By Larry Feisntein

Elephants at Amboseli National Park against Mount Kilimanjaro. Photo by Amoghavarsha

Elephants at Amboseli National Park against Mount Kilimanjaro. Photo by Amoghavarsha

Every morning around 6 a.m., whether I want to or not, I unfold out of bed. Sitting up, I pivot around to my right and place my feet on the ground. I reach down and grab my fully charged, newly numbered iPhone. I make my way to the bathroom, first steps feeling like I’m on a high wire, in danger of falling off the Earth, others would call me clumsy. I reach for my pilfered white, hotel bathrobe, which is hanging on the back of the door.

Mindful to still avoid losing my balance, I point myself to the screened in, stone walled, lanai. In one corner is a small altar with a sculpted Buddha, a fish with coins in its mouth, a guarantee of prosperity. There is a multi-armed Indian figure standing off to one side and I can’t remember its significance, but I know it has some. There is a small bone-carved, fishing hook that will eventually hang around the neck of my too young grandson. A shiny, heart shaped stone glows just below the folded legs of the Buddha.

Somewhere in the midst of setting my posture, I tap the timer on my phone and the twenty-five minute countdown begins. I leave my mind alone and let it shoot around inside my head, like an inflated balloon, rapidly losing its air until it comes to rest. It is fueled by an endless supply of worry, over money, relationship, my upcoming solo bike ride, aging and having no idea what’s next. My personal parade of elephants makes their way across my consciousness and then they leave the emptied building.

The techno timer signals the end. I lean over and swipe my index finger across the screen to silence the intrusion. I bring my palms together in prayer and speak Japanese … Enmei Jukko Kannon Gyo. I close with the Four Vows in English — two being saving all sentient beings, and avoiding greed, hatred and ignorance.

After standing up and then bowing three times, knees and forehead to the ground, it is time for coffee, black coffee. I use a French press and I have no idea how long the grinds and hot water are supposed to comingle and it seems to taste the same no matter what I do. I carefully carry the same turquoise mug into the carpeted living room, avoiding any quick moves that might drop the brown brew on light grey, leaving footprints, tracking my hike to the couch.

This is when a virtual stampede of elephants tramples me into the ground. The computer on the couch is my doorway to some of the most horrid stories of human suffering. In tandem, are morsels about what an important celebrity wore when he or she left the gym in downtown LA or Aspen.

I am always so tempted to explode with words of outrage, sprinkled with dollops of pontification. Violence is the worst of it all, whether committed by ISIS, our sloppy drones, child soldiers, in the name of any religion, a deranged kid with a rifle, or by the powerful over the powerless, it doesn’t matter. Silently bearing witness, serving as the stage for these horrific actions, our planet is paying a deadly price.

Larry Feinstein

Larry Feinstein

I remember that cushion compassion thing, only minutes old, and put the urge away one more time. The ritual of sitting in Zazen, seated meditation, allows me to re-enter the world every morning, as if I am living my own Zen Groundhogs Day, starting with the same intention.

My current antidote is the mid-September motorcycle ride I am taking on two lane roads that ribbon across northern California, up into Oregon and down along the coast.

The heavy elephants in my head and the one’s that carry the news of the day don’t need any help from me. I am much more comfortable in the realm of the personal, where storytelling lives and dreams matter.

Go to and subscribe to ride with me. Do it now and be entertained at my expense before it begins. You can even wish me well.


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