Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha): “Do not believe in anything because it is found written in your religious books.

The Rigveda is an ancient Indian text one of the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism written between the 5th and 2nd century BCE, the first four books of the Bible Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers were written between the 6th and 2nd century BCE, the Tao Te Ching in the 6th century BCE, the Buddhist Sutras between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE, the New Testament in the 1st century CE, the Qur’an is the newest written around 632 CE.  Wow!  If you can remember all of that you’re better than I am!

 What’s my point?  The people who wrote these books were wonderful people who wanted to memorialize their beliefs and experiences for those who would come after them.  They were trying to explain, nature, birth, death, life, good and evil and more.  Science was not at the level it is today, they only had their eyes, ears, nose, and sometimes mouth to discover and memorialize their lives and how they dealt with what happened to them and in them in their waking and sleeping hours.

This is neither good nor bad—it just is.  Thus if saying a bed time Buddha at Bedtimeprayer will help keep you alive through the night—great what can you lose! If not eating meat is how you desire to live your life wonderful, go for it.  If eating meat but not pork or crustaceans (lobster, crabs, shrimp, etc.) is your choice that’s great too.  In ancient times you might have been better off not eating pork because it caused an infection we know as trichinosis, but so did lots of other foods.  Just a few more reasons “not to believe” everything found in your ancient texts.

My mom believed it about the pork and thus when we had pork chops for dinner they were so well done they tasted and acted like shoe leather!  That was one of the nights I always found a reason to eat at my best friend’s house for dinner.  Another time I bought some “free range chicken” and served it to her for supper.  I was bragging about how great they were and that all the chickens should be freed.  Once again mom told me a “farm story.”  “I fed plenty of chickens on the farm growing up and let me tell you they ate anything and everything in sight, at least this way their waste ends up far enough away that they can’t get at it.” You’ve got to love my mom!

So in this day and age with our education, science, technology, the internet, and more you have the opportunity to be your own researcher and discover about life for yourself.  If following your religious and family traditions is important in your life…go for it.  Just remember that not everything written in them is true…then move full speed ahead and live the life that works for you and spreads peace, love, and compassion wherever you go!

In gassho,

Shokai

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

The other day I was invited to teach a class on Sexual Harassment and Diversity in the Workplace and as I was designing the curriculum I thought about the wonderful “Eightfold path of Buddhism” that we are encouraged to live by as Buddhists.  I thought what a great world this would be if everyone could live by these simple principles of life and how it might bring our country together in peace, love, and compassion.  So I wrote this exercise for them to complete in small groups and then I asked them to come back and share their creations with the full class.

I hope you find this exercise interesting and will try using it at your place of work, place of worship, or organization.  It stimulated lots of conversations and several AH HAs.  Let me know how it worked out!

ingassho

In gassho, Shokai

“The Wise Eightfold Path to Working with Others”

All of these actions can help us work in a diverse workplace with compassion and as a good team player and/or team leader.

Step One: Come up with a team definition for the word Wisdom.  Especially think about the difference between the word “knowledge” and the word “wisdom.”

Step Two: In your small groups make a plan to cultivate these eight items for yourself and your team. What would “Wise Understanding” look like from the perspective of your group. Come to consensus as your team writes each definition so that all team members have input.  Ensure that the definition is action oriented.  What words and actions might you use that would demonstrate “wise understanding” or “wise intention”? Do this for all 8 items. Be prepared to share a synopsis of your group’s discussion and your definitions with the full class.  How might this change your organization, your work environment, your team, and you?

Wise understanding
Wise intention
Wise speech
Wise action
Wise livelihood
Wise effort
Wise mindfulness
Wise concentration.

Read Full Post »

Today we take the opportunity to think about the second of the Eightfold Path taught by Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), “Say nothing to hurt others.” I began my day this morning thinking about an old friend whose friendship had broken up due to hurtful words that had been spoken by her that I observed. I decided then and there that she was not the person that I had grown to know and love then one thing led to another and we, to this day, have not spoken.

Sitting in dokusan [1] with one of my teachers I shared this story with him and the power that those words, both hers and mine, had had in my life. I felt sad about it and wondered what good it had done.

Today I picked up from my bookshelf this wonderful book on ethics co-authored by Norman Vincent Peale and Kenneth Blanchard entitled The Power of Ethical Management (1988). I was curious as to what they had to say about ethics and the power of the word since it had been many years since I had read the book. And to my delight the very first paragraph in the introduction were the exact words I needed to hear.

In writing a book on ethics we are reminded of the story of a young Englishman who had just been elected to Parliament. When he entered the halls for the first time, he approached one of the sages and asked, “Tell me, sir, do you think I should participate in the debate today?”
The old man looked at him with piercing eyes and said, “To be honest, young man, I would recommend that you keep silent. It’s better that people wonder why you didn’t speak than wonder why you did.”

I wonder why I had spoken all those many years ago the way I had and maybe I could have handled the situation in a different manner and we would still be friends. So the Buddha says, “Say nothing to hurt others.” But when someone says something to hurt others in front of you what should you do? How should you handle it? Once handled should you talk about them in a negative way to show how “right” or “righteous” you were to speak up and set her “straight.” I will let each of you, my dear readers, make up your own mind about that, to think about how you have handled similar situations in the past and will handle similar ones in the future.

The authors go on to say:

Both of us agree that ethical behavior is related to self-esteem. We both believe that people who feel good about themselves have what it takes to withstand outside pressure and to do what is right rather than do what is merely expedient, popular, or lucrative.

Dealing with such a topic is like untangling a fishing line. The more you get into it the more complicated it becomes.

So these blog posts I’m writing on ethics will challenge me, expose me, and help me think through what I think, believe, and know about “Zen and Ethics in Business and in Life.” It will help me think before I speak so as not to “say anything to hurt others.” I hope you will take on this assignment for the week and let me know what happens.
In gassho,
Shokai

ingassho

1. Meeting of a Zen student with his/her master in the seclusion of the master’s room. Dokusan is among the most important elements in Zen training. It provides the student an opportunity privately to present to his master all problems relating to his practice.” The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991)

Read Full Post »

The next lines of the Heart Sutra that I will be writing about in Part IV are below:

O Shariputra, all dharmas are forms of emptiness,
Not born, not destroyed;
Not stained, not pure,
Without loss, without gain:
So in emptiness there is no form,
No sensation, conception, discrimination, awareness;

Shohaku Okumura in his wonderful book Living by Vow A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts, writes this about emptiness:

When we say form is emptiness, we negate this body and mind.  When we understand that emptiness is form, we negate emptiness.  Negate means to let go.  To let go of thought means to become free from both sides.  Then we can see reality from both perspectives without being attached to either.  The wisdom of Avalokitesvara is the Middle Way that includes both sides.  It is not something in between this side and that.  From the middle path we see reality from both views, relative and absolute.  We simultaneously negate and affirm both sides.  To let go of thought means to become free from both perspectives and simply be in the middle (reality) (page 154).”[1]

Wow, for me this is a very difficult thing to do.  I have opinions about everything and live my life usually from one side, the left, and the philosophy of Emerson and Thoreau’s Walden Pond. One of my favorite pieces by Emerson was his graduation talk at Harvard that got him kicked out and was not to be invited back to the campus for many, many years.

So it is a challenge for me to be able to do as Okumura says, “become free from both perspectives and simply be in the middle (reality).”  But when we use mindfulness and meditation as a center for our lives it can become easier and easier each day.

My friend Dan Huston, has written a wonderful book that is being used in colleges to teach a different kind of communication skills, Communicating Mindfully, Mindfulness-Based Communication and Emotional Intelligence. He writes about a young student of his who found an opportunity to use what he taught her—merging mindfulness and communication skills—during a speech that one of her classmates was giving on a subject that she held the opposite view point.  The techniques worked and after the class she was able to have a very serious but mindful conversation with her classmate.

Dan wrote:

“That is an important distinction because mindfulness meditation is not about picking and choosing what we want; it is about accepting the reality of each and every moment and making a distinction between what is really happening in those circumstances and what we layer on top of it with our reactions—in this case, the circumstances of her reality were growing potentially hostile because of the addition of Jill’s [the speaker] anger and frustration.  Fortunately, she [the listener and mindfulness communication student] was able to recognize those feelings as they emerged.  She accepted them but did not encourage them with self-talk that could have fueled the fire within her; consequently, those emotions were not allowed to grow in intensity.  She noticed them, and let them go (page 239).[2]

Remember what Okamura said: To let go of thought means to become free from both perspectives and simply be in the middle (reality). So the next time you get the opportunity to listen remind yourself of what Stahl and Goldstein recommend in their mindfulness training manual A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, “We all want to be heard. It’s essential to feeling understood, accepted, and loved.  When we sense that others are truly listening, our fears and defenses tend to fade away, paving the way for greater connection, empathy, and peace in the relationship (page 164).”[3]  And it helps us live the middle (reality) way—without loss, without gain!

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin listening in the “middle way” to everyone I meet.

2.  I will remind myself that doing this can help me create greater connections, empathy and peace in all of my relationships.

3.  When I get stuck I will remember that I can “negate” those thoughts, I can let them go, and free myself from “both sides.”

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 Text. Wisdom Publications: Somerville, MA

[2] Huston, D. (2010) Communicating Mindfully Mindfulness-Based Communication and Emotional Intelligence. Cengage Learning: Mason, Ohio

[3] Stahl, B. and Goldstein, E. (2010) A Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Workbook. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.: Oakland, CA

Read Full Post »

Dr. Jan Chozen Bays in her book How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness created an exercise she calls “Listen like a Sponge.”  She describes it thus: Listen to other people as if you were a sponge, soaking up whatever the other person says.  Let the mind be quiet, and just take it in.  Don’t formulate any response in the mind until a response is requested or obviously needed (p. 158).”

I use this exercise in many of my workshops and trainings regardless of the topic.  I don’t care if the class is on English grammar, listening, communication, supervision, customer service, or team building—everyone needs to improve his or her ability to listen and think, to open the mind, to listen and think outside the box, to take the time to listen and think without judgment, and only then to evaluate the other person’s words before speaking.

Sadly though, we do not!  I know that I have been, and sometimes still am, a very poor listener.  I can remember many times in the past when one of my friends would call while I was in the middle of doing something on the computer and I would be “listening” to him or her and would still be typing or “so called” multitasking at the same time.  One day my girlfriend hollered out, “You’re not listening I can hear you typing in the background!”  She was right, I really was not listening.

I can recall when I was a young child, needless to say I was a talker, and I would come home from school and tell my mother everything that had happened to me from the time I got on the school bus till I returned home.  One day I was sharing my story while my mother was peeling potatoes at the sink and I asked her a question.  Much to my chagrin she did not answer.  So I asked the question just a little bit louder, and once again she did not answer.  So I gave a third try, and still no response.  So I yelled out, “Mother you’re not listening!” She spun around with potato peeler in hand and said, “If I listened to all five of you kids every time you talked I’d be in the nut house already!”

Wow, what a rude awakening I had that not everything I had to say, or every thought I had in my head was important or needed to be said out loud!  However, if my quiet and shy sister had come in and said something I am sure that my mother would have spun around with potato peeler in hand and listened intently.  Why?  Because she only spoke when absolutely necessary, she was slight on words and expressed herself often through drawing and art.  At one time in my life I thought she might even become a famous cartoonist.

So how good are you at listening?  Dr. Bays goes on to write, “Good psychotherapists use absorptive listening.  They are attuned to the subtle changes in tone or quality of voice that indicate something deeper than the words, even belying the words, a sticking place, hidden tears or anger that needs to be explored (159).”  How many times have you greeted someone in the morning and said, “How are things going today?”  Their response was “fine” or “okay.” And then later in the day you found out from someone that the person was not “fine” or “okay” and that something tragic, or sad, or painful had happened to him or her.

How could you have missed it–because you did not listen like a sponge.  You did not, as the good psychotherapists encourage us to do, use absorptive listening; you did not focus on the deepness of the words, the tone of the words, the hidden tears in his or her eyes.  Indeed, you may not have made eye contact with him or her at all!

The opposite is also true, you may have found out that something fabulous, fun, or life changing in a positive way had happened to him or her.  Yet, you were so engrossed in not listening or seeing the joy that you only found out about it from a co-worker or friend after your initial cursory/obligatory greeting in the morning.

Dr. Bays asks us to think about how many times we “check-out” while someone is speaking.  In the middle of a conversation you’re thinking about your grocery list, or what you are going to have for lunch, or about that golf game you played on Saturday.  Being a great listener is not easy!  But it is imperative if you want to be a good friend, family member, teacher, boss, employee, counselor, minister, store clerk, or gardener.

To be a good listener we have to “want” to listen.  We have to find something to focus our attention on, to find some good reason to listen.  I remember many years ago I had this wonderfully intelligent minister who was a master teacher of metaphysics, yet every Sunday I found his talks to be disjointed, jumping from one idea to another without any links or connections as to how he got from one thought to the other.  I began to “not listen” to be thinking “I wonder when this is going to be over so we can go to brunch.”  Then one day I found something important in his talk that changed something for the better in my life and I was so glad I had listened at that moment.

I learned a great lesson that day, and from that day forward I made a plan to become a better listener.  I set a goal for myself that each Sunday I would listen wholeheartedly to find one gem, one diamond amongst those words that could potentially change my life, or help me deal with a challenge in my life, or to help a friend or family member over a hill they were trying to climb.  And guess what?  I did and I could.  From that day forward every Sunday I found some simple words of wisdom in his talk that made my life easier, better, happier, or simply gave me a chuckle or a laugh.  My life was ever changed for the better!

You too can learn to “listen like a sponge.”  What does a sponge do anyway?  It absorbs everything that comes its way.  I encourage you to make a sign to put over your desk and on your bathroom mirror that simply says, “listen like a sponge” and whenever you see it ask yourself—how  absorbent have I been today!

Hey, I wish you good luck with that…did you hear me?  Good luck with that…

Read Full Post »