Saturday, March 20, 2010

Getting started


I realized many moons ago, as I was leaving the externally imposed structure of monastic practice, that if I weren’t careful and attentive I would drift away from the essential support for awareness practice that a regular daily schedule provides. Left to myself—which at the time was pretty much only what I’ve subsequently recognized as egocentric karmic conditioning—I would slide into a combination of what I “should” do and what I “want” to do and my commitment to waking up and ending suffering would get pushed so far onto the back burner as to be no hindrance at all for that egocentric self on its determined march to hell!

I began setting up a full schedule of commitments I would be unwilling to break, removing the “I don’t want to/I don’t feel like it” factor from my decision-making process. I have continued that practice for the past thirty or so years and it has served me well. I know that waking up and ending suffering is the deepest desire of my heart. That desire doesn’t change from moment to moment, and a firm commitment to showing up for what I’ve agreed to supports me in choosing my heart regardless of ego’s shenanigans.

The years have seen quite a range of commitments from shepherding a Zen Center and Monastery Peace Center to creating email classes that could support people practicing far away and, most recently, daily reminders to practice being HERE/NOW, using some of the great tools of technology. All these activities have required me to show up every day and do my best to be as centered as possible in each moment—exactly what I’ve wanted!

Now that I’ve stepped back from the day-to-day running of the Zen Monastery Peace Center and Living Compassion, I have more opportunity for my own practice and new opportunities for engaging in practice with others. I love doing the tweets! As I’ve said often, my mind naturally runs to bumper sticker and t-shirt size communication. I like short and sweet—or at least concise and clear. I’ve always thought a book title should be clear enough that if you don’t have time to read the whole book you will derive a good benefit just from reading the title. Now I get to walk around all day seeing tweets in everything I encounter. A cloud, a bird, a bit of music, a smile, a color all become reminders to drop whatever is going on in conditioned mind and get back here into this moment—awake, alive, present. I love it!

For years the way I phrased this practice was “the quality of your life is determined by the focus of your attention.” Now it’s become “what you practice is what you have.” Certainly this is not a new message; we each just find our own way of articulating the message for ourselves. (Even if someone else says it, it only matters for us when we are able to say it to ourselves and really hear it.)

I’ve been enjoying again Hsin Hsin Ming by Seng-ts’an, the third patriarch of Zen.

“The Perfect Way knows no difficulties,
Except that it refuses to make preferences.
Only when freed from hate and love
Does it reveal itself fully and without disguise.

A tenth of an inch’s difference,
And heaven and earth are set apart.
If you wish to see it before your own eyes,
Have no fixed thoughts either for or against it.

To set up what you like against what you dislike---
This is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of the Way is not understood,
Peace of mind is disturbed to no purpose….

Pursue not the outer entanglements,
Dwell not in the inner void;
Be serene in the oneness of things,
And dualism vanishes of itself.

When you strive to gain quiescence by stopping motion,
The quiescence so gained is ever in motion.
So long as you tarry in such dualism,
How can you realize oneness?

And when oneness is not thoroughly grasped,
Loss is sustained in two ways:
The denying of external reality is the assertion of it,
And the assertion of Emptiness (the Absolute) is the denying of it….

Transformations going on in the empty world that confronts us
Appear to be real because of Ignorance.
Do not strive to seek after the Truth,
Only cease to cherish opinions.

The two exist because of the One;
But hold not even to this One.
When a mind is not disturbed,
The ten thousand things offer no offence….

If an eye never falls asleep,
All dreams will cease of themselves;
If the Mind retains its absoluteness,
The ten thousand things are of one substance.

When the deep mystery of one Suchness is fathomed,
All of a sudden we forget the external entanglements;
When the ten thousand things are viewed in their oneness,
We return to the origin and remain where we have always been….

One in all,
All in One---
If only this is realized,
No more worry about not being perfect!

When Mind and each believing mind are not divided,
And undivided are each believing mind and Mind,
This is where words fail,
For it is not of the past, present or future.”

This is, to me, a gorgeous way of saying what we are always attempting to point at in practice. It’s a beautiful expression of “there’s nothing wrong,” “stop, drop, and breathe,” “get HERE, “let everything go, be THIS NOW.”

Which brings me to my latest project: This letter will be posted on what we’re calling “Cheri’s Practice Blog.” (link?) The blog is my opportunity to share what’s most inspiring for me in my own practice, be in communication with others practicing, and, hopefully, expand the base of support we all need for deepening practice in our own lives and as a support for the larger Sangha.

This idea grew out of a wish to take to a deeper level the tweeted reminders to wake up/let go/get here. What happens with us as we start spending more time HERE? How do we deal with voices that attempt to interfere and sabotage? Can we really trust that it’s okay to let go the negative voices? Is it safe just to be? The blog will be the place for us to have that continuing conversation on what arises as a result of deepening practice.

Will I answer general questions about practice? Not in depth, no. Will I speak to personal issues? No, that would become a life’s work in itself! I will simply take the tweeted messages and the daily messages from Transform Your Life and connect them up with other messages I find supportive and clarifying. Then, you/everyone will have an opportunity to express what you see from that in your own practice. And we will all see how it goes.

In gassho,


  1. Thank you for everything.
    I have no complaints, whatsoever.

  2. I'm all ears. Cheri - you deliver the most practical and applicable translation of Buddhist philosophy I've come across - and that is why I am always curious about what you have to say.

    -Mark Bridges

  3. I look forward to this new opportunity to read, to learn, to practice. Thank you.

  4. This practise has changed my life forever, for better. More ways to continue participating are marvellous. Thank you x.

  5. Deep Gassho, Cheri, for another opportunity to use technology to wake up and end suffering. This blog of yours feels like an ever more intimate glimpse of Being Present and the amazing journey available to us all in each moment.

  6. What a splendid idea! Yet another technique to pull me back into practice. Gassho.

  7. Deep gratitude for another opportunity to be in Sangha and HERE! Your commitment inspires and energizes my practice.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this gift with us Cheri. Practice Everywhere and Living Compassion has changed my life forever and I can't tell you how grateful I am that your willing to dedicate yourself to sharing this information. I look forward to all of your communications!