Emerson: “A man is what he thinks about all day long (page 24).”[1]robert-aitken-roshi

Robert Aitken, The Mind of Clover: “The self that is autonomous and also one with all things is the self that is forgotten… How do you forget the self?  In an act—in a task. You don’t forget yourself by trying to forget yourself.  When you are absorbed in your reading, the words appear in your mind as your own thoughts (page117).”[2]

Wow, how often have you thought about the self, what makes us who we are, what will happen to our “self” after we die and more.  In both Emerson’s writings and the writings and teachings of the Zen masters they remind us that the “self” is represented by our thoughts and how absorbed we become in them.

We are all able to remember a time when we were so absorbed in our thoughts that we actually felt that we were there in that moment encompassed by them, moved by them, one with them.  The self and the thought were merged together and ultimately represented “who” we were.  So if our thoughts were fear thoughts or anger thoughts our behavior represented them and manifested them in our life.  We found ourselves afraid, or mad, or sad, or jealous or even revengeful.

If our thoughts were joyous or selfless or curious or inventive we found ourselves in a totally different place.  Thoughts create your reality and the way you see your life, live your life, and experience your life.  I am a happy and sometimes funny person just like my dad.  There are times when people will say to me, “What are you so happy about don’t you know “X” is happening!”  Well, of course I do!  But I’m not going to make that leak into my emotions and end up having a bad day!  There are a lot of awful things going on in the world so I could be mad, sad, and upset 24-7!  I “choose” to live otherwise!

In Unity and New Thought teachings we use affirmations to help us focus on the great “self” and keep ourselves motivated.  You might subscribe to a website or blog or newsletter that helps you stay positive.  I get some great tips and affirmations from those I follow on Twitter, a blog, or get emails from.  My dear friend Harold Wardrop a Divine Science minister sends me an affirmation and prayer every day.  Harold’s affirmation for today was “There is nothing that can challenge me that cannot be handled and turned into a blessing that I will hardly be able to contain. So it is.”

Image what your day would be like if your “self” focused on those words from Emerson from Aiken, and from Harold! Remember your thoughts create your reality and thus your “self.”  Which “self” do you want to appear—the sad, mad, angry self?  Or the happy, prosperous, loving self.  It all depends on what you think about all day long!

Let me know how it goes with your “self”!



[1]Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com

[2] Aitken, R. (1984)  The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics New York: North Point Press


Emerson: No great man [person] ever complains of want of opportunity (page 94).[1]
Emily Dickinson: I dwell in Possibility-—[2]
The Poetry of Zen, Yuan Mei (1716-1798):
The single sound of the bell brings out the whole hall’s monks (page 78).[3]

Where do you look for opportunity? The sound of possibility and opportunity is everywhere from the words of Emerson and Dickinson to Yuan Mei to you and me!  The simple ringing of the bell brings the whole hall of monks out to dine or do chores.  It brings the children in school out for lunch or recess into the play grounds.

Today we set our cell phones and computers to ring to remind us of appointments, and meetings, and chores that need to be attended to.  We may be in deep thought when the bell rings but it instantly brings us back into the present moment, time, and project.  It even startles us some times, or makes us laugh, or increases our heart beat.  Remember reactions occur when opportunity arrives.

Are you creating your own opportunities to learn and grow and work to make this a better place in which to live or are others creating your opportunities for you?  Are others creations for you really in line with your dreams and goals? Are you the master of your ship?  Have you missed opportunities in your life because you were not looking for them?

When I was young I worked with a man in our community theater who was a fantastic actor!  He worked in his father’s shoe store to earn a living. Then one day he came into our rehearsal and proudly and excitedly said, “Once this play is over I’m moving and am going to spend the rest of my life being an artist.”  We were all shocked and a little saddened for us—but happy for him!  I had no idea he had this dream and talent that he felt was not being fulfilled.

How about you?  Are you living your dreams?  Are you grabbing hold of the “brass ring” on the merry go round or are you just living day to day just getting by, spinning round and round?  Remember what Emerson wrote: No great man ever complains of want of opportunity. How many of those opportunities have you let slip between your fingers?  Be like Emily Dickinson and “dwell in the possibilities!” As we learned to affirm in Unity—Open your mind to receive!

Let me know how that goes!





[1] Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com

[2] http://www.ikedacenter.org/thinkers-themes/thinkers/poems/emily-dickinson

[3] Hamill, S. and Seaton J.P. (2007) The Poetry of Zen. Shambala:Boston & London

Emerson: The foundations of a person are not in matter but in spirit (page 29).[1]

The Poetry of tu-fu-poet-712-770Zen:  ~by Tu Fu (712-770) “I Stand Alone”
Heaven’s ways include the human;
Among a thousand sorrows, I stand alone (page51).[2]


As Emerson says the person’s true foundation is his or her spirit where “heaven’s ways” include us as our lives move from the thousand sorrows to endless joys and into bliss.  This occurs only if we allow it to. Only if we take time out of every day to know it, live it, and spend time in the quiet experiencing it.

The “matter” in our lives does not count if we are wallowing in our “thousand sorrows” standing alone in our pain and suffering avoiding our spiritual self, our divine self, our perfect self.  Each of us was made in the image of divine perfection as Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Because you are alive everything is possible.” As we watch the blind person walking down the street enjoying the day laughing with a friend we can see the spirit in each of them sharing their divine selves with each other.

Watch the children in the playground laughing and singing and playing lost in the simplest things—being spirit in motion! Watch the musicians in the symphony orchestra play and become one with their instruments. Soon they are playing in perfect harmony, union, and joy. That is the foundation of spirit. Heaven’s ways for sure!

Some of them may have a thousand things not going perfectly in their lives but in those moments they stand alone with the music in their humanity and soar above those sorrows to heaven on earth.

I tripped going into the Lynn University concert hall two weeks ago trying to avoid an elderly woman with a cane who did not see me.  I fell, splashed myself all over the sidewalk, and was helped up by the crossing guard.  I did not wallow in my sorrow because my spirit said go and immerse yourself in the beauty of the student orchestra and be in their joy and passion for their music.  So I did and I enjoyed every moment of it!  I took my friend home and then took myself to the ER where I discovered the foot was broken.

I chose to live in the moment to bask in “heaven’s way” with the music and in the company of my dear friend.  Because the foundation of a person is not in “matter” but in “spirit.” My spirit soared with the music and encompassed my body and mind as I became one with it. What joy there is in life if we simply look for it, are open to receive it, and get out of heaven’s way. Be ready to “stand alone” to receive it!

In gassho,


[1] Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com

[2] Hamill, S. and Seaton J.P. (2007) The Poetry of Zen. Shambala:Boston & London

Emerson: Nothing can bring you peace but yourself; nothing but the triumph of principles (page54).[1]

Zen Letters Teachings of Yuanwu:  When you see buddhas and sentient beings as equal zen-letters-teachings-of-wuanwu-coverand no different, this at last is the stage of total peace and bliss (page 71). [2]

Both Emerson and Yuanwu recognized the principle that peace is our true nature and once we recognize that we can fully immerse ourselves in it.  We can fully live a life of peace that brings to us health, healing, bliss, and love.


What principle was Emerson speaking of when he wrote those words?  I believe he was referring to the principle taught by Yuanwu that we are all the buddha and thus we are all peace.  It is when we deny that inherent being within us as Buddhahood or for some Christhood, both which represent the energy and manifestation of peace, that we deny our true nature.

Imagine what the world could be like if we all allowed ourselves the luxury of being and acting as the harbinger of peace and bliss to the world.  If we allowed ourselves the time to follow our bliss.  Not our earthly desires of goods and things and success and power that we see on the TV, but the true desire that lives in an open heart.

Let us not live the life as Thoreau described: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Let us live a life of “total peace and bliss” through principles that acknowledge each of us are equal beings to the Buddha living a life where peace, and goodness is how we act, who we are, and how we deal with others.  The choice is yours.  You can roll the dice and let them decide who you are, how you should act, and live a life of quiet desperation. Or you can trust your gut and your intuition and realize your true self and live in total peace and bliss…the choice is yours. Don’t go to the grave with your music left in you!

In gassho,




[1] Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com (page 1)

[2] Cleary, J.C. and Cleary T.(1994)  Zen Letters Teachings of Yuanwu Boston & London: Shambala

Emerson: Live, let live and help live.

Zen: Evening Gatha [Prayer]

Let me respectfully remind you.
Birth and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes and opportunity is lost.
We should all strive to awaken.
Awaken! Take Heed!
Do not squander your life!

Both of these quotes are profound in so many ways.  Each tests us to live our lives fully every day and make a difference in the world in which we live.  Notice that each asks us to go beyond our “self” and to help others.  To live life fully, to let others lead their lives fully, and to help those who need help so they too can live life fully.

How have you done that today?  How about this week, month, or year?  Every time you open the door for someone with their arms full of packages, or let someone in front of you in a traffic jam, or bring a meal to a sick neighbor you are “awake.”  Awake to the needs of another.  You have taken the opportunity to think of someone other than yourself, to identify a need, no matter how small it may seem—you have helped meet that need for another.

When you are walking through life looking down at your cellphone checking your Facebook page or texting someone—you are missing life at its fullest.  You may have missed an opportunity to help a stranger or a friend.  When you are focused on self only you miss many opportunities to live.

Just the other day I was teaching at the college on the 11th floor when we had a fire scare and everyone was told to immediately exit the building.  So all 16 of my students and I walked those 11 floors down to the street. One of them needed extra attention as she was pregnant.  I rushed ahead so that I could make sure all of my students were out of the building and safe.  As one of them walked through the door I was holding for them he said, “Oh, you don’t have to do that. Why are you holding the door for all of us and the others?”  The question had never come into my mind.  “Live, let live and help live” I guess.

Think of the fireman who runs into the fire, not away from it.  To the policeman or security guard who runs toward the shooter in a mall.  Or a teacher who stands in front of the children to protect them from the bullets being sprayed in his or her classroom.

Awaken, Take Heed! Do not squander your life! Find your purpose each and every day because time swiftly passes by and you do not want to lose the opportunity to be of service to others to go beyond yourself wherever and whenever you can.  Even if it’s simply to hold the door for another. Let me know how that goes!


In gassho, Shokai

(1) Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com (page 9)

(2) Southern Palm Zen Group Service Handbook, Mitch Doshin Cantor.


Emerson: Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.[1]

The Dalai Lama: Patience cannot be cultivated in isolation from other people.[2]

As students of Buddhism we are given the opportunity in the West to practice as lay people and live at home, go to work, run our errands, raise our families, take care of our elderly parents, and more.  Each of which can cause us to—as they say “lose our patience” very easily.

When things don’t go my way, or I encounter people who don’t think like me, or talk fast enough, or clean up after themselves I lose my patience.  Thus I am given hundreds of opportunities each and every day to cultivate the principle of patience.

I suppose if I were like the Buddhist monks of old who found a cave at the top of a mountain and simply spent all day meditating and looking at a wall with the only interruption being a small curious animal that might arrive and stare in wonderment at the person sitting facing the wall—what would I have gained in the way of patience? Other then maybe cultivating the patience to reach my goal of “enlightenment” and being inpatient about its arrival.

So let’s try Emerson’s way to cultivate the art of patience by looking at nature.  Spring has the patience to wait until winter has decided to be done.  Summer has the patience to wait until fall arrives to begin its nap and get some rest.  The tulips have the patience to wait till the ground thaws just enough so they can begin pushing their way up through the earth and reach the sunlight. The beauty that comes from the tulips in your garden makes the process and the time so worthwhile for those of us who have the patience to wait for their arrival and don’t run off to the flower shop to buy some there instead.

And so when we sit and meditate we are given the opportunity to practice patience.  Patience with our body as it aches, or with our Monkey Mind as it keeps interrupting, and our breath as it moves slower and deeper the longer we sit.  It is a great place to practice and cultivate patience. With no judgment of right or wrong, good or bad, simply as they say: Waiting for Godot.

What situations in your life are arriving to help you develop and sustain patience in your life?  If we let them they can bring us great pain, suffering, anger, and annoyance.  Or we can enjoy the journey, allow the journey to reveal its “secrets” in its own time and be open to receive its gifts with joy and at nature’s perfect timing.

Good luck with that.  Let me know how it works out as soon as you can!



[1] Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com (page 1)

[2] The Dalai Lama, Translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa. (1997) Healing Anger the Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications

Emerson: “The best efforts of a fine person are felt after we have left their presence.”

zen-at-work-bookcoverLes Kaye: My real motive was to create a more collaborative relationship. In other words, I saw that we had not so much an information problem as a “boundary” problem.  I wanted us to invite ourselves into our customer’s circle, and them into ours (page 30).[1]

For Emerson it is imperative to understand how your actions direct a person’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings of you once you have “left their presence.” While you are in their presence they may be polite and even complementary, but how do they really feel after you leave? For Les Kaye as a Buddhist teacher and in his work at IBM he was highly interested in how people felt after their encounter with him and his team because it would determine whether they were customers now and in the future or not.

Les Kaye always encouraged his team to put in the best effort, to understand the customer’s requirements, to go beyond sending a survey or questionnaire.  He encouraged face-to-face dialog that demonstrated to the customer real relationship building and a desire to put the customer first.

In our lives we need to understand that everyone we meet is our customer too!  Our family members, the grocery clerk, our co-workers, and everyone we meet throughout the day.  Are they buying what we’re selling?  What are you selling? Friendship, love, compassion, and our dedication to the principles of ethics and Buddhism, and more. Or are you selling fear, hate, bigotry, anger, ignorance, and small mindedness?

Where are you putting your so called “best efforts?”  Which side of the coin are you working from—the one of peace, love, and compassion, or fear, hate, and small-mindedness?  It may be minutes, hours, or days after you have put your “best efforts” into the situation or conversation that the feeling Emerson describes is acgold-face-buddha-with-three-pure-precepts-2tually realized by the person.

That’s okay, because we don’t do it for the outcome we simply do it because it is the right thing to do.   As our Three Pure Precepts remind us: A disciple of the Buddha vows to not create evil, to practice good, and to actualize good for others.

What are people feeling after you leave their presence?  Have you really put in your best effort? It is up to you whether you help to make their day great or NOT. If you follow the Three Pure Precepts their encounter with you will be great and you just might have made their day!  Let me know how it goes!

[1} Odelia, F. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson http://www.odeliafloris.com

[2] Kaye, L. (1996) Zen at Work, A Zen Teacher’s 30-Year Journey in Corporate America. NY,NY: Three Rivers Press

[3}, Photo Mitch Doshin Cantor, Listening With the Eye