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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Fillmore’

I just spent 5 days at a silent retreat (Sesshin) at the Brevard Zen Center in Coco Beach and I was surrounded by like-minded people.  People who decided to take time off to focus on their practice, on stillness, on quiet contemplation, and on quieting the mind and body.  I know that not everyone has the luxury of taking extended periods of time out of their family and work lives; however, if you can even take one day I recommend it highly.

Being around like-minded people can be an invigorating experience, or a hellish experience depending on which “mind” you are choosing to focus on.  If you feel sometimes like an angry, unhappy person with a mind that’s always focusing on the negative you surly do not want to be around “like-minded people.”  Today would be a good day to discover the happy, upbeat, positive, helpful people that you, at times, envy and sometimes dislike, and sometimes may even try to emulate.

I’ve had many people in my life ask, “What are you so happy about all the time, smiling, laughing, and joking?  Don’t you know there are terrible things going on in the world or at work or at home?” Of course, I do know that life is not always a panacea; however, I’d rather create a life like Pollyanna then a life like the Wicked Witch of the West any day!  Life is what you make it, unless of course you let outside circumstances or outside people like the Wicked Witch of the West make it for you?  The choice is up to you.

I often relate a story about one of my congregants who came home from work and found a man in her house who proceeded to rape her and stab her 62 times.  She lived and they caught the man and put him in prison.  Her life seemed to be falling apart from that day forward until, as she says, she decided to forgive him and move on with her life.  So she went to the prison, faced him, and forgave him.  From there she began to heal to be able to live a normal life.  She saved herself and spent the rest of her life living around “like-minded people” those who can forgive, and love, and reach out to others in times of need to help console and hold them up with love and compassion.

She is an inspiration to me and my role model for unconditional love.  Till that time my love came with conditions.  I have been lucky enough to have jobs like my work as a Unity minister, a hospice chaplain, a college professor, and a Zen Buddhist priest which has allowed me to be surrounded by like-minded people.

Buddha quote anger, goodness truth generosity

I hope you are surrounded by those people who will love you unconditionally and have a life filled with peace, joy, love, and happiness.  A life filled with people that lift you up and not tear you down.  This is my wish for you that you meet your good today and it is filled with like-minded people who will celebrate the uniqueness of you and see the good in your heart! Let me know how that goes.

In gassho, Shokai

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What does it mean to be free?  There will be different connotations if you live in the middle of a war zone in the Middle East, or in a job that you feel chained to that is joyless and boring, or if you are incarcerated in a prison “behind the fence” as we say.  Then there is the prison of our minds and emotions that keep us from being free of our thoughts of lack, limitation, and ill health.

As a college professor I have seen that fear in my students eyes when they enter my developmental English class and know that they will not be free to take the “for credit courses” and earn a degree in their favorite area of study if they don’t pass my class. And yet at some time during that semester I can see the light go on in their minds when they finally “get it.”  They are finally free of their negative thoughts and fears and able to move on with their education.

H. Emily Cady in her book Lessons in Truth wrote:

You may think that something stands between you and your heart’s desire, and so live with that desire unfulfilled, but it is not true.  This “thing” is a bugaboo under the bed that has no reality.  Deny it, deny it, and you will find yourself free, and you will realize that this seeming was all false.  Then you will see the good flowing into you, and you will see clearly that nothing can stand between you and your own [good/freedom].[1]

You will be free!

Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years and yet he was still able to be a powerful symbol of black resistance to apartheid. On February 11, 1990 he was released by President de Klerk and in 1991 he was elected president of the African National Congress. In 1993 Mandela and President de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work toward dismantling apartheid.

A similar story can be told in our country about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Susan Bright Eyes LaFlesche (Omaha Native American civil rights activist.) and R.C. Gorman painter, sculptor and Native American the first Native American to be internationally recognized as a major American artist.

R.C. Gorman Native American artist

Freedom: Nothing stood in the way of their “hearts desire.” Do not let anything stand in yours either. Freedom is not a place—it is a consciousness.

Be free to meet your good today!  Let me know how that goes!

In gassho,

Shokai

[1] Cady, H.E. (1903).  Lessons in Truth. Unity Village, MO: Unity House

 

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Today is the day that I begin to meet my good and look for the things in life, in Buddhism, in philosophy, in religion, and beyond that can assist me in this new adventure in living.  Why begin each morning with the same old thoughts, feelings, wishes, and desires?  If I haven’t attained them yet maybe I don’t need them, maybe I unconsciously don’t want them, or maybe I just haven’t figured out how to manifest them.  Maybe they were really someone else’s goal or desire that was put on me or given to me such as following the same career as one of my parents or living in the same town that I grew up in.

In this new series I am going to challenge myself, my beliefs, my life, and my dreams.  I am going to allow myself to go outside of my comfort zone and beyond my fears to take a very honest look at myself.  To decide what it is about my life that is working, what is not working, what I can release and let go, and what I desire to keep. I might even discover something about myself that I have kept submerged for days, weeks, or even years, or maybe never even recognized.

Dr. Susan Jeffers writes in her book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, these profound words:

One of the biggest fears that keeps us from moving ahead with our lives is our difficulty in making decisions.  As one of my students lamented. “Sometimes I feel like the proverbial donkey between two bales of hay—unable to decide which one I want, and, in the meantime, starving to death.” The irony, of course, is that by not choosing, we are choosing—to starve.  We are choosing to deprive ourselves of what makes life a delicious feast (page 11).[1]

In Buddhism we talk about life being “just this” whatever this is.  So as “this” occurs I can simply deal with it and then ask myself, “How did I do?”  Did I deal with it in the same old way, did I take the time to look at in a new way, did I allow myself to experience it (I mean really experience it), and how did that feel?  No judgment—simply looking for the wisdom in each moment of my life. What did I learn about myself, the other person, or the event? If it didn’t go exactly as I had planned or it didn’t go well I might ask myself, “How could I handle it differently in the future?”  Or how could I see it differently in the future?  And yet, today I can stop ruminating over it, beating myself up over it, or putting myself down over it.

As I meet my good today and throughout the week I am going to put more trust in myself and my innate wisdom. I am going to allow myself to “feel the fear, and do it anyway.”  Why, because my good is out there—so long as I am open and receptive to receive it!

Let me know what “good” you meet today!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Jeffers, S. (1987) Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. Ballantine Books: NY, NY

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As an English teacher and writer I love words! I have uploaded dictionary.com onto my cell phone and signed up for the Word of the Day. How fantastic is that? One moment every day I have the opportunity to stop and look at the word that appears on my phone. I read the word and then instantly, in that moment, know if it is a word I already know, a word I think I know, or a word I have never heard before. When I check it out I often discover things I may not have known about the word: the pronunciation, spelling, meaning, or how to use it in a sentence.

In that moment the word comes alive. It is given breadth, and width, and feeling, and meaning, and motion and power. Some words feel good when I say them and I may repeat them over several times. I may try to say them in sentences or change the pitch or tone of how I say the word and in that moment I am taken up into the word and the power it can hold in a conversation, a speech, an email, a diary, or on Twitter. Sometimes, oddly enough, I do not like the way the word “feels” in my mouth when I say it. I always try to avoid those words!

The words being spoken in our presidential campaigns for 2016 can be divisive, harmful, hurtful, angry, and mean. They can tear down a person, a town, an ethnic group, or a nation the moment they are spoken. Let us hear some words of up lifting, of compassion, of caring, and of love for humanity instead. The moment cannot be taken back, you cannot grab those words like the line of a fishing pole and pull in the fish and gently take the hook out of its mouth and drop the fish back into the lake. They are in the hearts and minds of the people, forever on the internet, on Twitter, and in the archives of some newspaper.

Everyone has wished at some time or another in his or her life that they could take back those words that were spoken in the mystery of that moment. Charles Fillmore the co-founder of Unity Church said that words have power and weight and measure and once spoken in that moment they are thrown out into the stratosphere and beyond and vibrate the cosmos farther than man can see or travel. In any moment they can cut like a knife or cure like a medicine.

I remember being in a hospice unit visiting one of my congregants who was suffering from a huge tumor the size of grapefruit on her neck. I held her hand and we prayed together I told her the choice was hers to go or stay. I could feel the calm overcome her body, in that moment, she chose life. Three months later she came back to one of my classes and we all celebrated life with her. She shared a story with us that had us all amazed. On a follow-up visit to her doctor low and behold the tumor had disappeared and he told her that because of her he now believed in a God, there was no other explanation in his mind in that moment words healed them both.

In this moment your words are healing or hurting or killing. There is power in words—choose wisely.

Let me know how that goes.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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bodhi leaf from Michael's 106 bows ceremony of passingThe Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa) is known for its prominent place in Buddhism as the place where Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni Buddha) meditated for 49 days after which he attained complete enlightenment. The leaf shown here was collected by me at the Brevard Zen Center on a silent retreat. This beautiful tree is located on the front of the property and stands as a symbol of the opportunity given to all the retreatants to experience the mystery of the moment for themselves. To discover the oneness that is everywhere present in this eternal now moment in which we live.

We stood beneath the tree in memory of our dear friend Michael who had passed quietly in his sleep the day before our scheduled retreat. It is tradition to do 106 bows in memory and to honor those who have studied with us and brought the dharma to life in the here and now.

What moment are you living in? Are your thoughts and feelings taking you into the past or projecting you into the future? How many minutes of now have you missed, forgotten, or never discovered.

As a Unity minister I found that often my congregants would come to me with their problems and say how they were unable to sleep for days because of the wandering of the mind into projections of the future. I would ask them this question: What could you do about the unpaid bill, or the job interview, or that argument with your teenager at three in the morning? Of course, there response was: absolutely nothing.

It is not easy, but it is also not impossible, to quiet the mind–it simply takes practice. Living in this moment is focusing on each breath with peace and quiet and joy knowing that you still have life within you, it is being one with all that exists with peace, love, and compassion.

In order to be there for others I have to be there for myself first. I have to keep my mind, body, and spirit healthy and loved. And then I will have the ability and the energy to be there for others.

It is amazing how much energy, love, and compassion I have when I stay in the eternal now moment! What can I do right NOW? Begin by taking three slow deep breaths to center yourself. Feel the life force energy flowing through you as the oxygen feeds your body and brain. Feel the peace that passes all understanding melt into every cell of your body as you continue to count your in-breaths and your out-breaths.

Be one with your breath in this eternal now moment and you just may awaken as Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni Buddha) did underneath the Bodhi Tree! Let me know how it goes!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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Buddhism provides us with the opportunity to sit in the silence and do absolutely nothing as I’ve talked about in past blogs. Buddhism also has hundreds of thousands of pages of writings for us to read, to learn, to live, and to spend time contemplating. Buddhism is considered a contemplative practice as well as a way of living. It is deep and wide and vast. There is something for everyone on every path from the beginner to the adept. All are welcome here.

Our ancestors have given us this wonderful verse that we often repeat before we begin to contemplate on some Buddhist verse or teaching or as we get ready to hear a wonderful dharma talk from one of our teachers or guest lecturers. It goes like this:

Opening the Sutra Verse
The unsurpassable, profound, subtle, and wondrous dharma
Is rarely met even in a hundred, thousand, myriad eons.
Now we see it, hear it, receive it, and maintain it.
May we realize the Tathagata’s true meaning (page 51)![1]

We say it a little differently at our sangha, but either way will work:

 

Gatha on Opening the Sutra

The Dharma, incomparably profound and infinitely subtle,
Is rarely encountered even in millions of ages.
Now we see it, hear it, receive and maintain it.
May we completely realize the Tathagata’s true meaning.

In Unity we have something we call “sitting in the silence.” We probably stole it from the Buddhists. In H. Emilie Cady’s book, Lessons in Truth (2003) she writes these words about it:

Do not let waiting in the silence become a bondage to you. If you find yourself getting into a strained attitude of mind, or “heady,” get up and go about some external work for a time. Or, if you find that your mind will wander, do not insist on concentrating; for the moment you get into a rigid mental attitude, you shut off all inflow of the Divine into your consciousness. There must be a sort of relaxed passivity and yet an active taking it by faith. Shall I call it active passivity (page 135)?[2]

I just love her term—active passivity—it is so Buddhist! And thus, Rev. Cady is giving us clear directions to help us when we are looking to “realize the Tathagata’s true meaning” in a verse, a teaching, or in our lives. Even if we are warned in the verse that it “is rarely met even in a hundred, thousand, myriad eons” go for it anyway! What have you got to lose? Find your place in that “relaxed passivity” and wait upon truth and wisdom to be revealed to you.

This is what we do when we work on a koan with our teacher. So if you are struggling or being centered in your “head” do as Rev. Cady suggests and drop into “active passivity” and be ready for nothing, or something, or anything, and simply accept what comes or doesn’t come!

But for now be open to see it, hear it, receive it, and maintain it.”

Let me know how it goes!
In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

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

[1] Cady, H. E. (2003) Lessons in Truth, Unity Books: Lee Summit, Mo

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Verse of Pure Practice
Abiding in this world of endless space,
A lotus flower is not stained by muddy water.
We follow the unsurpassable one,
Whose mind remains pure and free (page59).[1]

The above is a good example of a short verse that you can use when you want to center yourself. It brings you to the idea of the power of mind and its ability to remain pure and free in any situation, even if it’s “stained by muddy water.”

Our thoughts are the prisons in which we live. Those thoughts lead us to actions of peace, contentment, anxiety, fear, or any myriad number of emotions. To release ourselves from them a wonderful place to start is with a centering verse, prayer, or song. It’s called a “pattern interruption.” When the monkey mind has hold of you it is important to interrupt that negative pattern of thinking and replace it with something else.

I recommend that you have several types of prayers, verses, sutras, or songs that work for you. Something that will help you get centered. So what does it mean to be “centered”? In Buddhism we look to become one with our breath and when we do we feel at the center of all there is. Our body responds by lowering our blood pressure, slowing down our heart beat, and calming our breath. Soon we are overcome by feelings of peace and tranquility and emptiness and fullness. We have entered the stream.

When we feel as though we have entered the stream it is because we are centered on the here and now. We are centered on the only moment that exists—this one.

One of my favorite teachers and authors is Father Robert Kennedy he is a Catholic Priest and a Zen Buddhist teacher. In his book Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit, The Place of Zen in Christian Life (2005), he used an anonymous prayer which sounded like one I had heard many times during my life as a Unity Minister. I have written it below but changed some of the words.

My name is I am,” He paused
I waited. He continued,
“When you live in the past,
With its mistakes and regrets,
It is hard because you are not centered.
My name is not I was, my name is “I am here and now.”

When you live in the future,
With its problems and fears,
It is hard. Because you are not centered.
My name is not I will be, my name is “I am here and now.”

When you live in this moment,
It is not hard because you are
Centered right here and right now.
In the only time and place that exists.
Thus my name is I am.”[2]

What name have you given yourself today? Where have you been centered—on fear, anxiety, negativity, and suffering? Have you entered the stream yet? Help your mind “remain pure and free.” Let me know when you enter the stream and I will meet you there!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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

[2]  Kennedy, R.E. (2005). Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit The Place of Zen in Christian Life. Continuum: New York and London

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For me prayer is when we talk to God or a higher power and meditation is when we shut up and listen!

There are all kinds of prayers and ways to meditate that are available to us. Below is a simple list of some of the most common ones:

Affirmation/affirmative: A good example of this is to recite “I am open and receptive to receive my good in health, wealth, and happiness today and every day to do the work I have come here to do.” This type of “prayer/affirmation” can help your conscious mind direct to you all the good that the universe has in store for you.
Centering: Silent prayer that helps us open ourselves to receive by quieting our minds, body, and spirits.
Contemplative: Focusing on an idea, scripture, quotation, sutra, poem or words of wisdom.
Intercession: Praying for help for others i.e. healing or prosperity for a friend in need.
Lectio Divina: reading, reflecting, responding, and resting on a sutra, scripture, or spiritual reading.
Meditation/sitting: Sitting quietly while focusing on your breath, a word, or counting 1 on the in breath and 2 on the out breath to quiet and center your rambling/monkey mind and become one with all that is.
Thanksgiving: A simple prayer of giving thanks often done before a meal or after a challenge has been overcome such as an illness, accident, or having passed your final exam in school.

Today I want to focus on the affirmation since I have had several requests from friends and students for prayers of prosperity, jobs, healing, and more. Affirmative prayers keep us in a positive mood with a wonderful outlook for the future. They help to keep us from ruminating on the negative, fearful, or harmful thoughts that seem to invade our minds in times of need.

Charles Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity, said that prayers have weight and measure and ultimately energy. All words are prayers in some way. In Genesis 1:3 we read: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” The first demonstration of the power of the word! What words are you saying from the time you awake to the time you go to sleep? Are they words of illness, lack, limitation, frustration, and fear? Or are they words of affirmation, health, healing, prosperity, opportunity, love, and compassion. The universe does not care which you choose it will bring you whatever you think and pray for!

When times are tough, and they will be in life, center your prayers on positive affirmations and your mediation times on sitting in the silence to help quiet down that monkey mind and allow your body, mind, and spirit to rest. Give yourself a “meditation break” instead of a “coffee break” which just fills you with caffeine and sugar and calories!

Each day it would be helpful to end it with this Buddhist prayer/chant:

Let me respectfully remind you
Life and death are of supreme importance
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost
Each of us should strive to awaken
Awaken, take heed do not squander your life.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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My teacher and friend Wilbur Mushin May recommended this wonderful book to me about one of our ancestors Master Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1768) called Wild Ivy translated by Norman Waddell.  In the book there is a chapter entitled “Zen Sickness” which shares several ideas about sickness and health and the ways of the ancestors to deal with life as it appears in bodily challenges.

I was especially taken by one story and meditation called “The Soft-Butter Method” (pages 90-91) it was very similar to some of the healing meditations that I learned and used while I was a Unity minister.  So I decided to try it out on myself to help me with some problems I’d had with my digestion since I got my braces on.  Wow, within a day or two I began to feel much better and the symptoms all but disappeared.  I have continued to use it once or twice a day and look forward to even more fantastic results.

I hope you’ll try it and let me know if it helps you in any way.  In gassho, Shokai

The Soft-Butter Method

“Imagine that a lump of soft butter, pure in color and fragrance and the size and shape of a duck egg, is suddenly placed on the top of your head. As it begins to slowly melt, it imparts an exquisite sensation, moistening and saturating your head within and without. It continues to ooze down, moistening your shoulders, elbows, and chest; permeating lungs, diaphragm, liver, stomach, and bowels; moving down the spine through the hips, pelvis, and buttocks.

At that point, all the congestions that have accumulated within the five organs and six viscera, all the aches and pains in the abdomen and other affected parts, will follow the heart as it sinks downward into the lower body.  As it does, you will distinctly hear a sound like that of water trickling from a higher to a lower place.  It will move lower down through the lower body, suffusing the legs with beneficial warmth, until it reaches the soles of the feet, where it stops.

The student should then repeat the contemplation. As his vital energy flows downward, it gradually fills the lower region of the body, suffusing it with penetrating warmth, making him feel as if he were sitting up to his navel in a hot bath filled with a decoction of rare and fragrant medicinal herbs that have been gathered and infused by a skilled physician.

Inasmuch as all things are created by the mind, when you engage in this contemplation, the nose will actually smell the marvelous scent of pure, soft butter; your body will feel the exquisite sensation of its melting touch.  Your body and mind will be in perfect peace and harmony. You will feel better and enjoy greater health than you did as a youth of twenty or thirty.  At this time all the undesirable accumulations in your vital organs and viscera will melt away.  Stomach and bowels will function perfectly.  Before you know it, your skin will glow with health.  If you continue to practice the contemplation with diligence, there is no illness that cannot be cured, no virtue that cannot be acquired, no level of sagehood that cannot be reached, no religious practice that cannot be mastered.  Whether such results appear swiftly or slowly depends only upon how scrupulously you apply yourself.”[1]

[1] Waddell, N. (1999) Wild Ivy, The Spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin. Shambhala: Boston, MA

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Consider movement stationary
and the stationary in motion,
and both the state of movement and the state of rest disappear.
When such dualities cease to exist
oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate finality
No law or description applies.
For the unified mind in accord with the way
all self-centered striving ceases.
Doubts and irresolutions vanish
and life in true faith is possible.
With a single stroke we are freed from bondage;
nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.
All is empty, clear, self-illuminating,
with no exertion of the mind’s power.
Here thought, feelings, knowledge, and imagination
are of no value. [1]

Faith in Mind is filled with opportunities for us to read and contemplate on the Buddhist principle of the dangers of picking and choosing. These verses help us look at the dualities in our lives and thoughts and the bondage that is created by them.

In the Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991) it says this about Seng-ts’an the author of Faith in Mind:

Hardly any details are known of the life of the third patriarch [Seng-ts’an]. There are however, many legends about him and his meeting with Hui-k’o. According to one of these legends Seng-ts’an was suffering from leprosy when he met the second patriarch. Hui-k’o is supposed to have encountered him with these words “You’re suffering from leprosy; what could you want from me?” Seng-ts’an is supposed to have replied, “Even if my body is sick, the heart-mind of a sick person is no different from your heart-mind (page191).” [2]

Which brings us right back to the importance of remembering the difficulties that accumulate in our lives when we are picking and choosing. “For the unified mind in accord with the way all self-centered striving ceases and doubts and irresolutions vanish and life in true faith is possible. With a single stroke we are freed from bondage…”

Unity minister and teacher H. Emilie Cady in her wonderful book, Lessons in Truth, named her very first chapter “Bondage or Liberty, Which?” She writes:

Every man must take time daily for quiet and meditation. In daily meditation lies the secret of power. Watch carefully, and you will find that there are some things, even in the active unselfish doing, that would better be left undone than that you should neglect regular meditation.

No person, unless he has practiced it, can know how it quiets all physical nervousness, all fear, all oversensitiveness, all the little raspings of everyday life—just this hour of calm, quiet waiting alone with God. Never let it be an hour of bondage, but always one of restfulness (pages 23-25). [3]

As you can see meditation is practiced in some form in all religions around the world. Use of a meditation practice to help us quiet the mind is a healthy self-loving process. In the quiet mind we stop the picking and choosing and are free of its bondage. Those musings have no value at all when we are sitting in the silence. As Seng-ts’an says, “Here thought, feelings, knowledge, and imagination are of no value.”

And so our lives become easier and more fulfilling. Self-love and neighborly love can be found without picking and choosing in our time of quiet meditation. As Seng-ts’an said, “Even if my body is sick, the heart-mind of a sick person is no different from your heart-mind.”

Shambhala Dictionary defines the “heart-mind thus:”

In Zen it means, depending on the context, either the mind of a person in the sense of all his powers of consciousness, mind, heart, and spirit, or else absolute reality—the mind beyond the distinction between mind and matter, self-nature, or true nature (page 118).” [4]

The heart-mind melds together in meditation without picking and choosing, simply sit and watch what happens as your “true nature” quietly appears and disappears.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Osho (2014) Hsin Hsin Ming, The Zen Understanding of Mind and Consciousness. Osho International Foundation

[2] Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, 1991. Boston: MA

[3] Cady, H. E. (1995) Complete Works of H. Emilie Cady. Unity Books. Unity Village: MO

[4] Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, 1991. Boston: MA

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