July 12, 2009


Profound thunder this morning that reached to the roots of my teeth. This is rarely heard in the Pacific Northwest where we have relatively little of it. Not like the thrilling storms in the east in summer when people went dashing for cover with the thrashing rain that followed. It was always an extraordinary delight to huddle with strangers in doorways in the city in those moments of storm, rain spitting onto our ankles. Soon after, one by one, we would peel off and hug the sides of buildings rushing toward the subway or some dry island. Pennsylvania has even better storms than New York, and Switzerland, with all its lakes, can scare you to death. I cannot help but love the passion of thunder and lightening storms. The sound this morning was complete.

Now, a satisfying rain after such dryness as we haven't seen in a long time. With many trees in western Washington, we are leery about dryness, as you can imagine. It's surprising how quickly we can see the forest floor develop cracks in it. Deer, rabbit, raccoon, other small mammals have been shifting their habits looking for sources of water.

Olympia Zen Center is on a large pond, perhaps it could be called a small lake, and we also have a pond in our garden, so we have a nice population of wildlife. Song birds have been prevalent this summer and using the stream and pond like a small resort. This makes for great music during Zazen especially in mornings. We also enjoy bird music around dusk. The area is like an animal dance hall, practically a Disney happening, especially when the sun shines.

Underpinning all of this is the constancy of Practice, an extremely important rhythm to the day, to daily life, to establishing how we live. Having Zazen as part of our practice each day is not just something we do, it is how we live. It's the same natural practice as eating breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is simply natural life activity that Buddhas, matriarchs, patriarchs, and lay practitioners have done before us throughout the centuries. When we realize this and we engage in daily practice, we hold the heart of constancy, the heart of awakening in all our activities. Of course, we must practice in an aware way.

Buddha Nature as all of existence is before us constantly. Our question in Practice is how constant we are to this awareness. I have, at times, been asked by Christians whether there is any moment in the New Testament that could be a teaching for Zazen. With all kindness to the Apostle Peter, I point to the arrest of Jesus and Peter's sitting the night with him when Jesus asks, "Won't you spend an hour watching with me?" Jesus asks Peter three times, and three times poor Peter falls asleep. Of course, Peter is us, so overcome by our own weakness. However, our practice of Zazen is where we turn to stay awake and constant to the moments of life that will never return again. We will never be the age we are at this moment. We cannot relive our lives. We can only practice to stay awake, practice for the constancy of heart that would lead us to be human beings of integrity and realization. Constancy of Practice, moment by moment.