Sansaku: Intrigued


I messed up yesterday. “One Hundred Pots” is not number 23, it’s 18.   So, what’s the BFD? I quote Chyako in that very Sansaku as saying, “Don’t try to correct mistakes… Find the accidental beauty. The mistake may not be a mistake. Imperfection is fundamental to Japanese aesthetics.” This is how I go back and correct.

It’s not that the Japanese are careless or try to make mistakes. Far from it. That’s not the way. Trains run on time to the second. Basho took a trip to Fuji and wrote a haiku. The weather was bad, the mountain lost to clouds. Intriguing.

Chyako asked how Sansaku was coming. I told her kind of slow. It’s the fish and chips from the night before. We’d gone out and I ate too much.   She said, “You could have brought the left-overs home.” I tell her, “I’m not that smart.” Intriguing.

And today I meet the new housing staff. I help to prepare them. “This job will undress you. Do you know what that means?” I practice my bullet point prompts, using the journal as target range. Their job is not what they think or expect. They’re entering an intense gossip field.

Let’s talk about housing culture from an anthropologic perspective. It’s kind of unnatural. What do you think happens when you crowd a diverse group of adolescent adults into crappy living conditions? I’ve been in those rooms. I know why the kids called them ghetto.

I lived and worked at a boarding school that was twice as bad. I know what they’re getting themselves into. It’s an absolute set-up to live and work at the same place. This is rarely directly addressed and processed. You’ll be like family until you’re fired. Learn the rules.

I don’t like the term “residence” applied to life or halls. And to call these wild and living things “residents” is worse than a set-up. It hides the truth and ruins our relationship with reality.

Do you remember being a freshman and life in the dorm? It’s like a halfway house with cramped rooms you have to share with a complete stranger. I came from Boulder, the sixties, and my roommate was a sheep-herder from Craig who came to college to get drunk and have a good time.   He called me Beethoven and flunked out after the second quarter. I didn’t say good-bye.

My next roommate, Bill, decided to ferment wine which exploded in the closet. The smell even worse than the stains. I can’t believe he wasn’t caught. I wanted to ask the RA, “What’s wrong with your nose?”

I feel badly now about Bill and my lack of relationship. I haven’t thought of him in years. He had a painfully bad complexion and eyes that avoided looking to see if you were looking. I tried not to.

After we stopped kicking kids out for pot violations, the number of incidents went up and the VP called me into her office to explain. I told her I was pleased. She didn’t understand. I said the RDs and RAs have had to look the other way. They didn’t want to punish with banishment. Now they can confront and engage.

It’s the same with most problems. Make it safe to disclose. The VP was impressed and said, “You’re thinking like an administrator.” I told her, “No way, I’m thinking like a counselor.”

When I used to talk to the big groups I had a couple of codeword phrases. Set up the radar, pay attention to foreshadowing. How to care, be aware, engage, relate, and confront.   I figured if they centered on those few concepts, they could derive the rest.

I’ll be intrigued, I’m sure.





Five Hundred

Sansaku: Five Hundred


I’ve had a few relationships that started, “Before you get involved with me, you should probably know this.” Sometimes it comes a little too late, “I should have told you earlier.” Sometimes we just jump in and start to drift.

I wrote the “About” and “Sansaku” entries toward the end of the first month.   That was 24 and now it’s 500. What a chaotic mess I’ve left behind. Not even I can find things easily.

But I’m staying fairly true to my zuihitsu pledge. That was the day before, number 23, “A Hundred Pots.” It’s sampling slice-by-slice.

It doesn’t take long to know my issues. This reminds me of Trump. He should come as no surprise. He didn’t need to say, “You should know this about me.” No excuses there.

I’ve saved too much and now that I want to give-away, I’m forced to put stuff out on the street. Please take it. They’ll be more tomorrow.

I’ve been a hoarder of experiences and reflections, more true than real. And I’ve tried to be specific when I generalize.   I have no idea who takes the stuff I leave out on the curb.

What we call a mandatory disclosure in counseling is the formal and legal equivalent of “before you get involved.” On the one hand, it’s no-nonsense necessary. “If you try to kill yourself or another, I’ll need to do something about it.” On the other, magnificent. “Here’s what you can expect from me. I’ll do my best to love and support you.” We take great care to explain. Therapeutic love is different.

I could write a hundred entries on that simple sentence, “You should probably know this about me.” It’s not far from what I’ve been trying to do with Sansaku.

How many lines or curves does it take to draw a landscape, a person? And how many colors and shades?   Not only is the whole greater than the sum of its parts, the whole grows. It’s an organic thing.

Since I’m at five hundred, I should probably go back and look at twenty-three and four, when I thought I knew what I was doing. Is there anything I’d tell myself? Would you do it the same way twice? Back then I wrote, “I’m throwing a hundred pots and trying to improve.” Five hundred later it’s time to keep on throwing.

I suppose I wanted to start a cascade of notes and images in the hope of limbic attunement, resonance, entrainment, coherence, the doctrine of affective empathy and emotional connection. Touch.

Michelle Obama had a few jewels she tossed out at the convention last year. Everyone remembers, “When they go low, we’ll go high.” It’s not hard when they go so low. But she also said, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”

When I started “Best Slowly” I wanted to go far. I wanted to take the long way and all the detours.   I’m reading about my campaign promises for the first time in a long time. I go back daily and search my journals for roads not taken, but I haven’t been doing that with the blog.

And I still don’t like that word, blogging. I’m drifting.

Anyway, I don’t keep to the 500-word limit now that I’ve reached 500. It’s closer to 600. And I realize I didn’t go slowly back then. I was trying to cram it in. That bread is so dense, so thick, it’s hard to chew. I guess I wanted the reading to go slowly too.




A Left-Hand Path

Sansaku: A Left-Hand Path


When I learned to keep secrets, I learned how to lie. I know this doesn’t sound right. My parents would ask, “What are you going to do?” I’d say, “Nothing,” and say it with an edge. It wasn’t the truth and they knew it. I told myself they didn’t want to know. Interesting.

This evolved in stages. One of the tipping points occurred in high school. I needed to know the difference. I was starting to confuse truth with secret. I could be lying to myself, who was I to trust?

I think it made me weird. My parents complained I was choosing the wrong kind of friends. “What do you mean?” I’d ask. “They’re nonconformists.” The word sounded attractive to me. I was drifting towards the edge and could probably be blamed with the same.

The more George tried to initiate me into his version of adulthood, the more I resisted. He was not the mentor I needed. Irma knew better than to believe she could guide me into my selfhood. She was far too conventional, but she knew something I did not. My father.

No one needed to tell me that my father was different. This prefaced every story. I didn’t understand until I met him; he wasn’t just different, he was real. When he looked at me, I could feel the eyes inside. It’s like he’d been there. He knew his way around.

“I can see you’ve arrived,” he said to me. “I’ve been waiting.” He was interested and wanted to know me in the way I knew myself.

He didn’t need to say, “Tell me secrets. You have my word.” He belonged to the secret world and knew the things I needed to know. I wanted him to share. I’d had friends who walked a left-hand path, but an adult and parent was something else.

Because he abandoned responsibility, he said he was free and didn’t feel any blame. I asked about that. He said, “Everyone blames me for what I did, this life I live. It’s the price I paid.”

I could tell him things that would have shamed a normal parent. And I came and went as I pleased. It wasn’t up to him. I’d drive down and enter his world, he never came up to mine. I wouldn’t have wanted it. I needed to keep him secret.

For someone who loved to read, he owned few books. Friends dropped them off, all kinds; he quickly and efficiently devoured them, then passed them on. He gave me a few. Their heroes were flawed and colorful. He wanted to make a point.

I was often in relationship trouble and he supported me by wanting to know the details. It’s one of the secrets of counseling. I didn’t hesitate and he always took me deeper. He said, “I’ve done far worse.”

“Don’t confuse love with sex, even when they go together.” He had some really good stories. I asked about alcohol and the role it played. I didn’t expect he’d done any drugs. I was wrong. He’d tried both pot and peyote. He liked peyote better.

He described the night in full-moon magic. He was with his friend, Omer, and they were staying in a sheep camp somewhere on the reservation. “We sang all night.”

We mostly drank, smoked cigs, and talked. He took no responsibility, no blame. Cards on the table, we played with the left-hand open.

“If you love somebody it doesn’t mean you want to have sex, but it could. And wanting to have sex doesn’t mean you love them, but it could. And sometimes you need to keep secrets.”










Sansaku: Détente


Certain words jump out. Paradigm and epiphany. I recently read there’s a paradigm shift at the heart of cognitive therapy. We have sudden epiphanies that change the pattern forever. My confrontation with patience was one of those. I didn’t see it coming.

I often trashed my step-dad, George, and believed he completely deserved it. I got no argument from my brother or sister. They were there. So was Irma, but she wouldn’t stoop as far. I was grateful she didn’t shut or put me down. I had a sense of shame for how I dumped, but needed to freely express myself.

I flipped him off behind his back more times than I can tell. I had to pretend and be nice. He did bad in the open; I was still in the closet. I thought I’d never come clean.

One morning, I lost my patience and pounced on him. I slapped the table so hard the house woke up. We had guests and he’d been non-stop complaining. I rarely felt fierce, but shouted, “Shut the fuck up. You know that we love you, stop saying we don’t.”

It wasn’t like me to lose it, but I was obviously possessed. Something came through, like a break in the clouds. I flashed him and didn’t hang around to see what might happen. I took off and didn’t come back until much later that day. I prepared for repercussions.

George was waiting for my return. I could see he wasn’t mad. I liked the way he looked and felt close to him. He said he wanted to ask me a question. I listened. “Did you learn that from studying psychology?” I said, “No.” He wondered how I’d learned to use anger.

“You didn’t learn it from me, did you?” I said, “Probably.”

I’m not sure that’s true. I didn’t see anger as a management tool and belonged to a radically different generation that wasn’t as fond of power. I’d just lost my patience with him, that’s all.

I apologized to Irma and hoped it wasn’t too upsetting. We did have guests in the house. They were hiding in the bathroom. She said, “No need. I’ve often felt like doing the same.” I respected her for that.

Later she said, “George told me he doesn’t trust you. He’s not sure what you’ll do.” I was okay with that and could see something had changed. We’d both had epiphanies and the old paradigm crumbled.

I didn’t stop caring about his feelings, but could feel he cared more about mine. He began asking questions. It started like this, “Do you think Irma has changed?” I asked him what he meant.

“She doesn’t want me to take care of her?” This was uncharacteristic and odd. He said, “I can’t drive her to the pool, she doesn’t want my help.” I was patient with him now. He doesn’t understand how he comes across to people and I didn’t try to explain.

I remembered mom saying she took responsibility for accepting people and not finding fault because they were different from her. It was beginning to make sense. I’d been trying to change George from the day I met him. He had to have known.

I could also feel he’d been trying to change me. Ever the teacher and the one who knew better, he called it education. I didn’t like school. I fought a cold war with guerilla tactics. I chose to be patient.

The cold war didn’t end when I blew my cover and yelled at him, but the nature of our relationship had changed. He knew I was watching and we signed a détente. A mutual agreement not to attack.

He learned that one from me. I learned about patience from him.
















Sansaku: Patience


I circle around a number of themes, like patience. It’s one of those complex higher emotions where the goal is now. And since I’ve always been excitable, I heard a lot about patience growing up.

“Hold your horses, wait your turn; no, you can’t leave the table, sit still until I say so.” I clearly had issues with impulse control and emotional regulation. I was a little too jazzed for most adults and even back then, before pop psychology, it was called hyper-active.

I did have two superlative models to demo what I lacked.   Mom was a known master of the virtue and Garon the kind who could take a clock apart and ever-so-slowly rebuild it. I used a hammer.

I learned to assess two qualities of character in my early psychological education. I could discern the patient folk from those who wanted things decided and done without much ado. I could also separate the soft from the stubborn. I knew who to ask if I wanted to get my way.

This has come in handy as a therapist working with patients who don’t have patience. It’s a therapeutic goal.

Patience, by the way, didn’t seem to apply to our father. I was fascinated. He could sit like a big cat, perfectly relaxed yet completely aware. Motionless and still, he pounced just as fast. I kept my eyes on him. He was not to be trusted. Patience is also a strategy.

When mother remarried, she picked a proper age to aid in my development. George modeled the shadow side to patience, up close and personal. Waiting was not a strong point, except when it came to fishing. I spent my summers with him in the mountains and studied him like a coyote might.

He’d be in a rush until the jeep was packed and we were headed up the canyon. His character was context dependent. With rod in hand and line in water, he was a completely different man.

I got bored if the fish didn’t strike. He didn’t seem to care and could stand there all day. I’d go wandering and didn’t need to ask. But if I wasn’t there when he wanted to leave, he immediately regressed.

I still notice him looking over my shoulder. He’s a shadow guide and lets me know when I’d rather it done than the doing. It’s not a subtle difference. The goal is now.

He helps me remember, what I’m writing is not about the ending.

I took a course in Chinese religion in grad school and the professor was both Zen and Taoist. He talked about patience with patience. He had a Korean accent, “You have many sayings. Some are Taoist. Roll with the punches, go with the flow, go with the grain, go with the wind at your back.” The Zen side of Dr. Lee spoke in riddles. “The secret is neither to spit nor swallow. Don’t go, don’t move. It’s all about the pause.”

While the books he assigned are some of the few I still own from college, it wasn’t just the content knowledge. He taught a way of being I’ve never forgotten. He was patient with mistakes and actually seemed to prefer them. “You’ll find wisdom there,” he said.

I had a geometry teacher like that. It wasn’t the class, he liked to play golf and I got to know him on the course. He was curious about my progress in golf and related it to school. “Take your time,” he said. “You can enjoy golf, even if you can’t shoot a low score. Look at me.”

I did well in his class after that and something started to change. My parents believed golf taught me patience. I didn’t argue, but that wasn’t the secret.





Sansaku: Trifecta


I’ve been dreaming about the journal and sansaku. The experience is close to the way I feel, think and act in waking life. In the dream, I can hardly tell the difference. It happened again this morning.

I was in that pre-lucid state that comes just before waking. It was raining and I heard the sound in both worlds. Still dreaming, I wrote about rain. I called the entry Trifecta.

The writing is more spontaneous, effortless, than the writing right now. I hear my inner voice say, “Just be quiet and still.” I’ll try.

I thought the dream easy to describe, but it’s not. There’s a creative blend of discipline and let-go to the process of writing. It’s a matter of practice and trusting the flow.

Lately the sense of paradox has grown more intense. Things happen at the edge of holding on and letting go. There’s freedom and license in the ritual of doing things in the same way every day.

There’s a nonlinear exercise where we try to predict what another will do in the very next moment. If you don’t tell them, it’s much easier than if you do. Something like that is going on inside me.

Trifecta. I know what the word means and think about the trinity, the so-called perfect three.   I think of dreams and waking, the journal and the rain. The witness. But I have an association that takes a decidedly different direction. I’m going there.

I had an economics professor in grad school who liked to gamble on dogs. There was a track in Loveland, and we’d drive down when the weather was bad, which was good for the odds. A “trifecta” was picking the top three. It usually paid off in thousands.

I did the research. On a sloppy track, fast dogs fell and slow dogs won. If we bought tickets to cover the field, meaning all the combinations, we’d make big money over time. I had better things to do with mine.

I didn’t know I was searching for a discipline, a practice, a path. And I had no idea how to develop one if I did.   I was going to school back then and the writing in my journal didn’t count for credit.

I must have valued it more than the academic work I spent so many hours trying to perfect, because I’ve thrown those papers out and kept the journals. Talk about muddy tracks, I’ve left a few.

What’s the trifecta? What did I gamble on? It’s a big question, a philosophy of life. There’s what we do with our lives and who we do it with. I’ve also gambled on inner development and it’s symbolized by the journal.

I love the haiku poet, Basho. It’s said his bad poems are valuable because he wrote them. We all know the reason. In art and love it matters who the person is. Their being pervades each part.

Gambling is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. It can be craziness or art, but there’s a great and cumulative difference between the two bets. One hits a tipping point called diagnosis, and the other discovers that different result. In the beginning, it’s hard to tell the gamblers from artists.

I didn’t love the muddy track because of money, I loved the comedy and drama, my crash course in life. I’ve gambled on you, me and we. It’s what I do over and over.

I’m still sitting in the studio with journal and computer. Today is Chyako’s birthday and I’ve witnessed twenty-four. The many words of love. Two worlds come together and make a trifecta. I’m a lucky man.



















Making It

Sansaku: Making It


Had I asked Joel, just before he died, if his life had been a success; he’d have given it much thought. A college president and beloved by his people, he was a success by almost any outward measure. But Joel would have addressed his failures as a husband, a father, and a man. That made him very successful in my eyes. I’d say, “You made it.”

Most of us suck at self-assessing. It’s like the way some golfers notoriously under-club, thinking they can hit it farther than they can. Others act surprised when they fly the green and end up on the next tee. How did that happen? It’s learning to play our own game.

Chyako talks about occupying your locale. It’s the bloom where you find yourself idea. Joel was a good example. During his time at the college, he made it the place. The water was living.

Chyako says, “I’ve been hearing this voice inside. It puts me in my studio and classes, it wants me there. I keep asking myself, what if this is it?” From my point of view, it’s a remarkably good assessment.

I’ve heard her say, “I wonder how I’d feel if someone told me I would leave Japan and marry an American. That I would live in a beautiful mountain town, become an artist, and own my own studio?” I tell her, “I know how she’d feel. She’d say she made it.” I like that phrase in any combination of you, me, we.

When she graduated from the dedicated practitioner program, she had to laugh when they talked about lineage. “Give me a break. It’s been something like forty years and they talk about tradition.” She’s Japanese and says, “I’m trying to let go of what they’re chasing.”

It’s a mystery and paradox, how roots become wings.

John O’Donohue writes how a mystical life takes stillness, silence and solitude. “There’s no great mystery here. Your body loves the simple life. The unconscious has something it wants you to hear. This takes silence, stillness, solitude.” Spiritual art and science.

There’s a secret to the other side: it can see what we cannot. In this case, I’m referring to the unconscious. Even the best mirror is deceptive. How we see ourselves is tricky. There’s a psychoanalytic tenet, nobody tells the truth. I wonder why I just inserted that?

Chyako says, “It’s interesting what people push ‘like’ on.” She had posted a photo yesterday. “It’s usually something they don’t have to think about.” Our preferences are maps.

When Chyako read what I wrote on brain hacking, she said the computer for us is like cars for deer. They don’t have the eyes for speed. For us, it’s hard to perceive what’s true, what’s false. Our eyes can’t see.” It could be a fatal illness.

The psychological immune system probably develops in a similar way to the body’s ability to defend. It’s almost as if hostile invading germs are transformed into the antibodies that will transform the hostile invading germs. Good medicine.

I’ve eaten a lot of dirt and try to keep it in my diet.

When I read that analysts must give up the need to be right, I pushed “like” and copied it into my journal. It’s like that question Chyako asked herself, “What if this is it?” That also got a like.

We push likes in life and the inner awareness maps it. Japanese are taught not to brag, it makes them uncomfortable. I tell Chyako, “You’ve done well, you got away, you made it.” The goal is now.   I’ve got a similar job. Let’s both work hard.