Saturday, September 28, 2019

Paradigm Shifts

With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

This afternoon I spent an hour and a half at Milagros Cafe sipping green tea and discussing time with my "Great Conversations" co-conspirator, Randy Harris.  As my fellow Zen Teacher, Judy Roitman, pointed out, "It's complicated."

Together we are reading the book, "The Order of Time" by Carlo Rovelli.  It is a wonderfully challenging text discussing time from a physics perspective. The book challenges our understanding of time, and it is that fact that I deem most important.

Its the challenge in thinking that is of utmost importance. Far too often, it seems to me, we are prone to go with our assumptions and core beliefs, those traits and characteristics we grew up with and believe to be true.

Such beliefs when shared within a population become a "paradigm," a model for understanding a particular thing. Paradigms explain the world around us, often explain our behavior, and certainly guide us if in the darkness of unknowing.  The problem is this: change happens.
Paradigms shift as a result  As new knowledge comes to light a  paradigm expands to include it. At some point in the effort to integrate the change, the paradigm collapses as the new knowledge simply cannot be incorporated. 

Imagine a round hole and a small square peg. As long as the peg remains smaller than the round hole, it will slip into it. Now, lets suppose the square peg begins to become larger.  At some point that peg just will not go in the round hole. What happens?  We must find another hole that will accept the peg. More often than not, some begin to see this development as it occurs and sound the alarm.  The Earth is not flat and is not the center of the universe.

In past posts I have been talking about a paradigmatic shift regarding values. But more precisely its about language and the meanings of values. Robert Pirsig in his masterful work,
"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" addresses a dichotomy of values, those considered "classical" and those he considered "romantic." One was more convergent and one more divergent; one was of a scientific bent, the other more artistic. These values clash in some ways, but he thought something, a value, could act as a bridge to bring them together. The was the concept of quality.
I am suggesting that, while this may be so, an underlying problem is that values in all three areas are shifting. It's as though the ground beneath them is collapsing. The words used to identify values are changing so that a word no longer means what we might believe it to mean.  What this may suggest is that, while we believe we are communicating, we are, in fact, not, leading us to ever increasing confict at best and isolation at worst.

In future sections I will attempt to explore the values involved, the shift and potential consequences of this dialectic.  Thank you for reading this introduction.


Monday, September 23, 2019



We are living in a time of radical change.  The dominant paradigm regarding societal structures no longer seem viable. We are faced with technological changes that are effectively changing how we think, what we perceive, and how we perceive. The shift from analog to digital thinking has a profound effect on this. It’s an evolutionary outcome of our cognitive and technological growth, as well as our moral development. 

Traditional conflict theory has lost its ground.  People are more interested in collaboration than dominance. We want all of us to grow and thrive with no one left behind. Cooperative models seem the most viable and, I believe the so-called “information highway “ is one of the major vehicles enabling or perhaps even driving this change.  Knowledge is gained and shared, different social models are out there to be examined and experimented with, and we each can access this knowledge with a few clicks on our various devices. 

People respond to these changes in differing ways. Conservatives wish to hold on to past models, progressives accept and often wish to enable this change.

The evolutionary model of social change has its appeal. It can absorb the conflict model as the energy for change, yet remain in the larger context as a flowing stream. The water engages the rock and subtly changes it giving rise to sand. Different from water; different from rock.

We are at a point where the rock is becoming sand.

Lots of rocks resist the water. Some rocks look forward to being sand. Others are along for the process, swept up in it and passively witnessing it.

Our nature is change. Like it or not, it’s what we do. The evolution of our planet demands compliance to change. Resistance is futile.  Acceptance is life. 

When we talk about happiness we should be talking about our relationship to change.  The species that lives with the flow is happy. Those who resist the flow are not. This doesn’t mean we are to be victims in the process, far from it. What it means is we are awake in the process, engaging the process and doing what we can to go in the direction of our survival .  

There’s a phrase I like but rarely use: being in  concert. When we are in concert there’s a synthesis, a collaboration. It is this collaboration that I believe is our salvation as a species, as nations and as communities.

An evolutionary model asks us to look at the largest picture possible. As we do that our small issues recede and we can find ways to be together in reasonable harmony.

Be well, Daiho Hilbert


Gassho Y'all,

This morning over coffee Shukke and I talked about Zen, what it is exactly.  Many folks including renowned teachers answer the question talking about zazen and other forms. And while that is satisfactory, I find it leads many to believe the forms are the practice, but the forms, dear readers, are not Zen, they are practice to be Zen.  And in that practice, our eyes open. But do not mistake:  practice apart from life, seen as separate from lived experience, is a duality.

Life, with a mind that is present, is Zen: nothing special. As we sip our coffee, do our dishes, put one foot in front of another, and do so fully and completely, that is Zen.
Bowing practice, eating practice, walking and sitting practice, these are both Zen (when done with eyes open) and the practice that gets us there. How do we open our hearts if we fear touching it? How do wechange our response in situations if we are iunaware of the need?

Zen "practice," then,  is a gate and the field beyond when we
realize the dualities within us and begin to let them fall away.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

is life meaningful?

With palms together,

The question arises what really matters? Does our life really matter or is it something about our life? Life itself is just a metabolic process:all living things do it, nothing special. Yet, we cling to it as if “our life depended on it!”

Freud talked about two drives, Thanatos and Eros, death and love (perhaps more directly life itself). All living things strive to continue to live, but with us, with a self-awareness that asks why, why do we hold on to living so tightly? We are set apart from other life.

We strive always to take that next breath, discover that next image taste or smell. And in the struggle we question.  Questions give rise to meaning—- or at least they send us down the path to discover meaning. Our journey however doesn’t end: it’s a perpetual journey where one step never suffices and one breath rarely stands alone. We continue to ask and we continue to breathe.

Perhaps one way to address the question is to simply assume there is no ultimate answer save the process of questioning. Or should we consider it living where it seems to me living is apart from life. Life is just life,  but living is doing something with that life and for us that something is to question, is to assign meaning to that which we perceive or think about.

Somethings just come and go, don’t they? Nothing but the passing of thought on the breath. Some other things stop us dead. What’s this? We ask. What’s this indeed.

It’s not the object of the question that’s actually meaningful, it seems to me, it’s the fact that it stops us in our tracks.

It turns out, ours is to reason why!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

A Disciple visits Eiheiji...

From Sensei Shukke’s  Disciple Derek:

This past June, Oscar and I traveled to Japan where I was fortunate enough to participate in an International Zen Workshop Sesshin at Daihonzan Eiheiji. While these workshops are usually comprised of either all Japanese or non-Japanese participants, the monks decided to experiment with a mixed group of both during this particular sesshin.  There were eighteen participants total with nine women and nine men with a little more than half of the participants being Japanese.  The non-Japanese participants came from Chile, France, Singapore, Israel, Bulgaria, and the U.S.

Coming by train and then bus from Kanazawa, Oscar and I got to Eiheiji around noon.  After dropping me off at the monastery Oscar had the next three days to explore Kanazawa on his own.  Once all the participants checked in, we were divided into two lines by gender and shown our rooms on the fourth floor of the Kichijokaku (Guest Hall).  Each group shared a large tatami room complete with futons and storage for our belongings.  After dropping off our things we were ushered into an adjacent classroom that functioned as our general meeting space for orientation, dharma talks/lectures, instruction, and stretching.  Two rows of long tables were placed along each side of the room facing one another (women on one side, men on the other).  At each place setting was a name tag, large envelope, two small pieces of paper, and pens.  Once Rev. Yokoyama and Rev. Kojima finished introductions we were told to place all of our belonging into the envelope and mark the outside with our name and country of origin. These were going to be kept in a secure location to limit

ays or so I was excited to be at Eiheiji but was also extremely self-conscious about my every move.  I wanted to make sure I was "doing it right."  Luckily the majority of the forms and etiquette we were asked to follow were the same ones we practice in our sangha and in other sanghas in the U.S.  Zazen with the group was very strong.  All but one participant were dedicated Soto practitioners with much sitting experience.  Our collective focus was really quite harmonizing.  That is except for when we were trying to eat!  Oryoki is such a difficult practice even for Japanese practitioners.  During the first meal, after we had been served and began to eat, I tried eating as mindfully as possible.  Take a bite, put the chopsticks diagonally across the middle bowl to chew a large bit, sit with cosmic mudra, take another bit, chew, repeat.  Nearly halfway through my meal I looked around and notice the teachers were finished, all of the women were finished, and all the men except for me and the guy to my left (who had about two bites left) were finished.  My god. Sweat started pouring from everywhere and my chopsticks were shaking as I tried to finish eating as quickly and elegantly as possible.  Mindful eating is a bit different at Eiheiji than what I was used to.  From that meal on I was very strategic about how much food I took to make sure I wasn't last again.  Soup is easy to eat quickly–just gulp it down.  Rice and the pickled daikon radish they served with every meal takes awhile so only take a bit of that.  Eat the most difficult things first and take very large bites.  Be mindful of how fast others are eating to try and finish together as a group.  By the second day of eating all of our meals in the zendo I finally experience how oryoki really is a continuation of our zazen.  As soon as we moved from the classroom to the zendo and began eating after sitting the energy was so different.  Everyone, while still fumbling a bit and needing some gentle procedural reminders from the monks seemed much more grounded in the practice of oryoki.  Although I still don't enjoy oryoki I have a much deeper appreciation for it.  We should more consciously incorporate into our regular practice.

Dogen Zenji wrote in Fukanzazengi, "The way is originally perfect and all-pervading...It is never apart from this very place; what is the use of traveling around to practice?"  This line stood out to me during discussion.  Why was I here at Eiheiji?  Is there something that different that required me to travel so far?  Is Eiheiji, or even Japan for that matter, the only place to experience "authentic" zen practice?  Not really.  The impeccable robes, centuries old buildings, beautiful scenery, and history of Eiheiji is really something and if you can go then make sure to go.  But if you never make it, don't worry.  Dogen's teaching really have taken root in the West.  Sure, the packaging might look a little different in American zen centers or monasteries and we might not have all the fancy choreography or the same number of monks but the core teachings of the Way are here, they're everywhere.  As Dogen said, "The way is originally perfect and all-pervading."  The truth is beyond Japan or America.  It's beyond Buddhism or some other religion.  I'm so grateful to have had this experience at Eiheiji.  Again, seeing and doing things how they're practiced at Eiheiji was something else and make sure to go if you can.  Just be careful about getting caught up in the accoutrement of Japanese monasticism, you might miss something a bit deeper.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Getting to Know You

With palms together,

The world is such an interesting place. Over the last two days two close friends and I rode our Harley’s from Las Cruces to Salado, Texas, a distance of 672 miles.  Throughout the ride we were greeted warmly by interested locals at gas stations and restaurants.  Its always curious to me how that works.  We stop.  People turn their heads at the sounds of the bikes.  They see bikers with “cuts” and, while one might think they’d be intimidated, they often are just as likely, if not more likely, to ask us where we are going and where we are from.  A smile here goes a very long way.  Soon we are in a greart conversation about travel, motorcycles or veteran issues. American can be a great country.  We have great people.  All that seems necessary is a warm smile and willingness to talk and tell stories.

The ride, sometimes on the Interstate, sometimes on the back roads through the Texas hill country, is beautiful.  We see a nation on the move: business, vacation, or just “Sunday” drives, and all the while yielding a willingness to engage and get to know each other.  We stopped at a “parking spece” off I-10.  We were soon joined by a family we had seen together at a gas station a few miles back.  The children were fascinated by locusts that seemed to live there.  We talked about them. How hard is that?

Yet, in the cities, such things are much more private affairs.  Too bad it seems to me, as when we do talk with one another we find common ground and mutual interests.  All it talks is a warm smile and the courage to take the risk of introducing oneself to total strangers.

I look forward to getting back on the road again, but not before getting to know the fine folk in Salado.

May we each enjoy the company of one another!

Be well,


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