Thursday, 28 December 2017


Dr Who (2427586757)

"Everything ends, and it's always sad.
But everything begins again too, and
that's always happy.

"Be happy. I'll look after everything

--The Doctor

(Photo courtesy of Mark Freeman and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

WW: Netful of razor clams

Thursday, 21 December 2017

St. Francis Meditation

Francis of Assisi Meditator 02

“Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing you have received - only what you have given.”

Saint Francis of Assisi

(Photo of meditating St. Francis courtesy of Eugenio Hansen, OFS, and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

WW: Christmas self portrait

Wishing everyone a happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Berkeley Koan

Hotei, god of happiness at Jōchi-ji temple

One morning in the late 60s, a passing policeman asked the sangha of the newly-founded Berkeley Zen Center why they were all sitting on the front lawn.

"We're meditating," said teacher Sojun Mel Weitsman.

"Won't drugs get you there faster?" the cop asked.

Sojun replied: "We're not going anywhere."

--Story shared by Zenshin Greg Fain on the SFZC Podcast.

(Photo of Hotei courtesy of Andrea Schaffer and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

WW: Sun in the forest

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Product Review: Dharmacraft Classic Buckwheat Hull Zafu

One of the hallmarks of eremitical monasticism is its visceral anti-materialism. It's not that hermits never buy things, we're just deeply suspicious of the impulse.

Thus, our practice-related purchases must pass rigorous muster:

  • They have to be truly necessary.

  • They have to be unencumbering: no dragging things across the surface of the planet just to establish credibility with others.

  • They have to be non-habit-forming: no adding things you will soon find yourself unable to practice without. 

  • Buying has to be demonstrably more economical than making.

That's why in almost 7 years I've posted exactly one product review. And it's no coïncidence that it's for a different sort of the same item I'm reviewing today.

I received my Dharmacraft Classic Buckwheat Hull Zafu almost 15 years ago, as a birthday gift from my mom. (Yes, hermits have moms.) And it's still going strong.

Prior to that I sat on a zafu of rolled-up bath towels, bound together with twine and forced into a tight-fitting cover sewed from scrap material. It got the job done, and I still use it as a spare today.

However, the rolled towels pack down and get hard with use, making long sits, or multiple short ones, painful to my hip joints and back. So after a year of consistent meditation I decided to add a classic Japanese meditation cushion, or zafu, to my practice.

Research determined that I didn't have the sewing skills to make a reliable one, and that, combined with the cost of materials, justified buying a well-made commercial alternative.

Hence, my Dharmacraft Classic Buckwheat Hull Zafu.

This cushion – Dharmacraft's basic model – enables me to sit for long periods with minimal discomfort. (Its buckwheat-hull stuffing is kinder to long sits and my aging frame than the slightly less-expensive kapok model.) I've used it intensely for a decade and a half without drama. (Just dharma. Zen dad joke, there.) My single criticism has since been resolved: the old model I've got has to be unstitched to add more buckwheat and then sewn back up. But a zipper on the current design eliminates even that annoyance.

In fact, the basic item is now a natural cotton insert zipped in a washable cover. (Mine is sewed into its cover, meaning that you have to cover the cover to protect it from dirt and wear. I eventually tied it up in a cloth bag, which works perfectly, but all of the other monks laugh and call me names.)

The current iteration comes in a large array of colours – and even combinations of colours – and goes for $69.00 US from their website at this writing. Cheap at the price for serious practitioners of Zen, at least for those of us who sit lotus.

You might say, it's the basis of practice.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

WW: Advent on the North Coast

(Japanese maple [Acer palmatum] in December colours.)
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