Blog this Trip (12): Review the Schedule and Sleep

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It’s really essential to have a clear daily schedule for the time that will be spent in the inviting city. There are often unanticipated appointments that people want to make, and so I like to have a clear idea of how the day will be flowing. It’s also so that I can manage my daily practice time well so that it does not interfere with what people expect of me here. I don’t do any sightseeing on these trips, and I don’t socialize – – it’s all the work of teaching Dharma. I’m always hoping to have an hour or two free, here or there in the schedule, to use as a please. I usually like to spend this kind of time sitting in a café, reading a book and just being non-active for a change. Being in a situation that doesn’t require me to speak is truly one of the greatest joys I can experience in everyday life.

11:30. Past my bedtime. Time to sleep. 취침.

Blog this Trip (10): Snack in the Room

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Now, from the predawn departure in the dark from the Zen Center in Regensburg, through train and bus to airport, flying to Oslo, and then train and taxi into downtown, having meetings with the event organizers, leading a “private consultation,” and then working on sound remastering for the bells sounds, it’s time for a rest. Grabbed a little veggie burger to put me to sleep.

Normally, I only eat once per day. But when there is travel, something like this beginning several hours before dawn in one city and finishing up late in the evening in another city, after some travel I will sometimes have a light snack soon after arrival. And then maybe another. Having a little extra food there grounds me and makes somehow the metabolism to “click” with the situation here. I don’t know if it’s the general organizational anxiety churned through from packing things and setting things in order before leaving the Zen Center, to all of the travel points that need to be matched along the way, to the security inspection at the airport and all of the boarding, the flight, the arrival and integration with a somewhat different climate — but when I arrive, it’s sometimes helpful to split this one meal into two smaller intakes.

Just don’t tell the people back in Regensburg that I sometimes check emails while eating.

Blog this Trip (9): Soundmastering the Chants for the Meditation App

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Yogi (Erik Møller), my cohost for all of this work in Norway for 13 years, is an accomplished musician and music producer, a businessman and teacher and all-around-bodhisattva Soul. He is also the soundman who has helped to produce all of the chants that I have released over the years: Om Mani Padme Hum, the Great Dharani (solo version), and the Great Dharani x3 (and its various iterations).

For the last several months, we have been sound mastering and remixing several bell recordings for the upcoming meditation app. During the first lockdown, in summer of 2030, our neighbor, Peter Beer, brought an excellent professional microphone to the Zen Center and we recorded the Great Bell in our Dharma Room. It was a quiet Sunday morning in the Altstadt, with only the rain spackling lightly on the leaves, and only the dim Sunday church bells in the distance, and a few birds. They are stunning, effective recordings — there is real intimacy with the activity of the bell, with its wavy-wavy reverb, and its long-enduring tone.

We are doing several recordings which people will be able to have free access to, as tools for setting atmosphere to enter their daily home practice of sitting meditation.

On top of this, I will take the opportunity to record two more mantras for the meditation app: “Om Nam” and “Om Salba Motcha Moji Sadaya, Sabaha” (참회진언).

Today we just reviewed our unfinished works, and began refining two of the bell recordings. Very very beautiful expansive presence, this bell among the ancient bells of Regensburg, sometimes appearing in the distance.

I believe that playing this as someone settles into seated meditation will be helpful for their mind to become calm and centered as they let go of thinking — the stickiness of thinking — and learn to trust the naturally appearing sound of the bell, and through that — in that — to trust the completeness of Moment.

Blog this Trip (8): Coaching Session 1

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On these trips to Norway, I usually give a big public talk in the city, a three-day silent retreat, and then several private consultations. It is always a very full schedule, from the moment of arrival to departure.

The “private consultations“ are a scheduled confidential, one-to-one conversation with someone who might have some deeper or more personal questions than they would feel comfortable raising in a public talk. In other contexts, this is sometimes called “coaching“.

I like doing these “private consultations“ because they naturally flow outside any of the formal framing of the public Dharma talk. They can be free-wheeling, and not necessarily based on the Buddhist teachings or even Zen. Rather, I try to address the issues in the person’s practice, and how they integrate their daily practice with their every day life.

Today I held one private consultation immediately upon arrival in Oslo. It is such an honor to be brought up close and intimate with some of the deepest issues in the life of someone who you have only just met in that situation.

Today’s appointment was supposed to run for one hour. But I always feel that this is not enough, that they only have this one chance to connect, and I want them to make the most of it. So, we finished after 1.5 hours of consulting.

There is another private consultation on Tuesday.

A First Time for Everything

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I have never, ever shared a cat-meme before. And it will never happen again. God have mercy.

But this was too good to pass up. More than just a meme, actually I have had this experience. This is not being said out of any arrogant posturing. I have literally experienced this meme. The immersion in one of Mahler’s symphonies — even just one movement of it — can draw out far, far more inexpressible depth of feeling in me than was ever remotely experienced through the deaths of even several (much closer than Grandpa!) very close family members. Such is Mahler’s colossal power, the fentanyl of my thinking-mind whose naloxone is only Zen.

Now, that reality maybe sounds sick, to some, but it’s true. That is why this Third Symphony is, say, perhaps only a once-a-year experience for me. (Same with most of the others.)

In Mahler, it seems, I can express even such socially objectionable things.

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[ This Mahler’s Third Symphony, Third Movement, by the way, was the track used by the Greek artistic polyglot genius Dimitri Papaioannou as the soundtrack for his epic Opening Ceremony for the 2004 Athens Olympics. If you watch a video of that — which is available only on Vimeo, it seems — you will certainly end up looking like the cat on the right. Guaranteed. The sublimity of Mahler’s vast spiritual totality, coupled with Papaioannou’s mesmerizing, dynamic visual panorama, will be too much for you to take. I wept openly when someone showed it to me for the first time last year. It’s actually quite overwhelming. I really don’t recommend it. You shouldn’t watch. Fentanyl is a far less dangerous experience. ]