In fall 2000 I first encountered Robert Aitken Roshi with his book, The Dragon Who Never Sleeps, a collection of scores of four-line poems, or gathas. Nine years later, I read his Miniatures of a Zen Master, which served me as a model text —compressed, no excess verbiage, just the pith. Among Aitken’s inspirations were Thoreau’s journals, and Bashō and Kenkō’s prose works. In my journal, I wrote “Merge Aitken with Galeano. This is the path. Write one book, 130 chapter titles….His table of contents is an inspiration, for a terse, spare next book.”
The result several years later was Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine. While Aitken wrote in short paragraphs, I typically composed in short stanzas: transfigured recollections, meditations, lists, stories I carried around for thirty years. He was a beneficent influence in the generation and shaping of the novel.
Here are some of my favorite Aitken miniatures …
A lot of us start out on the practice because we don’t accept ourselves fully. Under good tutelage we find ourselves in a process of forgetting ourselves, and realize that this is really the way to uncover the unique one that has been there all along. Give the Tao a chance. Give yourself a chance.  Read the rest of this entry »