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BOxherding_pictures,_No._10arefooted and naked of breast,
I mingle with the people
of the world.
My clothes are ragged and dust-laden,
and I am ever blissful.
use no magic to extend my life;
Now, before me, the dead trees
become alive.
I have abandoned the whip and ropes

 Finally, the tenth picture shows the enlightened oxherd entering the town marketplace, doing all of the ordinary things that everyone else does. But because of his deep awareness everything he does is quite extraordinary. He does not retreat from the world, but shares his enlightened existence with everyone around him. Not only does he lead fishmongers and innkeepers in the way of the Buddha but, because of his creative energy and the radiance of his life, even withered trees bloom. [1]

I love Suzuki’s title for this picture “entering the city with bliss-bestowing hands.” Every one of us can have hands that help or hinder. We can bless someone with a kind touch on the shoulder, or by the shake of a hand, or a pat on the back in their time of need. Or we can hinder them with a negative hand gesture (I’m sure you can think of some on your own), a shove, or a slap. Your hands can hold a crying newborn to sooth it’s trauma, comfort a patient in a hospice bed, or wash a baby duck covered in oil from an off-shore drilling site disaster.

Hands are powerful tools that we are given and sometimes they can seem as though they are making magic.  I like to watch the talent shows like America’s Got Talent and the most amazing people to me are the magicians.  What they can do with their hands is mind boggling!  Watching someone plant flowers in a garden, or paint a picture, or cut your hair is amazing to me.  The craft, the talent, and the finesse that your hands have to make something out of almost nothing is incredible.

Your creative energy can come out in many ways.  I hope that you are looking for those ways and perfecting them, and sharing them with others.  We don’t have to be a so called “enlightened being” like the oxherder to do great things with our hands.  We simply need to care enough, desire it enough, and be willing enough to put the time and energy in to it to find and develop that creativity, love, and perfection within us.

I love how Koeller talks about the “radiance of his life, even withered trees bloom.”  I don’t expect to make withered flowers bloom today with the touch of my hands that’s for sure. But I can pick the weeds from my garden or comfort a soul in need with them and for me that’s the “radiance of life” –doing the extraordinary in an ordinary way.  What is yours?

[1] http://www.columbia.edu/cu/weai/exeas/resources/pdf/oxherding.pdf

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Oxherding_pictures,_No._9Too many steps have been taken
returning to the root and the source.
Better to have been blind and deaf
from the beginning!
Dwelling in one’s true abode,
unconcerned with and without –
The river flows tranquilly on
and the flowers are red.
I have abandoned the whip and ropes

As the ninth picture shows, when self and reality (as constructs) are left behind, then things are revealed to be just what they are in themselves; streams meander on of themselves and red flowers naturally bloom red. In the ordinary events of life are found the most profound truths. Only by seeking the ox as a separate ultimate reality could the oxherd discover that there is no separate reality; that the ultimate is to be found in the ordinary.[1]

And so…why is it we are always looking for our good somewhere else, somewhere outside of ourselves, in our job, our family, our hobbies, our meditation, or our possessions?

“As Bodhidharma, the founder of Chinese Zen, said in the sixth century A.D., your true nature is always right ‘in front of you’—you yourself just do not see it (page110).”[2] Do we see that our true nature, our self, our ideas, thoughts, feelings, and love are not a separate reality they are the only reality available to us.  That the truth of life and its ultimate answer is simply in the words of Wu Li’s everyday way of living—Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.

What more is there to life than to simply live it the best we can.  When you can take the time to help make life better for another, to make yourself more approachable to others, to make yourself more loving to all creatures large and small, and to make you kinder—these things ARE your true nature.  These are the things that life is made of.  Here you are able to “dwell in one’s true abode, unconcerned with and without.” Simply being—simply chopping wood and carrying water.

Simply doing the thing that appears to you in the moment: holding the door for someone with their arms full of packages, letting someone in front of you in a traffic jam, sharing your lunch with a stranger, or mowing the lawn for a sick or aged neighbor.  Living in the moment mindfully fully aware of the things that surround you with peace, love, and compassion is simply “chopping wood and carrying water.”  Expecting no reward simply Dwelling in one’s true abode, unconcerned with and without. Embrace the life as the picture displays—a simple tree beside a stream and a few rocks on which to sit as you bask in the simplicity of life.

Close your eyes—take a deep breath! Can’t you just feel the breeze and the spray of the water on your face?! Simply divine! “The ultimate has been found in the ordinary.”

[1] http://www.columbia.edu/cu/weai/exeas/resources/pdf/oxherding.pdf

2 Kennedy, R. (2004) Zen Gifts to Christians. NY: Continuum

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When was the last time you took some part of your day and simply played?  As adults we are taught to be serious, intellectual, formal, and only be bystanders as we watch our children play.  Or maybe we watch others play on TV from playing golf, to football, to hockey, to basketball, and soccer.  Once you hit 25 and get married the only game that you’re allowed to play is “golf” your parent’s game.  You might be able to play with your children once in a while if they fit into your schedule.

Just think about the last time that you played with joy, laughter, and passion.  When it consumed your entire mind, body, and spirit.  When it allowed you to soar to another dimension.  Can you remember the last time you actually played?  If not, how sad is that?  You’ve missed so many moments of joy.

Now I have Annie, my adorable rescue dog.  She wants to play! I’ve found myself running down the street with her chasing another dog or a duck laughing at how excited she is to see her new friend Moon Dance the beautiful black furry friend named after Van Morrison’s song. Sometimes I find myself laying down on the floor so we can be eye to eye and in the mystery of that moment we are one.  Her heart beat and mine merge, while her big brown eyes send a look of love into my spirit and soul.

I listen to Van Morrison sing his Moondance[1] song as I write this post and I feel the joy in his words as I picture them dancing in the moonlight playing in each other’s arms like two magicians creating magic. The magic does not have to just happen at “night” the magic of the moment can occur anytime and anyplace when we are open to it.  Open to playing, growing, expanding, and forgetting that we are “adults” and the labels that entails.

Let’s use the moments that we are given this week to play, dance, sing, smile, skip, run, and love as often as we can—regardless of the looks or the words we get from others. Even if they yell at you to “act your age.” When they admonish you let them know you are acting your age: eternally young! Take out those old Uno cards, roller blades, bicycle, or the chessboard, or the dominoes, and play!  Find some young kid with chalk and play hopscotch or some kid with a rope and skip rope with him or her.

Be in the moment with joy, happiness, and fun!  You can be serious after you die! Why waste this moment in madness, sadness, regret, and anger?  Laughdad, grandad, boy playingter is good for the mind, body and soul.  Playing will keep you young regardless of what your body or the calendar says! So let’s get going! Won’t you come out and play with me today!  Give me a call as soon as you can I’m waiting by the phone…

In gassho,

Shokai

[1] Moondance Van Morrison  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo3JznMhpWc

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In this moment what do you have to be thankful for?  If I asked you to list 10 things in your life that you are thankful for what would they be?  Would they be people, things, possessions, your health, happiness, or your job?  When was the last time you actually gave thanks out loud for a good deed received, or in your mind for something tangible, or in your heart for a person or a pet?

Rumi has a wonderful poem about “Thanksgiving”

Thanksgiving is sweeter than bounty itself.
One who cherishes gratitude does not cling to the gift!
Thanksgiving is the true meat of God’s bounty;
the bounty is its shell,
For thanksgiving carries you to the heart of the Beloved.
Abundance alone brings heedlessness,
thanksgiving gives birth to alertness…
The bounty of thanksgiving will satisfy and elevate you,
and you will bestow a hundred bounties in return.
Eat your fill of God’s delicacies,
and you will be freed from hunger and begging. [1]

In Buddhism we might think of everything being “just this.”  So if we are grateful and give thanks for whatever “that is” we might be able to receive the bounty that is lurking behind the gift.  Sometimes even a difficult event or a cantankerous person can be a blessing and bring us bounty when we least expect it. When I look back on the event I might discover that I learned something very valuable from that experience.  It could be something that may have saved my life, or my job, or a relationship.

Are you open in this moment to fill your life with delicacies, to be freed from hunger and begging?  Energy has movement and weight and measure and it all depends on the energy that you give out in this moment what you will get back in return.  Making it a habit to show thankfulness every day as often as you can will do wonders for your health both mental and physical.

So if someone slams the door in your face as you walk into the store or office you could get mad, nasty, angry, and kick the door or you could think “just this.” Just this could have been a broken nose if I was closer or I wonder what made the person so upset, distracted, or angry. It looks like they could use a little loving kindness and understanding today.

Life is painful if you let it be that way.  So today be thankful for the lesson learned from the slamming of the door, for the lesson learned when you acted with love and compassion instead of anger and hate. In this moment give thanks for the person that you are and the person that you are becoming.  Because “thanksgiving gives birth to alertness” and in that moment it kept you out of harm’s way!

I take this moment to give thanks for all of my readers, and followers, and friends, and family for each of you have given me much too be thankful for!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] https://darvish.wordpress.com/tag/rumis-thanksgiving-poem/

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Remember the moment you first touched the smooth skin of a new born baby, or the soft fur of a kitten or a puppy. In that moment the mind began to move quickly into a place of joy. Remember that winter moment when you saw the snow falling and its softness and silence swept you off to another place and time. Or remember the moment you walked on the beach and saw the beauty of the sun rising quietly over the horizon or when you saw the harvest moon hanging like a helium balloon in the heavens so close you could reach out and touch it.

Some say that people “touch” us in various ways as well. Some touch our hearts with joy, others with sadness, and others may raise in us fear, anger, or animosity. But touch us they do. It is through the power of touch that we live whether it is a verbal, physical, emotional, or mental touch we are affected by it. How are you affecting others with your touch? How are you affecting yourself? How are others affecting you?

Learning how to be “mindful” in all situations is a great way to discover how we touch ourselves and how we touch others. Let’s do an experiment today. How about taking the time to really focus on how we touch others (people/animals/plants) and things (objects) and how they touch us. When you touch your dog or cat how do they respond to your touch? How do you respond to them? When you speak to another with kindness and love how does that feel? When you speak to another with anger or condemnation how does that feel?

What does the spoon actually feel like when you take it from the drawer or raise it to your mouth to eat the food you have placed on it? Is it cold, hard, smooth, carved with a design? Are you being touched by the music you listen to each day? If so, how? Is it fun, fast, happy, sad, melodic, or disconcerting? Or have you paid so little attention to it that you cannot even answer the question?

I once heard a young comedian say that his father always listened to the music from the 60’s and it was so “happy” all the time. “Lollipop, lollipop oh lolly, lollipop, lollipop!” It was way too happy for him! Have you been “way too happy” recently? Have you been touched by your music in a positive way? If not, try listening to something that makes you happy! Life is too short to be touched by negative thoughts and feelings.

In Buddhism we work to stay in the moment and not grasp on to anything good, bad, or indifferent. Discover how you are being “touched” in each moment. Then accept the moment and move on as Buson writes:
Such a moon—
Even the thief
Pauses to sing [1].

Touch life, pause, and move on to the next adventure in the now moment. Let me know how that works for you.
In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai
[1] Mascetti, M. D. (2001) The Little Book of Zen. Fall River Press: NY, NY.

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Metta Karuna Prayer

 Oneness of Life and Light,
Entrusting in your Great Compassion,
May you shed the foolishness in myself,
Transforming me into a conduit of Love.
May I be a medicine for the sick and weary,
Nursing their afflictions until they are cured;
May I become food and drink,

During time of famine,
May I protect the helpless and the poor,
May I be a lamp,

For those who need your Light,
May I be a bed for those who need rest,
and guide all seekers to the Other Shore.
May all find happiness through my actions,
and let no one suffer because of me.
Whether they love or hate me,
Whether they hurt or wrong me,
May they all realize true entrusting,
Through Other Power,
and realize Supreme Nirvana.
Namo Amida Buddha [1]

 

Today I came across this beautiful prayer entitled “Metta Karuna Prayer.”  I had not read or seen it before. So I looked up what the two words meant. Metta means kindness and karuna means compassion. However, it is said that it must be combined with wisdom in order to be effective. The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen says “Compassion extends itself without distinction to all sentient beings. It is based on the enlightened experience of the oneness of all beings (page 113).” As you will discover when you read and use the prayer the combination of these three ideas kindness, compassion, and wisdom makes this a very powerful prayer.

The prayer ends with “Namo Amida Buddha” which translated means “Praise Amida Buddha.” Amitabha symbolizes mercy and wisdom in the Pure Land school of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism. Calling upon Amitabha Buddha is a perfect closing to the prayer since it is all about compassion, kindness, and wisdom.

It is not easy to have compassion for some people, it is not easy to be kind to some people as they try our patience and our ethics and sometimes even our laws. And yet with wisdom we can see beyond the physical, the mundane, the prejudice, the fear, and the pain. We can see them as someone who is in special need of kindness and compassion. That can only be done when we allow wisdom to be part of the equation. Visualize these three ideas as a three legged stool, without the three legs the stool would not stand. What do you stand for? Only one or two of the three legs of this stool?

Imagine what would happen within us and around us if we said the prayer every day. Imagine our heart being opened to every living being on the planet. Imagine our heart being open to the earth, the animals of the earth, the rivers, oceans, and streams, and the mountains and the valleys.

I am not asking anyone to be “perfect” what I am hoping for is that I and all others will be moving toward enlightenment which can only come when we sit on the stool with all three legs intact, strong, and stable.

I hope you’ll sit with me this week as we use this beautiful prayer to help us live a life of kindness, compassion, and wisdom for all.

Let me know how it goes!

ingassho

Shokai

[1] http://buddhistfaith.tripod.com/buddhistprayer/id2.html

[2]The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991) Shambhala Dragon Editions, Shambhala: Boston, MA

 

 

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This Christmas time I was gifted with this beautiful 3-year-old Schnauzer-Yorkie mix, Annie,  from Jamie’s Rescue.  She was rescued from a puppy mill in Miami by the police when they raided the mill and shut it down.  My dear friend, animal advocate, and former music director at my church, Jeffrey Frank, sent me a link to Jamie’s Facebook page with Annie’s picture on it and he asked me if I could take this dog who was in need of a good and safe home.  She was forced to have 4 liters in her short 3 years of life.

Of course, I said yes and she came to me a few days before my B’day and two weeks before Christmas.  She has lit up my life and given me hundreds of hours of joy over this holiday season.  I am blessed to have her and all of my friends who take care of those less fortunate two legged and four legged sentient and insentient beings. May all your dreams come true.

Thank you all for the light you bring into my life! Have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!  Kathy and Annie

Annie Nov. 27.15 (2)

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