My Christmas Sucked

sadxmasMy Christmas sucked ass.

Well, not entirely. There were some bright spots in the debacle that I endured over the Christmas 2015 holiday week. But mostly it sucked. Maybe one of these days I’ll tell you all about it. Maybe not. Trust me, though. It was epic in its suck.

Often in old Zen books there’s a lot of stuff about “home leaving.” There’s an idea that one cannot pursue Enlightenment unless one leaves all ties to family, friends and normal society behind and enters a cloistered environment. One must live in a place where only people fully dedicated to the pursuit of the Ultimate Truth are allowed in. Anyone who breaks the strict rules and vows of the cloistered space is booted out in order to preserve the space itself.

There’s no magic to this. It’s not like there’s some kind of Enlightenment Elixir available only in monasteries. It’s just that when your body and mind is all wrapped up in dealing with stuff like my Christmas hell (or yours), you’re probably not going to get a lot of meditating done. That’s really all there is to it.

As long as you stay in the so-called “real world” you’re going to be faced with “real world” dramas. This isn’t to say that monasteries are 100% drama-free zones. It’s just that monasteries are specifically designed to try and reduce such distractions through a time-tested regimen of rules, duties and hierarchies. That’s the stuff some people complain is “militaristic.” It doesn’t always work. But it usually works better than staying in the so-called “real world.” Still, if you choose to go that route, you’re sacrificing something else.

Some would say the cloistered life is nobler.

Maybe it is. I wouldn’t know.

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Our Saturday morning zazen in Culver City now starts at 10:00 am!

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I’ve got a new book coming out soon! Stay up to date on its release schedule, my live appearances and more by signing up for our mailing list on the contact page


April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”

October 23-28, 2016 Benediktushof Meditation Centrum (near Würzburg, Germany) 5-Day Retreat


Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!

Every Saturday at 10:00 am (NEW TIME!) there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Beginners only!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

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Your donations to this blog are still important, especially after what I spent on my so-called “holidays.” I won’t get any of the Angel City Zen Center fundraiser money. I appreciate your on-going support!

35 Responses

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  1. chasrmartin
    chasrmartin January 7, 2016 at 11:30 am |

    You describe my Christmas quite precisely, and it’s actually a copmfort that even Zen Masters have it.

    Hope it’s getting better now, sympathies.

  2. skatemurai
    skatemurai January 7, 2016 at 12:17 pm |

    I live with my parents but I want to leave and be on my own for many years. I look forward to more freedom, peace and time to meditate. This theme is biggie for me. I am looking for a new job in a new city. Until recently I was drowning in the sea of self-criticism and imaginary judgement of others. Now I see that one can change it – to change ones attitude about anything. All that thanks to zazen, jogging, modest eating and resolution to change my situation. There is lot of work to do, I guess this is just beginning of it.

  3. Used-rugs
    Used-rugs January 7, 2016 at 12:44 pm |

    Some might feel that it is better to be crushed and destroyed in pursuit of the Absolute than slowly beaten down and bled out by the pleasures and drama of day-to-day living. If you feel this way then the monastery is probably the right place for you. If not, please stay in the real world and keep the infrastructure running. After all, the monks are still going to need a place to post their blogs and pictures after they leave monastic practice. Everyone needs everyone and we’re all in this together.

  4. minkfoot
    minkfoot January 7, 2016 at 12:46 pm |

    For a couple of winters in ’71 and ’72, I had a job selling hot, soft pretzels out of a bike cart in downtown Boston. I’d ride the three-wheeled, single-geared contraption of plywood and plexiglass the three or so miles to the commercial district of every morning, and risk my life in the dark of afternoon rush hour on return.

    Although I had bought a permit for street sales, all street vending downtown was verboten, but you couldn’t make any worthwhile money otherwise. As soon as I’d see a prowl car turn the corner, I’d go the wrong way down a one-way alley, and most cops didn’t think it worth their time to chase illegal vendors. So, for two seasons, I was part of the bustle of Boston for the Christmas season.

    The things I saw cured me of any lingering Christmas spirit.

    The Orthodox celebrated Easter more; nonetheless, it was warm fun going to the church with my folks. When I was a kid, we’d get a few presents, of course, and I enjoyed the music and the TV offerings, but my European parents kept it low key. My sister became a JW, and I married a woman whose family didn’t observe holidays and gift-giving, so I had no pressure to do American Christmas.

    Nowadays I’m usually around Buddhists most of the time. A retreat I volunteered for, this year, began on the 26th. My partner and I spent a very quiet day at home in preparation by catching up on Doctor Who (Peter Capaldi is pretty cool, but Tom Baker is The Man!). I thank my guardians and my lucky stars for my exemption from the annual madness.

    Those of you who choose to engage with it, may you have strength and wisdom every year, and may the season leave you uplifted rather than bedraggled or depressed. It really is full of nice sentiments, if you can minimize the stress.

  5. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon January 7, 2016 at 1:12 pm |
  6. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 7, 2016 at 1:28 pm |
    1. Dogen
      Dogen January 7, 2016 at 2:20 pm |

      Wow, Sammy looks good for his age. Can’t even recognize Eddie though.

        1. mb
          mb January 7, 2016 at 4:13 pm |

          Oh I see…pop any name into a fake news article. Cool.

          1. Dogen
            Dogen January 7, 2016 at 4:57 pm |

            May he rest in peace. _/\_

        2. drocloc
          drocloc January 7, 2016 at 5:00 pm |


          “On Thursday (January 07) the guitarist’s reps officially confirmed that Eddie Van Halen is not dead. “He joins the long list of celebrities who have been victimized by this hoax. He’s still alive and well, stop believing what you see on the Internet,” they said.

          All Hail Rock ‘n Roll.


          1. Dogen
            Dogen January 7, 2016 at 5:19 pm |
  7. Dogen
    Dogen January 7, 2016 at 1:32 pm |

    Santa didn’t bring me what I asked for either. Guess I’m on the naughty list. But sorry it sucked for you, Mr. Warner.

  8. sri_barence
    sri_barence January 7, 2016 at 1:59 pm |

    We had a very nice Christmas, with family and friends. Sorry yours was different.

    Zen Master Seung Sahn liked to say, “A good situation is a bad situation, and a bad situation is a good situation.” So maybe your sucky Christmas was good for you!

  9. Me
    Me January 7, 2016 at 2:06 pm |

    Hi Brad,

    Would it make you feel better about your Christmas to hear that this holidays would have been a hell for me (a random person on another continent) if I was not reading one of your books?

    Probably it would not…

    But I am going to thank you for the book anyway. So glad you are part of my reality.

    Hope it gets better soon… For you, I mean 🙂

  10. Mumbles
    Mumbles January 7, 2016 at 3:22 pm |

    C’mon Brad! Here we are now, entertain us.

    Do tell.

    1. Dogen
      Dogen January 7, 2016 at 3:55 pm |

      Gotta be a girl trouble. One of the few things he seems to keeps private.

      Having said that, I feel stupid and contagious.

  11. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 7, 2016 at 4:36 pm |

    We’re like teepees, see… no, we’re like wigwams! Wigwams… ummm, teepees.

    We’re two tents, basically:

    1. mb
      mb January 7, 2016 at 4:53 pm |

      Very interesting. Also as to how people specialize their interests. The woman who wrote the article is a self-described “fascia nerd”. Didn’t know they existed! I took an anatomy workshop once that was part of a yoga teachers’ training course and the guy, a former yoga teacher, said he quit teaching yoga because he basically discovered he was more of an “anatomy nerd”. Shinzen Young describes himself as a kind of a “meditation nerd”. I guess “nerd” in this case is not quite a pejorative but more a description of someone who doesn’t find details useless.

  12. Mumon
    Mumon January 7, 2016 at 5:26 pm |

    The thing about Christmas, is that even when it’s good, it’s disappointing. From that disappointment, hopefully compassion can arise.

    One of my brothers is a low information right wing person. I had seen him at a wedding of my niece a while back, and, well, let’s just say he wasn’t at his best then.

    So Christmas was an opportunity for me.

    The thing about the rest of living in reality outside of Christmas, is that even when it’s good, it’s disappointing. Whether you’re cloistered or not, dukkha will always be your companion.

    1. Fred
      Fred January 7, 2016 at 6:08 pm |

      I’ve got dukkha on a cloudy day.
      When it’s cold outside I’ve got the month of May.

      I guess you’d say
      What can make me feel this way?
      My dukkkha
      Talkin’ ’bout my dukha (dukha).

      I’ve got so much honey the bees envy me.
      I’ve got a sweeter song than the birds in the trees.

  13. Fred
    Fred January 7, 2016 at 6:28 pm |
  14. garyrutland
    garyrutland January 7, 2016 at 6:51 pm |

    My christmas didn’t really suck cos I live in Thailand and being a Buddhist country it’s not celebrated (thank god hahaha). MY New Year however has sucked arse big time.
    I think it’s finally beginning to turn, but I just wanted to say thanks for your usual forthright thoughts about “real life”. I find the plethora and ubiquity of positive posts quite depressing as “real life” for me is all about balance and for me that’s one of the things your posts help to provide.
    Thank you and Happy New Year to you and yours

  15. barong
    barong January 7, 2016 at 10:37 pm |

    My teacher shared an essay written about a hundred years ago by a Tibetan monk describing how to use suffering to advance on the Way. It was also cautioned that in Zen, as in weight training, you start with the five pound weights and work your way up.

  16. french-roast
    french-roast January 8, 2016 at 1:59 am |

    I would think that as practice deepens, we tend get bore more easy of the superficial consensual world, until one reaches kind of a point of no-return. Mutual exclusiveness and deep incompatibilities in viewpoints are certain to generate tensions which will lead to deep incomprehension and inner/outer conflicts.

    I now know why we kill each other, why violence of any kind always rest on conflicts of perspectives. The problem is that I do not know how to melt down our deepest and unshakable conviction about absolutely everything. I have tried for years, from various angle and nothing does it. How can you show someone that his or her belief system is pure crap? You cannot do that from your own belief system, that would be idiotic. But that is what we do all the time, and that is why it is failing recurrently. One has to go way beyond its own petty beliefs, one has to literally die to oneself/beliefs system. That death is true death, there are no other death then this one. But who would want that?

  17. jude
    jude January 8, 2016 at 8:01 am |

    That explains your long silence here. My sympathy. Welcome back, Brad.

    1. Fred
      Fred January 8, 2016 at 10:15 am |

      “I now know why we kill each other, why violence of any kind always rest on conflicts of perspectives. The problem is that I do not know how to melt down our deepest and unshakable conviction about absolutely everything. I have tried for years, from various angle and nothing does it”

      Embrace the opposing viewpoint

      1. french-roast
        french-roast January 9, 2016 at 2:38 am |

        Fred, I see your comment as being quite naive; ’embrace the opposing viewpoint’, see Brad next post and ask him to embrace the opposing viewpoint.

        It is exactly because we can and sometime do embrace the opposing viewpoint that we can feel the deep incompatibilities. I am not saying that we should not embrace the opposite viewpoint, on the contrary we should. But as long as one will stay within viewpoints/views, conflicts is inevitable. Some koans are exactly about that; as one work with the koan, one will work with multiple viewpoints, and at some time or another one will face up with at least two mutually exclusive and equally valid viewpoints. The koan ‘it has no form, yet it appears’ being a good example. Form is form, emptiness is emptiness, and yet emptiness appears, it appears as forms. This koan is deeply contradictory, and working with it from within can be agonizing. Once you get into this koan from within, once you inhabit the koan, you will really feel what it means to embrace opposing viewpoints/views. You will experience what ‘life is suffering’ really means. Only when we deeply inhabit equally valid conflicting (antagonistic) perspectives, can we get a glance at the underlying ‘transcendent’ complementary aspect ( Of a one that is more or less two). By chasing conflict (antagonistic perspectives) away from our life, (after all this is what America is all about) we kill life itself and any luck we may get at transcending life itself without killing it.

        In Brad next post, he does embrace the opposing viewpoint which he sees as being incompatible with his own. But he also sees that they are not equally valid. All viewpoints do not have equal validity. Some do, and some don’t. The earth is flat or the earth is a sphere do not have equal validity. In a Koan, which is life itself, the two viewpoints are contradictory, they are mutually exclusive, and have equal validity.

  18. mika
    mika January 8, 2016 at 12:43 pm |

    “It’s not like there’s some kind of Enlightenment Elixir available only in monasteries.” Are you sure about that? The japanese wending machines are pretty weirdly marvelous.

  19. jason farrow
    jason farrow January 8, 2016 at 1:49 pm |

    I like this post.

    Far too often in Soto Zen, you hear ppl with club status say nonesense like “Cloistered monastics are leech’s” type stuff. (I am stereotyping, but again , while stereotyping..) then you hear cloistered monastics say stuff like , “That’s not doing it. That’s not being a monastic.” My first teacher, now a brown robe, never claimed to be a bhikkhu. He never said his zendo was a monastery. He never only turned professors into monastics. He never demanded mony for things. He had a very down to earth cowrd of students. Very ordinary. I really miss that guy. He was a good lay monastic. He ate meat. I watched him drink some beers. He had a wife. But he also had a great understanding. But you could argue that if he ate meat, and drank beers, where is his understanding?

    I’ve always seen lay-monasticism as just that. Something inbetween.

    ***Both are valuable.

    I don’t know…Like , I have heard bhikkunis say that “we turn each other around.” Yeah, that is very true….But who is it that fumbles a Purenind. That is like saying , “You made me do this.” No. You fumbled It. However long It comes into a existence depends upon You. How can you blame another for your rebirth? And yet…it very much seems that other ppl knock You down.

    What about all the obstacles that obstruct practice? That make you fumble the precepts? Like alcohol. Alcohol is often very much a social thing.

    A good example; At one point, I gave up eating meat because I know supply and demand are part of killing. Part of animal slaughter for food stock….But, if someone at a work BBQ offered me a piece of meat, or a friend offers a piece of food(meat) out of kindness and friendship, unity, community, respect etc…Not taking it would be like politely pissing in their face. Like, this is about FOOD. Not herion. Offering food is like one of the most basic human things a person can do. It doesn’t make sense to chastise them. But if you accept meat, regardless of for better or for worse, its like engaging in the slaughter. It’s like saying “Thank you. Did you kill this yourself?” Its like saying that killing is normal and benfical.

    Idk…I don’t want to chastise anyone, or promote one way over another.

    Y’know, we forget. We forget who and what we are. We lose sight of our origal face because we are partly just “dumb animals” like pigs, snakes, and birds…How do you escape anger, greed, and attachment?

    I don’t know. No one can take credit for another persons “entering the stream.”

    There are two forms of enlightenment. There is Nirvana, and there is being a being who assists others in the attainment of, and dispersing of Nirvana (compassion/wisdom/virtue) to make the world a better place.

    I like how Dogen says that Avalokiteshvara is sutra. The sky(Blue Cliffs and White Mountains) is a sutra, and the Avatamasaka is also a sutra. You can learn dharma at a lecture, and you can learn dharma at the work place, in the park etc…You can leave a deluded mind and meet Avalokiteshvara anywhere. What does that have to do with a monastery? May be a monastery obstructs that? May be you don’t suffer enough in a monastery like you do in the Sahaworld when your girlfriend rips your heart out and shoves it up your ass.

    I have really thought and thought and thought and thought and thought , year after year of sitting on the fence about the matter…Like, I have contemplated this issue for half a decade….The most I can come up with is that there are two different ways. Neither is entirely correct. Neither is entirely wrong.

    I think it litterly depends upon the person…But what is that? What is being a monastic?

    Excellent blog. You totally said it as is.

  20. jason farrow
    jason farrow January 8, 2016 at 1:54 pm |

    I think it largely because people have not yet escaped their culture. They are still caught up in right and wrong, what is, what isn’t, because they have yet to escape culture. They have yet to escape the culture of the Sahaworld, and the culture Buddhsim. They have yet to have experienced a free flowing mind that isn’t dependant upon anything. They have yet to have pushed the mind to its hightest height.

    When you get to the top of the 10ft pole, where do you go?

  21. jason farrow
    jason farrow January 8, 2016 at 1:56 pm |

    Why did your Christmas sux?

  22. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara January 9, 2016 at 1:10 am |

    Cracks in the bauble
    Grit in the pearl
    Dog’s in the manger:
    The world’s your cloister

  23. Inge
    Inge January 10, 2016 at 6:19 pm |

    Sorry Christmas sucked for you Brad. Of course I don’t know the details and it isn’t any of my business anyway.

    It used to suck for me too, but then a few years ago I decided to stop participating. Luckily hubby agrees. December 25th is another day on the calendar. We buy ourselves a decedent dessert and that’s it. I haven’t been to a shopping mall in 6 years, no matter what day it is. My grown son spends the day with is dad and stepmom’s family.

    I refuse to go along with any holiday or anything else for that matter just because its socially/politically correct. No one ever challenged me over it and if they did, I’d tell them to “bite me.”

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