Apr 23 2012

I got something to say…


I will be teaching here at City Center on 6/21 with the always awesome Mako Vokel. We will be teaching on “Practicing with Sexual Energy“. Click on the name for more info or to register.

May 26th I speak at SFZC’s Monthly Queer Dharma Group. 1PM in the Buddha Hall.

I will also be speaking May 27th at 10AM at the Gay Buddhist Fellowship.

After these dates, I am going to stop teaching for awhile. I need to step back a minute and get a sense of what’s what.

Apr 4 2012

I spoke last Sunday at Gay Buddhist Sangha


I spoke last Sunday at Gay Buddhist Sangha on “Sex and Zen”.

Apr 2 2012

Study the self…


To study the Buddha Way is to study the self
To study the self is to forget the self
To forget the self is to be awakened by myriad things
~Dogen Zenji

I have been meeting certain causes and conditions in my life, which have given me the chance to really see deeply into a pattern of behavior that I notice protects me. This pattern allows me to feel safe, protected and boosts my ego a bit.

Turning towards it I can witness it, and I can see it more and more clearly for what it is, a continuation of the duality that “I” am somehow separate from “you” and that “I” need to act in certain ways and do certain things in order to be safe from your criticisms or exclusion. I also see how this creates suffering for me. How it sets me up to be continually disappointed in myself, in you and in our interactions.

So what’s skillful? How do I walk through this in a way that is upright, sincere and responding appropriately to the causes and conditions as they arise?

The first thing I am trying to do is speak the story I have created. Tell you the “truth” of my experience and what I am noticing. But I also don’t want to set myself up as some kind of victim or martyr. That is just one more way for me to be dualistic and separate.

Starting at the beginning of the year, there has been some questions about what I can and can’t lead or teach in regards to Queer Dharma, the group I started more than three years ago. As the group has become successful, we (those who are guiding the group) were starting to look at ways to offer more than just the monthly programs. In this looking, there was some problems with the fact that I am not a former shuso.

Quick Sidebar: A shuso is a head monk. Part of the training here at Zen Center is that until you are shuso you are not suppose to be teaching the dharma. It is a tradition that we have created to mark a certain stage in training and to speak to who is qualified and who isn’t qualified to “teach”. Yes, this is an arbitrary construction that has nothing whatever to do with actual people, skills or that can universally be prescribed. And it is important that we recognize traditional models and carefully consider things before we go throwing them out or even saying something like “in this case, we will skip it, etc.” I am a fan of tradition, and this has put me on the horns so to speak.

Back to the point now. What I have noticed in this discussion was a repeated arising of my ego, of some forms of territorialism, and some wish to be recognized. It was obvious that a button was being pushed, and it took me some time to discover or study what was going on in a basic way. To slowly work my way through the layers of story to arrive at some clear seeing of what was going on for me.
What I am coming to recognize is how I have used my ability to succeed, to jump in and do what needs to get done, to lead and manage effectively not only as an offering of support and a skillful meeting of the moment. That is there, and I don’t want to discount that completely. I do however need to notice that I also use that as a way to prove myself “worthy”. A lifetime of rejection of who I am on a basic level, the repeated experience of being on the “outside” as a gay man, as someone with AIDS, and a myriad other ways I have been less-thaned has trained me or should I say, I found ways to avoid the pain of that.. I will just be so freaking awesome that you can’t help but appreciate and love me.

I don’t think I am awesome. I think I do my best most of the time, and I have been successful quite a bit of the time. I have a story though that basically says I HAVE to be awesome. That the only way to not be rejected to not be left on the outside is to be right there in just the perfect way, at just the perfect time.

I also have to acknowledge that during the height of the AIDS crisis, as my friends and loved ones were becoming sick, there wasn’t really any other way to respond. We all just jumped in and did what needed to be done. We learned how to care for each other, by doing it. We learned about medical procedures, and medicine, and how to move people who couldn’t move themselves. There was no one helping us, and we just needed to respond. So we did. We aren’t heroes; We just did what had to be done.

These two things combined to create a protection from pain for me. I can prove to myself and to you that I am okay by being great. Let me make myself invaluable so you can’t throw me away. I created a life that was impressive, that you couldn’t ignore. I think you get the point.

So what do I do now with this insight? Does the behaviors or the needs to separate and be protected disappear? No. As a matter of fact, I notice the strength of them. I notice how much stronger they are now that some light has been shed on them. In some way they have grown. I also am aware of the deep deep loneliness and isolation that is under all of that. The deep pain of rejection and loss and grief is present and unmistakable. The experience right now of drowning in my uncomfortableness is very present. It feels huge and overwhelming and like I don’t know what to do with it.

I am trying to make some choices and figure out a skillful response. Until I do, I just sit with it and feel it and see if I can get to know it. I believe that’s what Dogen is saying. To be awakened by myriad things is sometimes painful and slow and difficult. Much like Zazen.