The Dance of Anger

In all the 25 years I’ve known Drew, he still surprises me sometimes. When he was instructing me to do writing exercises about my dad, he noted how long he thought I been angry.

I’m not sure that I felt anger as much as confusion, fear, and ultimately frustration. I remember when I saw my first therapist during college—an intern I didn’t have to pay—I remember telling him that I couldn’t remember ever feeling angry, really, truly angry.

I never let myself. It wasn’t “productive.”

Years later, when I saw another therapist, she tried to make me feel okay being angry; she encouraged me to feel the feelings.

I’ve learned that no one can give you permission for that; it has to rise up within you.

It was years even after that that I started to feel angry. My anger is so tinged with sadness—for myself and for the unformed role models who couldn’t take care of themselves, much less me.

And when it came down to it, when my father was dying last year, any anger I had was replaced by intense compassion.

Seeing another human suffering, mentally and physically, as he was erased any inkling of being angry. It was not the time to yell, point fingers, make him understand all the things he did and didn’t do, not the place for scorekeeping or retribution.

My job in those last hours we spent together was simply to be present. There was no room for anger. There was no space for anger. There was no time for anger.

I was overcome with sadness for his state. The frustration with which he grunted and recoiled from the too-salty puréed food and the lack of cooperation from his hands in spooning it were palpable. Unable to endure more, I excused myself from the table. I walked purposefully down the hallways, around three corners to a pair of chairs set in a nook. I watched myself as I had since entering this building, purportedly to help my aunt with my dad’s paperwork.

I’d immediately dashed beyond the door to my father’s room to the common area where Bryan and I organized his paperwork and I covertly read the will I’d been written out of. Then I knew that any interaction that we’d have was pure; it wasn’t because I’d get anything out of it or owe him anything.

I pushed myself to walk by his room again, and I caught a glimpse of white: white hair, pale skin, white blanket, white sheets, beige hospital bed.

The tension in my body was great, but the fear was subsiding. I was in control. I could leave at any moment, whenever it became too much. The parts of myself pushing and gauging my tolerance were keeping me safe.

I told my aunt that I thought I could walk in, could see him, could maybe have a conversation. My uncle announced us when we came in.

Over the hours we spent in the ensuing days, we were physically closer than I could ever remember.

I sat at the foot of his bed. He’d lost so much weight that he didn’t fill it. We didn’t talk a lot. I showed him a video of our dog. He liked the idea that we had a dog. I told him a little about my job. But we didn’t talk about anything important, anything that mattered.

That’s for the best.

My anger is mine to deal with just as the sadness that his anger dissolved into was his.

As I approached the pair of chairs in the hallway, I released the tears that had been building for so long: for myself as a child, for the father I had, and for the one that I didn’t.



The Dance of Anger

A dance is a poem in space
Instead of words—bodies
Instead of rhyme—gesture
Instead of meter—flow

When many bodies join
The Dance of Anger
Their movements become
A "movement"
A movement that can
Bless or curse the world.

Bodies Gestures Flow
To call upon The Lord of the Dance
Or to spin mindlessly out of control

The Dance of Anger
Narration with bodies
Tells a story
Too powerful for words.
A vessel for the Spirit
Creation or chaos?

—Janelle Curlin-Taylor


The Danger of Anger

The dance of anger is
awesome to behold.
If you ask the dancers,
"What are you seeking?"
They will reply, "Justice", but justice
has two faces:
restoration or retribution.
Which you choose leads
to what leads,
you or the anger.

Choose one and you lead,
anger provides the energy.
Lead well and you can
transform an injury
into a partnership,
a force for peace.

Choose the other and anger drives
you deeper where there was already
pain. The Chinese say,
"Before you embark
on a journey of revenge,
dig two graves."

Choose well.

—Jeff Taylor

Sensitivity to Words

One of the major symptoms of the general crisis existent in our world today is our lack of sensitivity to words. We use words as tools. We forget that words are a repository of the spirit. The tragedy of our times is that the vessels of the spirit are broken. We cannot approach the spirit unless we repair the vessels. Reverence for words - an awareness of the wonder of words, of the mystery of words - is an essential prerequisite for prayer. By the word of God the world was created.

—Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel


In a class on Buddhism, one of the teachers was a Jōdo Shinshū pastor. He explained that when teaching the children the First Noble Truth, they expressed it as "Life is a bumpy road." Several years later I read that the literal translation of the Pali word dukkha, usually translated as suffering or dissatisfaction is "bad hole," referring to a poorly made cart wheel. What a fascinating metaphor.

Compassion is Latin for "to suffer with," or as Bill Clinton said it, “I feel your pain.”

Coleman Barks, in a recorded reading of his translations of Rumi, told about an English teacher who, on the first day of class, jumped up on his desk and said, "Young men, I love words." I also love words, sometimes for their roots or
original meaning, or sometimes just for their sounds. The German word for auto exhaust tailpipe is auspuff.

In English, a windfall is a tree blown over by the wind, bringing the fruit (and wood) within easy reach. The Japanese equivalent is a duck that walks in the door, a meal that does not have to be hunted down. A great windfall is a duck that walks in the door with a green onion over its shoulder. The most popular way in Japan to cook duck is with green onions.

Spirit in Greek and Hebrew is the same word as breath or wind, and it's feminine. In English, the feminine has been lost from the Divinity.

In India, the Bodhisattva of Compassion is male. In China, it was initially male but soon an existing Chinese female deity (Kwan Yin) was co-opted. Is this a transgendered deity?

Rumi says God's first language is silence; all else is poor translation.

Zen claims to be a teaching beyond scripture and words and has the largest body of written works of any religion.

Words are wonderful, powerful, and at the same time, limited. They must be respected for all three.

—Jeff Taylor


Sounds of Trees

Can you tell
the species from
the sighs of
the pines, the
rustle of hardwoods?

Does it matter to anyone,
except a botanist,
an academic, the arrogant

The poet struggles
to find the words
for what
is wordless.

—Jeff Taylor


Reverberate the
Non-Judgement with
Compassion is
Equity exhuberantly expressed.
Responding to the
Divine with devotion
Simply & sanely


In The Beginning

In the beginning was the Word
and I am told the Word was
God/is God.
How is this verifiable? I can observe
that I recover from wounds inflicted
by sticks and stones.
But words can be used to pierce
my very soul, can lead me to the
loss of meaning. And, well there
you are, plowshares bent into
swords, crushing my vessel asunder.

Viktor Frankl wrote words, "Man's
Search for Meaning,"I can use to
guide my return.
To the root of Word which is Love,
As it was in the beginning and
It always will be....
Once the carnage is ended, and
I caringly lift away weighted thoughts
of hate, cease it in all its forms within
myself. My recovery, rediscovery
of the Word may be the revival of a
Loving World without End. Amen.

—Martha Ward

How Does Life Live?

by Kelly O’Brien (For full experience:

How does life live?
Can girls be robots?
Why is fire called fire?
What is winter?
Why do we have to sleep?
How many dogs are in this world?
Where do ants come from?
Why are some things special?
Why do (don’t?) worms have faces?
Why is (the) sun in my eyes?
Why does everybody not like pink, just black?
What do princesses do?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Do girls have vaginas?
Why do boys cut their hair?
How do you make water?
Why do you like beautiful things so much?
Why do you pick flowers, and then they die?
Are you old, Mom?
Why are the leaves falling down?
Will I have another birthday?
Why doesn’t everybody know me?
What are you talking about?
What’s a conversation?
Why do people laugh at me?
Why is she mean?
Why are you on your phone?!
What happens when I don’t like you, Mom?
What is mean and nice?
What is kind?
Do you love me?
Why are kids small?
Where did you find me when I was a baby?
Why does the heart beat?
Why do my feet sparkle?
What’s bacteria? Does it hurt you?
How does food turn into poo?
How do you be a mermaid, Mom?
Why can’t we see angels?
Can you turn me into a fairy?
Do blue butterflies…eat parts of the sky?
Do worms cry?
Do bugs die?
Why do the birds fly away?
Why are we humans?
Why do we eat animals?
Why do trees just stand there?
Why is it night time when trees when people are awake?
Why does the earth move?
What is atmosphere?
Do (did) God make the ocean?
Where does the sun go?
Why is the world so messy?
Why do we all have cars?
What is a molecule?
What does extinct mean?
What is power?
What is history?
Why are we gonna die?
How do people get killed?
What is fragile?
When did the world even start?
Mom, why are we starting again?
What is history?
How does life live?


PARTS of the SKY

Do Blue Butterflies eat parts of the sky?
One of many endless questions from a young 
Child, seeing the butterflies patterned

Blue on blue.

For me the question conjures up Escher,

The artist/printmaker.
As a child, he was curious how a shape 
is both a space and a whole, each fitting 
within the other. 

Escher repeated a single shape
without overlapping creating
a tessellated puzzle.

Like the Child’s view,

His puzzle defined an endless horizon 

of blue butterflies eating parts of the sky.

What is Fragile?

A breath in, a pause, breath out, pause.
Like a sonata of sensemaking of the
Surrounding small moments, each,
Last for an eternity.

Promises pushing against
one another, like seedhead.
Which will be the first to fall to the earth, slip into a
small crevice, there die a seed, birth a flower,
A flower with its seedhead, pushing against
One another. Which will be the first to fall
to the earth?

—Martha Koock Ward



What is the secret river?
Do rocks direct us?
Is there ever a stopping?
Do we all travel?
If I follow, is there a place I am going?
The last way, steps lost into canyon, can it be found?
When the mist swirls on the side of the cliff, is that it?
Is there any way to go on?

Sarah Webb


What is kind? What is fragile?

Kind, separate from nice, recognizes our common fragility.

Kind wraps us in a soft understanding, a willingness to listen.

A desire to quiet our own minds to hear what's on someone else's

A sharing of a load, a burden, time

A slowing down until you can feel what it's like to be that other person

Heart beating, breath breathing

What it's like to be yourself




I can't figure out why it has taken me 70 years to figure out how insufficient our answers and explanations really are. Kids ask why and they are curious. And then they go to school and are given answers. I read the other day that the only facts are in our minds. But they don't tell us that in school, did they? We are fed answers sufficient to quell our curiosity.

An exception to this was when I had a color theory class where the teacher wouldn't tell us stuff. He'd grunt or shrug his shoulders when we'd ask him a question. He’d ask us to look harder and to find out on our own. He opened us up to the exploration of color, reminding me what Matisse once said, “I’ve spent all my life playing with color.”

What is a kid asking for when they ask why? Do they want to know the answer, or are they just saying, “Look at this…isn’t it awesome?”?

There a joke in my family that I ask a lot of questions, and worse, I expect answers. And not grey answers like my color theory teacher would say or not say, but black and white answers. When my aunt Reggie was a beginning psychotherapist, she'd give me answers…just the kind I thought I wanted. So when I’d ask something of my sister, a psychoanalyst, she would always answer, “Ask Reggie.” Unfortunately, when Reggie became old and wise, her answers became less binary and much more confusing…and rich.

So what should we do with kids questions? What can we do to encourage their curiosity even more?

William Blake wrote "never seek to tell thy love... Love that never told can be. For the gentle wind does move. Silently Invisibly" That seems about another form of answers. Think of when someone asked you if you love them. Isn't it always when the relationship is dissolving? So they need to clarify. They need to make an experience into a fact. And from there it goes downhill. Silently. Invisibly.

My grandson asked me the other day, holding up a piece of parsley at his school’s Seder lunch, “Who made this?” Unfortunately, I gave him an answer. I could kick myself. There are so many questions I could have asked him, like who does he think made it, or why was he asking the question, or what else in the world is he curious about who made it, or how might he find out who made it. I was not curious about his curiosity and for that I failed him. Maybe next time I can do better.

Kim Mosley


The severity that can be present in Zen is so opposite of my temperament, but since it
was the first meditation experience offered to me (by my friend Flying Clouds when I
was 18) and since I never forgot it (though it was one of the most wretched 30 minute
periods I ever spent), I knew I would return, and thus came back again 20 years ago.
Maybe I knew it might give me something I might not gain otherwise. I love the utter
simplicity of Zen, its essential nature, the invitation to “just sit”, and go deep inside.
Often the best scientific theories are the ones which explain the facts with the greatest
economy and simplicity. Zen is like that: no frills, no labyrinths of explanation, only bare
experience and the ability to watch it quietly. For someone like me, so ruled by moods
and emotions, it is such a gift to deep below the ocean, or into the limitless Big Sky,
where emotions just float away, and everything changes except the light, or the water,
the fundamental mediums of existence.

As a child, I knew that light spoke of the Absolute for me. And all of my life, I have
dreamed of water- springs, brooks, turquoise seas, hot pools carved in the stone. I
remember Flying Clouds telling me a dream about the time she taught me to do Zazen.
She was in a stone church, very simple, and she went to the side of one of the
foundations. There was a trickle of water there, and she started to dig in the sandy
ground with her hands. As she dug, beautiful clear springs began to come into the
church, and she was filled with joy. It was her dream, but she gifted me its image, which
has stayed with me always.

I remember my childhood in the Hill Country, the dark cold house so full of anger and
sadness, where mice got eaten by snakes coming up through the jagged floorboards,
where hope could die if left there long enough.

But I also remember the outdoors, the massive live oak trees with gnarled roots, the
pungent tang of the juniper and its red bark strips which birds used to weave little nests.
I remember the scent of chinaberry, honeysuckle, old roses, and lilacs, left behind by
the old settlers who came before us. I remember the brilliant light that lit up the fields
and turned the grasses to shades of gold and copper. I remember the circular swimming
hold down by the old bridge, shaded but with rays of sunlight hitting green water, the
schools of minnows and little mud catfish, the golden enclosure of the limestone. I
remember how the water in the brook was clear and babbled over the flat limestone and
sparkled in the sun. I vaguely remember bog plants, sedges and little white flowers, wild
onions with their pungent scent, tiny pokey little rain frogs that could be caught in the
boggy areas. And sometimes fat velvety little tadpoles in the water.

I remember playing with my brothers, not really together, just in quiet company- rather
like in the Zendo. We were deeply connected, but also deeply solitary, few words
spoken, but together in our immersion in this beautiful sylvan world.

Nature always had its dark side, however. The black snakes in the limestone crevices,
the carcasses, the half eaten frogs left by a predator, the crushing droughts that killed
the flowers and dried up the creeks to isolated, sad, scum-filled little waterholes and
trapped minnows. It was all there, but if one could float and accept, the world held us
and brought a sense of life going on. Not necessarily a single life, but life in the all of it.
We might not continue, individual frogs and fish might not continue, but life itself in
some way would continue.

—Elayne Lansford

The Prize

“I have a tape of a Tibetan nun singing a mantra of compassion over and over for an hour, eight words over and over, and every line feels different, feels cared about, and experienced as she is singing. You never once have the sense that she is glancing down at her watch, thinking, “Jesus Christ, it’s only been 15 minutes.” Forty-five minutes later she is still singing each line distinctly, word by word, until the last word is sung.

Mostly things are not that way, that simple and pure, with so much focus given to each syllable of life as life sings itself. But that kind of attention is the prize.”

-Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life


The Prize

“That kind of attention is the prize.”
What is the competition?
How many prizes are given out?
What if the struggle is not
against another, against nature,
against scarcity, real or imagined.

If the struggle is against ourself,
there is enough
for everyone.

Michelangelo or some other sculptor claimed
not to create anything but merely
to remove the stone surrounding, revealing
what was already there all along.
The nun has removed, discarded,
chipped away all distraction
until all that remains is
pure, simple attention.

There is time enough to do
what needs to be done.
Do not hurry, but
there is no time to waste.


“Mostly things are not that way,
that simple and pure, with
so much focus given to
each syllable of life as life sings itself.”

Or maybe it is
giving each syllable of life
that much focus unwraps
a life simple and pure.

Taizé at Mercy Chapel

Taizé at Mercy Chapel—
there are instruments
to set the pitch, nothing more.
We sing four lines, maybe eight,
over and over. Time loses
its significance, the small orchestra
invisible beneath the press of voices, hundreds strong.

We sing, more than once,
less than many, no matter.
We sing until our voices warm,
are held, entranced
by songs, words repeating, forgotten,
still sung, it's the song that lifts,
not the words.

—Jeffery Taylor

Let It Go

Prompt: Let It Go by Danna Faulds


The sadness and grief have hardened me; 
the laughter and love soften me. 
The space between them is empty, 
ready to accept the next fleeting moment, 
to hold it briefly, 
and be forever changed.

—Lori H.


Riding the Wave's Crest

To ride the wave,
you must catch it,
paddle or swim hard,
match direction and speed
to arrive in style.

Or wash up on the beach.

—Jeffery Taylor



Bunches of small pink bunnies beat
Their drums, relentlessly, wrecking
The wall of my R.E.M, bringing me
Crashing into awake.

The search for the long sought lands
Of somnambulant Shangri-La foiled, again.
How am I to attract Delta & Theta into
The labyrinth of my greying matter
With all that racket being made?

The government has invaded me, too!
Launching drones of Daylight Savings Time
Obliterating legions of sleepy eyed Sandmen,
Who are armed only with buckets of dreams.
Each stumbling, defenseless, against
The glare of the blazing sun.

Wailing Smart Phones and iPad screens scream
“Wake Up! You are Missing SOME THING!”

—Martha Ward


It takes so much energy for me to not let it go, yet I hold on with dear life, as the expression goes. It has a life of its own. It could be the pristine surface of a new car. It could be my ability to climb walls when I was 20. It could be any number of things that went away on their own. The scroll in the zendo tells me that everything changes. Holding on tight doesn't really keep things from changing. It just prolongs that change a little.

I had to meet her dad to take her to the prom. He didn't want to let go. How I would love to meet him now, learning that 50 years ago he may have been the primary person responsible for splitting the atom at the University of Chicago. But then it was just a dad who couldn't let his daughter go. And now she may still be held tight by her dad, long ago deceased, who won't let her go.

I was thinking about letting go of my stories. Which one should I start with? How about the one that I can do anything by myself. That's a joke. So many tools were given to me that enabled my survival and my happiness. People for thousands of years worked their tails off so I could type on this ipad. And so many people went way beyond the call of duty to nudge me on. So I'll let go of my thought of being self-reliant. 

I could let go of my story that I'm any better than I am. When I goofed up today and forgot to give the chant card to the head student, I was embarrassed. Someone might have noticed that I wasn't as good as I wanted them to believe. I screwed up, as I do most days in one way or another. Major screw up ;). Yet if I let go of me being any better than I am, then I would just look at my major screw up as indicating I'm just a beginner.

I could let go of the fact that I know anything at all. In ancient China, if you said you've seen a painting, that would mean you could replicate it from memory. So what have I seen, even of my own work?

Let go of friendships too? Why do we think that friendships are forever? Maybe some are, but others change or die. Is that ok? It doesn't matter. Everything changes, right?

I read yesterday that both men and women speak an average of 16,000 words a day. I wonder if I should let go of the idea that I said anything other than to express a lot of confusion. How many of those words were needed? How much more would I have learned if I had shut my mouth and listened? I must let go of the idea that I have something to say. And maybe convert that energy into having something to hear...or even just to be.

When my father was dying he was very brave, yet he had a lot of trouble going to the other side. My sister was yelling at him over the phone, telling him he didn't need to hang on—that he could let go now. It was as if he was holding onto a rope holding himself hanging from a branch on a cliff. He couldn't let go, even knowing that he also could not hold on.

I realized last night that holding on is much harder than letting go. Maybe I think I'm a loser if I don't hold on tight, even if it does little good. What can I let go of next? How long can I hold the rope, anyway?

Kim Mosley


“And in the case of superior things like stars, we discover a kind of unity in separation. The higher we rise on the scale of being, the easier it is to discern a connection even among things separated by vast distances.”
― Marcus Aurelius,
Dem Bones

Toe bone connected to the foot bone
Foot bone connected to the heel bone
Heel bone connected to the ankle bone
Ankle bone connected to the shin bone
Shin bone connected to the knee bone
Knee bone connected to the thigh bone
Thigh bone connected to the hip bone
Hip bone connected to the back bone
Back bone connected to the shoulder bone
Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone
Neck bone connected to the head bone--
Now hear the word of the Lord.

We read the quote and the song, both about connections, and then we went outside for a thought experiment, which was

Sit as long as you need outside, noticing how things are connected. You may write as you look or you may look and then write.


I listened to a dharma talk last week about emptiness by Norman Fisher: Prajna Paramita. He spoke about how we and the objects around us are empty of an essence. We can call a chair a chair all we want, but all that it is, for the time being, is some apparent collection of impermanent objects that will support us, should we want to sit on it. And what is an object, either from a Buddhist or modern physics perspective? Is there really anything there?

He said that “we only exist in relation.” So my face exists only as a conceptual relationship of its elements (nose, eyes, skin, etc.). And my body exists as a name for an another assortment of elements. We exist in our minds as we relate to one another.

There is something there in the way we are connected. I wondered, when I went outside and looked around, how I had not noticed that "everything is connected" is not a theory, but rather an observation. The sidewalk is connected to the ground that is connected to the bamboo that rises up into the sky, touching the clouds that are touching the moon. So how many things are there if they are all interconnected? And is the past, present, and future connected in the same way?

We do not create this connection in our minds. Rather, these things that surround us are touching each other. We touch each other, either on a friendly day or a mean day. We don't like all our connections. But, like it or not, they are connections which are special and very real.

I didn't like the role I was playing in my dreams. Who makes up these dreams? I asked. And why am I the same person in my dreams? How am I connected to that stranger who lurks in my consciousness?

My grandson, age four, has been telling his mom his dreams. In the dreams where his mom has a role, he asks his mom in the morning how the dream was for her, believing wholeheartedly that his mom must have had the same dream as he, since she was a participant.

I had an art teacher who would tell us that all space was variation of densities. This really challenges the idea of separate objects. Another art teacher would tell us that there are no lines, only edges. The way our language structures reality, for things to be connected, they need to be separate. We don’t say that an apple is connected to itself. But it is connected to its stem, as it is to the hand that holds it. We look at our fingers. Yes, we have ten little Indians... But where do they stop and our palms start? Are they separate?

Giving seems pretty goofy sometimes. We give as if we are separate. But if we truly separate, we would have no need for one another. We get satisfied when our friends have their wishes fulfilled. We get disappointed when our friends are lacking in what they need. But in the sense they are our friends, like our fingers, we are, in the end, one and the same. And some believe that the divine permeates it all.

This morning I would like to talk about prajna paramita. The perfect wisdom the Buddha opened up to on this morning. As we were saying, wisdom means the wisdom of emptiness. Completely seeing and truly knowing that all dharmas are empty. So let’s see if we can investigate a little what this actually means. So when you hear the word empty it might give you a sinking feeling. Maybe the word sounds a little bit chilling. Maybe it gives you this creepy feeling that nothing actually exists. That everything is an illusion. Could that really be what emptiness means? Well, yes, sort of. Everything is an illusion. Nothing exists in the way we think it does. As a fixed entity with its own being. And when you study the emptiness teachings, that is exactly what they say. What are things empty of? They are empty of any own being. So nothing has its own being. Everything depends on everything else for its being. You depend on everyone and everything for your being. Without other beings, clearly, you are not here. Your parents for a start… And everyone else who feeds you and takes care of you every single day. The sun, the earth, the air. You completely are dependent on everything. All by yourself there is no you. And you have no being of your own. None at all. You only exist in relation. What happens when you really understand this point. You feel grateful. Of course you do. Gratefulness is the feeling of emptiness. Every minute. Thank you, thank you for this life. So this is what emptiness is. There is no you alone, only you in relation. It means if you look for yourself closely you will not find yourself. The more you look the more you’ll find there is nothing there. And this is definitely the case. If you look for your face you will not find your face. You’ll find nose, eyes, cheeks, eyebrows, skin, and so on, but no face. It turns out the face is empty of anything other than the word face, a concept upon which we put some feeling. And it is empty of anything of the various parts that we put a word on and say face. But then if you look for the nose and the eyes the same thing happens. It turns out that words such as nose and eyes are just concepts.

—Norman Fisher

Kim Mosley


A Conversation About Dreams

The talk turns to dreams.
Kim says his grandson dreamed his mother
was walking with him.
When the boy woke, he asked her,
Did you see the mouse? What did you think?

We are so alone in dreams, says Sarah L.
My children sleep and they cry out.
I don't know what trouble they are facing
and I can't go in and help them.

Yes, I think, for the child in the dream,
the running is real.
A chasm opens in front of her
as monkey creatures scrabble at her legs.
A monster steps heavy through the night,
his breath closer and closer.

Maybe a friend is there in the dream,
standing beside her, or a mother,
but the child is the one who decides.
She must run away—and she does,
thrashing in her sheets.
She must lift the sword heavy in her hand.
We learn to be heroes this way,
turning, lifting the sword.

Sarah Webb



part of each other:
—the left shoelace is the same lace as the right shoelace
—branches slant and twist, each in its own way, all of it oak

reaching each other:
—the walkway flows into the sidewalk, which flows into the street, which flows into the cross street east, which flows to Lamar and on to the world of roads
—water splashes down into stones

the same as each other:
—leaves scatter over limestone and cactus and gravel
—our minds know the night garden

in a pattern with each other:
—twigs fork from the branches, branches from the oak
—stones in the pavement, large and small
—our bodies and our pens

—rotting leaf and dirt and cactus root and the little animals of the mulch
—porch lights and streetlights and car lights, lights on the oak, on the Buddha, Christmas lights

—left hand and right hand press each other in gassho
—we read each other what we have written and laugh

coming out of the same underlying force:
—all of us, all of everything
—the ache in my heart says, apart, apart, one and apart

Sarah Webb


The Water That Connects

Metal bowl setting on a bed of rocks.
No, they're connected by flowing water.
They are a fountain of metal and stone.
The pump that drives the connection
is connected to the city power grid,
that's connected to the wind generators out west
driven by the subtropical jet stream
coming off the Pacific.

The stone Buddha watching over the fountain's
connected to the historical Buddha
2500 years ago, half way round
the world.  It's all connected,
the farther you go, the farther ago.
The 2 million light-year away
Andromeda galaxy is showing
its 2 million years younger self
in our night sky.

—Jeffrey Taylor

Do Something New

The assignment was “Do something new.” l tried to sign up for piano lessons—free as part of a research project at University of Texas... but I'm sure they will reject me because I was honest in the application, saying stuff like I have an information processing disorder, attention deficit disorder, was not one who listened to music and didn't do a lot more stuff. I'm sure I'll end up to be a reject even after meeting the requirements of wearing a hearing aid and being over 50.

And then there is the thing of assignments. Ugh. I hate assignments. When am I going to do assignments? I wasn't going to be busy when I retired. I was going to just roll out of bed and wonder what I should do.

Trump said that the government could only add a program if it eliminated two. I eliminate one program and add two.

The assignment was “Don't read pages 98–102 in the biography on Gandhi,” but I read the pages anyway—and as a 12-year-old, I was rewarded with some juicy details about Gandhi's mental wanderings.

About an hour ago, I panicked a little. I had pangs of guilt—deep dirty guilt.  I had made up this assignment and then not done it. Thankfully, I then I remembered that I did do something new this week. Something that I'm ashamed about, but I'll share it anyway.

I'm a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. But I've lost my status (temporarily) because I've gained ten pounds since a year or two ago. I think I might have cheated to get the lifetime certificate... which was a charm for a charm bracelet and a postcard (above) from one of the leaders. I wore a lot of heavy clothes when I first weighed in and then lost a few pounds. I say I might have cheated, because now I don't remember whether it mattered what I weighed in the beginning. It is getting down to your ideal weight that is the goal. And now I’ve learned that getting there is not the goal—that staying there is.

In any case, I'm back now, recording everything I eat and trying to stick to 26 points a day, which is what worked for me before.

I think they suggest not weighing yourself every day. So, taking “not weighing” as the assignment, I did the opposite, compulsively weighing myself each morning and logging it on my iTrackBites app. One day I'd behave myself and gain weight, and the next day I'd eat bbq chicken and lose weight. So what I did new was to eat more than 26 points since there appeared to be an inverse relationship between how much I ate and the weight I gained. I did that for a few days and got completely satiated, and, unfortunately, gained a few more pounds.

Whoever wrote that book Calories Don't Count was from another planet—a skinny one at that.

Today I was pretty hungry around lunch time and didn't have any food around. I stopped by Natural Grocers and bought a package of four muffins that looked pretty innocent. In the past I would count them as two pointers. This time I made the dumb mistake of scanning the barcode to reveal the truth. I thought to myself that this was ridiculous to waste my time scanning because the muffins seemed to be made by some Ma and Pa organization. But no, I was wrong. A muffin turned out to be an eight pointer! I had only eaten half, and saw that a portion was half a muffin, at four points. Any reasonable person with a little self control would have stored the other half for a rainy day. But, no, I felt guilty for misrepresenting the muffin in the past and ate it all.

So I had three left. I stopped by a friend's house and gave her one. Did I tell her it was an eight pointer? No. Did I feel guilty because I didn’t? Yes. But if I had, it would have ruined the idea of a tasty gift.

And besides, you don't gain weight from one muffin, do you?

Something new? Well, I also decided that whenever we do the same old in a new way, that's something new. And maybe it is more new than the unchartered waters of newness.

Kim Mosley

P.S. Just received this piano class rejection (I’m sure this rejection was a gift from Heaven):

Hi Kim,

Thank you for filling out our project questionnaire! Unfortunately, you do not meet the qualifying criteria for our study. If you would like for us to keep your information for any future studies, please let us know.




with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you ....  
—W.S. Merwin 1927


I have made it
 to the two year mark,
thankful.  I made it with a wife
 who was the light out of the dark place
where I was not sure I could go on.

The chem doctor says “Two years is key
 though for three, we’ll watch carefully
and then free you to fly on your own at five.”

I’ve learned compassion, to suffer with,
 because now I have enough
suffering of my own to begin
 to hear, to understand, to relate, though
no two sufferings are the same.

I’ve learned humility, painfully, bumped
 off the place of privilege
that an 800 lb gorilla mind carries.
 I now see sometimes where it sat
was on me and my relationships.

I’ve had a rainbow of guides through a place
 where there are travelers
but no natives; caravans in fact
 because solo travelers
seldom thrive.

Though insurance picked up
 most of the bills, I can pay more
in the coin of the realm: in thanks,
 in good news, in being a success story
where not all
 are so successful.

—Jeffery Taylor


Writing Group
November 29
Thanks by W.S. Merwin
Sarah brought the prompt

Bro. Stendl-Rast says,
“If thank you is the only prayer we ever say
it will be sufficient.”

Thank you.
Here is the key,
Centering Prayer—
the prayer of silence—
teaches me to listen
and the world
of trees, and birds, and fountains,
small kitten-size fountains,
sunrises and sunsets,
glows and shimmers with new light
after the silence of listening.
Thank you.

Other things, too,
come sharply into focus
with listening.
Swastikas on churches,
churches burning,
violence done—victims blamed.
To say thank you
is not so easy as
thank you to small, kitten-size fountains.

To say thank you
is Bhakti—devotion.
Is it also Karma—service?
And is it Jana—knowledge?
Re-incarnation—to be made flesh again—
would be thank you
in this system
and the spiral would
come round again.
A single incarnation is perhaps not enough
to encompass so vast a response
as Thank you.

—Janelle Curlin-Taylor



WS Merwin begins the poem which is our prompt tonight, with the word


on a single line.

...but I'm all thanked out, so I guess I can talk about anything else.

Oh, just before arriving here, I went to Wheatsville to buy coffee beans, and ate half of a rosemary & salt bagel with some Gouda cheese. And you can probably smell the aroma of French Roast wafting out of my orange colored daypack. If that bothers anyone here, let me know and I will go shopping after Zen Writing in the future.

While walking into Wheatsville I met a fellow gardener from Sunshine Community Gardens where we both have plots.  She said she had been looking for me. Seems her eggplant plants have more produce than they can eat, and she invited me to  pick all I can use.

Thank you Marianne & John.

In my 'checkin' before we started writing tonight I mentioned making crockpot beans and having the electricity turned off by Austin Electric to allow the Asplundh crew to safely clear some tree limbs from the wires on the next block.

My building was not notified, but that's another story.

The power went off promptly at 9 AM. The Pinto beans had been going on high since about 7:30 or 8:00 AM.  I had just added the sautéed onions, garlic and green bell peppers from the frying pan when the lights went off and so did the crockpot.

During the power outage I rode my bike to the HEB grocery store at 41st Street and Red River, even though the HEB at Burnet Road and Koenig Lane is closer. I had to use up some time before the 1 PM scheduled power outage was over.

The terrain to 41st Street is mostly flat with some gentle slopes, whereas the route to Burnet/Koenig is up, down, up, then going back it is down, up, down. Added to that route are 2 four-lane road crossings, always difficult for pedestrians and cyclist.

I'm always thankful when I get across a busy avenue either on foot or bike. The four lane roads are more dangerous even at intersections with traffic lights because of vehicles making turns.

Those beans turned out real nice.... eventually.


Stomach full

Mind dull

Second guessing every thought

Better to Listen on empty.

—Dave Royal


Do we just say thank you for the good things that have been happening? Are there even “good” things, or is everything a mixed bag? Does everything glitter just a little? Are we being over dramatic when we say “this is bad”?

It was so cold we invented the furnace. Someone's kids moved far away, so the telephone was invented. Is it not worth saying "thank you" for anything?

Buddha was continually harassed by Mara, who tried to take him off the path. Some say Mara was evil and even the devil. I think we should say “thank you” to Mara, who so skillfully kept Buddha on the path by challenging him over and over again. How steadfast would Buddha have been without Mara? Would his journey be worthwhile if it wasn’t met with challenges?

On a beautiful day, my wife had to walk to pick up the kids because her car didn't start. “This isn't how I wanted to spend my day,” she said. Thank you. David's electricity was turned off. Thank you. His life became a little more surprising. Thank you.

I bought really good five cheese macaroni for my four year old. He didn't say "thank you", nor would he eat it. So I bought kid’s mac and cheese tonight. “Take the cheese off,” he said. “Thank you for four-year-olds,” I thought.

Gomer Pyle said “Thank you thank you thank you.” (Or was it, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!"?). He pretended, at least, to be really appreciative.

It seems so easy to bemoan that the world isn't as we'd like it to be. But if it was, it would be boorrriinnng. So thank you for that. I'll wake up tomorrow morning and say "thank you"... because I don't know what the world will serve me for breakfast. Just like when I sit zazen. What will come into my little noodle? Or when I open my mail. What will I see? Will someone scold me because I was a little too this or that? Will someone tell me that I won the lottery? Will faux Microsoft Bodhisattvas call me to tell me that they will fix the virus on my computer? Will all my machines work right? My gadgets? Thank you (I hope they don’t… they’ll have time to rest).

I love surprises. I like when the car doesn't start. I love when I'm at Home Depot and told that I should come right home. I love when I try to go home, and the road is closed. Thank you for making this life so unpredictable and so exciting.

What will happen next? Will I say "thank you"? When my four-year-old says thank you he doesn't look up. So I say to him, “Charlie,” and then he remembers and looks up, and says once more, this time with a smile, “Thank you!!!!!!”

Kim Mosley


In Face of Dark
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is —W.S. Merwin
Figures are fading from us
into the trees, high-branched and dark.

We reach for them, for the hands that clasp back,
the fur and claw that surprise our clutching fingers.
We know these things we love may go—
the wind may blow them from us,
trail them in smoke from us
as this world passes, as it spills
its wrong and its beauty like coin.

We turn toward the dark
that has risen from the sea below us,
the fingers of fog that run up the notches of the rivers,
and we bow and we say, welcome.
You have come to show us a new way
terrible in its newness, terrible in its beauty.

We do not know what lies in this dark.
We do not know if any way can be walked through such a dark,
such a fog blind and cold and reaching for us,
but still we turn to it and bow.


When the Cup

When the cup has fallen,
we do not lap the water from the sand.
It has gone and our hopes with it.
We set it upright for rain to fill,
a drink for some other traveler.
Come now, we will climb the rocks together,
follow the line where feet have worn away the lichen.
We will trust that scuffed line.
We will trust there is water ahead in some crevice.
We will trust there is a way.

Sarah Webb

Zen in the Martial Arts

Writing Prompt Nov. 22, 2016 
The legendary Zen master Takuan Sōhō said: 
“The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing,’ for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. 
When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword, which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man’s subconscious that strikes.”

or in a single line: 
"When you seek it, you cannot find it" 
after reading Joe Hyams’ Zen in the Martial Arts

Escaping Bandits

Let's say you are running from bandits
and you know, you know to run zigzag and random
but your random isn't random enough
and the shots are stinging closer.
The plan you had to make the juniper to the right
is forestalled by a hail of bullets.
What will you do?

That's when you tumble into the river,
down the clay bank with a splash.
You knew the river was there, you knew.
You'd planned on it, you'd planned to go into the chaparral,
then across the river and into the brush on the other side
and up the draw into the hills.
But now you have tumbled into the river
and it is carrying you faster than you could swim
but not across—down and under and around,
big boulders lurching toward you.
The bandits race along the bank.
Sometimes they see a head bob, bob up
and suck under and swirl away.
Their guns peck peck across the top of the water.

And now what?
That river is taking you fast and far and you have to let it
but you do your doggy paddle and you plan, you plan again
for the soft yellow of a beach you know lies ahead
and the brush that reaches to its edge.

Huh! bandits know how people think.
They are waiting at that curve of sand, their guns aimed.
The perfect place to land, they think, to crawl into the shallows
and we will get him then.
But that's not what the river has in mind.
It ducks you under, crashes you against a boulder,
and, dizzy, you have to let yourself go into the current

right on past that bank where the mass of horses wait.
You do not even know you are going past
because you are floundering deep under the green water,
fighting for breath, and when you come up—
ah, you are far beyond that beach
into territory you do not know, places you cannot plan,
a route that leads you away from bandits, away from the life you knew.
You are free to go upon your way.

“I Want to be a Better Person.” “Really?”

The Pit of Someday Must

The oil of what I should be
slides round me in a dark pool, 
sucks at my legs,
La Brea Tar Pit of expectations, have-to's, plans.

I shiver, fling gobbets of dark oil,
as I lever one slippery leg out,
then a second.
I push. The glop releases
with a bubble of recrimination--oh, but you must!

I turn my head and sink onto the sand.
Today I will not work toward anything,
will not wish myself different.
I will rest my lumpy body in the sun,
clothed only in sand and grit
and the smear of obligation denied.

How strange it feels to lie here,
nothing to do, nothing to be.
It is okay, okay, I soothe myself
as alarm races down my arms--
I better ... haven't I got to ...

I stroke my greasy arm. 
It is okay, I whisper.

Sarah Webb



Something feels wrong about trying to be a better person. We talk about changing a lightbulb but we really don't do that, rather, we replace it. Come to think of it, most of my life I've wanted to be someone else. A full replacement. 

And that's sick!

I used to think that it would be cool to be Babe Ruth or Einstein, but they are both in pretty bad shape right now. So I’ll nix that idea. 

Then there was Picasso. Yes, he was some artist, but some of his personal life wasn't very artful, and I'd hate that. 

I guess this urge to be someone else is like playing hopscotch and wishing you were playing croquet. Is one game better than another? I don't think so. 

So how do I go about life without being engulfed in fantasies and pipe dreams?  What does it take to just accept the cards I was dealt?

There are a few parts that couldn't be improved. I'd love the two inches back that I’ve shrunk. I'd love to be the athletic star that B was in high school though I wouldn't want his illness or bum leg. And this list goes on and on. 

Someone this morning was saying he wouldn't get married because he only wanted someone he'd be super proud to be seen with. I didn't have the heart to tell him that beauty fades, even with seemingly perfect people. 

So the remaining problem: should I get that one wish from a genie—who will I choose to become? Me?


I want to be a better person.

Really? I want to be elephantine.
I want to forget everything I know of words
and teach you my ancient elephant language
until you feel it in your hands and chest and feet.
I want you to beat djembe drums in riotous
rumbling rhythms until I feel them pulsing
throughout my sturdy elephant legs,
and I sometimes find myself swaying to and fro
as I feel your heart beating in my heartbeat.
I want nothing of good or of better,
just the textures of our togetherness
as we move our slow and knowing bodies
through this gorgeous sensate world.

—Emma Skogstad


I want to be a better writer
a better painter
a better mother
a better friend
a better housekeeper
a better citizen.
There’s always room for learning more
Becoming more skilled
More responsive
More—lots of things.
But would this make me a better person?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Will I do the things necessary to become better?
I received a teaching on Shantideva’s
Way of a Bodhisattva.
A bodhisattva is a good person.
A better person.
The qualities a bodhisattva cultivates are
Moral conduct
I always get hung up on the perseverance.
I’ll stop now.


I have an idea better than better.

I will be who I am. Completely.

I will not be who you see me as, who you want me to be, certainly not who society says I ought to be.  No, I will be me.  I will dance awkwardly, laugh a lot, smile even more, burst into song whenever I am moved to, cry when I want to.  I will listen to my body as it moves through nature.  More importantly, I will heed my intuition, my soul, as it nudges my will this way or that.  I will do what I know to be right and do not what I know to be wrong.

Better is an illusion.  It is subjective. It is a concept forever out of grasp.

But to be myself, to be as I am; that is the fullness of being.

And that, my friends, is far better than "better" ever hoped to be.

—Linda Neighbors

This Is What You Shall Do

This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body." —Walt Whitman

I close my eyes,
After the chant,
I get this image in my head of a penny in my hand,
A lucky penny at that.
The surroundings of nature embrace my meditative state of mind.
Sitting in the chair in this room; I'm sitting alone.
“Leaves of Grass” the words appear everywhere.
Bold and Loud; the depth of this meaning.
Blank walls but words written around.
I'm still thinking about why I have this imaginary penny in my hand.
Context clues come into play.
Leaves of Grass,
Grass and leaves,
Like sea to waves,
Water to Oceans
Were created to leaves and grass.
You create it how you see it.
I'm sitting here imagining pulling out books and reading one word out of each book.
It's called imaginary play.
Everyone's definition to leaves to grass is a picture you puzzle together.
A strategy to science;
Like clouds and water, the words that the universe sent to the table to end this page.

—Desiree Romero

What am I Going to do About It?

The world isn’t the way I want it to be.
The world is just as it is.
What am I going to do about it?


The world isn’t the way I want it to be.

My feet are on top of the world
massaging it, sensing it…
I can feel it’s sharp ridges,
then another sharpness—
knives, bullets, shrapnel,
angry words, insults, bullying.

I can feel its openings—
chasms that separate land,
separate countries,
separate people.
Lives shattered,
hearts and promises broken.

I can feel its wetness—
tears of pain, sorrow, loss,
tears of insolation, abandonment, regret.
Waters flooding homes, lives,
washing away belongings and memories.

The world is just as it is.

I can feel its ridges,
places where hearts and lives are mended,
where differences are celebrated,
where bridges are built to connect.

I can feel its openness.
Minds and hearts opening to love.
Arms opening to hugs and healing.
Borders opening to welcome all home.

I can feel its wetness.
Tears of joy at birth and renewal.
Tears of joy as war turns to peace.
Parched lands restored,
Parched hearts revived.

My feet are on top of the world,
dancing with joy
to the healing rhythms of Mother Earth.

The world is as I want it to be:
gratitude upon gratitude. 

Elena Rivera


These lines aren’t the way I want them to be.
I want the second line to be first: “The world is just as it is.”
That’s where I need to start.
Not with what I want, but with things as they are.
Trying to understand the world just as it is,
that’s a lifetime’s work and I’m still working on it.
I still don’t get it.
These days, it seems like we all want something different.
Some people want all the thugs off the street.
Others want to be able to live their lives in peace without being harassed and killed by people who see them as thugs.
Some people want all the foreigners to go away somewhere, anywhere. Away.
Other people have nowhere to be.
Their homes are destroyed and they can’t go there anymore.
They want somewhere to be.
Some people want to be safe from insults, bullying and anger.
Other people want to say whatever they think, whenever they want to say it.
The world just as it is?
It’s a mess.

What am I going to do about it?

Donna Dechen Birdwell


I mentioned that if someone wrote a screenplay about the world as it is, no one would believe it.

Then I started thinking about what the world might be like if it was how people would like it to be. I'd like to eliminate all the meat and candy from Central Market. And also all the wine. Who needs that stuff anyway? People just do the wrong thing when they drink.

But then D came by and he wanted peanuts… just peanuts, so then the world changed and CM had only peanuts. And so on. So that might really be crazy if things were how we’d like them to be.

Actually, in retrospect, our delusions often let us believe that the world is how we’d like it to be… for those incredibly short moments. Even today, I mentioned that I was 1/2 of my world. A crazy delusion!

Yesterday I was talking to T about the way it is, and he mentioned another aspect that I didn't even consider. What it is is not just what we read about in geology and biology textbooks. It is also how we feel about it. So I'm driving on Interstate 35 and there is lots of traffic. That is what is. And I'm feeling frazzled… mad, wishing that I had left a few hours earlier before all these people got out of bed. So "what is" is not just the traffic... it is my mind agonizing over what is. Imagine someone looking down onto Earth. Someone who only observes and doesn't react. She would see you and me and the cars... And we'd all be what is.

And then the tough question. What will I do about it? I can run, I can endure, or I can change. Or I can do nothing. Just sit there like a “bump on a log,” as my sisters would say when one of us wouldn't play.

There is an event coming soon that I would rather didn’t happen. I can avoid it, hoping it will just not be. I can go, but not really go, hoping that I can satisfy both the need to go and not go, or I can really go, fully embracing the situation authentically.

Complaining and disparaging might take place. Bad qi might permeate the space. Is that doing something about it? Or is it just wishing that things were different? And if things were just like we’d want them to be, would we like that? Or would we complain about that too?

My house is too small. No room for a ping pong table. Next day, when vacuuming, the house is too big. No time for anything but cleaning it. And on and on.

So I guess facing the music is all that I can do. I can embrace and embody things as they are. That's all we have to work with. I can observe it, and me within it, reacting, responding, hating or loving. I’m a half of what is... It is real to me, but not for you.

Do we live in the same place? Hardly. But we can meet somewhere, somehow, and dance with the stars.

Kim Mosley