One Time, One Meeting is a monthly column on the practice of Zen meditation. The columns archived here first appeared in the Alfred Sun, the community newspaper of the village of Alfred, New York. Situated in the Finger Lakes region of Western New York, the village is the home of Alfred University, Alfred State College, and the New York State College of Ceramics.
For the past twenty-five years I have practiced Buddhist meditation in the Zen and Vipassana traditions. My earliest training was in Vipassana practice, as interpreted by Western teachers, and in Vietnamese Rinzai Zen, as taught by the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh. I have since studied Japanese Rinzai Zen with Jiro Osho Fernando Afable, former Vice-Abbot of Dai Bosatsu Zendo, and Shinge Roko Sherry Chayat Roshi, Abbot of the Zen Center of Syracuse. In November, 2002 I received the jukai precepts in the Hakuin/Torei lineage of Rinzai Zen at Dai Bosatsu Zendo.
Until my retirement in 2006, I taught literature, writing, classical guitar, and Buddhist meditation at Alfred University. I continue to lead the Falling Leaf Sangha, a lay practice group for students and the community.
I am the author of ten books, most recently Firewood and Ashes: New and Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry, 2015) and The Backward Step (Whitlock Publishing, 2014). My previous books include Entering Zen (Whitlock, 2011), Leaf, Sunlight, Asphalt (Salmon Poetry, 2009), Dark Pool (Salmon, 2004) and the verse novella Midcentury (Salmon, 1997). For more information, please see Ben Howard and Salmon Poetry. For a bibliography of my published poems, essays, articles, and reviews, please see Ben Howard, publications, 1973-2014.
Alfred, New York
Recent and forthcoming activities:
On March 17, 2015 I gave a talk entitled “Is Anyone Home? Practicing Mindfulness in Everyday Life” at the Olean Public Library.
On May 31, 2014 I conducted a daylong retreat at the Olean Meditation Center, an inspiring new facility in Olean, New York. Visit the OMC’s website at: http://oleanmeditation.org. On May 9 of this year, I will conduct a daylong retreat entitled “Groundwork: Exploring the Four Foundations of Mindfulness” at the OMC.
My new book Firewood and Ashes: New and Selected Poems has just been published by Salmon Poetry of Co. Clare, Ireland. This book encompasses six previous collections of poems and forty years of writing. Its cover features a ceramic sculpture by Robin Caster Howard in a photograph by Brian Oglesbee. My thanks to all who had a part in the book’s production.
I am pleased to announce the publication of The Backward Step: Essays on Zen Practice, my second collection of essays on Zen practice. Published originally as biweekly columns, the fifty essays in this collection bring the practice of Zen to bear upon contemporary life. Whether their immediate subject be shoveling snow or baking bread, the “virtues of solitude” or the emotional dimension of social media, these essays explore the manifold ways by which we might take the “backward step,” shifting our orientation from ego-centered thinking to selfless awareness.
To mark the passing of the Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney on August 30, 2013, I recorded Alexandre Tansman’s “Canzonetta.” For the holiday season (2012) I recorded the Sarabande from J. S. Bach’s Third Lute Suite (BWV 995). In August, 2011, I was Bill Jaker’s guest on his FM radio program Off the Page. We talked about my book Entering Zen. To listen to our conversation, go to Entering Zen interview.