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Archive for December, 2016

mindful-teaching-schoeberlein-david

“Mindfulness and education are beautifully interwoven. Mindfulness is about being present with and to your inner experience as well as your outer environment, including other people.  When teachers are fully present, they teach better.  When students are fully present, the quality of their learning is better. It’s a ‘win-win’ equation that can transform teaching, learning, and the educational landscape (page xi).”[1]

Mindfulness is the newest craze in America, although it has been around for many centuries throughout many cultures, religions, and countries it is becoming more available to the secular world every day.

As a Zen Buddhist priest and college professor I have been incorporating mindfulness exercises in my classes and workshops for many years.  Regardless of whether I am teaching a live group in a classroom setting or out doors on an adventure training course or online the principles are applicable.

It really began for me when I was asked to teach developmental English at Broward College.  The first day in the classroom I could see the students were scared to death of me and the course.  Every student in the room had failed the English part of the entrance exam and thus could not take for credit courses unless they passed my class!  Wow.  Scared is probably not even a powerful enough word!

I was mindful as the students entered the room and watched their body language, facial expressions, and heard what they were saying to each other.  I thought about what I could do to help them get calm and ready to learn and I remembered a simple little exercise that I came upon one day in a great little book of Buddhist exercises—How To Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness by Jan Chozen Bays, MD.  “Just Three Breaths” gave very simple directions she wrote:

The Exercise: As many times a day as you are able, give the mind a short rest.  For the duration of three breaths ask the inner voices to be silent. It’s like turning off the inner radio or TV for a few minutes  Then open all your senses and just be aware—of color, sound, touch, and smell (page76).[2]

I revised it just a little for my classes by leaving out the part about thinking!  I never start a class without first taking 3 breaths and I invite my students to participate with me.

Read these steps aloud and do the exercise along with the class. After the exercise is completed get their feedback on how they feel and how it may help them during the class:

  • Shake out your hands to release the tension in them then place them comfortably in your lap or on the desk or table where you are sitting.
  • Close your eyes if you feel comfortable doing so as it will help keep out the visual distractions. If you are not comfortable with that keeping them open is okay as well. Simply focus your eyes on one small object.
  • Take three slow deep breaths counting one on the in breath and two on the out breath.
  • Be careful not to breathe in so deeply that it makes you cough.
  • Is everyone ready—then let’s begin.

This helps me be a “mindful teacher” throughout the class and helps the students open their minds to learn!  Try it and let me know how it works!

In gassho,

Shokai

[1] Schoeberlein, D. (2009) Mindful Teaching & Teaching Mindfulness: a guide for anyone who teaches anything. Somerville, MA:Wisdom Publications

[2] Bays, J.C. (2011) How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness. Boston, MA:Shambhala

 

 

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Emerson: “Where but in the intuitions which are vouchsafed us from within, shall we learn the Truth? (page 58)”[1]

Zen Bhabhante-gunaratanante Gunaratana: Meditation sharpens your concentration and your thinking power. Then, piece by piece, your own subconscious motives and mechanics become clear to you. Your intuition sharpens. The precision of your thought increases, and gradually you come to a direct knowledge of things as they really are, without prejudice and without illusion. (page 10)”[2]

 

Just another great reason to start 2017 off with a meditation and mindfulness practice.  How would you like to be more intuitive about things in your life—relationships, job opportunities, health, healing, and wholeness?  Well, if you believe what both Emerson and Bhante Gunaratana offer in their teachings you have the power to enhance and grow your intuition through meditation and mindfulness.

Ratnaghosa says in his talk The Angel in the Rock: So the first level of Faith in Buddhism is based on intuition.[1]  Then comes reason and finally experience.  So what these various teachers are saying to us is that it is important that we sharpen our intuition and one of the best ways to do that is through meditation.  Or as Emerson said going “within.”

As we develop a good meditation practice we begin to see our lives change in dramatic ways.  Our health improves, our relationships improve, and we can depend on our “intuition” more and more to ensure our actions are in alignment with what is best for all concerned in any situation.  Everyone has had an occasion in his or her life where you did something and you did not know why.  You might have said, “I just had a gut feeling about this.”  And you were right!  If you had not gone with your gut things would not have turned out as well as they did, that’s for sure.

So get ready to be amazed in 2017 at how powerful your intuition will become in all areas of your life.  This is a great time to open yourself to meditation, to mindfulness, and to trusting your intuition! Go within and watch what happens!

Keep me posted!

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Shokai

[1] http://ratnaghosa.fwbo.net/danaone.html

[1] Dillaway, N. (1949) The Gospel of Emerson. The Montrose Press: Wakefield, MA

[2] Gunaratana, B. (2011) Mindfulness in Plain English. Wisdom Publications: Boston, MA

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Emerson: We can only see what we are…(page51)[1]

Zen Gautama Buddha: We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.Zen Eight Fold Path

This may be the best thing you’ve read all year and I hope that it will help you in 2017: What you think is the master of your life.  If you think thoughts of peace, love, health, and prosperity you will attain just that.  If you think thoughts of fear, anger, illness, and hate that is what you will manifest in your life.

It is time that we get over blaming our parents, our upbringing, our teachers, our genes, and life for the situation we are in today.  Yes, they affected us in a myriad of ways but as adults it is our opportunity to forgive and forget.  To create a new life that is filled with goodness and love.  To create the life that we want to live instead of letting others or the past have power over us!

I read an article many years ago in a Unity publication about a woman who had a terrible childhood and so her adult life was filled with lack and limitation in all areas.  Then one day she decided to recreate her life and she began slowly by remembering one good thing that happened to her as a child.  She focused on an aunt who was kind and loving and shared that goodness with her. From there she discovered other memories that had been hidden and blocked by her anger and hatred.  She began focusing on them and little by little her life turned around.  She became a loving and compassionate person with success in all areas of her life.

She began to really be what she was born to be a happy, healthy, loving person regardless of her past circumstances.  She began to succeed in all areas of her life and it was filled with peace, love, prosperity, and happiness.  Life is like the script of a Broadway play.  Some scenes are dramatic and scary others are filled with music, dance, and love.  What is your script reading like today?  Will you create a new script for 2017?  Or will you keep playing the same drama over and over? How about writing a musical filled with fun and laughter and love?

You are what you think the Buddha said. He also said our thoughts make the world.  Let’s create a world, from today forward, that is filled with peace, love, and compassion for self and all others!  Do not be like the blind leading the blind—be like the knowing leading the knowing!  Follow The Eightfold Path above and watch what happens!

See what you truly are—a perfectly divine, loving, healthy, prosperous you!

In gassho,

Shokai

[1] Dillaway, N. (1949) The Gospel of Emerson. Wakefield, MA:The Montrose Press

 

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This is even more relevant then when I wrote it. I hope that you’ll read it and share it with others! Peace, love, and happiness Shokai

unlockthedoortolearning

I have been invited once again by Rev. Barbara Lunde to be a part of the interfaith Christmas Eve Service at the Center for Spiritual Living in Boca Raton, Florida.  Each year I am privileged to read the Metta Sutra The Loving Kindnessof  Shakyamuni Buddha.  I use our beautiful bells and make it a time of meditation for the people in attendance.  They leave the service feeling as though they have experienced a great calmness and peace as Jesus had asked his followers to do when he walked this earthly plain.

As a retired Unity minister I can see these words being written or even recited by Jesus himself.  Some say that his lost years were spent studying in the Far East and thus he would have been exposed to Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism. The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama the historical Buddha was born in 566 or…

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Emerson:  “Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which animates aajahn-brahmll whom it floats, and you are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and a perfect contentment.”[1]

Zen Ajahn Brahm: “Contentment is the opposite of a faultfinding mind.  You should develop the perception of contentment with whatever you have, wherever you are, as much as you can (page 44).”[2]

Wow!  What a concept!  In America we find ourselves often in a place where contentment seems impossible.  Especially during times like Christmas.  From the time we are very little until we die we make lists all year long asking for the newest toy on TV or the bike like your best friend has, or a new car like the neighbor down the street just got.  We long for material things and money and trips and more.

When was the last time you were content with what you had?  When was the last time you spent time in meditation and prayer where your mind was not drug off into thoughts of discontent?  Discontent with your relationships, your job, your income, with your health, or the world in general.

Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of people in need all over the world. In need of food, shelter, and safety from floods and bombs and more.  And we should do all we can to help them from supporting peace not war, supporting food banks, homeless shelters, veteran’s benefits, and more.  However, we must start with ourselves and our own consciousness.  Start with the little things and work your way up to the big things!  If you need to lose weight and you create a plan to do so celebrate even the smallest improvement be it losing three pounds, exercising three days in a row, or changing your diet to healthier foods this week.

Be open to “baby steps—baby steps” as Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) told his patient Bob Wiley (Bill Murry) in the movie “What about Bob.”  Find contentment in the little things wherever you can—whenever you can.   Longing for things that are out of reach makes you discontented with life and robs you of your contentment and your peace and joy in the present moment.  It doesn’t matter whether that discontentment is about things, places, or people.

We attract what we think about the most.  So if you want peace meditate and focus on peace and like a magnet you will draw it to you!  Remember contentment is hiding within it! If you want better health, or a different more fulfilling job, or a new relationship do the same and watch what happens!  Open your mind to receive your good by placing yourself in the middle of contentment!

Let me know how it goes!

In gassho,

Shokai

 

[1] http://www.azquotes.com/author/4490-Ralph_Waldo_Emerson/tag/contentment

[2] Brahm, A. (2014) Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond A Meditator’s Handbook. Wisdom Publications: Boston

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Emerson: “The way to mend the bad world is to create the right world (page 52).”[1]

Zen Robert Aitken: “As Yasutani Roshi used to say, the fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there (page 169).”[2]

johnglenn-14_Today is the perfect day to begin mending our world.  Yesterday December 8th we saw the passing of John Glenn. This day we celebrate his life.  He was “one of the bravest men in America he took flight as the first man to orbit the Earth in 1962 and at the age of 77 in 1998 became the oldest man in space as a member of the seven-astronaut crew of the shuttle Discovery.[3]

You may not have ever gone into outer space but the most important space and flight that you take begins every morning when you awake.  What trip will you take today?  Where will you travel? Will you expand your outlook and your reach to bigger and better places and things? Remember, as John Glenn might say, “the skies the limit.” Or will you stay on the same trajectory as your past with small thinking, fearful thinking, or will you be thinking less of the “other” who has a different religion, nationality, belief, or goal than you do?

How high can you fly today? How far can you reach to make this a better place to live for all humans, animals, and Mother Earth? As Emerson said, “The way to mend the bad world is to create the right world.”  Do you have “The Right Stuff” like John Glenn had? What “right stuff” can you create today?  Can you look at others today and see them as part of humanity in all its brilliance and color and uniqueness?

Let’s start by mending our own world with all the people and situations around us today…from the grouchy clerk at the grocery store, to the person who cut you off on the highway, to the neighbor who can’t keep his kids off your lawn.  Let’s remember John Glenn today every time we limit ourselves or others and know that if John can do it so can we!  Begin today to “create the right stuff, the right world, the right you.”

May he rest in peace….

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Dillaway, N. (1949) The Gospel of Emerson. The Montrose Press: Wakefield MA

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

[3] http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/12/john-glenn/john-glenn.html#

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Dillaway, N. (1949) The Gospel of Emerson. The Montrose Press: Wakefield MA

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

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Religious experts came together for “Healing the Divide: Interfaith Dialogue” on Nov. 16, 2016 at Lynn University. Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and atheist beliefs were discussed during an open question and answer forum guided by Dr. Mark Luttio, associate professor of religion at Lynn University.

“In a world increasingly marked by division, it benefits us to promote unity and understanding,” said Luttio. “Lynn is committed to promoting an environment where religious differences are not simply tolerated but celebrated.”

Over 150 guests gathered in the university’s Snyder Sanctuary, a space designed for people of all faiths and belief systems to visit for contemplative thought, spiritual exploration, meditation, music and celebration. Speakers included:

  • Rabbi Barry Silver (Reform Judaism)
  • Rabbi Mark Winer (Reform Judaism)
  • Warren Witter (Evangelical Christian)
  • Shaikh Shafayat Mohammed (Muslim imam)
  • Renwick Bell (Mainline Protestant)
  • Ken Loukinen (President of Florida Atheists)
  • Martin Devereaux (Roman Catholic)
  • Harika Rao (Hinduism)
  • Kathleen Shokai Bishop (Zen Buddhist)

Silver expressed that all religions have unique theories. For example, Judaism has developed over time and revolves around the idea that there are no particular privileges to being Jewish, only specific responsibilities.

Dr. Kathleen Shokai Bishop brought light to Buddhist principles of inclusivity, peace, love and compassion—qualities that all speakers agreed are important in serving others regardless of their beliefs.

“What students experienced here was true dialogue,” added Luttio. “What I wanted them to take from this event was sense of hope in making a change in the world since we have the ability to hold valuable conversations as we leave our differences behind.”

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