Spring Sunday Meditation Series


An opportunity to practice Meditation together. Exploring a variety of postures and styles.

We will use the four classic positions of seated, standing, walking, and lying down. The details of each posture will be presented in each session and adjustments will be presented.

With a given posture our attention is directed initially onto our breathing, and optionally onto the sensations and feelings we have in the moment.

Mediation may also include directing the attention to a topic and we will explore a handful of traditional topics including Naikan (visualizations appropriate for stress reduction and well-being); Metta (compassion, loving-kindness); Prajna (wisdom or insight).

Meditation instruction will be offered each class and variations in technique will be presented each session. Topics will include: postures for meditation whether sitting, standing, walking; Mindfulness of breathing, body, mental events; using intention to alter emotions; visualizations to promote well-being and relaxation; zen inquiry into mind; and any topics you wish to raise.

Each class is independent, fundamental instructions will be reviewed in each class and there will be time for questions.

Contact me via email (alan at mentalblocks dot com) if you have questions.

Location; the classes are held in the Community Room at 21 Nassau St. (west entrance, ½ block west of main doors).

Class starts at 1:30pm and ends at 4:00pm.

Cost is pay what you can.

Dates: April 10, 17, 24

Yoga classes in Cabbagetown

core work side to side #3 - 1Through the month of April 2016, I’ll be teaching in Cabbagetown at the Lotus Palm Thai Yoga Massage School. 517 Parliament St., 2nd. floor.

The classes are Monday and Thursday morning 9:30-10:45a.

The classes will focus on core-work and hips. We’ll work mainly on the mat and requests are always welcome.

The cost is $20 a class or $60 for 4 classes. The classes will run through to the end of the month.

Click the “Yoga” tab at the top for details on other classes I teach in Kensington.

Yamada Mumon Roshi from 1977

An excerpt from a BBC film “Zen Buddhism – The Land of the Disappearing Buddha – Japan (BBC 1977)”, hosted by Ninian Smart, includes an interview with Harada Roshi’s teacher Yamada Mumon Roshi. Mumon Roshi describes zazen and gives sanzen.

The Cult that killed the Earth

“Mainstream Economics is a Cult”

An excellent post on Washington’s blog exposing the cult of mainstream neo-liberal economics. An outgrowth of protestant theology, and social darwinism, it now threatens the welfare of the ecosphere as it panders to the worse elements in all our natures.

What to replace it with you ask? Schumacher pointed to the alternative decades ago in “Small is Beautiful” (wikipedia) – economics as if people mattered!


“It is clear, therefore, that Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modern materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilisation not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character. Character, at the same time, is formed primarily by a man’s work. And work, properly conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, blesses those who do it and equally their products.”



Yoga teaches yoga

A longstanding delusion that arises by being caught in words is that Yoga can be learned via words. While we engage with words and words are exchanged in practice, they are not the Way. Words are like a stone we use to bang on a gate, when the gatekeeper comes and the gate opens we drop the stone and move forward.

Yoga teaches yoga, not words, not teachers at the front of the room, not DVDs or any other external thing. Yoga is inner work, a direct inner experience of this moment. Put aside thinking, judging, remembering, comparing – instead immediately experience the asana.

When we experience our practice directly then we know without mental baggage whether to stop, start, do more effort, less effort – we can come naturally into balance.

Yoga is for transformation. Transform yourself by experiencing yourself directly this moment. Drop the barrier of judgement, see directly as the mirror reflects without hesitation or consideration. Transform the base and liberate yourself.


Now is the summer of our discontent

from ‘What does Democracy Look Like?’:

“These new democratic forms do not ask governments to be more democratic. They are inherently outside the framework of institutional power. Democracy is not possible as long as it is linked to a form of exchange based on hierarchy, inequality, oppression and exploitation. People cannot be physically or emotionally free as long as capitalist hierarchies and structures determine those things that are most fundamental to our work and lives. Capitalism and democracy are incompatible. This is not to oppose reforms, but it does mean, for example, that instead of proposing legislation or getting behind a candidate who is against foreclosures (as one is supposed to do in a representative “democracy”), the movement disrupts foreclosures and occupies people’s homes so they are not evicted. In Greece, hospitals are being occupied so that people do not have to pay the newly imposed cost of healthcare. Sometimes these actions change laws or modify rules, but the point is to create new ways of relating—not looking to institutional power but instead creating power.

The creation of this power does not accept the value system of capitalism, where the market determines the worth of a person’s house or health. The movement refuses to participate in that logic. Our logic, grounded in prefigurative forms of democracy, is to take care of one another. This is a different value system, one based on solidarity and real democracy. These relations break with capitalist production and create new values. The movement accumulates not capital or surplus but affect and networks of solidarity and friendship. This new value is seen on the subjective level, in the change in people and their relationships with one another, but also concretely, in new ways of surviving and helping others survive based on these relationships.”

Speaking freely

Milton, speaking in 1644 said:

“Truth and understanding are not such wares as to be monopolized and traded in by tickets and statutes and standards. We must not think to make a staple commodity of all the knowledge in the land, to mark and license it like our broadcloth and our woolpacks.”

Over three hundred years later and legislators still provide statutes and licenses for only their opinions and those of their backers.

When Milton presented the Areopagitica (or, its full title Areopagitica: A speech of Mr. John Milton for the liberty of unlicensed printing to the Parliament of England), the Star Chamber had been closed only two years and legislators were hurrying to pass laws to censor printed works.

We have evolved our technology but not our society, and the same issues are alive today in the U.S. Congress. Indeed, the Congress has returned the Star Chamber (secret courts, secret detentions, arbitrary judgement – all of it for the benefit of the powerful and presented as the protection of the powerless). Now Congress seeks to hand control of the latest ‘printing press’ to the lofty 1% who will regulate for their own benefit.

Milton’s context is explored at 3 Quarks Daily.

Practicing Mindfulness Course

Mindfulness frees us from the burdens of endless thoughts.
Meditation studies the self to ‘forget’ the self and opens us to
oneness with all things. Moving freely in the midst of the world we can
discover meditation in our daily lives.
Using techniques from Yoga, Buddhism and Zen, we will explore the role
of breath, posture and attention to embody clarity and calm throughout
our day.

Alan Gensho Florence
was certified to teach Zen by Houn Jiyu Roshi and
currently studies Zen with Shodo Harada Roshi.
Alan has practiced meditation and yoga for forty years.

I will be teaching a four week course in Mindfulness that offers an introduction to techniques and practice. The goal of the course is the development of personal tools that facilitate our using mindfulness throughout our daily lives to sustain our presence, our calm and our equilibrium.
This course will introduce a set of techniques for body, breath, and mind. The Wednesday sessions will instruct techniques and provide time for questions and practice of the material. Optional Sunday sessions are offered in the same timeframe as the course to give additional opportunity for practice and group support.
Each participant is offered a private meeting with the instructor, and needs to recognize that success in the course requires daily practice over a period of time. By setting aside some time each day for practice we develop the skills to use mindfulness throughout our daily life.

Course dates: Wednesdays, 7:30p-9p; Jan. 18, 25, Feb. 1, 8.
Optional practice: Sundays, 10a-12p; Jan. 23, 30, Feb. 6.
Size, maximum of 6 participants.
Cost, $200 including all events and materials.

for more information, contact: gensho at mental blocks dot com

Harada Roshi’s report on Sendai and Fukushima

It’s a month since the tsunami crushed the coast of Japan north of Tokyo. Shodo Harada Roshi along with Ekai and Domyo travelled to the area in early April.

Harada Roshi wrote on his experiences and the text is available here.

In Sendai there is a priest and a temple with which we have strong karmic affiliation. He has always sent samugi, rice, and straw sandals used for takuhatsu to the people training at Sogenji. Many, many times he has sent these things for the people at Sogenji.
In some way, in any way possible, I wanted to go there and support him. The Shinkansen (high speed train) was not yet running up there, the local trains were irregular and frequently nonexistent ,and all the roads had been destroyed and were still impassable. Anywhere near the site of the disaster it was impossible to enter, except for the national guard and other emergency groups in their special vehicles. Regular vehicles could not get there.
On the 27th day of March, the roads finally were opened and it was by chance that it was the end of the month so this was the opportunity I had, using every possible means we were able to go to Sendai and to the Fukushima area. Luckily, there was an all night highway bus going all the way there after changing from a train to Kyoto, and we were able to get seats.

Shodo Harada Roshi on Joshu’s “Wash Your Bowls”

This is a public talk by Shodo Harada Roshi. Given on Feb., 27, 2008. The talk was given in support of Enso House a hospice on Whidbey Island, founded by Harada Roshi. Roshi teaches in Japanese with translation into English by DaiChi Storandt.

Roshi begins with a story from Zen Master Joshu, known as ‘wash your bowls’ [Mumonkan #7], and applies this teaching to each persons situation in the world today.

Here are comments by Shodo Harada Roshi on Joshu’s ‘Wash your bowls” from his newsletter (Jan, 93) which introduce his teaching:

One day a monk came to Joshu’s place. “I am a new monk who has just arrived at this dojo. Please tell me what is important to be done in training–how should one go about one’s life? I don’t have the slightest idea what to do; haven’t you some words I could rely on to guide me?”

This monk was looking for some words he could be thankful for–something he could rely and depend upon. Joshu responded in just the opposite way, “Did you eat the gruel this morning?”–“Yes. I ate it.” This monk was probably very surprised by the answer. He’d asked about what were the important points to maintain in training and what was he answered? “Did you eat your gruel this morning?” What a ridiculous question! Wasn’t it obvious?

But Joshu wasn’t just asking about the gruel he’d had for breakfast–he was asking about an important part of training. He was asking him to be ever more attentive at what he was doing. This probably left the monk with a real feeling of dissatisfaction. At this the monk said, “I received your answer,” to which Joshu responded without hesitation, “After you’ve eaten your gruel be sure that you wash your bowls well!” And when he put it that way the monk must have suddenly understood what he’d been saying.

This is the whole story. We say “zazen, zazen,” talk about “training, training.” We speak about “the Dharma, the Dharma” and “the truth, the truth”–we say all these things, and it makes it seem as if there’s something special and unusual. Talking like this is proof that the inventive and creative efforts are not really alive–not living. We may understand the reasoning and logic but we haven’t yet understood that very place where we’re standing. We may know about the sun and moon and stars that are in the heavens but we don’t yet understand our own mind.