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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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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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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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OM the one sound that crosses all boundaries, all religions, all philosophies, all prayers. As Herman Hesse writes of Siddhartha:

Then, from a remote part of the soul, from the past of his tired life he heard the sound. It was one word, one syllable, which without thinking he spoke instinctively. The ancient beginning and ending of Brahmin prayers, the holy “Om,” which had the meaning of the Perfect One, or perfection (page 52).”[1]

And those who study Tibetan Buddhism have probably chanted this hundreds or even thousands of time.

Chenrezig Mantra: OM MANI PADME HUNG

I found this beautiful explanation of it on http://www.dharma-haven.org/tibetan/meaning-of-om-mani-padme-hung.htm.

The six syllables perfect the Six Paramitas of the Bodhisattvas.

Gen Rinpoche, in his commentary on the Meaning of said:

“The mantra Om Mani Pädme Hum is easy to say yet quite powerful,
because it contains the essence of the entire teaching. When you say
the first syllable Om it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the
practice of generosity, Ma helps perfect the practice of pure ethics,
and Ni helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and
patience. Päd, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, Me helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable Hum helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom.

So in this way recitation of the mantra helps achieve perfection in the six practices from generosity to wisdom. The path of these six perfections is the path walked by all the Buddhas of the three times. What could then be more meaningful than to say the mantra and accomplish the six perfections?”

I encourage you to chant this and see how it helps you perfect the characteristics of the Perfect One who embodies those “six practices from generosity to wisdom.” This may change the way you live and love in 2016 and beyond. So chant away!

Keep me posted on how it goes.

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

[1] Loori, J.D. (2007) Teachings of the Earth Zen and the Environment. Shambhala: Boston & London.

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Here is one of the sutras that we chant frequently in our services. We begin by chanting it in Japanese several times and then in English several times it is called Emmei Jukku Kannon Gyo. This is a wonderful sutra about Kuan-yin (Chinese) or Avalokiteshvara (Sanskrit). The literal meaning of Avalokiteshvara is sometimes translated as:

He who hears the sounds [outcries] of the World. Avalokiteshvara embodies one of the two fundamental aspects of Buddhahood compassion. Avalokiteshvara is the power of the buddha, Amitabha, manifested as a bodhisattva and appears as his helper. His limitless compassion expresses itself in his wonderful ability to help all beings who turn to him at times of extreme danger. In folk belief, Avalokiteshvara also protects from natural catastrophe and grants blessings to children (page 15).[1]

We talked about Avalokiteshvara when we chanted the meal gatha in Beyond Prayer Part 4. Today we often see him in the feminine form especially when we see statues or pictures of Kuan-yin. Regardless of form this chant will help us during times of need when we wish to seek compassion for ourselves or others. I often call upon Kuan-yin when I see tragedies around the world like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, gun violence, and terrorist attacks.

EMMI JUKKU KANNON GYO (Kanzeon Sutra)
Kanzeon Namu Butsu
Yo Butsu U In
Yo Butsu U En
Bu Po So En
Jo Raku Ga Jo
Cho Nen Kanzeon [compassion]
Bo Nen Kanzeon [compassion]
Nen Nen Ju Shin Ki
Nen Nen Fu Ri Shin

Kanzeon!
Praise to Buddha!
All are one with Buddha
All awake as Buddha
Buddha, Dharma, Sangha
Eternal, joyous, selfless, pure
Through the day, Kanzeon [compassion]
Through the night, Kanzeon [compassion]
This moment arises from Mind
This moment itself is mind

This is an especially powerful chant that when used regularly can help our world become more compassionate and loving. Imagine what could happen if all the people of the world stopped on the same day and time and chanted this sutra. I think we could heal the world and everyone in it.

Even if people wanted to change the word Buddha to Christ or Mohammad, God/Allah, or Gaia we might heal the planet and all sentient beings in one fell swoop!

A world filled with compassion what a thought!

What a dream! Let’s make it so….

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

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

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This week in Paris, France, over 150 countries have come together at the World Climate Summit 2015 to make plans to save the planet from destruction by the humans who habitat it. One of my favorite writers and teachers is John Daido Loori and in his book Teachings of the Earth: Zen and the Environment he writes:

In engaging Zen training with an eye on its relationship to ecological concerns, we ask the question, “Where does the earth end and where do I begin (page 3)?”[1]

He goes on to ask us to follow the teachings of the Buddha and to “not kill life” and admonishes us to “not steal” which means not to rape the earth by deforestation. He writes, “The mountain suffers when you clear cut it. Clear cutting is stealing the habitat of the animals that live on the mountain (page 91).”[2]

Our voices need to be heard in our Zen centers, our churches, our mosques, our synagogues, our schools, and our town halls. We need to pray for the earth and the people in it who wish to take what it has for profits and personal greed. It is our job to be a voice for the voiceless through prayers, and petitions, and rallies and sitting, and rescuing, and supporting environmental organizations with our time, talents and treasures. There is only one Earth and we need to leave it habitable for our children and grandchildren and theirs.

Unity has an entire pamphlet “Earth Blessings Prayers for Our Planet.” I hope you will take the time to go to this link and check it out. I’ve shared the section on “Stewardship” with you below.

We are good to Earth, our home, and Earth blesses us with good. [Affirmation]

We are caregivers of this wondrous planet. In awe of the sapphires of the sky, the emeralds and sienna’s of the ground, the sunlit horizons at dawn and dusk, we know God is present within our radiant world. With reverence, we are committed to its stewardship. As residents of Earth, we care for its components—the air, the soil, the water. We respect our plant life—the rooted, the floating, the climbing. We wisely use abundant gifts—yields of crops and vegetation, products of minerals. We give thanks for present and future resources of Earth as they are discovered, maintained, and utilized with care. We bless this precious place, for it is also the home of generations to come. We are good to Earth, our home, and Earth blesses us with good (page 6).[3]

Ask yourself these questions: Where does the earth end and where do I begin? What can I do to help? When will I start?

Let me know how you are doing with your answers!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

 

[1] John Daido Loori (2007) Teachings of the Earth: Zen and the Environment. Shambala: Boston & London

[2] Ibid.

[3] Earth Blessings Prayers for Our Planet, Unity: Unity Village, MO http://www.unity.org

 

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Metta
May I be happy.
May I be free from stress and pain.
May I be free from animosity.
May I be free from oppression.
May I be free from trouble.
May I look after myself with ease.

May all living beings be happy.
May all living beings be free from animosity.
May all living beings be free from oppression.
May all living beings be free from trouble.
May all living beings look after themselves with ease.[1]

Kazuaki Tanahashi, in his book, Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary, writes this:

Buddhaghosa does not recommend that the practitioners simply focus on an aspiration that they themselves be happy or attempt absorption. Instead, the meditators are urged to use themselves as an example: “Just as I want to be happy and dread pain, as I want to live and not die, so do other beings, too.” And thus when we pray the Metta we pray and chant for self and others (page 136).[2]

As we watch the news each evening and see the students on campuses around the country protesting for things that I thought would not still exist in 2015: hiring discrimination, race discrimination, hate speech, unresponsive administrations, sexual assaults, and more. Each of these protesters want for themselves the list of things we recite in the first verse of the Metta and they also want it for everyone else on planet earth. And thus, we chant for them in the second verse.

We can add those in the prison system in America and those in the Middle East who are being killed and bombed in their countries and homes, and in airplanes flying through the air after a family vacation. As a human race we need to work at learning how to live together with our diversity and cultures and religions or we will soon be an extinct species and all that will be left are the birds, the bees, and the trees.

Besides chanting this verse each and every day with love and passion, what can you do each day in your families, homes, workplaces and communities? Think small or think big but please think and then act. You just may save someone’s life. You never know.

May you be happy and find ways to share your happiness with everyone you meet.

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

[1] Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala: Boston & London

[2] Ibid.

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