Sunday, October 28, 2007

Retreat Photo

Thanks to everyone who helped make the retreat such a success! Here's a group photo courtesy of Cheryl Hanbeck.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

True Nature

When I was on an assignment on campus I stood beneath a pine tree and watched the students and traffic pass by and I looked down and saw this. It was a lunar moth. It was lying amongst the dry fallen pine needles doing what lunar moths do. Being a lunar moth. It was not being anything other than itself. A thought arose concerning my practice. When I sit I am merely sitting. Is that true? Am I truly 'just sitting'? Am I being myself? When I do my tasks at work or eat or hold my friend's hand am I being who I am? Who is this? To be truly us. To act without pretense. Being nothing more than who we are. No effort. Being present without preference. At that moment another delusion was released. My practice was strengthened. I knelt by the moth and I appreciated its true nature.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


We are delighted that Linc will be returning to Manhattan, KS

•Friday, October 26, 6:30 p.m. to Sunday, October 28, 10:00 a.m.

•There will be a precepts ceremony Sunday at 11:00 a.m.

•Deep Creek Community Center

•Full retreat: $60 general public / $50 KUSZ members

•Saturday only: $45 / $35 •Sunday only: $25 / $20

Discount for early registration (before October 16)
Scholarships available
•meditation instruction•meals•private interview(s) with Linc

To register, please email

Of what use is it to talk about the enlightenment of grass and trees?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Day of Meditation

I know its a long drive, but I hope folks can make it to the Day of Meditation on August 4th at our home outside of of Tonganoxie. This is basically a one day retreat without a teacher in a really beautiful spot in the country that has its own amazing vibe. Be sure to contact Tall Grass Zen for details.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Motivations For Practice

In order that I qualify to enter the Dharma teacher training program, I’ve been asked to write a 1000 word paper on motivations for practice. Well, the motivation for practice is to help this world. There. That’s why I practice. Well, now I only have 971 more words to go. I guess I might as well elaborate.

So, how can sitting on the floor help this world?

In his Four Noble Truths, Buddha stated that suffering is the result of the attachment to craving within our own minds. Then he laid out a plan called the Eightfold Path for eliminating suffering, in part, by training the mind to stop this craving and the clinging it creates.

That brings us to meditation. This is the way we can train our minds to stop clinging to what we consider to be good and to push away what we consider to be bad. We do this by practice. In Buddhism, the word practice employs two meanings. It refers to both a spiritual practice and a repetitive practice (as in practice makes perfect). Just as we can learn to train our fingers to the correct position for playing a chord on a piano or guitar, we can train our minds to cling less. So, when you’re sitting and thoughts come up, and you become aware that you’re no longer counting or watching your breath or whatever your practice is, you gently but firmly bring your mind back to your practice. It is the nature of the mind to wander. No matter what you do, it is going to fight against this training and try to return to what has become its habitual nature. So, there’s no reason to beat yourself up because your mind is wandering. Wandering is what minds do. The training that the Buddha speaks of is actually the continual bringing your mind back to concentration. This is what you are practicing. So, if you have a session in which your mind keeps wandering and you keep having to rein it in, or if you have a session in which your mind is calm and focused, they are each equal in quality. Actually, quality or judging has nothing to do with practice. It is practicing itself that is important.

On Internet discussion groups, I’ve read many posts in which folks ask how they can become more compassionate, patient, open, etc. The answer to all these questions is simple. PRACTICE. Meditation, bowing , chanting, walking and kong-ans are the practice. Becoming a more patient and compassionate person is the by-product. It is that simple. This is a truly transformative spiritual practice. Its not as if meditation will make you realize that you should do this or that, or that it provides you with the tools to decide to behave a certain way. Regular meditation actually transforms your mind.

But, becoming a better person is not the ultimate motivation for practice. I stated earlier that helping this world is. I love the metaphor of ripples in a pond. One small pebble, even a grain of sand, tossed into a still pool will create ripples that slide out across to the opposite bank, putting all the water molecules in the pond into motion. It’s also true that as one person becomes more compassionate or patient, those with whom they interact will benefit, and the people with whom that second set of people interact will benefit, on and on until the ripples reach the opposite bank.

I’ve seen this rippling in action in my own life. I work as an elementary school teacher. My co-workers and I have lessons to plan and teach, papers to grade, scores to record, reports to write, meetings to plan and attend, standardized testing to prepare for, articles to read, etc., etc. It is very rare that it’s ever possible to actually finish our work during the work day, or even when we take it home to continue working there. It is very tempting to tune children out during times that we might consider down time so that we can concentrate on one of the tasks demanding of our time. It used to be that when children were waiting for dismissal, I would ask them to sit quietly while I worked away.

One day however, after I’d been practicing for a year or so, a boy was waiting for a late parent to pick him up. Instead of grading papers, I sensed that something was on his mind. We began talking and soon he began telling me that he’d been very anxious because he really missed his brother. Because I seemed receptive rather than asking him to sit down, he went on to explain that his father, who had just been released from prison, had kidnapped his brother two weeks earlier and the family hadn’t heard from them in all that time.

We had a heartfelt discussion about these events and the stresses they had born. I know that had this happened a year earlier, I would have asked him to just get out a book to read while he waited and this conversation would never have begun. It was because of my practice that I was aware that there was something to talk about and was present enough to act on it. I didn’t stop to think about what I should do. I simply reacted to the situation in a more compassionate manner. I like to think that this talk helped my student. Maybe he was nicer to his other family members or friends when he went home. Maybe they responded in kind to those with whom they interacted that night. Of course, this was just one event. I find myself in similar, though less dramatic situations on nearly a daily basis, as we all do.

As anyone who works with children, I’m fortunate to receive immediate feedback from them for all my actions and all my speech. Working with children is probably the best spiritual training a person could find. I often wonder who does more teaching during a school day, me or my students. Actually, it was because of this feedback that I first sought out a Zen teacher to help me become more patient and compassionate with my students. It was the best thing I could have done for them, for myself... and for this world.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Zen Poem

The myriad of differences resolved by sitting, all doors opened.
In this still place I follow my nature, be what it may.
From the one hundred flowers I wander freely,
the soaring cliff-my hall of meditation
(with the moon emerged, my mind is motionless).
Sitting on this frosty seat, no further dream of fame.
The forest, the mountain follow their ancient ways,
and through the long spring day, not even the shadow of a bird.

Reizan (d. 1411)

Friday, June 15, 2007


Hi, everybody.

Margaret and I are at the point where we would like to begin formalizing the relationship between Tall Grass Zen and the Kwan Um School of Zen. This stems primarily from our commitment to the practice and the school. Our secondary motive is more practical: when we formalize, the school will return fifty percent of our dues money. This money will help offset some of the costs of running retreats and the prison dharma work. More importantly, it will help us to grow, to make the practice available to more people in the Manhattan area.

The school recommends that a group have four to five dues paying members of the Kwan Um School before requesting recognition. We have three members already: Christina, Margaret, and Dick. Richard Brown will join when we formalize. Others (as many as three) have indicated that they would like to join.

We’ve posted the complete guidelines to this blog: scroll down to read them.

We would like to emphasize that no one is being asked to join the school. Joining the school is NEVER a requirement for coming to practice or sitting retreats. In most respects, formalizing our relationship to the school will change nothing.

We would like to hear from you! Are you interested in formalizing? Are you interested in joining the school? Will you run in the opposite direction if we take this step? Please feel free to use this blog to share your thoughts and feelings. Or email us at or call us or talk to us after practice.

Yours in the dharma,

Christina & Margaret

Guidelines for Starting a Zen Center

The model for Zen center development is based on the central role of the guiding teacher throughout the process.

1. A dharma teacher (or higher) in good standing with the Kwan Um School of Zen may decide to start a sitting group and promote it to the local community. It’s best if the group meets in a public space for practice. It is important that Kwan Um forms (chanting, sitting, bowing, reading letters, etc.) be introduced from the beginning. This can be done gradually. A web site, newsletter, and e-mail list can also be established. A dharma teacher should identify him/herself as a dharma teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen in any publicity.

2. Either as a kick-off event, or soon after the foundation of the group, the dharma teacher should invite a Zen Master or Ji Do Poep Sa Nim to give a public talk or workshop. Establishing a relationship with a guiding teacher is the key to the development of a new Zen center. It’s best if a guiding teacher is involved from the very beginning of the group.

3. Developing membership is an important and sometimes difficult step. Show prospective members that there is something worthwhile to join by continuing to invite teacher(s) and to offer workshops, public talks, and perhaps one-day retreats. New students will be more confident in joining a group knowing it is part of a larger sangha. While a group is forming, new members temporarily join as members of the guiding teacher’s home Zen center (or a geographically close Zen center). The new group’s portion of its members dues are routed through this Zen Center, helping the new group develop a financial profile that will be needed when the costs associated with practice equipment, incorporation, insurance, banking, etc. begin to appear. It is suggested that four to five members be onboard before a group becomes a Zen center. Five members generate $750 annually for a group.

4. The group must request ratification of its guiding teacher by the School trustees. The group establishes and maintains a consistent practice schedule of weekly sittings and several retreats per year.

5. The guiding teacher should encourage and help facilitate incorporation as a non-profit and the adoption of the common bylaws. The group must establish a board of directors and officers, all of whom must be members. The group should request that it be included in the School’s non-profit 501(c)(3) status. It is strongly recommended that groups carry liability insurance, officers and directors insurance, and professional liability insurance. (The guiding teacher is already covered by the School’s professional liability insurance, but the Zen Center is not.)

6. When it has accomplished the underlined items, the group will become a Zen Center in the Kwan Um School of Zen and be listed in Primary Point and on the School website.

April 1, 2006

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I just returned from my second amazing retreat at the Indianapolis Zen Center (IZC)! Our teacher, Linc Rhodes, told me to give his best to my friends, Margaret and Christina a couple of times. He told me about how amazing it was to see a herd of buffalo on the Konza Prairie during his last visit to Manhattan. I'm sure it's an amazing experience for anyone, but for a dyed in the wool Easterner... Also, Chris, who has sat with M & C in Indy, Chicago, Providence, and Colorado sends his love and says he's trying to think of how to kidnap them and take them home to Alabama with him.

During the circle talk at my last IZC retreat, someone mentioned how nice it was to have four guests from Kansas who knew the chants so well that the group didn't just sound like Eddy (a local Dharma Teacher) and his back up singers as usual. Well! They have been practicing! The chanting was amazingly enthusiastic, confident and downright inspiring. Only 3 or 4 people needed chanting books at all, and no one used them during the Heart Sutra. For someone like myself who practices alone most of the time, this enthusiastic chanting was absolutely inspiring. I found myself taking big gulps of air at times in order to get it around the lump in my throat. Practicing alone is necessary, but the opportunity to practice with a Sangha means partaking in what is deservedly one of the three jewels of Buddhism along with Buddha and Dharma. Keeping a practice going on my own has proven to be very difficult, especially during times of stress and anxiety when I (and the world) need it the most. But, the inspiration and support one derives from sitting, chanting and walking with others of like mind and direction provides the momentum and helps with the considerable discipline needed to keep it up. When thinking about Sangha I'm always reminded of what Garrison Keiler says about Powdermilk Biscuits on his radio show. “They give you the get-up-and-go to do what needs to be done.”

Interviews with Linc were wonderful (of course). We talked mostly about impermanence as it applies to getting older and to jobs and relationships whose natures are always changing. He pointed out that I have real life koan to sit with in order to help my situation. I found this very helpful. Of course, just sitting for two and a half days was an immense help in toning down my stress level.

The drywall is up in the IZC Dharma room as they continue to convert their two year old Zen Center from a residential home. Linc stayed through Monday to lend his carpentry expertise by putting up the trim in the Dharma room. A bunch of other folks, inspired by Linc’s presence were taking off of work to help out. Again, there’s Sangha at work.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dry Cleaning the Mind

Thanks for the invitation to join the blogspot. I am uncertain of any particular protocol, so, I ask for grace and education with any faux pax. I was honored to be able to read the letters while sitting last Saturday morning. Two short letters that resonated powerfully for me. One of the things that has continued to stand out was the phrase "dry cleaning the mind" when talking about an arduous nine day sit. The retreat was an ardous sit. Saturdays moring sits no longer seem arduous but the 108 pronations do. I still find even short sits alone arduous. My mind continually leaves the train station and my body urges me to move. But as I get back to center and let go of the urges of the body, I do find my mind is dry cleaned. Thanks for welcoming me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A pocket full of nothing...

I had awakened at 9 p.m. last night only to sit on the stoop of my apartment building and peer into the evening sky. I sipped a cold glass of water and quietly watched the leaves in the trees dance in the wind. In my khakis I was completely rooted to the concrete watching the neighbor's cat stop to observe my presence then patter away. I thought about impermanence. How the things of life do not always remain the same. Relationships change and end. Jobs come and go. My son can now lift me over his head and has a running vehicle in contrast to my now dead Nissan Sentra. Nothing special about this evening. In the silence; between the rustle of the wind through the trees there was nothing. The things I clung to so dearly and even those things I had been told I should hold to were no longer fixtures my mind had created. Gone. I searched for some remorse. On my cushion, like so many other thoughts, it was like a torrent. I remember the Heart Sutra and the interviews with the Ji Do Poep Sa Nim. "Cling to nothing..." What the hell? Another sip of the cold water and I sat for an indefinite amount of time. When I brought the glass to my lips and discovered a trickle I knew it was time for a walk. I blended into the shadows of the tree laden streets and allowed the cool of the evening to envelope me like a moist blanket. My feet are placed before me and I move forward slowly.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Meal Gatha

Here is a widely-used gatha our family says when we sit down together to eat a meal together. perhaps some others will want to use it.

We venerate the three treasures
And are thankful for this meal
The work of many people
And the sharing of other forms of life

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Turning the Wheel

Thank you for the invitation to contribute to this blog Christina.

I have always wanted to continue the Dharma in cyberspace.

So, here it goes,




May our practice benefit all beings, that we may know true happiness and be free of suffering ever dwelling in the great equanimity that is free from attachment and aversion.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Retreat Photos

Here are a couple of group photos from Sunday after the retreat. Thanks to all who participated.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Practice Updates

On Friday, May 18, at the Chapel of Mercy Hospital, from 7-8 a.m., we will have morning practice with Linc Rhodes. This will consist of 108 prostrations, the Morning Bell Chant, and a short period of sitting meditation. All are welcome.

Regular Saturday morning practice is CANCELLED on Saturday May 19 for the retreat. For more information about the retreat, please scroll down.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Correct Situation, Correct Function, Correct Action

This afternoon, taking a break from raking the remnants of oak leaves from the front lawn, I heard a child cry out, followed by muffled sobbing. I stood up from my seat on the porch and quickly scanned the area. There on the sidewalk, near a neighbor's driveway was a boy sprawled near a bicycle. The front wheel was off and the boy was hugging himself, trying desperately not to cry out again. I moved quickly toward him, hunched down to assess his injuries: banged knees, elbows and chin. I introduced myself, and asked him for his name. "Daniel," he managed, just above a whisper. I asked if I could call someone for him, he shook his head empahtically: No! I asked if I could take a look at his knees - they were swelling up quickly. I offered ice, water, a phone. He declined. I asked if I could assist him getting home, again he declined with a desperate shake of his head. He seemed to be fighting back tears. I watched his face grimaced in pain.

Then I understood completely. More awful than the physical pain, more humiliating than the embarrassment at the kindness of this stranger before him, was the awesome fear of parental rebuke.

After a moment, I told him quickly about a spill I took from a bike at age 14, the broken nose, the knocked out front tooth. The anger from my parents all the way to the hospital.

Then I asked how I could help. He started to shake his head again, but then brightened with an idea: he asked if I had any tools. I asked if he could stand. He did so, wincing and tried to pick up the bike. I intervened and handed him the front wheel. I picked up the bike and we walked slowly to our porch. I was glad to see he could walk. I went inside to get a toolbox A few minutes later, I found the problem - the hex nut on one side kept slipping as I tightened it. I told him he'd need to get the bolt on the hub replaced. He then suggested a hammer, and as I realized the source of the problem (that he had most likely applied a hammer to this bolt) I recognized all the times I had been shamed as a child for similar incidents of clever, but ultimately self defeating ingenuity. So I simply explained what happens when one hammers a bolt - the threads strip and it makes it impossible to tighten the hex nut. So this bolt wouldn't hold the wheel in place for long, and the same thing would happen, again - only next time he might land on his face or head or worse. He asked me how far I thought he could get before it happened again. I stated, I didn't think he could go very fast or very far, and he'd be better off walking the bike home. He thanked me, and as he was wheeling the bike away I said, "Just pay it forward. You do something nice for someone else today."

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Public Talk by Linc Rhodes

  • Manhattan Public Library Auditorium, corner of Poyntz & Juliette. Free.
  • Friday, May 18, 6 p.m.
The sun shines everywhere. Why does a cloud obscure it?

Meditation Retreat with Linc Rhodes

  • Saturday, May 19, 6:00 a.m. to Sunday, May 20, 12:00 p.m.
  • Deep Creek Community Center. Email for directions.
  • Full retreat: $60 general public / $50 Kwan Um School of Zen Members
  • Saturday only: $50 / $40
  • Sunday only: $30 / $25
  • Scholarships available.
  • Discount for early registration (before May 11).
  • meditation instruction
  • meals
  • private interview(s) with Linc.
To register, please email

Spring comes, the grass grows by itself


All practice is held in the Chapel of Mercy Regional Health Center, which is located on the second floor of Mercy Hospital on the corner of College & Kimball (across from the football stadium), Manhattan, Kansas.

Tuesday evening

  • 6:30 - 6:50 Special chanting
  • 7:00 - 8:00 Chanting and sitting meditation
Saturday morning
  • 7:30 - 8:30 Bowing, chanting and sitting meditation (we usually go out to breakfast together after practice).

There is no charge for practice. Please wear loose comfortable clothing. We prefer that you do not wear shorts. Bring a cushion, if you have one.

Coming for the first time? Try to arrive ten minutes early so we can greet you and orient you to our forms.

Questions? Please email us at

Welcome to Tall Grass Zen

Tall Grass Zen was founded in 1999 by Christina Hauck and Margaret Wheeler. Our vision is to bring the teaching of Zen Master Seung Sahn to Manhattan, Kansas. This is our first effort at hosting a webpage--please let us know what you think!

In the Dharma,

Christina & Margaret