Why Do You Always Complain?

WarrantMost people who responded to my previous post seemed to get what I was going for. But as I anticipated, a couple people in the comments section complained about what they saw as my complaining. I want to address this because I think it may be interesting and useful.

I find it a little difficult to understand the idea that my previous blog post was seen by some as a list of complaints. It really wasn’t. I don’t consider any of the stuff I wrote about there to be all that bad. Rather, I was trying to describe in concrete terms the realities of doing what I do.

For the record, though, I’ll repeat: I love my job. It’s challenging and rewarding and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. I get to go to cool places and meet interesting people. The stress level is low. I make just enough money to have a decent apartment in my favorite neighborhood of my favorite American city. I really have nothing to complain about. So I’m not.

With every job I’ve ever there have been good points and bad points. For example, working for Tsuburaya Productions paid well. But the exchange for that was a much higher stress level. That’s one reason I chose to do what I do now instead of returning to the company when offered that choice (as detailed in the previous post on this blog, “There’s More to Meditation Than Meditation”). To me, a good job is one where the good points outnumber the bad, even if it’s only by a small margin.

Maybe saying anything that might be perceived as negative about one’s job is defined as “complaining.” Maybe I’m not that in touch with how normal people think. I don’t know.

The trigger for writing that piece was that I am constantly asked to come to various places and lead retreats, give talks, etc. (this is also mentioned early in the article). About a third of the people who ask have a realistic understanding of what is involved. That article was not for them.

It was written mainly for the other two-thirds who ask me about coming to their places. I often find myself spending a lot of time writing back and forth to such people before it becomes clear to both of us that what they’re asking for is not realistic.

That article now also appears in my FAQ section. That way, instead of writing this same explanation again and again I can ask folks who I believe might not really understand what’s involved in my work to have a look at the article and then get back to me. (I included it in the main blog mostly for entertainment purposes)

There is, of course, a risk that such people will also perceive what I wrote as overly negative and “complaining.” On the other hand, if they do see it that way, that might also be an indicator that they don’t have a real understanding what’s involved in inviting me to their place. So I’m OK with that risk.

Sometimes people seem to think I’m bemoaning the fact that I’m not as rich and famous as the guys who regularly get their pictures on the covers of the Buddhist rag-o-zines or get asked to chat with Oprah on her Super Spiritual Sunday show or whatever it’s called. But that’s not quite the case.

I know precisely what is involved in becoming a world famous spiritual master who makes loads and loads of money. It’s not something I want to do. So I don’t.

I get that to some people this sounds disingenuous. How could anyone not want to be rich and famous? Or, if you don’t want to be rich and famous why don’t you just quit and become totally anonymous? Why don’t you go dig ditches for a living and only teach Zen students in secret?

But that’s not what I want to do either. Those two extreme options are not all there is. What I want to do is precisely this. I like being just exactly as famous as I am, exactly as wealthy as I am. It’s a good position to work in.

In order to maintain this position I often deliberately try to undercut any opportunity for me to become a rich and famous spiritual master. Telling the real facts about what my life is actually like has been a good way to do this. So has been being seen as kind of a sourpuss. Articles like the one I put up yesterday help. The fact that some people will see them (and probably this one too) as “complaining” helps.

If I am seen as a “complainer” then fewer people will view me unrealistically as some kind of Great Enlightened Master. When that happens, fewer people looking for that kind of Great Enlightened Master will come to my retreats or read my books. When that happens I’ll make less money. When I make less money, I end up having a more earthy, real world-type lifestyle. I’m better able to be there for the people who really get what I’m doing, whereas if I were a rich famous guru guy I’d be too far removed from those people.

For example, no one would ever tell someone they considered to be a Great Enlightened Master that they were politically opposed to his breakfast choices (see my previous article if you don’t get the reference). On the contrary, they would carefully observe everything the Great Enlightened Master ate and eat that themselves. If the Great Enlightened Master survived on a diet of Coco Puffs and Dr Pepper, he would never get any feedback questioning such choices (actually the cereal involved in my story was Shreddies).

That’s only one example. Throughout the day, every day, such a Great Enlightened Master would never be questioned, only imitated and obeyed. He would gradually become more and more removed from reality. This would tend to make him seem even more Greatly Enlightened by the kinds of folks who look for that sort of thing. Eventually he would be so out of touch he’d break down. But, given that he was considered a Great Enlightened Master, even his break down might very well be seen as a further sign he was that much Greater and more Enlightened. If he were surrounded by people who believed that, even the Great Enlightened Master might also begin to believe it himself.

I see this kind of stuff going on all the time whenever I observe the lives of such supposedly Great Enlightened people. I am very cautious about ever going that direction. Perhaps a little too cautious. But there ya go.

In order to be seen by the world as a Great Enlightened Master and make loads of money and get on all the magazines and TV shows, your life has to be carefully stage-managed. It’s not that those who are seen by the world as Great Enlightened Masters never get angry or depressed, never have self-doubt, never worry, never have sex, etc. That’s all smoke and mirrors.

What’s really going on is that they are stage-managed just like Hollywood celebrities were back in the old days. They’re surrounded by people whose job it is to make certain nobody ever gets to see the reality of what’s actually going on. When that machinery breaks down, as it often does, we get scandals and spectacular falls from grace.

Someone who wants to be seen as a Great Enlightened Master is forced to play a very specific role pretty much all the time. It’s not a role he can define either. It is defined by the public at large and what they will and will not accept from a Great Enlightened Master. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with actual enlightenment. Our Great Enlightened Master becomes a pampered prisoner of that false and ultimately damaging image. There aren’t enough luxury cars and vacation homes in Hawaii to ever make that seem worthwhile to me.

Of course some of our spiritual celebrities are genuinely decent people. Just like celebrities in every other part of the superstar business. Yet even they have to play the game to make it work.

The more famous you become the harder it is to have real friendships, or real human connections of any kind. Even at the very low level of fame I have, I find that I’m highly suspicious of people who try to get close to me. I didn’t start off like that. But I learned the hard way that there were people who just wanted whatever they thought I had, such as the ability to ordain them or confirm their spiritual status or the ability to impress their friends by virtue of knowing me. If I already need to be suspicious now, when hardly anyone really knows who I am, I can only imagine how terrible it would be to actually be famous. Nope. I don’t want that at all.

My strategy has been working pretty well so far.

I’m a happy guy.

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70 Responses

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  1. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer January 27, 2016 at 2:50 pm |

    “But as I anticipated, a couple people in the comments section complained about what they saw as my complaining.”

    So let the complaints about Brad’s explanation that he is not complaining to the people who are complaining about his perceived complaining (which really wasn’t complaining), start…

    …a real hall of mirrors around here as of late.


  2. John
    John January 27, 2016 at 3:11 pm |


    What you are doing is telling people the real deal.
    It’s helpful. There is reasoning behind disclosing how it works. It will help you and others chart future actions that are less stress inducing and more dharma sharing.

    Some people are pussies and can’t handle the real deal. –and yes they are part of the learning and moving forward too.


  3. SeanHolland
    SeanHolland January 27, 2016 at 4:10 pm |

    I have a complaint. I believe that in the phrase “real world-type lifestyle” there should be a hyphen between “real” and “world.” This is because the expression “real-world” is being used as an adjective in front of the noun “lifestyle.” Yeah, yeah, you’ll end up with two hyphens (real-world-type), but that’s nothing to be a nervous Nelly about.
    Other than that, I don’t have any complaints about what you wrote. As a part-time musician I can very much relate to the frustration of having people not recognize what you do as “work.” Sometimes there seems to be this idea that it’s only “work” if you hate doing it. If that were the case, the world would be full of awful school teachers.

    1. Andy
      Andy January 28, 2016 at 12:33 am |

      The state school teachers I worked with who loved their job had a love/hate relationship with it, like me. I don’t know if you were in some way referring to my post in the last thread, but that was what I was attempting to convey from my perspective.

      If you “can very much relate to the frustration of having people not recognize what you do as ‘work’,” maybe you can also relate to working in a cultural context in which, from the government down, folk will easily dismiss, derogate and misrepresent what you do but hold you to impossible standards at other times.

      No need to single out teachers for an attitude that’s rooted very much in the protestant work ethic. Yes, there are folk who take the attitude that it’s not work unless it’s taking chunks out of you. And there is also the attitude that if you express what you hate about what you do, you can’t also love what you do, you’re in the wrong job and/or are rubbish at it.

      Maybe the attitude that frustrates you as a musician derives substantially from the many pretentious, narcissistic posers who think their half-assed efforts & mediocrity entitles them to think what they do deserves special regard.

      1. SeanHolland
        SeanHolland January 29, 2016 at 10:18 am |

        Andy, I wasn’t replying to any post or anything. The reason I mentioned teachers is that I am a teacher and have been for over 30 years. My own perspective is that it isn’t a “job.” My opinion (note that I am careful to say that) is that teachers who look on their work as “just a job” are usually not good teachers and very seldom stay at it for very long. The good teachers, in my experience, are the ones for whom it is a calling and who love their work. Of course that doesn’t mean continuous bliss and euphoria; there are always staff meetings and other assorted shit. But the work is something that one loves in that serious love sense. Do I do it for money? Well, it’s more that I need money in order to do it.
        The music thing: I’m talking about real music, the result of many years of dedicated work, with countless hours of band practices, with the lugging around of equipment, with the unloading of equipment back into the garage in the wee hours when those who danced and enjoyed the music are fast asleep. Like teaching, it’s something I love doing and get huge satisfaction from. It also costs me a fair bit of money to keep doing. And it is work. At the end of a three hour show, with the loading and unloading before and after, one is exhausted. Is it worth reasonable pay? Of course it is. The posers you talk about won’t get many gigs. The proof of the pudding is in the dancing and cheers and euphoria of the audience. That should be worth something, if only to ensure the ability of the musicians to keep making the contribution to the world that they do. Just like Brad needs enough money to enable him to keep making the contribution that he is making.

        1. Andy
          Andy January 30, 2016 at 3:41 am |

          Thanks for clearing that up, SH.

          I think we can end up unnecessarily complicating things re the word ‘job’. If it’s regular paid employment then it’s a job: a neutral category for something like teaching or cleaning toilets, so we know what we’re talking about & what to write in the little box on the form when applying for the mortgage. On the other hand, a phrase like “just a job” is to do with our opinions and attitudes as to what that job entails and constitutes, ie “teaching isn’t a just job, it’s a vocation,” or a ‘calling’ and so on.

          Having said that, I agree with your general point about teachers who don’t love what they do not lasting for long – especially in the contexts I worked in!

          My teacher training mentor, a fantastic secondary school teacher & HoD (since god were a kid), who died of leukemia a year before retirement, used to regularly tell us rookies:”Remember: it doesn’t matter how much you loved or hated it today – it’s just a job. You’re not here to change the world and you’re not here to kill yourself!”

          I’m curious, SH. Is that 30yrs teaching in state high/secondary schools full time?

          If so, I’m impressed with “staff meetings and other assorted shit” being the only words that come to mind after three decades. That’s some serious love!

  4. tysondav
    tysondav January 27, 2016 at 4:26 pm |

    When you write 29 paragraphs passively-aggressively “explaining” why doing a one-day retreat really messes with your writing for a whoooooole week, is more of a nuisance to you than helping, even after you ask for these gigs all the time, and heaven forbid, once you get there the thermostat is off by a degree or two, people MIGHT take that as complaining. But I’m sure it’s us, not you.

    “Guys, I really enjoy doing these retreats all across the world. It’s an amazing experience that not many people get to have. But just FYI, there’s a lot more that goes on before I get to them and after I leave them than most people realize. Just please keep that in mind when we are in discussions.”

    I realize the above paragraph doesn’t fill up your word quota, but it sounds a lot less whiny. But if your objective was to troll all of us with the first post, then come back and double-troll and chastise us in the second one, your way was much more effective.

    Looking forward to reading tomorrow’s post, “Poor me, I can’t win with you guys! Gosh! *Napoleon Dynamite voice*

    I will donate to you for being able to yell at you on your own blog. Gasho.

  5. zucchinipants
    zucchinipants January 27, 2016 at 4:48 pm |

    What I want to do is precisely this. I like being just exactly as famous as I am, exactly as wealthy as I am.

    What if what you want is ultimately unsustainable? If you start getting tons of medical bills or something, then what? If gas goes up to $10/gallon, no more book tours! (Anyway, what are the ethical implications of driving all over the place for these events?)

    Lots of people are quite comfortable with their economic situation, but if it had to change drastically, they couldn’t cope. The last post sounded like somebody who doesn’t want to cope with certain inconveniences that he used to put up with, like sleeping in little Timmy’s bed or being critiqued about his cereal.

    The guru market is saturated, between Vedanta, zen, mindfulness and whatever. If you don’t want to have the “great enlightenment” thing going for you, then what’s your angle? “I’m a normal guy who’s ambivalent about soto zen and doesn’t really have anything special or new to say, but you should pay for my travel expenses and let me travel around the world….” Hmm.

  6. Mumbles
    Mumbles January 27, 2016 at 6:10 pm |


    When we first got there, he came off like a reluctant guru. He came off like people put him in this position and he didn’t really want to be in it. We didn’t know if it was false humility or what. Eventually he allowed it to happen, enjoyed it, and then enhanced it and directed it. But originally, back in 1985, it was like, “I don’t want a bunch of people worshipping me. We’re all the same.”

  7. Laodah
    Laodah January 27, 2016 at 6:58 pm |

    Don’t sweat it, Brad. Some people just like bitching. (Ironic, given that their favourite bitch is “you’re bitching”. But these are not very introspective people.)

    Lots of us dig somebody who says, “Here are some things that annoy me.” Especially if it’s part of an overall assessment that includes things that compensate for said annoyance, and/or suggestions on how same can be remedied.

    And yeah, a few find that “depressing”. I find _them_ depressing. (I’m not being cute; those people literally make me feel like never expending effort to fix anything ever again.)

    So “complain” away, my brother. Those who can listen, are listening.

    Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit

  8. Brad, what is a job? | Zandtao January 28, 2016 at 12:37 am |
  9. french-roast
    french-roast January 28, 2016 at 2:05 am |

    Brad, I did not see your last post as a list of complains. If you simply are in need of some money, then get a ‘real’ job. (By the way, I do not have a ‘real’ job either, but I do work) A teacher once said; one day without work is a day without eating. My wife is a writer, and her annual income does not even provide enough money to feed our cats. You might be surprise to hear what I am going to say to you, but I do like you a lot. Which does not mean that I do agree with everything you say or do all the time. I like your honesty, your authenticity, your openness, etc. Some see this as humility traits, but I do not, I do not see you as a humble individual, I see you as someone who has integrity. In Zen, there are way to many humble teachers (actors), and they all stink badly. I also think that you do enjoy teasing those who have some rigid, absolute views of what Zen is or ought to be, and for that I do thank you. Some of my Zen friends have simply decided to go away from any kind of ‘official’, ‘formal’ Zen teaching, public or private. They (myself included) have drop away from the ‘normal’, ‘business as usual’, traditional Zen framework. What is it that is so unique and original about myself or Zen that I should go around and talk or teach about? Rough times, very rough times coming ahead.

  10. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon January 28, 2016 at 3:23 am |

    “Thanks, too, to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for providing me and my two children with a place to live, to Dharma Realm Buddhist University for a monthly stipend, and to the Department of Agriculture’s Food Stamp Program for continuing support.”
    – Red Pine (Bill Porter), preface to The Diamond Sutra

  11. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara January 28, 2016 at 5:00 am |

    But as I anticipated, a couple people in the comments section complained about what they saw as my complaining

    Hell yeah. Complaining, and being otherwise irritating and sarcastic at a safe distance from your target is all the internet is good for. That, and porn.

    Sarcasm aside, it is ridiculous how people demand supernatural virtue from anybody who wants to talk or write about ‘spirituality’. It’s childish idealism.

    Out of 7.4 billion people, there must be at least one who can live among all the madness of modern life – and still be constantly ethical in every way, and do it in an ungrudging spirit of joy. The laws of statistics demand it. But don’t bet on meeting her.

    I hear Mother Teresa got better healthcare than the poor she cared for. Didn’t the Buddha die from eating rotten pork, or something? Jesus wept. Mohammed vacillated. Deepak farted.

    Enjoy the coco pops Brad

    1. Fred
      Fred January 28, 2016 at 8:17 am |

      Hey, I want to complain about the real-world-type guy using too many hyphens.

  12. Fred
    Fred January 28, 2016 at 8:18 am |

    “Out of 7.4 billion people, there must be at least one who can live among all the madness of modern life – and still be constantly ethical in every way, and do it in an ungrudging spirit of joy”

    Nope. Not a chance.

    1. Fred
      Fred January 28, 2016 at 8:24 am |

      “Yet teaching as a caring job, even accepting being hamstrung, is one of the better jobs because most work is wage-slavery. And the money needed to survive in US society is part of that enslavement. The cost of living and then taxation are kept high in order to ensure that people like Brad find it difficult to live outside the wage-enslavement. Most of the people commenting on Brad’s blog are not so fortunate as Brad in that although they maybe have more money their daily life is enslaved. Brad has gained some element of freedom from that slavery, and there must be some envy. I could imagine that a wage-slave factory worker reading Brad’s blog would look at what he has to do in the factory and then see Brad as a whinger. Of course the commenters would not be in such a job but they would be wage-slaves, but a different sort of wage-slave – a deluded wage-slave in that they might well feel they have chosen their job”

      Ha-ha-ha, you’re a wage-slave-comedian

      1. Fred
        Fred January 28, 2016 at 8:30 am |

        Hello, Buddha-slaves, how’s your stinking-life-in-the-stinking-world.

        Mr. Aghori

        P.S., I live on a dung pile and eat dead people. No stinking wage-slaving for me.

        1. Mumbles
          Mumbles January 28, 2016 at 3:56 pm |

          What is wrong in your opinion, with the Aghori path? I suppose you’re not so hot on criminal deities, either?

          Criminal Gods and Demon Devotees
          Essays on the Guardians of Popular Hinduism

          Alf Hiltebeitel – Editor
          Hardcover – 491 pages
          Release Date: October 1989
          ISBN10: 0-88706-981-9
          ISBN13: 978-0-88706-981-9

          Out of Print


          The Hindu sacred order is guarded by the very gods who violate it and the demons who oppose it. This book is a who’s who of such transgressive figures, both familiar and unfamiliar, showing their place within the Hindu order that they violate. It is also a reflection of the serious scholarly debate over the nature and composition of this Hindu order.

          The chapters range from pan-Hindu deities such as Bhairava and Virabhadra to guardian gods of specific regions and lineages and of different goddess cults. Chapters cover violent themes in Shaivite hagiography, the position of Brahmans in relation to cultic carnivorism, guardian heroes in folk epic, the deified dead, the royal mythology of a “criminal caste,” and a wide-ranging overview of transgressive sacrality.


          For myself…why complain?

  13. Michel
    Michel January 28, 2016 at 9:03 am |

    “Our Great Enlightened Master becomes a pampered prisoner of that false and ultimately damaging image. ”

    “And she said “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device””

    The word for “work” in French is “Travail” of which the origin is the latin “Tripalium” an instrument of torture. I think it talks by itself…

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara January 28, 2016 at 10:48 am |

      from wikipedia: “The subject of the torture would be tied to the tripalium and burnt with fire… The words “travail” and “travel” have their roots in this word, as do cognates in other modern languages.”

      Appropriate. I’ve had jobs that felt like that.

      I’ve had jobs that felt like being an Aghori too, except I had to talk to the dead people, and eat the dung.

  14. mika
    mika January 28, 2016 at 10:33 am |

    complain, verb
    1. express dissatisfaction or annoyance about something.
    “local authorities complained that they lacked sufficient resources”

  15. senorchupacabra
    senorchupacabra January 28, 2016 at 12:38 pm |

    I don’t know. It sounds like complaining to me.

    Not that it’s a bad thing. Complaining is necessary. I may love my life, but when I stub my toe when I get up to use the restroom in the middle of the night, I generally complain about it. Sometimes for days after if somebody asks the wrong (right?) question. Does it mean I hate my life or think life is unfair? Not usually, it just means that it sucks when I stub my toe. Just like it kind of sounds like it sucks that people don’t understand that you need money to do what you do.

    All of these Zennists can’t see that our aversion to “complaining” is just another manifestation of the Puritan Work Ethic, and not an “immoral” thing, metaphysically speaking. Complaining’s just like most things–necessary in moderation. You obviously don’t want to wallow in your troubles, but you also need to be able to identify them and feel frustrated by them if you’re going to do anything about them.

  16. tuberrose
    tuberrose January 28, 2016 at 12:46 pm |

    I don’t think it’s necessarily complaining to admit that your life isn’t perfect; that there are issues in it that aggravate you. It seems more like an acknowledgement. People who never do that may not have a great grip on reality.

  17. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara January 28, 2016 at 1:53 pm |

    I wish there was a way to do the job I do without constantly having to ask people to please pay for it.

    HardCoreLeaf CyberZendo(tm)? Subscriptions due quarterly in advance. Digital Certificates of Wisdom $1500, available on the store page? … Just a thought.

    1. Dogen
      Dogen January 29, 2016 at 7:09 am |

      He could start a zen center that requires monthly dues.

  18. Wedged
    Wedged January 28, 2016 at 3:48 pm |

    the comments of people who complain or are just mean…it’s really sad. The world needs more frigging Brad Warners…make me go deep here and i didn’t want to, but Brad changed my life. Funny too how all the suggestions to get a job. reminds me of my wife telling me about her day. men have to fix things…they cant’ just listen. I cant’ listen to my wife’s struggles at work, i have to try and offer suggestions.

    he’s devoted his life to helping us schmucks, for god sacks those negative people should be ashamed of themselves…very doochy. Makes me sick…i’m getting the f*** out of the comments section.

  19. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 28, 2016 at 5:12 pm |

    “I know precisely what is involved in becoming a world famous spiritual master who makes loads and loads of money. It’s not something I want to do. So I don’t.”

    I continue to believe that fame and fortune on the popular stage have something to do with a peculiar match between the needs of the individual and the needs of society, in the particular era.

    In my estimation, your success is due to your claim to legitimacy as a Zen teacher, combined with the way you continue to answer your own need and the need of a lot of other people in our society (for something along the lines of zazen).

    I think it does take tremendous talent and salesmanship for an artist to become even a break-even commercial success, but for an artist to become rich and famous I think requires some additional magic in the timing of their emergence as an artist and the state of society.

    I really feel that you flatter yourself, to imply that you could be rich and famous if you chose to be.

    I personally don’t believe in the exercise of choice as a way of life; I actually think of choice as an illusion, and I look to zazen as a way to relinquish the exercise of volition.

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles January 30, 2016 at 10:30 am |

      Very astute, sir. I heartily agree. In the immortal words of cartoonist Ace Backwards (as this applies to most of us, ahem:)

      “I’d sell out in a minute if anyone was buying.”


  20. jason farrow
    jason farrow January 29, 2016 at 2:33 am |
    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon January 29, 2016 at 3:33 am |

      Even just the first 20 seconds of that video were too painful to listen to. Why would you post such an atrocity? That is worse than Rick-rolling someone. Much worse. Are you one of those “trolls” that everyone keeps complaining about?

  21. tuberrose
    tuberrose January 29, 2016 at 6:36 am |

    Trolls. 🙂

  22. Kyla
    Kyla January 29, 2016 at 9:28 am |

    Ultimately it’s the blogger’s business what they write in their blog. If I don’t like it I can go start my own blog. I can’t say what’s real for someone else or expect to agree with everything I read.

  23. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 30, 2016 at 8:53 am |

    It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

    I realize I try some people’s patience; even so:

    Shikantaza and Gautama the Buddha’s “Pleasant Way of Living”

    I have edited and rewritten portions, and my conclusion is now:

    ‘I would say that concentrative experience tends to follow from the distinction of the senses in a bent-legged posture, and the experience of the mind at the tanden is one such concentrative experience; as essential as such an experience might be when a bent-knee posture is held for any length of time, the rhythm of things in a natural way of living must also include experience that returns a person to just breathing in or out, and therein lies “something peaceful and choice, something perfect in itself, and a pleasant way of living too.”.’

    I’ve emailed Jiryu Mark Rutschman-Byler.

    Thanks, everybody; / \

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara January 30, 2016 at 11:29 pm |

      Your comments/blog are not trying at all, Mark- not to me at least. Communicating ideas about the ‘interior’ senses (proprioception etc) is challenging. Translating what the old sages said into modern concepts is even harder. Your valiant attempts to do so are appreciated. I’d like to comment a bit on my own experience (by way of comparison, not debating what you’ve written).

      The first ten or so years of my trying to practice zen were tortuous. I knew that sitting zazen was the right thing for me to be doing – somehow – but I couldn’t shake the feeling I must be doing it very wrong. I couldn’t believe that everyone else experienced the same levels of physical pain in sitting that I did – but how could I ever tell? When you mention pain to a zennist, they give you a benignly condescending ‘knowing’ look, and say it will pass, that you’ll learn how to deal with it. Well, I didn’t learn.

      Thing was, my back and neck were as crooked as a line of dog-piss in the snow. Multiple injuries over the years, and habitual compensations for them, had left me with what FM Alexander calls ‘debauched kinesthesia’: I didn’t know which way was up (down,left,right, fore or aft). My usual way of sitting in chairs was to slump. My concept of ‘sitting up straight’ was to stretch and clench like a ski jumper or a drill sergeant. Even fifteen minutes on a cushion could be agonising. I started to think that zazen was just a purgatory to burn off bad karma.

      With hindsight, it didn’t need to be like that (or maybe it did for me, but maybe someone out there can avoid it by reading this). These days I can sit for quite a while, comfortably, with nothing much in the way of pain. Eventually a mild ache in the buttocks, and it spreads a bit wider during a retreat… but I guess that’s par for the course. Zazen isn’t about endurance any more.

      Over the years, I tried everything I could think of to find a way to sit and move with more ease: chiropractors; massage; osteopaths; jacuzzis; PT; AT; rolfing; yoga; tai chi; bioenergetics; somatics; pullups, pushups, squats and deadlifts. It took up a chunk of my time and income. They all helped just a little, temporarily. I read some of the authors you mention, and a lot of anatomy, trying to piece together what ‘should’ happen in sitting, and what I was missing.

      What made all the difference for me (maybe just for me, with my particular problems?) was a sentence I found randomly online: “sitting is just standing on the sit bones”. I started to sit ‘as if’ I was standing. The pain went away – my body knew how to maintain the minimum required tone and the right balance in standing, it could do the same thing on sit bones as on legs. All I had to do to maintain this posture was to keep the weight of my head balanced above my ass.

      And then I noticed that in keeping my head balanced, and my weight going evenly down through the two sit bones, I was naturally following all those arbitrary-seeming instructions that zen teachers give. Chin in slightly, back of neck open, slight gap between arms and torso. And then I noticed that when my head was balanced, dead center, most of the mind-chatter went away of its own accord, and there was an open clarity to the whole experience. That had been an occasional feature of sitting before before, now it’s typical.

      I couldn’t give a monkey’s whether or not the way I sit, this practice of simply balancing the head over the spine, agrees with what the sutras say. It surely feels like the ‘dharma gate of bliss and repose’ to me, for now anyway.

      Sorry for the long comment. It was this quote in Mark’s blog that brought it up:

      “In general, what the ancients called, ‘straightening the chest and sitting precariously,’ has to do with the work of self-cultivation. …Holding the spine erect is like stringing pearls on top of each other, without letting them lean or incline. However, if one is tense and stiff, or unnaturally affected, then this too is an error.”

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles January 30, 2016 at 10:25 am |

      Thanx for that one Mark! Great fun, but Hendrix is billed, no show!

      1. Mark Foote
        Mark Foote January 30, 2016 at 2:32 pm |

        (Mitch Mitchell, of the) Jimi Hendrix (Experience)… not the same?

        1. Mumbles
          Mumbles January 31, 2016 at 5:54 am |

          Well yeah Mitch is in there but under the vid it sez:

          John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Mitch Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix

          I kept expecting Jimi to jump on the stage and Eric to look up from a solo and run away.

          But nevertheless this was very nice, one of my fave late John/Beatle songs done nicely live.

          1. Mark Foote
            Mark Foote January 31, 2016 at 10:26 am |

            I didn’t realize he’d ever played with Clapton; now I see that he asked to Jam with Cream, and they let him, but apparently his rendition of this song caused Clapton’s hands to drop from the guitar.


          2. The Grand Canyon
            The Grand Canyon January 31, 2016 at 3:14 pm |

            “Do we have any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. Wogs I mean, I’m looking at you. Where are you? I’m sorry but some fucking wog… Arab grabbed my wife’s bum, you know? Surely got to be said, yeah this is what all the fucking foreigners and wogs over here are like, just disgusting, that’s just the truth, yeah. So where are you? Well wherever you all are, I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall, leave our country. You fucking (indecipherable). I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country. Listen to me, man! I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. Enoch’s our man. I think Enoch’s right, I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking (indecipherable) don’t belong here, we don’t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fuck’s sake? We need to vote for Enoch Powell, he’s a great man, speaking truth. Vote for Enoch, he’s our man, he’s on our side, he’ll look after us. I want all of you here to vote for Enoch, support him, he’s on our side. Enoch for Prime Minister! Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!”
            – Eric Clapton, during a concert in Birmingham in 1976

          3. Mark Foote
            Mark Foote January 31, 2016 at 3:25 pm |

            “You never told me he was that fucking good.”

            Eric, “After first hearing Jimi Hendrix perform, as quoted in “Jimi Hendrix: ‘You never told me he was that good'” by Ed Vulliamy in The Guardian (8 August 2010)”- same Wikipedia article

            Just drop off the keys, on your way back to Saxony…

        2. Shinchan Ohara
          Shinchan Ohara January 31, 2016 at 3:27 pm |

          Clapton: overrated. Plays insipid, soulless, metronomic honky blues – technical skill but no feeling.

          Ginger and Jack made Cream. Any halfwit could strum a strat over them and sound epic.


          1. Shinchan Ohara
            Shinchan Ohara January 31, 2016 at 3:53 pm |
          2. The Grand Canyon
            The Grand Canyon February 1, 2016 at 8:11 am |

            Bob Geldof performing in a dramatic recreation of Eric Clapton’s Benefit Concert to Keep Britain White. Heil, heil, rock ‘n’ roll.

  24. AnneMH
    AnneMH January 30, 2016 at 5:10 pm |

    I get it, I don’t find it complainey either. I have a Theravadan nun I study with (partially based on your advice to find someone who is actually accessible, typically local). She does do retreats around the world. We have an entire non-profit to support her, her lifestyle as a monastic, all the rules of not handling money or how she needs to be offered food, and of course retreats. Retreats are a big deal and have so many moving parts, and many people don’t see the cost. I do think you are saying something that is not part of the larger picture and I have referred to it in our little peer led meditation group. The 4 of us who take turns leading all have had people put their stuff on us even though we are clear we are not teachers, but it happens. So as a team we work together to stay grounded and give each other feedback on what we are doing or could do better, not to stay in our safe bubble of “I must be right”, and it isn’t always great.

    I also really related to the teacher here. Besides people in education wanting you to volunteer more, there seems to be a misunderstanding about what it really takes in skills. Recently a church group came in to do an activity with our students out of warm fuzzy feelings, but had no skills in managing the kids. I do a lot of my professional development on my own money, our district doesn’t have money for the type of training I want. So one thing I am doing is mindfulness in the classroom starting with baby steps. I have struggled with this as part of being the McMindfulness movement but ultimately people are doing it and I feel strongly that the teachers need a long term meditation practice. The risk of it being another fad and behavior control technique is strong. However the rub, I am bringing in decades of practice and decades of working with kids. If I move towards that being a bigger part of my career then I need to get paid. The thing I really respect in teachers that I have sat with is the ability to answer questions and facilitate discussions skillfully. There can be difficult people in groups and so group management is a huge skill that is often taken for granted. The same way that I feel managing a large group of children well is a skill that can be taken for granted.

    1. rapunzel
      rapunzel February 10, 2016 at 9:00 pm |

      I get your point of view. I work in an area- professional cooking- and I get paid $12 p/h if I’m lucky. I think the common issue is that some of us have great skills and insight- but they are not currently valuable to most people. Proper education and good food are not valuable in the current society. We must stand up for these principles. It is difficult. Eat properly! Look after your children! This is the basis for a better society. All I can say is take care and keep doing what you do- so important!

  25. Mumbles
    Mumbles January 31, 2016 at 11:01 am |

    David Bowie’s will apparently states that his ashes be scattered in Bali according to his Buddhist beliefs…? Is Bali a traditional final resting place for Buddhists? This is news to me. A quick look at Bali’s wiki page says in a poll taken in 2010, the vast majority of the population are Hindu, 83.5%, in fact, and only 0.5 % are Buddhist.

    DB studied Tibetan Buddhism for awhile, Chogyam Trungpa being one of his first teachers (so says unreliable info on the webs), but at different times he professed beliefs in various stripes of Christianity, the Golden Dawn (western kaballah), and also stated he was “close” to becoming an atheist later in life. The title of one of his last songs, Lazarus, is obviously based on the New Testament story, with it’s line “look up here, I’m in Heaven.”

    As with everything else in his public life, there seem to be endless contradictions…and speculations. The director of the local public library told me the other day that there is a belief that the sign over his head on the cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars is proof that he is a “time traveler” -is Kanye West the “Blackstar” he’s singing about?


    Next he’ll be spotted in Africa running guns, or in Paris taking a really long bath…

    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon February 1, 2016 at 8:45 am |

      Maybe time traveling Mr. Bowie wrote “I Can’t Read” about Kanye Kardashian in 1988. It contains the line “Andy, where’s my 15 minutes?” along with other gems.

      1. Mark Foote
        Mark Foote February 1, 2016 at 3:11 pm |

        The tracks on the album were recorded raw and live with no overdubs to capture the energy of the band. The band urged Bowie to avoid re-writing his lyrics: “They were there all the time saying, ‘Don’t wimp out,’ sing like you wrote it. Stand by it. I have done and frequently do censor myself in terms of lyrics. I say one thing and then I think, ‘Ah maybe I’ll just take the edge off that a bit.” He elaborated, “We wanted to come out of the box with energy, the energy we felt when we were writing and playing. There’s very, very little over-dubbing on [the album]. For us [it] is our live sound.” There were no demos made for the album; Gabrels said “Basically the album is the demo.”

        …When asked in an interview what the main criticism of the record would be, Bowie conceded that the album might be “not accessible” to fans. “I guess it’s not as obviously melodic as one would think it would probably be [for a Bowie album].”

        (Wikipedia, Tin Machine (Album))

    2. rapunzel
      rapunzel February 10, 2016 at 8:31 pm |

      Wow- you are way over-thinking Bowie’s wishes. If that’s where he wanted to rest why are you criticizing? Do you have any dead loved ones in a box? Maybe that was just where he felt most comfortable and felt a connection. Get a grip man, and get upset about something that matters now.

  26. rapunzel
    rapunzel February 10, 2016 at 8:15 pm |

    Hi Brad- First I want to apologize for being a weiner in a previous post- about a year ago- where you talked about your frustrations when dealing with “the bottom line”- money. We live in a world where money and self-support are central to people’s concerns and stresses about life. Instead, I would like to offer you some wisdom-hopefully- from personal experience that may benefit you. It is essential to establish boundaries with others- including those you do business with. I got burned majorly when I was too “whatever, man” about money – I thought it was too materialistic and so on, etc. I have found that being direct and clear about what you need- is a positive thing for all parties and leads to much less resentment/frustration, etc.

    You have a great life! So do I! We are very lucky. Set boundaries- for example: If working and writing at home in your own space is important, then maybe set certain times of the year for “at home contemplation”. Then dedicate other times for travel, seminars, etc. It’s OK to say no to people who don’t have a proper set-up if they want you to speak to them. The FAQ section that you set up is great. Being a punk doesn’t mean letting other people roll all over you- rebellion isn’t an excuse for abuse or taking advantage.

    Brad- you are a person that others need for guidance and support. Take care of your own needs and you will be better equipped to care for others. I hope this helps in some small way, and again- sorry for being a jackass. I love the Ramones!

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