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Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

My special friend, Dr. Davele Bursor, and I went on Sunday to the beautiful Center for Spiritual Living (formerly Science of Mind Church) in Boca Raton and when I opened the bulletin they had a little prayer card in there with this affirmation on it: Today I use kindness plentifully in every thought, act, and circumstance.

Yet, when I got home and turned on the TV there was very little kindness being projected toward people of all political persuasions, religions, ethnic groups, and professions.  It seems that we’ve forgotten the basic ideas of what it takes to make a country livable, one that will grow and prosper and be a safe place in which to grow up, raise our children, and live a happy, healthy, peaceful, and successful life.

Civility has left the discourse and simple religious and spiritual principles have gone out the window. There are “Dragons in the Trees” as one of our Zen members, Lawrence Janssen, writes in his book of poetry Zen Paradox: No Knowing.

Mara the prince of darkness
Exuberantly dances from cloud to cloud
Dragons silently wait in withered trees
No howls of approval or broken rice bowlsbridgewood-white-tree-flower.b
Only swords readied for an execution
Nobel truth twisted and distorted
With cunning argumentation
We witness the ritual of self immolation
As vultures circle endlessly
Overwhelmed by shame and guilt
The teacher raises a flower in hope
The compassionate words and nurturing spirit
Of Bodhidharma echo in the land (page 23)![1]

Too few voices “echo in the land” for kindness for our brothers and sisters around the world—so let us be the voice of reason, of love, and of kindness during this troubling time.  Begin by being kind to yourself.  Then move that energy out into your family, friends, co-workers, and strangers.  Be the voice of reason; raise the flower of hope with your compassionate words as Larry encourages us to do!

Let’s do it! You’ll meet your good today when you help others meet theirs!

In gassho,

Shokai

[1] Janssen, L.I. (2013) Zen Paradox: No Knowing. Xlibris.com

2 http://listeningwiththeeye.squarespace.com/galleries/bridgewood-white-tree-flower

 

 

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Napoleon Hill the author of Think and Grow Rich (1960) wrote this great poem about the law of autosuggestion: “The subconscious mind will translate into reality a thought driven by fear just as readily as it will translate into reality a thought driven by courage, or faith (pages 56-57).”[1] That is why when we sit in Buddhism we do not hold on to our thoughts be they positive or negative.  Thoughts have weight and measure and that is why in meditation we see them floating like a cloud in the sky weightless and changing in measure every second as it moves round the earth. We simply let them pass through like fast moving clouds on a summer day.

He also wrote this great poem.

If you think you are beaten, you are,napoleon-hill-quote
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will—
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man WHO THINKS HE CAN (pages 56-57)!

And in the Three Pure Precepts we are told that “A disciple of the Buddha vows to actualize good for others.” How do we do that?  By our thoughts of course—which turn into our behaviors of course!  So once you have finished sitting you can go about your life thinking and remember the power of “autosuggestion” because it hears those thoughts as good or bad, positive or negative, or neutral.

So focus your thoughts on actualizing good for others and that guarantees you’ll meet your good today and so will they! Let me know how that works out!

In gassho, Shokai

Footnote: Sorry I have not changed the poem to an inclusive gender it is difficult to do in poetry that was written so long ago.  So please read in the gender that works for you.   Thanks!

[1] Hill, N. (1960) Think and Grow Rich Greenwich, CT: A Fawcett Crest Book

  1. http://www.beardoilandcroissants.com/how-napoleon-hill-think-and-grow-rich-author-has-changed-my-life/

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My quote today is by Russell Simmons from his wonderful book, Success through Stillness Meditation Made Simple.  In his chapter entitled “The Heaviness of Success and Failure” he quotes this phrase from the Bhagavad Gita “You have control over your work alone, never the fruit (page 116).”[1] Then he writes

There are a lot of different ways you could interpret that passage, but to me it’s always meant “Stop worrying about how much money you make off your work (the fruit) and instead just stay focused on your work itself.” Because when you embrace the process of your work, instead of focusing on the results, you’ll always be happier, plus do a much better job (page 116).[1]

For some your work may be school, some may be working on friendships and/or relationships, or working to stay clean and straight and not use. For others you may be thinking about a paid job where you earn your living.  In life we want to be successful in all aspects of our lives not just at the so-called work that we may do for a living to support ourselves and our families.

 

I wonder what our lives would look like if we had the same definition as Russell Simmons. There are so many Thich Nhat Hanhpeople throughout history that we could point to who simply did the “work” without focusing on the outcome or the money or the fruits of that labor. In Buddhism we study people like Thich Nhat Hanh who started out as a young Buddhist student, then monk, then founded the Engaged Buddhism movement in response to the Vietnam War. From there he served as the delegate for the Buddhist Peace Delegation at the Paris Peace talks in 1969 and the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 to help end the war. Today he lives in Plum Village in France surrounded by his students and friends.[1]

Or what about those adventurous people in history like the Englishman Doctor David Livingstone who went to Africa in 1840 with two goals: to explore the continent and to end the slave trade.  In 1871 Henry Morton Stanley went to find the then “missing” Dr. Livingston.  Eight months later he found him and upon meeting is to have said these famous words, “Dr. Livingston, I presume.”[2]

Success does not mean that you have to be as brave as Thich Nhat Hanh or as adventurous as Dr. Livingston and Henry Stanley, but I hope that it does mean you look within and discover your passion and run to it. Live it. Love it. Discover it. Find it. Share it. Meet it.

How far will you go for your goals, passions, and dreams? What will you do for success? Where will you meet your success today?  Keep me posted I can’t wait to hear!

In gassho

Shokai

[1] Simmons, R. (2014) Success Through Stillness Meditation Made Simple. NY, NY:

Gotham Books

[3] http://www.lionsroar.com/thich-nhat-hanh/?goal=0_1988ee44b2-cc25a1b6a0-20869581&mc_cid=cc25a1b6a0&mc_eid=f78b7768c4

[4] http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/stanley.htm

 

 

 

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Health is a state of mind as well as a state that the body and mind either has or does not have.  We often take our health for granted and do things that are detrimental to the body such as improper eating, lack of exercise, lack of mental calmness and fortitude, abuse of substances, and more.  We cannot abandon the mind/body connection in this life unless we are dead set against living.  The fact is living can be hard at times. However, I always find that much better than the alternative.

Book Cover How To Train a Wild ElephantDr. Jan Chozen Bays author of How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness (2011), has a great exercise that I recommend for everyone who feels limited in health of mind, body, and/or spirit. She is a physician and Zen teacher who has written this great book filled with easy exercises to invite mindfulness, meditation, and concentration into our lives in a fun and playful way!

She calls this exercise “Loving-Kindness for the Body” below are the directions for the exercise.

The Exercise: For one week, practice loving-kindness toward the body.  Spend at least five or ten minutes a day with this practice. It could be during your meditation time. Sit down in a comfortable chair and breathe normally. On each in-breath, be aware of fresh oxygen and vital energy entering your body. On each out-breath, send this energy throughout your body along with these silent words: “May you be free from discomfort. May you be at ease. May you be healthy.”

Eventually you can simplify this process by just saying “ease” with the out-breath. Any time during the day when your attention is drawn toward your body (when you see yourself in a mirror or when you feel discomfort), send loving-kindness to the body, even if only briefly (page 211).

A healthy body, mind, and spirit makes life so much more fun!  I hope you’ll try it out and let me know how it goes!  I hope you’ll buy her book and work through all of the exercises in it. Meet your good health today! It will transform your life in many ways!  I know that from experience.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

 

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Faith is a very broad topic and means many different things to many different people.  How can I “meet” my faith today anyway?  It’s not like faith is walking down the street in a shiny new pair of shoes and a red dress or a blue suit. James Russell Lowell said “Science was faith once.”  And my favorite Unity minister and author H. Emily Cady wrote this about faith:

The word faith is one that has generally been thought to denote a simple form of belief based mostly on ignorance and superstition.  Blind faith they have disdainfully chosen to call it—fit only for ministers, women, and children, but not a practical thing on which to establish everyday business affairs of life (page 71).[1]

In the Lotus Sutra in Mahayana Buddhism it links the idea of faith to discernment.

“If any living beings who seek after the Buddha-way either see or hear this Law-Flower sutra [i.e. the Lotus Sutra], and after hearing it believe and discern, receive and keep it, you may know that they are near perfect enlightenment.

The same sutra asserts that the Dharma as a whole is difficult to grasp with mere words, and that ultimately only those bodhisattvas who believe with firm faith can penetrate its nature. The Buddha says:

This Law [Dharma] is inexpressible,
It is beyond the realm of terms;
Among all the other living beings
None can apprehend it
Except the bodhisattvas
Who are firm in the power of faith.[19][1]

And thus we see that in both Christianity and Buddhism the idea of faith is important to help us live a fulfilling life.  We all have faith in somethings and people and not in others.  How hard it is to “keep the faith” in times of trouble, stress, and doubt.  And yet if we believe in our self, in our capacity to love, to think, and to learn all things are possible.

Remember “all things are possible to those who believe.” For those who do not “believe” nothing is possible.  You can only work up to your level of belief in life whether it is in education, employment, or love.  If you cannot see yourself doing it, attaining it or gaining it –it will always be outside your grasp.

The skies the limit for those who believe and without hesitation move forward one step at a time toward it!  Think back upon a time when you had doubt—what happened?  Now think back upon a time when you had faith—what happened?   Cady writes, “In some way, then, we understand that whatever we want is in this surrounding invisible substance, and faith is the power that can bring it out into actuality to us.”

So stay “firm in the power of faith” don’t walk toward it—run toward it and it will meet you beyond the horizon of doubt and mistrust!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith_in_Buddhism#Faith_as_refuge

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

 

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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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When deciding what to write about I had trouble coming up with something special so I turned around to my bookshelf, as usual, and a very weathered and yellowed book by Les Kaye jumped out at me: Zen at Work, A Zen Teacher’s 30-Year Journey in Corporate America.  I quickly flipped through the pages looking for that ever present yellow marker and my eyes caught a chapter entitled “True Nature.”

Wow, it would be great to meet my true nature today and thus I read on…

The point of Zen practice is to let go of ideas about boundaries and to feel our limitless true nature.  When we express our limitless true minds, we understand that there are no boundaries and no center (page 16).[1]

And so how do we live this “limitlessness?”  Kaye and I have created a list of does and don’ts.

Begin with these ideas in mind:

DON’T_jones-gap-stream-1

  • Don’t be afraid
  • Don’t grasp after it
  • Don’t look for a road map
  • Don’t cling to it
  • Don’t get sidetracked by comfort, pleasure, or desire

DOsmoky-mountain-stream-copy1 Morningjoy weblog

  • Do remember we really have “nowhere to go”
  • Do open yourself to the limitless Big Mind
  • Do let Big Mind be your guide
  • Do let your limitless true nature express itself
  • Do know that wisdom IS your true nature
  • Do realize your inherent completeness

Picture these ideas as stepping stones in a mountain stream. The first stream is filled with boulders and rushing water that keep you from crossing and moving toward your limitlessness. The second stream is filled with rocks that allow you to cross easily and discover your limitlessness.  Which stream are you in?

In gassho, Shokai

[1] Kaye L. (1996) Zen at Work A Zen Teacher’s 30-Year Journey in Corporate America. NY, NY: Three Rivers Press

[2] B&W Picture http://listeningwiththeeye.squarespace.com/galleries/recent-works-2012/ from my teacher Mitch Doshin Cantor’s work

[3] Morningjoy.wordpress.com picture Mountain Vistas Weblog

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What is love in the spiritual sense?

We see that this love is not something far-off, nor is it anything that can come to us.  It is already a part of our being, already established within us; and more than that, it is universal and impersonal.  As this universal and impersonal love flows out from us, we begin to love our neighbor, because it is impossible to feel this love for God within us and not love our fellow man (page 66-67.)[1]

~Joel S. Goldsmith

It just happens to be Father’s Day when I am writing on this topic of “love.”  Some of us have been born lucky into a family where our father was a great dad, loving, kind, sharing, supportive and more and for others not so much.  But in everyone’s life there is a person who fills that roll.  It could be a friend, uncle, grandfather, teacher, minister, neighbor, or coach.  So this blog is dedicated to everyone who has inspired someone to be the best they can be, consoled someone when they were sad or afraid, and loved someone just for who they were—a perfectly divine and lovable being. They see a person that is loved beyond their actions or words in a given situation or in spite of them.

Every time I walk into our prison sangha to share the teachings of Buddhism with our members “behind the fence” I am reminded of that truth.  If I did not know that I was in a prison and I was just dropped into the room unaware of its location I would have thought that I was in the midst of a study group of monks and priests practicing and living a life of peace, love, and compassion for all.  They are such a great demonstration of what some might term “fatherly love.”  They support each other, share, praise, and love each other as the divine beings that they were created to be.

Love is not something that you get out of a bottle or can create in a high school science lab.  It is not something that you can buy in a store or on line from Amazon.  It does not come from the US Post Office or FedEx. It comes from each individual when their hearts and minds meld together supported by feelings and actions that are loving, compassionate, and sometimes firm when need be. All the money in the world could not buy it.  It is not for sale. It does not have to be earned, nor can it be.

Love simply exists in the universe as an energy that we are born with, an energy that exits everywhere and thus in everything.  When we open our hearts and minds to this truth of our being all doors can be opened and all hearts can be repaired.  I have seen it with my own eyes in our prison ministry each and every day.

I encourage you all to meet your good today and every day by living your life through the words of Emmet Fox and watch your life be transformed!

emmet-foxs-Love

In gassho, Shokai

[1] Goldsmith, J.S. (1958) Practicing the Presence: The Inspirational Guide to Regaining Meaning and A Sense of Purpose in Your Life HarperSanFrancisco:CA

 

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“All the great prophets taught that you will find a sense of peace and purpose in stillness.  They all wanted you to be able to find peace within yourself (page 42).”

~Russell Simmons (Success through Stillness)

Stillness can be seen sometimes out my office window when not a single leaf is moving on the trees. Sometimes I see stillness in my dog Annie as she lays contentedly next to me sleeping in her little bed.  At times she is so still that I have to look at her stomach to see if she is still breathing!

I find stillness in my mind and body when I am sitting each morning meditating.  I even have felt stillness as I’ve sipped my morning coffee savoring the taste of it on my tongue, feeling the warmth of it moving down my throat while breathing in the fragrance of the coffee and the hazelnut creamer.

Stillness can be found anywhere and anytime if you are looking for it. Even at the Fourth of July fireworks celebration you can be so focused on the beauty of the fireworks and the sound of them that your entire being is one with them.  You are so connected that you don’t hear the screams of the children or the barking of the dogs.

Stillness is not a thing—it is a place that we go when our minds are focused so thoroughly on one thing that time has stopped and space and eternity is everywhere in that moment of stillness.  When I was a child I loved to read the Nancy Drew mysteries.  I was there in the stillness of the book and the moment.  I was Nancy walking, running, jumping, solving the mystery.  I sat still for hours on the couch or on my bed engrossed in the book. There were many days when my mother would literally have to walk into the room and shake me to get my attention.  She was so exasperated that I did not respond to her calling my name to come in for supper.

Stillness, what is it really?  What mysteries does it hold? Oh, the places you will go! There is no time in stillness.  Stillness can last a nanosecond or an hour without differentiation.  We welcome stillness sometimes when things are getting too busy at work, school, or home.  We crave it when we are stuck in activity, thinking, emotions, and the adrenaline rush!

Such is a time to hold up a big STOP sign in your mind.  Such is a time to take hold of your breath and breathe three times slowly simply counting one on the in breath and two on the out breath. To find stillness in the breath, to live between the heart beats, where eternity lives is divine.

Take charge of your life, find time every day, as often as possible for a “stillness break” instead of a coffee break or an ice cream break!  Meet the peace within yourself. You’ll be glad you did—so will everyone around you, I’m sure!

Let’s meet in the stillness where we will definitely find our good today! See you there! I await your presence!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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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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