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This Fall in the Dharma seminar we have been studying the Mindfulness Sutra and Dogen's fascicle "The Time Being." Together they paint a picture of our practice. In the Mindfulness Sutra the Buddha tells us the astonishing news that simply by being honestly and clearly present with our experience, and trusting to that, we will set ourselves on a course toward peace and happiness. How do we go about this? No surprise to us, the process begins with finding a good spot, and sitting down to practice mindful breathing.

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On August 22, in the early morning, my dear friend and teacher Charlotte Selver passed away. She was 102 years old, had lived an exceptionally long and colorful life, so her death was no tragedy. In fact it was a triumph, and a well-earned release. Her last months were full of contentment. She had wonderful caregivers, and enjoyed the sunlight in her room, the delicious food she was served, and the many good-bye visits from her friends and loved ones. And yet it was also a burden for her to stay embodied. She had many uncomfortable and disoriented moments. So when she passed on - something she said many times she wanted do, but also (loving life and friends as much as she did) didn't want to do - it was truly a blessing. In her last days she often spoke of wanting to "go home." Finally she was able to do that.

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I've been busy lately supporting the publication of my recent book Taking Our Places: the Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up (available through this website). As I found last year with the psalms book, it is good to travel a little bit and speak with general audiences in bookstores and other venues about the things that matter most to all of us. Contrary to my expectations, this can be done. I have always had some suspicion about the idea of "the public," but I have discovered the obvious: that the public is you and I, awash in the middle of this overwhelming world we live in. All of us have the same concerns; we all live, love (or try our best to), and die. And we all want to try to be better people, and to help.

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Today - as our nation seems to be sliding inevitably toward another war with Iraq - it seems that there is no choice but to speak about war and peace. I am reluctant to take up this topic for two reasons. First, I feel under-informed and under-qualified to speak. I know that any situation - even a personal one - is very complicated, involving many known and unknown factors and many conflicting and yet valid points of view. Certainly in the case of an international political situation this is true. Still, one can be as well-informed as possible. While there are some Dharma teachers who are well informed (Sojun Weitsman, my own teacher for instance) I cannot say I am one of them. I am interested and concerned but not informed enough.

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This spring in San Francisco a Traveling Jewish Theater produced a theatrical version of my psalms translations (Opening to You: Zen-inspired Translations of the Psalms - Viking Penguin, 2002). I have been a fan of ATJT for many years, since they first played at the Zen Center in San Francisco when I was a student there in 1978. Corey Fischer, one of the founding artistic directors of the theater (and director of the "Opening to You" production), has become a close personal friend. The play was quite powerful, and it was well reviewed in the newspaper. But it was quite different from what I had expected.

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