Monday, March 30, 2020

Rosaries - excitement & efficacy

Czech glass rosary

Czech Glass Rosary
Nickel Silver Center & Cross

As you can well imagine - rosary making isn't exciting. Fifty nine eye-pins need to be linked together. Four butterfly knots need to be tied and have their rough ends trimmed and bent inwards so as not to snag a finger. Fourteen links of five-link chain segments need to be cut and attached. In all, nearly one hundred ten steps for one rosary... that doesn't include the dozens of times each decade is counted and recounted to make sure it has the required ten beads...

Rosary making - besides being the very definition of repetitive -  is an activity that mostly silences the mind's incessant story-telling as muscle memory takes over to complete each discrete task. For sure, the chattering mind interrupts a lot at the beginning with things like "This is stupid.", "Can't this go faster?", "This is boring.", or spinning fantastical imaginings about where the rosaries will end up.. This noise settles down though, and simple motion repetition takes over. A type of silence descends for a time.

As for the efficacy of prayer - I don't think prayer "works" in a petitionary sense, otherwise things would be a great deal different in the world (not just for the better either, I'm afraid). However, holding a rosary and repeating the prayers can have a centering / grounding affect on the practitioner by crowding out obsessive discursive thinking. If only for that, I think rosaries of all types are a good idea.


Friday, March 27, 2020



During these strange and often-terrifying plague days, we lucky ones (the housed), have become abbots and abbesses of our own private cloisters. There are probably as many "Rules of Life" as there are people holed up.

Part of my own Rule is to go out and walk the local neighborhood, just to get some air and natural light and to put my head in another space beyond the low hum of menace we all live with.  The best advice being given to people is to act as if everyone is infected, so I go out when there's fewer 'others' around.... I cross the street if someone is walking towards me and keep an ear peeled for the infected coming up from behind. Honestly - walking outside has a definite flavor of a zombie movie..

As unsettling as this is for me who can retreat back into the cloister - I cannot imagine what a black nightmare the unhoused are living through now.


Olive-wood Rosary

Olive-wood Tenner Rosary

10mm Olive-wood beads
12mm Carved Olive-wood paternoster
Olive-wood cross
Stainless steel jump ring
1.5mm Chinese Knotting cord


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

To hell with heaven

Storm drain cruciform


To hell with remembrance, to hell with heaven,
Hammer is the prayer of the poor and the dying.


~ Christian Wiman ~


Sunday, March 22, 2020


Beverly graffiti

(Graffiti - Beverly MA - Shot on 3/19/2014)

On a wintry Saturday night twenty four years ago at Munsu Sa, a small Korean Zen Buddhist temple, a group of meditators gathered in the warm temple kitchen. After bowls of spicy Korean soup and plates of fresh fruit, we bowed in thanksgiving, the table was cleared, and we sat quietly waiting for Kun Sunim's Dharma talk.

Through Chris, our generous translator, we heard:
“You are traveling in a vast wasteland.  The sun beats down.  Small cyclones of dust arise, chase one another and disappear.  There are no trees.  There is no shade.  All is shimmering heat.
In the distance you can hear the enraged trumpeting of an enormous elephant.  You can tell he is coming directly towards you and means to crush you under foot.
You run.
The charging elephant gains on you.  Turning as you run, you can see its angry red eyes.
You run faster.
Just ahead of you, what you thought was a small pile of boulders turns out to be a well.  Since the elephant is almost upon you, you dive head first into the well.  As you tumble in the darkness, you are able to grab onto a large vine and stop your fall.
Above you the elephant makes impatient circles around the well.
Time passes and your eyes adjust to the darkness.
Below, you can make out a large serpent who eagerly awaits your arrival at the bottom.
Just above you in the well is a large bee hive.  You notice that when you bump the hive with the vine, three drops of honey fall out.  You can catch them on your tongue.  The honey gives you a little more  strength to hang on to the vine. The only problem is that every time the hive is disturbed, bees come out and sting you as you hang on above the hungry serpent below.
The elephant bellows.  The earth shakes from his footfalls.
Above you and the beehive, where the vine grows out from the side of the well, there is a small hole.  Two small mice have emerged. One white, one black, they have begun to nibble away at the base of the vine.
What do you do?"
I remember the silence that descended into that small room. We all looked down at the table, at each other, and at Kun Sunim. There was a bit of nervous laughter, but none of us had any clue as to what we would do in such a circumstance. Time slowed. Finally, Kun Sunim spoke again...

To his great credit, Kun Sunim did not tell us "the answer." Instead he gently smiled at us and told us that the story was our homework - that we should live with it and meditate with it.

I have carried Kun Sunim's story with me for decades. Like everyone alive, I have encountered 'brick and mortar' versions of the story in my own life.

I don't know "the answer" to the question of "What do you do?" I continue, as best I can, to work on my homework and and let the question "What do I do?" or just "What?" peck away at my galactically stubborn ego, boundless clinging, and deep well of ignorance...


Friday, March 20, 2020

The Great Don't Know

Olive wood and bone rosary

Olive-wood and bone rosary w/ San Damiano cross

Rosary making continues. I'm out of chain, and so have switched to cord rosaries until a recently placed order comes in.

I can't really engage in Christian prayer though - not without having things devolve into a screaming, accusing, rant.

The Dharma helps a bit. In fact the Dharma seems to have been made for times like these. The four noble truths. The three marks of existence. The three poisons. Attending to the present and not getting hooked by terrifying prognostications.

These days are a big dose of living in the 'Great Don't Know', a great portion of groundlessness that brings with it waves of nausea.

I know I am better off at this point than so many others. I'm thankful for that. I also know that this "better offness" is temporary.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Too sure

“How could it all fall in one day? Were we too sure of the sun? If you need to, keep time on me” - Fleet Foxes -

How could it all fall in one day?

Were we too sure of the sun?

If you need to, keep time on me...

~ Fleet Foxes ~ 


Monday, March 16, 2020


Stage island

It all begins when we say 'I'.

Everything that follows is illusion.

~ Zen Master Kodo Sawaki ~


Monday, March 9, 2020


(not my image - found on twitter)

Today I was talking to a Christian friend of mine and asked him if his church was making any changes to their liturgy in light of nCov-19. He told me "No. We have a two thousand year tradition. There have always been plagues. There always will be. We are in God's hands."

I hope they change. I hope they adapt. I hope they don't become a flashing red disease vector. Most of all - I hope they don't believe that Jesus or his Dad or the Bird will protect them. That's not their gig anymore. They're up to other things these days.. and whatever those things are.. they keep the three of them fully occupied..


Thursday, March 5, 2020

Might as well...


"Prayer is based on the remote possibility that someone is actually listening; but so is a lot of conversation. If the former seems far-fetched, consider the latter: even if someone is listening to your story, and really hearing, that person will disappear from existence in the blink of a cosmic eye, so why bother to tell this perhaps illusory and possibly un-listening person something he or she is unlikely to truly understand, just before the two of you blip back out of existence? We like to talk to people who answer us, intelligently if possible, but we do talk without needing response or expecting comprehension. Sometimes, the event is the word, the act of speaking. Once we pull that apart a bit, the action of talking becomes more important than the question of whether the talking is working-because we know, going in, that the talking is not working. That said, one might as well pray."

~ Jennifer Michael Hecht ~



6mm obsidian rosary