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Archive for the ‘oppression’ Category

-Looking_for_the_Ox-,_by_Tenshō_Shūbun

In truth, the person you see in this picture is all of us searching for something in life.  We know that life is a great adventure and that for some of us it has been a very difficult and uphill battle.  For others, we’ve had some good years and some bad years, and yet most of them have been simply rather normal. Regardless of which case we were living under we still found ourselves searching for something.  There is the continuing question that appears on a regular basis, “What’s it all about Alfie?  I wrote a blog on that song sometime back, check it out I think you’ll like it.

For Alfie, it was all about seeking and searching for love.  What have you been searching for? When you wake up each morning are you searching for the ox?  A better marriage, health, job, prosperity, enlightenment, peace, or better grades in school?    The Oxherd was searching for the eternal answer in life, that ungraspable something within him—roaming the world looking down in the valley, up in the mountains, and deep in the ocean.  To no avail.  When all the time his answer was right within him. He was and is the Buddha.

However, rushing and hurrying and searching and seeking outside of yourself in a teacher, a scripture, or a text or a job or money and fame is looking in the wrong place.

Simply focus your attention on the power of your breath when sitting or standing or walking and watch what happens.  When you focus on that inbreath and outbreath you will soon find your blood pressing dropping, your monkey mind quieting down, and your shoulders dropping. You’ll soon see a dropping away of all your fears and anxieties.  You will have moved into the place we call “just this.”   No past, no future, just NOW, just this one breath, one mind, one body, one moment.  Your searching for the Ox can end because you and the ox are one. You and the Buddha are one in the same. You know this when you realize that you and your breath are one.

This may be a fleeting feeling in the beginning but each day that you sit and walk in a meditative and fully present and mindful way you drop off a small weight and soon several small weights, and sooner than later you’ll feel 10 pounds lighter, 100% healthier, happier, and more peaceful.

Live in this moment, the ox is everywhere present in you and through you and will carry you easily into a life of peace, love, and compassion.  If only you stop searching for the ox outside of you—the ox within you will appear.  The ox is powerful, strong, persistent, and always there when you need him. Let your search be over! Be one with the ox in you.

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Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha): “Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find anything that agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

This week we finished the Jewish tradition of observing Passover and for the Christians Easter and for the Muslims they support them both in some respects.  Within those religions there are traditions and prayers and ceremonies that are used this time each year.  The Jewish tradition of not eating leavened bread is one most people have heard of and everyone has seen the shelves filled with matzo in your grocery stores.

Thus the Buddha admonishes us not to celebrate our traditions because our parents did or our grandparents did but because there is value in doing so.  The traditions allow us to take time out of our daily chores and focus our thoughts and energy on something that will help us grow and be a better person.  They give us an opportunity to look at our behaviors and examine their purpose and outcomes and how they affect our lives, our families, and our communities.

They give us the opportunity to look at our spiritual lives and how we practice our beliefs on a daily basis.  They help us examine our ethics and morals, and our behaviors. As the Buddha said, they give us the opportunity for “observation and analysis.”  At the Southern Palm Zen Group we celebrate one thing each year Rohatsu “the day on which according to tradition Shakyamuni Buddha sitting in meditation under the Bodhi-tree at the first glimpse of the morning star attained enlightenment.”[1] Our celebration is sitting (meditating) through the night, if you can do it, if not, sitting as long as you are able.

Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”Socrates

Dr. Simon Longstaff, executive director of the St James Ethics Centre in Sydney, Australia, wrote in the New Philosopher (June 2, 2013),

“I would suggest that one can make sense of Socrates’ claim if it is understood to mean something like – those who do not examine their lives (make conscious ethical decisions) fail to live a life that allows them to experience being fully human. Thus the allure of those who offer to provide clear answers, simple directions, precise instructions (whatever) so that you may set aside examination and merely comply, or unthinkingly follow custom and practice – perhaps living a conventionally moral life rather than an examined ethical life. One can easily imagine how pleasant an unexamined life might be. ”[2]

What does “being fully human” mean to you?  When was the last time you sat down and really examined your life?  What did you find? Finally, what did you actually do with what you discovered?

Keep me posted!

Shokai

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

[2] http://www.newphilosopher.com/articles/being-fully-human/

 

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For anything new to emerge there must first be a dream, an imaginative view of what might be. For something great to happen, there must be a great dream.  Then venturesome persons with faith in that dream will persevere to bring it to reality.

Some ideas whose time has come will spread as in a forest fire. But most need the help of a teacher.  I had the good fortune to have an extraordinary one.  He dreamed a great dream of how servanthood could be nurtured in the young, and he spent his best years in bringing it to pass (page 9-10).[1]

Where I work at Kaplan University they encourage not only the students to volunteer and make a difference in their communities but they encourage all faculty to do so as well through The Virtual Difference Makers. Here is a list of some of the things they did in 2016: ran a Spring Virtual Serve-A-Thon, hosted a Stress Management Series, a Virtual Celebration of Rio, sponsored their first annual Health and Wellness Fair, held a Fall Serve-A-Thon and more!.

I have been invited to Lynn University to participate in an interfaith dialog and will be back there again in April for another interfaith dialog.  The hall was jammed with students!  Standing room only!  They asked wonderful questions of the panel.

These were the words on the Flyer for the event: Healing the Divide: Interfaith Dialogue.

In a world where religion so often is the cause of hate and intolerance, we stand infaith-headtogether at Lynn to create a world where our religious differences are not simply tolerated but celebrated. This event is precisely that; where religious leaders from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Atheist traditions will come together in celebration of our diverse faith traditions.  Come and be amazed!

Imagine the great education the students are receiving at both Kaplan and Lynn and many other colleges around our country when their faculty and administration support such events.

If you are able to create similar events on your campuses I encourage you to do so.  Create a Virtual Difference Makers club for students and faculty, run interfaith dialogues, offer training for faculty on meditation and mindfulness.  Be the change you want to see in our world! Be the catalyst for peace, love, and kindness spreading around your campus and beyond!  The time has come to spread the message of servant leadership at all levels.  Change has always come from the bottom up not from the top down! Be the change you want to see in the world!

Good luck with that!  Let me know how it goes!

Shokai

 

[1] Greenleaf, R.K. (1987) Teacher as Servant: A Parable. The Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership: Indianapolis, IN

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In the book The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal the authors write about this idea of connectedness or lack thereof in our lives, schools, and communities.

the-heart-of-higher-edMany of us bear the wound of invisibility, believing, not without reason, that no matter how hard or how well we work, no one really sees us. When we invite each other to tell our stories, we have a chance to create community in the simple act of saying “I see you.”

Storytelling can create community at an even deeper level: the more one knows about another person’s story, the less one is able to dislike or distrust, let alone despise, that person. This is a good thing in and of itself, but it serves a larger purpose as well by helping us weave a more resourceful and resilient collegiality. At some point down the road, when we need to solve a problem or deal with a difficult conflict, we are more likely to have woven the fabric of relationships required to do it well (page 139).[1]

As teachers we can offer this opportunity to our students to come out from the shadows, to be really seen and heard with some simple exercises in our classes.  By dividing your class in to groups you can help them get to know each other better and become more familiar with the way they may live, their hobbies, their family vacations, favorite books, sports, or movies.  They might share stories about their religious and spiritual beliefs.  Depending on the age of the groups the topics should be appropriate for them.

After they have shared in the small groups you can invite them to share with the entire class by sharing some of the topics that came up.  They might even want to have a member share their story with the entire class. This exercise helps the participants learn to be connected with each other in a personal and emotional way.  The students become not just someone they see in class but a real person with feelings and likes and dislikes.

We live a world that is so disconnected any time we are given the opportunity to share in this way as children or adults it opens our hearts and minds to others and we often find that we are more alike than different!  We all have a favorite food and a food we hate! I sometimes start the first day in class by getting everyone to share the food they love to hate the most! Then we can divide the class up for group exercises in okra, broccoli, and cabbage haters.  This gives them just another way to be connected!

Even though as a Buddhist I am not supposed to pick and choose I’m still NOT going to choose okra! I don’t mind being in the okra haters group! You’re welcome to join me! See you there…

In gassho, Shokai

[1] Palmer, Parker J.; Zajonc, Arthur; Scribner, Megan; Mark Nepo (2010-06-17). The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal (Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education) (p. 139). Jossey-Bass. Kindle Edition

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The “C” in the MASCC stands for compassion.  Every student wants a teacher who has compassion for them.  Many of our students live in homes that are filled with lack, limitation, anger, and fear.  So when they step into your classroom they want to feel safe, cared for, loved, listened to, and understood.subtle-sound-book-cover-picture

Maurine Stuart’s description of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in her book The Subtle Sound (1996) is a great description of every good teacher that I know.

The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, who appears in the Heart Sutra, is the bodhisattva of compassion and wisdom, and is often depicted as having one thousand hands and one thousand eyes; one thousand eyes to see the thousands of needs, and one thousand hands to help. Some depictions have eleven faces as well, to symbolize seeing in all directions simultaneously (p. 87).[1]

Every once in a while you’ll hear a student say, “Does she have eyes in the back of her head?” As a teacher I know that it is important for the students to think that you have “eyes” in the back of your head.  What the students really want to know is that the teacher has compassion for them and will give them the support, the kind words, the extension on their homework, and more when they need it. They want to know that we care about them and their success not only in the classroom but in life.  We know that the situation in some of their homes makes it difficult to study and learn.

In one of my developmental English classes I discovered that one of my best students was homeless.  How did I discover that?  She was always the first one in class and so one morning I complimented her on it. She shared with me that she had to take an early bus in order to get to class on time because she was coming from the homeless shelter for teens all the way across town.  When I heard that I gave her space to share her story and for the balance of the term I gave her what support I could.

Unless we have compassion for our students many are likely to drop out of high school or college.  Unless we perfect that compassion we may be adding to the pain and suffering that they live with on a daily basis.  And don’t think just because they live in a fancy house in a fancy neighborhood that life is a bowl of cherries!  Suffering comes in all shapes and sizes and incomes.

Be like the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara with your thousand eyes and hands ready to help!

Let me know how it goes!

Shokai

[1] Stuart, M. and Chayat, R.S. (1996). Subtle Sound the Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart. Boston, MA: Shambhala.

 

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Teaching with mindfulness and contemplative practices is like wearing a MASCC while at the same time creating a road map for your students and for yourself.  When we use Mindfulness, Artfulness, Simplicity, Compassion, and Connectedness (MASCC) to design our courses, prepare to teach them, and actually teach them we empower our students in many important and exciting ways.

As educators it is our responsibility to educate our students not only in the course content, but also in how to live mindfully, compassionately, and successfully in an ever changing and challenging world of war, hunger, prejudice, poverty, disease, and climate change.  The power within each of your students lies dormant until we help them discover it.  But for that to occur we must first discover it within ourselves.  We must create a MASCC for our lives and the circumstances within which we live and move and have our being.

So the first step in this process is to find a practice that resonates with your belief system and discover the power that it has to expand your life in these areas.  Chose one area at a time and focus your reading, research, attention, time, and talent in that direction. Make it fun, make it experiential, and make it an integral part of your life.  Then watch what happens with your teaching ability, your creativity, and your responses from your students, friends, and family members.

Change is not easy, but it is important. Stagnation often appears as a very slow death. So slow that we often don’t even recognize it until it is too late.  Stagnation can mean the death of a relationship, a job, your health, and more.  It hinders the growth and learning for yourself and your students.

Today’s students have sensory overload with the internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more! They have trouble focusing and quieting their minds and thus it makes learning very difficult. Their attention span is short and getting shorter every day!  So if you think how and what you taught last year or two years ago or five years ago will work today think again!

mindful-games-book-coverSusan Kaiser Greenland in her book “Mindful Games” shares with her readers an exercise that I think you might like.  It is called “Drop the Monkeys (page80-81).”[1] In Buddhism we talk frequently about the Monkey Mind! Monkeys represent thoughts, sensations, distractions and emotions running around our heads throughout the day.

So what do we do with them? She has her student’s remove their power by adding them to a chain (like a necklace) filled with monkeys.  Once they’ve filled up the chain she has them dropping the chain into a barrel, letting go of them quickly and easily! Whatever you do don’t go back and take them out of that barrel!  Getting rid of the Monkeys will put you on the fast track to creating a powerful MASCC that can change your life forever!

Let me know how it goes!

In gassho,

 

Shokai

[1] Greenland, S.K. (2016) Mindful Games. Shambhala: Boulder

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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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