The Way


People have been sitting on this rock
for at least ten thousand years.

The boulder is Matilija sandstone –
it glows pink in the sunset & sunrise.
The trees are Ponderosa pine –
they smell like cream soda.
The vista sweeps across
mountains, ocean & islands.

For a moment, in that spot
this whole thing, this whole thing 
gathers itself together –

The natural & the divine.
The ancient & the modern.
The pain, grief & fear.
The hope, love & joy.
The darkness & the light.
The living & the dead.

The world as one,
held in the heart.

The practice is not easy,
but very simple –

Bring the mind home to the breath

& let the heart become great enough
to hold all of it, all of it, in peace. 

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A Promise

BestDayI promised my father before he died
that I would try to keep my mother
in her Ojai home for the rest of her life.

My mom was an unholy terror –
drinking & driving, smoking in bed,
& firing every helper I hired,
yelling expletives until they fled.

After my dad passed she got worse.
(Even though we took away the car keys.)
I would get phone calls at work:

The paramedics would say –
“We are at your mother’s house.
Her head is stuck under the sink.
She’s covered in blood.
She’s been drinking.”

The caregivers would say –
“As of Friday this agency will
no longer serve your mother.”
“You have to get me out of here.
Your mom is driving me crazy.”

My mother’s doctor was very glad
to write the order for Board & Care.

So I began the conversation with my mom –
“You can’t stay there.
It’s not safe for you.
You need to move.”
She said, “I’m not leaving.”
We had that conversation many times a day.

The helpful Board & Care owner said,
“Just let us handle it.
We do this all the time.”

They picked Mom up at her home
& then they called me at work.
“Your mother is threatening to jump out of the car!”
So she & I had the conversation again.
I remember falling to my knees in the parking lot.
My co-workers wondered if I was losing my mind.

For awhile at the Board & Care –
my mother hit people, threw things
& shouted epithets at the nice staff.
But as the nicotine & alcohol faded
her health & mood got better.

She started to call me several times a day,
“Why can’t I come & live with you?”
“Because of the doctor’s orders, Mom.”
Which was true, but it wasn’t the truth.

Finally I told her the real truth.
“Mom, one month & I’d be insane.”
She believed me & began to settle in.

(A nurse told me a year or so ago,
“We have never had a patient like her.”
I said, “She was a nurse all her life.
They tend to be a rather tough lot.”)

I visit my mom at least once weekly.
I have come to like her more than ever.

A few days ago I took her for an outing.
I wish you could have seen her face as
I handed her the Soy Green Tea Blended
through the Subaru window.

We drove up Hwy 33 to Piedra Blanca.
I said, “This reminds me of the road trips
my father, your husband, used to take us on.”
She said, “You don’t have to say that part.
I know that your father was my husband.”

She had to pee out by Rose Valley.
Which is a big deal because
the walker isn’t easy on dirt trails.
But we got her safely to the john.
She said, “You’re just like a mother.”

As we exited the latrine,
I whispered, “Look.”
She gazed around & said,
“Ohhh, mountains.”
She closed her eyes & said,
“Smell the trees?”
A moment later she said,
“This is the best day of my life.”

Karma means that on the wheel of lives
every obligation will ultimately be fulfilled.
Thankfully, there are countless ways
to honor a promise once it’s given.

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When I am waiting in line
for fish tacos on the pier,
I can see the old Cross on the hill.

For me it is not a religious icon
but rather a spiritual one –
much more ancient than
the instrument of execution.

I was taught that the Cross symbolizes
a human being on a great height,
standing upright with arms outstretched.

The vertical axis is the clear light
shining through the mind
for the blessing of the world.

The horizontal axis is the deep love
pouring through the heart
for the service of all beings.

As one stands steady in the light
one comes to know the truth that
we are not mere physical things,
but are, each of us,
all of us, spiritual beings.
So we must treat other people
with the love we have for self.

This is a Wisdom Teaching
not just for any single faith.
It is the Christ’s gift
for our whole species.

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I encounter this familiar figure
several times a week in town
& it bothers me a bit that
almost no one knows who he is.

This statue depicts Ch’i Tz’u,
a tenth century Chinese monk.

He is called Budai or Hotei,
“Cloth Bag” or “Hemp Sack”
in honor of the bundle
he carries with him.

His great belly symbolizes boundlessness.
His great smile symbolizes benevolence.

He stands for the path of limitless
friendship, kindness & goodwill.

Once on the road he was challenged,
“Hey Monk, what is this Zen about?”
And he set his bag down on the ground.

Then he was challenged again,
“So what is the point of that?”
And he picked up his bag & walked on.

Guess what’s in the sack?
Toys & candy for children.

Spiritual nobility is not based upon
wealth or fame, beauty or power.
It is a capacity of consciousness –

We can expand
our sense of self
to embrace others.

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Trust & Care


My grandson used to live with us on weekends.
Early Saturday mornings you couldn’t hear footsteps.
But you could see blue eyes peering over the bed.
My late wife would laugh & say to me,
“You two need to go on an adventure today.”

It’s summer so we drive to Putah Creek.
We amble down the dirt road
paralleling the waterway.

Tristen is only about three
so I carry him on my shoulders
when he gets a bit tired.

The little curly white terrier,
Bodhi, dawdles along beside us.

After awhile we come to a good spot.
There are scattered boulders,
a few scrubby oak trees,
& a little trail down to the water.

We cross over into the creek.

We both have on sandals with buckles
so we can wade the stony shallows.

The sun is warm & the water is cool.
The trio of us ease our way up the stream –
a man, a boy & a dog, journeying together.

As we go on, the water rises,
to our ankles, knees, hips.

As Bodhi starts swimming,
I lift Tristen into my left arm.

On the one side of the creek
there is a great wall of bamboo.
On the other side, a blackberry thicket,
with refugee grapevines from the vineyard.

The creek deepens, the bottom gets sandy
& the water rises over Tristen’s belly.

He tenses, “Unhh, unhh.”

I whisper, “It’s alright.
Don’t be afraid.”

We both notice Bodhi
is beginning to struggle
to keep abreast of us.

I reach over & grasp his collar,
towing him with my right arm.

Tristen watches this with wide eyes,
& his body eases fully into my embrace.

One of the great moments of my life.

The three of us settle into the rhythm
of walking through flowing water.

It is at this primeval point that
three seemingly golden herons
glide silently across our path.

Trust & care are rooted deeply
in the light & love of the Soul.

Which fully blooms only
with the honoring of promises.

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The Family of Wisdom

Virgin of Guadalupe,
Mother of All the Americas

The esoteric literature predicts
that amidst global crisis
there will come into being
a new group of diverse people
drawn from every culture of
the great house of humanity
committed not merely to
the service of their own
nation or religion,
but to the service
of the world.

We are witnessing
the emergence of potentialities
for intuition, empathy, creativity.

These are strong signs for
an awakening humanity.

We find ourselves called into
varied fields of service:
leading, healing, teaching,
business & the arts…

And we find ourselves drawn into
organizations & communities.

Anyone who has ever lived with a family
knows that dealing with other people
can be astonishingly complicated.

There are two practices
that help with group work:

1. Non-Criticism

Of course we may need to
assess or critique each others
choices or actions.

But condemnatory faultfinding
brews toxins that poison group work.

2. Non-Interferference

Of course we must intervene
against unjust, unkind or unsafe
choices or actions.

But healthy group work relies upon
every member doing their own job
& letting others be free to do theirs.

The appearance of people
who can work in groups
for world service
is a good sign.

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The Wisdom of Kindness

Maitreya2 copy

Future Buddha Maitreya
Bodhisattva of Lovingkindness

Wisdom is in knowing our own being.
Becoming fully aware of our self –
who we are & what we are doing.

As the knowing of our own being grows,
we come to know the other as a being also.

Kindness is based upon the realization
that our self & the other are of one kind.

As our consciousness evolves
it is as if a light is shining
through our minds, revealing
that we are not mere things –
existing only for others,
but beings existing for ourselves.

As our consciousness deepens
it is as if a love is flowing
through our hearts, revealing
that others are beings as we are –
existing not only for us,
but for themselves also.

This is the initial arising of
a revolution of consciousness:

If others are not things,
then we must cease
using & hurting them.

If others are beings,
then we must begin
serving & helping them.

In the name of wisdom & kindness
let us propose a Diamond Rule –

Treat others as the Self.
Because they are.

This is a basic human pathway
to spiritual awakening.

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Mind the Heart


The World Teacher…
the Master of the Masters…
works by means
of a meditation
centered in the heart…

Djwahl Khul, 1922

I was taking a friend home
from a class awhile ago.

I enjoy driving Creek Road.
At night it’s like wending
through a dark tunnel
lined by elder oaks.

Close to Ojai
there was
a faun standing
in the road.

White spotted baby-deer
frightened in the headlights.

We both gasp aloud.
I swerve over.
Punch the flashers.

Pamela cries, “There’s a car coming!”

I turn toward
the oncoming lane.
Honk the horn.
Flick the brights.
Again & again.

The other car does not slow,
and it does not stop.

And it takes the baby.

Pamela says, “They missed it!”
I know that prayer very well.


During crisis my mind
roots in my heart.

I carefully U-turn around.

We can both see the body lying there.

I park on the roadside.
Pamela leaps out.
Scoops the baby
gently, gently
up in her arms.

Carries her to safety.

I open the hatchback.
Pamela tenderly
lays her down.

The baby struggles
a bit in the light.

She is beautiful,
seemingly perfect.

Pamela asks, “What should we do?”

“That will get clear.”

We are both holding her.
Murmuring soothing things.
Trying to pour love into her.

Pamela asks, “Should we take her to a Vet?
I know one in Ojai that will open for us.”

But I am watching & listening
& that doesn’t feel quite right.

“Let’s wait.”

Stroking her fur,
we can feel things
going wrong.

And we can hear crashing in the brush.

Pamela says, “Maybe we should leave her
so her mama can be with her.”

That feels very much right.

A few moments later
the faun goes very still.

I put my ear to her chest.
Her bright eyes grow dull.

I lift the little body in my arms,
carry her over to the trail,
& lay her in a quiet spot.

My friend & I both
still feel right about that.

I wept after it was over.
I weep as I am writing this.
But while it was happening
I was calm & clear –

minding my heart.

This is the living space
in which we can find
the friendly presence
of loving wisdom.

If we can hold fast
to that great depth,
then it will open for us –

embracing everything
embracing everything.

Guiding us toward helping.
Guarding us from harming.

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Human Practice


Whatever spiritual tradition
or consciousness discipline
we have committed ourselves to,
the practice is grounded in
the basics of being human.

Whether our practice
is from the Western side
or from the Eastern side,
from the 12 Steps
or from New Thought,
every human being
has both a mind & a heart –

And each of us benefits
from becoming skillful
with these things.

The basic common
human practice is
to use the mind
to know ourselves
to use the heart
to care for others.

It is in this Way
that we come to stand
in the greater light
that we come to serve
in the greater love.

This is how spiritual principles:

Light & Love
Truth & Care
Wisdom & Kindness
Honesty & Respect
Justice & Mercy

enter into material reality.

They come into the world
through our practice –

letting our mind be filled with light,
letting our heart be changed by love.

This basic practice is not strictly
a Buddhist path or a Christian path.

It is the life of our being
& the path of the Soul.

Our common human strivings
to know ourselves
& to care for others
are the simple basic practice
of our species on this planet.

Whatever the formal technique
of prayerfulness or meditation –

Our daily living practice
(simply being present)
is the vigil that brings us awake
& the refuge that brings us peace.

Posted in Ancient Wisdom Ministry, Anonymous Fellowship, Brock Travis, Uncategorized, VCSL, Ventura Center for Spiritual Living | Tagged , | Leave a comment


2015-06-17 20.24.16

I was returning from a writing retreat in Frazier,
& I decided to drive home through the mountains.

The Lockwood Valley highway winds through
an eroded desolate wilderness of creeks & pines.

Harshly starkly beautiful
as only lonely deserts can be.

I passed a gate with a sign saying –

Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple.

I knew that there was a Zen center.
I had been meaning to visit for years.

I also knew they didn’t really appreciate
impromptu uninvited visitors.

But the gate was open.
So I turned around.

I parked my car off the dirt road
by a little cluster of wooden buildings.

An elder lady appeared.

Nunnish garb.
Shaved head.
Brilliant eyes.

She asked, “What can I do for you?”

I told her I’d just leave if it wasn’t okay,
but would like to walk around the place.

She said they were busy working,
but I could look around awhile.

The property was developed very simply.
A small house with a few cabins.
Many statues of Buddhas.

A little bit later I noticed that
she was carrying a box of firewood,
so I called, “Do you need a hand?”

She asked, “Do you have any gloves?”
I said, “I don’t need gloves to move a box.”
She said, “I have some gloves.”

She got the gloves & led me into a shed.

“Do you see this pile of wood marked ‘Curing’?
It needs to be moved over to the ‘Cured’ pile.”

So I re-stacked the woodpile.
A scruffy dog kept me company.

I wasn’t quite done, when she said,
“Well I guess you’ve earned some lunch.”
I said, “I’m going to have to finish stacking.”
She said, “You can finish after we eat.”

I took some soup & salad
to a wooden table on a patio.

There were a couple of other guests there,
& we were joined by a tall quiet man.

Monkish garb.
Shaved head.
Gentle voice.

He said, “It seems I might have heard of
a Brock that teaches Zen in Ventura.”

I said, “I teach Mindfulness for Veterans
class at the Camarillo Healthcare District.”

We got to talking about
meditation instruction,
& Reverend Phoebe & I agreed that
people’s belief that they are supposed
to be able to cease thinking is a real issue.

“I tell students that the early Zen masters
taught that the belief that thought stopping
is equivalent to enlightenment is a delusion…”

“Yes! And right after the meditation
students complain that they couldn’t
get their thoughts to stop!”

At this point Reverend Seikei said,
“You know, Zen is the Middle Way…
(Scattered, chattering thinking on one hand
& the silence of no thinking on the other.)
We’re trying to settle into the middle.”
(Between both of these extremes.)

After the meal I said I felt
a need to finish the woodpile.

Reverend Phoebe said to drop by
the big hall when I was done.

Reverend Seikei said that
my service was appreciated.

On my way out I stopped by
a large wooden structure.

Reverend Phoebe showed me the Hall.
It seemed to me to be very holy,
but she said that I could enter.

She pointed toward two statues,
one in the right corner –
the Bodhisattva of Compassion;
one in the left corner –
the Bodhisattva of Determination.

She said, “You know,
prayer in Zen is meant
to invoke these qualities
into our selves.

Because it is only through us
that compassion & determination
come into the world.”

Just before I left the Hall
tears sprang to my eyes –

“It is so beautiful to be standing upon land
that is dedicated to compassion.”

She said, “That’s why we stay.
That’s why we keep shaving our heads
& wearing these funny clothes.”

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