7 Jun
Posted in: Poems
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It Was Like This

Tonight, at 9:30 pm St. Louis time, Pauletta’s family, friends and fellow sangha members will gather to acknowledge and bless her passing by chanting together. I can’t be there in body, but I will certainly be there in voice.

In the mean time, I offer:

It Was Like This: You Were Happy
by Jane Hirshfield

It was like this:
you were happy, then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.

It went on.
You were innocent or you were guilty.
Actions were taken, or not.

At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.
Mostly, it seems you were silent–what could you say?

Now it is almost over.

Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.

It does this not in forgiveness–
between you, there is nothing to forgive–
but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
he sees the bread is finished with transformation.

Eating, too, is a thing now only for others.

It doesn’t matter what they will make of you
or your days: they will be wrong,
they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.

Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
you slept, you awakened.
Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts,
sometimes persimmons.


(painting by Pauletta ChancoKnowing When to Stop)

6 Jun
Posted in: CDL, Chanting
By    1 Comment

To Live in Harmony with This Truth

Today’s post is in honor of Pauletta Chanco — artist, teacher, fellow CDL graduate — who passed away yesterday at her home in California, surrounded by family, held in love.

All conditioned things are impermanent.
Their nature is to arise and pass away.
To live in harmony with this truth
Brings true happiness.


Painting by Pauletta Chanco: Journey to Transcendence 1

5 Jun
Posted in: Activism, Books, Practice
By    Comments Off on That Place is Within Ourselves

That Place is Within Ourselves

In The Words & Wisdom of Charles Johnson (2011)this amazing novelist, philosopher, teacher, illustrator, award winner, and sanscrit scholar (!) writes:

“Our era looks eerily (to me) like the time of Petronius, author of the Satyricon, at the end of the Roman empire. A time of late cultural decadence, confusion, and incoherence. So many people are scarred and scared, stressed and depressed, angry and willful.

“Given that fact, we need a place for spiritual renewal and healing. That place is within ourselves. It is always available to us. We need not look outside ourselves in order to achieve happiness and freedom from suffering. As it says in the Digha Nikaya:

“You should be an island to yourself, a refuge to yourself, not dependent on any other but taking refuge in the truth and none other than the truth. And how do you become an island and a refuge to yourself? In this way: You see and contemplate your body as composed of all the forces of the universe. Ardently and mindfully, you steer your body-self by restraining your discontent with the world about you. In the same way, observe and contemplate your feelings and use that same ardent restraint and self-possession against enslavement by greed or desire. By seeing attachment to your body and feelings as blocking the truth, you dwell in self-possession and ardent liberation from those ties. This is how you live as an island to yourself and a refuge in the truth–that one will come out of the darkness and into the light.”

2 Jun
Posted in: Uncategorized
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In the Mail

Dear Email Subscribers,
For some reason the posts I put up yesterday and earlier today didn’t get sent out, even though they appear on the website, just like always. I think the problem has been solved now. At least I hope so! 


2 Jun
Posted in: Poems
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Always Ready to Burst Forth

Picnic, Lightning
by Billy Collins

My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lighting) when I was three.
— Lolita

It is possible to be struck by a meteor
or a single-engine plane
while reading a chair at home.
Safes drop from rooftops
and flatten the odd pedestrian
mostly within the panels of the comics,
but still, we know it is possible,
as well as the flash of summer lightning,
the thermos toppling over,
spilling out on the grass.

And we know the message
can be delivered from within.
The heart, no valentine,
decides to quite after lunch,
the power shut off like a switch,
or a tiny dark ship is unmoored
into the flow of the body’s rivers,
the brain a monastery,
defenseless on the shore.

This is what I think about
when I shovel compost
into a wheelbarrow,
and when I fill the long flower boxes,
then press into rows

the limp roots of red impatiens–
the instant hand of Death
always ready to burst forth
from the sleeve of his voluminous cloak.

Then the soil is full of marvels,
bits of leaf like flakes off a fresco,
red-brown pine needles, a beetle quick
to burrow back under the loam.
Then the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue,
the clouds a brighter white,

and all I hear is the rasp of the steel edge
against a round stone,
the small plants singing
with lifted faces, and the click
of the sundial
as one hour sweeps into the next.

1 Jun
Posted in: Racism, Social Justice
By    Comments Off on Not Just New Orleans

Not Just New Orleans

I want to say how impressed and uplifted I am by Mitch Landrieu’s speech on the removal of Confederate monuments in New Orleans, and encouraged that St. Louis’s new mayor, Lyda Krewson, is moving in the same direction (although so far without the power of such a fabulous speech).

Missouri was a slave state, and just like New Orleans, St. Louis has a terrible history that some have tried to “whitewash” by playing down the brutal realities of slavery.

Quoting from Landrieu’s speech:
“New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were bought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor, of misery, of rape, of torture. America was the place where nearly 4000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions, why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame… all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans. So far those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it

We cannot be afraid of our truth. As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, ‘A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.’…

“I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once.

“This is however about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong. Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division and yes with violence.” [Ferguson!]


Mayor Krewson: If New Orleans can do it, St. Louis can do it too. Start working on that speech!

31 May
Posted in: Practice, Study
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What I’m Cooking Up

Now that I’ve completed the Community Dharma Leader (CDL) training program, I’m thinking about offering a short introductory course: Mindfulness 101, suitable for beginners or for anyone who’d like a little more guidance on the basic instructions for mindfulness meditation.

The course will consist of three sessions, held once a week, for one hour each.
Session 1: Mindfulness of Body
Session 2: Mindfulness of Breathing
Session 3: Mindfulness of Thoughts and Emotions 

The course will be offered on a donation basis. It’s best if folks could attend all three sessions, but I’d be OK if someone wanted to drop in for just one or two.

I’ve already reserved space for us to meet in the fall:

Place: Solar Yoga, 6002 Pershing, 63112
Dates: Sunday, Sept 10, 17, and 24
Time: 2:00 to 3:00 pm

If you (or someone you know) would be interested in getting started sooner, please email me here and I’ll see what I can do.

I’ll be sending more info as the time gets nearer. If you want to make sure you’re notified, send me an email.

In the mean time, spread the word!

30 May
Posted in: Poems
By    Comments Off on Waiting


Understanding Leaves
by Mark Nepo

The leaves do what we can’t.
They wait their whole lives.

At first they dream of air
and wait to slip from wood.

Then they dream of openness
and wait to stretch in light.

Then they dream of thirst
and wait to soften in the rain.

At last they dream of nothing
and simply unfurl.

Photosynthesis is how this waiting
is described in the physical world.

The mystery of waiting is what
turns light into food.

To wait beyond what we think
we can bear is how things
within turn sweet.

29 May
Posted in: Chanting, Sunday Sangha
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The Highest Blessings

At Sunday Sangha yesterday, Thomas offered reflections on the Mangala Sutta, a much-beloved teaching that’s often chanted at retreats led by monastics (and other auspicious occasions). Here’s the English version I learned (from the Amaravati chant book):

[Now let us chant the verses on the Highest Blessings]

Thus have I heard that the Blessed One
Was staying at Savatthi,
Residing at the Jeta’s Grove
In Anathapindika’s Park.

Then in the dark of the night, a radiant deva
Illuminated all Jeta’s Grove.
She bowed down low before the Blessed One
Then standing to one side she said:

“Devas are concerned for happiness
And ever long for peace.
The same is true for humankind.
What then are the highest blessings?”

“Avoiding those of foolish ways,
Associating with the wise,
And honoring those worthy of honor.
These are the highest blessings.

“Living in places of suitable kinds,
With the fruits of past good deeds
And guided by the rightful way.
These are the highest blessings.

“Accomplished in learning and craftsman’s skills,
With disciple, highly trained,
And speech that is true and pleasant to hear.
These are the highest blessings.

“Providing for mother and father’s support
And cherishing family.
And ways of work that harm no being,
These are the highest blessings.

“Generosity and a righteous life,
Offering help to relatives and kin,
And acting in ways that leave no blame.
These are the highest blessings.

“Steadfast in restraint, and shunning evil ways,
Avoiding intoxicants that dull the mind,
And heedfulness in all things that arise.
These are the highest blessings.

“Respectfulness and being of humble ways,
Contentment and gratitude,
And hearing the Dhamma frequently taught.
These are the highest blessings.

“Patience and willingness to accept one’s faults,
Seeing venerated seekers of the truth,
And sharing often the words of Dhamma.
These are the highest blessings.

“Ardent, committed to the Holy Life,
Seeing for oneself the Noble Truths
And the realization of Nibbana.
These are the highest blessings.

“Although in contact with the world,
Unshaken the mind remains,
Beyond all sorrow, spotless, secure.
These are the highest blessings.

“They who live by following this path
Know victory wherever they go,
And every place for them is safe.
These are the highest blessings.

26 May
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on I Did Answer Yes

I Did Answer Yes

I don’t know Who –or What– put the question.
I don’t know when it was put.
I don’t even remember answering.

But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone –or Something– and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.

— Dag Hammarskjold