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I am reading a book by a man I admire greatly, Edward Espe Brown.  He was the first head cook at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center back in the 1960’s and later founded Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.

His earliest book, THE TASSAJARA BREAD BOOK is a classic.

More than one dear friend remembers their well-thumbed, flour-coated and oil-stained go-to copy of the book and the loveliness that flowed from their hands and the kitchens of their youth.

Brown’s latest work, NO RECIPE:  Cooking as Spiritual Practice, is a distillation of the wisdom he has gained after more than 50 years of feeding many people, of running large kitchens, and of following the path of Zen Buddhism as a monk, as a teacher, and as a philosopher.

I devoured it in one big gulp and am re-reading it slowly and picking out the best parts to savor.  It will undoubtedly have a place on my bookshelf for a long time…just so I can dip into it again.

The following YouTube video, “Awaken In the Sacred Space” was published in 2018 by the publisher Sounds True just after the book came out.

Try look!  You might like it!


Brown’s root teacher was Shunryu Suzuki Rōshi who was the Sōtō Zen monk and teacher who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States and who founded the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia.

One of my favorite Suzuki Rōshi videos is this one “Sandokai – Sound and Noise,” posted by semillas de bambu in 2007.  It gives you a glimpse of the man and the way he talked and how he thought.

In a 2013 interview for a blog post put up by the San Francisco Zen Center, Brown pointed out, “I still appreciate Suzuki Rōshi saying, ‘When you are you, Zen is Zen.’ He didn’t say when you get to be Zen enough, then you’ll have really gotten somewhere. So much of Suzuki Rōshi’s way was to find out what’s appropriate for the occasion and what works for people.”

It is that practicality – connecting the sacred to the ordinary and grounding it there — that shines throughout Brown’s book.  It takes your head and your heart away into a peaceful place.

“Brussel sprouts before roasting” by John Sullivan [CC BY-SA 2.0]


As I was thinking on what to share with you in this post and shuffling through notes and jottings and other stuff, I rediscovered an old bit of writing from when I was focusing on developing a “manifesto” – promises to myself of how I wanted to proceed with my life.

“More Abundance” by Netta Kanoho via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
I thought I’d share this thing with you.  Maybe you’ll find something useful in it.  (I know I still have a grand time playing with it.)

One of the choices I delineated for myself was this one: I make and maintain room in my life to make the ordinary sacred.

In order to do this, I figured that I had to do the following:

  • I give myself time to play.

Without the time to play, it all sort of mooshes into “gotta, gotta, gotta,” and it starts feeling like one giant treadmill.   Somehow, I can’t feature hamsters being real into “sacred.”

  • I help make the structure of my life a better vehicle for enhancing Creativity.

When I have spaces built in where I can play with making a Little Something out of the Big Nothing, then I start feeling like I can stop to appreciate all the wonder there really is in the world.

Everything’s a little more sparkly, a little more special, because it’s not just ME doing Little Somethings, it’s EVERYBODY doing Little Somethings.

This is a great space to be in when you’re trying to make it all sacred.

  • I ask the hard questions and I develop rituals that remind me what is Real.

Hard questions are like, “What am I doing be-bopping along here on this road to death?”  and “How am I making my space sparkly?” and “Why do I care whether so-and-so is a dorkhead?” and “What can I let go of now?” and “What do I want to keep now?” and so on and so forth.

Making rituals include things like lighting a bit of incense before I work on reconciling my checkbook so that I remember that I am working with the abundance in the universe that is flowing through my life.

It includes cleaning up the stack of the day’s dishes before going to bed so I wake up without leftover messes in my face.

It includes doing my ch’i kung routine every morning so that I feel the energy that’s out there flowing all around, just waiting for me to join in the dance.

It includes moving stuff around and checking out how the feng shui moves helped (or not) as I go through my day.

It includes writing quick notes to heart-people just because it feels good to have them in my life.

  • I make room in my life to focus on Creativity.

I always seem to get caught up in doing, doing, doing.  It is a cool thing to be able to stop and step back from it all and see where it is going.

If I can do that, it seems, that there’s automatically more space to do something that is heartful.

It also helps when I can step back and look at what I am doing and see where I can do it in a way that fosters more creativity.

I want open-ended avenues, not cul-de-sacs, I think.

I want mountain passes rather than ruts and grooves.

I want bridges rather than dead ends.

Working on it.

  • I develop creative projects and products that help other people open their hearts and play.

Part of that process is stopping every so often to see whether what I am doing is still useful or if I need to be doing some other thing.

  • I develop skill and facility in using story, symbolism and metaphor that feed and enhance my communication skills.

There is so much power in the Word, but there is also power in the non-verbal.  I am working on that one a lot right now and seeing where that takes me.

Looking at the thing now, I can see it was still a lot of half-baked ideas.

I also see that through the years since I first wrote this thing, I’ve continued working on and developing these mind-constructs.  It’s turned out okay as I keep on working them through and I’ve been mostly pleased with the results.

The whole of this, I think, is the notion that the Creative IS what is sacred in the ordinary.

Being able to slap together a sandwich or a salad depends on having the space for the fixings and for making what you want to make.  That’s honoring and making room for the Creative.

Being able to dance to your heartsong means you’ve got to have the space to turn around and move your bootie.

And, it seems to me, the only way to get to the Creative is by embracing your own self and how you feel about the way the world is working as well as what you do to recognize and honor the Creative and the sacred in the ordinary.

The best part is this: I’ve found that the more I pursue finding the Creative and the sacred in the ordinary the more my life feels like a wondrous thing.

 Here’s a poem….


Seekers seek:

It’s what they do….

Looking for what is over there or over there…

just anywhere but Here…

searching for what was then or what will later be,

but never, ever, what is Now.


Only one problem –

take it as you choose….

Seekers are always in their Here,

they are always in their Now,

and that eclipses all the rest, ya know,

reveals the fool’s gold of their wanderlust lives and

sets them off…on the road again.


I daresay that’s why

Seekers track down some long-lost riddle

or pursue a thing that runs on ahead,

giggling, as it wisps off away into the Unknown –

tantalizingly close…then gone.


And, I guess, that’s why

Seekers beat the bushes,

chasing down some truth or other,

leaving no stone unturned,

rooting around in all that detritus and mud,

ferreting out byways and bypasses,

checking out trails and paths,

tracking down yet another cliché

that turns to dross in the sun of their eyes.


I suppose that’s why

Seekers quest,

seeking high, looking low,

investigating – delve and dig –

teasing forth yet another wisdom,

finding one more sacred talisman,

throwing out their old dragnets,

pulling them back in,

and then they stand around watching as

their catch (glittery and gleaming when freshly caught)

dries out and morphs into everyday, ordinary pebbles…

over and over again.


They say they’re looking for happy, the Seekers,

They say they want to find the Real, the True,

But, it’s a funny thing:

It seems you can only find the Real in your Here

and your Now contains the only True,

and you only get to Happy (or a reasonable facsimile)

when you notice that.


I suspect that if your heart is busy yearning

for far-away and some other when —

baubles and bits like a cave full of a dragon’s stash

or the resting-place of a once-and-future king,

like the ancient conundrums of a long-gone people

or the someday-visions of some mystic’s dream —

then, maybe you just cannot see your way to the Here,

maybe you cannot catch the scent of the Now,

and so you’re doomed to keep on looking,

condemned to search, to quest.


One day you are old.

The will-o-wisps no longer tantalize and tempt you

and the long road fades off away in the distance

as you sit there in your clown suit watching the sun set,

inventorying your memories, one by one.

And maybe ’cause you’re sitting there all quiet

Your here-and-now comes and sits by you,

Snuggling up against you,

and maybe that’s when Happy has a chance to find you,

and Real and True stop by to have a chat.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:. “Prehistoric Rock Engraving” by Merryjack via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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I’m writing this on the day after Christmas.  It always seems to be a time that encourages reflection.

This time of year feels like what I imagine landfall at a home port must have felt like for the captain and crew of the tall ships in centuries past.  There’s all kinds of hoo-hah and celebration, but underneath it all you are thinking and planning and preparing for your next voyage.

Very soon now we’ll be ringing in the new year.  Facing future is the order of the day for many folks.  It’s a time for reflection on the past year and a time to regroup and re-think.


For my own self it is a time to take a new look at what I call my “manifesto.”  I made up this thing about 14 years ago when I realized that every year I spent this time brooding over all my past failures and vowing (yet again) to pick up chops.

Even as I put together my plan for the new year, I knew in my gut that the resulting euphoric high from doing it was likely to last about a month and a half.  After that I fully expected to drown again in the all of everything.  I knew I would probably fall right back into the same-old.

The whole process was less than satisfactory.  Rather than making yet another to-do list of new year’s resolutions, I decided to choose the direction I was going to head and to write it down.

Here’s my current manifesto’s statement of direction:

“The path I choose, the one I will gladly and freely accept, is the life of a kanaka makua, a sovereign person.  This life-path I am choosing is one that is filled with freedom, creativity, love, joy, synergy, balance, aliveness, contentment, peace, art, books and music.”

This statement has stayed pretty much the same for the past few years.  It is, after all, the result of years of revision. I do know my statement sounds high-flying and woo-woo to the max, but that is just me.  (I’ve always figured that if you aim for the stars, at least you’ll maybe get your ass to the moon….)

The rest of my manifesto goes on to delineate how I plan to walk in the year ahead.  I go over the strategies I noted at the beginning of the year.  Then I will refine (or dump) the ones that did not work as I expected or write down new ones that I’ve discovered.

I limit the things to no more than the six life-areas that I feel are important:

  • caring for the framework of my life (house, gardens, transportation, offices,  workspaces, body and finances);
  •  making room for my heart people;
  • playing and helping other people play;
  • making the ordinary sacred;
  • remembering and honoring the fact  that the Creative and the sacred moves through the world;
  • learning to dance well with money-energy.

Your life areas will probably be different.

Each area gets no more than six simple strategies to help further the steps I am taking to make a life filled with meaning and mana.  It’s gotten a lot easier to do this manifesto-thing now than when I first started.  The manifesto sits in a computer file from one year to the next.  (Writing it out by hand every time I revised it used to be a major production.)

My manifesto strategies are not goals.  There are no dance-step diagrams in this thing and no deadlines that have to be met.  They are just a part of a roadmap and a plan for the next journey I am choosing to make in the coming year.  As 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon once said, “The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigator.” To my mind, the ablest navigators are the ones who know where they want to go.  It’s the first step.

In this ever-changing world, however, on any journey, you do need to be able to “flow with the go,” as Guy Kawasaki says.  Objectives, goals, deadlines and such will happen when you interface with the world.  Those will come later.  Manifesto-making is just choosing the direction in which you are heading.  There are no firm-lipped resolutions to mess up, no florid vows to break, and no major deadlines to blow.

For a less woo-woo (and probably more practical) approach to writing a manifesto, here’s this YouTube video “How to Write a Manifesto” published by Empower the Tribe.

A more detailed how-to-do-it may be found in Todd Henry’s book, LOUDER THAN WORDS.


This year when I do my manifesto, I’m also going to try a reflection exercise that online entrepreneur Derek Halpern, the self-styled “conversion expert,” and the founder of the website “Social Triggers” recommends.

Here’s what you do:

  • Look back at the past year. Now ask yourself,  “What went well?”  Do a monthly review of your past  year and choose the one thing each month that worked out really well for you.  (I plan to look through my old planner book and my journals for the year.  I’ll pick out the triumphs and blessings in a year beset with setbacks and list the best, one for each month.)
  • Now, look at all those shiny triumphs and ask, “Can I do it again? How?”  As   Halpern says, “If something went well once, it can go well again.”  The thing you have to figure out is how to make that happen.

And that’s it….

My own feeling on this is that if you can spend your time figuring out how to replicate and reiterate the things that worked during the past year and then go do it again next year, then by the end of the year, you’ll probably have a whole bunch of new shiny stuff.

The exercise could also be a good way to remind yourself that the Universe is still on  your side…especially after a hard year.

Halpern shares his knowledge of psychology with entrepreneurs and bloggers, helping them gain greater market share with many counter-intuitive strategies that work.  You might want to check out his website, Social Triggers.


One book I’ve found valuable in thinking about all this stuff is LIFE CYCLES:  Your Emotional Journey to Freedom and Happiness, by Christine DeLorey.  DeLorey is a writer and world-renowned numerologist.

The book is divided into three parts.  First you learn how to find your “Destiny Number,” the one you were born with and what it may mean for you.  Then you learn how to determine where you are on your Journey through the 108 possible cycles of your life, year by year and month by month.  The last part is an explanation of DeLorey’s philosophy and why she constructed the book in this particular way.

The structure of this book has proven to be useful to me.  Knowing where I am in a cycle of my life and using that as a starting point, I have been able to make some fairly good decisions that have led me to very good places in my life.  I have also, I think, been able to resolve many puzzling questions for myself and find new ways of thinking as well.

Numerology is an ancient way of studying life.  Whether you believe in its effectiveness or not, in the hands of a person like DeLorey, who has apparently thought deeply about life and how to live it most effectively, numerology becomes a very useful tool for finding strategies for navigating through all of the situations and circumstances that life can throw at you.  It makes the chaos feel more organized.

For years now, at the start of each month I have read the relevant entry in DeLorey’s book for whatever month of the cyclically numbered year  I’m living through.  I pick out the likely lessons for the month.  I consider  DeLorey’s suggestions for dealing with them.  During the month I often get the chance to try out these suggestions.

I am not sure why this practice seems to work.  (It could just be a function of where I am putting my attention, after all.)

However, when I’ve encountered situations that go wonky, I’ve been able to take stances and make moves that help resolve things in a satisfying way using DeLorey’s advice.  The lessons I’ve learned along the way have been eye-opening and the take-aways I’ve gotten from the situations are often surprising and sometimes counter-intuitive.

I do recommend giving DeLorey’s LIFE CYCLES a space on your reference shelf.  Perhaps it will work well for you as well….


Doing the work of making a manifesto, then trying to figure out where you might explore next and how, then working your way through your year following the things you’ve thought on seems like a lot of complications for an already complex life, I know.  For some reason, though, I’ve found that making the time and doing it upfront in this way seems to help you figure out how to take care of getting the most important things in your life done.

Meaning and mana in a life doesn’t just happen automatically, I find.  Maybe nothing that is worthwhile happens automatically….

In any case, it sure does work better than making dumb resolutions that you know you are never going to keep.

Here’s a poem:



It seems to me

That this whole year

I’ve been looking at

Who I am and where.


I like me.

I like where I am.


For one whose imperative

Seems to be about growing,

About transformation,

This is a conundrum.


What do I keep?

What do I let go?

How do I change?

Or do I have any say, really?


I know the direction

I am wanting to go…

Towards peace and joy and love.

I am learning again

What doesn’t get me there.


But, it seems a small goal,

A very little one.

Still, if I can get there

Maybe I can point the way

For others who are trying

To get there as well.


Maybe that is all that I can do.


by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Tall Ships by JFB119 via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
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