Wayne Amtzis with Tsoknyi Rinpoche



Dear Wayne,

It's Monday and you're probably leading your evening session in a very windy Kathmandu. I'm at my parents (you know, small town, forests) looking after my grandfather, enjoying the time I have. Sitting every day. This is a good place to do so. Very Himalayan with pine woods and prayer flags surrounded by snow covered mountains

It's the way you said it would be--"..spend a long time sitting and you don't feel that anything happens or changes", but there's no "crisis". I just feel like talking to you. Of the questions I didn't ask--why must you open doors and windows during an earthquake? Also you didn't really finish "the art of dreaming". We changed subjects so quickly that day

I hope you'll find time to write. You know a lot of the (many) thoughts arising during meditation are still in English

much love,

Dear Sabine,

Seems you're already in the dream
Snow, prayerflags, mountains
Let me walk through pines and join you there
Always better to hear the words windward waking me
than to scurry across the bright lit window
pursuing ants in search of meaning
At least the air feels good. As the pines bristle
an earthquake is far from my mind
Always best to leave the windows and doors open--Too late
with the glass shattering. Second best to sleep standing up
in a coffin, the kind magicians use.
With a back door to slip out of,
just when the blade cuts through bone,
or so it appears--outside the dream we make an art of,
simply by laughing. Sh! beneath the surface
so only the ripples show--
at whatever seems to be happening to us
the sound sort of a hush
that softens the blows life wants us to take

Sabine, I hope your practice goes well
that you wake to it and not leave it far behind
as you fall into sleep into dream
With love, wayne

ps. the space all around us seems to be calling our name
if you listen well...

Dear Wayne

I'm back to wet cold UK, but with the most fascinating and exciting job as a physiotherapist in a head injury unit. A lot of suffering, sad stories and really disabled people, but treating them is ever so rewarding. As for meditation, I'm sticking to at least twice a day. I make a special point of doing it even if only for 5 min. Usually it's 20-30 min in the am. I choose to do lots of creative things after work. Work itself is physically and mentally exhausting and I feel that, if anything, I need more sleep rather than less. I find with so much on my plate I have lots of "thinking" (your voice) in my practice. Often that's where I come up with treatment ideas for patients. Also I find I can accept this thinking, but not quite like a conspicuous object I need to observe fanatically. Thanks again for everything!

Love, Ettie

Dear Ettie

Your work asks a lot of you--
that's good--your exhaustion partakes of your capacity,
your involvement, of your willingness to be for others
as you are for yourself--Are
you? Are you for yourself as for others?
Your own patient
unknowing of her wounds? Yet tending to them
Lying on your side most
like a patient, rising, are you well, sinking
are you well? Please be well
With the body
as you let it go, tend to the heart
where breath and blood join
and part. Tend there as you fall asleep
and as you wake

The light of morning has a certain cast
Catch the light unawares
as you fall asleep, as you wake,
at the heart where thoughts of helping others
clearly arise, even there
look back to what conceives,
patiently back to the patient who knows
not her wounds
mending, making whole with whatever
within, with whoever without,
crosses your path
I'm glad you crossed my path

Commitment to practice
is a basis--that you return to many times,
a blessing--but tell me
what are the creative things you do?

With love, wayne

Dear Wayne

Yes, I know sometimes I forget I'm my own patient too (especially). It's just so easy to see other people's wounds and so hard to see mine. As for tending to myself I re-energize and replenish myself through music and art--African drumming and printmaking right now--but I find being a nomad, I'd rather not carry loads of equipment with me, and in most places there's no room to do much anyway. Work, however, is not getting easier. Last week I had a few unpleasant experiences. I got punched by a patient and verbally abused by another (no connection between the incidents). I didn't receive it well, as I've never encountered violence before and its horrible feeling of vulnerability. The patients didn't know any better, it's part of their condition and they didn't mean it, so it's not like I was angry at them. I did feel though that suddenly there were two new wounds. Enough of that. I shall try to be more aware of my own vulnerability so I can heal myself better (and hopefully be better for others). I'm trying to keep up with meditation, but it's getting harder
Love, Ettie


In the dream I woke from
a dark-haired woman lay on a wooden table
the grain of the table was rough. Unpolished.
As the woman rose to a sitting position,
her loose clothes, a sheet, really, draped over her, fell
from her shoulder, an inborn light
drawing my gaze to a tiny angled (angeled?) letter in gold
notched into the skin below her throat
that pulsed like a tiny bird
Reading your morning's email I sensed
the presence of Ettie in the dream But who is Ettie?

The other day, teaching in the yard
I sensed two figures standing near, as I turned
the inner space of their departing forms
was as clear as the sky. Ettie, are you there?
With the rising and ceasing
a presence, in the pause as you breath
are you there? The monks
dancing in the courtyard with skulls
on their masks, with skull masks, turned
in a patterned turning,
the sky between and above their dance held light
pulsing like the tiny bird, like the heart
when you hear it

in the letting go as you breath
a ray of waking dream

Ettie, take your hand and clench it
gaze at the fist and open it. How does it feel to let the fist go?
Clench it. Cover the fist with your open palm
and spreading fingers. How does it feel
to be held that way? Open the fist to the open palm
How does it feel palm to palm, fingers to hand?
Who feels this? Look into that. Let go there
The fist that strikes
is searching for the open palm,
the hand that can open it, not knowing it can
open of its own. Take the striking fist in hand,
in the open hand

Ettie, just keep easefully noticing
Give yourself that calm, that mindfulness,
for a few moments before and within any activity
That steadfast presence, the space
out of which you create, or consider your patients,
or which you meditate,
an inward turning open to any and all experience
none of which is you. Ettie, are you there? I have only words
over these wordless distances
to say I admire your courage, your vulnerability, your nomadic
heart. (How are you using your hands
in your drumming? your etching? your life?)
With love, wayne

Dear Wayne,

It makes me smile to read your words
I wish I could paint the pictures it makes rise out of my mind
You know the kind of smile it brings. From deep inside
Love, sabine

ps: if everything is & of the mind,
then after death, once the body is gone
what will we again go through?

Dear Sabine
I have no experience of living through my death
though I sometimes sense
the thoughts and emotions that surge
through, that embody us --waves of a deeper freedom--
that battered body on the shore
that salt air in our bones
that sound I hear, this shape I form...
the sky coughing from its habit, from its long withdrawal,
a seeming cloak that blinds us
closer than skin...
a shade of moonlight, a shade of sunset on water,
that slides with the wind
that wakens you...

I have no answer. Just what I wrote of our parting
The gulf widens
the lake freezes over
signs left by bare feet walking
catch the fleeting sun
where heat arises future rivers course
you find yourself downstream
sound reverberating
from within Are you deaf to touch?
blind to enunciation?
the bones we carry in our pockets
jangle Marrow shaped by absence nourishes
With love, wayne

Dear Wayne,

And again, what I said before leaving,
just a little thank you
for the nice shared delusion!


Dear Wayne
So, fists and palms. How different to let go with the fist, especially to contact the tranquility of the other hand. How like meditation when it's difficult and like stress at work. First neck and shoulder muscles tense up, then the meditation is lost. My mind races from topic to topic, patient to patient, my to-do list and with all of that I forget my expiration and it takes a while to realize I was thinking. On weekends I sit longer so thoughts slow down and work occupies less of my mind. I'm like a molecule with a nucleus and snug cloud of electrons, but when I'm scattered, my electrons are all over--a huge messy cloud--and the earthbound central feel is gone. As for my hands, I know when they're a fist that can open, and should, however it's hard to. At work my hands are versatile, sensitive, but when needed, firmly allowing me to decide the direction to take. With drumming, it's rhythm and sound that makes them go. With artwork, my hands move in harmony with the mood I'm in. Really I could talk about hands for hours--sensual and highly sophisticated extensions of one's self (of me anyway). Am I there? I'm still struggling with emptiness and looking into my own mind as it observes and feels. If I turn the question upside down, if my body is only organic matter, then what is it that makes it do what it does? I don't know if you understand what I mean, but I'll leave it there. Were the two clear figures--of students? Or some nascent spiritual quality? Love to hear from you soon
Love, Ettie

fists and palms, holding
and letting go. Movements that define
us--to let go and be held by that which lets go, to let go within
the letting go, to be touched within the touching--the bare
presence that sees to this, that follows
that mirrors how tense and not mindful you are
is already an opening, an accepting,
not "awful", it's not how you feel, but the seeing
that you train in--not a naming bad/good, but a noticing
not even: this is Ettie now
Ettie is that which notices, that sees how it is
The empty knowing clear mirroring embodied presence of ettie
imbued with the space all around her,
resting evenly there,
within the all of what entails experience,
that underlies the scattering
diffuse all over the place ettie this ettie that
There is no Ettie! There are a hundred thousand Etties!
Tend to Ettie the patient, patient Ettie,
with the intention of tending to those in need of her
Sensitive in impact, involved
in the rhythm of giving, versatile in the art of living
is that how you want to be?
Embodied in life, undone in the doing

a fluttering
a glimmer

a place
catches your eye
light cast (those figures)
from palms
in parting
sings there
like breath
other than you
that wakes you
Can you feel it?
touched by it
With love,

Dear Wayne,

I've been thinking a lot about the dream-like reality we talked of a few months ago--more so since I began working in a psychiatric hospital. It's much like you said: we all have our delusions. The difference is nobody shares their delusion here. I've had a lot of time to talk to people. Sometimes just listening, wondering where their minds had taken them, where mind can take you, trying to meet them there, finding my way or getting lost--strange to see someone "come back" after a few days of anti-psychotic treatment. Very often I have the feeling that the bit of dharma I know would be enough to relieve a lot of suffering (you‘ll say that's how it's meant to be) if only I could make a person feel it. Anyhow the "patients" make me feel and learn a lot. It's as if they embodied dark things every single being has within her mind. that no one likes to see. How we deal with them depends on how we deal with our own fears. I hope I'm still being clear. Do you have any experience with so called mentally ill people in the context of meditation?

I think of you often wishing I could talk to you. I still practice regularly, mostly drifting in thick layers of thoughts, sometimes feeling space and openness and always enjoying it. It must be early morning in Kathmandu. You will probably get up and sit for a while. Write soon

With love, sabine

Dear Sabine
alone/with others
held by what keeps us apart
voices won't cease
till mirrored
"finding my way or getting lost"
whoever returns
has you--
your inwardness
to rely on,
your openness
to be sure of
Each needing
not just to be
but to know it's ok to move on
to be seen,
inwardly accepted

As you wake to each morning,
if the dark stays with you,
envision out of a shift, a glance,
an opening, out of the spaciousness
that is all around and within you,
easeful light…With that softening gaze
welcome… whatever arises

With love, wayne


I wonder at openings and what the voices are like
What is it that keeps us apart?
Don't be bored with all the questions I ask.
Didn't I tell you…
I love the answers you give

Love, sabine


Don't be caught by the sensual lure of language
The looking, the listening is yours
to wonder at
The openings
the space letting go allows us
The voices--out of one's own life
The being apart…
What keeps us there,
the insistent
I. Letting go of that
a kind of wondering, a kind of dream-like trailing into
startles--stone in the pool one sinks in--
reminds you to listen
deeply. As you rise, listen to the falling away

Ask, but don't hold on, don't question light,
don't ask of the sound…
its answer

with love, wayne
ps: hope you are still sitting regularly

Yes, every morning. I'd miss it! Wondering at the direction it will take me…

with love, sabine

Dear Wayne
I've been the nomad again--in the US 2 months, in Ireland for a Blues festival, and at the end of July I arrived in Israel. Busy finding work, house, flat-mate, sorting out bureaucracies and now the routine has started. I'm working in 2 jobs and about to take on another one. Israel's a hard place to live and survive in. The mentality is different and materialistic. Funny, Judaism has so much depth, yet most Israelis don't really have time for things that really matter- HOW they live, HOW the days go etc. Adjusting here isn't easy. My days start early and finish late. I don't meditate on a regular basis, but often I think with mindfulness in what I do. Usually, sometime during the day, even if it's just for few minutes, I just stop everything, sit and observe, do some breathing and tune in. I'm being lenient on myself, not feeling bad about what I do or don't do and how much. I do what I do and I observe what I observe even if it's while standing on the bus. Life has changed a lot and yet some things haven't. It takes so much not to be hard on myself and to take things just as they come--just observe. No judgment. It seems the busier life gets, the harder it is to... Often the echo of what you said so many times resonates and sinks yet deeper.

Dear Ettie

Wish i could ease the way things close in
and offer the simplest way to be

If you sense how the mind moves, if you can close
in on a single moment of thought ceasing
of judging thought ceasing
and sense openess there--if you return to that--
then even despair or disappointment
can be accepted for the energies they contain, for the momentary
shape they give to experience

I'm teaching often and have a number of students
I'm happy to count you among them


Dear Sabine, Dear Ettie

walking without direction
feet touching and rising
open in all ways
sensation/ support
sensation/ change
sensation/ movement
sensation/ connection
sensation/ letting go
walking without direction
breath rising and ceasing
open in all ways
without ceasing no arising
foot palm soul hand
sensation/ breath
walking without direction
takes hold from within
letting go
knowing this,
letting go

sitting down,
touching bottom,
rising from within,
as you walk,
as you sit,
rising from within,
filling… falling from without
more deeply inward
emptying/ letting go/
untying knots
that hold you back
held as you fall
all the way down/ held
as you rise
within the circle around you
centered within
the circle of practice
by that circle
not bound/ not knotted
direction free
all direction comes from practice
from your life
as you become aware
from within
living it--taking it all as a dream
living it

sit/ without judgment
sit/ knowing
sit/open/ sit/ welcoming

open to all
to whoever you meet




Dear Wayne,
in this case practice does not make perfect, though practice is still the order of the day.  one day while sitting in Zanskar i had a sort of revelation. a tiny, quiet one. a little glimpse into the nature of...... delusion. hmmmm......wrong direction. anyway, at the tail end of this encounter i received some sort of instruction from somewhere. "let your mind reveal itself to you." no actual voice, you understand, but it was as from on high. quietly.  so then after my return to the united states, sitting, reading and soliciting a lot of instruction I found that my sitting was somewhat self-directed (after a certain point) and that what i was looking for was reassurance and outside definition and that for the time being I should lay off reading and talking about practice and just practice and allow my mind to reveal itself to me.  so then i stopped that stuff and for a while I was sort of lost and depressed.  no more glory of practice or security blanket kind of thing.  i lost enthusiasm.  now i think i'm back on track.  it feels right again.  what thinkest thou?  as always, i appreciate your help. love, susan


Upon waking
are your senses open
to being embodied,
to being where you are--
to the physicality of it?
or do you find yourself
caught-up in the loop of thinking
this, thinking that?

Dear wayne,
there's a certain thing that goes on (inside) while sitting that directs the sitting, but i'm not sure i would have gotten to that place without some direction from outside.  i mean, you describe the place, the frame of mind and then i recognize it while sitting and stay with it and then, more direction from inside.........  there are some things in the "yogins of ladakh" book that point to the same thing. there's one passage that describes a quality of attention: "to abide like a child gazing at a temple" but that same quality (or seemingly so) is also described in a modern zen manual differently as: "like watching the surface of a lake while fly fishing."  From these descriptions i sort of guide myself and then there's inside guidance.  there may be some major differences of belief in zen and tibetan buddhism. i'm not sure. i haven't been going to the tibetan center as it's just not very accessable. like, i don't feel i can ask a question there.  but tibetan practice has some focus that zen doesn't seem to have. there's no dharma teaching in zen just sitting. no emphasis on boddichitta. just sitting. but here's the major thing....maybe the zenners believe that the buddha is sitting here inside of me waiting to be wakened. i don't think the tibetans believe this. master or no master.  Dali lama says, "to realize the awakening mind requires a great accumulation of merit. The spiritual master is the most important object for doing this." but from the zen teachings: "If you insist that a teacher is necessary to attain liberation, you are wrong. Why? Because there is a teacher within your own mind who enlightens you spontaneously!  If you create confusion, false thinking, and delusion, even a teacher's instruction cannot save you. If you cultivate the observant perception of true insight, then false thoughts die out at once." there's more, obviously. anyway, it's all very interesting. to me. am i boring you to death? it turned from summer to winter here in two hours. lots of fabulous wind. how's everything in katmandu? is that where you are? i hope we can continue to correspond.

not sure of the best way (for you)
to cut through to simply being (not that you are not
already engaging it within your practice)
other than setting the mind inwards
and bringing it back whenever it wanders…
…to simply sitting there
Not too caught up in “meditating”
Just enough to be clear on your intent – to sit,
To settle inwards… then, ok, given the sitting
is ongoing, let's say beneath the discursiveness
is susan saying this/ taking sides
attracted here/ put off there
naming what she knows (and doesn't)
so rather than stepping back
and calibrating your practice
just do it-- without naming, and when naming
without judging, and when judging
easing up/ moving on

I sense you want and need
a better companion in all this
than the one who notices
and names.  I sense you want both
to be absolved and assured
in the experience --are you with me here?
can you feel?/ what can you feel?
Who is it that feels – look into that
Let go there/ just come back
to that momentary presence
(not unlike the astonishment of a child)
and then more than momentary,
almost ongoing, wakeful and present
like that fly fisher or like that frog
who catches the fly who just happened by
while you were waiting

cool surface/ unruffled/ deep bottomed
or just jump in if you don't mind getting wet
all wet and glistening/ catch the light unawares
any mood any hour of the day
catch the light unawares

As for killing Big B or worshipping him,
raising yourself up in his shadow, let the light catch you,

dear wayne
I’m back in the us and it’s quite a surprise after many months traveling in the himalayas.  I’ve been sitting on a regular basis some time now and had quite an eventful trip into Zanskar. interesting but difficult. i've been sitting every day since i got back (3 weeks). was visiting the drepung loesling center (here) and will again but i wanted some support in my sitting and it might take a while to get that at drepung.  so i started going to a zen center. it's at least 25 years old and the founder is still very much in residence and is "dharma heir" to some japanese master. anyway, as you know, they just sit. so i have just been sitting and watching my breathing. they aren't too big on personal teachers, but at least I have a little bit of the "harmonious community" and during some sessions they have this thing where you can go into a room for an interview and ask questions of a senior sitter. i had some interesting experiences in india. two sitting and two with lamas, but sitting has been interesting here too and i want to keep practicing. any thoughts? there seem to be lots of differences in these two traditions, but maybe not in the actual practice.  the zendo is very nice and the folks are helpful and without pretension. so. whaddya think? it seems a little silly talking about continuing to sit......and then there's the breathing aspect. breathing? well, I got up this morning and breathed for an hour." is there even a past tense of breathe?..... and why are there seven days in the week, anyway? i appreciate hearing from you and i hope you are doing well. are you in katmandu? big email kisses to everyone,
love, susan

just sitting is what it's about --sitting standing walking lying
down... did i leave anything out?

as for breathing don't worry too much about it
just bring the mind into close proximity with the outgoing breath

so that the noticing and the letting go get used to each other
that's enough to do, let the rest happen—thoughts

arising and ceasing just let them
just let yourself get more use to the ceasing
quality of it/ of breath ceasing
of thought ceasing/ so that it seems it's the body

that's letting go/ as the space around you within you
insinuates itself into the

nice steady relationship you got going with
breath ceasing/ thought ceasing

and if that feels good ok workable
and you really want to go on from here

in that open space
ie breath-body letting go/ thought-body letting go

listen, just listen/ ok a thought has arisen
and another/ let them come/go-

stay with the listening
with the breathing/ and within that arising

ceasing, let yourself hear,
as if spoken by the lips of the breath

in the body
as if the body were an ear


and again "ah"
letting go with


then back to just sitting,
easing up on you intent

thoughts rising/ ceasing
out-breath and in/ noticing

mind getting it on
anywhere/ everywhere like that

with its easefulness
in the zendo in the street in your

various wherevers,
enclosed and settling in

at ease/ and if there is no ease
help! the marriage of zen & tantra  help!

email me about it
and if there is that greater ease

email me anyway

hi there wayne
and thanks  i'm following your instructions:
"as for breathing,
don't worry too much about it
somehow, if you can
bring the mind into close proximity
with the outgoing breath,
so that the noticing
and the letting go get used to each other
that's enough to do,
just let the rest happen
and so on--  OK.
so: sit. breathe. let go with the breathing
and "include everything"
and then when i find i've been carried off by my thinking,
bring my attention back to the breath,
the ceasing part (out-breath)…
and get familiar with that process?
I do that I’m trying to but…

there seem to be some disputes going on at the zendo  over stuff like whether or not to use the gong or chant or bow. the 2nd most senior roshe seems to be some kind of a minimalist and doesn't want to do any of these things. last night i mentioned something about having spent time in tibetan buddhist territory and he seemed completely negative about anything the tibetans might have to offer....in terms of practice. that doesn't seem too hip. i'm still going to loesling on tuesdays and may take a 1 day class there from the geshe who can barely speak english. the class is called "the six preliminary practices". apparently, after you take this class you are entitled to attend "Ngon-dro practices" on wednesday nights. you know what "Non-dro" is? or maybe i should just practice this for a while. see? i've answered my own queston. it's just that it's fascinating and one wants to "share" and make adjustments and kind of work it a little!  i like it.  thank you for your help.  susan

Hi Susan,
if you can manage not to get caught up in the dharma wars
then your visits to the centers will provide support for whatever
practice you undertake. zendo for just sitting;
the preliminaries for mindset/ intention – a caring awareness
for others/ and the ngondro for overcoming obstacles
and for committing to dharma

the heart of every practice is simply sitting,
that is, letting your mind settle, letting whatever happens
happen, but being aware of this,
not interfering – simply allowing it to happen,
while experiencing "this allowing to happen"
the breath will come to you no matter what
let your underlying intention be letting go with the out-breath
if you sense being caught up with thought
then when finally noticing this you are already letting go
coming back to… simply being there

if your underlying intention
is to be with the breath, letting go,
then in the normal give and take of breath
you will return from thought to breath
if you want, you can
deliberately be with the breath for a while
but then let go of that deliberateness
see what happens as it happens/ let your experience
be that of noticing/ letting go
neither one more than the other --thus wakeful
and easeful… without pouncing on yourself
for being caught up-- just notice that it happens,
and that, over time, it
un-happens --you can't stay caught up
there are moments letting go intervenes
sense that -- return to the practice

the letting go with the breath
is a way of sensing the letting go within thought
and as inwardness takes hold,
and with it an openness to whatever arises,
then with that easeful openness
allow yourself to sense outwardly more,
be open to the space
around you, the surroundings
with a residual steady awareness
in the breath-body, let the gap
between thoughts
open outward  ah!  there is a vastness here
ah!  there is an openness
thought intervenes --notice that
closing off – without judgment
let go there, let the inwardness
reclaim your attention
easeful/ wakeful/ steady

any problems,
ask the tibetan lama for vajrasattva initiation
to overcome obstacles
otherwise, daily practice over time
will take care of you
and with all that effort and commitment
let the blessings of the practice
fall on all you encounter
With care, Wayne

Buddha Stone Light


Copyright @ 2001, 2004 & 2006 by Wayne Amtzis. All Rights Reserved.