Archive for the ‘Katagiri Roshi’ Category


Recently, my cyber-friend Montucky tapped me for a ROAR award. Thank you, Terry! Now, the rules for being A Roar for Powerful Words recipient state that I must share three writing tips and pass the award on to three more bloggers worthy of recognition and esteem.

When it comes to writing, I turn to “beginner’s mind.” And really the only thing that I know for sure is this: you need a pen or pencil, a piece of paper and the mind.

While I use my iBook for blogging, I use a notebook to access the fresh and unedited part of my mind. For ten years, I have done “writing practice” a la Natalie Goldberg. She continues to be my great writing teacher and the lineage includes Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Suzuki Roshi and Danin Katagiri Roshi.

If you want to write, you need to read a lot and, oddly enough, write. And don’t get too attached to the outcome. Perhaps I should say, “practice non-attachment.” As Nike says, “Just do it!” If you’re new to “My Inner Edge” you’ll soon discover that I read a lot of poetry. I don’t write a lot of poems, yet poems inform my writing.

I like to write in different places–particularly in cafes that have just the right amount of ambient noise to occupy the judgmental part of my mind. I also like to write with a friend or a group of writers and then read aloud with “no comment.” Reading your work aloud is important and allows you to hear your own voice.

Here is one of my favorite quotes about writing–it’s from The Writing Life by Annie Dillard:

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

Having said what I know about writing, I bestow this award on The Dream Antilles, Bogs Darking and The Doughtie House Exchange


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For those courageous souls who spent the day keeping their hands moving across the page, engaged in Writing Practice…I bow. You have joined the lineage of Zen Writers; backed by the tradition of Natalie Goldberg, Alan Ginsberg, Dainin Katagiri Roshi, Suzuki Roshi, Dogen, Jack Kerouac and others.

I hope you’ll continue under all circumstances…sitting, writing, reading aloud, walking. You will develop a strong writing spine and learn to write from your heart.

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This morning I am awake early…savoring the morning light while it lasts; acclimating to the dark afternoon. Yesterday, the maples behind the house were still green…this morning they are yellow and the wind has combed leaves off the hickory and catalpa trees. The temperature is dropping and there are rumors of snow.

At lunch time, I drive across the county to check on Dad. When I arrive at the hospital, he is in good spirits–it’s amazing what a blood transfusion can do when your hemoglobin is low. As I pull out of the parking lot, I think about his incredible determination. I think about Katagiri Roshi’s description of a monk’s life…”we fall down and we get up.” I think of the instructions at yoga school when we are doing balancing poses: “if you fall down ten times, get up eleven times.” Somehow, whenever his health fails or when he literally falls down (something he’s done numerous times), Dad always gets back up. I’ve come to admire his sense of humor about it all, his love of life and his magnanimous acceptance of what is in any given moment.


If you’re going to be anxious and rush around about anything,
do it first about finding the “I can” of the universe
and how it straightens out your life.
Line up your starting place with that of the cosmos:
search and ask and boil with impatience
until you find the vision of the One Being
that empowers all your ideas and ideals,
that restores your faith and justifies your love.

All the rest–the universal and endless “things”
of life–
will then attach themselves to you as you need them.
You will stand at the threshold where
completeness arrives naturally
and prostration leads to perfection.
Pouring yourself out makes the universe do
the same.


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Tonight after Hatha Yoga, we have a Raja Yoga class. Last week’s “assignment” was to identify, reflect on and journal about our spiritual values and where and how we see them embodied in the world. We talk a bit about the resistance that some students have to journaling and the common considerations: TIME, EFFORT REQUIRED, and PRIVACY.

Here I am 255 consecutive days into blogging without much consideration for privacy. As for time and effort, it seems that I can’t not do it. If it’s midnight and I’ve just gotten home, I will put something up. I think of it as a practice–perhaps conditioning/ training/ preparation for things to come. My friend Peter reminds me that Hemingway used to write every morning, standing up…which brings to mind the teachings of Danin Katagiri Roshi; “Continue under ALL circumstances. Don’t be tossed away. Make positive effort for the good each and every day.”

We end our class with a meditation. As yogis, we send blessings to the people who inhabit our “corner of the world.” We are urged to consider how far our “corner of the world” extends–how many people our meditations might touch.

I come home refreshed and energized by the practice. I think of all of the places in the world where I see evidence of spiritual values. I decide to make a cup of tea and, lo and behold, on the side of the box of Celestial Seasonings Decaf Chai, I read the following:


“When he can look upon the universe, now lucid and lovely, now dark and terrible, with a sense of his own littleness in the great scheme of things, and yet have faith and courage. when he knows how to make friends and keep them and above all, when he can keep friends with himself.

When he can be happy alone and high-minded amid the drudgeries of life. When he can look into a wayside puddle and see something besides mud, and into the face of the most forlorn mortal and see something divine.

When he knows how to live, how to love, how to hope, how to play–is glad to live…and has in his heart a bit of a song.”


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Gratitude. Humility. Non-attachment. Beginner’s mind. Empty mind. Sometimes not so empty mind.

PENETRATING THE MOMENT: From You Have to Say Something

Dogen said we must penetrate this moment, again and again, forever. This is the most important thing we can do. There is nothing to change, nothing to hold on to, nothing to get caught by. All we have to do is constantly approach this very moment with a true heart. But this is not so easy…

…If you stand up in this moment with a true heart, immediately you will experience true affirmation of yourself as the Whole. But in the next moment, you have to let that experience go.

Letting it go is returning, once again, to this moment as it is. Then the next moment appears just as it is , and you can face it naturally, with freshness of mind. But if you don’t return to this moment, the real moment will not appear. You will just be caught up in your idea of the moment. You will never totally participate in it; you will never accept this moment as completely new. You will be stuck in your thoughts, your memories, and your preferences, which bubble up from your mind and cause you to waver…

As simply as you can, you have to just stand up in this moment and then let it go. Then you can be in this moment, and you can be in the next…So stand up in this moment and experience it totally; then just let it go. Let each new moment come up fresh, just as it is. To do this constantly is our practice.


Today we spend almost two hours in the early morning doing asanas. We take a break for two hours and then eight students begin again. We sit meditation, practicing pranayama for forty-five minutes. We warm up with push-ups, crunches, bicycle crunches, rear leg lifts. We do Sun Salutations; Warrior Forms; Temple Form…continuous movement until 2 pm. including balancing poses–Tree; One-legged Prayer Pose; Standing Bow; Extended Prayer; Moving Crane.

By 2 pm. all eight of us are exhilarated and exhausted. Three people “pass the exam;” the rest of us come close. All of us will be attending “Hatha Yellow” classes from now on. I bow in respect to Neil, John and Todd–your determination is an inspiration.

While I am determined to build physical strength (and “conquer” the Standing Bow)…while I noticed a profound difference in my capacity this time around…I know that my deeper challenge is to penetrate this moment.

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“Life and death are not two. Life and death constitute a single event. We usually don’t see life and death in this way. Instead, we imagine there is some space between them, like the space we imagine between ourselves and other things. This is ignorance…”

“Life and death are based in illusion. You cannot lay your hands on them. They apply neither to you nor to what you think, see, or feel. They are like waving images in the heat. The total picture of life and death is like a single sheet of paper. One side is imaginary; the other side appears, while the side you touched disappears. But the moment you say, “Oh, it disappeared!” that side immediately appears again. These two sides, working together as a single event, are the total picture of life and death. This is not something we can comprehend with our ideas. The total picture of life and death works beyond human speculation.”


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“We don’t know how to deal with birth and death. We don’t know how to deal with a person who is going to die. We don’t know how to deal with our own mortality. Yet we must all face the reality of impermanence…”

“People have a preconception that when you become a Zen priest you have to die peacefully, preferably in a sitting position. But I don’t think there is any particular pattern to how you should die. You may have ideas about how to die or about what a happy death is, but when you are actually faced with death, there are no guarantees about what will happen. When you face death, there is no space to look at death as an object. You are right there. Even in the face of death, you have to understand how to live from moment to moment.”

“Those who are about to die experience many complicated emotions–feelings of despair, sentimentality, and anger. This is very natural, But finally, they reach a stage where they completely give up. They realize that there is no solution and there is nothing to grasp. Within the realm of resignation, their consciousness still vibrates minutely with deep human suffering…Persons who are about to die can share their suffering with us, and we can share our suffering with those who are about to die…”

“In facing your last moment, you can really share your life and your death. If you are with someone who is about to die, you can massage her back, hold her hand, serve her a drink of water, or just sit with her. If your heart is warm and compassionate, even though you don’t say anything, your presence naturally affects her.”

“This kind of feeling can’t be developed overnight. You have to practice it from day to day. This is why I always talk about everyday life, which is made up of innumerable small things. Even though you don’t like it, you have to take care of them–and other people–with compassion.”

“…however we view death, when we face it we must be present right there in the middle of the vast universe, which is completely beyond our speculations of good or bad, right or wrong. Our life is nothing but an endless stream, a dynamic flow of energy. All we have to do is just be there in the last moment. But the last moment is very quick. When you are in the last moment exactly, you don’t know it. “

“In his essay, ‘Zenki,’ Dogen Zenji said that life is the total manifestation of life, and death is the total manifestation of death. In other words, the momentum of life-and-death is beyond our ideas. so when the time comes for you to face death, all of you have to do is return to the very first moment. In the first moment, we can realize Dharma. Dharma–Oneness, Totality, Wholeness–needs you, whoever you are.”



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