Words of wisdom

Sunday I spent in retreat with D.C.’s All Beings sangha at Woodburn Hill Farm in beautiful St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Seventeen of us enjoyed a special visit from Dairyu Michael Wenger Roshi. We studied the poem the “Hsin Hsin Ming” by Seng-T’san, in a translation Dairyu’s working on.

Dairyu Michael Wenger. Not only does he look cool and has a sense of humor, his voice sounds raspy  as Voight’s on “Chicago P.D.” lending  special power to every syllable.

Michael moved to California in the 1960s to climb mountains. He met Suzuki Roshi, stayed on to study at San Francisco Zen Center and became ordained in the tradition.

St. Mary's County, Maryland
St. Mary’s County, Maryland in April

Highlights from Dairyu’s teachings:

  1. Everything in the world is happening all at once.”
  2. “Don’t confuse opinions with the person.”
  3. “There’s no distinction between thinking and feeling.” Allow head and heart to align.
  4. Be aware that the language of psychology influences the interpretation and translation of Buddhism in the West and the language of Taoism influences Buddhism in China.
  5. Be aware of the limitations of words. See number 3.


Woodburn Hill Farm
Woodburn Hill Farm. We sat on the second floor.

More that I’m pondering after the day:

  • Be aware of what are habits and what are choices. Yoga is great for disclosing habits in posture and behavior.
  • Forms help us recognize habits. That means the ritual of any ceremony, and yoga asana practice has qualities of ceremony, show us when and how we are or are not in alignment with our values and with our bodies.
  • Inclusiveness. Retreat participants included people who identify as Catholic, Muslim, Episcopalian, Jewish, agnostic, atheist, Democrat, Republican, male, female, retired person, activist, and more. (I know this because our discussion did not shy away from politics!) This circles back to number 2.
  • Mindfulness practice is a step along the meditation path and falls away. I have found this to be true. I’ll share more in my classes and on the blog.
  • Buddhism in America has too much head and needs more heart. Let us open our hearts.
  • Suzuki Roshi, Dairyu told us, said upon raising a cup, “I drink the whole universe with this tea.” See number 1.

Just let things be in their own way

and there will be neither coming nor going.

Obey the nature of all things (your own nature)

and you will walk freely and undistributed.

-from “Hsin Hsin Ming”

I’ve met a few people within whose presence I felt flashes of wisdom. Father Bob Tsu, of St. Anselm’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Calif., who (I am so grateful!) married my husband and me in 1992; Father John Talbott of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., yoga teachers Mary Paffard and Richard Rosen, some professors, some writers and musicians, and strangers.

These are people who walk the talk, often forsaking renown to tend their garden of ideas.

As Dairyu said, quoting Thich Nhat Hanh, “We need more Zen corners, not Zen centers.” I agree. Small, simple places.

If you are at all interested in meditation or Buddhist philosophy, I recommend All Beings in D.C., led by Inryu Bobbi Ponce-Barger. She shared some of her words of wisdom for an article on stillness.

If you’re in the Harpers Ferry neighborhood, I hope you’ll stop by and practice yoga with me, share your thoughts or just take a moment to breathe. If you’re in D.C., consider arranging private yoga lessons, and we’ll form, as one student put it, “a sangha of two.”

a small space for simple, joyful yoga
a small space for simple, joyful yoga in Harpers Ferry