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Reflections From Yushin

February 11, 2016 by David Blackwell

David Blackwell Rev. David Jokai Blackwell
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

Reflections From Yushin

The days are lengthening and this week’s bright sun and warmth is a welcome respite from weeks of the colder temperatures one might expect in the mountains in February. Though it feels like early spring and could be called unseasonably warm, I remember past winters with very warm spells too. According to the experts, the effects of the El Niño will be seen in Southern California in the later spring— this could mean quite a lot of rain for us in April and May, or perhaps snow, if it’s cold enough. We shall wait and see.

The Interim period has been quiet. The still way of winter always feels like a bonus to me. Eckhart Tolle called a book of sayings he published, “Stillness Speaks.” I like the title. It rings true and is especially evident to me when I am immersed in nature—to see the dead trees crack and fall in the wind and snow covering the whole canyon. Nature is my refuge. Whenever I can find the time, I just sit outside and let everything wash over me.

It’s a curious season and in some ways there is a lot going on. We don’t have television, so I haven’t seen a single debate in the primaries, but I read the news. I don’t talk politics very much at all but the other day I got into this passionate discussion with a close friend of mine and it turns out our perspectives are different. I felt upset by our conversation and in retrospect wondered why it got to me so much. We hugged it out and all is well, but it’s been on my mind.

Whenever I find myself in the mode of promoting my opinion or defending my position, I realize there is often something there that needs some attention or further exploration. I appreciate how Bernie Glassman keeps things light by saying, “It’s just my opinion, man.” I realize, though, that there can be a lot of baggage with a particular viewpoint for any one of us. When I catch myself feeling a super strong desire to hold fast to my position or to enlist the evidence that proves that I am right, I feel I’ve gone off course. For me, it’s not that disagreements should not occur, or that we should not fiercely or lovingly offer our perspective, but I want to be sure that I go to the core, that I fully recognize what the issues at play in the discussion represent to me.

More and more, I go with my gut and am willing to stand alone when something in me just doesn’t buy what’s being said. What is it in me that doesn’t buy what’s being said? I don’t know! And half the time I would really like to buy what’s being said, but for whatever reason, I can’t. The most important thing for me is to notice when I am creating “other” and saying that this “other” is the problem—another person, or even “the system.” When I isolate, criticize or blame, I begin to feel unwell, these days, pretty much immediately. It may sound like small potatoes but when I educate myself and determine what really feels right to me, given the facts, I can respond in some real way, however small. Usually, that is to address whatever I feel is a problem “out there” within myself.

Most of us struggle in some way or another to address problems “out there,” problems that feel overwhelming bigger than we are. Whenever I find myself getting divisive—if say, I feel fearful about the course we are on and leadership etc. I try to come home to my commitment here and now, to do my best—not to lend my strength to those things from which I wish to be free. I see the depth of what’s involved in one person making real change.

I’m leaving a lot undiscussed but what seems valuable to me is the personal politic of the everyday—how we choose to be and live, the way we relate to each other, and the ways we invest our time, energy, and money.

It’s a beautiful evening on the mountain with a sweet and small group of residents. The raven pair is perched in the tree outside my window and Honey and Coco are by the door waiting for biscuits.

Please join us for Day of Reflection on the 20th if you can.

Bows, Yushin


  • A. Jesse Jiryu Davis:

    12 Feb 2016 16:35:13

    Hello from NYC! Stay warm out there. Thanks for writing this.

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