Monday, November 23, 2015

Expressions to honor and beautify your world: with hand made Japanese silk brocade scrolls

For decades I have been captivated by the beauty and artistic depth of Japanese ideograms (a picture or symbol used in a system of writing to represent a thing or an idea). 

Over the past several years I have been offering Zen Brush calligraphy retreats throughout the region.

I have now been illustrating these ideograms on beautiful hand made Japanese silk brocade scrolls.

Here are some examples of what these beautiful scrolls look like.





These could make beautiful gifts for the holidays, birthdays, weddings, births/baptisms, engagements, or even for yourself. The cost per scroll is $45 plus shipping.

Here are some other ideograms that can be ordered:

Beginner's Mind
Enso (Zen Circle)

If you are interested feel free to call (608.783.2186) or email me at


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Is Forgiveness Always Possible? Or Necessary?

Consider this. 

Sometimes we place too much emphasis on forgiveness. "if you are a good..... you will forgive." 

Now, what if what you are attempting to forgive is in fact un-forgivable? Yes un-forgivable.

I do believe and have experienced that there are things that happen that very possibly are un-forgivable in the human experience. To not forgive these things is OK. It does NOT make you a bad person. 

You see the connotation (synonym) of forgiveness is to absolve, let off the hook, wipe the slate clean. To try to do this with the truly unforgivable is to do violence to your soul. 

Remember the last several utterances of The Christ before he died: "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." 

Do you see it? 

Even The Christ as he hung bleeding and nailed to the cross had to turn it over. He did not say "I forgive you." This was even too much for Him. So, let yourself off the hook in forcing forgiveness when it just may not be possible or even necessary. 

Turn the forgiveness over to your something larger (God, the universe, the Tao, whatever yours is) If forgiveness is not possible for you (and by the way NO-ONE can define this for you!) then try to have compassion for the offending person. Compassion for the suffering they must live with that brought them to act the way they do.

Leave them with their suffering. There is nothing you can do about it, except to make room for your healing.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Path of Simply Being: A meditation retreat At Shambhala Mountain Center April 9-12, 2015

Simplifying Meditation: Why Practice? To Wake Up!
By Thomas Roberts
Thomas Roberts leads The Path of Simply Being: A Meditation Retreat, April 9-12, 2015 

These days you hear a great deal about meditation. This kind of meditation, that kind of meditation; all sorts of books describing what it is and what it can do for you. Often meditation is associated with a particular religion or spiritual practice. Let’s clear something up right at the start.
Meditation is not a religion. Meditative/contemplative practices have been part of numerous spiritual practices throughout history. No one owns it.
Meditation is not Prozac. It does not cure or solve anything.
Meditation does not make you a better parent, a better doctor, a better student, help you be less depressed or anxious.
In fact meditation does no-thing at all!

Like everything else that gets exploited, meditation is now neatly packaged for your consumptive desires.
Everybody is touting and selling meditation. Step right up and get yours.
Okay let’s restore some sanity here.
A meditation practice doesn’t help you overcome anything. It just helps you face your life with greater patience, openness and compassion.
If you do meditation for some outcome you’re not doing mindfulness. I’m not sure what you’re doing and it may be beneficial but it is not meditation.
You see, the real practice of meditation has no outcome. You don’t do meditation to get anywhere or achieve anything. If you do, you run the risk of becoming attached to that particular outcome and that interferes with your meditation practice.
So why practice mindfulness?
All the great teachers (Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Toltec, Muslim, Native Peoples) have taught one thing:
The only reason to practice mindfulness is this:
to wake up!!!!

That’s all.

To wake up!

A regular meditation practice simply peels back the layers of self-deception to see things clearly as they truly are. The more you wake up, the more you are able to live your life from an open compassionate heart, and a balanced calm mind; from a deep place of innate wisdom. The benefits of awakening move in all directions throughout all your experiences.
Meditation is the awakening of our entire experience, not just our minds; the awakening of our entire body-mind and its sensory experience. This awakening reduces our fear-based reactions and cultivates our natural ability respond to others and ourselves with great patience, openness and compassion. Our senses become alive with wonder and curiosity for past conditionings and limiting attachments.
So let’s stop all this nonsense of trying to practice meditation for any particular outcome.
It comes down to this: Practice this enduring skill for its own sake, and everything else will take care of itself.
The simple yet profound practice of mindful meditation, whether on a cushion or in a chair, or in a grocery line, or talking with another, just keeps you in an open, balanced, and compassionate place that just makes this a better world.
The Path of Simply Being retreat will be a wonderful experience in developing a meaningful and beneficial meditation practice.
You need not have any prior meditation experience. Or you may wish to attend to deepen or re-kindle your practice.
Hope to see you here at Shambhala!


Friday, May 9, 2014

Be a good consumer!


I hear so many people discuss their experiences with their healthcare provider.

Often they are frustrated because they do not feel they are being listened to, understood, respected, too quickly given medications among other things.

When I ask if they bring up their concerns to their provider unanimously they respond "No! OH! I couldn't say anything like this to my doctor."

So I began thinking: : Hey! Wait just a moment here, whose running the show?

For decades the medical profession maintained the position of being the authority, in charge, what you hand your healthcare over to.

Just take a moment to consider this:

As soon as you walk into a healthcare facility you are hiring THEM!

Yes that is right they are YOUR employees! You are paying them for their skill and resources. No different than if you were to hire someone to put an addition on to your house.

Would you put up with not being listened to? Respected? given something you did not really want from your builder?


So why do we accept this with one of the most important purchases we make....our healthcare?


Remember you are hiring them. Expect your employees to what you ask of them with respect and with good listening and understanding.

Be well!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Letting go of our need to control

Greeting all.

Well I have returned to offer some thought and ideas.

This time I am writing about our penchant to want to control outcomes.

We would all like to feel we have the power to control cause and effect. That is, to control how things turn our in our lives.

"If I do this,
 then that will happen."

For example:

If I take this medicine,
I will feel beter.

If I am nice to you,
you should be nice to me.

If we teach our children
they will learn.

I I study hard,
I will get an A

If I am a perfect parent,
my children will be happy and well adjusted.

We all want to think we can cause things to be the way we want. This is a rather linear way of thinking about how the world works. If I do A then B will happen.

In the retreats I offer, I talk about the two aspects that go into our need to control outcomes.

1) Insistence
2) Resistance

We insist that things go the way we want, and then we resist things when they turn out differently. This is the basis of much of our suffering and frustration.

We are learning everyday that everything from the tiniest sub-atomic particles to the largest galaxies do not control one another, rather they influence each other. We have also learned that just by observing an event we exert an influence on what occurs! Just being present effects outcomes that we often are not even aware of.

When I was in college I was taught the proper experimental method. Develop a hypothesis, introduce and independent variable and measure the dependent variable. For example: Smiling more will reduce conflict in couples. Introduce different levels of smiling and measure the results. Except something was happening. The cause and effect was not 100%. I learned that I could not control all confounding variables. So, the best I could do was offer the results as a degree of influence. 

There goes linear thinking. A does not always cause B. A might cause B to happen but there are often so many other things going on with B that we can only guess how much A causes B. In fact, we can only say how much A influences B.

So what do we do?

Shift our approach to ourselves, others, and the world from one of control to influence. To place our attention and energy in offering what each situation is asking from us. Offering at any given moment, the most positive influence on this process.

I am sure Jim Harbaugh would have loved to control the outcome of the last Super Bowl. All he could do was prepare his team in order to have the greatest influence in the process of the game.

Influence on the process.

Stuck in traffic and late for a meeting? Pounding on the dashboard and yelling is trying to control outcomes. Get other drivers to do what we want, thinking we can control the stop lights: insistence (insist that you make all the lights to your destination) and resistance (blaming Murphy's Law, the driver ahead of you, the weather). 

Taking a deep breath and listening to some calming music, talk with your partner about the grandkids, notice the sunrise, are all ways to more positively influence the process that is occurring (you sitting at a red light). What is occurring will not necessarily change at your beckon, how you respond will influence the quality of your life and those around you! 

You can influence how you respond, you cannot control the universe!

So, the next time you find yourself in insistence and resistance mode, take a deep breath and ask yourself: 

What can I do to help? 
How can I best influence in the most positive way possible? 
What is something constructive I can offer?
Is my response making this situation better or worse?

Our lives are going to unfold as they do. We do not drive the unfolding of events. We can show up with the most patient, open and compassionate perspective possible.

When we shift our efforts to influencing the process we can relax a bit. We can now look at things as "how close can I get." Rather that "can I get what I want?" "

If I study hard, let's see how close I can get to geting an A. 

If I change my diet and exercise let's see how much better I will begin to feel.

If I am not as defensive let's see how people around me respond.

The shift from to "it has to be a certain way", to "let's see what happens." There are just far to many factors that effect outcomes that we have no control over. To continue to insist that if you do A then you can expect B, is to ignore how events come into being.

So in closing, let go of the need to control outcomes and work with situations as they arise with greater patience, openness and compassion. This will enhance the quality of your life in many ways. I won't say in which ways because that will be just trying to control outcomes again. Just show up and see what happens when you let go of your insistance to control outcomes.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Is bigger better?

Greetings to all!

I received an e-mail today that emphasized the importance of "being big," "going big," asking if we are up to something big in our life; or if we are setting for the small.

Well this got me thinking.

Consider this: Reflect on the times that something small, simple, modest had a huge influence on all of us.

I will mention a few:

The Buddha sitting, waiting patiently for enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree

Jesus exhorting us: "Those without sin cast the first stone."

Miester Eckhardt: "If the only prayer you say in your life is 'thank you,' that would suffice."



Here is a link to a beautiful video that reminds us that it is sometime a small gesture that can make a real profound change.

OK. Point made.....

Our culture so sadly emphasizes the BIG (cars, breasts, money, titles, wars, championships, muscles) often leaving us to feel inadequate, less that, not good enough unless we are doing something BIG. So we think we are settling. The messages we receive are deficiency based!
Think about it.

When was the last issue of Cosmopolitan that told women they are fine just they way they are? The last issue of financial magazines that told us to remember to focus on other things than being afraid about whether we have enough money?


So when considering the importance of the life you have been given, please do not overlook the small gestures.

Not everything BIG is all that big. Yes, I have highlighted some pretty influential people, but remember, but all they have asked us to do is follow their examples in our lives.

So the next time you feel less that, do something small
  • listen to a bird song
  • smile at another person
  • relax your breath
  • pick up some litter
  • be patient
  • call a friend
  • let someone out in traffic
A small pebble makes ripples too.

For your reference and reminder:

We are all enough! The more we allow ourselves to accept this and embrace what is right, the more what we do will leave a wonderful impact.

Peace and Gassho.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mindfulness, Mindfulness.... Where has mindfulness gone?

Mindfulness mindfulness mindfulness. Mindfulness for this, mindfulness for that. Everywhere you
turn you see or hear about mindfulness.

For example, mindfulness to become a better parent, mindfulness to become a better doctor, mindfulness to become a better lawyer, mindfulness in order to be a better student, mindfulness in order to get rid of headaches, and can you believe it mindfulness even mindfulness overcome shyness.
Yes even me! In trying to work with my publisher on an acceptable title for my book I was repeatedly told that the title must PROMISE something to the reader, something they want. I lost that battle. In the subtitle of my book it reads: "…to overcome fear and embrace compassion." This is a promise, I don't even believe.
The true mindful practice doesn't help you overcome anything. It just helps you face things better.
Like everything else that gets exploited mindfulness is now neatly package for your consumptive desires.
Its right up there on the shelf with shoes, lawn mowers, vacation packages, breakfast cereals, eyeliners, and the best diet
Everybody is touting and selling mindfulness. Step right up and get yours.
Okay let's restore some sanity here.
If you do mindfulness for some outcome you're not doing mindfulness. I'm not sure what you're doing and it may be beneficial but it is not mindfulness.
You see, the real practice all mindfulness has no outcome. You don't do mindfulness to get anywhere or achieve anything.
So why practice mindfulness?
All the great teachers (Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Toltec, Muslim, Native Peoples) have taught one thing:
The only reason to practice mindfulness is this: to wake up!!!!

That's all.
To wake up!
The more you peel back the layers of self deception and see things clearly as they truly are, in other words the more wake you become, the more you are able to live your life from an open compassionate heart, and a balanced calm mind. The benefits of this spontaneously move in all directions throughout all space and time.
Geez, Neuropsychology (Richard Davidson at UW-Madison and others) has even shown that those who simply practice mindfulness meditation (i.e. the Dalai Lama) show profound changes in the structures of their brain!
So stop all this nonsense of trying to practice mindfulness for any particular outcome.
Practice this enduring skill for its own sake, and everything else will take care of itself.
The simple yet profound practice of mindful meditation, whether on a cushion or in a chair, or in a grocery line, or talking with another, just keeps you in an open, balanced, and compassionate place that just makes this a better world.
Oh, yea, from now on I am going to avoid using the word "mindfulness." It has become so overused that we just don't know any more what we are talking about. I am not sure what I will use in its place: Presence, or Deeply wakeful…….
Until the next series of moments arrive.