even guilt, because of my lifestyle’s many, many contributions to it – – that I feel while taking this time for rest and reflection, in this seething summer of 2021, dodging fires and severe human tragedy in the countryside of Greece.

And as if this image were not fitting enough: Now we can witness, in real-time, the dark backdrop of the inexorable collapse of civil society in Afghanistan. The scene from Apocalypse Now, referenced in this cartoon, that great telling of the loss of the American soul in the defeat in Vietnam, and the pointless destruction chasing a neoliberal fever-dream’s inevitable nihilism. This week reveals the bloody folly of twenty years of pumping unreliable gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere to create a Western-facing system of laws and norms which has now reverted to its previous eighth-century default setting. My heart goes out to the women, first, who must be clapped back into their predictable hell-states; to the children who will now grow up confined to a medieval penal system; to the many, many people of goodwill who took such killable risks to make a better life for themselves, now left to their own devices by an uncaring power itself too riven by self-contradiction to be of any help to them anymore.

The Afghanistan of their dreams is lost. Vast stretches of Greece (and Russia, and the Pacific Northwest, and Canada, and Siberia, etc.) are lost. And America – – that shining chance for humanity, despite its many faults – – has perched itself before the abyss of a national reckoning which will surely bring it finally to its knees.

On Digital Dope

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Here is an interesting article I read in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. It’s science I’ve been using for several years in my public talks and teachings. It’s science I’ve just read through (and recommended to many readers here) in The Molecule of More. But, told through the eyes of this psychiatrist and professor at Stanford University, it has a short-form essay’s power that is instantly accessible and compelling for folks just encountering the matter:

God Confesses

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On the morning of the news of a devastating 7.2 earthquake in Haiti, against the backdrop of the Taliban recapturing Afghanistan, slaughtering anyone determined to have been helpful to the Americans and reinstituting burqas for women and sharia law, God finally confesses:

It’s so good of him to own up to that whole mosquito-thing, too.

The Real Unreal

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If this is not a case of life actually imitating art, I don’t know what is:


Left: Konstantinos Tsakalidis‘s photo of 81 year-old Yiayia Panagiota Ritsopi, 81, reacts to the out-of-control wildfires in the village of Gouves on Evia island; right, “The Scream,” by Edvard Munch.

And as if we needed anything more to draw the comparison:

Painting: Christos Papanikos

This climate catastrophe is the apocalypse-movie we’ve watched on a screen, and now have come to star in. It’s Tom Cruise’s War of the Worlds come real.

My heart goes out for her. And I’m tended with the realization how we created this art in which this poor woman is featured. How many uncountable gigatons of carbon were thrown up into the atmosphere over the last 20 years for this escapade in Afghanistan — in the innumerable plane fights and bombings and incineration and rebuilding projects and concrete manufacture and military truck transport overland from Pakistan – – how many years of bad weather put into the future-bank through this disastrous folly in just this one country? — only to see it all return ex post ante with the fall of that country back into the hands of the Taliban?

That is a “Scream” all totally its own. Our own.

“What Am I?”

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A teaching from one of my favorite Zen teachers of all time — Hakuin Ekaku:

[ from Wikipedia: ]

Hakuin Ekaku (白隠 慧鶴, January 19, 1686 – January 18, 1769) was one of the most influential figures in Japanese Zen Buddhism. He is regarded as the reviver of the Rinzai school from a moribund period of stagnation, refocusing it on its traditionally rigorous training methods integrating meditation and koan practice.

Hakuin saw “deep compassion and commitment to help all sentient beings everywhere” as an indispensable part of the Buddhist path to awakening. Hakuin emphasized the need for “post-satori training”, purifying the mind of karmic tendencies and 

[W]hipping forward the wheel of the Four Universal Vows, pledging yourself to benefit and save all sentient beings while striving every minute of your life to practice the great Dharma giving.

The insight in the need of arousing bodhicitta formed Hakuin’s final awakening:

What is to be valued above all else is the practice that comes after satori is achieved. What is that practice? It is the practice that puts the Mind of Enlightenment first and foremost.
[At] my forty-first year, […] I at long last penetrated into the heart of this great matter. Suddenly, unexpectedly, I saw it — it was as clear as if it were right there in the hollow of my hand. What is the Mind of Enlightenment? It is, I realized, a matter of doing good — benefiting others by giving them the gift of the Dharma teaching.