Before I get started, tonight, Wednesday January 23, 2013, at 7:15 pm I will host zazen at Yogavidala 4640 Franklin Ave  Los Angeles, CA 90027, on the corner of Franklin and Vermont behind the 7-11 in Los Feliz. We’ve been doing this for about four months now every Wednesday night. We’re getting about 2-5 people each time, which is barely enough to pay the rent on the space. As of February we’re moving the sittings to Thursdays at 8:30pm to see if that does any better. If it doesn’t we’ll probably just drop the weeknight zen things.


On Monday my friend Nina and I went up to Mount Baldy Zen Center to talk to them about holding a Zen retreat there. The terms and prices they quoted us sound very reasonable. We have not finalized anything yet. But the most likely dates for the retreat would be April 11-14 (or possibly April 25-28). Once we have worked out the details I’ll post them here. I’m deliberately posting this a bit prematurely to try and gauge what sort of interest is out there for this. We need at least 20 people in the retreat (that’s part of the policy at Mt. Baldy) and the cost would be somewhere around $325 per person (possibly more, possibly less). This will cover all meals and accommodations.

This will be a full-on Zen retreat. Participants will be required to maintain silence for most of the three days. There will be no cell phones or computer use allowed. The main activity will be zazen. There won’t be any workshops or games or weenie and marshmallow roasts. Drug and alcohol use will not be tolerated. But there will be a period of yoga each day, a chanting service each morning, a few talks by me followed by Q&A sessions, a work period each day and opportunities for dokusan (personal meetings with me) for all participants. There will be free time for hiking and exercise too.

After Nina and I returned from Mt. Baldy on Monday, my roommate started talking to me about ways he thought we could get more participants at our retreats and thereby make more money. He was saying we could add fun activities, more talks, less zazen, etc. And, of course, all of this would bring in more people. But then it wouldn’t be a zen retreat. It would be something else. At best it would be a weekend in the mountains with a bit of zazen thrown in. Which wouldn’t be the worst thing people could do. And I’m not completely opposed to that kind of a retreat. I may start doing those some day.

I used to live down the street from this one.

But here’s the thing. People are always complaining that their minds are too busy to do meditation. Your mind is not too busy to do meditation. I don’t care who you are or how busy your mind is. Your mind is just as busy as everybody else’s. Your mind and Buddha’s mind are equally as busy. Meditation is hard for everyone who does it. Everyone. If it wasn’t difficult to sit still and be quiet they wouldn’t build giant statues commemorating people whose main claim to fame is that they could sit still and be quiet. It’s hard work. But you can do it.

One of the things that makes a person’s mind seem “too busy for meditation” is the way we are constantly agitating our brains with unnecessary information and stimulation. It’s like sitting there poking your eye with your finger over and over and then complaining that you can’t see clearly.

Retreats in which participants get to chat or play with their computers or go for trips to local sightseeing spots etc. rob those participants of the opportunity to go deeply into silence. Which doesn’t mean those retreats are evil or anything like that. They may offer people who are super busy and super stimulated a chance to be a little less busy and a little less stimulated. And that’s nice. But that’s not what a zen retreat is about. A zen retreat is about going deeply into silence for several days. And you can only go deeply into silence for several days by going deeply into silence for several days . So while I may one day offer a few more “lite zen” retreats like the one I did in the Lakes District U.K. last year, this won’t be one of those.

As some of you have surely noticed, Mount Baldy Zen Center is the home temple of the recently vilified Joshu Sasaki Roshi. I have to admit, after all the shit that’s been flung at me recently I take a kind of perverse delight in the idea of holding a retreat at Mount Baldy. Take that, self righteous upholders of morality! Ha!*

But the less sexy truth of the matter is that we’ve been looking into holding a retreat at Mount Baldy for a number of years now. It is the perfect place for a Los Angeles based zen group to run a retreat. It’s close to LA and yet remote enough to have the proper atmosphere. It’s a zen center so it has all the stuff one needs to run a proper zen retreat (a zendo, a Buddha hall, bells, a big mokugyo, monks to run the kitchen and make three-bowl meals, etc.). It’s not a place built for yoga or camping or whatever that we’d have to adapt to our purposes. It is as beautiful a spot as anyone could possibly hope for. All the recent controversy about Sasaki offers no reason at all for us to change our minds about holding our retreat at Mount Baldy. So there!*


* These are jokes. Sometimes I tell jokes on this blog.



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91 Responses

Page 2 of 2
  1. Fred
    Fred January 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm |

    “I’m gonna try to make it to your retreat. I’ll send you an email later when I am able to confirm.

    Would we be expected to wear robes, and if so, should I bring my own?”

    We are all renting ours to make Brad feel sad.

  2. Fred
    Fred January 25, 2013 at 12:59 pm |

    “Well I might consider attending if an3drew did a dharma talk!”

    Here you go

  3. Fred
    Fred January 25, 2013 at 5:40 pm |

    If you miss his act, you can catch it over at Sweeping Zen. It’s hilarious.

  4. Fred
    Fred January 25, 2013 at 5:44 pm |


    “the nature of the absolute is you cannot make meaning of it, this stuff about absolute and relative is prattle !

    it’s so hard for people to let go of this perceived necessity of coherence and sense

    the absolute went out for a walk with a relative, crossed the bounds of incestuous indeterminancy and was left with a consanguative”

  5. Fred
    Fred January 25, 2013 at 5:49 pm |

    I googled ” consanguative ” and the only reference in the universe is this line by An3drew.

    He truly is the 7th Patriarch.

  6. Fred
    Fred January 25, 2013 at 7:23 pm |

    “”I look forward to one day hearing from someone who has “seen through and transcended this sense of self ego”…whatever that may mean. On the evidence available so far, I’m not impressed.”

    Keep working, Bros.

  7. boubi
    boubi January 26, 2013 at 7:10 am |

    to anon108

    yes it’s the going backwards song from Iggy Pop with the F & Gs i tried to lay down

    Can you have a look and tell me what is your impression?


  8. anon 108
    anon 108 January 26, 2013 at 8:27 am |

    boubi, the notes of the riff to Iggy Pop’s “New Values” are:

    d#~e |e a# |b |c#~d |d d|d d |d d|| (repeat 8 times)

    c#~d |d g# |a |b~c | b~c |c c |c c |c c |

    b~c |c f# |g |a~bflat|a~bflat|bflat bflat|bflat bflat|bflat bflat|… etc, in various combinations throughout the song.

    But you didn’t ask for a list of notes you’ve already told me you can’t read, did you.

    My impressions? For me, nothing is ‘going backwards’ – I had those kinds of silly notions knocked out of me by a musical education :/ I don’t like the song much, but it’s the first time I’ve heard it…it might grow on me if I gave it a chance. I’m unlikely to do that, though. Thems my impressions.

    You can play, stop, start, rewind and pause the riff anywhere you like by going to the following link. I’ve never bothered to learn to read guitar tablature, but you’ll find that there, too. I don’t believe there’s a ‘go backwards’ button…but you don’t need fancy software to make that happen, do you? 🙂

  9. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 26, 2013 at 10:45 am |

    I take your point, anon 108, that being that perhaps if I knew the Japanese culture and read the Japanese that Dogen used, I might have a different impression.

    Oddly, he doesn’t inspire me to practice, but he occasionally bumps the fixature of my mind; I guess that a pretty valuable thing, but. As Shunryu Suzuki described Soto, “yes, but…”.

    Maybe my stuff is the same, just the emperor has different clothes, and who am I to speak of practice without the completion of some attainment or authorization to teach; a guy with a sense of humor? Where the h@#! is that in Dogen.

    Here’s my write today:

    ‘The relaxed extension with a relaxed chest that Cheng Man-Ch’ing described as the prerequisite of the experience of ch’i can be said to be identically the “coming back to life”, or coming to one’s senses, that Yuanwu stipulated. The particular senses and the pattern of their inclusion are laid out succinctly in this description of the circulation of ch’i from Cheng Man-Ch’ing:

    “… it overflows into the sinews, reaches the bone marrow, fills the diaphragm, and manifests in the skin and hair.”

    (Master Cheng’s Thirteen Chapters on T’ai-Chi Ch’uan, by Cheng Man-Ch’ing, translated by Douglas Wile, pg 17)

    “Overflows into the sinews” is a reference to the sense of location and motion provided by the muscles and ligaments of the body, now referred to by kinesthesiologists as the sense of “proprioception”. “Reaches the bone marrow” concerns the coupling of the sense of gravity or weight provided by the ostoliths in the inner ear with the sense of location in three dimensions provided by the vestibular organs, also in the inner ear. “Fills the diaphragm” describes the connection between the autonomic movement of breath and the ability to relax the activity of the body wherever awareness is located, as the location of awareness is continuously informed by proprioception with “no part of (the) whole body” left out. Lastly, “manifests in the skin and hair” describes the natural, fluid extension of the body as the activity in the movement of breath is relaxed.

    Gautama described the feeling of the second meditative state as follows:

    “… it is like a pool of water with water welling up within it, but which has no inlet for water from the eastern… western… northern… or southern side, and even if the god does not send down showers upon it from time to time, yet the current of cool water having welled up from that pool will drench, saturate, permeate, suffuse this very body with the rapture and joy that are born of concentration.”

    (MN III 92-93, PTS pg 132-134)’

    So this is a follow up to exploring how the self-surrender that leads to a cut-off of breath precipitates a return to the senses with fluid extension and no fixature of the location of awareness.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 January 26, 2013 at 1:22 pm |

      Hi Mark. I didn’t mean to suggest that you – or anyone else – should like Dogen. Or even that you might like him better if you were familiar with Japanese. Your post just made me reflect on what I got out of reading him…sometimes.

  10. Khru
    Khru January 26, 2013 at 11:57 am |

    I personally like An3drew very much; he’s operating a little differently than most people and his viewpoint (and ability to push people’s buttons) is interesting to watch. He can insult and challenge…some people take the bait and get very upset…unaware that it’s good to be tested like that sometimes. After all, we are only communicating in cyberspace under somewhat fictitious identities…if you allow him to get you agitated then you don’t understand the cosmic joke of “Zen”.

  11. Brent
    Brent January 27, 2013 at 8:36 am |

    So are you saying that what is experienced as ‘self’ is actually non-awareness of phenomena?

  12. boubi
    boubi January 27, 2013 at 10:26 am |

    thanks anon108

    when the thing goes “backwards” is more or less when he starts to talk distorted

    no i can’t read music and apparently i got it all wrong when i tried to write it down

  13. boubi
    boubi January 27, 2013 at 10:27 am |

    The lyrics are rather stupid but i like the rythm

  14. boubi
    boubi January 27, 2013 at 11:00 am |

    Having ended up “churchless”, i can’t understand why people argue about books wrote by people way beyond my reach.

    Just reading a Walter Evans-Wentz’s book* about tibetan buddhism and all i can say is “cool … says the same as …” fill the dots.

    Same thing happened listening to a tibetan lecture, Zen i’m used to and Theravada there isn’t any around here.

    To say the truth what i always find astonishing is how you’re supposed to get the same result doing so different things, as visualizing, reciting, doing nothing excepted breathing, solving riddles, eating shit or corpses and so on.

    And more the time pass more i find it amazing, which in the end is what we all try constantly to do, in a rave party full of MDMA, singing together, getting all our attention to something, shouting your head off chanting the Ramayana like mad men, getting drunk, stoned, shouting in a stadium, running, clinging for dear life on a cliff, jumping from airplanes or base jumping, having sex, listening live to classical music, adoring a deity with full devotion (bakti) … you can add more …

    Proof to the fact that i don’t have the faintest clue about what the *** we are, or are made of ?????????????? if not that they are all ways to drop ourselves, to forget that we are we, to stop minding, to stop.

    That makes me fell very stupid any time i start to thing about “that’s a weird way”, not weirder than the next one

    I found very interesting when Dogen said “that the more enlightened he became, the more he realized how deluded he was”

    The more i look the more i like …

    … as in a wheel whose motion nothing jars –
    by the Love that moves the sun and other stars.

    The Divine Comedy

    *Tibetan yoga and secret doctrines; or, Seven books of wisdom of the great path, according to the late L?ma Kazi Dawa-Samdup’s English rendering; arranged and edited with introductions and annotations to serve as a commentary, London, Oxford University Press, H. Milford, 1935.

  15. boubi
    boubi January 27, 2013 at 11:09 am |

    Cosmic fireflies

    … like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
    Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream …

  16. happi
    happi January 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm |

    I think the retreat is a great idea. I and another person in my Sangha would be happy to attend, provided we know which days in April so we can request vacation time from work.

  17. happi
    happi January 27, 2013 at 1:42 pm |

    I hope Harry finds a way to attend as well.

  18. Bobkat0411
    Bobkat0411 January 27, 2013 at 2:17 pm |

    just read punk rock in a couple of hours touched by alot,confused alot and intrigued enough to come here and check out this site again confused.

  19. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 27, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  20. Fred
    Fred January 27, 2013 at 2:58 pm |

    “So are you saying that what is experienced as ‘self’ is actually non-awareness of phenomena?”

    Jinzen said that he use to deny the self that he was born into, but after studying
    with Sasaki he did not do that.

    At some point what is experienced is the absense of any independent originator
    of action. Something is happening, but there is no one who is causing it to

  21. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 27, 2013 at 3:14 pm |

    Boubi, if you want a light box you just right click to get the image URL (if you’re on a PC), then insert that in the post; should end in something like “jpg” instead of “html”.

    @Brent- “what is experienced as ‘self’ is actually non-awareness of phenomena”- are you saying, ignorance is the source of identification of self with phenomena? Sufferin’ succotash!

  22. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 27, 2013 at 3:14 pm |

    like Fred’s reply.

  23. Fred
    Fred January 27, 2013 at 4:15 pm |

    ““So are you saying that what is experienced as ‘self’ is actually non-awareness of phenomena?”

    It’s more like there is no experience of self; everything just is, without any

  24. Fred
    Fred January 27, 2013 at 4:30 pm |

    Kobun Chino :

    “We experience some kind of dying in sitting, which relates with what’s true and what’s not true. What’s not true dies, so we suffer. We wish to hang on to the self which we believe exists. The contents of what “I” means, or the pieces of the idea of the self, are consistent, but when you sit you observe no substance in those pieces of self.

    It is very important to experience the complete negation of yourself, which brings you to the other side of nothing. People experience that in many ways. You go to the other side of nothing, and you are held by the hand of the absolute. You see yourself as part of the absolute, so you have no more insistence of self as yourself. You can speak of self as no-self upon the absolute. Only real existence is absolute.”

  25. Fred
    Fred January 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm |

    Sorry, the fellows name is Shinzen, not Jinzen:

  26. Brent
    Brent January 27, 2013 at 7:21 pm |

    haha, yes! how could I say what is not in this room? thanks guys

  27. Brent
    Brent January 27, 2013 at 7:23 pm |

    When I click on the video called “Non-Dual Awareness”, it says “Embedding disabled by request”. Is that enough?

  28. happi
    happi January 27, 2013 at 8:40 pm |

    It would be amazing if someone would talk Mike Cross into attending as well. That someone would have to talk him into attending I don’t doubt since he doesn’t seem to value sesshins much.

  29. Bad Zen Man
    Bad Zen Man January 28, 2013 at 4:55 am |

    Very supportive of all of your comments in “Retreat.” I admit, however, that we just installed a hot tub at Great Tree Zen Temple and I have been happily calling it “monk lite.” 🙂

  30. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 28, 2013 at 7:34 am |

    whoops. wrong video uploaded, no studebaker. Yeah, save the world.

  31. Fred
    Fred January 28, 2013 at 8:28 am |

    Today Mike quoted:

    “Not to do anything wrong or false,
    To allow all that is true or good or real,
    Each purifying his or her own mind —
    This is the teaching of the buddhas. ”

    That seems like a good response, @Happi.

  32. Ray James
    Ray James February 1, 2013 at 6:36 am |

    @Brad Warner

    Is that your friend Nina HARTLEY you are referring to?

  33. J
    J February 1, 2013 at 8:15 pm |

    After all the shit and self righteous crap paraded around by that phoney mob (surrounded by Sweeping Zen and its fake righteousness), feel nought but gratitude for ur real help and practice, Brad W. Thanks very much for trying to help sort this crazy world out. Mind too busy to meditate? If only they knew it is the ONLY place to start. Onwards and upwards

  34. floating_abu
    floating_abu February 6, 2013 at 8:11 am |

    Best wishes for the retreat, Brad

  35. happi
    happi February 9, 2013 at 7:50 am |

    Unfortunately, it turns out I won’t be able to go to this. I still think it’s a great idea.

    @Fred – Thanks for passing along Mike’s response.

    If the retreat happens, which I’m beginning to doubt, I’d still encourage Harry, Mike, as well as some other commenters to attend. The internet tends to exaggerate things out of proportion. A retreat would be one way to reduce the distortion, dispel some ignorance and add some depth perception to some of the exchanges I’ve read here. I’m certain I don’t know even half of the story though, so quite possibly I’m wrong.

    It may be idealistic, but if grown ups can’t leave their ideological differences, their pasts, and whatever other baggage at the door for a few hours or days of zazen, zazen might not even be good for nothing — not even a couple decades of it.

    Ideals exist to be aimed for. The bigger question which ideal takes precedence, the ideals that focus on holding onto the self (suffering or advancement) or the ideal of the awareness that is common to us all and interconnectedness based on that awareness.

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