One in seven Americans face hunger on a daily basis. The statistics show that 48.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 32.8 million adults and 15.3 million children in 2014. Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 19 percent compared to 12 percent (Feeding America).

The bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Sanskrit) (Chinese: Kuan-yin) (Japanese: Kannon, Kwannon, Kanzeon) is said to perceive the cries of the world. The bodhisattva embodies two of the fundamental aspects of Buddhahood, compassion and wisdom. This bodhisattva must be especially busy trying to take care of all the people in America who are food insecure or should we simply call it what it is? Hungry.

Thus it is important for us to be the arms, legs, hearts and minds of Avalokitesvara every day in our lives. It is important to take the time each day to give thanks for the food that we have, to help those who have less, and to minimize the waste of food in our own homes, churches, and work places.

I recall a news story about a young boy who when eating at a buffet in a restaurant asked his dad what they did with the extra food at the end of the day. He said, “Dad, why can’t they give it to the people who are hungry and have no food in our town.” His dad replied, “The law does not allow it here in Florida.” So this young boy made it his mission to have the law changed. Yes, he did, and he succeeded. Now, by law, they are all allowed to give the extra food to food banks and organizations that feed the hungry. That is Avalokitesvara in action!

How many of us even do the simple thing of blessing our food before we eat it. When I would eat with the Sunday school children in Unity I would always bless the food with this fun prayer my mother taught me: Rub a dub-dub, thank you God for the grub! They loved it and they laughed and they remembered it! Start them young and they will never stop.

In our sangha we have a beautiful prayer to bless the food which we do each time we dine together.  I hope you’ll use it each time you dine with others or alone to remind yourself of the food hungry people in your community or home and to set in motion Avalokitesvara to help us provide food and laws and the channels through which we can provide food for the hungry. Laws that will ensure that no person goes hungry in America regardless of their age, status, ethnicity, or religion.

Here is our Prayer: Earth, water, fire, air and space combine to make this food. Numberless beings gave their lives and labors so that I may eat. May I be nourished so that I may nourish life.

Take the time today to share your wisdom and compassion for those who may go hungry today. Be the bodhisattva in whatever language you choose, but be one.

In gassho,



Source: Departing Wisdom

Father John J. McNeill Father John J. McNeill

Wednesday, September 22, 2015, Father John J. McNeill went to meet his friend and guide Jesus. When I heard the news I thought it was just what Father John would have wanted—to make his transition the day that Pope Francis was in the country voicing his support for the LGBT community around the world. Good going John!

Father John was silenced, sanctioned, and finally asked to leave the Jesuit Order by one of the former Popes because of his support for the LGBT community and for living a life of truth and compassion as a gay man with a wonderful supportive and loving partner Charles Chiarelli.

Father John has written many books and counseled many people in and out of the LGBT community. He was my mentor and friend for many years as I worked as an associate pastor at Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and as a hospice chaplain. As one of the founders of an interfaith clergy group for those serving congregations in the Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach Counties I had the pleasure of picking Father John up for our meetings and events when he needed a ride.
To be with him and hear him talk was an amazing thing. It did not matter what topic he was speaking about or even if it was just a causal conversation about life–I was blessed simply by being in his presence. If you have not had the opportunity to read any of his books I recommend them highly. His knowledge of scripture and Christianity was amazing. Two of my favorite books by Father John are Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair: My Spiritual Journey and Sex as God Intended.

In memory of Father John I would like to leave you with this poem by Kuan Hsiu, Zen Buddhist monk and master poet who lived from 832-912.

This is for you dear friend…

So, say my way differs from yours,
We both have old men’s hair and beards.
They say words can kill faith.
I like to arrange spring blossoms in a rough old
   funeral jar.

In gassho,



For me prayer is when we talk to God or a higher power and meditation is when we shut up and listen!

There are all kinds of prayers and ways to meditate that are available to us. Below is a simple list of some of the most common ones:

Affirmation/affirmative: A good example of this is to recite “I am open and receptive to receive my good in health, wealth, and happiness today and every day to do the work I have come here to do.” This type of “prayer/affirmation” can help your conscious mind direct to you all the good that the universe has in store for you.
Centering: Silent prayer that helps us open ourselves to receive by quieting our minds, body, and spirits.
Contemplative: Focusing on an idea, scripture, quotation, sutra, poem or words of wisdom.
Intercession: Praying for help for others i.e. healing or prosperity for a friend in need.
Lectio Divina: reading, reflecting, responding, and resting on a sutra, scripture, or spiritual reading.
Meditation/sitting: Sitting quietly while focusing on your breath, a word, or counting 1 on the in breath and 2 on the out breath to quiet and center your rambling/monkey mind and become one with all that is.
Thanksgiving: A simple prayer of giving thanks often done before a meal or after a challenge has been overcome such as an illness, accident, or having passed your final exam in school.

Today I want to focus on the affirmation since I have had several requests from friends and students for prayers of prosperity, jobs, healing, and more. Affirmative prayers keep us in a positive mood with a wonderful outlook for the future. They help to keep us from ruminating on the negative, fearful, or harmful thoughts that seem to invade our minds in times of need.

Charles Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity, said that prayers have weight and measure and ultimately energy. All words are prayers in some way. In Genesis 1:3 we read: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” The first demonstration of the power of the word! What words are you saying from the time you awake to the time you go to sleep? Are they words of illness, lack, limitation, frustration, and fear? Or are they words of affirmation, health, healing, prosperity, opportunity, love, and compassion. The universe does not care which you choose it will bring you whatever you think and pray for!

When times are tough, and they will be in life, center your prayers on positive affirmations and your mediation times on sitting in the silence to help quiet down that monkey mind and allow your body, mind, and spirit to rest. Give yourself a “meditation break” instead of a “coffee break” which just fills you with caffeine and sugar and calories!

Each day it would be helpful to end it with this Buddhist prayer/chant:

Let me respectfully remind you
Life and death are of supreme importance
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost
Each of us should strive to awaken
Awaken, take heed do not squander your life.

In gassho,



As I was thinking about which sutra, poem, or prayer to write about in my blog today I was led to a notebook on my bookshelf filled with wonderful things on Buddhism. As I opened it up the very first page right there in front of me was the “Metta Sutra” (Loving-Kindness) by Shakyamuni Buddha.

How appropriate it is considering what we are seeing on the nightly news: Hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Syria ever day in hopes of finding safety, happiness, and love instead of hunger, anger, hatred, and fear. Many, unfortunately, are not finding loving kindness as they seek refuge in the neighboring countries. Others are lucky and have been given, food, shelter, clothing, and some loving-kindness.

Thus, this is the perfect place to go for our second sutra to chant and meditate upon in our new adventure of going “beyond prayer.” Let us do this knowing that our prayers can reverberate around the world and peace and loving kindness can prevail.

Below are the words.

May all beings be happy.
May they be joyous and live in safety.
All living beings, whether weak or
Strong, in high or middle, or low
Realms of existence, small or great,
Visible or invisible, near or far, born or to be born.
May all beings be happy.
Let none deceive another nor despise
Any being in any state; let none
By anger or hatred wish harm to another.
Even as a mother at the risk of her life
Watches over and protects her only child,
So with a boundless mind should one cherish all living things,
Suffusing love over the entire
World, above, below, and all around
Without limit;
So let each cultivate an
Infinite goodwill toward the whole world.

Let each of us take the time this week to not only use the Metta Sutra for ourselves but to share it with others as well. Put it up on your Facebook page, Instagram, link it on Twitter, upload it to your blog, and e-mail it to your family and friends. There is power in numbers and prayer has healed and turned hearts from hatred to love and beyond in the past and I know it can do it in this present moment—if we just believe it can–since this present moment is all there really is.

As Captain Jean-Luc Picard would say, “Make it so!”

In gassho,


I posted this new project yesterday on my twitter account by Guy Leekley and some of his friends not knowing that this morning at our Zen meeting we would be lighting a candle for him as he had passed away yesterday evening.  His memory will live on through his writings, his students, his family, and his friends.  You can hear and experience Guy from beyond the veil in this beautiful video.

In gassho,



“Inspirations from the Tao Te Ching”

This is a beautiful video created by our dear friends: Guy Leekley (translations and reading) Chinese landscape photography by Matthew Kraus, video by John Dickson, and adviser our teacher Mitch Doshin Cantor.

The pictures and the quotations read by Guy invite us to experience a time of peace and understanding of the principles for life shared in the Tao Te Ching. I hope you’ll take the 14 minutes out of your busy day to be refreshed in mind, body, and spirit.

The link: guy leekley with camera
Inspirations from the Tao Te Ching

There are hundreds of ways a person can begin to open to the spirit within them. In every religion there are prayers, and songs, and dances, and poems, and liturgies that have been created to help their followers find the divinity within them. We have been practicing out loud by chanting and singing, and creating music with percussion, string, and wind instruments or silently, through contemplation, meditation, zazen, introspection, lectio divina, dance, and more. Others have used sweat lodges, art, mind altering drugs, and ancient rituals. But all have been designed to help the individual find that mystical, untouchable, elusive thing within them called life.

Two extraordinary women have recently gifted me two things—one was a book, Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary by Kazuaki Tanahashi, and the other a journal article from Innovation Educativa which she is a co-author of entitled “The power of deep reading and mindful literacy: An innovative approach in contemporary education (Hall, O’Hare, Santavicca & Jones, 2015).” I have been moving between these pieces of writing with joy each presenting me with some fantastic ways to bring my practice into alignment with my life.

Thus I have decided to use these as a jumping off place for creating another workbook for the prison ministry in Florida of which I am one of their volunteers. The prison outreach ministry is sponsored by the Southern Palm Zen Group (Southern Palm Zen Group).

My first thought was what good I could get from the use of these techniques in my life, what I could discover about myself, and how I might even find my “true-self.” And then I read the paragraph below from Kaz’s book and discovered that what I really wanted to do was “understand” what he describes below and thus the workbook was born.

The “Four All-Embracing Vows” expresses the bodhisattva’s attitude. The first of the four vows—‘Beings are numberless; I vow to awaken them’—appears to be an overly idealistic and unrealistic promise. But if we look at it closely, we will notice that it doesn’t simply say, ‘I vow to awaken all sentient beings.’ It begins by acknowledging just how many living beings there are who need to be awakened. Thus, being kind to a neighbor, a stranger, or an animal can create rippling effects of kindness. A simple action may cause infinite results. If the ‘I’ who vows is separate from other people, what ‘I’ can achieve is quite limited. But if ‘I’ is not separate from all others throughout space and time, it may be possible to awaken all beings. This understanding is an essential ground for socially engaged Buddhism (Page 9).

My desire is to be a “socially engaged Buddhist.” My writing this workbook will help me discover new things about myself as I practice the techniques I am sharing, and hopefully, helping others do the same as they use the techniques in their own lives.

So let’s begin this adventure as Kaz did by reciting the four vows for a week as often as possible and wherever we can. Whether we’re sitting in meditation, contemplating the words, or writing them in our journal, whether we’re riding the train, or driving our cars, or making our beds–let’s chant. Chant aloud or silently as the environment allows. Let us not be separate from the words, the thoughts that follow, the sounds of the words, or the feelings and emotions that we feel as we chant. Let’s be one with everything. Let’s be accepting of what comes or does not come, no judgements or criticisms of ourselves, we’re simply chanting! The words are below as we chant them at the Southern Palm Zen Group. You are welcome to use them or use ones that you are familiar with.

The Four Vows
Creations are numberless, I vow to free them.
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them.
Reality is boundless, I vow to perceive it.
The Enlightened Way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it.

In gassho,


[1]Hall, M.P., O’Hare, A., Jones L.F., Santavicca, N. (2015) The power of deep reading and mindful literacy: An innovative approach in contemporary education. Innovacion Educative, ISSN: 1665-2673 vol. 15, numero 67

[2]Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala Publications Inc.: Boston, MA


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