Keeping Death on Your Shoulder

Here we go people.

We’re all going to die.

It’s always a good idea to be aware of the nearness of death, for ourselves or for our loved ones, and in times like this, we seem to have less choice about it.

In this culture, we’re conditioned to fear death and so we create innumerable ways to distract ourselves from it.

But this is not a practice you want to adopt consciously.

Consciously, you want to cultivate, on deeper and deeper levels, the knowledge that death comes for everyone (your self included).

From there, it is wise to move towards acceptance of this fact.

Most of the people I know these days, are managing increased loads of fear and anxiety. If it’s not right there in the forefront, it’s hanging around in the background of your mind. It may very well be mixed with concern for fellow humans, with compassion and love.

It’s important to go towards the fear.

 I am offering here a practice for working skillfully with fear.

Take fear (or grief or sadness) as an object of contemplation every day or two.

The initial response to this idea might be dread, or the thought that this will be a gruesome past-time, but I think you will find the opposite is true. It can actually be a relief to look that demon in the face. Sometimes it can be quite energizing!

The way to do this is to take some time to sit quietly, maybe focus on the breath for a while.

Then gradually, bring the attention to the emotion that is at hand.

If death is up for you, bring your attention to death. If it’s fear or grief or sadness,

Bring your attention to those feelings.


Try to maintain some clarity in the mind as you do this. If you start to spin, or go down a rabbit hole, take some time to resettle, ground and re-connect with the breath. When you’re ready, reach out and touch that feeling again.


I find that when there is acute fear, it’s easy to locate it at a specific place in the body: there’s tightness in the chest, or the gut or stiffness in the back of the neck or lower back. Bring your mind into those sensations, hang out there and gently breathe into those sensations. Keep your (inner) eyes open, keep breathing and bringing your awareness into those scared places. As you do so, notice how the sensations start to shift. With that, the feelings will likely start to shift as well.

Stay with this as long as you like.

 At the end of this session, dedicate the benefit of the session to all beings:

“May all beings benefit from this time I have taken to confront my fear and calm myself down. May all beings know freedom from fear, illness and want.”

 It’s easy to consider that family members and friends will benefit from doing this work, but the benefit of this practice does ripple out into the global atmosphere, so please feel good about taking time to do this very important practice.

You could make this part of your daily practice.

Once you’ve calmed yourself down, you can also send Love and healing energy to people you know who are struggling, to cities where you know there are high rates of covid-19 infections, or to the entire planet who is in a healing crisis of her own.

Please do this practice, and if it works for you, please share it with others.

Posted by on March 26th, 2020 No Comments

Change in the Weather

Checking the weather a couple weeks ago, I was treated to video coverage of homes burning during new fires springing up overnight in California’s late October conflagration.Then I drove my sophomore son to the Max (Light Rail) to head off to schoolAnd I asked him if he was looking at any you-tube sites where people are talking about how to best survive on the planet in 20 years. I’ll be 83 then but he’ll be 35 – old enough to run for president – and in charge of running this planet. He didn’t mention anything then but later he told me about, which is a group of You-Tubers trying to raise $20 million by the end of 2019 in order to plant 20 million trees for carbon sequestration.

After dropping him off, I turned back South and caught a glimpse of the sun just coming up and the beauty of it pierced my apocolytic dream. It’s been cold and windy in Portland this week, but the air’s been clear and we’re all breathing OK.

The previous weekend, I’d had the opportunity to listen to my spiritual teacher giving teachings in San Antonio, Texas via webcast. All of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s teachings are about how to work with the mind in finer and finer ways as we head towards Awakening. Listening to the teachings is inspiring and also activates my age-old conflict between Being and Doing. “How is working with my mind going to help my kids survive in this world which is going through such MASSIVE changes – shouldn’t I be out there DOING something?!” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by on November 17th, 2019 No Comments

Relax, Go Slowly

In the five years or so that I’ve been studying with my current Buddhist teacher, the teaching that keeps coming around and landing deeply in my body and heart is to relax. It’s an interesting instruction, because it’s given with the meditation instructions which are about waking up. Now! And, if you’re like me, you’re feeling the urgency to actualize the teachings, or to get as woke as possible, as quickly as possible, which isn’t exactly conducive to relaxing.


One of the practices I’m currently practices is called Shamatha, which roughly translates as “calm abiding”. A major part of the practice is about getting quiet enough so that the mind slows down and there is a slowing down of the great proliferation of thoughts that we normally swim in. When thoughts slow down, it’s easier to stop identifying with the endless progression of thoughts (which for most of us makes up our lives) and to connect in with the great awake space, which the thoughts arise out of. So it makes sense that in order for that to happen, one needs to relax. Relax the body, relax the mind, relax it all.


The other teaching, to “go slowly” has been coming from the Tai Chi teacher that I’ve been studying with for the past almost two years. He’s always wanting us to slow down how we do the form. When you go slowly, you can be minutely aware of all the discreet movements of the form, weight changes and the ways that the chi moves through the body. What I find is hardest for me in this, is slowing my mind down enough to be in the form when I’m moving that slowly. When my mind is moving faster than my body (e.g. thinking about what I’m going to have for lunch, or, or….) it’s really hard to inhabit that slow moving form.


So, together, “relax, go slowly” could be a mantra that is used to counteract the mash of speed and worry that is so much the currency of today’s society. And it’s so counter-intuitive. Because of the anxiety that so many of us feel about the state of the planet, or the well-being of our children, or how we’re going to pay the bills, there’s a tendency to want to speed up and “get it done”.   For me, I find that the speeding up is about “getting it done”, but it’s also one of the ways that I use to distract myself from the aforementioned concerns. Relaxing, going slowly does not seem to be what this organism wants to do.


In spite of that, I practice practice practice, and have had enough experience to know that what my teachers say is true. When I can relax, everything I do goes better. When I slow down, I can bring the presence to my life that I want to bring. When I relax and slow down, I am much better able to connect with my inner teachers and live in a space of confidence about my ability to show up and have a positive impact on my world. It really is a good mantra. I recommend it for everybody. Whatever practices you use to help you relax in a healthy way, I encourage you to prioritize them. It’s for your own benefit and that of all those that you care about. Life is too short for all this rushing around!

Posted by on September 7th, 2019 No Comments

Self-care as consistent, sustained practice.

The great thing about doing meditation or other spiritual practices

six or seven times a week, is that they really start to shape your experience of reality.

If you incorporate a gratitude component into your practice and really tap in to the blessings of the creator, the Dharma or your own good karma (depending on your orientation), then that gratitude can act as an immune support as you go through your day. You’ll pick up less of the sludge and drudge of the “daily news”, and the depressed or angry vibes of the people you may travel with or work around.


Tapping into the blessings of the creator, the guru or your own deep heart is a great activator for your life force, which is a great support of physical and mental health.

When you pray for your family, your friends, associates and all beings, then you are really moving out of being a victim of bad news, fake news and bad politicians into being a creator and sustainer of the immediate world you inhabit.


Don’t take my word for it, though, you’ve got to do it.


Some people can do their spiritual practice at night but I and most people I know have the best result with it if you can start your day on your cushion. Before you get on your devices . (Just sayin’.)


Start out at 10 minutes and up your level by 10 minutes per month until you get to at least 30 minutes. I was at 45 minutes for about a year and recently raised it to an hour because I was having so much fun and I needed more time. You just start getting up earlier.


This is an adjustment to carve that time out of your schedule, but after a while, you start getting energy back from your practice.

There’s a great discipline in getting up to sit in the morning. You hear your alarm go off and you get up. Boom! Don’t think. Get yourself to your cushion and relax into your meditation or whatever practice you’re doing.

If your schedule varies, decide when you’re going to get up the night before. Set your clock and get up when you hear it go off. Don’t hit the snooze button – you won’t get the benefit.


The world needs you to develop your spiritual strength. Your calmness, discipline, patience, generosity, compassion and wisdom. You can develop these. It’s a matter of getting support and setting priorities.

If you want support with your practice, or ideas about how to customize or broaden your daily practice, please get in touch!

Posted by on January 29th, 2019 No Comments

The Gifts of Spiritual Practice

The Gifts of Spiritual Practice.

I’ve been meditating for 3 decades and teaching meditation for about 3 years. I thought I’d like to share with those of you who haven’t made it to my classes what are the benefits of sustained practice. Before I get into listing those, I want to say a little bit about the process of meditation practice itself.

Once you’ve really gotten engaged with a meditation practice and you’re doing it 6-7 times a week, it becomes a very important part of your weekly rhythm. I’ve seen it take two or three years for a person who is fairly serious about wanting to develop a practice to get to the point where they’re doing it this consistently. For one thing, you have to carve the time out of your week to do it. If your schedule isn’t pretty consistent M – F, then this can be fairly difficult. Some mornings you might get up at 6:30 to get kids ready for school or get yourself ready for work, but other mornings you might get to sleep in to 7:30. If you try to alternate between mornings and evenings, then it’s harder to miss a few days and not lose track of your fledgling practice. If you’re going to stick with it and gradually incorporate it into your daily schedule, then it’s because you’re starting to see benefits from your practice. Either that or someone you trust is telling you about those benefits and you’ve seen it in their life and you want it too. Certain benefits will come in after a couple weeks of sitting 4-7 times a week, and other benefits will come in after a year, and still others will come in after five years.
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Posted by on March 9th, 2018 No Comments

Older and Wiser?

When we start talking about men in the 47-65 set, we’re talking about the maintenance of the lives we’ve created, and then the declining of strengths. But it’s not just how you can mitigate the difficult effects of aging, but also, how you can take advantage of the experience you’ve had in order to augment and transform the way you relate to life! This is so that you can continue to be a viable resource for your family and friends, but also so that you can become a more viable resource for the culture at large.


Men in this age bracket are generally at the height of their mental, emotional and financial resources and their spiritual resources are emerging. The questions that are coming in are “What’s it all mean?” or “What is my place in all of this?” Since we live in such a materialistic society, it can feel like there is not a lot of support when these questions of the soul start emerging and a man can feel confused and at odds with himself. In the face of a lack of clear direction for the movement into this next phase of life, a man’s options often seem to double down on the strategies that helped him build the life he is now living, or to retreat into depression, drugs and alcohol or an existential nihilism.

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Posted by on February 18th, 2018 No Comments

Finding Meaning Again

By the time they reach their 40’s, many men have gotten themselves fairly oriented to the world, and have developed some competence in it, or perhaps a lot of competence. They’ve had a marriage or two, they’ve hatched some kids if they’re going to have them, they’ve gotten addictions that they picked up in their teens and 20’s under control, and now they’re wanting to take a deeper look at what this all means. Though this work might include fine-tuning in the partnering and parenting arenas, much of it will be more in the area of examining “what do I want? What am I feeling and thinking about my life and the world I’m living in? What’s important to me?”


Because, for all the discussion these days about what scoundrels men are, the truth is that most men spend their lives in service. They spend them in service to their wives, their children, their jobs,- and many in service to their community or the larger society. At the same time, the way they’re showing up in relationship may have become reflexive over the years, and they’re not necessarily awake in their actions the way they were when they started. After years of grinding it out, many men will feel tired, irritable or resentful and like they’re really not getting much return on their energy investments. This can, of course, lead to the classic “mid-life crisis” and a man might feel like he needs to make some drastic changes in order to get back on track. He may feel confused about what course of action to take and go through his days with a vague or pronounced dissatisfaction and wondering if “that’s all there is?”

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Posted by on January 19th, 2018 No Comments

Winter Reflection

How to make sense out of these times….?
All the difficult News.
The Paradox of doing spiritual Work:
You get more sensitive – so it hurts more.
How do you have your heart open to the world
But not get swept down the river of despair?


Spiritual practice is sooo important!
Learning to sit in the center point-
The Eye of the Hurricane.
Because the World is going to swirl.
Taking your seat there, your heart can reach out and touch
One person, or one issue, or radiate to All of It at once!


Take the time.
To breathe, to sit.
Breathe in the pain
And breathe it out and connect it to the Web of Life.


The Earth is fine.
Breathe your trembling soul into her precious body
And feel the Strength coming from there.
Wait on the Clarity that is also there.
Then, speak and move from that place.

Posted by on December 13th, 2017 No Comments

Seeing Through White Privilege

So what happens to this “White Privilege” work after you’ve been exposed to it and working it for 6 months?
I find that it has changed me-fundamentally.
After the initial slap in the face that was a wake up
I made a concerted effort to reach out to more diverse groups of people and find out what was real for them.
This has done nothing but expand my world and help me feel more connected
to the lives of Black, Brown, Native folks, and transgender people. My relationships with women in general have also opened up significantly and I think that is due to some other long-term work I’ve been doing, but it’s certainly been enhanced by the privilege work.


In getting on the internet, I’ve been exposed to some of the “you stupid white male privileged so-and-so” energy but most of my experience has been very welcoming.
It’s been like taking a deeper breath of air or a good drink of water. Enlivening. Hydrating. And as for the first thing – I told my wife yesterday: “It’s good to be growing a thicker skin, anyway!”
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Posted by on August 30th, 2017 No Comments

How do we deal with Hate?

This is a longer blog than I usually write, and includes a fair amount of research I did into slavery, the civil war and the Jim Crow era. You’ll need more time to get through it, but I hope you find it useful!

After I took a class on White Privilege in the Spring, I started doing some research: first reading a lot of James Baldwin and some other Black authors, and then reading about the origins of slavery in this country and then the Civil War.

I find that I am interested in what makes the White Supremacists tick – I just couldn’t understand why certain White people would carry so much hatred towards people of color, and Blacks in particular. I found that the research has helped me to understand it much better. I now understand that the killings of so many young Black men by police is simply the latest expression of that hateful consciousness that didn’t end when the North “won the war”.   This may seem like a “duh” but I hadn’t consciously put those pieces together before. Michelle Alexander in “The New Jim Crow” articulates this historical progression beautifully.

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Posted by on August 21st, 2017 No Comments