Friday, January 15, 2010

the river of zen

The river of zen has carried me far from my home. The horses, impatient in their stalls, await the supper that will never come. On the old county road, the snowplows are peeling the vast drifts. Is the kitchen light still on? I barely recall the barn loft filled with the green smell of summer from the hay put up in June. The current is swift here, running through rocks and branches, old tires, a rusted stroller and beer cans. It has carried me past cities, mountains, islands, and farmlands, through stillness and through storms. Where it will carry me I never know. Sometimes alone in my raft, sometimes with a vast flotilla, ever moving through I watch the passing riverbanks with curiosity. A family picnics on the grass, people come and go, fishermen, dead bodies, abandoned mills and many locks that shift my little craft up and down. Sometimes I ferry folks for a little ways.  I welcome companions on the river; singing and laughing we have nothing to do, and we do it together with ease. 

I am far away from where I began, looking for just a little pool of sanity in a crazy world full of bone-cracking pain. All those notions are long gone now. Sometimes I lay back on the raft and simply drift, watching the clouds above, and sometimes I have to paddle like mad to keep afloat in dangerous rapids. But where I am now I do not know. The landscape is unknown to me, and I have no map or compass—still I am more at ease here now, the old settled ways abandoned and forgotten, the noisy thirst for conquest and adventure quenched too. 

There is a way of leaving home that is absolute. Nothing stays. The house is not only left, it is demolished, and if you could return you would not even recognize the site where it once stood, so solid and firm. I cannot tell whether I am lost, as my old friends must think, or simply abandoning every fixed destiny for the sparkle of light on open water. Until I have completely learned this river’s ways you will find me here, calmly sitting with legs crossed, lost in study of this mystery. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Austin winter deepens

As winter in Austin drags on into its second day, desperate residents are driven from their homes by madness and hunger, only to discover supermarket shelves stripped bare of the only things that make life worth living: diet Coke, dark chocolate, cheap beer, and cigarettes. Commerce could take notes on what is left to study the American consumer’s deepest psyche: Carrots, sodas without caffeine, marmalade, low-carb bread, French wines, O Magazine. With temperatures plunging to the low 30's, day after day, despair sets in: how much longer can this madness go on? Some blame the Department of Homeland Security, but most of us just wish Al Gore had kept his big mouth shut.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Bigger Music, larger scores

Brain State Technologies with Lee Gerdes. View the video to the end. It is about 42 min. long.

After viewing the video of a woman's brain changing dramatically from depression to complete spectrum brain function in about 17 minutes, I was galvanized. At first I was extremely eager to get this kind of brain training first-hand. But the most gratifying thing I realized, in sitting zazen, was that this full-spectrum of consciousness is available to us at all times and in all places.

It is as if we are sitting in the middle of a great orchestra, not just some tinny ragtag community band, but an immense, powerful orchestra with Yo Yo Ma on cello, for example. The musicians are sitting patiently with their instruments, tuned and waiting, while the ego keeps banging out, with two fingers on a grand piano, simple renditions of the only tunes it knows: You Are My Sunshine, Stormy Weather, Am I Blue. Over and over and over again the same notes, the same mistakes and blunders, the same tortured approach. We get better at those songs, slowly and painfully...the conductor waits at the podium. As long as we are a willing audience, the madness continues. We are truly the stream the Buddha described us as: I saw the pictures of it on Gerdes' computer monitor. And now I see that it is time for the conductor to tap the baton on the podium and summon the full orchestra into dynamic, harmonic action. The concert hall is life itself; the music is the breath, to which the entire orchestra becomes attuned and organized. The full range of music belongs to us, not the hapless plinking of the ego obsessively repeating the same trivial pop songs over and over and over again. The audience wants more, the whole score, the whole orchestra fully immersed in the vast symphony of this life. All of this is just waiting for us right now.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Architecture garden, UT

Architecture garden, UT
Architecture garden, UT,
originally uploaded by Jiki Syverson.
One of my favorite places on the UT campus is the architecture garden, a beautiful enclosed space with a feeling of intimacy and serenity. If you click on this image, you can see a few other pictures at the Flickr site. I usually take students there once each semester for a short break when they are free to do whatever they wish in the space. Students don't often get an opportunity for unstructured free time, and they seem to respond very well to this lovely space.

Friday, May 05, 2006

new poem

Watching pigeons in the architecture garden

There are only four decisions for a bird:
walk, or fly?
go here, or go there?
edible, or not?
nest here?
Not much thought
as near as I can tell
goes into any choice
nor are they met
with something like regret.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Don't Podcast This Poem

Please don’t Google me now
don’t invite me into your MySpace group
your Friendster network
your iChat, blog or wiki
don’t email me, text message me, and
please don’t leave your number on my phone.
Don’t send me your Flickr photos, your iTunes playlist
your YouTube videos, your links
Don’t send your avatar to dance with my avatar
on Second Life, don’t map my house
on Mapquest or post your sonograms of junior
to the web. Don’t invite me to open a Yahoo group,
an eBay account, an eHarmony profile;
don’t talk of cascading style sheets, PHP, of drop-down menus
streaming media, and user interfaces—
eDiets can have your RSS feed. No
your face is what I want, between these hands
so I can look into your eyes and hear
your breath, and smell your skin
feel your heartbeat on my cheek
tangle your eyebrows in mine
and rub noses like Eskimos
f2f 4ever.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


How could you ever imagine that the profound mystery in which you are immersed and which flows through you could be displaced or hindered by anything as puny and transient as a thought, emotion, or sensation?