So I had this crazy dream about a week ago. I was DJ'ing in a club in Milwaukee way back in the day. It was your stereotypical late 80's rave, with lots of Hindu and Tibetan inspired themes. And while I was mixing, I looked out at the crowd and everybody who'd been dancing and thrashing about joyously were stopped in their tracks on the dance-floor, and were staring towards me. Towards me, not at me, as I soon understood. They were staring past me, transfixed. When I turned and looked at the white spandex projection screen behind me, projected upon it was an enso--a zen brush-stroke circle--and nothing else. Suddenly, as we all stared at this enso, a pair of hands faded into view, palm-to-palm, together in gassho, inside the enso. Everyone was transfixed by this image. A single shakuhachi note sounded, long and sparse, and everyone in the dream suddenly burst into a rain of cherry blossom petals. Then I woke.

It was the most vivid dream I've had in years and years.

I tend to listen to dreams like that. They mean something. I don't tend to subscribe to the idea that it's something outside of me being communicated; quite the contrary. When I dream like that, typically it's something trying to get out. Something in me is crying out to be made manifest.

I lay there, thinking about the good times I had in that environment, playing music in clubs, DJ'ing at both trendy spots in the city and in dive suburban bars in college. I remember what an incredible rush it was to make people move; what a deep spiritual connection I felt by not only moving their bodies, but their minds and hearts by playing just the right thing at just the right time and in just the right way.

I still mix, but for myself. If you put me behind the 1's & 2's right now, I'd sounds like a DJ falling down a flight of stairs, I'm sure. But my production skills are still there (mostly) and my musical mind is still 100%--probably better now than then because my musical vocabulary has expanded so much in the last 20 years--so I still have a few chops left.

And so I lay there, and thought "You know, I bet you I could still pull it off. I bet you if given the right people and the right resources, I could still produce a big-assed event. It would be easier now than then, because I wouldn't be trying to do it in a disused warehouse or leaky basement somewhere."

Then I did the crazy-assed thing.

I started to believe myself.

Then I did the unthinkable.

I decided to try.

So I got up, went to the laptop, got on Craigslist and posted this:

A newborn collective is seeking volunteers and collaborators for a two-night event whose proceeds will benefit a local Buddhist temple. Night one will be an all-ages event, and night two will be 21+. There will be no money made by artists this time around, but using this event as a test-run for a quarterly show may mean money down the road on a straight profit-sharing basis.

We are looking for the following types of artists:


PA owners/audio engineers
Light System owners (particularly tilts, lasers and other special effect illuminations)
Video projector owners
Video engineers
Security Staff
Support staff / Event runners

Psychedelic fluorescent artists
Sacred Buddhist imagery and iconography (particularly Chan/Zen-inspired imagery from China and Japan)
Creators of sacred space, particularly Asian / Japanese / Buddhist-inspired.

Conscientious Hip-Hop

We are looking to hold an organizational meeting the 2nd week of May, with a target date of a show in late fall (Oct/Nov).


The Pathos Collective is a group of like-minded and commonly inspired non-mainstream artists and musicians that are working towards making the community they live in a better place through art, performance and sacred spaces for adults and young adults alike. The Pathos Collective is the inspiration of DJ Pathos, a 40-something former live DJ who sees a need for positively-inspired and spiritually informed trance and dance music that appeals to a number of different demographics. DJ Pathos--a formal practicing Soto Zen Buddhist--is looking to get back in a live dance environment, and is using this opportunity to raise money for a local growing zen sangha. This is an opportunity for those artists, technicians, performers and owner-operators who may feel limited or shut out by the local trance production market to get in on the ground floor of a family of ethical, positive and spiritual people to make of themselves an offering to the community of positive music that affects and touches the spirit, expands the mind, and moves the body.



Please consider helping this cause by bringing us your skills, your talent and your energy.


-DJ Pathos 

I decided to resurrect my very first DJ moniker: DJ Pathos (<- very "goth" back then). It actually feels better and more appropo now than then, too.
Pathos is often associated with emotional appeal. But a better equivalent might be appeal to the audience's sympathies and imagination. An appeal to pathos causes an audience not just to respond emotionally but to identify with the writer's point of view - to feel what the writer feels. In this sense, pathos evokes a meaning implicit in the verb 'to suffer' - to feel pain imaginatively. Perhaps the most common way of conveying a pathetic appeal is through narrative or story, which can turn the abstractions of logic into something palpable and present. The values, beliefs, and understandings of the writer are implicit in the story and conveyed imaginatively to the reader. Pathos thus refers to both the emotional and the imaginative impact of the message on an audience, the power with which the writer's message moves the audience to decision or action.1

And moreover:

In the many works of Friedrich Schiller, "Sublime Pathos" (German, das Pathetisch-Erhabene) appears as a privileged aesthetic concept. According to Schiller, sublime pathos in the context of art demonstrates human freedom and triumph in the struggle against suffering. As such, pathos no longer refers to suffering itself, but rather an effect produced by overcoming suffering. Generally, Schiller links the experience of suffering to "grand ideas" - such as the idea of freedom; in this sense, pathos reminds one of Milton's Satan, when he cries out: "Hail, horrors, I greet thee!". Schiller's description of pathos continues to influence the use of the word today, in which such triumphant overcoming of suffering and other negative situations is seen as representing pathos.1


One of the things that interested me most about the dream was that if you've ever been to a rave/psytrance event, while Buddhism is very often represented, it is typically Theravadin or Tibetan. Zen is almost never represented, mostly because it lacks the visual "sex appeal" of other dharma lines. But the reaction of the crowd to the symbols of Zen; it was intriguing. I lay there and wonder "What would it take to bring Zen into that context?"

Well, I'm going to find out.

I have over two dozen responses to my Craigslist post, including two artists from a sister sangha. People are very interested in this idea, apparently.

The mix:

This is the beginning 30-or-so min of a 2-hour mix. I'll talk more about the nuts & bolts of it in another post. Hope you enjoy it. Every track it beat-matched and synchronized to the first track, the new Faithless single "You're The Sun To Me" from their up-coming release The Dance.  The shakuhachi piece is one of my favorites.  "Haunting" doesn't cover it.  I wanted to start out with something "very zen" to put a real stamp on the mix.  All the synthesizers layered over it are mine.  The voice-overs are of Alan Watts.  I will be putting a few more in from various places and people.   The VO drop-in of "DJ Pathos: Zen Mix" is an anti-pirating technique.

Track list:
  1. "Tsuru no Sugomori (Nesting Cranes)": Alcvin Takegawa Ramos
  2. "You're The Sun To Me":  Faithless
  3. "Prayer to Rudra": Krishna Das
  4. "Kese Kese (Bally Sagoo: Beast From Asia Mix)": DJ Cheb i Sabbah
  5. "Body Machine": Trans-Global Underground
  6. "Kara Kum": Banco de Gaia
Hope you all enjoy the mix so far.  Feel free to leave comments.  Just imagine yourself in a grand old ballroom with lots of darkness, glowy lights, video projectors, the occasional laser tunnel, sweaty bodies dancing in ecstatic fashion, and this playing so loudly and with so much bass that your spleen vibrates and dances along involuntarily.

And this is the logo for this crazy idea.  Welcome to the story of The Pathos Collective..

(This is a cross-post from my food-weight blog, Fat Man In The Bathtub...  -a)

Been having a slightly better time of it lately.  Body acceptance is still a challenge, but I'm trying to be kind to myself about this.  Going to try a walk today while it's sunny.  That may be a bit of a challenge, as I spent all day yesterday on my feet cooking a meal for about 25 people at the Intro to Zen Practice class.  The food was hugely successful, and I received many thoughtful and enthusiastic compliments, which is always nice and gratifying.  But I find it so queer; I can feed others so well, but when it comes time to feed myself I don't take as much care.  Why is that?

Just so's you know, this blog will be delving (or devolving, depending on how one looks at it) into Zen as well.  So, you've been warned.

Dogen-zenji, in his Tenzo Kyokun (or "Instructions to the Cook"), takes special care to reinforce the importance of the inter-related nature of food, mindfulness, and service.  Of all the writings of Dogen, this one I affilate with the most.  Admittedly, if you were to ask me a year from now, after my practice has yet deepened even further, it may be something else, but the Tenzo Kyokun really jumped out and grabbed me.

From ancient times communities of the practice of the Way of Awake Awareness have had six office holders who, as disciples of the Buddha, guide the activities of Awakening the community. Amongst these, the tenzo bears the responsibility of caring for the community's meals. The Zen Monastic Standards states, "The tenzo functions as the one who makes offerings with reverence to the monks."

Since ancient times this office has been held by realized monks who have the mind of the Way or by senior disciples who have roused the Way-seeking mind.  This work requires exerting the Way.  Those entrusted with this work but who lack the Way-seeking mind will only cause and endure hardship despite all their efforts. The Zen Monastic Standards states, "Putting the mind of the Way to work, serve carefully varied meals appropriate to each occasion and thus allow everyone to practice without hindrance."

Well, I'm certainly no realized monk.  I guess I get close to "senior disciple".  I had tea with one of our most senior students and sangha leaders this past Friday afternoon, and she said "Welcome to the roll of Senior Student!"  I guess that's how that happens here in PDX.  You find out over coffee at a little funky hole-in-the-wall that you're suddenly farther down the path than you yourself thought.  Hrm.  Anyway. [/digression]

But it does strike me how very important this food practice is.  It may very well be the most important part of my personal practice.  I really can't ignore these inter-twining issues any longer (which is why this is a double-blog post here and at FMITB).  As Dogen-zenji clearly states: "Those entrusted with this work but who lack the Way-seeking mind will only cause and endure hardship despite all their efforts." If you take that from the broader context of sangha service and simply turn it towards a service of a sangha of one--me--it still holds completely true.  If I entrust myself to my own care, but lack (or forgo) the Way-Seeking Mind, I will only wind up hurting myself and my progress in all areas.

This morning I laid in bed and practiced taking my final breath.  I felt the clinging arise.  Taking a deeper breath than I normally would, and exhaling more slowly.  It wasn't a rellishment of the breath so much as a drowning man grasping futilely at straws.  I thought about how many years it would be before this practice would be put to the test.  Will I still be grasping?

I then thought about all the people yesterday that came to me, that took time and effort to tell me just how much they enjoyed the food, the flavors, the colors, the creativity, the obvious care and effort.  Even my fellow students and friends took special care to express what a joy the food was for them.

I believe it was Ven. Thich Nhat Hahn that said--in essence--that the two most important practices are breathing and eating.  After that, everything else.  I think maybe it's breathing, eating and dying.  Somehow, these three things are the most important things in our lives.  I really want to understand better how they are interconnected...

I have an ant issue here in my flat. This issue has been exacerbated by the fact that we had an unusually mild and dry winter here in Portland.

I was taking a leak.

There was an ant on the toilet-bowl rim.

Dissatisfaction arises.

I thought about pissing on it. You know... to "help it along".

I didn't.

It was bad enough that its life was about to be flushed down the toilet. No sense in being a bigger prick about it than was truly necessary, "conservation of effort/economy of motion" be damned.

I was an ant once, too.

Pray for the ants.

Just let go and everything is alright.
Just let go and everything is okay.
Just let go and suffering dissolves.
Just let go and pain disappears.

Just let go.
Quit splashing and thrashing.
Let the water settle,
And all becomes clear.

Just let go and everything straightens out.
Just let go and everything smooths.
Just let go and stop chasing.
Just let go and start being.

Just let go.
Loosen your grip and your heart.
Choose to be supple,
And all becomes soft.

Just let go and everything is right.
Just let go and everything is just so.
Just let go and see it sharpen.
Just let go and feel it focus.

Just let go.
Know that you seek a birthright.
It has been gained before.
It is nothing new.

Just let go through space and time.
Just let go like the Honored Ones.
Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas.
Just let go and Prajna comes.

Just let go.
All has been before.
And all will be again.
Wisdom beyond wisdom.

How sublime, this infinity.
How infinitely sublime.

Just let go.

I haven't had time to write much lately.  Well, to write much personal writing lately.  Life's just ramped up a bit, and I'm getting pulled in a number of directions.  Trying to keep all balls in the air.

But one ball keeps dropping to the floor.  It's a ball that I've dropped often.  My health, and specifically, my weight, exercise and eating habits.  Lately it seems that when this ball drops to the floor, it inverriably lands on my toe.  And it's apparently not a nice bouncy ball, but one made of lead.  Or at least lard.

Back in early summer 2009, I was back down to a weight that helped.  By today, I've put back on nearly twenty-five pounds.

This is really unacceptable.  For many, many reasons.

No one thing contributed to this issue more than ME.  I have added in a few animal-based things into my diet.  But that's not the key to this problem.  I have had access to a car again for the last two months, so I'm not walking like I used to.  But that too is not the key.  I have been eating from emotion and boredom again.  Once again, not the sole issue.

The sole issue is ME.

And I must do something about it.

I was a rather strict vegan for about three years.  In that period, I was at the lowest weight I'd been at since the beginning of high-school.  I felt physically better than I had since I was in my 20's.  I could do more with greater stamina.  My blood-pressure was getting back in line.  Everything was better.

Now it's not.

Two women I'm close to are dealing with very emotional issues that orbit around food right now.  One is the woman I was married to for nearly a decade.  One is a close and dear sangha friend who's dealing with food allergies.  I have a great deal of respect for both of these people, as women, as friends, as fellow sangha members, and as people I love.  To see them struggle hurts me.  I want to support them in this struggle.  And I have made a realization.

I can't do it by being like this.

One of my teachers--the founder of this particular branch of our lineage--is a well-regarded author, and her most recent book is on mindful eating.  My former partner is even mentioned in her book.  I have read the book.  It is brilliant, and immeasurably helpful.

But then I promptly ignored nearly everything in it.

Because I wanted to feed my hungry ghost.

A hungry ghost is never satisfied.  A hungry ghost is unable to be sated.  There are a number of variants to this cultural meme all throughout the world (the New World has them too).  It is a metaphor for the undying nature of greed.  Well, that's just it.  It's not greed per se.  It's not merely greed.  Obviously, back in the days when these stories and archetypes were being born, it was as obvious as greed.  Greed is bad.  How do we deplore greed?  We tell people that if they're greedy, their spirits will carry that greed over into the great beyond after death, and the greed will be so great that it will be the factor that keeps them from moving forward into (The Pure Land/Nirvana/fully joinig with Kṛṣṇa/The Happy Hunting Ground/etc).  Easy-peasy: greed bad.  Check.

But what it really is about is not greed so much as desire.  Clinging.  Wanting.  Desiring that which is currently not.  More than anything, I believe it's about fear.  The fear of feeling unhappy.  The fear of feeling want.  The fear of going without, of being denied, or the fear of feeling something you don't like.

Fear is so very powerful, and it has (miss-)informed and shaped my life for nearly its entirety.  Frankly, I'm tired of it.  I've said that many times before, and I'm aware that I've also said "this time it's different" many times before, to the point that it's probably one of my Top Ten All-Time Hits.

But the truth is, if I don't really and truly get a handle on this, it's going to kill me.

You'd think fear of death -via- my own stupidity would be enough of a motivator.  Apparently not.  Ghosts want more than that to chew on.

Back to the two women above.  Both are very inspirational to me in any number of ways.  I'd really like to show them my support.  I'd like to show them that I'm behind them in their struggles and that I think they're doing something meritable and good, and that by doing so, they inspire me to try and be better myself.

I cannot do that by giving in and giving up, again.

The long and the short of it is this: having said all that gooey and good support-y type stuff, I am really needing to do this for myself and myself alone.  I must.  I have a desire for things above and beyond "gratisfaction" as I call it, and frankly, I must find a way to re-tune myself and my ethics to be greedy for THAT.

As of the moment of typing this, I weight 290lbs again.

I set no goal other than to TRY.  No numbers. No points.  No "I will do _____ every ____ until I reach ____".  What I will do is this:

  • I will strive to treat my body with love and respect.
  • I will strive to be accepting of who I am now, but also strive to improve that person.
  • I will not judge myself too harshly when I fail.
  • I will try and seek support for this bad habit of desire from multiple sources.
  • I will reduce what I can, and strive to be more mindful.
  • I will trust in the tools that my linage and my faith have shown to be Good Medicine for all ills.
I will try to do these things because there is one overarching truth that applies to each and every one of us, fat, thin, healthy and unhealthy:

I am of the nature to grow old; there is no way to avoid growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health; there is no way to avoid having ill health.

I am of the nature to die; there is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me, and everyone I love are of the nature of change; there is no way to escape eventually being separated from them.

My deeds are my closest companions; I am the beneficiary of my deeds.  My deeds are the ground on which I stand.
That is the simple truth of existence.  And no matter what I want, no matter what I desire, no matter how I try and mollify these things with over-abundance and indulgences, the above remains forever true, until the candle of "want" is finally extinguished.

I also have a weight-loss blog: Fat Man In The Bathtub.  I invite you all to check that out as well.  The more people that are watching, the less likely you'll find driving down the street with a Twinkie in my mouth.

Good news is, I've always detested Twinkies.  I was a Zinger's kinda fat kid...