OF MONTREAL and MRIs


Before I forget, check out the new issue of Alternative Press magazine. In issue #231, October 2007, with the band Chiodos semi-nude on the cover you’ll find an op-ed piece by little old me on page 26. Alternative Press started out as a local fanzine for the Cleveland punk scene. When they started getting big they gave Dimentia 13 a lot of nice reviews (thank you). Now I got to make my contribution. Though reading the rest of the mag I realize how incredibly out of touch I am with the music scene these days. You kids and your whipper-snappin’ punk rock!

I just got back from Montreal last night. The talk at McGill University up there went really well. The previous day I was a guest on a show on Montreal’s CBC radio called Radio Noon with Anne Lagace-Dowson. Anne really knew her stuff about my book, which is rare in radio interviewers. I also did an interview with John Maciel of CKWR FM Radio, which was pretty cool too. Those shows generated so much response we got moved from the small room we’d originally been booked into to a larger lecture hall. And even that was standing room only. Gosh. The same thing happened at the Interdependence Project in New York City, the place was packed beyond capacity. Don’t people on the East Coast have anything better to do?

While I was up in the Great White North yet another researcher wanted to scan my brain. Last year I got brain-scanned down in the great state of Georgia. So this is the second time I’ve participated in a study where scientific types have wanted to peek inside the brains of meditators to see if our are different from those of just plain folks. I’m always game for these things. I think it’s great that such research is being done and I’m as curious as the next guy to see how it turns out. Maybe my brain is like totally round and has developed a special gland that can shoot out lazer beams or unhook girls’ bras from ten feet away or something. That would be rad!

While I really support this kind of research, I wonder if the changes that years of Zazen practice causes in the brain can be measured by MRIs and suchlike. I’d imagine they can. I certainly feel a lot different now from what I did before I started this practice. But I also imagine the chemical and physical changes to the brain might be subtle. But what do I know about brains anyway? I’m like Fred Flintsone when it comes to brains. Ask the Great Gazoo.

Montreal was fun and French. After my brain scan I went with the guy who’d scanned me to sit with the Association Zen de Montreal, a group founded by Taisen Deshimaru. Deshimaru Roshi was a pal of Nishijima’s. Both were students of Kodo Sawaki. They used to meet every time Deshimaru Roshi came back to Japan from France. Nice group. I didn’t get to see a whole lot, though, in the short time I was there. They sit with black kimonos on, which are provided for everyone who shows up. I’ve seen other Zen places that do this. It’s nice in that everyone gets to wear something very comfortable to sit in no matter what clothes they were wearing when they showed up. It also creates a nice “Zen” type atmosphere to see everyone wearing them. It’s probably not a practice I’ll adopt because the folks who come to see me sometimes tend to freak out over matters of costuming and suchlike (Calm down, OK? It’s just clothes).

I really like Montreal and hope to spend some more time there in the near future. I like places that get cold sometimes.

44 Responses

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  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 2, 2007 at 9:51 am | |

    “Don’t people on the East Coast have anything better to do?”

    We in the East do not live in an enviroment where you can’t spit without hitting an acknowedged spiritual teacher-type. Adyashanti was impressed with the seriousness of his East coast groupies – that they “didn’t get up to pee every five minutes” during his talks.

    So, what’s so great about California, anyway – it’s just got lots of people who take you guys for granted…

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 2, 2007 at 10:04 am | |

    Yeah!!! Daddy’s home!
    Wadyabringme? Wadyabringme?

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 2, 2007 at 11:26 am | |

    What’s going on with your real job, now?

  4. esmerelda_verde
    esmerelda_verde September 2, 2007 at 1:57 pm | |

    Well here in NYC we have this neat thing called public transportation so we can read your book on the way to work. Which means we have heard of you. We also have small apartments so we go out more. Also its easy to walk across town to see you because we have sidewalks!

    I used to live in LA, we had to drive to Venice Beach so we could walk arround in a semi urban setting.

  5. Mysterion
    Mysterion September 2, 2007 at 2:32 pm | |

    LA once had an electric railway system.

    Read about General Motors’ Destruction of California
    Transit Systems
    here.

    Evil capitalists strike again.

    “Taken for a Ride,” a 55-minute film was shown on PBS in August 1996.

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 2, 2007 at 2:32 pm | |

    Brad said:

    to freak out over matters of
    costuming and suchlike (Calm
    down, OK? It’s just clothes).

    Bullshit. It’s fuckin’ weird.
    And lame. Like the fraternity
    assholes in “Animal House”
    who wear robes and spank each other.
    It’s gay in a bad way, like the
    Superbowl and the military
    (unlike Graham Norton, who’s gay
    in a good way).

    If you’re promoting “ordinary mind”,
    why not wear ordinary clothes?

    Robes might have been fine in
    7th century China where that’s
    what everybody wore, but now
    it’s just an embarrassment.

    Better to sit in a Godzilla
    suit than in some freaky robe.

  7. Jinzang
    Jinzang September 2, 2007 at 3:59 pm | |

    Those shows generated so much response we got moved from the small room we’d originally been booked into to a larger lecture hall. And even that was standing room only. Gosh. The same thing happened at the Interdependence Project in New York City, the place was packed beyond capacity. Don’t people on the East Coast have anything better to do?

    Glad to hear things went well on your tour. Hope things work out well on the job front too.

    New York seems to be the Zen capital of America. I’m not surprised you got a big turnout there.

  8. Jinzang
    Jinzang September 2, 2007 at 4:05 pm | |

    Bullshit. It’s fuckin’ weird. And lame.

    The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.

    When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised.

    Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

    If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against anything.

    To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind.

    When the deep meaning of things is not understood the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 2, 2007 at 4:15 pm | |

    Thanks to whoever started posting
    the 9/11 stuff. I checked out
    some of your links and soon got
    sucked in trying to prove you
    wrong. Unfortunately, I’m becoming
    more and more convinced that you
    are right.

    On the bright side, it’s turning
    out to be a lot more fun than
    watching reruns of “Law and Order”.
    I get to be the detective putting
    the puzzle together.

    In trying to answer the question
    “Cui bono?”, I came across some
    additional information.

    The owner of World Trade Center 7,
    Larry Silverstein, spoke regularly
    with Benjamin Netanyahu (former
    Israeli prime minister). This is
    particulary interesting given the
    case of the five dancing Israelis
    arrested in New York City on 9/11.

    Investigating such matters seems
    to me essential to ending the
    occupation of Iraq and preventing
    the bombing of Iran.

    By the way, I myself am Jewish,
    but I do not support the fascist
    policies of the State of
    ” REL=”nofollow”>Israel
    .

    Gassho.

  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 2, 2007 at 7:12 pm | |

    jinzang,

    “If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against anything.”

    Does that mean that Seng-ts’an would not be against Nazis? Or torture? Or anything else that decent people have a natural aversion to?

    Do Buddhists believe that robes and rituals are a good thing? And if so, isn’t that an opinion _for_ something?

    Brad, Nishijima, and Dogen certainly have opinions. And I am pretty sure you have opinions about both Tibetan Buddhism and Catholicism.

    I’d guess that every time you purchase (or do not purchase) something, whether it’s food, clothes, or cars, you are acting on the basis of your opinions.

    If you do not have preferences or opinions, what prevents you from eating your own shit?

  11. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 2, 2007 at 7:28 pm | |

    Wow! The anonymous posting option sure brings out some weirdos.

    Sincerely,

    Yet another anonymous weirdo

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 2, 2007 at 7:40 pm | |

    I don’t know, but I think robes give
    off the wrong signal. They make
    Buddhists appear no different than
    any other crazy cult or religion
    trying to separate themselves from
    others.

    Groups of people all wearing the same
    uniform are probably not a good thing.

  13. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 2, 2007 at 7:49 pm | |

    Cheers to the weirdos!

    They’ve even got their own magazine!

  14. Mysterion
    Mysterion September 2, 2007 at 8:21 pm | |

    Think different…

    iRack and iRan

  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 2, 2007 at 9:22 pm | |

    Whoa! This thread is getting confusing on multiple levels. Time to slip off my stilettos and dominatrix gear and go sit.

    Just for the record, I like my costumes and rituals! A girl’s gotta make a living, y’know?

  16. Boonton
    Boonton September 2, 2007 at 9:24 pm | |

    I’d like a robe! Of course the problem is administration starts getting trickier. Now you gotta provide a place for men and women to change into the robes…or if they are supposed to be worn over the clothes what’s the point? They probably would get hot and uncomfortable.

  17. jackalope
    jackalope September 2, 2007 at 9:27 pm | |

    I really like Montreal and hope to spend some more time there in the near future.

    So I guess you didn’t have to do any driving there?

  18. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 2, 2007 at 11:31 pm | |

    The subject of robes and special clothing.
    No different methinks than what we already do in our regular lives–I mean we wear pj’s and nighties and such to go to sleep in, we wear various kinds of ‘uniforms’ to work in–be it a suit-and-tie or football regalia, or something that’s got our name embroidered or pinned on our chest, these are just aids in helping perform the task at hand: go nighty-night; smile at other CEO’s and admire pictures of family members on their desks; go out at kick ass, go rooter those backed up sinks….
    I see no objection to having clothes to sit in.
    I think it helps ‘get in the mood.’
    I also think it brings out the fact that all clothing is ‘This.’
    Why not give it a go and see. You could have robes available for those who wish, and they could be optional, so no one would feel it was forced upon them.

    What do I know, I’m only
    cowpie

  19. perruche
    perruche September 2, 2007 at 11:45 pm | |

    Robes vs. not robes…

    I see this as potentially very helpful. Way too often I’ve shown up for a Buddhist teaching and tried to sit and meditate beforehand, only to realize that I didn’t plan well, and the clothes I wore to work that day aren’t good meditation clothes. If the center can provide that support for people who come to sit, so much the better.

    Also, this way there’s less potential distraction from people’s wardrobe choices, e.g. T-shirts w/disturbing images or clothing that exposes a little too much.

    Maybe I’m just the worst meditator in the class, but when a girl sits down right in front of me and I can check out both her lower back tattoo *and* what’s below it… I have been known to lose concentration briefly.

    This isn’t about group identity, uniforms, or anything silly like that. It’s about what helps people practice.

  20. Roman G
    Roman G September 3, 2007 at 12:03 am | |

    some moron wrote:
    Bullshit. [Robes are] fuckin’ weird. Better to sit in a Godzilla suit than in some freaky robe. . .If you’re promoting “ordinary mind,” why not wear ordinary clothes?

    And which is more comfortable for meditation and conducive to the physical side of samadhi ? A Godzilla suit (or even ordinary clothes) ? Or robes ? That’s easy ! ROBES !

    As for the color, black tends to be less distracting and makes the clothes of the guy sitting next to you one less thing to arise in your mind during zazen. No one in my sangha wears formal robes except on formal occasions. Regardless, all of the long-time sitters always wear black when sitting zazen with the sangha.

    Speaking of sangha: You sit with a group to gain the benefits of a group (whatever those may be) and robes may be just an element of that group’s activities that bring about those benefits. If the benefits of sitting with a robe-wearing group are worthwhile, then wearing the robes are worthwhile. If not, then its time to set the robes aside (and find a group that doesn’t wear them.)

    In any case, whether you wear robes or not, fearing conformity isn’t going to help you walk the path.

  21. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 3, 2007 at 1:12 am | |

    > Silverstein… Netanyahu…
    > five dancing Israelis…

    Sounds plausible.

    As shown in the movie “Munich”,
    Mossad is famous for blowing up
    buildings when it suits their
    purposes. So why not blow up
    a few in the US? Especially when
    it buys them the might of the
    US military (and the money of
    the US taxpayer).

    Indeed, it appears that
    Dick Cheney,
    Michael Chertoff,
    Douglas Feith,
    Michael Ledeen,
    Lewis Libby,
    Richard Perle,
    Paul Wolfowitz,
    Dov Zakheim,
    and others (Rove and Rumsfeld etc.),
    along with AIPAC and PNAC,
    have hijacked the US to serve the needs
    of Israel and oil/gas interests
    such as Halliburton.

    Quite the coup.

  22. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 3, 2007 at 1:32 am | |

    roman said:

    fearing conformity isn’t going to help you walk the path.

    When the people around you start goose-stepping and chanting “Sieg Heil!”, fearing conformity will probably help you walk the path more than joining the group.

  23. DB
    DB September 3, 2007 at 3:09 am | |

    If you’re interested in how meditation (and other activities) can create physical changes in the structure of the brain, I highly recommend Sharon Begley’s book “Train Your Mind; Change Your Brain” ISBN 978-1-4000-6390-1.

    The foreword is by the Dalai Lama, but don’t let that put you off. Begley writes lucidly and well and covers a heck of a lot of research on the plasticity of the brain. The book does not confine itself to meditation effects, but such are included.

    This is not a new age, peppermint dolphins and wonder crystals tome, but a fairly rigorous scientific report on the state of current brain research. Parts of it are a bit dry, but if you’re a geek like me, you like that kinda stuff.

  24. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 3, 2007 at 3:24 am | |

    jeez, why do people always have to bring the nazis into EVERY SINGLE ARGUMENT? it’s just silly. do you really think that someone will read your little nazi comparison and think! wow he’s right! better not wear any robes or in any way conform to any social group! i might end up being a nazi!

    morons

  25. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 3, 2007 at 3:33 am | |

    the moron nazi argument in this case goes like this:

    the nazi’s did x (in this case dressed the same)
    therefore x is bad

    any mildly intelligent person can see why this argument is retarded.

  26. DB
    DB September 3, 2007 at 3:52 am | |

    Addendum: Brad, the guy in Montreal who wanted to brain scan you, that wouldn’t have been Michael Meany would it?

  27. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 3, 2007 at 5:51 am | |

    Re: Brain scan.

    Did they find anything?

    Love and Gushes,

    Denver Non-Fan Club.

  28. Jinzang
    Jinzang September 3, 2007 at 6:55 am | |

    Brad, Nishijima, and Dogen certainly have opinions. And I am pretty sure you have opinions about both Tibetan Buddhism and Catholicism.

    My quote is from a famous Zen poemVerses on Faith in Mind. You should ask a Zen teacher to explain it to you. I’m just a poor deluded Tibetan Buddhist. But as far as I understand it, I think Chogyam Trungpa explained it well: “It’s like parting your hair. You don’t think the hair on the left side is bad or the hair on the right side good.”

    Groups of people all wearing the same uniform are probably not a good thing.

    There’s a concert album by Frank Zappa where a kid who’s being hassled by the security guard shouts. “I won’t be pushed around by a man in a uniform!” Frank Zappa replies, “Don’t fool yourself. Everyone here is wearing a uniform.”

    The foreword is by the Dalai Lama, but don’t let that put you off.

    Peope here are less likely to read a book because the Dalai Lama likes it? Yikes! I’ve fallen in with a crowd of reincarnation disbelieving, Dalai Lama hating, James Randi worshiping Zennies. Well. at least you seem to like Philip Dick.

  29. aumeye
    aumeye September 3, 2007 at 7:43 am | |

    Don’t people on the East Coast have anything better to do? Sometimes yes; sometimes no. Either way, hurry back.

  30. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 3, 2007 at 8:03 am | |

    “Peope here are less likely to read a book because the Dalai Lama likes it? Yikes! I’ve fallen in with a crowd of reincarnation disbelieving, Dalai Lama hating, James Randi worshiping Zennies. “

    it seems so. incidentally you still haven’t answered my arguments from the last post.

    (actually i like the dalai lama)

    dan

  31. Smoggyrob
    Smoggyrob September 3, 2007 at 9:13 am | |

    Hi everyone:

    The nude zazen ad worked — about 12 people showed up Saturday for zazen, around half of them newbies. Nice people, I hope to see them again.

    While I think mandatory robes wouldn’t work well with our group, I’m all for anyone who wants to wear a robe. I’d be even more supportive of someone who wanted to take up the practice of the kesa.

    For me, what works is a teeshirt and knee-length shorts when it’s warm, and sweats when it’s cold. If the flaming spinal cord on the back of my shirt distracts you, then that is your practice. You’re welcome.

    Rob

  32. esmerelda_verde
    esmerelda_verde September 3, 2007 at 9:18 am | |

    Come on guys dissing the Dalai Lama is so lame, just because Soto Zen is plain vanilla and he is cherry chocolate with carmel swirl,it’s still ice cream. It sounds like those 57 flavors of Christians that I cannot tell apart but who start holy wars over minor points about is God 3 or one or one in 3.

    DL is a really smart man and it’s pretty clear if you see him speak that he is enlightened, if such things exist and has a lot to say that is worth hearing. Tibet house is pretty into marketing the man here in NYC but they put on good programs sometimes.

  33. "old dog"
    "old dog" September 3, 2007 at 10:13 am | |

    To the anonymous :rolleyes: writers infatuated by 9/11 theories:

    I spent a couple years reading on a hoax debunking site that had several 9/11 threads. Try doing some research other than the “sounds plausable” arm-waving hysteria.

    The mechanics and mechanisms of demolition are much more complicated than woowoos want to belive. If imperialist evildoers wanted to destroy American skyscrapers for whatever reason (the reasons vary – classic woowoo theories – they all contradict), the easiest way would be to convince Arab extremists to fly hijacked aircraft into them. Cat’s paws.

    Or you can actually [i]read[/i] the news and realize that Arab extremist have their own agenda that has nothing to do with Mossad, Silverstein, or the illuminated ones allegedly running our govermnent.

    Can we keep the discussions here VAGUELY related to zen practices? There are other places to wave your paranoid but ill-informed arms about.

  34. roman
    roman September 3, 2007 at 10:28 am | |

    i have posted an article about what science found out about zazen and how it affects our brain at my blog, the post is called Biology of zazen and I think the scientists there explain pretty well how Brad has changed and turned into such an easy going guy
    who enjoys washing dishes

  35. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 3, 2007 at 10:46 am | |

    some anonymous said:

    “jeez, why do people always have to bring
    the nazis into EVERY SINGLE ARGUMENT?”

    Obviously, you’ve never heard of
    Godwin’s Law, and unfortunately,
    it is the price of free speech
    on the Internet.

    Achtung!

    But, then again, maybe talk of the Nazi cult
    is appropriate in the context of Zen given
    that Japanese Zen Masters were enthusiastic
    supporters of their country’s militarism
    during WWII, as described in the book
    “Zen at War”.

    Also, American Zen has exhibited cult-like
    behavior repeatedly over the last 40 years,
    as described in the book
    Shoes Outside the Door.

    But, yeah, I’d have to agree that overall
    the Nazi-cult comparisons are pretty
    tiresome and annoying, similar to those
    “Daddy’s home!” posts that are
    just plain creepy.

  36. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 3, 2007 at 11:33 am | |

    where’s the new suicide girls article?

  37. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 3, 2007 at 11:53 am | |

    old dog said:

    I spent a couple years reading on a
    hoax debunking site that had several
    9/11 threads.

    Hmm, whom should I believe?

    “old dog”?

    Or architects and engineers?

    Or pilots?

    Or military and government officials?

    Or university professors?

    Or eyewitnesses?

    Wow, old dog, I am hereby shocked and awed
    by your qualifications. I’ll believe you!

    Or you can actually [i]read[/i] the news

    Yes, I’ll learn to read the news!
    The very same news that told us
    there were WMDs in Iraq!

    Can we keep the discussions here VAGUELY
    related to zen practices?

    You’re right, by golly! Sitting on a
    cushion has nothing to do with what you
    see around you when you get up off it!

    Thank you and OK!

  38. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 3, 2007 at 1:13 pm | |

    ‘Daddy’ comments are just pure silliness–
    my analyst has told me my fixation is under control and that it’s ok if I wear big bows in my hair and skip down sidewalks

  39. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 3, 2007 at 1:54 pm | |

    To old dog and
    various anonymouses (anonymice?):

    In the spirit of rational inquiry,
    may I humbly suggest that you look
    beyond websites and “the news”,
    and read some good books:

    The War on Truth

    Debunking 9/11 Debunking

    Happy trails.

  40. Jinzang
    Jinzang September 3, 2007 at 4:36 pm | |

    ncidentally you still haven’t answered my arguments from the last post.

    Same old story, too much I want to do and not enough time to do it. Lots of threads I start get dropped. The topic is bound to come up again sometime. Until then, stay well.

  41. Roman G.
    Roman G. September 3, 2007 at 10:31 pm | |

    roman g said:
    fearing conformity isn’t going to help you walk the path.


    anonymous said:
    When the people around you start goose-stepping and chanting “Sieg Heil!”, fearing conformity will probably help you walk the path more than joining the group.

    Conform when it is beneficial to one’s practice; Resist conformity when it is beneficial to one’s practice. Fearing, however, is an obstacle to one’s practice.

  42. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 4, 2007 at 2:14 am | |

    “Obviously, you’ve never heard of
    Godwin’s Law, and unfortunately,
    it is the price of free speech
    on the Internet.”

    unfortunately i have heard of it. i just can’t believe that so many people haven’t that they think that bringing up the nazis ever helps make their case.

    notice how the 9/11 woowoo totally ignored the most sensible debunking argument from old dog.
    i’ll repeat:

    EVEN IF YOU ARE STUPID ENOUGH TO BELIEVE THAT THE US GOVERNMENT DELIBERATELY BLEW UP THEIR OWN BUILDING, THE BEST WAY FOR THE ‘ILLUMINATI’ TO HAVE BLOWN UP THE TOWERS WOULD HAVE BEEN TO CONVINCE SOME TERROISTS TO HIJACK A PLANE AND FLY IT INTO THEM! WAY CHEAPER THAN DEMOLITION ETC AND MUCH HARDER TO TRACE BACK.

  43. Blake
    Blake September 4, 2007 at 7:32 am | |

    As far as costumes go, I’m with Frank Zappa! I am a heavily tattooed lawyer with a history of hanging out with punks and skinheads. My default dress is jeans/pants, a t-shirt (usually black, sometimes with a band’s logo), Doc Martins or Chucks, and a mick. However, when I am playing the role of lawyer (or, more recently, law professor), I wear a costume: slacks and a long-sleeve oxford. I just look at it like during the day, I’m Clark Kent. At night, I’m Superdork.

  44. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 4, 2007 at 11:42 am | |

    “Maybe my brain is like totally round and has developed a special gland that can shoot out lazer beams or unhook girls’ bras from ten feet away or something. That would be rad!”

    No need for a brain scan, this shows where your heads at.

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