On the day of the anniversary of a death I treat things I see as auspicious, a messenger. Today marks 20 years since Soto Zen master, Kobun Chino died. He was a great teacher in his tremendous ability for kindness and unpredictability, and his creative way, and brilliance. Oh, and that ability to be intimate with oneself—I didn’t even know that was a thing! When I met him, I thought he was from another planet, underneath this one. And yet, and yet, this planet was familiar to me. (Like an embodiment of that Rumi poem, “breath breathing human being”). Even though it It was just Naropa summer dance and art and writing. We all sat together in the mornings. Kobun asked us all to come one morning at 6 so that we could sit for longer, really get a feel for it. The night before I ate too much of something—in my mind now, it’s toasted pita bread(s), with butter and jam! In the morning, waking up at 4:30 in the Poderosa Mobile Home park #53 in Boulder, I felt crappy and had a small gentle insight that I could watch my relationship with food. It wasn’t mean or hard. I didn’t blame myself. It was the gentlest insight, soft, like a rabbit. And that morning I knew that insight itself was a thing. It didn’t matter how large it was, it was that it was an insight. The insight and the thing it’s about, shared a place. And I knew there would be more insights, floods of them, and I knew I wasn’t alone. The friends I met because of the teacher, many of them are still here. And even though I was scared and had questions, I knew this practice, with this teacher who had been practicing this meditation and related forms, since he was a child, in a culture rich with lineage, offered something for me. Regular me. And somehow I knew that it wasn’t something you put on top of something, like icing. It was already part of me, more like nature. They call it original nature. I was in luck.


What I saw today. My two three legged dogs, suddenly realizing they were off leash, run and play like crazy people, in the park. They run toward the swing sets, the sandbox, and then seeing people there, they stop. Look back at me, look at each other and run straight to me! (I was also holding the string cheese).

I heard it before I saw it. A boy in Natural Grocers, “Carry me, mom. Carry me now. Carry me.” And his face was red with tears, and he was sort of a big boy. And he didn’t stop. He really didn’t. He leaned and dragged on her. The mother was so kind. And we in the store, smiled at each other. His voice carried through the store. The entire time I was shopping his voice continued. The mother was like, “He was up in the night four times, that is why. That was worse.”

A grungy looking man (but also friendly looking) in a wheelchair, white hospital bracelet still on, fresh bandage on his leg, walks himself up the hill from the hospital on Mountain View, in the bike lane, backwards. He pushes backwards with his feet. It takes me a while to ask, but I do, “Do you want a push?”

“No, I’m good.” And then as I drive past I wave and he waves.

Two swallow butterflies’ kind of colliding and they part and back together in the air, meanwhile going up and up. Then one flies off quickly, and by the time I turn to look at the other, they are gone.





Kobun Biography — Jikoji Zen Center


Only Breath

by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Coleman Barks
Original Language Persian/Farsi & Turkish

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or in the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.