I’m back in California again and about two hours after I arrived back on the Left Coast I was leading an all-day Zazen retreat. Which was attended by 9 people (including me & Yuka), by the way. This was good because the first guy who signed up ended up not coming. Thank you all for coming. And for those of you who read this blog & live out here but never show up: Too bad, you lose. I say that because as I’m sitting there sitting it dawned on me just how very special Zazen really is.

Up till now I’ve tended to say things like “Zen is boring” or that it’s just a lot of staring at walls with your legs all achy and that there’s no Enlightenment and no Higher States of Consciousness and all that rigamarole. That’s all true. But maybe I’ve given the impression that Zazen is all boredom and pain. It’s not. If it was I wouldn’t have been doing it every day for the past 20-odd years.

I say those seemingly negative things about Zazen because I’m turned off by all the hype you hear about meditation from most people who promote it. That kind of stuff always turned me off from trying any of those practices. It wasn’t till I found a teacher who was honest enough to say that it was often painful and boring that I actually decided to try it out. But now I feel like maybe I went too far in the opposite direction and maybe I’m giving people the impression that there are no benefits to Zazen, or that the benefits of Zazen are the same as what you might get out of playing bass in a hardcore band or jogging or whatever. They’re not. Zazen is way better.

Being exposed to the kind of noise and clutter most people seem to fill their lives with for a week and then cutting all that out for a day made a huge difference. We are constantly dumping obscene amounts of toxic garbage into our minds and then we wonder why we’re so muddled and unable to stay focused. There’s a kind of centeredness you get from Zazen practice that you cannot get anywhere else. And there’s a power to practice with a group that cannot be found in any other activity. It is truly an amazing thing our buddy Mr. Gotama discovered all those many years ago. You ought to try it sometime.

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40 Responses

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  1. zenducker
    zenducker October 15, 2006 at 2:03 pm |

    I sat with a group in a City about 20 miles from here… did it four weeks in a row on a Friday for 1/2 hour. It was great, but then as is normal the leader of the group gives a brief talk and allows comments. Maybe I’m just too cynical but these people are way too nice for me, they remind me a Christians that have the phoney smiles on their faces or any other group for that matter, excluding the FSM of course. The Zazen was great but the talks started to bug me so I have not been back for three weeks. More attachment for me, attached to not wanting to hear these people talk. I guess I’m just a bad bad duck and will be quacking alone.

  2. Drunken Monkey
    Drunken Monkey October 15, 2006 at 3:25 pm |

    zenducker, You don’t really need to attend these talks you know. Just practice zazen and say you are going to the toilet. Works every time.

    Besides these people who smile, maybe they are happy, no?

  3. Jinzang
    Jinzang October 15, 2006 at 5:22 pm |

    Maybe I’m just too cynical but these people are way too nice for me.

    I’m afraid you’re going to run into this problem a lot, because Buddhists are generally pretty nice people. Even, in my experience, the punk rockers. I’m not sure whay you would rather hang out with people who aren’t nice, but to each his own.

    You could try smiling back when someone smiles at you.

  4. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf October 15, 2006 at 9:24 pm |

    One of the things I have noticed from sitting every day Zazen is I that often I have very subtle thoughts of goals in mind.

    One should sit Zazen for the sake of Zazen itself without any goal in mind. Balance and the benefits of Zazen will happen natrually, but balance sure won’t come if your are thinking about some kind of goal or future enlightment. The goal is to sit in the correct Zazen posture and thats all.

    Once again, just something I have noticed with my own practice of Zazen.

  5. zenducker
    zenducker October 15, 2006 at 11:21 pm |

    The difference between too nice and real. Thanks for all the imput did not mean to steal the message string here… or maybe I did cause I’m not that nice. But okay I guess nice people are alright no doubt, just not real interesting like you all here 😉

  6. docretro
    docretro October 15, 2006 at 11:57 pm |

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. docretro
    docretro October 15, 2006 at 11:59 pm |

    There’s a german saying: Beware of dogs which aren’t barking and of people who are always smiling.

  8. MikeDoe
    MikeDoe October 16, 2006 at 12:12 am |

    “. Maybe I’m just too cynical but these people are way too nice for me, they remind me “

    It is fair to say that some people who run these things have a veneer of niceness that is ahead of their attainment.

    It goes with the territory. “Buddhists” are “supposed” to be “nice” and so lots of people cultivate “niceness” more than they cultivate their “practice”. The result is a little false.

    But, there are a lot of genuinely nice people around and often the veneer is only a little sugar coating of an already nice person.

    One thing that I should warn you about is that if you do meet someone who is genuinely as nice as they appear they might well irritate the hell out of you because it is a reminder that you are not like that.

  9. Pretabe
    Pretabe October 16, 2006 at 1:02 am |

    “There’s a german saying: Beware of dogs which aren’t barking and of people who are always smiling.”

    Because smiling people are likely to be scheming Jews?

    haha jokes.

    Anyways, I would rather have people be nice, even if forced (I don’t know what false niceness means, its the effort that counts, right?) than be a foul mouthed and hateful Mike Cross.

  10. Dan
    Dan October 16, 2006 at 4:39 am |

    “Because smiling people are likely to be scheming Jews?”


  11. oxeye
    oxeye October 16, 2006 at 6:53 am |

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Ken
    Ken October 16, 2006 at 6:53 am |

    Dan, pretabe was making a joke about nazis, not about jews.

    (speaking from the pov of someone who’s jokes get a wtf reaction from time to time)

    Brad, nice post.

  13. Dan
    Dan October 16, 2006 at 9:10 am |

    ” Dan, pretabe was making a joke about nazis, not about jews.”

    that’s what i was saying wtf about. equating germans with nazis was probably funny in the 50’s but now it’s just fucking lame but whatever…

  14. Pretabe
    Pretabe October 16, 2006 at 12:00 pm |

    “that’s what i was saying wtf about. equating germans with nazis was probably funny in the 50’s but now it’s just fucking lame but whatever…”


  15. gniz
    gniz October 16, 2006 at 1:08 pm |

    As a Jew, I wholeheartedly defend your right to make German nazi dog jokes/and or Jew jokes

    I hate nice people


  16. Drunken Monkey
    Drunken Monkey October 16, 2006 at 2:35 pm |

    In the end, no matter how enlightened you are or how much wisdom flows from every pore of your buttocks, if you can’t play nice, then you have no business practicing zen.

    Thats what I’ve learnt from practicing zazen and reading Brads articles.

  17. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf October 16, 2006 at 3:29 pm |

    If you go to http://www.cloudsinwater.org then click on Dharma Talks. You will find a Four Noble Truths talk by Brad. It’s good, check it out.

  18. smarmyswami
    smarmyswami October 16, 2006 at 3:30 pm |

    I think that the idea of posting comments is that they should relate to Brads article.I am a newbie to this so maybe i have got it wrong.
    Since reading Brads book i have developed a keen interest in Buddhist beliefs and have recently started to practice zazen.I struggle with it and feel some times that i just don’t get it but persevere in a blind faith that the penny will eventually drop.I was pleased that Brad clarified his comment on zazen being so boring as they were hardly inspirational for a newcomer to this.If zazen is boring try reading about punk rock!The other bits in the book were however profound.

  19. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 16, 2006 at 3:57 pm |

    German Nazis? How passe…
    Isn’t the American government
    the new Nazi party?


    Also, to avoid another “Zen at War”
    silent complicity scenario, it might
    be a good idea to stay informed by
    looking beyond the official
    propaganda channels:


    9/11 Mysteries at Google Video

    (Awareness off the cushion is just
    as important as awareness on the
    cushion — if your goal is indeed to
    save the many beings and minimize
    suffering 😉

  20. Jinzang
    Jinzang October 16, 2006 at 5:10 pm |

    Since reading Brads book i have developed a keen interest in Buddhist beliefs and have recently started to practice zazen.I struggle with it and feel some times that i just don’t get it but persevere in a blind faith that the penny will eventually drop.

    Meditation practice does have the infuriating quality that you feel you just don’t get it…if only you work a little harder, then you’ll see it. The problem is, you’re looking in the wrong direction because of your preconceptions. The only advice I can give is to sit without any hope of getting anything or fear of missing it. Just simple minded practice every day. Eventually your preconceptions will show themselves for what they are: just more thoughts. And when they are dropped, the truth that was always there will stand revealed.

    Oh, and one more thing. You also need a teacher you can trust to keep you from going off in the wrong direction. In my experience the biggest problem people have is attachment to meditation. Usually beginners are attached to the external form of practice and older students to the sense of peace they get from practice. (Yes, practice starts out boring but doesn’t stay boring.) Also, sometimes people will trip out on some theory. The teacher is there to shake you up when this happens.

    Please don’t let minor problems stand in the way of finding a teacher you can work with.

  21. oxeye
    oxeye October 16, 2006 at 8:19 pm |

    lone wolf, I finally got around to visiting the cloudsinwater website you recommended. Thanks for that.. it is great.

  22. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf October 16, 2006 at 9:03 pm |

    Your welcome

  23. smarmyswami
    smarmyswami October 17, 2006 at 2:48 am |

    Thanks jinzang.

  24. Drunken Monkey
    Drunken Monkey October 17, 2006 at 7:31 am |

    anonymous, seriously. Don’t tell me you believe those conspiracy theories.

    Its true that Bush is incompetent and quite useless, but to go so far to say that his government is behind the killing of innocent Americans is dumber than dumberer.

  25. Matt
    Matt October 17, 2006 at 9:02 am |

    speaking of Bush, I like Zen too!!!!

  26. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 17, 2006 at 10:04 am |

    hello drunken monkey,

    > Don’t tell me you believe those
    > conspiracy theories.

    The official conspiracy theory —
    that 19 incompetent pilots with
    box-cutters led by a guy in a
    cave in Afghanistan pulled off a
    highly complex operation — just does not fit the facts. Thus, that
    is one conspiracy theory I do not

    > dumber than dumberer.

    Also, there are a small number of
    people in the US and foreign
    governments who would sacrifice a
    small number of citizens for what
    they see as a greater cause:

    9/11: a 7-Man Job

    Perhaps it’s best to start with:

    World Trade Center Building 7

    How does a 47-story steel-frame
    building (that was not hit by a
    plane) collapse straight-down
    (rather than toppling over) at
    near free-fall speed without the
    use of explosives?

    See “Why Indeed Did the World Trade
    Center Buildings Completely
    Collapse” by Professor Steven Jones:


    (Also, sorry for these seemingly
    off-topic postings, but trying to
    ignore the elephant in the living
    room is disturbing my feeble
    attempts at zazen. And if the
    purpose of zazen is to minimize
    our suffering, then we gotta start
    dealing with the elephant 😉

  27. Dan
    Dan October 17, 2006 at 11:50 am |

    no no no, 9/11 conspiracy websites are actually themselves a conspiracy set up by the US government to make you think that 9/11 was a conspiracy in order to make the government look all powerful.

    and here’s the proof


  28. ConElPico
    ConElPico October 17, 2006 at 1:18 pm |

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  29. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 17, 2006 at 1:49 pm |

    hello dan,

    Don’t be deceived…

    Kyle was behind 9/11!

    And Cheney left the deuce in the urinal!

  30. Grim
    Grim October 17, 2006 at 2:52 pm |

    Dear god I can’t believe I want to comment to ths… must… resist…


    So here’re some things I strongly believe about the whole 9/11 nonsensical mess.

    The trade center buildings are the only three skyscrapers in the history of all mankind to collapse due to fire. I don’t think fire caused them to come down at all, thats probably a lie. Another reason I think that the use of explosives (and probably thermite or something similar) was involved is because a simple collapse would not create such massive pyroclastic clouds to roll across the city. Only powerful explosives (as powerful as a volcanic blast) could pull that off.

    It’s fun to talk and argue about who’s responsible and why, but I don’t know if that promotes a whole lot of awareness. It seems more like a big neon distraction from the real situation. Whoever done it, seeking to eliminate them and their kind will not solve the problem. Deep inside we’re all as “twisted” as we say they are.

    If everyone faces themselves and all the strangness in their everyday life, then it may be possible for violence to be ended without threatening more violence to the violators.

  31. Jinzang
    Jinzang October 17, 2006 at 5:18 pm |

    I don’t care about collapsing skyscrapers. I want to figure out how to collapse my ego.

  32. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 17, 2006 at 5:56 pm |

    hello grim,

    Good point! My first primate instinct
    is to torture the torturers, but
    perhaps a more karmically beneficial
    approach would be some form of
    Restorative Justice
    whereby the
    wrongdoers pay damages to the victims
    or their families.

    In the case of 9/11, though, the
    list of victims gets really big
    really fast: plane passengers,
    WTC occupants, Ground Zero firemen
    and policemen, soldiers sent to
    Afghanistan and Iraq, the peoples
    of Afghanistan and Iraq, and more.
    (And don’t forget the American
    taxpayer defrauded of trillions 😉

    Also, nonviolent resistance
    movements sometimes end up like
    White Rose. Even the Dalai Lama has
    said that he wished the Tibetan
    populace had been armed with rifles
    to defend themselves against the
    Chinese. And how successful would
    American Revolutionaries have been
    with a nonviolent resistance against
    the British Empire? And why did
    they think the Second Amendment was
    such a big deal? What might history
    look like if the German Jews had
    been armed and fought back?

    Is 9/11 the American Reichstag?

    Here I’m reminded of the Buddhist
    sutra about the little sparrow doing
    all it could to put out a forest fire
    — not much hope 🙁

    BTW, the Military Commissions Act
    was just signed into law today…
    hello “cruel and unusual punishments”!

    Oh well, time to do zazen…

  33. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 18, 2006 at 12:05 am |

    hey drunken monkey,

    > but to go so far to say that his
    > government is behind the killing of
    > innocent Americans is dumber than
    > dumberer.

    Um, “his” government? Isn’t it
    supposed to be “our” government?
    You know, “We the People”?


    D’oh! While sitting, I realized that
    I forgot to mention examples from US
    history of our government planning
    and executing false flag attacks on
    its own citizens.

    Here are a couple instances:
    Operation Northwoods
    USS Liberty

  34. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 19, 2006 at 8:59 pm |

    Dear Anonymous,

    If you have not already read this
    book, you need to:

    9/11 Synthetic Terror

    by Webster Griffin Tarpley

  35. BlueWolfNine
    BlueWolfNine October 20, 2006 at 3:01 am |

    bush rocks!

  36. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 27, 2006 at 1:28 pm |

    George Bush to bluewolfnine:

    “See ya, sucker!”

  37. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 2, 2006 at 9:25 am |


    The cloudsinwater.org dharma talk with Brad re: the four noble truths was one of the worst talks I have ever experienced. But thanks, because I no see Brad for what he is. YAPCPB.

    UHHHM.LIKE. UHHHHHHH. UUHHHHHM. LIKE. Iiiiiiii. Errrrrrr. Ehhhhhh. Ummmmmmmmm.

    DREADFUL! Take speaking lessons, Brad!

    By the way, Brad,you seem to be the worst form of yet-another-pomo-cali-pseudo-Buddhist – evah.

  38. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 14, 2007 at 2:37 am |

    Hi, Nice stuff. I found a cool news widget for our blogs at http://www.widgetmate.com. Now I can show the latest news on my blog. Worked like a breeze.

  39. jp
    jp February 2, 2009 at 5:29 pm |

    Having lived in a Zen Monastery in the US, I can guarantee you that Buddhists are not always “nice”. All the emotions that you can think of show up in one way or another, at least in the resident’s interactions with one another.

    During sitting we are practicing the letting go of anger, ignorance, and greed. It makes sense that you feel all nice when you arise from your cushion.

    However there are no guarantees in Zen. One of the angriest, raging people I have met was the Abbot of a monastery. It’s all grist for the mill.

  40. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer April 22, 2014 at 2:03 pm |

    One of the strange (to me) things that have happened since I started sitting zazen is that I feel less able to deal with day to day life.

    It’s kind of paradoxical, but things that used to bother me now bother me even more.

    The paradoxical part is that I tend to get over this bothered state more quickly than in the past.

    The net result is that I find myself wary of situations that get me overexcited because I notice this overexcited state more easily. Which means I tend to pull back from things that used to interest me.

    Odd stuff.

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