Useless Advice

How Long Should I Sit?: A Modern Koan

So you’ve come to Nozenmaster for sitting advice?  Well, then hold on to your wallet, grasshopper, because I have the answer you have been seeking.

First ask yourself: How many times a day do I fart?  Then, multiply the answer by the amount of un-enlightenment you currently possess. (If you’re not sure, ask a meditation teacher, your spouse, partner, sibling or dog) This should give you the appropriate number of minutes per day to sit. Then, be sure to keep score. Keeping a log of all your progress, vis-a-vis number of minutes or seconds of non-distracted thought during each sitting, will allow you to compare yourself to the less-enlightened beings who wander in ignorance just bumping into things. Also be sure to write down the level of peace and/or elation felt during or after each sitting.  If your minutes of non-distraction, peace or happiness is satisfactory, then you’re cushion time is Just Right. If it starts to slip, Sit More! When your total combined meditation score reaches one kalpa, you will be fully enlightened. Congratulations!  You have now surpassed Nozenmaster, which is Nofrikkinpossible!  How could You be better than Me?!….  In the meantime, if someone cuts you off in traffic and you find yourself just smiling or not even really noticing, you may be making “progress”… or maybe you’re just too damn tired to care, or possibly stoned.  In either case, get off the freakin’ road!  That’s my advice and I’m stickin’ to it.

Zen Poetry

Meditation to Find Yourself

pics from pc718

If you’re looking for transformation

go to a gym or a hair stylist or a “life coach”

because the zafu cushion is a circle of deception.

You may experience flashes,

moments that stretch out and out and out….

into a taste of timelessness without reference-

a fleeting feeling of dissolution that gels

into this temporarily aware tendril

trying to hold onto that evanescent ether.

Then the aching knees or hips or heart

reassemble into

just you.

poetry, winter solstice, zen

Things we used to Know- Winter Solstice

nov-feb 2014 172

Before morning, we knew where the sun would rise
At midday, how high in the sky.
At dusk, over which hill it would set.
Then , which star would be first to wake up,
where and when the moon would appear
and in which guise.

We knew that when shadows are longest
still the sun creeps northward
twig by twig, each day
as it rises anew in the southeastern sky.
We knew the startling hoot of the great horned owl
would come one moon before
the “phoebee” call of the chickadee,
and the phoebee call one moon before
the sap would drip from broken maple branches.
We may have dreaded cold-hearted winter then
but the return of the light was not in doubt


Sitting By the Sea

I had the chance in June to meditate at two unique and beautiful locations in California. The first was on a remote, black sand beach on the Lost Coast in Humbolt County. While my two hiking partners lay in their tent, I was alone on a magnificent, secluded beach with towering cliffs, pelicans and the rumble of the waves. I mounded up the charcoal-colored sand under my butt and half-buried my knees in its fog-dampened coolness. My exhalations at first matched the length of some waves, but as I settled deeper, breathing waves extended longer than ocean waves, rumbling on further as the waves retreated. Although no longer in sync, neither was one wave with the next, all just arising and falling separately, yet part of the whole, like separate chords in the sussurating symphony that is the sea. Awareness always seems easier here and if occasionally I was carried away in thought like a piece of flotsam, it was also easier to come back with the raucous cry from a gull or an especially noisy wave. It was also easier to forgive that errant wanderer we call our everyday mind.

The second meditation opportunity was at Green Gulch Farm, in a zendo constructed amidst towering Redwood trees, where I had the opportunity to attend Sunday services and hear Zoketsu Norman Fischer give a dharma talk. Mr. Fischer probably gave an interesting dharma talk, but I have completely forgotten it. During Q and A, in response to a new student’s inquiry about how to deepen one’s practice, Mr. Fischer responded that the student should carve out time to sit more frequently and regularly and perhaps attend sesshins at SFZC or a similar place a few times a year…… yada, yada, yada…But, I think he missed an opportunity here to say: go sit outside among the redwoods and breathe in the overpowering fecundity of the Earth and feel the gentleness of the wind. Sit by a stream, or in a barn while cows are lowing, or the crow cawing outside.

So if you have the chance before you die to sit in the presence of an enlightened “master”, then don’t pass up the opportunity, bow down before the ocean and feel the waves become part of you and rumble in the very core of your being.


Guru or Charlatan?

Been wondering whether that charismatic teacher is actually suffering from delusions of grandeur?  Try looking for some of these clues:

What Enlightenment is not

Dwelling on a higher plane of existence

Believing oneself or anyone else to be a perfected being

Believing a person can communicate with or can be in touch with anything outside the realm of the 5 senses or personal consciousness


Some Signs of Delusion


Lack of empathy or compassion

Feeling superior, being overly critical, or judgmental of others

Mistaking personal truth for universal truth

Inability to control temper

Being a slave to addictions- sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.

Mistaking the forms and rituals of any practice for spiritual attainment


Stayed tuned for future additions…..