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Today on Twitter I saw a post forwarded to my account from John Fugelsang from someone named JohhnyBoy that said “I wish gun related deaths were just as scary to Americans as ebola.”  During our Zen Buddhist service and sitting this morning we prayed for the families and friends of the students killed during school yesterday in Marysville, WA .  The combination of this incident and the post from JohnnyBoy brought back to mind the short piece that one of our teachers had given me to put into our Zen Bulletin and on our website he titled it  “Excitement.”  Wilbur Mushin May Sensei wrote:

We cannot live without excitement.  However, when excitement becomes the sole purpose in life that’s out of balance, that does not work.  It seems, we strive to be on a constant high all the time.  Having fun almost becomes an addiction.  But the craving for the extraordinary dulls the palate, and we lose our sense for the ordinary.

In Zen, when our practice is calm and ordinary nothing is lacking and our everyday life itself is enlightenment.

Don’t engage disturbances and emotional reachings gradually fade away.

Don’t engage distractions and spiritual practice naturally grows.

Violence, fear, and panic have become an everyday thing.  The news touts it and wants us to “be afraid…be very, very, afraid!”  This will draw people to the 24-hour news stations and to the internet for minute-by-minute updates.  Thus, we can see more of their commercials, buy more of their products, and I could go on and on.

But in Buddhism we live by the values of the Buddha and his followers and students who focused on the good and the gracious and the generosity ingrained in all human beings.  We step in to help the family, friends, and teachers in their time of need.  We do all we can to minimize gun deaths with stronger gun laws and the like.

And hopefully living a life of peace, love, and compassion will be an example that others will want to follow.  Change comes one person at a time. Knowing this we can change the world in which we live to one where the loudest form of excitement is only as bold and brash as cheering for your favorite team, or blowing out the candles on your birthday cake, or sharing tears of joy when your favorite relative greets you with a smile and a hug.

This excitement I wish for you.

In gassho,

Shokai

Once again I picked up the book Peace Pilgrim for words of wisdom and came across something that is so relevant today as we watch the killings and destruction of people of different faiths. Some people are even killing others who are the same faith only a different sect or denomination of that faith. Whether you believe in a religion, or a faith, or a spiritual teaching or a God or Supreme Being or not I hope the Peace Pilgrim’s words resonate with you and help you deal with your life and your challenges more easily today.

I am a deeply religious person, but I belong to no denomination. I follow the spirit of God’s law, not the letter of the law. One can become so attached to the outward symbols and structure of religion that one forgets its original intent—to bring one closer to God. We can only gain access to the Kingdom of God by realizing it dwells within us as well as in all humanity. Know that we are all cells in the ocean of infinity, each contributing to the others’ welfare (page 85)[1]

Roshi Robert Aitken in his wonderful book The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics writes this about oneness and war and peace.

Acting upon the First Precept [Not Killing] is also the spirit of not harming applied in the natural world. The same poisons that set us apart in families, communities, and across national boundaries—greed, hatred, and ignorance—blight the grasslands, deplete the soil, clear cut the forests, and add lethal chemicals to water and air. In the name of progress, some say. In the name of greed, it might more accurately be said (page 20).[2]

So if we let go of the outward symbols, laws, and structures and move toward the natural world or “God’s World” or the world of the Bodhisattva as Roshi Aitken says, “Compassion and peace are a practice, on cushions in the dojo, within the family, on the job, and at political forums. Do your best with what you have, and you will mature in the process.” You and I can be more like the Peace Pilgrim and the Buddha and be a part of “all cells in the ocean of infinity” contributing to the peace and welfare of everyone and everything.

If only we could feel and see ourselves afloat as an integral part of this infinite sea of creation we could not harm the cell that is in the other because we are that cell as well. Together we are that united one: separate we could not exist. Just imagine how our lives and the lives of those around us could be blessed if we lived each day in that “ocean of infinity.”

How about joining me for a swim!

In honor of our wonderful teachers I post these words:

Doshin and Jundo

Good Friends and good teachers of Zen: Jundo and Doshin

I feel within me a peace

Above all earthly dignities,

A still and quiet conscience.

–William Shakespeare

 

[1] Peace Pilgrim (2004), Peace Pilgrim, Editors Friends of Peace Pilgrim http://www.peacepilgrim.org

[2] Aitken, R. (2000) The Mind of Clover, Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. North Point Press: NY, NY

Today would be a good day to share with each of you these wonderful ideas and words about peace from the Peace Pilgrim. They are appropriate for what is going on in our lives, in our communities, and in the world. I hope you will pass them on to others on your Facebook pages, twitter accounts, and e-mails. If we do not begin to understand the power of peace and love soon there will be no one left to love. I have shared some here with you.

Peace Pilgrim’s Beatitudes

Blessed are they who give without expecting even thanks in return, for they shall be abundantly rewarded.
Blessed are they who translate every good thing they know into action, for ever higher truths shall be revealed unto them.
Blessed are they who love and trust their fellow beings, for they shall reach the good in people and receive a loving response.
Blessed are they who instead of trying to batter down the gates of the kingdom of heaven approach them humbly and lovingly and purified, for they shall pass right through (page 167).

Be the person who demonstrates agape love through your thoughts, prayers, words, and actions today and you may just be the catalyst for spreading love that may heal the heart of another.

In gassho,
Shokai

ingassho

Footnote:

[1]Peace Pilgrim (2004), Peace Pilgrim Editors Friends of Peace Pilgrim http://www.peacepilgrim.org

On December 7, 1975 a short piece was published in the Family Weekly Magazine about Peace Pilgrim. In it she talked about the idea of peace that Americans held:

Peace is much more than the temporary absence of war; it is the absence of the causes of war. I believe it will take another 10 years for an outer peace to develop and sustain itself, but even after that time I will continue to talk about the inner peace man needs to maintain outer peace (page 180).[1]

Sadly 42 years have gone by since she made this statement and wars on the common people by their governments and the fundamentalist religious groups around the world are raging harder, longer, and in more places than ever…from the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to the mountains of Iraq, to the sovereign state of Ukraine, and still fermenting are wars between the Israels and the Palestinians that live in the Gaza Strip. Just to name a few!

So what would you suggest to the Peace Pilgrim if she were still amongst us as to the “causes of war”? The absence of war for me will come when we all develop a constant and consistent attitude of peace, love, and compassion for self, and then allow that to flow freely and fully to all beings at all times, and in all places. Next, move that peace, love, and compassion to the trees, lakes, mountains, and rivers, to the grass beneath your feet and the sun and stars above—to see everything through the eyes of love. Finally, to teach these principles in every town and village on the planet to the young ones who will be the future caretakers of it. This is what’s missing and is the cause of war everywhere from the bedroom to the boardroom to the city and to the countryside.

The eyes of love for self disappeared in Robin Williams as his depression and life’s challenges grew harder and harder to accept and manage until he took his own life. His peace and compassion for himself began to dwindle and finally to disappear. That is just what the Peace Pilgrim was speaking about when she said, “I will continue to talk about the inner peace man needs to maintain outer peace.”

We are a union of minds melding together through the energy that moves around this planet. We feel the energy of others in our presence all the time. Sometimes we can feel the energy of joy, laughter, and love and sometimes we feel the energy of fear, hatred, and sadness. But feel the energy we do, sometimes it is so palpable there is a saying that “you could cut it with a knife.”

While sitting in the Zendo this morning one of our teachers, Mushin Sensei, put on a beautiful piece of music for us to focus on after the talk given by our teacher Doshin Mitch Cantor. The music was a piano piece that was so fabulous it brought the energy of a recently departed friend into the room. I saw his light, I could feel his love, I could see how his spirit/energy was everywhere present as far as the mind could imagine from cosmos to cosmos from heart to heart and from mind to mind. I felt both tears of joy and sorrow begin to roll down my cheeks as our energy merged with the music and I was once again reminded that “all is one” that there is no separation in time and space when agape love is concerned.

Wouldn’t it be great if the love energy of the Peace Pilgrim and my dear friend Kevin Dulling could be flowing in and through all that is to help end this madness on planet Earth? I know they both would approve!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

I am getting ready to present a workshop for Career Source Broward the audience will be people that are working with them to find employment. The title of my workshop is “Reduce Stress…Increase Success with Mindfulness.” My desire is to share with each one of them the principles of mindfulness and breath work that can help them decrease their stress in mind, body, and spirit even in these trying times.

It is easy to be relaxed and joyous when your life is moving forward with a good job, personal health, and family members doing well, and when you have time for recreation, hobbies and the like. But for the unemployed or underemployed that is not always possible. Many times they are filled with emotions of fear, anxiety, depression, and panic–some in a small way and for others in a big way where they are probably going to need the help of the medical community. But for many some simple mindfulness, stress reduction, and time management techniques integrated into their daily lives on a regular basis can help them immensely.

One of my colleagues recommended a book to me, Mindfulness an Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World (2011) by Mark Williams and Danny Penman so I ordered it online and was highly impressed by the content and the information and tips shared in it.

In Chapter 2 “Why Do We Attack Ourselves?” they shared with the reader an illustration they titled “What makes an emotion?” I thought this would be great information for the participants in my stress and mindfulness training since I was sure they were having the gamut of every emotion on the planet during this trying time in their lives.

They define emotions this way”

Emotions are “bundles” of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and impulses to act. Next time you experience pleasant or unpleasant emotions, you might check in with what’s going on, and notice the interplay of the different aspects of the bundle (page 20).[1]

These ideas: Thoughts (I’m getting nowhere with this.”), feelings (tense, upset), impulses (Escaping; crawling into bed; pulling the covers over your head) and bodily sensations (Tense shoulders, churning stomach) (page 20)[2] can come in any order and move round and round leaving you sick in mind, body, and spirit. You are probably relating to this idea and wondering what the heck you can do about it.

The authors recommend some simple things that anyone can do at any time to turn the switch from one negative thought, feeling, impulse, or sensation to a better one. Here is one simple thing they recommend that you can do at any time and in any place to bring “peace” back into your life.

Something as subtle as frowning, smiling or altering posture can have a dramatic impact on mood and the types of thoughts flickering across the mind.

. . .the act of smiling can itself make you happy. It’s a perfect illustration of just how close the links are between mind and body. Smiling is infectious too. When you see someone grin, you almost invariably smile back. You can’t help it (pages 20-23).[3]

So if you want to make peace with yourself to see more peace in your life—even in the most difficult times and situations—observe your facial expressions and body language and make a simple adjustment. Put a smile on your face and stand up tall with your shoulders back and head held high and watch what happens to your “feelings” and your “attitude” you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Plus, you’ll feel more peaceful and your mind will feel sharper and ready to handle anything that anyone throws at you! Try it today and let me know what happens!

[1] Williams, M. and Penman, D. (2011) Mindfulness An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Rodale: NY, NY

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

When the phone rings and you hear the voice of someone you have not spoken to in a very long time you are happy and excited to hear his or her voice, yet a small whisper of a thought often begins to emerge, “I sure hope this is not bad news” and some times it is.  For me that call from Catherine was to tell me that our dear friend Jack Corbett had passed away.  I did not know he had been ill and that was because he did not want anyone to know, nor did he want visitors in the hospital or hospice.  He was not young in years but he was definitely young at heart.

I know I am not supposed to out someone in AA but he was not shy about talking about AA, inviting people to AA, sponsoring hundreds of people over the 30+ he was a member and giving them unconditional love and support.  He was the greatest example of what AA was all about.

He was also a life long member of the Unity Church to which I belonged.  I was his teacher early on and then his minister and he followed me no matter where I went to minister.  Jack offered to be on my board when I started my own church, Unity by the Ocean in Fort Lauderdale, he worked tirelessly to keep the church running, volunteering his time, talent, and treasure in way to many ways to even mention.

I know that Jack’s presence on earth was a miracle.  He ran away from home at the age of 13 due to some very horrible conditions in which he lived.  He was homeless at the age of 14.  And in his early 20’s graduated from Rutgers College in NJ.  Now that’s a feat! He was my mentor, my friend, and my idol.  To be like him was my goal in trying to reach that goal I became a better person. Just knowing him is a treasure and one of the Jewel’s in Indra’s net that I am blessed to have in my collection.

Good-by Jack and good luck in your next adventure!

In gassho,

Kathy (Shokai)

As I looked for something to begin my newest blog post on peace a small green book caught my eye hidden between two larger books on the shelf behind my desk. It called out to me to open it up to discover what Frances W. Foulkes, Unity Minister and author, might have written in her book Effectual Prayer about peace. Here is what I found as I opened the book:

“My heart is at peace with God, and man and beats in unison with the great heart of the universe. As Thy [the] spirit of peace and love pervades my whole being, all that was weary in me is refreshed, all that was sick is made whole, all that was limited is made free and full (page 116).”[1]

Her writing is clear that peace begins within; peace is not something that you can buy in the store, or get from a doctor, priest, imam or website.

Peace lives in me every day if I would just take the time to notice it, to look for it, and appreciate it. Even in the most god awful traffic jam, when you are late for work, school, or an appointment you can find peace within you. Somewhere deep down inside of you is a secret sacred space that knows only peace. Some call it the heart chakra, some call it the unconscious mind, some call it God, some emptiness or oneness. Deepak Chopra calls it “pure potentiality.” My friend Erick at our study group in the Zendo last night said it this way. Mozart is to have said: “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” That is where peace lives.

So the next time you feel stress, anxiety, anger, hate, or fear go within quietly and find that secret sacred place within you where the “peace that passes all understanding” abides. It is there quietly, silently waiting for you to recognize it, remember it, to be with it in mind, body, and spirit.

To find it begin with your breath. The breath is the life force energy you were given at birth, the energy that pervades every cell of your body, powers your mind, muscles, and cells. Simply take three long breaths, slow breaths, counting one on the in breath and two on the out breath and watch your heart beat slow down, your mind begin to clear, and your body begin to relax. You can do it anywhere, anytime, regardless of the outside situation or circumstances.

The breath will find the peace center in you and help you reside there as long as you like or as long as you can, or until the traffic begins to move or the light turns green or the person leaves your presence. You may even want to memorize Rev. Foulkes affirmation even if just a portion, such as “my heart beats in unison with the great heart of the universe” or “the spirit of peace and love pervades my whole being.” These things I wish for you every moment of every day! Why not start today?

[1] Foulks, F.W. (1966) Effectual Prayer, Unity School of Christianity, Lee Summit, MO.

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