meditation, zazen, zen, Zen Poetry

States of Meditation


some days I’m swimming upstream
some days I’m going with the flow
some days I’m floating on a tranquil pond
other days the mind wanders away
like a kite untethered from the kid
who thought he was in control
and then suddenly the crow: “CAAAAW!  CAAAAAW!”
like the THWACK!  THWACK!
of the keisaku, or “wakeup stick”
purpose regained.
this moronic ox
eyes open
on this cushion

beginner meditation, mantra, meditation, zazen, zen

The Monkey and the Mantra


Let’s talk about focus while meditating.  I have yet to meet the person who can sit down to meditate and stay focused for the entire time, every time, or even most of the time, every time. We all struggle. The important thing is that we’re not sitting there most days just daydreaming or letting the monkey mind rule…..  that little bastard gets us all the time with his bells, and shenanigans….. Oh look how Cute!…. oh, wait, where was I? Yes, staying focused…. even people who have been meditating for years or decades  get distracted. The mind tends to go in one of two directions, remembering past events or planning for the future. The monkey doesn’t like to sit still. So once upon a time the mantra was invented and has been used by Hindus, Buddhists and others for centuries. A mantra can be a sound or a word that can be repeated aloud or spoken silently over and over. In some traditions the word has a sacred or spiritual meaning, but for me, it just helps to have a sound or word that can keep me on track. A mantra that works for me is “here, now”.  Breathing in, saying a silent-“Heeeeeeerrrrrreeeeee” throughout the entire inhalation.  Breathing out- “Noooooooooowwwwwww”.  Being fully mindful of the entire breath from start to finish helps me to focus when I feel like I’m swimming upstream or being led around by that monkey.  Give it a try, it can’t hurt.  And if it does, “it doesn’t matter it’s in the past”. (The Wise Rafki in The Lion King)


meditation, New Year's Day, zazen, zen

Ringing in the New Year, Enjoying the Gift of Time


Today, after a small sip of grapefruit juice and a back stretch, I put on the winter gear, and made my way up the icy driveway to the barn zendo.  I got up later than usual and the sun was shining brightly.  It’s a curious idea that we celebrate the new year January 1st. I always thought it should start with the Vernal Equinox and the greening of the landscape, but it makes just as much sense to celebrate the new year after the Winter Solstice and with the lengthening of days. Each day until the beginning of summer  we are given a minute or so more daylight to either savor or squander. Our choice. Speaking of minutes more, my sitting frequency and duration have slacked off quite a bit over the holidays, but the cawing of the crow and the burbling of the creek reminded me today to PAY MORE ATTENTION! So, I will heed their advice and as the days get longer I resolve to savor them by sitting:


at least once a day

every day,

come what may

Rain or snow

30 below,

or grass to mow

At the end of my sit today, I rang the tiny bell much longer than usual- enjoining the world and mainly myself:

Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up!