I was at a professional association for trainers event a few nights ago and one of the speakers asked us to simply do some free writing.  My first thought was oh boy what the heck could I write about in the middle of this event with all these people and energy floating around me.  I decided just to forget about everything and pick up the pen and just start free writing.  Below is what came through me and onto the paper.

Free Writing

Free is like a river moving at its own pace filled with life, unexpected turns and debris. Filled with fish and birds bathing and deer drinking and the sounds of the water bubbling over the rocks.

Free is living without fear, or judgment or pain. Free is being open to change, and accepting what comes your way…


When you are struggling over something you might want to try free writing  and see what comes through you without judgment or criticism!  Just be free for a change~and see how great it feels!ed65327f41c183ef9f685e38097f454d

infaith-headDear Readers, Rabbi Barry Silver sent this essay to me and I thought it was so powerful I needed to share it with my readers and friends.  If you have any words of support for Barry I will be happy to share them with him.  Peace and Love for 2020! Shokai

Celebrating the Power of Love over the Love of Power

On Hanukah and Christmas 2020

As Hanukkah and Christmas coincide temporally in 2019, Jews experience the pleasure of celebrating Hanukkah, and the ambiguities surrounding Christmas. Due to horrors committed against Jews by misguided Christians, from the Crusades, the Inquisition, pogroms and other atrocities, culminating in the holocaust, some Jews understandably don’t feel the “Christmas spirit”.  While I share these concerns, I suggest a new paradigm for relating to our Christian neighbors.  As Santayana observed, “If we do not learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it”, and the last thing we want to do is to repeat the last 2000 years of Christian/Jewish relations.

Perhaps as we enter a new year, the Jewish community can adopt a more nuanced approach to Christianity, which neither condemns nor commends all Christian doctrine, and makes common ground on issues where we agree and engages in constructive dialogue in areas where we diverge.

Today, Mel Gibson’s outrageously anti-Semitic “Passion of the Christ” is being shown to millions of Christian youth in churches throughout the nation, raising a new generation to believe that their version of God, as reflected in Jesus, told “the Jews” that they are of their father the devil. This is precisely what Jews who perished in the holocaust heard before they were slaughtered, and is what the deranged killer shouted before he murdered innocent worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Can we forget political correctness and at last denounce fabrications, blood libels and anti-Semitic lies embedded in Christian Scripture with no basis in reality, that have resulted in millions of Jewish deaths, no matter where they are found, so that the words “Never again” will not be a meaningless slogan?

On the other hand, instead of rejecting all of Christianity, perhaps Jews can rejoice in the legend of the birth of a nice Jewish boy, who became a Rabbi, and is considered by many Christians to be divine. Shorn of pagan influence, and focusing on the life, rather than the death of Jesus, Jews can join Christians in celebrating the legend of one of many Jewish martyrs, who defied tyranny, and gave his life for Jewish ideals such as love, compassion, justice and peace.

Hanukkah and Christmas share a common theme.  The Seleucid Greeks sought to destroy Judaism for the same reason that the Romans martyred Jesus, both empires believed in the love of power. Jews and Christians reject the “love of power” and at their best, embrace the “power of love”.  The empires of the Seleucid Greeks and the Romans boasted the most powerful military forces of their time, but have disappeared off the face of the earth, because when their power ran out, so did they. The survival of the Jewish people is based not on military, but on spiritual power, which is eternal, as is our mission to serve as a Hanukkah candle in a world plagued by darkness. Centuries after the Romans destroyed the Temple and murdered Jesus, the Roman Emperor Constantine, adopted Christianity, and used his might to spread Jewish ideals throughout the world, albeit in an altered form.  Both holidays demonstrate the truth of Victor Hugo’s assertion that “More powerful than all the armies on earth is an idea whose time has come”, and the time has come for Jews and Christians to help lead the way towards a world of harmony not conflict, environmental sanity not greed, and love, not hate, in order to save us from ourselves.  Lost in all the pageantry, gift-giving and commercialization of Christmas is the fact that Christians worship a Jewish rabbi as part of their Godhead and thus should feel deeply indebted to Judaism as the source of their religion and should join in celebrating Hanukah, which commemorates the heroism of the Jewish people that kept the religion of Jesus alive over a century before his birth, and thus, made Christianity possible.

Christmas carols, such as “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas”, reflect the influence of its Jewish composer Irving Berlin.  While the dream of a white Christmas may be a forlorn hope in Florida, the dream of Jews and Christians celebrating together in a spirit of love and unity as our holidays coincide, and working together to protect our planet and all its inhabitants in the year 2020 and beyond, should be the goal of all Christians and Jews.  All are welcome to join the celebration of Hanukah at L’Dor Va-Dor at 9804 South Military Trail in Boynton Beach on Friday night, December 27 at 7:30 with joyous Hanukah music and a rational, ecumenical approach to our rich Jewish heritage.


I deciworld-peace-2ded to resurrect a previous blog post that I created in December of 2012 the year I started writing my blog posts.  I’ve up dated it a little for 2020 but the message is still the same. What did I discover?  Nothing has really changed in my life or in the world.  I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing or just a thing….

I hope you’ll take the time to read it and let me know what you think and if it resonates with your life as well.  Namaste!  Best wishes for a loving and peaceful 2020 and beyond!


Yikes, another year is coming to an end and I haven’t even completed all the goals and to-do lists for 2019! The older I get the faster time goes and the more fun I’m having the faster time goes! When I am feeling sad, mad, bad, or bored the time seems to be endless dragging like my car with a flat tire screeching and thumping along. Sometimes I feel as though—soon there will be no time left at all.

Some people think the world will end in a few days as they follow the Mayan Calendar. When I’m feeling down some days I hope that the Mayan’s were right, but when I’m feeling great I’m sure hoping they were not!

So how do I plan for the next minute, hour, day, week, or year? Do I just let it come as it comes or do I set new goals? Do I plan, organize, collate, separate, and loudly pronounce “the New Year is coming!” But who made up time anyway? I’ve always figured that we had time just so we didn’t have to do everything all at once. It was a great idea to be able to stretch things out, take one thing at a time or simply rest and relax and say the heck with it all and pull the covers up over my head!

Several years ago someone thought of a great idea and they began publishing a magazine entitled “Simple Life.” I’ve looked at it several times and even found some wonderful things in it. I even decided to take up the mantle. And so, over the years I have moved from a 4 bedroom home to a 2 bedroom home and I even lived in a one-room efficiency apartment in Tennessee. I especially loved that (so little to clean!) until the squirrels moved into the attic and kept me up all night dancing and prancing like a family of sugar plum fairies dancing in the night.

But without my goals I feel like I would be a rudderless boat just floating around the ocean. I can’t imagine a life without goals. Even the Buddha had goals he searched and searched for enlightenment for many years, through many pathways, until he discovered it. Then he continued to teach and spread the word to anyone who wanted to listen.

In the Metta Sutra of Shakyamuni Buddha he says, “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 they all be happy.” Is this yet another goal?

Jesus had goals. He set down the Beatitudes didn’t he? He taught, shared, prayed, and lived a life for others to emulate. It is written in Matthew 5:18-19 just after the listing of the Beatitudes these words:

“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

To me it sounds like a very powerful set of goals that he was laying out for each of His followers to accomplish.  You may want to set goals for your life, live those goals freely and fully, and then watch your life move in the direction of those things that you have envisioned.

If you don’t set goals you may be letting the winds of fate, and time, and circumstance rock you like that small boat on the Atlantic trying to cross the sea to a new land. Life is a magical experiment that needs to be played with, tested, viewed, reviewed and begun each moment of each day of each year. And who cares if my goals from last year have not been finished or fulfilled I can try to get them done in 2020. I can throw them out like that old worn out pair of sneakers I let go of last week or I can just wish and hope and dream that my life gets better rather than worse.

But regardless of which way I chose, the path is mine to create and live.

Dad WWII Portrait Military Uniform 001

Jerome Henry Bishop WWII  honoree Distinguished Flying Cross


My father and the Zen Master Hakuin had one thing in common—they both had a great sense of humor! My father had the ability to get people to laugh any time anywhere.  He was a professional photographer and did thousands of family portraits in his lifetime.  He was able to get the most frightened child to the most suppressed adult to smile as he snapped the picture.  He also loved to joke with the cashier in every store to help cheer them up.

Stevens writes this about humor and Hakuin:

Hakuin’s grim do-or-die kensho Zen was balanced by his insistence that Zen training must include fits of ecstatic, blissful laughter; the deeper the kensho, the more one overflows side-splitting mirth.  He also said, “Those who understand jokes are many; those who understand true laughter are few (page 79).”[1]

Kensho for most students of Zen is simply “an initial enlightenment experience that still requires to be deepened (page 113).[2]  On one of my retreats I could feel this great joy and laughter beginning to come alive in me but I knew I was at a silent retreat and could not just burst out in laughter in the middle of the Zendo that was for sure!  So, I quickly jumped up off my cushion and ran out of the building and allowed myself to laugh and feel the joy in every cell of my body and mind.  I had no idea that this reaction had a name as I was a new student of Zen, but I sure enjoyed the feeling that it gave me!

When was the last time you had a real “belly laugh?”  When was the last time you watched a comedy show or a comedy movie and actually laughed out loud?  Laughter has a healing power all of its own!  “Consistent evidence has been shown that laughter, over time, offers significant medical benefits, including boosting the immune system, lowering blood pressure, improving heart and respiratory functions, even regulating blood sugar.”[3]

We all want to live a meaningful life and being able to laugh and share that laugh with others will bring meaning to your life and greater health!  How can you turn that away!?  Won’t you join me in a great big belly laugh today!  It could change your life for the better…

[1] Ibid.

[2] The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen

[3] https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-healing-power-of-laughter/

Dharma Pets New Friends AnnieJohn Steven’s goes on to write this about Hakuin’s motto in his book Zen Masters: “Meditation in the midst of action is a billion times superior to meditation in stillness (page 76).”

Steven’s continues with these thoughts from Hakuin’s teacher Shoju: “If you can maintain your presence of mind in a city street teeming with violent activity, in a cremation ground amid death and destruction, and in a theater surrounded by noise and distraction, then, and only then, are you a true practitioner of Zen (page 76).”[1]

Alas, the world of 2019 exactly replicates Shoju’s description of the 17th century.  Have we not learned anything from our ancestors?   Currently our world is filled with violence, ethnic cleansing, poverty, and famine.  Image how your life would be if within this chaos you could hold your center and you could focus on the task at hand.

Imagine that you could actually see and experience the beauty of the flowers and trees, or the glistening of the snow after a storm.   Imagine that you could appreciate the uniqueness of the faces of the people around you through eyes of compassion and universal love. Imagine that you could be at peace even in the most difficult of situations.  Finally, imagine that you can see every situation with clarity and opened eyes, opened mind, and an opened heart.

In every tragedy there seems to be one person who has the focus of mind to jump into the river to save a person from drowning, to stop their car and pull a person out of a burning vehicle, or to begin CPR on someone in need.  You might be thinking that’s NOT meditation! If mediation is defined as having full focus on your breath… there can’t be a “fuller focus” then doing that which is needed in the moment!

Be here now! Meditation in the moment and in motion…and while you’re at it how about bringing along a friend!


[1] Stevens.J (1999) Zen Masters A Maverick, a Master of Masters, and a Wandering Poet Ikkyu, Hakuin, Ryokan Kodansha International: New York

gasshoThe next section of this wonderful book Zen Masters a Maverick, a Master of Masters, and a Wandering Poet, goes into the life of the teacher and poet Hakuin.  He spent his life moving from one great teacher to another studying, working, and living the life of a Buddhist monk and eventually acclaimed teacher and poet and more.

Stevens’ writes: Hakuin-style Zen was based on his lengthy quest and his forceful character—”Our master moved like a bull and glared like a tiger.” One of his disciples wrote in awe. “Never be satisfied with small attainments (page 73).”[1]

Too often our self-image is lived through the eyes of another such as a parent or spouse or teacher and thus we believe what they say about us more than we believe in our own abilities, dreams, and desires.  We give our life over to others and that makes it so easy to give up our own dreams as we take on the dreams and desires of another.

Too often we follow in the footsteps of a family business or career.  Dad was a minister so I must be one as well.  Mom was a teacher so I must be one.  My “big dreams” are left dwindling in the night or set aside for the dreams of another.  This just doesn’t happen to the young—it can happen to the mature person as well.  I’m sure you’ve had a family member or friend who wanted to change careers later in life and everyone accused him or her of having a “mid-life crisis.”

A mid-life vision is more like it!  Hakuin was “never satisfied with small attainments.” He was never afraid to travel far and wide to find that next great mentor and teacher.  Stevens goes on to write:  “With Hakuin’s maturity, the latter half of his career as a Zen master was the “fruit”—self-less devotion to the care and nourishment of others (page 72).”[2]

Hakuin learned this idea from his teacher Shoju and shared this as well with his students: “If your eye is true and your mind unobstructed, there is nothing you cannot overcome, including a sword attack (page 67).”

I am not suggesting that we should take up arms, but we might want to release the fears that are holding us back from living the life we have dreamt of! I will leave you with a poem written by one of Hakuin’s teachers Shoju.

Die while alive,
Be completely dead!
Then do
What you will
And all will be well.


Stevens (1999) Zen Masters A Maverick, a Master of Masters, and a Wandering Poet Ikkyu, Hakuin, Ryokan Kodansha International: New York

[2] Ibid.

If we are to live a meaningful life, we each need to understand and acknowledge what craggy-gardenswe have “strewn along our path” good, bad, or indifferent–actions, words, and deeds.

Ikkyu wrote yet another profound poem when he said:



Bliss and sorrow; love and hate; light and shadow;
heat and cold; happiness and anger; self and other.
The enjoyment of poetic beauty may well lead to hell.
But look what we find strewn along our path:
Plum blossoms and peach flowers (page49)!

I resonate with his idea of poetic hell sometimes, for sure!  Although I was an English Lit major in college, I was never good at writing poetry. I always felt like I was working on an assignment that was undoable, unmanageable, and frankly really bad writing!  So, I avoided it at all costs…  until I became a Buddhist and starting writing poems for each of my friends as a gift for their Jukai ceremony.

Each person gets a Zen name during the Jukai ceremony that embodies them as a student and practitioner of Buddhism.  That’s why you see Shokai on my writings.  Shokai means “inviting the world.”  You can all guess why I was given that name!  I’m always inviting my friends and family to meditate or read a great Buddhist book, or read my blog, or come sit with us at the Zendo.

Some students want to go even further on their path with additional studies to move into even higher positions like a monk or a teacher.

In your life you’ve created many paths from careers to families and more.  Some of the paths have been easy and smooth as the ice on a lake in January or some may have been as unexpected as a summer storm. Sometimes others have strewn things on your path that may make you stumble or pause or even force you to rise to the occasion.

What have you “strewn” along your path today?  What has been strewn along your path by others? How did you handle it?  Like “Plum blossoms and peach flowers?” Or not…


Footnote: J. Stevens (1999) Zen Masters A Maverick, a Master of Masters, and a Wandering Poet Ikkyu, Hakuin, Ryokan Kodansha International: New York