I’m flying on a big iron bird through the sky. Below me is Lake Michigan. I’ll be in New York City in an hour and a half.
I’m on my way for a series of talks and public appearances (see the list below). In fact, there’s one more public appearance on Monday that’s not even listed yet because I don’t have all the details. Plus there are some interview things and some dinners and brunches and stuff, and a couple long, long rides in crowded cars. It’s going to be a heck of a weekend for me.
A few years ago I vowed never to do this sort of thing again. I’d just finished a tour of the East Coast where I’d booked myself to do two or more talks a day on a few days. Then there was the trip to Finland where it felt like I was on stage non-stop for a week.
Last year my tax guy goofed up big time. When he worked it all out and said I’d gotten a refund I was all like, “I didn’t have anything taken out, how can I get a refund?” He muttered something about Obamacare credits. I asked if he was sure. He said yes. So I said OK. What do I know from taxes?
Turns out I did know. Because in March I got a letter from the IRS saying I owed them a big wad of money plus interest. The income sources they said I didn’t report were my main ones, like book royalties and the donations I receive from this blog. There’s no way I would fail to report that. I looked over the notes I’d brought with me to my tax guy a year before. They were all on there.
So I called up my tax guy’s boss. He looked over my return and my notes. They didn’t match up. The IRS was right. My tax guy had messed up. Bad. His boss told me to send the IRS a check and he very kindly sent me a check for the interest I owed.
This all took a couple weeks to sort out. By that time, I had to do my taxes for this year. So I did. As I expected, I owed the IRS another check. This time for even more than I’d just sent them. Luckily I had it, so I sent it (and there’s where my advance for Don’t Be a Jerk went). Plus a check to the State of California for this year and one more for last year.
Then I chipped a tooth and had to go get that fixed. Because I don’t have dental insurance I had to pay the full amount. Oh, and I forgot the new glasses prescription. Also not insured.
So I just spent a giant sized portion of the money I made in the past 12 months in the span of a single week.
Oh! And this morning Lyft took a lot longer to show up than I expected, then we got stuck in traffic, so I missed my scheduled flight. Then TSA took forever because they’re all freaked out about all the people going from LA to the East Coast for Passover so I missed my re-scheduled flight too and had to re-re-schedule. That also cost me.
Don’t Be a Jerk is selling well. So that’s good news. But it’s still not gonna be the next Harry Potter. Hopefully you folks in New York will buy some books this weekend.
Sometimes people ask me to ordain them. Sometimes they ask me how to get started writing and publishing books. When I advise them against it they always think I’m being funny. I’m not. This isn’t a career I can recommend.
I don’t have a manager or personal assistant. I book these gigs, book my planes, then figure out how to get from point A to point Z all by myself, then I travel alone. You best believe it’s stressful. But it’s the way this job is. I accept that, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Overall, I like this job better than any other I’ve had so far, so I do what I gotta do.
I’m not a nice, even-keeled sweetheart by nature. That’s not me. I’m bitter, resentful, angry, socially awkward and not easy to get to know. When I stress out, I stress all the way out. For me, Zen practice hasn’t been a way to go from well-adjusted guy to All Knowing and All Seeing Master, full of beauty and bliss and rainbows. It’s been a way to keep from going completely off the deep end.
Without the grounding Zen practice has given me, I would not be able to do this at all. I am keenly aware of that. When I sit down on my little cushion in my little apartment each morning and night I know that as boring and silly as sitting there looking at my closet door for half an hour might seem — even to me! — it’s what makes the rest of my life even possible.
Yeah, I’ve had some moments of pretty amazing insight. Not that I am amazing. But what I’ve seen has been astounding.
But that’s not why I get on the cushion each day.
I get on the cushion each day to survive it.
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Check out my podcast with Pirooz Kalayeh, ONCE AGAIN ZEN!
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I’ve got a new book out now! Stay up to date on my live appearances and more by signing up for our mailing list on the contact page!
My publishers are running a contest on Goodreads to give away 2 copies of my new book!
April 22, 2016 New York, New York Interdependence Project
April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”
April 24, 2016 Rochester, New York Rochester Zen Center
April 28-May 1, 2016 Atlanta Georgia 4-Day Retreat at Red Clay Sangha
June 2, 2016 Los Angeles, CA The Last Bookstore 7:00pm
September 10-11, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland 2-Day Retreat
September 14, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland Zazen and Discussion
September 16-17, 2016 Dublin, Ireland 3-Day Retreat
September 22-25, 2016 Hebden Bridge, England, 4-Day Retreat
September 27, 2016 – Wimbledon, London, England – Talk and Q&A
September 29-October 2, 2016 Helsinki, Finland, 4-Day Retreat
October 3, 2016 Turku, Finland, Talk at the University
October 4-5, Stockholm, Sweden, Talk and 1-Day-Retreat
October 7, 2016 Berlin, Germany Zenlab
October 14, 2016 Munich, Germany, Lecture
October 15-16, 2016 Munich, Germany, 2-Day Retreat
October 23-28, 2016 Benediktushof Meditation Centrum (near Würzburg, Germany) 5-Day Retreat
MORE EUROPEAN DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED SOON!
Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!
Every Saturday at 10:00 am (NEW TIME!) there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Beginners only!
These on-going events happen every week even if I am away from Los Angeles. Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website, dsla.info
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One of the main ways I’m gonna pay off my tax debt is through your donations to this blog. I won’t get any of the recent Angel City Zen Center fundraiser money. I appreciate your on-going support!
We’re very fortunate indeed to be able to practice Zen.
On Opening the Dharma:
The Dharma, incomparably profound and minutely subtle,
is rarely encountered,
even in hundreds of thousands of millions of kalpas;
We now can see it…listen to it…accept and hold it;
May we completely realize
the Tathagata’s true meaning.
In one flash it is realized, and there is no one realizing it.
All that money didn’t keep Prince alive.
I think that he chose to die.
I was having a stressful morning today and got into an argument with my wife. She reminded me that getting stressed about my situation, and wishing things were different was a kind of “delusion.” I reminded her that just because I have seen and experienced that form, feelings, impulses, etc. are “empty,” does not mean that I am above it all. I still get plenty stressed. Like Brad, i rely on the time on the cushion to smooth things out.
It is sort of like the saying in Shobogenzo that “Realization does not break the person, just as the reflection of the moon on water does not break the water.” (Or the moon. I forget which, and I don’t want to go look it up.)
Don’t worry about money, Fred is sending a check.
Prince. Jesus Christ, this year sucks so far.
First time I saw Prince was in the wee hours just before the 4-in-the-morning, “Hour of the Wolf” hollow of the night time when the devas show up for dokusan with Buddhas. I was alone somewhere in Michigan, probably E.Lansing, just easing off the peak of some exotic psychedelic (I had a friend who was an underground chemist that used me as QC). After the major hallucinations were spent, I was feeling kind of bored, so I turned on the TV. It was B&W . . . I think . . . which made it all the more spectacular by contrast. Some boring talk show hosted By a guy named Peter who seemed just as welcomely soporific as I needed. But then, they went to a musical number with a bunch of thin guys playing guitars in some unclassifiable mode, dancing around in formal clothes. The guy who seemed to be the leader had a Latin look about him, and he wore a frock coat over a garter belt and stockings. I just caught some of the lyrics . . . “Am I black or white/Am I gay or straight?” Seemed normal enough to me, so I figured they must be pretty rad for the time.
Later on, I saw him again on some media and learned his name was Prince. He seemed a bit gimmicky to me, but he was consistent and I came to see his shtick as life art.
Some of his songs, particularly “Nothing Compares 2 U,” we’re part of the soundtrack to big events in my life.
Awesome day, Brad!
“Today is a good day to die”; I am breathing now, I breathe.
Mahayana-ish Native American interpretation of the meaning of “hokahey, today is a good day to die!”
How to help others? How not do practice for own salvation? Sawaki says it is wrong thing to do. He says it is Lesser Vehicle. To do practice not for own salvation – is this possible in own efforts or will? Should one worry about it? Thanks.
Source to Sawaki’s commentary: http://postimg.org/gallery/29oh0sgag/
I wouldn’t worry about it. Whether you know it or not, you do your practice as much for others as for yourself.
For example, related to the article I wrote, I do zazen to relieve my own stress. But I also do it so that I am able to avoid inflicting my stress upon other people.
I think Sawaki is talking about how some people in Japan would do zazen in order to try to obtain special states of insight or feelings of bliss. Some Westerners do that too. But it’s less of a concern here.
Traditionally, Mahayana teachers hold that Wisdom and Compassion are of equal importance to Awakening. This made more sense to me when I realized how much of a hindrance my selfish self-referential obsession with my self was. Seeking Wisdom and liberation for oneself strengthens the bonds of delusive self-reference; setting a wider goal of liberating others helps to loosen those bonds.
But really, to help others, you have to help yourself first.
Since the last 4 months, I have experienced intense level of stress. Never in my entire life have I felt so much lasting stress. Most of it has to do with an accumulation of small annoyance and contrariety here and there, (including the tax man). Some of it I get from reading the daily dispiriting world news, and a big portion of it has to do with my work, which I almost quit a few weeks ago. The level of stress at work is simply unbearable, some left, others shed tears, two needed medical care. The boat is sinking and the captain (owner) of the ship is making sure that all employees will drown with him.
Since the last 4 months, I had decided to take a break from zazen, 0 sitting until last week. Oh boy! What a difference that first sitting round did. Just similar to a drug addict that finally gets a good dose, I could feel the emptying immediately. Body and mind drops instantly and all becomes clear, lucid transparency. One of the aspect of zazen for me, is this emptying. Only after a few second sitting on that cushion even after 4 months of abstinence, this whole stress simply vanished and was no where to be found. The deep silence, the stillness, that emptying acting as a solvent, it dissolves all things, and most thoughts. As I sit, all of what makes a thing, all emotional state, all this is this, this is that, that I have a body or mind, or even senses, all yield. I do not know how this whole emptying proceeds, but all boundaries that make up what we see as things, as stress, as body, as mind, as what appear to the mind simply give away without any kind of involvement or will from ‘me’, and as they do so, they melt entirely, they simply pass by. They melt away spontaneously, not by any kind of effort or rationalization. Once I leave the cushion, I asked myself how real were they? How real was that stress? Was it? Was there ever this stress? One face seems to suggest that there was never any such thing as stress, the other face seems to suggest the complete opposite; life is a complete messy stressful situation from beginning till the end. Which one is real? If from one viewpoint there is no such thing as stress, and from the other there is, which one is the true one?
From now on, I do know for sure that I need zazen medicine, if not, I could simply not survive on the long run.
Brad, airplanes are made of aluminum, not iron.
You also fly in them not on them, but lets not nitpick.
So how come you don’t structure your operation as a church? Seriously.
There’s a lot of paperwork involved. I’m looking into it. I don’t think it would make it so I would pay no taxes at all. It would reduce my taxes but increase my paperwork. Still, I’m looking into it.
I really appreciate how honest this post is. Zazen is not some cure-all where one ends up with perpetual perma-smile but I find that it is invaluable nevertheless because I can see my life more clearly. There is a real world of stress, pain and challenge that we live in, Zazen practitioners included. I appreciate that that is often acknowledged in this blog as it can be hard to find in the world of spiritual celebrity.
Conversation between Apech and M. Foote
“Olaf Blanke is a Swiss neuro-biologist studying out-of-body experience, and his hypothesis is that it’s the vestibular organs (sense of equalibrium), otolithic organs (sense of gravity), proprioceptors (sense of placement and motion in the muscles, joints, and ligament), and eyes that coordinate to provide the sense of self. According to his hypothesis, when these organs don’t coordinate properly, some kind of out-of-body experience takes place.”
The out of body experience is the real self when there is no identification with just an exclusive culturally conditioned self.
Is the site busted-up or is it just me?
It’s been you for some time.
Haha, good one!
I like it better, by the way. It’s like, totally zen.
Sometimes I have a thin skin, too.
Looks like the path to the CSS stylesheet that’s responsible for the “look” of the blog has gone missing. I’m sure somebody will figure it out sometime – maybe soon! In the meantime, it’s always you, you, you…
“The out of body experience is the real self when there is no identification with just an exclusive culturally conditioned self.”
The in-body experience, the one in the contact of any sense that sustains pressure in the “fluid ball” and the freedom of movement in inhaling or exhaling; the necessity of fun, in my American existence!
That’s Boy Cat in the avatar, eyeing my dinner; an ancestor, displaying the Eye of the True Appetite Treasury.
An email conversation with a friend, who says:
“My practice is simple: samadhi = insight. Basic zen meditation.”
Fred, I hope you don’t mind my quoting your post (and mine) in response to him:
Kinda like the plainness of Brad’s blog at the moment (sans styling).
…samadhi? insight?….click click click…
The Necessity of Fun in My American Existence
That side dish with the entree
Is it presently nostalgia of or
for your breathing
each day, the day Lady died?
‘Cus shoot! I’m citrus and maybe
it was pre-cisely ’59
See you in person )(we sans & drop
louche ash on the Pernod Bakelite
stropping his chords around
Far out rolled over in it
Sheer reloads – monumental particularisma.
Ah baby, we stopped
In honor of Prince, this blog now looks like it’s 1999.
WILL THE REAL SELF PLEASE STAND UP? YEAH, I DIDN’T THINK SO.
I get on the cushion everyday to disengage from the bullshit of the world.
Fuck, I just did it again…
Any other taunts?
I’m not fully comfortable with this notion that humans are the cosmos’s eyes and ears. It’s true on some level, but it feeds our vanity.
I’ve met so many people who spend their lives burning barrels of jet fuel, trying to visit every ‘spiritual’ place, and every wonder of nature … and to maximize the number of cool others tbey meet on the way. It seems like a sickness to me: the workings of an overactive fight and flight response, facilitated by believing in some sacred duty to experience.
One place is as good as another, and the place we are now is where we’re meant to be. From our perspective, we need to move to find food. From the earth’s perspective we just have limbs to redistribute nutrients and seeds in our crap. Running about like a headless chicken in search of ‘experiences’ is nuts.
Our awareness may indeed have some vital purpose in the grand scheme of things. But I can’t see that it makes us unique or special or immune to the consequences of our actions, or irreplaceable.
Oops, that comment was meant for the next thread, the one about aliens.
The sleeper must awaken, Shin, the sleeper must awaken!
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