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I moved into my new villa and saw my next door neighbor and his lovely wife walking down the sidewalk. I thought it only appropriate to stop and introduce myself to them and soon I discovered the most amazing thing—Ben and I had a lot in common. As a Zen Buddhist I sit each day in meditation and before I begin I set my intention for this period of time.   I set my intention on saving the planet and finding peace, compassion, and love for it and all sentient beings. Ben too has spent his entire life finding and working for peace, compassion, and love on this planet in a most loving and powerful way.

Ben Ferencz was the chief prosecutor at the subsequent proceedings at Nuremberg. He is the only prosecutor who is still alive and his mantra is “never give up!” You can see a lot more about Ben at his website www.benferencz.org. I hope you’ll take a look as it will amaze and astound you. Ben wrote, “Nuremberg taught me that creating a world of tolerance and compassion would be a long and arduous task. And I also learned that if we did not devote ourselves to developing effective world law, the same cruel mentality that made the Holocaust possible might one day destroy the entire human race.”

Ben has inspired me to write a series of blogs on peace and what it means in Buddhism, in Christianity, in ethics, and in daily life. I hope you’ll join me on this important journey as Ben said, if we don’t we could “destroy the entire human race.” One of his many life goals is stated succinctly on his website, “Ferencz’s goal is replacing the “rule of force with the rule of law.”

In Buddhism we may not actually have “laws” but we do have many precepts that we follow and we understand the laws of nature and life and love and how when followed they bring peace and contentment into our lives and the lives of our neighbors, friends, family, and ultimately the world.

Ben loaned me a little book the other day written by Robert Muller who was the Assistant-secretary General of the United Nations for forty years. The book is entitled Dialogues of Hope (1990). In it he wrote: It is by transforming our own lives that we transform the world (page 101).[1] This is what we believe in Buddhism and in my former career as a Unity minister. Each Sunday we ended our service by singing the peace song and it ends with this phrase: Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

I hope you will join me on this journey and share the posts with your friends, families, and associates. I hope as well that you will comment on the posts and share your ideas and thoughts on this very important subject with me and my followers. In peace and love, Shokai

[1] Muller, R. (1990). Dialogues of Hope. World Happiness and Cooperation, Ardsley-on-Hudson, NY

Someone Should Start Laughing

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?

If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,

If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening called the mouth,

O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing Now!

Hafiz

Mitch Doshin Cantor

Mitch Doshin Cantor

When we really look at our lives and the ruts that we have created for ourselves we may wonder—how the heck did I get here?  When practicing meditation and/or mindfulness we want to be nonjudgmental and simply observe the “stuckness” and then decide either to stay stuck or get unstuck!  The choice is always up to us!

Does it really matter “how” we got stuck?  Or is it more important to review the situation and decide if it is worth my time and energy to get unstuck.  Will getting unstuck help me in a positive way.  Will it help me get my homework assignments completed for school?  Will it help me get the chores done around the house or the projects completed at work?  Will it help me improve my health or income or relationships?

I love what Russell Simmons wrote in his new book Success through Stillness in his chapter “Getting Unstuck.”  “…no matter where you’re from or what you’ve done, you’re never stuck in anything unless you say you are (page 143).”[1]

Many years ago I learned about the Theory of 21.  This theory purports that it takes 21 days to create a new habit or get unstuck!  So that means once you’ve observed your “stuckness” evaluated its impact on your life and then decided it was something you’d like to see change—getting unstuck will take at least 21 days.  For me it usually takes much longer than that!  When I get stuck I really get stuck!

Whether you’re stuck in a bad relationship, habit, thought pattern, job, school, or work…you can get unstuck.  Below are some simple steps for getting there!

1.  Make up your mind that YOU want to get unstuck, not your mother, father, girlfriend, boyfriend, or boss—You want to do it.

2.  Identify what triggers you about this “stuckness.”  So if you’re stuck on procrastinating on homework, work projects, doing the laundry, or cleaning the house it’s probably because these things are too big and are overwhelming you when you see them or even think about them.

3.  To fix it break this “stuckness” down in to bite size pieces.  How do you eat an elephant—one bite at a time!

4.  Meditate on one of those pieces each day and allow the unconscious mind to bubble up the things that are holding you back from getting unstuck.  As they come to mind take the energy out of them and see them being done with ease, floating away like a hot air balloon.  Take the emotion out of the picture and change the picture from one of fear, anxiety, or pain to one of completion, peace, joy, forgiveness, love, and release.  Do not give it any power. Simply observe and let it go again and again till the energy in it has dissipated!   Remember things are “just this” in Buddhism and it is only our thoughts that give them power over us in both negative and positive ways.

5. Finally, just do it!  Like the Niki commercial says.  Do it every day until you’re unstuck and can move on with your new life—just this!

Just sit each morning in meditation. Then while doing the thing, if the emotions or thoughts begin to take you back to the “stuckness” take a quick moment to breath into it, fill it with air, smile, and let it go.  Remember what Russell Simmons said, “you’re never stuck in anything unless you say you are.” The choice is up to you! Meditation and mindfulness are the simple glue removers!


[1] Simmons, R. (2014) Success through Stillness Meditation made Simple. Penguin Group: NY, NY

unlockthedoortolearning:

sorry about the gibberish on the first post…

Originally posted on unlockthedoortolearning:

Being mindful in life, in the classroom, at work, at home or at play can increase your powers of concentration, recognition, memory, and more.  Would you like a better relationship with your significant other?  Then using mindfulness techniques in your relationship just might help.  When was the last time you forgot his or her birthday, an anniversary, or her favorite food or that he liked his coffee black?  Want to have a better relationship with your boss, co-workers, and customers?  How mindful were you at that last meeting with them?  Was your mind wandering from to-do list to- do list so much so that you couldn’t even remember what he or she said, what they were wearing, or the color of his or her eyes or hair?  If this sounds like you help is on the way!

Russell Simmons in his new book Success through Stillness writes, “…we eventually come…

View original 558 more words

Being mindful in life, in the classroom, at work, at home or at play can increase your powers of concentration, recognition, memory, and more.  Would you like a better relationship with your significant other?  Then using mindfulness techniques in your relationship just might help.  When was the last time you forgot his or her birthday, an anniversary, or her favorite food or that he liked his coffee black?  Want to have a better relationship with your boss, co-workers, and customers?  How mindful were you at that last meeting with them?  Was your mind wandering from to-do list to- do list so much so that you couldn’t even remember what he or she said, what they were wearing, or the color of his or her eyes or hair?  If this sounds like you help is on the way!

Russell Simmons in his new book Success through Stillness writes, “…we eventually come to understand that our happiness is derived from being present in the moment.  In seeing the miracles that are constantly unfolding around us every second, instead of blindly running past them (page 51).[1]  So here is the trick…when you catch your mind wandering, acknowledge it and invite it to come back into the present moment.  Whether you are reading a text for school or work, washing the dishes or the car, or waiting for a bus bring yourself back into the now moment.  Take a deep breath, scan your environment, focus on the person you are speaking to or the book that you are reading or the assignment that you are writing and smile. Yes, smile! Don’t put yourself down or criticize yourself for having that wandering mind just be grateful that you are beginning to recognize it and call it back to the now moment.

I like to help my students practice being mindful with a simple exercise like taking a piece of wrapped hard candy and using every one of your senses to “experience” the candy.  Yes, experience the candy.  Most of the time when we just eat the candy: We just unwrap it and throw it into our mouths and never really know what it felt like or tasted like and seconds later some of us have forgotten that we’ve even eaten it!

So try this and see what happens.  Take the candy and use all 5 of your senses to eat it. How does it feel to the touch?  Look at it before unwrapping it and after unwrapping it.  See its color, texture, shape, and more.  Listen to the sounds it makes as you do that.  Next, smell the candy and really smell it. Yes, hard candy does have some luscious smells!  Next, hold it in your mouth and feel what it feels like in there.  Is it sharp, soft, hard, feel it as it melts does it get slippery?  What happens to your saliva?  Does it taste different when you move it around your mouth from one place to another?  Really “experience” the candy.  Many of my students have noted after this exercise that this was the “best” candy they had ever eaten.  Why?  Because they actually took time to “experience” it.

What would happen if you spent your life really experiencing it—seeing the people, places, and things around you? What if you really smelled the smells, felt the textures, and enjoyed the views.  Really read the words that the author has written—really put yourself into the writing.  Really be there!  What would happen if you really looked at the cashier behind the register?  Saw him or her as a real human being with feelings, likes, dreams, and ambitions.  Like you!

Woody Allen once said that he’d never met a man on his deathbed who said “I wish I’d spent more time at work.” I have always said that when I die on my tombstone I want it written that “She died having no regrets.”  How about you? What will yours say?

Live life today—experience  it every moment, no matter how many times you have to remind yourself to “be in the now moment.”  Simply be here now!  Now is the only time there really is.


[1] Simmons, R. (2014) Success through Stillness Meditation made Simple. Penguin Group: NY, NY

A crazy thing happened to me today.  I caught myself reading mindlessly this morning as I picked up a new book that I bought the other day that was recommended by one of the groups that I belong to (The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society www.contemplativemind.org) it is entitled Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning by Daniel Barbezat and Mirabai Bush.

Now imagine picking up a book about contemplative practices and be reading mindlessly!  Well believe it or not, I did!  Partly because my mind was distracted from the reading and my thoughts and feelings were placed upon the e-mail I had just received about one of our Sangha members, Sid Bolotin, having passed away peacefully in the night.  My mind wandered to his statuesque physical presence and his peaceful countenance that permeated the air and the room each time I was in his presence.  It did not matter whether we met in the Zendo or we met in the library he was always present, smiling, and kind.

I cried a little as I remembered our last meeting how frail Sid had appeared and how slowly he walked into the library yet with great determination to keep living and loving with each moment he was given upon this earth.  That memory led me to pick up my book and begin reading again.  This time I caught the idea that was being shared in this chapter about contemplative reading in the classroom or anywhere—Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina has “four levels of meaning: literal, metaphorical or symbolic, moral, and mystical. Through the process, the simple words on the page become integrated into the moral and spiritual life of the reader (page 111).”[1]  Just imagine what our lives would be like if we lived our lives with these four levels in mind.  If each day we looked at life from the literal meaning it has for us as we went through the practical tasks of our lives.  This morning I did a load of wash, threw it into the dryer, took it out, folded it and then put it away.  Done!

If I then looked at that task in a metaphorical way and compared that to my life in general how would it look?  I always say to my teams when we are working on an initiative on the adventure training course that whatever you do here is exactly what you’d do or how you’d act on the job!  So if you are controlling and always taking charge you’ll do that here.  If you are shy and quiet you will be that way here as well.

So washing my clothes might be something I could think about doing with my mind and/or thoughts.  I could look at the symbolic way that enfolds my life.  I might even want to wash my mind of some negative thoughts. For some of those thoughts I might have to add bleach or a stain remover because they are so embedded in me and not helpful when trying to live a peaceful life of contemplation and compassion.  But like the spot remover once I recognized them and their effect on my life I could change them and therefore change my life. I could visualize it like some nice clean clothes that might be hanging on the clothes line on a beautiful spring day blowing in the breeze, clothes filled with vibrant colors, smelling of the fresh air, and moving without resistance to the wind.

From there I can view my life through the moral lens of compassion and peace that is a part of my studies and through the Buddhist vows I have taken. Finally, I can bring those actions and thoughts through this spiritual lens and hopefully make a difference in someone’s life today.

So I encourage you today to not only read through Lectio Divina but live through Lectio Divina: literally, metaphorically or symbolically, morally, and mystically—then  watch your life transform.

So long Sid…


[1] Barezat, D.P. & Bush, M. (2014). Contemplative Practices in Higher Education Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Today is the day I’ve decided to write my first blog post for Kaplan University Writing Guide and like all writers I am a little nervous about the whole thing.  Will it be good enough?  Is the grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure correct?  I wonder if the other faculty members will like my writing or if they think that it is boring or simplistic or uninteresting.  Wow!  While all of these thoughts are running around in my head how can I write?  I can’t!

So what are my options?  I can just choose not to write.  I can chicken out and send an e-mail to Lisa saying I am too busy and have to forgo the opportunity.  Or I could just take a few minutes and do what I do each morning before I start my day—meditate and calm my mind and my body, and find that quiet place within me.

Mindfulness is a wonderful practice that I have used in my classes for 20 years.  Before we begin class or the assignment we take 60 seconds to get relaxed, centered, and simply breathe.  Yes breathe!  My students have learned how to focus their attention on the seminar, or the class, or the assignment they are working on in just 60 seconds.  You have 60 seconds don’t you?

The directions are below.

1. Get comfortable in your chair or wherever you are sitting.

2. Since we hold a lot of tension in our hands let’s give them a good shake. Now place them comfortably in your lap, or on your desk, or wherever they would be most comfortable.

3.  You can do this exercise with your eyes open or closed.  I like mine closed because I am a visual learner and I get distracted by what I am seeing.  So I close my eyes, but you can leave yours open with good results as well.

4.  Next, begin by taking 3 deep breaths, but not so deep that they make you cough.  Count one on the in breath and 2 on the out breath.  Do that slowly 3 times.

5.  Finally, take a minute to think about how you feel.  Is your mind calm?  How does your body feel?  Has the tension gone out of your muscles? Have your shoulders dropped away from your ears? Has your mind calmed down and cleared?  If so, you are ready to being the writing process.

Okay–take  60 seconds and try it out!

When the mind is filled with rambling thoughts, fears, and questions it cannot be creative, focused, or fruitful.  So begin each writing period like this and if you lose your focus in the middle of the writing process stop and do the exercise again.  It will only take 60 seconds out of your writing period and it will give you many minutes of clarity and creativity to use toward a paper that will get you exactly what you desire—a great grade from your professor!

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