Make the Most of Miserable Days

"So miserable days have a purpose. They teach us to appreciate the softer, kinder days. We see how our practice impacts our day-to-day living. They teach us to think ahead, to pay attention and to get over ourselves because we will never, ever be perfect. These days teach us mindfulness and force us to simply stay open to the situation, watching it unfold so we can respond in a skillful way. Since they're here to stay, we might as well integrate them into our practice, making our lives somehow juicier."
Stumbling Towards Enlightenment

Secret Good Deeds

"When we are humble everyone is a potential best friend and our generosity naturally grows. We want to do things, to help out. A wonderful Zen tradition is called inji-gyo, or secret good deeds. The virtue gained through performing a secret good deed is believed to be immense. So, in a monastery, if one watched closely, you might see a monk secretly mending another's robes or taking down someone's laundry and folding it before the rain comes. In our temple, I often find chocolate spontaneously appearing in my mailbox, or a beautiful poem, unsigned."
Tap Dancing in Zen

Saying No

"When I follow the Buddha's example, I remember that being compassionate includes setting limits, like just saying no. Although it seems like a contradiction, saying no is actually an act of compassion for others, because when we do things that aren't appropriate or we're just too damn tired to fully participate in, they only get a piece of us — a small, crabby piece, if you are anything like me. And it shows compassion for ourselves, a reminder that we're just as precious as everyone else and sometimes we need to be nurtured as well."
Tap Dancing in Zen

A Heart That Opens

"The longer and more arduous the trip (a Buddhist pilgrimage), the more your heart has a chance to open up until finally, in a moment of utter exhaustion, you realize that's all of you that is left — the heart part. Your mind has disappeared — the one that judges and gets mad and worries and thinks and fantasizes. Instead you are in love with your life, whatever it is. And the whole world is your family with the earth playing the lead role as universal nest, one you are thrilled (!) to share with all takers."
First You Shave Your Head

Travel Mantra

"In an effort to keep getting on airplanes, I have made Mr. Kung's 'for as long as it takes' my travel mantra. This means I no longer make assumptions about the time I'll arrive at my destination. I'll get there when I get there. What is amazing about this shift in my thinking is the gift it has been."
Plant Seed, Pull Weed


"The Buddha taught, over and over, that generosity is the first door we walk through if we are serious about our spiritual work. Without generosity enlightenment is flat-out impossible. We're too self-centered. Unless our relationships are bathed in generosity they don't have a chance. At the other extreme, generosity can buttress a faltering relationship, giving other paramitas time to work their magic. It fuels the little extras, the surprise moments that keep us fresh and interesting. And it demonstrates our regard for each other, whatever we're going through together."
Love Dharma

Being Upright

"Being upright means staying smack dab in the middle of what's going on. No running away. No pretending that the situation is any different than it is. It means breathing in and out and listening to our heart. And asking only one question: What can I do right this minute? Sometimes I think of it as 'mountain and river' practice. Detroit is all too often a mountain of heartbreaks and a river of sorrows. All I can do is look for cracks where some help can be offered. Sometimes I can only witness. Some days I can only pick up garbage or make the first call to a shelter or delete the email and chant for the person who wrote it."
The Still Point Dhammapada

A Remedy for Whining

"I myself love whining. It's just that I've learned, as an Eagle Scout watching the workings of my own brain, that it never helps anything. Not only does it not improve a situation, it just makes me crankier and tires the person I am whining at. That person already has enough on his or her plate just by being alive. . . . Finally a homeopathic solution surfaced. We would cure whining with whining! A whining hour was instituted. Every evening from five to six we could only whine. If the phone rang or a friend showed up, they were instantly introduced to the remedy. Within three weeks it was over. We had stopped. Where there used to be whining, there was now either quiet or a thank-you for something. While we both fall back into whining occasionally, given the deep roots of habit, mostly we don't. And mostly we're grateful for our lives and all their wild and wonderful components. Life became measurably easier, calmer, and more sane from this single shift."
The Chocolate Cake Sutra

Enough of Anger

"When I started to see the damage done by my anger, I vowed to stop getting angry. It wasn't anything fancy. I just sat myself down and said, 'Enough.' After that, every time I could feel anger starting to inch its way up my spine, I'd just think, 'Enough.' As simple and obvious as my solution has been, it has worked."
Plant Seed, Pull Weed