Sally in the Zen

Confessions of a Befuddled Zen Buddhist


I do not want the peace which passeth understanding, I want the understanding which bringeth peace. ~ Helen Keller

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Open Letter to Guan Yin

Open Letter to Guan Yin:

History is unfolding before our very eyes, and I’m dumbfounded.

When I think of world history, world events, I think of books and the History Channel.

Julius Caesar of Ancient Rome.

The building of the Great Wall of China.

The World Wars.

All available for perusal at the nearest Barnes & Noble bookstore.

But the events in the last decade of my life has been staggering.

Because I’ve never thought I would be an eyewitness to such unprecedented events.

Because these things just don’t happen.

But they do.

And they have.

And it’s surreal.

Zen Master, Zen Mum and I watched the past week’s events play and replay on TV until the images are so seared into our memories that we don’t need the TV to replay anything for us.

I see them with my eyes closed.

The before and after images of Japan.

An 8.9 earthquake and its resulting tsunami.

nuclear crisis.

How do I reconcile such things when the sun is shining so brightly through my window?

When the birds are tweeting so sweetly outside my window?

Please help me to understand.

Guan Yin, I confess that sometimes I am staggered and do fall to my knees with weakness and lack of understanding of why such tragedies happen.  Why they need to happen.

Despite this, I always find myself rising to my feet with the determination of always wanting to help.

But how can I, a mere person, on the other side of the world, help?

What can I do?

Beyond donations, what can I do with my two bare hands to make a difference right now, Guan Yin?

When I posed this question to Zen Master, he gently took my hands into his and said “Simple acts of kindnessBelieve that you can make a difference because it starts with you.”

Thank you, Guan Yin, for my Zen Master.

Through him, I hear your words and your wisdom. 

Through my faith in you, I feel your strength and courage in my heart.

I remember and understand that while we are living on this earth, we have a purpose to discover and fulfill.

To discover what it truly means to be a human being.

And to live that word consistently each and every day.

I thank you for your patience with me.  Sometimes I need to be reminded as I will falter on my path towards enlightenment. 

To see such devastation and destruction just took my breath away.

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Meditation XVII by John Donne

No man is an island,

entire of itself;

every man is a piece of the continent,

a part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less,

as well as if a promontory were,

as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were;

any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind,

and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

it tolls for thee.

~ Meditation XVII by John Donne

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To Resolve or Not to Resolve

This was the weather during the morning hours on Sunday, January 2, 2011.   I was looking through the pictures in my camera and just remembered why I took this photo.

Because it was a pretty gloomy start to a new year, I thought.

Okay, so I’m being a little melodramatic but hey, that’s really what I had thought at that moment.

I might be a little late, but I just started thinking about New Year’s resolutions.  Only because when I was watching TV, the newscaster asked, “So what are your New Year’s Resolution for 2011?”

To Resolve or Not to Resolve?

The answer is a no-brainer for me.

Because my answer is no.

I’m a Buddhist; I don’t believe in year-long resolutions. 

I believe in life-long resolutions.

Which I still have, since, you know, they’re life-long resolutions that I had made a long long time ago.

Simple things, really.

Such as:

  • To always move forward
  • To always remember from where I came
  • To always be the best that I can be
  • To become enlightened

Are life-long resolutions more stressful than having just annual resolutions?

I believe so.

Because that’s the point of having them.  To see if I can achieve them.

Because it’s all about the struggle, rather the finish line.

And that’s definitely something I want to see through, even if it takes a lifetime.

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Farewell Year 2010

Dear Guan Yin,

On this last day of Year 2010, I mediate and reflect on all the gifts in my life.

My father, Zen Master.

My mother, Zen Mum.

My brother, David.





Simple things, really.

But the most important in my life.

Thank you for blessing me with these precious things.

And thank you for another new year to spend with them.

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Appreciation of Time

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.  Live the actual moment.  Only this moment is life. ~ Thich Nat Hahn

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Season’s Greetings

Something about the month of December is compelling to my senses.  It brings to mind all the lovely sights and sounds that are so inherent to the winter holiday season. 

Fat, fluffy white snow flakes.

Jack Frost nippy temperatures that redden the nose in a New York second.

People so trundled up in winter hats and non-matching scarves that only the eyes are visible.

Snug inside a warm and cozy house and home when it’s freezing outside.

Non-stop classical Christmas music that brings up nostalgia of A Wonderful Life and the feeling of goodwill towards people.

Delicious smells of colorful Christmas sugar cookies in the shapes of christmas trees and glittering stars.

Shimmering bold Christmas red and green and gold colors decorating vibrant green christmas trees.

The comforting smell of wood burning in fireplaces.

The white puffs of my breath clearly visible in the winter air.

And in a very short time, a change into a brand new year.

Another beginning.

Season’s Greetings to us all.

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Precious Commodity

I hate traffic.  When it goes at a snail’s pace, I despise it more.

I was driving home one recent evening, deep in the midst of stop-and-go rush hour.  Instead of pounding my fists on the steering wheel, I chilled and reflected for a bit.

The last few weeks flew.  My days have gotten longer, my nights shorter.  I’m no longer able to go to my day gym so I ended up canceling my membership. 

Time has simply become a precious commodity to me nowadays.  Most especially my downtime.

Which makes me appreciate the things and people in my life more.

This is also partly the reason why I haven’t been thinking or dreaming about food.

Or Thanksgiving.

Just been too tired.

Sad to say, but sometimes it takes change to make me appreciate more the blessings in my life.

Now when I step out into the evening air, I inhale its cool crispness and give thanks for it. 

When I’m in the company of Zen Master and Zen Mum, and listen to their talking about their day, I give thanks for it.

And when I finally settle into lotus position and take deep calming breaths and begin to meditate, I give thanks for this.

But when I finally lay my head down to sleep, in my comfortable bed and wrapped and snug in my blankets, I sigh and give thanks for it.

Being a Buddhist, I normally give thanks daily for all that I am and have in my life.  But I have greater appreciation along with my gratitude now. 

And this is something that doesn’t need to be said just on Thanksgiving.  It’s something that I say every day.

Even when I’m stuck in thick evening rush hour traffic.

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