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Posts Tagged ‘breath’

In the The Little Book of Zen the editors have taken this wonderful yet simpperson eating reading newspaperle koan to illustrate the importance of being mindful all day—even when you are eating. I might say “especially” when you are eating since this is a series on food.

Joshu’s koan goes like this:

A monk said to Joshu, “I have just entered this monastery.  Please teach me”
“Have you eaten your rice porridge?” asked Joshu. “Yes, I have, “replied the monk.
“Then you had better wash your bowl,” said Joshu. With this the monk gained enlightenment.[1]

It seems that the young monk was to start each day with a good bowl of porridge eaten quietly and then begin his meditation time.  So what was the motivation for Joshu to ask that question to the young man? The editors indicate that Joshu was saying since the monk was no longer eating, he should be paying attention to the now moment or his meditation or his breath, and not that sometime in the past he had eaten breakfast.

As silly as that may seem one of the great teachings in Buddhism is “being here now!”  Once your breakfast has been eaten, or dishes washed, or relationship has ended keep moving forward. You do this by staying in the now moment and experiencing what is in the here and NOW.

Alas, we spend so much time going backwards in our lives ruminating over the failures of the past or bragging about the successes we’ll have in the future.  When we do this we are not enjoying this current moment hearing the sounds around us, smelling the smells, tasting the food that is in our mouth, or feeling the touch of our friends’ hand in ours.

Stop for a minute and close your eyes: can you hear the voice of someone that you love, feel their laughter vibrating the air, or hear them praising the cook for the fabulous meal? Were you really there or were you simply thinking about the past or the future during your time with them?

We miss so much each and every day because we are not being present in this now moment. What have you missed today when eating with your friends and family?

Now go wash your bowl.

[1]Manuela Dunn Mascetti (editor). The Little Book of Zen. Fall River Press, New York, 2001

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Our thoughts today will be on the verses from the “Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra” below.  Although they sound a little crazy once we get the idea that is trying to be expressed in the sutra our lives will be filled with much less stress, strain, and worry.

No old age and death, no cessation of old age and death;

No suffering, no cause or end to suffering;

No path, no wisdom and no gain.

No gain thus Bodhisattvas live this Prajna Pramita.

Shohaku Okumura in his book Living by Vow A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts writes about these verses beautifully.

If our life is based on dichotomies like good and bad, we chase after good things and run from bad things.  We are concerned about whether we are good or not.  If we think we are good, then life is worth living. If we think we are bad, then life is just a mistake. This dualistic thinking makes our life rigid and narrow.

No matter what mistakes we make, we can start over because everything is impermanent.  We can change. We can change the direction of our life.  This is the way we transform our life, our thinking, and our views.  According to Dogen Zenji, sitting in zazen and letting go of everything is the key to shifting the basis of our life (p. 163).[1]

Yet, we allow the above thoughts of old age and death and suffering to chase after us each day and we allow those thoughts to upset us and ruin our day.  Or, if we choose, we can begin our day with sitting (meditation) and let go of everything good and bad, fear and happiness and more.  We can be free of the mind made chains of emotions and thoughts. We can focus on the now and the only thing important in the now when sitting is “your breath.” Allow your mind to be free of the to-do lists, the past conversations and actions, the fears and the joys. Simply wait and watch quietly for the body to become still and the mind to become quiet and the breath to become deeper and slower.

I am not tied down forever to the behaviors that have been hindering me in my life and can see them for what they really are impermanent.  The programming may be old and deep but with time and effort all things are possible.  Remember the old saying, “All things are possible for those who believe.” So begin today to let go of your fears of old age and death, suffering, and limitation or whatever else may be holding you back from being the person you desire to be, a person living a life of compassion, love, and peace.

This is a new year the perfect time to begin your life a new!  You are a Bodhisattva, whether you know it or not, so live this Prajna Paramita today and watch the results manifest in your life.

Things to focus on this week:

  1. I will begin each day by sitting in quiet meditation letting go of everything but my focus on my breath.
  2. I will remind myself that doing this can help free me from my fears and my rigid and narrow thinking.
  3. I am changing the direction of my life for good today!
  4. Lastly, I will keep a journal of the opportunities that have been presented to me so I can keep track of my progress and my opportunities for growth.

[1] Okumura, S. (2012) Living By Vow A practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts, Wisdom Publications, Boston: MA

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