Unknown year, May talk, Serial 00972

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SF-00972
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2002?

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i
good morning

by i spent on i spent the week or many times during the week kind of preparing for
what i was going to talk about today and then
two nights ago i ran into michael winger said you know you're supposed to give a way seeking my talk supposed to be about
kind of to tell your story and and i said well i just i just did that recently here and and i didn't want to and a bore people so
what i what i thought i would try is some kind of combining what i was going to do and away seeking mind talk and kind of weave them with them together so see how how that works
actually the first thing i thought of
ah
i this this joke that i made up came into my head the other day which was
what's the difference between stand up comedy and as and lecture
stand up comedy isn't always funny

the
there's talk that i that i was preparing was about this a call on its kiss kiss thirty eight
in the gate less barrier and it's
it's the case called the buffalo water buffalo goes through the window and the case is it is like a buffalo that passes through a latticed window
it's head horns and four legs all pass through
why can't its tail pass through as well
and
in these in these and stories well
a new kind of understand a realization for me is that these stories are all about me or they're all about us and that
so where the we are the water buffalo i'm going all the way through the window
except for the tail why is that
the
the comment the comment on this particular cone is if you can get upside down with this one discern it clearly and give a turning were to it
then you can meet the for obligations above and give comfort to the three existences below
but if it is not yet clear pay close attention to the tail and you will resolve it
at last don't worry this will all become really clear
well that the the first image that i that i had when i read this column was thinking about being at the birth of my children and their they were these these creatures passing
through the opening of their of their mother know first their head and their body and and their the there they were and yet
it was as though there was some part of them that was still not born there were some some very very important tangible part that was in this place before birth so that was the kind of relating this to this the sort of water buffalo story that that tale that tell that doesn't go through
the window
and i also thought of
being with my mother when she was dying and being with her for her her last breaths and holding your hand and
and she died and and seeing there is this feeling of her completely passing through this window from life to death and but yet there she was she's my mother still there she still still very much a part of me
the
the buffalo in this in this story is a water buffalo that was a really important member of the farming family in asia and it represents disorder buffalo represents essential nature represents as i said it represents us the way
each of us passes through the gate of zen practice opening to something new having some insight and yet there's always this feeling of
not quite all the way through something something's not quite right
you can pass through you know you can be you can feel like you're in complete pain just you know you're just kind of wallowing in pain and suffering and yet there's some you know so you look up and you see a child smiling and are you feel some tinge of joy or you're completely filled with way
of happiness and elation and yet
there's some sense of pain some sense of suffering
when i lived at when i lived at tassajara i had a very close friend a woman named carol rankin who had cancer at tassajara and then
years later as as she was quite ill i can remember this this phone conversation that my my wife was pregnant with our second child and carol rankin was
just a few days away from dying and they were and was kind of waiting to die and they were like i kind of overheard the to them on the phone kind of laughing hysterically about this
this transition that they were both in and that they were both looking forward to passing through this this window and we ended up naming our daughter carol after this women carol rankin and it can it feels feels like this this buffalo

i think the you know one of the lessons of this cone and of practice is that
how can we live our lives beyond ideas of late labels like successful and not successful beyond fear beyond greed
beyond looking for some safe place or something safe for ourselves
so in this in this commentary on this cone it says if you can get upside down with this one
that is if you can see see it yourself and the world upside down from some unusual perspective some perspective outside of success and failure
no in our in our practice know every day we we make these vows to save all beings and yet
knowing that it's some way knowing that we we can't really save all beings but yet there's this effort about getting upside down seeing things differently in making that effort
and it goes on he goes onto say only when we get upside down and see clearly can we give a turning word only by turning our world upside down
can our speech come from some place that's clear enough unfettered enough to help others
and yet no matter no matter where we are in our practice no matter where we are we we have to say something
well and it's just you know there's no there's no saying something without holding back without looking for the perfect or right thing to say
throughout my life i've had this i've had this repeating dream that i've had a lot as a child and i i have occasionally now
where i was standing on the moon
and suddenly decided that it was time to leap and jump off the moon and and i and i would leap backwards and i would and watch as my feet went over my head and i be twirling twirling in space both
filled with the sense of fear and joy and wonder and awe
and then i would suddenly land on the earth and
and i would slowly build i would be lying in bed kind of in this half wake waking place half asleep place and as i would open my eyes i would be in this complete sweat i'm having travelled all that all that distance
again that with that feeling of of being upside down a feeling of turning your world upside down

my
let's say

well a little about my own my own me as this buffalo i'm this buffalo that that grew up in new jersey i was thinking maybe i should have changed the story to a mosquito
because there's a lot of mosquitoes in new jersey but there's not there's not many buffalo that i know of
but i
ah
i grew up in this in what in what i i thought that i grew up in what was a very sort of ozzie and harriet type
world in which it was in the suburbs of new jersey and
everything just seem great when i was you know i was happy as can be in going to school and doing well and
and i was totally asleep
i i was so i was so asleep i had no idea how unhappy i was and
i
ah
i think of some
some key some key moments that brought me towards towards practice one was
in high school wrestling
hi
i was i think you know although i was pretty much a loner and alone and just kind of was in my own world and in high school just getting by just doing what i was supposed to be doing but the the one thing that had a lot of passion and energy for me was wrestling and
i am
two things one is one of the
one of the schools that we wrestled was the school called jp stevens that had one of the best wrestling teams in the state
my coach my coach had this philosophy that you shouldn't be a big fish in a small pond which was his way of saying we should get beaten up by the best teams in the state even though we were we were a new young not very good wrestling team
so who he put us against regularly against the best teams in the state of new jersey and there's this one team in particular that almost always had was almost always one of the best teams and
before the wrestling match our team would come out onto the wrestling mat and we everyone would be kind of raw riding and be all you know there we'd be kind of trying to psych out this other team and we'd be creepy this real kind of loud cheering
and then we would sit down and this other team jp stevens
they would walk out very very slowly on the night and they all had shaven heads and they all wore black and and they
and they and they just they just kind of were almost like meditating or just they were just get they were just gathering themselves and i knew then that was the team i wanted to be on
the
i i also i was really
i was really drawn by this and i noticed in wrestling that
the really the the good rest good wrestlers were very strong and quick and knew what to do and
that that i was i became a i became a good wrestler and i noticed that there is something really unusual about the best the ones that were the state champions and i was i was really as in as a senior in high school especially i was trying to figure out what it was it wasn't it wasn't completely
conscious i wasn't having discussions about this but i was really i remember going through my head many times what is it about these people who
the ones that always win and that that when the state champions it seemed to me that they didn't care about winning it seem like they they didn't care about winning and they weren't afraid of losing and i care to i cared about winning and i was afraid of losing and i knew that i knew that that was in my way
and somehow wanted to get beyond that
and
a few years later when when i was in college i had my what would i think of as my first my first real love relationship in which i was i was just totally in love with this woman and
i couldn't it was just amazing to me that she actually wanted to be with me
she seemed she seems so she was beautiful and smart and sort of carefree and and ah and i was totally asleep and
and i i could see at some point i could see her moving away from me or ix i thought that i i was i was so worried about her leaving me that of course she left me right right right away and
and i felt it was the first time in my and in some way it was the first time that i really experienced pain that and and all of the pain from my childhood suddenly started coming through at that at that moment and i
realized that i didn't live in an ozzie and harriet life my my father was manic depressive and and my mother didn't have a clue how to deal with it and and there was this tremendous sort of ball of pain in my growing up that that i just i just kind of had
put in this neat little place you know and and and it was the pain of having having being left for the first time that's brought started to bring all that in into focus and at the same time and i think i write some of you probably heard all this
excuse me
but i there was a book that i had to read for college called towards the psychology of being by abraham maslow and in that book he talks about he did he's abraham maslow devoted his life towards studying what is it that separates there's a certain kind of
person that seems to be living more fully that seems
not necessarily happier but has real powerful happy moments and real powerful sad moments and passion and and that they do they do seem to accomplish things in their life even though they're not particularly set out to to accomplish those things seem things seem to happen so again it was the
that i remember reading in the midst of my suffering and and depression at a loss of my first love i was reading these words of abraham maslow and
it just i felt like his words just seeped into me and i'm risk and i had never really discovered reading until that that was like i think that might have been the first book that i felt like i got and i i enjoyed and that
i probably finished reading it i read it all the way through and finished it like at midnight and started again and woke up three quarters of the way through and three or four in the morning and rent and and experienced that oh he's he's talking about that you can actually
steady yourself that you can actually change you can actually develop but that the idea is to not be self conscious and it's like what what an amazing idea what an amazing concept and i went right out and started reading everything i could get my hands
i'm having to do with
mysticism and eastern and western psychology and and discovered i'm alan watts alan watts was the first zenbook that i picked up at that time and
i just i decided i think in in that moment that in that period that what else what else could be worth doing other than this study and being being in the study of me
and being
and actually being able to help other people i think in part you know i'd also i'd also felt the pain of not being able to help my father who was in such pain of having a an illness having a mind that was not at all in his control and having i'm a mother who had no
no idea how to deal with that and
and realizing that what somehow what could be more important what what else could be more worthwhile than this study and i started taking every class at this was at rutgers college in new jersey every class records had to offer and and it was for the first time i was engaged and
learn and i realized that i didn't just want to study this i wanted to actually do it and
i didn't quite know what that meant i i just knew
i knew of one place a friend of mine from college had just gotten back from san francisco where he was at a place called the humanists institute
and it was a small community of san francisco that did meditation practice and live together and studied eastern and western mysticism so i i decided to take a a one year leave of absence from from college and had to san francisco
enroll in this humanist institute place and while i was there i
started someone gave me a copy of the tassajara of bread book and i started i started making bread and there is something in in the words of ed brown in this book of combining making bread with making bread as a kind of pract
s and caring for things and i i had a job at that time i was supporting myself by
the one skill i had was i could type
this was this was in the
early sys was nineteen have exactly thirty years ago that i first first came out here nineteen seventy three and
actually this was another one of another childhood memory was in in junior high school
i took a typing class and
i played this i had this game that i used to play in my mind where i would picture i would picture my fingers hitting the keys
and i used to as i would think words i would picture in my head what hand i was typing with and
and this was i was in eighth grade and i i was really surprised that somehow i could type four times faster than anybody else in in in this junior high school because it is game and i thought by there must be other ways to apply this to and that's always been am i think that was part of my realizing how powerful
our own minds are and the power of what we can visualize
in nineteen seventy three i was working downtown san francisco and i was taking the number six masonic bus that went right by here every morning and i every morning i would look out the window on my way to this some typing job and wonder about this remembering that
this does our bread book and that this building were somehow connected and
one day i i got off the bus and i think i think it was in in nineteen seventy four and and walked in the walked in the door here and
i was i was just completely i just immediately felt totally at home the moment i walked in the store and it wasn't that people were particularly friendly because they weren't
but i liked i liked that they weren't friendly
i didn't find them unfriendly but no one seemed to care if i just walked right out or not
and i like that like and
and i remember to this is just tell you a little bit how the world has changed i really liked the fact that people were smoking and drinking coffee in in the in this small room over here and i thought these are just real this was real people here and the that
and i just i loved the artwork and the smell of incense and and the connections i had with people were there were some realness to them and
i i remember this voice in the back of my head saying
i think this will be a place worth spending ten years of my life
and and i think the
ice i immediately started coming here for meditation every it's funny i i've never i've never done things are earth
who is it was a friend of mine who is a therapist's was talking about i forget what she was describing she was describing about something she wanted me to do and how how she said you know like you you kind of ease into it like most people sort of ease ease into things and i thought i don't use into things you know i it
it took me it took me a couple of years to get the courage to leave college but once i decided to leave i just left and then when i once i walked in the door here i just started following this guy just like started following the schedule and within within a few
months i moved into the neighborhood and within a few months after that i moved into the building and part of at that time the next place to go after living in the building was tassajara and i i was working and i saved money to go to how sahara and
and it was just dumb it was just unbelievable to me this this kit from new jersey suddenly living in the zen monastery and i went down in the summer time and i was the i was the dishwasher
when this was before there was a there was no electricity in the kitchen so all the dishes were washed by hand and i just loved it i was just i was just so happy and
i
i was then i went i worked in the kitchen and i was made i was because i had done a little bit of big i done a little bit of baking and i was asked to be the ah sarah baker and i knew almost nothing about baking bread or and and yet i felt that people's
confidence in me and asking me to do things that that i didn't know how to do was so powerful and
i
i think come
it was about after a year and a half at tassajara that i was tapped on the shoulder and and those again things are different now you know there's no more no more on smoking in the building and no no more for the most part tapping people on the shoulder and telling them at this point it was a tap on the shoulder and said it's time for you to leave tassajara
and go to green gulch and be in charge of the draft horse farming project
and
i remember explaining that that they must have misread my resume
it was true that i was from the garden state new jersey
and i was and i did love gymnastics and i was pretty good at the horse in in i'm in high school but i had never i didn't know a thing i never touched a horse in my entire life and and my job was to learn to farm with horses and
i am
i got out there and i just loved it i just fell in love with farming and horses and one the things i realized was that my my father had been an electrician
and he i think i think looking back he pretty consciously didn't want me to do anything with my hands he didn't he didn't feel that you know being a a worker was what he that was not what he had in mind for his son hand so i had never i hadn't really never done anything
with my hands in terms of making anything and i think that was partly what drew me to wrestling so much but out
at green gulch i was learning to weld and learning to sew harness and was and i had great mentors and teachers and
and just totally fell in love with them for for three years i was in charge of this draft horse farming project and and and didn't get killed
the the came close many many times
one of my
one of my fondest memories was learning to cultivate potatoes that we actually that was that we planted this thirty and forty yard roast potatoes and then with with two horses being able to walk you down a row of potatoes with two horses on each side with this
old fashion kind of digging machine with a wheel behind it and walking down as the potatoes would come flying out of the ground and
unless you walk sideways and and the potatoes didn't come flying out of the ground and you went back but in the being at the end getting to the end of the row and seeing this row of potatoes with this fantastic feeling
and then one day i got tapped on the shoulder again
and it was told it was time to go back to tassajara and go work in the kitchen and i
i think i i was some i had realized that as much as i loved farming i really wanted to be present student and not a farmer and that and that was part of the part of the tension that that time was was i had the i was i was packed i was following the schedule a lit
bit but i was more following the schedule of the horses and of the cat we were milking cows and raising horses and chickens it was amazing and
in some part of me realize that this was a lifetime commitment and in fact that it was we started talking about this as a three genera that it was gonna take three generations to really learn how to farm with horses and in the midst of that discussion i was tapped on the shoulder back to tassajara into the kitchen and
i was the assistant cook went here was the ten so i think that was that summer
i was the assistant cook for a while and then i was asked to be the i was as to be the head cook and
and i think i think around that time i started it started coming up for me that
this one year leave of absence really had stretched out to this was this was almost ten years now and and my parents were really suffering and and i was and i was starting to feel that
there is something not there was something not complete it can it's that it's that tale that fit in some way that tell in this case started coming up for me that
i felt that for me to really practice i somehow needed to find my place in the world outside of outside of zen center and that that would be the only way that i could actually really be at center for me
and
i was so i was starting to think about what i was gonna do next and had no clue and then i was asked to be director of tassajara and
i i felt it was an opportunity that i couldn't pass on and i spent the next year as director of tassajara i also got married and also had a my son my son jason
was born while while i was director and i spent that summer the the first five months of his life walk walking around kind of holding my son in this snugly and
and i completely loved that job of of being director and i liked managing people and solving problems and we rebuilt one of the bath bridges and i was working with contractors and
again it was it was a total total surprise and mystery that i would like that and realize that
what i was actually doing was in a since i was running a business that i was involved in management and business kind of came as a
a real shock to me and i had this i had this image of myself as
it's doing it during the early early morning tassajara schedule with with robes on and
formal breakfast and study and coming back to the zendo and then at about eight thirty nine o'clock as i would leave the zendo i i felt i had this little the superman image of suddenly my robes would come off and i would turn into this man at this business guy and i would go get on the
go get on the phone and be and be managing things and there is no i think i had no sense of myself as
is zen practitioner or business guy i was just i was just living my life i was just doing i was just living each day and and i was really enjoying each day and really looking forward to
to both this practice and this work
and i had this very strange is very odd thought one day that that this is what i would this was it i was going to somehow bring this business practice out into the world
and
and i was reading a lot of again i was reading a lot of books at the time this was when
a book called in search of excellence was very popular which was a book about businesses and values and as i i remember i was reading in search of excellence and zen mind beginner's mind and they seem to be staying the same thing to me they seem to be saying that if you'd if you develop
that you should that you need to practice that you that wherever and whatever you're doing is there needs to be a sense of
studying yourself and living by certain kinds of values and and helping other people and that the that the more selfless you can do that the more you can accomplish and the more you can actually help other people and it was the sakes of the same challenge and
and i felt like i had really learned a lot i had had ten years of training in and zen center and i knew very very little about business so it seemed quite natural to me that i would therefore go to business school so i did i left i
i took a actually this has been a twenty year leave of absence from zen center while i went to business school and worked in the business world and i went to i ended up being in on i of course i went to business school on wall street and
went to spent two years it new york university and got my mba degree and came back came back to the west coast and i started a business called brush dance which i actually started fifteen years ago

and for the past fifteen years i've been
running and growing this business that makes greeting cards and journals and calendars with spiritual themes and we make things like with the poetry of rumi and tick nahan and we take we take we just don't
we have a license now with the dalai lama and with the poetry of hafiz and again it just you know i i started this company with my initial idea was to make things out of recycled paper and i was making greeting cards and wrapping paper out of recycled paper and
the artists who i knew where people who were connected to zen center and it was kind of an accident that what we were making were where spiritual things i didn't know they were spiritual things there's just things that i liked and it seemed i was really surprised how much other other people also resonated with what we were doing
the

wanted to i can tell one there's one story from my
being having left zen center and being on the east coast was at business school was one of the most difficult things that i had ever done and
i can remember trying to get a job in manhattan while i was i think that was just before i started business school and i went i was in a i went into a a temporary agency no on the east fifty street on madison avenue up on the fortieth floor with my suit and
ty and handed in my resume saying that i was looked at my one skill was typing
and and i remember city i was sitting in the reception area waiting for these people to come back to me and i i i can see in this office this group of people around a desk talking to each other and whispering and they were kind of laughing and i can see one of them sort of point over towards me and and
and i heard one of them say there's a zen monk here looking for a job
and if my recipe him my resume said i was you know this the zen monk a us you know like or it i one of the books that i think about writing is a how my resume transformed over over that six month period of trying to find a job i think my
last resume i was the human resources director
the of a resort now
southern california

such as i'm gonna kind of i realized it's time for me to kind of wrap up here

but here i am i i i live in mill valley
i have two teenage children
i i was i was the head monk kind of shoe so here during this past winter and it was an amazing i took a
a three month sabbatical from my family and lived here and community each day to work and followed follow the schedule here and i'm amazingly grateful for that opportunity and and i'm
i'm both i'm beginning to move back i feel like i'm being pulled back to practicing
inside the temple and practicing outside the temple
my home is also norman fischer who's the teachers year
his office and
practice places in my house and we have a little zendo and and studio downstairs and so i'm
very much moving towards this kind of what i feel like this trying to
again it doesn't even quite feel it feels almost artificial to talk about it as trying to integrate zen practice and work practice i feel like i'm i'm just trying to live my life as as fully as i can in
ah and take care of my life and family and people as you know with the most you know in the most full and wholehearted an authentic way that that's possible and
and seeing how i continually screw up and continually don't you know
don't do it and i think of
one of my my son is now twenty years old and the other day he said
he said look at you dad said
you're short
you're balding
your teeth are crooked you're not really that smart
yeah we're not wealthy and
and i can beat you at every sport that you can name and and i i felt really proud of him and i
the
i felt i felt proud of him that he he thinks that i have a really strong ego or something and but it's it was kind of wonderful that i thought that am
that he can that he can say that to me and
i do feel too i feel tremendously connected to my
to him and to my been to my daughter as well my twitter my daughter is not quite she's almost met a good day is a day that my daughter doesn't yell at me
but shields me with great great love it's but i'm always screwing up i'm never quite doing it right with with my my fifteen year old daughter it's really you know i won't let her do things like drive a car without a license
she she just thinks i just don't get it

i'm going us stop with a
reading a poem from have geeks
fees as somber most or maybe all of you know is this fourteenth century on persian poet and
this poem goes like this
forget every idea of right and wrong any classroom ever taught you
because an empty heart a tormented mind unkindness jealousy and fear
are always the testimony you have been completely fooled
turn your back on those who would imprison your wondrous spirit with deceit and lies
come join the honest company of the king's bakers those gamblers scoundrels and divine clowns and those astonishing fair quarter zinn's who need divine love every night
come join the courageous who have no choice but to bet their entire world that indeed indeed god is real
i will lead you into the circle of the beloved's cunning thieves those playful royal rogues rogues the ones you can trust for guidance who can aid you in this blessing in this blessed calamity called lie
life
thank you very much