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Archive for the ‘death’ Category

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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Emerson: “The mid-world is best. (page 30)”[1]images

Zen: “It was this balanced ‘middle path’ approach, avoiding the two extremes of stagnation and excessive striving, which had enabled him [Siddhartha Gautama] to gain awakening (page 38).”[2]

The extremes of our life are what causes most of our pain and suffering.  How often have we gone to excess in even the simplest things, too much food at a restaurant or a family dinner or community pot luck supper?  How often have we spoken out of turn and thus hurt our self or another?  How often have we put so much time and energy into our work or a hobby that our family and personal lives suffered?

Many people have gone to the extreme with a way of living, eating, exercising, working, or fasting. I once had a congregant who would only eat dark green leafy things and I had a friend in college who thought that if one glass of carrot juice was good for her six a day would be even better. They both ended up with vitamin K poisoning and almost died.  Too much of a good thing can kill you!

“The Buddha pointed out that by avoiding stagnation and excessive striving he had been able to ‘cross the flood’ which similarly recommend neither going too far nor lagging behind (page 39).”  In his life he had tried every different religion or path to find “enlightenment.”  He even practiced aestheticism to such a degree that he was eating only one grain of rice a day. Needless to say he was visiting death’s door as the story goes.

“About this time a young girl came by and offered the emaciated Siddhartha a bowl of milk and rice.  At this point, Siddhartha had realized the path to awakening was a ‘middle’ way between extremes of self-denial and self-indulgence.”[3]

As Emerson says, “The mid-world is best.”  Take some time today and find your extremes and ask yourself are they helping or hindering you.  If they are hindering you decide today to begin living the “middle way.”  Whether your extreme behavior is too little or too much find the middle way and a wonderful balance will appear in your life.

Soon you will live a life where you feel fulfilled. The fruits of the middle world will appear. You will discover that life can actually be fun!

Try it I think you’ll like living in the middle world!  Let me know how it goes.

In gassho,   Shokai

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

[2] Analayo (2003) Satipatthana the Direct Path to Realization. Cambridge, England: Windhorse Publications

[3] http://buddhism.about.com/od/buddha/fl/The-Enlightenment-of-the-Buddha.htm

 

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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”!

ingassho

Shokai

[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

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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!

ingassho

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.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson “We are always getting ready to live, but never living.”[1]

What does that quote mean to you?

In Zen we have a practice of sitting zazen or meditating and Katageri Roshi, one of the most recognized Zen Buddhist priests in America, wrote this about the junction of these two ideas: living and buddha-nature. He says, “Don’t attach to thoughts and emotions, just let them return to emptiness. Just be present there and swim in buddha-nature (page xiii).” [1]

Just be “present” be ready to live each and every moment.  As I found my mind wandering in meditation this morning I realized that I had just squandered away several minutes of my life!  I just gave up the “present moment.” I missed the experience of the feel of the cushion beneath me, of hearing the breath of those near me, of the sounds of the cars driving by on the road, and of the birds chirping in the trees.

I forgot to live!  What I was doing was getting ready to live later on by creating a conversation with someone in my head that may or may not even happen in the future. I was “getting ready to live” but not really living.

The Teachings of Ptahhotep tells us to “Follow your heart as long as you live (page 21).”[2] But if you are living in the future with thoughts and fears, or living in the past with memories and regrets you are not actually “living.” What is your heart telling you to do right now?  What are you doing right now? What are you thinking right now?  Are you getting ready to live or are you actually living?

“Swim in buddha-nature” means to be fully present in the now moment. I love the picture that comes into my mind when he uses the word “swim.” I can see myself in the swimming pool at my grandmother’s house and since I could not swim on top of the water I had to always swim under the water there I was surrounded by buddha-nature above, below, and around me: swimming in buddha-nature.

I was really living!  I had to be perfectly present in that moment in order to hold my breath, keep my eyes out for others swimming in the pool who might not see me below, and still keep swimming.  I had to keep my mind on how long I could hold my breath, and when I was close to running out of air, and when it was time to start swimming to the top!  One time I did not realize how deep I had gone and I panicked and thought I was going to drown! But alas, I was swimming in buddha-nature” and made it safely to the top before I ran out of breath.

Don’t be following what Emerson said, “We are always getting ready to live, but never living.” Don’t be that person! Be the one that is swimming through life with happiness and glee! Following your heart with each breath—in each moment.

Let me know how that “living” is going!

Shokai

[1] Okumura, S. (2012) Living by Vow Wisdom Publications: Boston, MA

[2] Hillard A.G. Williams, L. & N. Damali Editors. (1987) The Teachings of Ptahhotep The Oldest Book in the World. Blackwood Press: Atlanta, GA.

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

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Health is a state of mind as well as a state that the body and mind either has or does not have.  We often take our health for granted and do things that are detrimental to the body such as improper eating, lack of exercise, lack of mental calmness and fortitude, abuse of substances, and more.  We cannot abandon the mind/body connection in this life unless we are dead set against living.  The fact is living can be hard at times. However, I always find that much better than the alternative.

Book Cover How To Train a Wild ElephantDr. Jan Chozen Bays author of How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness (2011), has a great exercise that I recommend for everyone who feels limited in health of mind, body, and/or spirit. She is a physician and Zen teacher who has written this great book filled with easy exercises to invite mindfulness, meditation, and concentration into our lives in a fun and playful way!

She calls this exercise “Loving-Kindness for the Body” below are the directions for the exercise.

The Exercise: For one week, practice loving-kindness toward the body.  Spend at least five or ten minutes a day with this practice. It could be during your meditation time. Sit down in a comfortable chair and breathe normally. On each in-breath, be aware of fresh oxygen and vital energy entering your body. On each out-breath, send this energy throughout your body along with these silent words: “May you be free from discomfort. May you be at ease. May you be healthy.”

Eventually you can simplify this process by just saying “ease” with the out-breath. Any time during the day when your attention is drawn toward your body (when you see yourself in a mirror or when you feel discomfort), send loving-kindness to the body, even if only briefly (page 211).

A healthy body, mind, and spirit makes life so much more fun!  I hope you’ll try it out and let me know how it goes!  I hope you’ll buy her book and work through all of the exercises in it. Meet your good health today! It will transform your life in many ways!  I know that from experience.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

 

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What is love in the spiritual sense?

We see that this love is not something far-off, nor is it anything that can come to us.  It is already a part of our being, already established within us; and more than that, it is universal and impersonal.  As this universal and impersonal love flows out from us, we begin to love our neighbor, because it is impossible to feel this love for God within us and not love our fellow man (page 66-67.)[1]

~Joel S. Goldsmith

It just happens to be Father’s Day when I am writing on this topic of “love.”  Some of us have been born lucky into a family where our father was a great dad, loving, kind, sharing, supportive and more and for others not so much.  But in everyone’s life there is a person who fills that roll.  It could be a friend, uncle, grandfather, teacher, minister, neighbor, or coach.  So this blog is dedicated to everyone who has inspired someone to be the best they can be, consoled someone when they were sad or afraid, and loved someone just for who they were—a perfectly divine and lovable being. They see a person that is loved beyond their actions or words in a given situation or in spite of them.

Every time I walk into our prison sangha to share the teachings of Buddhism with our members “behind the fence” I am reminded of that truth.  If I did not know that I was in a prison and I was just dropped into the room unaware of its location I would have thought that I was in the midst of a study group of monks and priests practicing and living a life of peace, love, and compassion for all.  They are such a great demonstration of what some might term “fatherly love.”  They support each other, share, praise, and love each other as the divine beings that they were created to be.

Love is not something that you get out of a bottle or can create in a high school science lab.  It is not something that you can buy in a store or on line from Amazon.  It does not come from the US Post Office or FedEx. It comes from each individual when their hearts and minds meld together supported by feelings and actions that are loving, compassionate, and sometimes firm when need be. All the money in the world could not buy it.  It is not for sale. It does not have to be earned, nor can it be.

Love simply exists in the universe as an energy that we are born with, an energy that exits everywhere and thus in everything.  When we open our hearts and minds to this truth of our being all doors can be opened and all hearts can be repaired.  I have seen it with my own eyes in our prison ministry each and every day.

I encourage you all to meet your good today and every day by living your life through the words of Emmet Fox and watch your life be transformed!

emmet-foxs-Love

In gassho, Shokai

[1] Goldsmith, J.S. (1958) Practicing the Presence: The Inspirational Guide to Regaining Meaning and A Sense of Purpose in Your Life HarperSanFrancisco:CA

 

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