Tomorrow I Will See What Is Beautiful

This morning the sky was a beautiful rippled pink. I smiled. When I sat in my office, the squirrels were playing outside, and I wondered why I don’t stop and just enjoy watching them for a few minutes. Nature provides us so many things to make us slow down and smile and yet too often I don’t slow down and sometimes barely even notice.

The beauty quickly passed into daily frustrations. Most of what is ugly in the world is related to uncontrolled desires. We let those desires drive us to take what we want rather than what we need. We ask others to sacrifice while we claim our privilege and too often are silent. Letting frustration in closes the door on what is holy, to inspiration, and to sound guidance. Soon the pink sky was gone, and the squirrels disappeared. The day had gone from inspired to a task and not one I was facing by giving it my undivided attention.

Version 2Happy voices in the hall stirred me and in the conference room were three beautiful rosaries. I didn’t expect to find rosaries in a public university. A physician had given them to the Dean and asked that we get them to patients who may want them and along with the rosaries left a donation.

Frustration is far from being mindful. It blocks faith and trust and yet it can’t keep God out. A Muslim physician brought three rosaries to a public university and in so doing quietly reminded us to strive for what is just and to do good for those that suffer.

Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus

IMG_0027Brothers and sisters: As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. – LK 4:18

As I entered Mary Queen of Peace parish carved into the marble above the altar was Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus. The signs flanking the altar were reminders to come to God and come together as a community. Is it through the community with God that we are Holy or is it a community that provides the refuge we need to approach holiness?

I seek community, as a place to cultivate a joyful mind open to experience the way the world should be. If only for an hour, a week, or short period each day it reminds me to practice mindfulness, holiness, and tolerance of the way each person approaches the holy.

As I left I wondered how those who heard and saw the same things as I interpreted them. We are all different and yet we are all part of the same search.

The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.

The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, Blue to Blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,
For, heft them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound – Emily Dickinson





I love snow. Shoveling snow relaxes me. The lines are straight. There is a beginning and an end. The finished effort is clean, white, and with outlined paths that allow me to see where I want to walk.

Unlike so much of my life I can see what is accomplished and getting there silences my thoughts. Focusing only on the task and keeping the lines straight is like a walking meditation. The physical effort results in naturally deep breaths filling my lungs with the clean smell of snow.

For a time the world is clean and beautiful. I am the snow and the snow is all.

I Vow Not To Kill

I seek peace from my faith and my meditation. I am always hoping that one day there will be a moment when all is clear to me, and I listen to my inner voice. Too often I worry about what troubles the world. Today, as with many days, I see our trouble as caused by fear and mistrust of our neighbors. In our efforts to relieve our fears, we forget that we have a responsibility to save all beings.

In my practice in Zen Buddhism, saving all beings extends broadly. I have a responsibility to the unborn and the elderly, but also to the animals of the earth, the fish of the sea, and the birds in the air. I am a holistic protector of like. In Catholicism, there is also a responsibility to protect life, but the loudest voices tend to focus on the unborn and certainly there isn’t the same holistic focus. What I take from both is the responsibility to seek peace and avoid violence. I, therefore, decline the right to bear arms. When Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13) he did not say anything about killing another to save a life. I prefer to strive for compassion that is free of judgment and without limit.

all the beautiful things (1)

I ask people to consider declining the right to bear arms. It is a right granted to us by the Constitution, but not one that must be exercised. Instead, seek freedom from fear and model the peace we seek in prayer and meditation. Let’s make violence rare and compassion the norm.

I Love Being Catholic and Practice Zen Buddhism

I love being Catholic, from the ritual of the Mass and the beauty of the churches to the focus on social justice. Each word has meaning, and each gesture brings mind, body, and spirit together. The Priest enters in procession, sometimes with incense and other times not. There are candles, songs, bells, recitations, readings, a homily, standing, kneeling, bowing, and a recession. Always at the center of the Mass is the Eucharist and that moment when I let go of myself and am fully open to being one with the body of Christ. We are in one moment a community with the entire Church and with all creation.

I love Sōtō Zen Buddhism for many of the same reasons. What is significantly different is the absence of music and the extended periods of zazen (silent meditation). Silencing my mind isn’t always easy, but it brings peace.Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 7.22.34 PMAs I sat Saturday night and tried to quit my mind of all the external distractions I recalled the meditative qualities of the rosary. Many people don’t like rote prayer, but I find them a way to calm my mind when I enter into prayer and meditation. I have frequently used it to shut down all the thoughts and words running through my mind. One might ask how a rote prayer shuts out words. Imagine having an annoying song stuck in your hear and the only way to get rid of it is to play music to change one’s focus. That is what the rosary does for me. It shuts down thoughts and words, worries and desires, and allows me to sit in silence. It is the silence that that I am at one time the most free and the most connected.

Why I Am a Catholic that Takes Refuge in the Sanga

“All you have to do is take care of your posture and breathing with a kind, considerate, and thoughtful spirit.”
Dainin Katagiri, Each Moment Is the Universe: Zen and the Way of Being Time

Religion and spirituality are both old and new to me every day. I recently posted a picture of my Sōtō Zen Buddhism lay ordination but provided little information about the reason or the journey to incorporated the practices into my life as a Catholic. The lay ordination would be similar to confirmation without the requirement to believe in any specific teaching or a deity, as Buddhism has no deity. As a Catholic, there is nothing in the practice that conflicts with my faith. The vows one takes are simple.

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 9.51.41 PMI have been interested in Zen Buddhism since my first courses in religious studies too many years ago. It wasn’t until I fully embraced Catholicism that I again remembered why I found Zen Buddhism intriguing. Zen means meditation. When I sit and meditate, I clear the clutter from my mind. Zazen isn’t about learning new ideas or beliefs, but about becoming free. It is in those moments of freedom from desires that I am most open and can hear clearly.

I hope to sit twice a day this year and say more about the journey. Along the way, I hope to find Catholics and others that practice and take refuge in the community.