Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

The laugh’s on me:
  this year’s man
    is last year’s man.

            ~Ching An
A new year, a new decade.  Several of my friends have groused recently about new year’s celebrations.  Why make a big deal out of an arbitrary “turning point”?  It’s just a calendar date!  And I’ve felt the same way sometimes too.  New Year’s parties, sure; Times Square (even on TV), nope.
Others look at the first day of the new year as a completely fresh start, a genuinely new year.  The strike of midnight wipes the slate.  Out come the journals and lists, with reflections on the past year and resolutions for the new year.  Some very accomplished people I know set goals—monthly, quarterly, whatever—for the coming year.  And a few of them actually always attain those goals.
I’m writing this with about 45 minutes to go (in our time zone), listening to five amazing young girls running wild and getting ready to go outside and light fireworks and bang on pots and pans and scream “Happy New Year!”  I’ll ask them, but I’m pretty sure none of them have set any actual resolutions for 2010—yet their excitement is the most genuine I’ve known.  (Maybe it’s just staying up late and going outside and making lots of noise without getting yelled at by the neighbors?)
I’ve fallen somewhere in the middle this new year.  I enjoy the celebration, and parties with fires and lights and fireworks in the dead of Winter, so soon after the Solstice—so I’m not in the Bah, Humbug! crowd.  But nor have I drawn up a list of resolutions.  I do, though, have a few things rattling around that I’d like to work on, and an ineffable sense that the turning of a “new year” is as good a time as any to get going on them.
And maybe that’s my middle ground.  It’s as good a time as any, and any time is a good time.  January 1st  is a great day to start sitting longer each day, get more exercise, try to be more present when talking to my family and friends and while at the office.  But so are June 15th, and October 30th, and December 21st.   They’re all good days to let go of fear, drop off body and mind, and deepen my practice.
Wherever you fall in the celebrating-New-Year spectrum, I hope that 2010 is filled with beauty and delight.

Photo by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton

Male and Female Ways of Committing to Practice

This is part 2 of a video continued from this post.
Doen Sensei discusses what it means when you commit to your practice and talks about the male & female versions of excelling in your practice.
He also talks about access to teachers, and personal interviews with his Fourth Way teacher Mr. Willem Nyland.
Also discussed are reasons why students sometimes justify not listening to their teacher.

My year of blogging

My year of blogging

Today’s post is by Liz McCoy, a Lost Coin student in Salt Lake City.
There was a discussion in the Salt Lake City Lost Coin class recently about the Lost Coin Blog. What is a blog?  Why have a blog?  Should we all write for the blog?
The discussion left me thinking – 2009 is the year blogs transformed my life.  And no, I am not a technology junkie; I am more or less a technophobe.  For me the blog discussion and my experiences with blogs illustrate many of the lessons Doen teaches us.
Since August of 2009, I have learned about or been invited to join five blogs.  Each blog describes someone’s battle with cancer or some other random and inexplicable phenomena that is trying to extinguish their lives.
Each person shares their story through their blog and although each blog is unique, many aspects are the same.  Each blog demonstrates the power of community, of love, of effort.  Each blog has made me laugh a big ol’ belly laugh and shed tears.  Each offers mind blowing wisdom and beautiful memories.  Every day I read at least one entry and am reminded to expect the unexpected. Today my cells give me life – tomorrow, my cells might take it away.  Chemo, a poison, gives hope, gives life.  “We are all travelers; we are all just passing through” as Doen often says.
The blog I am most familiar with, however, is my mother’s.  My mother died on July 31, 2009.  After spending 50 odd years befriending her Multiple Sclerosis, she chose not to fight stage IV colon cancer.  As soon as we learned of the diagnosis we knew we needed to communicate, simultaneously, with many people around the world.  With help from fellow Lost Coin student, Sterling, we set up a blog; a first for most of us.
By the time we started posting to the blog our journey with my mom’s death was fast tracked.  We decided to post twice a day.  I wrote some of the postings and organized the rest.  The sprint became a marathon and the twice daily postings became stressful. The experience started to feel like a reality TV show.  I wasn’t a professional blog poster or a writer.  Was this offensive?  Did people care?  What else could we say?  Hello crisis of confidence.  Hello negative thoughts!  Hello fear!
According to Sterling’s analytics and personal emails we knew many people were following the blog closely, relying on the blog to stay in touch with a person they loved.  Daniel often talks about facing our fears and dropping our negative thoughts so I tried to do that.
By following Doen’s teachings and trying to drop my own negative thoughts, I found I had more space in my head to listen to what people said more intently, to read emails and guest book entries more carefully, to pay even closer attention to my mother’s breathing patterns, her pulse, her face, her smile.  The stress was gone, the entries were right there, they were easy to compose.  Some were funny, some sad, some witty, some wise, some were poems, some were prayers, some were hymns, and some were fanciful songs.  But none of them would have existed if I had stayed in my head, with my own thoughts.
Every time someone asked “Are you sure you want to post that?” I would ask if they had another idea and when they did not, I would post the post in question.  Later I would receive one, then two, sometimes three emails thanking me for the entry.  The lesson – what touched one person, deeply, did not resonate with another.  The variety of thought and voice created and strengthened my mother’s community.
Finally, my mom’s blog allowed many people to remember and celebrate her perfection.  When someone reminded me of my mothers’ weaknesses, I was surprised to know, to feel, that it was these blemishes that made her, and me, and you, perfect.  I did not have to talk about anything negative because I had come to fully accept my mother, who like all of us was perfect by virtue of her imperfection.  I celebrated her completely with my whole heart.  This is life. This is practice.  This is perhaps what Daniel means by asking us to “just be nice”.
These experiences opened my mind and my heart to blogs, to modern Lost Coin non-monastic Zen practice.  Yes, like it or not TODAY translates to technology, to life, to Lost Coin.  By reading, writing for and organizing posts to a blog I practiced.  I observed myself, my negative thoughts and my fears.  I practiced being nice.  I efforted and stretched my abilities.  I never dreamed technology could touch me and so many others so deeply.  Although the blog was about my mother, the posts were about all of us, about all our journeys through life “as we pass through”.
So how about it?  Let’s put a similar effort into the Lost Coin blog.  Let’s make it alive, let’s make it life.  Let’s all participate and add our unique voices and touch someone.  Let’s strengthen and widen our community. Let’s laugh, sing, and cry.  Let’s share our wisdom, our jokes, our songs and our poetry. Let’s celebrate the beauty of perfection that is Lost Coin, that is a blog, that is Life.

Photo by churl
Hello, San Francisco

Hello, San Francisco

San Francisco
What do Alice in Wonderland, The Blue Cliff Record, San Francisco, and Kill Bill have in common?  Daniel Doen Silberberg Sensei, who has recently moved to San Francisco and will be holding the SF group’s first meeting next week.
On December 16th, Doen Sensei will hold an introductory class for anyone who is interested in Lost Coin’s unique blend of Zen, the Fourth Way, science, art, technology, and much more.  Doen Sensei is known for his accessible, humorous, and profound teaching style, and his newly-established San Francisco group is growing quickly.
If you’re in the Bay area, please stop by.  The meeting will be on December 16, 2009, from 6:00-7:00 p.m. at 77 Park Hill Avenue, near Buena Vista Park. There is no charge, and please feel free to bring a friend or friends.
If you’ve read Doen’s new book, Wonderland:  The Zen of Alice, you’ve already had a taste of Doen’s style. This is your chance to journey down the rabbit hole with him in person, without having to travel to Salt Lake City, Germany, Florida, England, or any of the other places where Lost Coin has a strong presence.
We hope to see you there.  If you can’t make it to the December 16th meeting, please contact us at contact@lostcoinzen.com, and we’ll let you know when the next meeting will be.

Photo by Frank Kehren