Sound sounding

I just returned from my 5th silent meditation retreat @greatvow in 5 months. I am also on the verge of reaching 365 consecutive days of seated meditation practice. To say this year has been life changing would be a dramatic understatement. It has been, rather, life making. Life giving.

While my previous seven meditation retreats at Great Vow have all been important, each unique in its unfolding and impacts, this one was different.

I started out on this path of monthly retreat in part as an experiment. I feel a deep call to Buddhism, to centering spiritual practice in my life, and especially to Great Vow itself – the people, the land, the lineage. Finding this place has been the most profound sense of homecoming I have ever experienced. So, on the heart’s instruction, and with the very kind and supportive assent of my wife, Amanda, who really makes it all possible, I dove in to see what I’d find.

Early retreats were like chipping off layers of sediment. I had insights in those retreats, and got to know the forms, the lineage, the stream of information, more deeply. But in a way it was still an experiment – almost intellectual – almost personal development. Who would I be, how much better would I be, after this?

I’m likely never to know the answer to that question because I can’t really imagine not living my life this way, now. What started out as a question has become an emphatic answer – YES. This retreat centered on lineage, on ancestors, and I felt as though I was hearing, feeling, my own family history – though not by blood. Those words flowed through me like a spring breeze.

And I connected with Hogen Roshi in a more profound way than I had up until now, and formally asked to take Jukai – the step of entering the lineage and “becoming a Buddhist.” But beyond those more practical details, I felt a shift inside myself that is indescribable, but the effects are palpable and still in the process of unfolding.

I feel as if my life up until now has been preliminary training. And that is not to discount the wonders and activities of my life – they were and are pivotal, important, deeply important. But life now is different. I step forward on a path that will extend through the end of my days on Earth. I can see it clearly.

And now I reintegrate to my day-to-day existence. I get to see how all of that impacts all of this, how they interpenetrate, what more I can learn. I am so grateful for all of this, for all of you. We are so lucky to have this life.

A quick haiku inspired by a conversation with Hogen Roshi.

He said sound hears sound

A gate, a path, wide open

Baby herons laugh

The perfect antidote

In a few hours, I’ll leave the comfortable container of the life I have built and enter into a silent meditation retreat. It’s the formal style of retreat known as sesshin in Zen practice, my first time doing this type of retreat. I’ve done silent retreats, long retreats, and retreats where meditation is the focus – but never this formal style, and never for this length of time.

As with most retreats, and especially silent retreats, I am experiencing profound anxiety about what’s to come.

These retreats are no joke! 8-10 hours of seated meditation a day, formal meal practice, sleeping in an unfamiliar place, navigating the minefield of my dietary needs… it’s a lot! I know I can do it, but I know it will be uncomfortable at several points. There always seems to be a moment for me in meditation retreats where I’m sitting on the cushion and my inner child is screaming at the top of their lungs, ready to run into the forest and never come back.

Honestly, the thing that is gnawing at me most is the lack of work time.

This is a week off from running my business, seeing my patients, being the architect of my life on Earth. The understanding is that while you are in the sesshin retreat, even when there are break times, you’re not going online, you’re not engaging in work, in fact they ask you not even to read or journal. The intention is to keep 100% of your focus on being in your body, in your breath, in your experience.


My work is a massive, massive part of my life. My business partner is my life partner. The practices I use and teach at work are the very same practices I use in my own life. I wake up thinking about Chinese medicine, I go to sleep thinking about Chinese medicine. I ENJOY working on my business, planning, analyzing, understanding, connecting. And right now, of course, I’m also intellectually engaged with my classical Chinese studies, among other things. I have built the life and the work that feeds me, challenges me and keeps me engaged.

To give that up, even for a week, feels painful! And that’s exactly why I have to do it.

Work is not life. Even my home life is not really life. Not all of it. There is a whole part of the human experience that we so often ignore or at least minimize. Our engagement with our deepest selves, the reality of our existence and, yes, the reality of our eventual non-existence. The real “meaning” or truth of what it is we are doing, and why, and what it all means. The realm of the spiritual, the deep philosophical, the beyond, the mystery. Most of us ignore it. I know I try.

So, this type of retreat is the perfect antidote for me.

For my infection with the hustle always-up culture that I was born and raised in. For my disembodiment/dissociation and the traumas that created and sustain it. For my secret concern that all that is important about me is in what I create or produce. It is the antidote to the culture that makes me feel only as valuable as I am economically valuable.

And as a person recently diagnosed with autism, I am looking at this particular retreat differently than in the past. I see that I have been attracted to the monastic environment and monastic life in part because it is quiet, calm, soothing, peaceful. A silent retreat means no forced socializing, no weird looks if I want to wander off on my own or just stare in to space feeling the world around me. It means space without flashing lights and loud noises and offensive smells and people always trying to steal my attention and centeredness.

It is a break from the need to mask myself.

So, while my inner child is kicking and screaming, begging me not to go, I know I must. I know I will. And I know on the flipside I will emerge more integrated, more prepared for what’s to come, and more joyful about the beauty of existence.

Remind me of this when I forget in five minutes.


I take walks often. It’s how I process, how I generate new ideas, and how I shed a bad mood. I’d say that the simple act of walking is the most vital pillar in my self care stack.

Running a close second, however, is writing.

When it comes to thinking something through, planning anything or expressing my feelings – writing is the best tool I have. So, in the very earliest days of the Internet, I was all over any software or service that involved written communication in some way. Geocities and other early blogging platforms, Livejournal, all of the text focused social networks, text-based BBS communities, in all these spots I felt at home.

At some point, writing became about making money. My writing became “content” meant to rank me in the search engines, even if I didn’t have a real reason to care about that. It’s ingrained in me as a contemporary small business owner and a person who has had to hustle for most of my life. But, this ended up killing the very reason I was writing in the first place – to process, to learn more, to understand, and to share all of that with others.

So, despite the fact that I have other websites where the focus of my writing is professional, even commercial, here I give myself a break from all of that. Here I am writing for myself, for my own purposes. And if you find something useful in it, all the better.

Here’s a short, incomplete list of the things I’m likely to write about here:

  • Chinese medicine including Classical Chinese medicine, Chinese herbs, Dong style acupuncture and pulse diagnosis
  • Chinese language & culture, especially of the Han / pre-Han
  • Study techniques, memory & pedagogy
  • Queer theory, reflections on gender & sexuality
  • Neurodivergence, autism, ADHD and the paradigms that help (or hurt) our understanding of these
  • Nature, animals, plants, herbs, permaculture
  • Philosophy as a discipline, particularly epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of medicine and novel environmental philosophies such as Deep Ecology
  • Wise use of technology, especially the use of digital technologies in organizational development
  • Business, especially small business, ethical business, ethical employment
  • Marketing in all its many permutations

Let’s see where this goes.