Posts filed under Wonder and Inspiration

Breaking the tea cup

We are really happy that Rev. Heng Sure will be introducing ONE MIND and joining the Q&A at the upcoming premiere this Sunday, Dec. 18th. He is the director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, which is in the lineage of the late Master Xu Yun (Empty Cloud) who revived Zhenru Chan Monastery in the mid-20th century. Rev. Heng Sure is a groovy monk (he’s also a banjo player and nature photographer) and we think everyone will enjoy hearing his reflections on the film.

Watch Rev. Heng Sure tell a story about Master Xu Yun and why breaking a tea cup isn’t always a bad thing! 

The Ox is Difficult to Tame


It is a new spring. Here in Beijing, the weather is warming. Today I noticed tourists pausing to smell the lilac tree out in the hutong.  It's a beautiful time of year.  

In search of inspiration for the edit, I went to my bookshelf a few weeks ago for my copy of Bill Porter’s translation of “P’u Ming’s Oxherding Pictures and Verses”. It is a beautiful, visual, poetic work and a narrative on meditation and spiritual practice. 

“in willow shade by an ancient stream

the herdboy gives the ox free rein

from dusk blue clouds and sweet grass fields 

he leads it home untied” *

For the last several months, I’ve had my “Editor” hat on and these images and words of the ox-herder have taken on yet another meaning for me.  

There are about 100 hours of footage here for One Mind (I just counted), covering four seasons. It took months just to comb through each second to find the most precious and revealing moments of life at Zhenru Monastery. Then my quandary was just how to combine these moments into something more than just an accounting of daily activities. How to turn it all inside out? How to reveal the great wonder within? 

If I approach too aggressively, with too much intention, it slips away. If I approach too lightly, it just hides there in the high grass, unexpressed, unrevealed. Yes indeed, the ox is difficult to tame!

We are very close.  The film is on track to be finished this summer, and we are getting very excited to share One Mind with you all!

*Image and Text from "P’u Ming’s Oxherding Pictures and Verses", translated by Red Pine, published by Empty Bowl



Posted on April 5, 2015 and filed under Wonder and Inspiration.

Visiting with the Shadow Master

This past week I hopped on my Yongjiu bicycle and peddled through the narrow hutongs west of Houhai, where I’d arranged to meet up with Larry Reed, an amazing theater artist and one of the few people in the world specializing in shadow theatre. After many years of studying and performing Balinese shadow puppetry, he’s recently made some trips to China in search of Chinese shadow puppetry artists to learn and collaborate with. This was how our connection began years ago, as I was working on A Life in Shadows.  

Shadow puppetry has a long and complex history in China. In some villages in you might manage to see traditional shadow puppet performances performed by farmer-artists, like they’ve done for hundreds of years. But modern history has really taken its toll on these lived folk arts, and the village performance tradition has been rapidly fading away. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world (in San Francisco), Larry has been working to modernize this art-form, integrating shadow play with modern theater and breathing life into the traditional stories performed by shadow puppetry troupes in villages around China. In one of the first few collaborations of it’s kind, Larry was invited to Beijing to direct a performance with Mao Mao, a young shadow master from North-east China.  Mao Mao himself is a rare character, he’s only in his mid-thirties and is passionate about his art. Together, they created a show that holds onto the qualities of these traditional folk stories, but infuses modern language and visual techniques into the performance. It was a really special show!  I will post some video in the coming weeks showing the final result and with a little interview with Larry explaining his take on puppetry, folk arts preservation and what the shadows can teach us about life, love and war.     

See the article I wrote, On the Art of Shaanxi Shadow Play in the Kyoto Journal  to learn more about this amazing art-form.  


Posted on September 30, 2013 and filed under Wonder and Inspiration.

Mistaking a symptom of suffering for the cause of suffering

I recently re-listened to an amazing episode of one of my favorite radio show/podcasts, All in the Mind, from Australian National Radio. This episode we listened to a talk given by a dynamic child psychologist on suffering, the layers of suffering, and how we can so easily mistake a symptom of suffering for the cause of suffering. He says we throw medicine at symptoms and often miss the true root and source of our suffering. Why not go straight for the root?

He suggests it is an interesting result of many decades of scientific habits and commercial culture. How does commercial culture affect the way I see my psychological suffering? Wow, there’s something to chew on. I found some very insightful ideas in this talk. Download it: Sick, Screwed Up or Just Lazy

Posted on November 8, 2012 and filed under Wonder and Inspiration.

Tilling the Soil of the Heart

Krista Tippett’s On Being radio programs always resonate strongly with my life and with my work. The recent Easter week program this year was a re-broadcast. I listened to it last year and enjoyed it but somehow this year it really spoke to me. Perhaps because I’m editing some material right now with a strong theme of farming and meditation. And growing up with gardens around me and staying at the monasteries of my teachers in China, where gardening is a major part of daily life, this program spoke to me. The music for this episode is profoundly beautiful. Vigen Guroian is a real poet.

When Adam gardened, he imitated his Maker in a purely recreative act of cultivation and care. He did not need to subdue the earth in order for it to yield fruit. Rather, the plants were Adam's palette, and the earth was his canvas. There was nothing but delight in the Garden, for Eden itself means "garden of delight." 

Listen and share this with anyone you know who gardens from the heart.



Posted on April 12, 2012 and filed under Wonder and Inspiration.