Tuesday, January 31, 2012


As winter winds down
Even finch head to the tree
Thoughts of pink blossoms

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Listen, i know you're out there, so don't just sit there silently. We both know you want to go to Shikoku, to walk the henro trail. You want that experience. But you don't want to walk it alone; you don't speak the language, you don't want to try and figure out the maps, you don't know if you can do it, but you really want to go.

You want to walk, but you don't want to feel as if you're just following someone else. You want someone to lead you but you want it to be your own experience. You don't want to see Shikoku, you want to experience the henro trail. You want to be a henro. You want to wander the same mountains and shores that the Daishi wandered. You want to see the caves where he sat in meditation until that wonderful morning of enlightenment. You want to soak up the power at all 108 temples. You want that gift you receive in return for exerting everything you've got to climb those last 100 meters to the next temple. You want those lazy naps on the beaches of Kōchi Prefecture.

I know you're out there. You can afford a guide, that's just not the issue. Making the decision is the issue. Making the commitment is the issue. So do it. Get in touch. We can leave at the end of March.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Unflagging Pursuit

"Whenever a Jesuit priest or a Calvinist pastor does anything of significance (for instance, making a key decision), he is expected to write down what results he anticipates. Nine months later, he then feeds back from the actual results to these anticipations. This very soon shows him what he did well and what his strengths are. It also shows him what he has to learn and what habits he has to change. Finally it shows him what he is not gifted for and cannot do well. I have followed this method myself, now for fifty years. It brings out what one's strengths are—and this is the most important thing an individual can know about himself or herself. It brings out where improvement is needed and what kind of improvement is needed. Finally, it brings out what an individual cannot do and therefore should not even try to do. To know one's strengths, to know how to improve them, and to know what one cannot do—they are the keys to continuous learning."

Drucker On Asia
Peter Drucker

And back to my favorite running buddy, George Sheehan:

"The normal life is one of continual expansion. We are forever occupied with expressing or discharging what is latent in us. We are maximizes, always trying to make whatever is potential in our personality a living reality. If there is one word for human nature, it is more."


"Human nature has not changed, we have common feelings and needs. With thought and a little guidance to elevate our consciousness, we can make use of our immediate experience. Only then will we learn, only then will we change our behavior.

"Life is a permanent boot camp. We must always be in training—and training not only in our bodies but in our minds and spirits as well." ... "What it takes to win are the virtues and values that have come down to us over the centuries. They are embodied in the athlete, the artist, the hero the saint, the sage—which is a simple description of the evolution of the common man.

"Life is not a skill sport. It does not require hand-eye coordination. It is not determined by our intelligence quotient, not dependent on a beatific vision. It is a game anyone can play and play well. ...

"Effort is the measure of a man. But it is effort concentrated on the creation and development of the ideal self. Our energies must be directed towards the shaping and making of the total personality. We must unflaggingly pursue personal excellence—arete—the goal of the Greeks."

Personal Best
George Sheehan

Monday, January 23, 2012

That Time Of Year

Sadly, it is that time of year... when the snow and ice have affected the roads enough that i no longer trust sharing them with the cars, or their bad drivers, more accurately. Today i hung up my running shoes, replaced the batteries for the display in my indoor bike, and rode my first miles of the year. Sighhh....

As i begin what i hope will only be a month of indoor riding instead of outdoor running, i think of George Sheehan:

"Is there anyone out there who isn't concerned about self-worth? About an uncertain identity and low self-esteem? Is there anyone not on a constant search for autonomy, mastery and control? The runner is no different from others in these needs. The question then becomes how to satisfy those needs—and is running the way to do it? Or is it really a negative addiction that costs more than the benefits it confers?

"Some health-care specialists think so. The dogma goes something like this: Running is acceptable when done for health or to relieve anxiety. It is not acceptable when it is accompanied—as it is in many runners—by the intensity and exclusiveness usually reserved for religious fanaticism. At that point, appropriate preventive and therapeutic measures should be instituted. Runners must be saved from the maladaptive behavior that has taken over their lives.

"I don't dispute the description of the typical runner as a person intensely committed to his sport. But I also accept the findings of researchers at California State University at Fullerton. Runners, they found, were 'more intelligent, more dominant, more aggressive, more socially reticent, a but more suspicious, more shrewd, mire self-sufficient, and more unconventional than nonrunners.'

"It is not the details of our behavior that are in question, it is the judgement made from them. What some see as a problem I see as the solution. For me, running has narrowed the distance between what I am and what I can be, between the actual self and the ideal, between aspiration and reality."

Personal Best

Just in case you didn't read that whole excerpt, or skim read it, let me repeat the important part: Running narrows the distance between what I am and what I can be, between the actual self and the ideal, between aspiration and reality. As the title of his book points out, running leads you towards your personal best.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stormy Conditions

Snow falls in Lockport
Blowing this way and then that
Thoughts just come and go

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Frozen Runner

A cold 25F 5 miler, run under completely overcast skies. :-(

Road Kill 15
Ice just doesn't freeze
That's the job of the water
Lao too is frozen

Most People Prefer The Plague

"We're determined that life go as we want it to go. When it doesn't, we're angry, confused, depressed, or otherwise upset. To have such feelings is not bad in itself, but who wants a life dominated by such feelings? 

"When attention to the present moment falters and we drift into some version of 'I have to have it my way,' a gap is created in our awareness of reality as it is, right now. Into that gap pours all the mischief of our life. We create gap after gap after gap, all day long. The point of practice is to close these gaps, to reduce the amount of time that we spend being absent, caught in our self-centered dream. 

"We make a mistake, however, if we think that the solution is that I pay attention. Not 'I sweep the floor,' 'I slice the onions,' 'I drive the car.' Though such practice is okay in the preliminary stages, it preserves self-centered thought in naming oneself as an 'I' to which experience is present. A better understanding is simple awareness: just experiencing, experiencing, experiencing. In mere awareness there is no gap, no space for self-centered thoughts to arise.


"The recipe for living is simply to do what we're doing. Don't be self-conscious about it; just do it. When self-centered thoughts come up, then we've missed the boat; we've got a gap. That gap is the birthplace of the troubles and upsets that plague us."

Nothing Special, Living Zen
Joko Beck

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Just Being

How liberating it is 
to lay aside
the restriction of just being [Dave]
the handcuffs of just being [male]
How liberating it is 
to escape
the prison of just being [American]
How free it feels
to cast off all
limiting labels
To settle quietly
into being
neither expanding
nor contracting
neither changing
nor becoming
neither coming
nor going
having those tight
life choking
into both
and nothing
into neither
nor nothing

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Climbing To Nowhere

This is the henro trail.

No, wait. Maybe this the henro trail?

Two very typical pictures from the henro trail. Two that probably appear in the photo album of everyone who has ever walked it with a camera. The problem, i'm afraid, is that for some, the first is the "good" picture, the real henro trail, and the second is the "bad" picture, what you are forced to endure between experiences of the first.

Yes, i admit that in the past i have criticized and complained about the amount of time spent walking on the side of the road, but over the years my understanding of the "trail" has changed.

Walking the trail is a never ending series of ups and downs, climbs and descents, and it is only human nature to prefer the peaks to the valleys. From the peaks, the panorama can take your breath away, with all of existence laid out right there before your eyes. On the peaks, exhilaration makes you tingle as you revel in feelings of accomplishment, knowing what you overcame to make the climb. On the peaks, you might find those reclusive masters who have already found what a piece of you is looking for.

The first picture is a wonderful depiction of this aspect of our walk. It is a very rare person who makes the climb by him/herself. Other people before you were also beckoned by that peak, and have built stairs to help you with your climb; stairs that not only make the climb a little less difficult, but also assure you that step-by-step you remain on the correct path.

The best benefactors don't build elevators and escalators — no, that would make the climb too easy; no lessons could be learned, and no lesson is ever learned unless it comes through your own personal experience of it. The stairs that they offer are rustic; rough hewn, sometimes shaky and unsteady, sometimes even with obstacles still growing across your path, but they will be solid and navigable. And both sides of the stairs will be beautifully landscaped, reminding you of the beauty of the world around you as you stop from time to time to let your body catch up to your dreams.

As you climb higher, further and further above the life you are used to, even handrails might be offered. Those that have walked before you have done all that they can to encourage you to make the climb, because they know that the experience at the peak could change your life.

But, most of us don't visit the peaks, we can't. Most of us live in the second picture. We have mortgages, car payments, and other bills to pay, families to feed, kids to rear and educate, and to pay for all of that, jobs that we must go to day after day.

We still see the peaks and dream of visiting them, but all too often we are limited to walking in the valleys, amidst the noise and bustle, cars and traffic, our neighbors houses, and the businesses that line the road. Walk we do, though, because just sitting still and settling into mediocrity would be too hard to bear.

Then, if we are lucky, it dawns on us during one of our walks that there is no difference between the two henro trails. Both have expansive views, they just look different. Both offer that tingling feeling of exhilaration that comes after the struggle to success, just in different arenas. And there are masters living even in the hovels of rundown urban areas, you just need to see them.

So, while the first picture is certainly beautiful and certainly depicts a wonderful experience, one well worth undertaking, don't forget that the second picture is also the henro trail, one where countless lessons can be learned. The only requirement is that we continue to glance up at those peaks every now and then, remembering that in truth the climb to them leads to nothing and nowhere, and vowing to never let that allure fade.

Friday, January 13, 2012

You Are What You Think

"Thought allied fearlessly to purpose becomes creative force: he who knows this is ready to become something higher and stronger than a mere bundle of wavering thoughts and fluctuating sensations; he who does this has become the conscious and intelligent wielder of his mental powers."


"A man can only rise, conquer, and achieve by lifting up his thoughts. He can only remain weak, and abject, and miserable by refusing to lift up his thoughts."


"A man becomes calm in the measure that he understands himself as a thought evolved being, for such knowledge necessitates the understanding of others as the result of thought, and as he develops a right understanding, and sees more and more clearly the internal relations of things by the action of cause and effect he ceases to fuss and fume and worry and grieve, and remains poised, steadfast, serene."

James Allen
As A Man Thinketh

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Just Keep Walking

First substantial snow of the year today. It's been snowing all day and by tomorrow afternoon they say we'll have about 6" on the ground. It's hard to complain for one obvious reason and for one less obvious one.

The obvious one is that we have had extraordinarily pleasant weather this year. As late as yesterday, i was out running under clear skies with a temperature of 52F. And by late next week, the temperatures should return to the upper 30Fs to lower 40s. If anything, as winter running weather that should be called pleasant — certainly not cold.

The less obvious reason came from my yoga teacher the other day. When they started talking about this storm days ago, she started actively hoping for it. Why? Because her neighbor, who works in construction and landscaping during the rest of the year, counts on making money over the winter by plowing snow. No snow, no work. His contracts stipulate that there has to be more than 1" on the ground before he can plow and bill his clients. We haven't had that once this winter. No snow, no work; no work, no income; no income, no xyz... you name it.

Makes me feel incredibly selfish for hoping for no snow this year. How many times have i written here that we all lead very selfish lives, even though most of us would deny it. We give to charities, we volunteer our time, we go out of our way to consider others, etc... how could you call me selfish?

If that's how you interpret it, you are missing my point. There is a difference between not being selfish and being selfless. There is a difference between thinking of others and not thinking of yourself. There is a difference between noticing others and not living from that place where the distinction between oneself and others doesn't set the rules you live by.

No matter how far you have walked on this path, no matter how high you have climbed the mountain, there will always be a piece of you defined by the 'you' found on your ID card. It's foolish to think you can or should try to get rid of that piece. It's an important and useful tool.

Yet, that piece of you is lazy — luckily for us. The further you walk this path, the higher you climb the mountain, you begin to notice that that 'you' contentedly stays behind, sitting leisurely at the starting line. You begin to notice that it is an entirely different 'you' doing the walking and climbing. And that you is the real you.

The lazy, fake you always (ALWAYS) looks out for it's own interests. Should i volunteer time? Would that interfere with my yoga classes? Should i donate money? Will i be able to afford that new iPhone next month? Should i start an intense practice of right speech? I should, i'll be a better person. Should i meditate regularly? Of course, i could get enlightened.

Every decision this 'you' makes goes through the gate of "I." "I" sets all the rules for the game of life you currently play. The other you, however, sidesteps this gate. It sees it, and knows that on occasion it needs passing through to get things done, but in general it wanders the roads and hills away from that gate.

Is there a need for volunteers somewhere? Yes? Then make an offer, with zero regard to any rewards you may or may not obtain. Are you living in poverty, barely making ends meet each month? No? Then see where you can offer some of your extra so that those that are get some relief, with zero regard for any recognition you may or may not get. Does the person who just got on the bus use a cane? Or is elder? Then give up your seat; not because they need it but simply because you can. Acknowledge their thanks, but immediately let it leak out your ears and give it no further thought.

Do you want to start a start a solid Buddhist practice? Forget the four noble truths. Forget the eight-fold path. Forget right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right any of those. Start a practice of "right i."

Every time you do something, every time you say something, every time you think something... stop and notice that little piece of "I" that was involved. It's elusive and this will take serious practice and serious time, but it can be done. That's all you have to do is notice. Then say something like, "Ew, there it was. That sneaky little bastard." And move on. Over time as "I" finds it's not all that welcome anymore, it will find that beach chair and a beer and simply sit on the start line, assuming that you will, like you always did before, come back to it when you tire of the new game.

Only this time, you just keep walking.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Friday, January 6, 2012

Shikoku Henro Web Site

Spent the evening trying to come up with a new look for the Shikoku web site. I'm completely bored with the existing design and it's time for a change. Problem is, i have zero creativity.

It's time to turn off the computer for the night, but here is what i have come up with. Tomorrow i'll work on all the secondary pages and then put it all together. I hope everyone else accepts it.

Walk This Way

Road Kill 14

From where do you leave
Is there a place that you end
Walk always with this

A magnificently incredibly wonderful 6 mile run today under clear sunny skies with a temperature of 52 degrees! Amazing. Almost as close to perfection as they come. Beautiful day.

On another note, my sister gave me one of those digital picture frames for Christmas and i immediately loaded it full of pictures from the henro trail. Anyone want to guess what percentage of my time is now spent staring at the wall?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Not so sad farewells
Henro walk the eighty-eight
Leaving me at home

Monday, January 2, 2012

Wet Dreams

Cold winter morning
Teapot steam drifts languidly
Through dreams of warm days

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Henroroku 1

遍路録 1
(Henro Records 1)

Aspirations & Setting out

The Prologue
Setting out it's like a dream, so real yet hardly understood. From the time we arrive until the time we depart it's one breath after another, until near the end we realize that what we once took for certain about that insignificant act might not be all we thought.

The Main Case
Master Chie sat fanning himself in his quarters when Monk Mōsō approached and said, "I am setting out to undertake the Shikoku Henro. Do you have any advice."

Master Chie continued to fan himself.

Monk Mōsō, not understanding, asked again, "Can you give me any advice master."

Master Chie stopped fanning long enough to say, "Who is going?," and then began to fan himself again.

Again completely blind to his master's generosity, Monk Mōsō said, "I am, master."

"The weeds are thick and the moon will be covered as you set out. With luck you will get lost countless times. Aren't you afraid you will disappear?"

"No master, there are a great many sign posts along the trail in all four prefectures."

"There is only one, who speaks of four?"

"Master, you have lived here all your life. How can you ask such a question?"

"Get out you fool."

Monk Mōsō bowed, and in confusion set out on his journey.

The Capping Verse
Setting out who seeks
Which mind aspires to see it
From where do you leave


However long it took to plan, however far you traveled to get here, you now find yourself at the niōmon of Ryōzenji, Temple 1. This is where the henro starts for most people; and where it will also end some months later, but that's a story for much further down the road.

Your first action, while bowing in respect as you prepare to pass through the niōmon, should be to say goodbye to a loved one, the person who brought you here. That person is the one you saw in the mirror the last time you looked. That person is the one on the photo ID that you used to board the airplane to Japan. That person is the person you normally call 'you' when discussing your life.

Once you pass through the niōmon at Temple 1, you will begin a new relationship with that 'you.' Don't be rude, that 'you' is important and helps you in countless ways, day in and day out, to get you through your conventional life. It's simply that for what you are about to do, another 'you' is more appropriate, more important, and that 'you' is the real you.

Throughout the days and weeks to come, you will constantly see the phrase Dōgyō Ninin, Two Pilgrims, Walking Together. And while that universally means that you and Kōbō Daishi will be walking together, it could also be taken to mean that two sides of you, yourself, will be walking together.

With effort, over the course of the next 1,400 km the real you will be uncovered and a new working relationship will be established between that person you really are and that 'you' that lives on your ID card. It will take persistence, patience, and a resolve unlike most other projects you have undertaken.

This is the reason that Tokushima Prefecture, the first prefecture you walk through during your Henro, is called the Hosshin No Dōjō; The Dōjō of Awakening Faith. It is here, before that niōmon at Temple 1, that you resolve to work diligently, to do whatever it takes, to awaken to enlightenment, to awaken to who you really are underneath the person society has trained you to be.

Throughout this struggle, throughout the upcoming 1,400 km, your faith will be tested. But, as the prefectural name implies, Hosshin no Dōjō is a commitment, a resolution to maintain your faith — in Kōbō Daishi's willingness to help, in yourself, in your ability to complete what you are about to start, in your ability to persist and endure, and in your ability to open up enough to learn from the island, the temples, the people, and the experience as you walk day after day for the next several months.

Let's make this perfectly clear even before your first step: that which you will be seeking, that which you are devoting every ounce of your mental and physical strength to find, is already in your possession. You are not going to find something outside of yourself during this walk, you already have it — you simply need to learn how to open your hand and let the old, conventional 'you' fall away. This trip is not about gaining anything, but about letting go.

Dōgen makes this clear in his famous quote from the Genjōkoan chapter of his Shōbōgenzō”

"To learn the Buddhist Way is to learn about oneself. To learn about oneself is to forget oneself. To forget oneself is to perceive oneself as all things. To realize this is to cast off the body and mind of self and others. When you have reached this stage you will be detached even from enlightenment but will practice it continually without thinking about it."

To understand who you really are, who and what we all really are, you have to study yourself. Not original texts, commentaries, mandalas, rituals, or anything else outside of yourself. You have to study yourself. And as contrary as it may sound, that means forgetting yourself, that 'you' that lives on your ID card, that 'you' you have grown up with, that 'you' that has undergone countless days of training and conditioning to be as it is.

This is why you need to say goodbye to that 'you' as you begin your walk. You don't leave it behind, but you stick it in your backpack, or in the bag that holds your sutra book, candles, and incense, keeping it ever ready in case you need it, but out of the way so the real you has the chance to appear.

As Mōsō gets ready to set out he stopped to get any last minute advice from the master of his temple, Master Chie. Being the compassionate and generous master that he is, he tried to point out these issues to Monk Mōsō, but to no avail. At this point Mōsō is blind; he knows he is supposed to walk, but he has no other questions and without those questions, he is oblivious to any answers that are offered.

Master Chie has very generously given Mōsō the questions he will need to carry with him during his walk but they flew right over his head. But Mōsō has one thing going for him — he is resolved to figure out what happened. He has faith that Master Chie didn't call him a fool unthinkingly. His faith and resolve are alive and well.

And so begins his Henro.