Ask Brad & Skylar

Hi folks! I’m in Knoxville, Tennessee with my niece Skylar. Remember when we answered your questions on video before? Well, we’re gonna do it again. So send in your questions to the comments section and they shall be answered! Send ’em by midnight tonight for best results!



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29 Responses

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  1. Ray
    Ray June 16, 2012 at 9:41 pm | |

    Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, and find line 4. How does this relate to your day today?

  2. Zenleo
    Zenleo June 16, 2012 at 10:53 pm | |

    Do you think the photo would have been better if Skylar would have pasted on a fake Goatee and Mustache and wore a pair of nerdy glasses? That would have been hilarious and might have lead to much better questions.


  3. Voie de Vie
    Voie de Vie June 16, 2012 at 10:57 pm | |

    Is Brad a cool uncle? If so, name the last three cool things he’s done.

    Finally, what’s your current favorite article of clothing?

  4. unitedtaps
    unitedtaps June 16, 2012 at 11:21 pm | |

    How do you reconcile the buddhist concept of not “chasing” or “desiring more” or “leaning” (or whatever you want to call it) with the need to actually do something in your life?

    For instance let’s take something simple like the state of my office. I don’t love the state of my office. It seems like buddhism says to accept the current state of my office and learn to be happy with it as it is. My guess is that buddhism would say that if I change it, it will only make me happy temporarily and then I will want to change it again thus creating a perpetual cycle.

    So if I follow the buddhist path here, my office doesn’t change. And if I apply that acceptance principle to all things in my life, I wouldn’t change anything.

    Clearly not changing anything is not a good practical plan for life. So what is the method for deciding what to change and what to accept? It seems like the choice is just made willy-nilly without any rhyme or reason.

    Did the Buddha outline a method for choosing what to accept and what to change?


  5. BitPartMozart
    BitPartMozart June 17, 2012 at 12:34 am | |


    When those close to you, like Skylar, do not share your passion for zazen practice, what is your reaction to that? Do you want to try to convince them to try it? Or do you educate them as much as possible and hope that they come to it on their own?

  6. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 17, 2012 at 1:45 am | |

    Can you give us another song, I enjoyed “young and dumb” (I’d never heard it, but you guys were entirely credible!)- thanks, Mark

    If anybody missed it, it’s here.

  7. wescott06
    wescott06 June 17, 2012 at 2:16 am | |

    Hey Brad and Skylar,

    First off thanks for taking a whack at my question in your first episode way back when, @ 8:19 in “Brad and Skylar Answer Your Questions.” I’m doing better these days (I whip my hair back and forth!)

    Willow Smith songs aside, I think my annoying question from 2010 still stands though: in your experience, how can you tell when you’re acting from bodhicitta versus when you just have your head up your ass? Does Dogen have anything to say about this (other than the bit about adjusting your pillow, I mean?) Inquiring minds want to know!


  8. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel June 17, 2012 at 4:50 am | |

    unitedtaps wrote:

    For instance lets take something simple like the state of my office. I dont love the state of my office. It seems like buddhism says to accept the current state of my office and learn to be happy with it as it is. My guess is that buddhism would say that if I change it, it will only make me happy temporarily and then I will want to change it again thus creating a perpetual cycle.

    So if I follow the buddhist path here, my office doesnt change. And if I apply that acceptance principle to all things in my life, I wouldnt change anything.

    I’m afraid the teaching would rather be “take the current state of your office, and if you’re not happy with it, work from what it is currently in order to make it better” Not so much “don’t change things” but “begin with accepting what they currently are if you want to make something out of them”.

  9. CPW
    CPW June 17, 2012 at 7:54 am | |

    What will your next book be about?

  10. Hardcore-Ben
    Hardcore-Ben June 17, 2012 at 8:28 am | |

    P I Z Z A – baked with awareness
    I’d like to see you’re baking a pizza:

    250 g wheat flour
    about 10 g fresh yeast
    150 ml lukewarm water
    4 table spoons extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

    Crumble the yeast, add sugar, stir til it becomes fluid, add 75 ml of the water.
    Sieve flour into a bowl, make a pit (?) in it where you put in the fluid yeast, put some flour on it and stand beside for 15 mins.

    Add the rest of the water and the olive oil, mix the dough for about 5 mins (by machine) and roll out for 2 pizzas of about 30 cm diameter.

    Create a tomato sauce as you like it, find some toppings, add it…

    Bake in the oven – which was preheated to the highst possible heat – for about 10 mins (less or more, have a look … if it’s black like charcoal, it was for too long.)

  11. Hardcore-Ben
    Hardcore-Ben June 17, 2012 at 9:07 am | |

    I’m no real baker, so I forgot to say: the dough must stay for 40 to 50 mins before it could be rolled out. Mix it again after that time, then roll it out…

    Sorry 😉

  12. lcrane1
    lcrane1 June 17, 2012 at 9:25 am | |

    Skylar & Brad,

    How about doing a short video of a scene from one of Brad’s favorite Gozira-esque movies but with you two providing the voice over?

  13. anon 108
    anon 108 June 17, 2012 at 9:26 am | |

    Hey Skylar – Want to be famous? Think you’d like it?

    You do? Why?
    You don’t? Why not?

    Brad – Anything to say about fame?

  14. anon 108
    anon 108 June 17, 2012 at 11:16 am | |

    Also –

    I live in the UK. What do you think of when you think of England?

  15. anon 108
    anon 108 June 17, 2012 at 11:39 am | |

    One more…

    @Skylar and @Brad – What do you want to be when you grow up?

  16. moonrakerzen
    moonrakerzen June 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm | |

    For Skylar – After long-ish retreats (2 weeks – a month) my mind is a lot calmer and daily sitting is easier. I often want to keep this sort of mind throughout my day to day life, but always fail – is it really possible to keep calm whilst the whole world stresses and still take part fully in the modern world?
    For Brad – which is better, McDonald’s or Burger King?

  17. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm | |


    Isn’t it always fun with Uncle Brad passes through? Do you stay in touch with him or read his silly blog when he’s not around Knoxville?


  18. Hardboiled
    Hardboiled June 17, 2012 at 10:30 pm | |

    Which of your books do you feel is your strongest work and why?

  19. gowashyourmouth
    gowashyourmouth June 18, 2012 at 1:45 am | |

    @Skylar – is it too late to ask a question?

    @brad – I was a smoker before I was a practitioner of zazen. its been about two years since I started a practice, and I still havent quit smoking, though I have cut back quite a bit. Can you talk a bit on smoking, or addictions in general, and its relation to the practice? the way I see it, is its ok as long as I smoke with awareness, and the deeper I get into my practice, the less I need it until I choose to stop. Which has been evident for me, though its been slow.

  20. anon 108
    anon 108 June 18, 2012 at 8:18 am | |

    Hi gowashyourmouth,

    I too was smoker before I was a practitioner of zazen. But I gave up for four years a few months after a started sitting. Did zazen enable my quitting? Hard to say, but I suspect that the same thing that motivated me to sit motivated me to give up smoking. Quite naturally. Very little will-power was involved. I became enthusiastic about sitting and soon after I got fed up with smoking. All this followed on from giving up my long-term heroin and cocaine addiction (sealed by my dealer moving a long way away). So I feel that I went through a kind of rebirth which, no doubt, involved chemical and physical changes manifesting as positive mental states. How much control did I have over all that? Who knows.

    But things change and I started smoking again almost three years ago. I still sit. But the novelty, and with it the effort-less desire to sit, has worn off. So I procrastinate far more than makes any sense about sitting. I still manage to sit most days, if only for 10 minutes. I enjoy it, I value it, I believe it’s important. I think its impossible to isolate and explain the causal links that connect these changes in behaviour, and Im not sure that it helps to try to.

    I recall either Brad or my teacher, Mike Luetchford, or both, saying that Gudo Nishijima stopped smoking by relating the problem to his experience in zazen. That makes perfect sense to me at least the way I hear it: The decision not to smoke is a decision you make now, in the moment. When you next feel the craving for a cigarette, you dont reach for one. Thats all. You inhibit the impulse at the moment it arises. You do that with every momentary craving as it occurs. None of this is news, of course. A 3 year-old can tell you to Just say no – and a 59 year-old can still find it impossible to do. But today is a new day. We’ll see.

  21. gowashyourmouth
    gowashyourmouth June 18, 2012 at 9:55 am | |

    I really like that response. Its good to know theres others out there in the same boat. My issue with smoking is that I dont really want to quit. I smoke so minimally. At best, One or two cigs a day, split in half because I cant finish a whole one. At worst, 3 or 4 a day. I can keep up with non smokers riding a bike or hiking just fine. And I can go on a retreat without smoking, its just when I get back to real life I want one.

    I guess I was more so wondering if my view on smoking was considered wrong thought. I dont judge myself for smoking or try to compare myself to a “me without cigs.” I remember reading some book that I forget, it said if you smoke, then smoke fully aware and some day youll realize you dont need it. Ive tried to follow that since. and though it has allowed me to examine myself and my intentions for smoking, I feel I need an outside opinion whether or not the view itself is good enough.

  22. anon 108
    anon 108 June 18, 2012 at 10:45 am | |

    “…I feel I need an outside opinion whether or not the view itself is good enough.”

    Do you want to quit? Will “aware smoking” help you do that? The idea behind it must be that an inevitable result of concentrating on what’s happening when you inhale smoke into your lungs is that the corrective realisation “This is bad for me” will be naturally triggered, and you’ll stop doing it. Well if that happens – if that view helps you do what you want to do – then it can’t be “wrong”. Can it?

    So, although there may be plenty of Buddhists eager to tell you you’re engaging in “wrong thought” and others eager to reassure you that you have correctly understood and applied the Dharma, I’d ignore them. The only opinion that matters is yours. Only you can know if a particular view makes sense and is helping you achieve what you want to achieve.

  23. anon 108
    anon 108 June 18, 2012 at 10:57 am | |

    …If you don’t want to give up the few cigarettes you’re smoking per day, then I’m not sure what the value of ‘aware smoking’ might be – other than to help you cultivate a truly profound appreciation of the multi-sensory delights of the filthy habit.

  24. gowashyourmouth
    gowashyourmouth June 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm | |

    Right, I understand the only opinion that matters is mine. However, I feel its good to hear others’ and ponder it. Like if you said ” I quit smoking and a b and c happened with my practice.” Or “you should quit smoking because it might be doing x and y to your practice” not that I would take anything to heart, but if an opinion seems valid, I would apply it to my life and see if the results can be replicated. If not, I move on or stick with the old standby.

    my current view lets me feel ok with smoking. The question I ask myself, am I completely dellusional by justifying a nasty habit? That would be my attempt to pinpoint what im trying to get answered.

  25. anon 108
    anon 108 June 18, 2012 at 3:59 pm | |

    Whether or not you get your question answered, my response to your post was to smoke a little less today. Thanks for that.

  26. anon 108
    anon 108 June 18, 2012 at 4:13 pm | |

    Final thought –

    Smoking can cause a slow and painful death. Don’t smoke.

    1. chasrmartin
      chasrmartin June 19, 2012 at 10:40 am | |

      So does birth.

  27. Ted
    Ted June 19, 2012 at 4:45 pm | |

    Strictly speaking, birth does not cause a slow and painful death, because it doesn’t _always_ cause a slow and painful death. You can die quite painlessly, in youth. Same deal with smoking: it _can_ lead to a slow and painful death, but you could also get hit by a truck.

    Nevertheless, it’s probably best not to smoke. :)

  28. Airborne82p
    Airborne82p June 26, 2012 at 10:16 am | |

    Smoking is stinky. It makes your teeth ugly. It costs a fortune. It interferes with daily life. The only enjoyment one gets from smoking is the relief from not smoking. It creates trash. You can’t be around anyone with breathing difficulties. Who needs cancer as a reason to stop?
    I quit at 21 when I quit everything else. That was 17 years ago for me. I am surprised when I see people start again after stopping for a few years. I guess I just never looked to smoking as a comforter besides relieving my craving. Once the craving was eliminated… Why start again? Also, when you start again, is it just like old times or, do you cough and hack at first?

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