Saturday, March 21, 2015


Its exciting to be preparing for this year’s Spring o-Higan at our Dharma-home in New York. I haven’t done this retreat for a few years and it’s always a relaxing and restoring experience - especially nice to be going with 3 sangha members from here, Jiho, Judy and Liz. We (Canadians) haven’t participated in this retreat that much over the years, so to get four of us at once is great.
This celebration is focussed on the equinox (there is a twin retreat held in September as well). This is identified as the unique period of the solar year when hours of daylight and night are balanced. It marks a point of equipoise in the realms of birth and death, the worlds of the living and the spirit world. The word "higan" means "the other shore," referring to the Buddhist ideas of nirvana, awakening or any kind of spiritual conclusion. During higan, people visit family graves to comfort the spirits of ancestors.
For us in the Great White North, its more about celebrating the conclusion of yet another season of cold and darkness. This has been an extraordinarily challenging winter for us, and for our hosts in New York, so the time to practice outdoors in Spring clothes will be part of this transition from hunkering down to opening up.

Yours in the Dharma,                           
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu   

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Over my recent vacation I started reading Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body which provides an autobiographical account of the experience of South African,  Martin Pistorius , who, at age 12, descends into a near-death coma. At 18, he re-awakens to the world  and, with the help of several caring and insightful helpers, re-discovers his life, his body and his place in the physical world. Instead of being frightening, as with books like Brain on Fire, this is an immensely uplifting, positive and inspiring tale, told simply by the man who lived and lives it. I strongly recommend the book.

At our last mindfulness practice we tried to recreate a ghost-boy experience. We sat completely unmoving, with eyes open. I instructed everyone to block out rather than reach deep into their physical experiences. As people did this, I moved about the room emulating a mildly disinterested care-giver, as Pistorius experienced repeatedly.
In the debrief, some found the experience re-affirmed the safety and richness of their mental space. Others grew impatient and annoyed with their bodies. Myself, as the caregiver, it brought an indifference to the presence of others, a tendency to view them as lumps of flesh, as Pistorius’ helpers often did.

in the Dharma,