Falling blossoms
One Time, One Meeting
by Ben Howard
1M ago
  As I was walking up North Main Street in Alfred, New York a few weeks ago, I stopped to look at a row of Cleveland pear trees spanning two front yards. The trees were in full bloom. Their brilliant white blossoms caught the late-morning light. A week later, those blossoms had fallen. Only the green leaves remained. I was reminded of a haiku by the Zen master, poet, and calligrapher Daigu Ryokan (1758-1831):             Falling blossoms             Blossoms in bloom are also &nb ..read more
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Welcome home
One Time, One Meeting
by Ben Howard
1M ago
If you have ever gone on a diet, you know that most diets require some sort of intervention. Eating a bit less is not enough. By and large, the same is true of meditative practice. Most types of meditation require the practitioner to undertake a program in the service of a goal. Whether a particular program aims to tame the unruly mind, cultivate equanimity, or foster compassionate wisdom, all require practitioners to make some changes in their attitudes and behaviors, replacing one set of habits with another. And most prescribe specific techniques, such as repeating a meditative verse, conte ..read more
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And yet, and yet
One Time, One Meeting
by Ben Howard
3M ago
In 1973, the writer and Zen practitioner Peter Matthiessen and the field biologist George Schaller undertook an expedition to the High Himalayas in hopes of sighting the elusive snow leopard. Before departing for the Tibetan Plateau, Matthiessen consulted with his Zen teacher, Eido Shimano Roshi, at Dai Bosatsu Zendo. Drawing upon a fundamental Zen teaching, Eido Roshi advised his student to “expect nothing.” By adopting that attitude, Matthiessen would enable himself to be open and attentive to whatever he encountered. Rather than regard his expedition as a means to an end, he might treat th ..read more
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A place of peace
One Time, One Meeting
by Ben Howard
4M ago
Early one morning not long ago, I found myself driving down NY Rte. 21 with no other car in sight. Lifting my hands from the steering wheel, I allowed my Camry to steer itself. Within seconds, it crept toward the center line, like a hungry cat stalking a chickadee. I repeated this experiment twice, and each time it yielded the same result. After 34,000 miles, I concluded, it may be time for an alignment. As with our motor vehicles, so with our bodies and minds. We, too, can benefit from frequent—if not daily—realignment. Many activities and practices can serve this purpose, including Hatha yog ..read more
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Mirrors and windows
One Time, One Meeting
by Ben Howard
4M ago
If you are of a certain age, you may remember storm windows. Not the aluminum or vinyl variety, which came along later, but heavy wooden storm windows. Every fall my father, in the company of other homeowners, spent the better part of a Saturday putting up our clunky wooden storm windows. Every spring, he took them down. When I grew old and strong enough, he allowed me to help him. In his poem “Storm Windows,” the American poet Howard Nemerov (1920-1991) recalls a rainy autumn day when he was walking down the sidewalk and caught sight of storm windows lying in a yard:      ..read more
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Finding fault
One Time, One Meeting
by Ben Howard
7M ago
“Do not find fault with the present moment,” advised the thirteenth-century Zen master Keizan Jokin. That is “a mild-looking koan, huge in its ask,” notes Susan Murphy, a contemporary Australian Zen teacher and the author of A Fire Runs through All Things: Zen Koans for Facing the Climate Crisis (Shambhala, 2023). And, as anyone who follows the daily news can readily confirm, the climate crisis is but one of the adverse social, political, and natural conditions threatening life as we know it. Given those threats to our well-being and that of our descendants, Keizan’s pronouncement might seem ..read more
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Stewards of the future
One Time, One Meeting
by Ben Howard
9M ago
“Que sera, sera,” an old song reminds us: “Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera.” Set in the key of A major and sung with full-throated gusto by Doris Day, that tune from Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) rose to no. 2 on the Billboard 100 chart, and in October 1956 it made the Hit Parade, where Giselle MacKenzie belted it out with operatic, over-the-top bravado. That such a song became popular during the Cold War era was, I suspect, more than an ironic coincidence. Fallout shelters were in vogue. Schoolchildren were being taught how t ..read more
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“What Have I Relinquished?”
One Time, One Meeting
by Ben Howard
11M ago
If you are by nature reflective, you may have asked yourself from time to time, “What have I accomplished?” Your notions of accomplishment might include professional, reputational, or financial attainments, or such personal accomplishments as weight loss or the completion of a home-improvement project. But from the vantage point of Zen teachings, there is another, equally important question to consider, periodically if not on a daily basis: “What have I relinquished?” The word relinquish has fallen out of fashion. However sonorous, this Latinate verb is seldom seen in print or heard in inform ..read more
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Interbeing
One Time, One Meeting
by Ben Howard
1y ago
When the Vietnamese Zen master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh died last year, he left behind an invented word. Unlike those annoying neologisms that appear to have been created for the sake of novelty (e.g., metrosexual, staycation), Thich Nhat Hanh’s invention deepened our understanding of Zen teachings while also making them more accessible to the general reader. And in its way, it also advanced the cause of peace and understanding. The word to which I refer is interbeing. Appearing often in Nhat Hanh’s writings, this resonant term points toward three aspects of everyday reality, as vie ..read more
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The fourfold understanding
One Time, One Meeting
by Ben Howard
1y ago
If there is one matter upon which we the people can currently agree, it is that our society is deeply divided. Culturally, politically, and even spiritually, we are as polarized as we’ve ever been. Those who would remedy this situation, such as the Stanford Polarization and Social Change Lab (PASCL), have proposed interpersonal communication as the primary path to reconciliation. By talking honestly with each other, rather than retreating into our ideological bunkers, so the theory goes, we can correct our misperceptions and unwarranted assumptions and restore our common ground. Perhaps so. B ..read more
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