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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: 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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All of us are teachers in some way or another.  Some of us teach as parents, some teach as grandparents, some teach the very young in Head Start and Montessori, others may teach K-12, and still others may teach in higher education arenas such as vocational/technical schools, community colleges, state colleges, and universities.  Some teachers are called coaches and they work in the community in all the sports from baseball, to football, to basketball, and soccer, and even cheer leading.  Some are teachers at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, or with the scouting organizations, or at Sunday school, the temple, or the Mosque, but teach we do in a thousand different ways.

More importantly we all teach by our example whether we are at work, at play, on vacation, in the store, or walking the dog.  We teach good habits and bad ones.  Remember the old saying that a child learns more from what you do than what you say.  I watched my father smoke cigarettes as I grew up and so in high school I took up smoking.  Fortunately for me, I quit early on when they went to 50 cents a pack. I told my girlfriend that the price was way too high and did she know what I could do with that 50 cents!

One of my favorite books on teaching and learning is by Robert Leamnson titled Thinking about Teaching and Learning Developing Habits of Learning with First Year College and University Students. In his introduction he says that philosophy influences our pedagogy or how we teach.  So he ends the introduction chapter with his “own personal minimal list of elements that should go into a philosophy of teaching and they are as follows:

1.  Develop a clear and explicit concept of what learning is.

2.  Language is at the heart of the matter.

3.  Beware the “preposterism.”

4.  Know the clientele.

5.  Believe that what you do makes a difference.

6.  If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

7.  Helping implies loving (pages 7-8).

To discover what some of these mean you’ll have to get the book, but for now I want to share my thoughts on three of them:  4, 5, and 7.

For me number four “Know the clientele” is imperative.  He says “Students must be known as they come to us and not as we would like them to be.  Knowing includes their culture, their level of preparedness, and their intellectual and emotional needs (page 7).”  In South Florida we have students enter our colleges from all around the world.   From every nation and culture and religion and they are all welcome.  So knowing each of their cultures, traditions, and religious beliefs is not an easy task, but it is an important one.  That is if you want to be able to help your students learn and grow and develop as thinking, caring, human beings who have mastered your subject matter, while at the same time be someone who will be able to move our country and the world to a better place in which to live.

For number 5 “Believe that what you do makes a difference.”  Leamnson writes, “What we do is different from what we know.  How we present our discipline to students is as important as what we present (page 7).” So how are we presenting the material?  Are we just boring them to death with our words, lectures, and Cliff Notes?   Or are we getting them involved in real life experiences to help them learn the subject.  Are we immersing them in the issues, rules, theories, and principles in such a way that they can see them in living breathing examples within their world?  Or are they just learning and remembering enough to pass your final exam and get on to their next class?

Lastly, number seven “Helping implies loving.”  Here Leamnson writes, “We work hard and go that extra mile for those we love.  We will go about our teaching more seriously and energetically if we love our students (page 8).”  I love my students and I am so honored to be able to stand in front of the classroom whether I am teaching developmental English at Broward College, or medical transcription at Kaplan University, or business writing, mindfulness, or ethics for a corporate client.  I know that if I can just share with them one tip, idea, theory, or principle that will help them communicate more carefully, fully, and correctly it may help them get a great job, gain that promotion, impress their boss, teacher, or family member.  And maybe—just maybe—it will help them to love and appreciate themselves more.  And when they do that it will help them get better grades, get that promotion, and move up their level of self-esteem, pride, and self-worth.

If each of us does that it will allow us to watch this world grow and become a better more compassionate and loving place to live.  Teaching is not just a philosophy—it is a way of life.  I challenge you to teach those positive attributes that you have learned throughout your life.  Teach them to everyone you meet by your example and together we can watch the planet transform.

Teach your philosophy by living  your philosophy!

 

 

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