By Katharine Kaufman //

Of all ridiculous things the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy—to be a man who is brisk about his food and his work.

                                              ~ Kierkegaard

Snow falls in the early morning at Hokoji. First bells ring at 5:25. Warm inside. Quiet is palpable. Dim light in Zendo, and snow outside softens, cushions.  I think I hear one snowflake drop.  Even our breaths are quiet, bears in their cove. Then I hear scraping. Really loud! What is that!? I imagine a giant creature. Oh, shoveling. Arthur decides to skip the morning sit and shovel in the dark. REALLY? Can’t we just sit here together?

But now Arthur is gone and the memory is dear. …Now I say, dear Arthur.

What would it take to let the snow drop all around with no response but to breathe in and breathe out.


Ned Hallowell, psychiatrist and author of Driven to Distraction says, “We reach for our devices as if we were grabbing from the bowl of m & m’s on the coffee table. He says it triggers our dopamine, same as when people get a shot of heron. Then I heard it on the radio this morning.

What we’re looking for—it ain’t in our in- box.


Set a clock. Three hours. The time it takes to greet family, have appetizers, hold hands and say grace, sit down, eat, pause, talk, and then pie, cake & pudding, thanks and put on coats.  The time it takes to ride the North Shore Scenic clack to Duluth. Have a paradigm shift for dessert .A shift in the flow, A shift in consciousness. Long enough so I don’t think about time. I don’t have to be a sailor to appreciate a change in breeze.


Maybe I’m home by myself for a few days. Maybe I take a long walk in the forest. The long sit, the long view, the slow dance, offers us a look over to the other side … ….something here reveals itself…what will it be?


Three months at Jikoji Zen Temple with four core people. Every ten days, one off.  I go down to the beach or Berkeley, sometimes to San Fran to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s bookstore, or to the laundry mat to wash Orioki cloths. On the other 9 days, from my dorm bed, I have a clear view of my truck. I could get out of here.

Getting out of here is not possible. Well, for moments. Getting out of here does not really work and rarely ends well. The deal I made is to go with what flows through this flash, prickle, drought (even if the stream is tiny).

When I leave home to go on retreat I think I’m taking time off from success, ambition. It’s really time on. I return from retreat and things are sorted out.

The fight at school has happened and ended without me. Cindy left me a printer in my hallway. I get a call for a job I didn’t work for….

(for the amped to cease)

Certain actual places accommodate this kind of love. People have been practicing at Shambhala Mountain Center for a long time. The middle of the whole mandala is the magnificent stupa that makes my mind drop along with my mouth.  As soon as I go to the shrine room the thickness of underlying space and silence grabs me. The room breathes. This breath is not a hero’s breath. It’s the breath of a land. I join the wild beings that grow there and participate. This spring—will the  wild iris be there? Will  they bend toward the ones who see them?

 ~ o ~

Shambhala Mountain center hosts will be hosting two retreats with Katharine this coming June:

Inside (and) Out: Meditation and Yoga for Everyone, June 8–11, 2017 — click here to learn more

5-Day Zen Sesshin with Katharine Kaufman, June 17–23, 2017 — click here to learn more

About the Author

katharine_kaufman2-140x190Katharine Kaufman, MFA, is ordained as a priest in the Soto Zen lineage. She studied Yoga in India and practiced and taught for many years at Richard Freeman’s Yoga Workshop and Wendy Bramlett’s Studio Be. Katharine is an adjunct professor at Naropa University where she teaches Contemplative Movement Arts and is a student of poetry. //

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