Archive for November, 2014

I received the Upaya newsletter today and they are having a Seminar on the Heart Sutra with Sensei Kaz Tanahashi, Roshi Joan Halifax, and Joshin Brian Byrnes February 17-19, 2015. The list below was included in the announcement.  I thought you would all like to have it and to be able to focus on these tenets throughout the upcoming Holiday Season when stress and tempers can get quickly out of hand.  Blessings from my home to yours.  In gassho, Shokai

. Sensei Kaz Tanahashi

10 Laws on the Art of Joyful Living: Sensei Kaz Tanahashi

1. Your happiness is more important than anything else.

2. The happier you are, the more you can help others.

3. Smiling makes you happy.

4. The more relaxed you are, the happier you are.

5. A moment of meditation can help you refresh yourself.

6. The lower your expectations are, the happier you are.

7. Happiness attracts happiness.

8. The ultimate healing is to live joyfully at each moment.

9. The more fully you face your own death, the more joyous you become.

10. You can always improve your art of joyful living.

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Today we take the opportunity to think about the second of the Eightfold Path taught by Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), “Say nothing to hurt others.” I began my day this morning thinking about an old friend whose friendship had broken up due to hurtful words that had been spoken by her that I observed. I decided then and there that she was not the person that I had grown to know and love then one thing led to another and we, to this day, have not spoken.

Sitting in dokusan [1] with one of my teachers I shared this story with him and the power that those words, both hers and mine, had had in my life. I felt sad about it and wondered what good it had done.

Today I picked up from my bookshelf this wonderful book on ethics co-authored by Norman Vincent Peale and Kenneth Blanchard entitled The Power of Ethical Management (1988). I was curious as to what they had to say about ethics and the power of the word since it had been many years since I had read the book. And to my delight the very first paragraph in the introduction were the exact words I needed to hear.

In writing a book on ethics we are reminded of the story of a young Englishman who had just been elected to Parliament. When he entered the halls for the first time, he approached one of the sages and asked, “Tell me, sir, do you think I should participate in the debate today?”
The old man looked at him with piercing eyes and said, “To be honest, young man, I would recommend that you keep silent. It’s better that people wonder why you didn’t speak than wonder why you did.”

I wonder why I had spoken all those many years ago the way I had and maybe I could have handled the situation in a different manner and we would still be friends. So the Buddha says, “Say nothing to hurt others.” But when someone says something to hurt others in front of you what should you do? How should you handle it? Once handled should you talk about them in a negative way to show how “right” or “righteous” you were to speak up and set her “straight.” I will let each of you, my dear readers, make up your own mind about that, to think about how you have handled similar situations in the past and will handle similar ones in the future.

The authors go on to say:

Both of us agree that ethical behavior is related to self-esteem. We both believe that people who feel good about themselves have what it takes to withstand outside pressure and to do what is right rather than do what is merely expedient, popular, or lucrative.

Dealing with such a topic is like untangling a fishing line. The more you get into it the more complicated it becomes.

So these blog posts I’m writing on ethics will challenge me, expose me, and help me think through what I think, believe, and know about “Zen and Ethics in Business and in Life.” It will help me think before I speak so as not to “say anything to hurt others.” I hope you will take on this assignment for the week and let me know what happens.
In gassho,


1. Meeting of a Zen student with his/her master in the seclusion of the master’s room. Dokusan is among the most important elements in Zen training. It provides the student an opportunity privately to present to his master all problems relating to his practice.” The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991)

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Browsing my email this morning I came across a discussion digest from a wonderful organization that I belong to the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE).  It led me to a section on their website “The Tree of Contemplative Practices” which led me back to my talks on ethics and the first of the Eightfold Path, “Know the truth.”

Below is the picture of the tree and the items on the tree reflect some of the contemplative practices “currently in use in secular organizations and academic settings.” These practices help us to “know the truth.”  And when they are integrated into our lives will help us “live the truth.” Many of the practices listed on the tree are linked to areas that are directly related to areas of ethical conduct and practice. Some of them are listed below:

  • Justice issues
  • Volunteering
  • Loving-kindness
  • Deep listening
  • Establishing a sacred/personal space for self and others

ACHME describes the tree thus:

The roots of the tree encompass and transcend differences in the religious traditions from which many of the practices originated, and allow room for the inclusion of new practices that are being created in secular contexts.

The branches represent different groups of practices.

The Tree of Contemplative Practices ACMHE

When used and contemplated they can help us know what is true for us and provide us with simple practices to help us live an ethical life.

My goal this week is to choose one area and focus on it knowing that doing this will help me maintain peace, love, and compassion in my life and hopefully make this a better place in which to live.  When you go to the link you will find a blank tree there that you can copy and print and put your personal contemplative practices on the tree.  This may help you focus on your opportunities to merge your ethical, spiritual, and practical life into one union of knowing the truth and being one with it.

In gassho,



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Both of my parents met in WW II at Eglin Air Force base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  Dad said that the first time he saw mom she was selling cigarettes and newspapers in the PX.  He fell instantly in love and said, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” And he did. Mom was in the Women’s Army Air Corp working in the clerical pool (state side) and dad was stationed in England.  He was a belly gunner on a B-17 bomber and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for shooting down two (some say three) German fighter planes.

Mom was a Kansas Methodist and Dad was a Brooklyn Jew both of their parents said, “it would never last.”  Boy were they mistaken! They were married for 62 years when dad passed away.

Mom was a poet and this poem was the last one that she wrote.  I hope you enjoy it.

Mom WWII Military Portrait 001

I have a little scooter

That I ride down the street

I can go so fast

You can hardly see my feet

I often run a race

With my brother on his bike

And when I ask dad, who is the fastest

He says we’re both just alike

~Iona Louise Bird Bishop

Dad was a man whose mission in life was to “cheer people up and make them laugh.”  And this mission was accomplished as well.  He was an avid baseball fan as you can tell from the message below that he recorded on his answering machine at home. I found the handwritten note on which he wrote the message recently and it was fun seeing dad’s handwriting and hearing (in my head) his voice as I read it.

“It’s the top of the ninth with 2 outs and the Bishops at bat, the pitcher throws and the Bishops hit to the short stop, who throws to first and the Bishops OUT!  But they will be back shortly, so if you leave the time, your name and the phone number, they will get back to you shortly.  Thanks for calling and have a happy day with a big smile.  Wait for the beep.”

Dad WWII Portrait Military Uniform 001

In Loving Memory to my parents on this Veterans Day,

Daughter #2

Kathleen Ann Bishop

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Ethics is not complicated it is simply “doing the right thing.”  It is not bound by culture, religion, or politics–it is simply doing the right thing in each and every situation, even when it’s hard.  Actually, especially when it’s hard.

Rush Kidder, founder of the Institute for Global Ethics, talks about “Ethical Fitness.”  He writes that one definition of ethics is:

“Obedience to the unenforceable.” Something is unenforceable if there is no rule or law forbidding it.  But there are some things most people would not do even though there is no law about it, such as scaring a baby or taking away a shopping cart from an older person.

A friend of mine met a person at church who had a very difficult life problem.  The person had stepped over the boundary from the “unenforceable” rule or law to the “enforceable” when the person participated in a scam to cheat Medicare and Medicaid out of 70 million dollars that was to be used to help the disabled and the poor.  The person probably should have read Rush Kidder’s book before work each day.  The person will not see the “get out of jail” card until the age of 72. Plenty of time to read now, wouldn’t you say?

So how do we keep ourselves from getting caught in this situation?  What will keep the temptation at bay, the wolf from the door, the shark from the surf board?  By living a life as prescribed in the teachings of Zen Buddhism.  You don’t have to be a Buddhist to do so.

Zen Eight Fold Path

This series on Zen and Ethics will be focused on these eight simple ideas and how to incorporate them into your life at work, at home, and at play.  Imagine what a wonderful world this would be if we all just followed these simple ideas day in and day out!

I hope you will take this journey with me and before you do anything and everything stop-think-inquire-listen-love (STILL).  Or as we used to say when I was a Unity minister, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Regardless of whether you believe in a God–God/Good only appears when we become STILL. So sit with me each day for 10-20 minutes and just be still.

Then make your decision.  Let me know what happens.

In gassho,


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The gift of giving…

Once again my dear teacher and friend Wilbur Mushin May Sensei gave me something to put up on our Southern Palm Zen Group website for our members to read and I think it is such a great and important topic I would like to share it with all of you as well.  I hope this Christmas season you give it much thought as the energy of giving is everywhere and you and the gift are one inseparable. So choose the gift wisely. ~Shokai


“To give is non-attachment.

Not to attach to anything is to give.”

To give-dana-is the first of the six Paramitas. In giving yourself completely all 6 are realized.

In life we always take up positions: me/other.

Judgments follow.

When we wake up, we are right in the middle of it all.  You are giving to all—all are giving to you.

Mutual interdependence.

No more reference points, no time for space perceptions.

In zazen you give yourself fully. Just sitting you realize: No me/no other.

In the Mumonkan there is a koan (case 49), Shakyamuni and Maitreya giving to each other.  Tell me, who is that other? There is no other.

When all of the “other” or objectivity is cast away, all of the “I” the subjectivity is also gone.  And when this happens, the Only True One is finally manifested.  Then you see with the eyes of another, feel with the hands of another.  The “fact is: When you see, what you see is not separate from yourself.  When you hear, what you hear, is yourself; when you think what you think is yourself then everything is yourself, and you are stripped and released by the threefold emptiness of giver, gift, and receiver.

To grasp this and live this experientially is not easy.

Concluding with a poem:

“A cuckoo sings.

Its rare song

I have forgotten the dream

I had just now.”

“The dream” here means I-myself, the universe and everything.— in gassho, Mushin

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