Don’t try to ride two horses at the same time

Flower by Olga

Talk by Ann

From Daily Sutras (禅宗日課聖典)


You are the Light itself

Rely on yourself

Do not rely on others.

The Dharma is the Light

Rely on the Dharma

Do not rely on anything other than the Dharma.

Rev Ito, the founder of our zendo, used to tell Ann, “Don’t try to ride two horses at the same time.”

Ann grew up as a Catholic and then studied Rinzai zen. After Rinzai, she learned Soto zen. Which religion is the right horse for her? Buddhist or Priest? Wife, mother, friend?

Everything changes, including the horse you are riding. It doesn’t mean you have to ride the same horse for the rest of your life.  

Zazen helps to see who you are.


shiki soku zekuu ・kuu soku zeshiki

Shared by Jia

This calligraphy by Rev Ito hangs in our zendo. Jia shared the meaning of this phrase.

色即是空・空即是色 is a phrase from the Heart Sutra(般若心経). It means Form is Emptiness, and Emptiness is Form. Emptiness is a crucial concept in Zen. To me, it has two folds of meaning. First, Emptiness is the true nature of all the things in the world. It is different than Nothingness. It doesn’t mean nothing exists at all. Instead, it tells us that nothing exists permanently, and nothing is entirely independent of everything else. Emptiness is impermanence. Second, Emptiness is a mode of perception, the way of looking at things happening around us. It is No Feeling, though. It instructs us to empty ourselves from presumptions, presuppositions, and prejudices, which are harmful thoughts in our minds. Emptiness can lead to true empathy. So why does Buddha teaches us Emptiness? I think Buddha wants us to focus on the true empty, impermanent nature of things, and be empty of all the egos and all the attachments, so we can reach No Suffering. Emptiness is very powerful.


Oscar talked about empathy.

With the current state of the world and our country, I find myself feeling angry at myself and feeling useless and powerless for nothing being able to make any changes. Through meditation I found out that the difference I can do is to reduce hate in the world. But how do we do that? While meditating I told myself that through empathy I could achieve that. Meditation taught me that separation is the biggest illusion we tell ourselves as humans. Since we are raised and taught different cultures, religions, and politics, but we are all one species who are trying to strive through nature and the communities we build. Ultimately we all bleed red and we all share similar emotions.


Talk by Chris

What is the source of desire? How are we to act on our feelings of desire – how we want ourselves or others to behave?

Chris shared a story about a neighbor who, many years ago, hosted a loud party. They informed Chris the day of the event that they would be holding a party that night and to let them know if it was too loud. That night it did disturb Chris’s family, and he let them know. This resulted in a strained relationship between the two families.

Recently, many years after the first party, the family hosted another celebration – a backyard birthday party with a live band. Chris saw this as an opportunity to reflect on what he had learned through meditation and see if he would react in a different way. Again, the party was loud and went on very late. Would he again confront them or take a different approach?

This time Chris chose to see if he could take another approach. To partially escape the pulsating sounds of the live drummer just on the other side of his fence, he moved to a bedroom on the other side of his house and cranked up a source of white noise. This worked out and allowed him to get a good night’s rest without asking his neighbors to tone down their celebration.

breathe in – still alive, breathe out – let it go

Peter had sciatica nerve pain due to Herniated Discin in March 2020 when the COVID lockdown started. This was extremely painful for Peter.  He wanted to get treatment, but physical therapy and doctors were not immediately available due to the lockdown. He was frustrated and angry as nothing was helping his pain. His mind was full of negative feelings and thoughts. Then, he heard someone say meditation might help ease his pain. He would like to give it a try out of desperation. He read a book about meditation and learned the importance of breathing. When he breathes in, he can feel the pain and feel the relief when he breathes out.  Through meditation, Peter became mindful of his body’s doing and recognized the pain.  Breathe in – still alive, breathe out – let it go… 

Also, when he was in pain, his wife asked,” How are you doing?”  He initially felt, “Don’t you know I am in pain?” and felt anger. However, as he started to meditate and be mindful of his surroundings, he began to feel differently; his wife’s question was “love.”  Meditation helps Peter shift the state of MIND FULL of negative and stressful thoughts to MINDFULNESS which allows him to see things clearly with calmness and peace felt inside. 

The clinic office reopened in June, and Peter paid his first doctor visit since the onset of his sciatica problem.  He was given medical treatment from March through September.  His pain gradually eased off, and he started returning to his daily walking exercises. He meditates while walking.  He meditates while walking. Through mindfulness, Peter learns and practices living fully at every moment in the present. Both were saying hello to a stranger and slowing down paces to enjoy the beauty of nature (flowers, trees, hills, clouds, etc.), aware of their surroundings, giving him energy and joy.  

Peter recognizes Meditation cannot totally eliminate his pain and suffering. But meditation can help Peter alleviate his pain with calmness inside his mind and peace at heart. 

“Mindfulness does not regard pain as an enemy that needs to be suppressed. It does not want to throw the pain out. It knows the pain is a part of us.” —Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned Buddhist Monk.

Shujinko 主人公 : True Self

In zen teaching, shujinko means “true self.” So how can we find our “true self”?

無想 Muso:  Don’t think anything, get rid of all thoughts

無念 Munen: Let go of desires,  don’t get distracted by the stimulus from the outside world 

無住 Muju: Let go of your attachment to material things

What remains is the “true self.” Zazen is the practice to help remove these noises and find “true self.”

Two Approaches to Happiness

Talk by Lakshmi

There are, we could say, two basic approaches to manifesting a happier, more fulfilled life. The first and most familiar to us is to try to maximize the quality of our day-to-day experiences and circumstances as best we can. However, one of the inherent challenges of trying to engineer or control our experiences and circumstances so as to maximize well-being is this: Life is invariably filled with all manner of experiences and circumstances we find difficult, challenging, or unpleasant and many of these are not very amenable (if at all) to control or change. Whether internally (thoughts, feelings, sensations) or externally (situations and circumstances), things often don’t go the way we would like them to go, despite our best, most artful and sincere efforts.
But there is another approach to happiness and fulfillment and that is to investigate what the dream is actually made of, rather than reflexively trying to create a more desirable one. Whether we call it a happy one, a sad one, an exhilarating one, or a terrifying one, in this second approach, we simply inquire into the nature of the dreaming itself, and through this, discover that no matter its content, no matter what the dream may look like, it is all life, all reality, appearing in the many guises life can appear.
Experience is ultimately undefinable.
We imagine that we know what experiences are because we have names for them. However, through more carefully exploring the texture or felt sense of experience, we can discover that all experiences, whether they’re conceived of as mundane or sublime, lie beyond the reach of our conceptualizing faculties. Feel into any state—fear, anxiety, joy, exhilaration—and what becomes apparent is the inadequacy of our descriptive labels, the failure of our conceptual maps to convey the unthinkably vast, subtle, and nuanced territory of experience.
We can certainly try to manifest more of what we conventionally think of as “states of well-being.” But the second approach reveals another order of well-being altogether, one that is discovered to be present in every moment of experience, irrespective of the conventional labels we may give it, a well being that is just as present in sadness as it is in joy. This is a stable, indestructible well-being that can neither be given nor taken away because it is reality itself, the same ever-present reality that appears as each changing moment of life, a field of fathomless mystery and well-being that is beyond our capacity to definitively label or describe.
It’s fine, of course, to continue trying to live life as skillfully as you can, minimizing those states of mind and circumstances conventionally thought of as undesirable while maximizing those considered (based on your descriptions) to be more desirous. But while you engage in this more conventional approach to well-being, you can at the same time take up the second approach and begin to discover that the very
experiences you’ve imagined yourself stuck in or troubled by are in fact infinity itself, the inconceivable, miraculous display of reality, shining forth as each instant of life, no matter its conventional label.
Astin, J. (2018). This Extraordinary Moment: Moving Beyond the Mind to Embrace the Miracle of What Is Non-Duality Press. Kindle Edition.