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Posts Tagged ‘contemplation’

Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano writes in his introduction:Landscapes of Wonder book cover

The faith of the Buddhist grows out of experience fortified by instruction.  The Buddha shows how to make the journey out of suffering to emancipation, and if we feel quickening of interest we can take steps ourselves to investigate and to test what we have learned. This collection of essays is about finding the right direction and then moving forward with mindfulness and deliberation (page xi).

I hope that sharing these ideas and my musings about them will help you discover the power of your practice, to allow it to enlighten and brighten your life, to help bring you to a place of peace, love, and compassion for self and others each and every day.

This journey is never an easy one because we are required to look within, to set aside time to mediate, contemplate, and to push through our fears, anxieties, old beliefs, and doubts.  However, with determination, concentration, and support from the author and others on the path all things are possible!

Bhikkhu goes on to write:

Fortunately the teaching of the Buddha is universal, giving us the chance not just to admire what others have admired but to make our own search—to observe, meditate, and discover through our own efforts (page xii).

Thus, it does not matter if you were raised in a non-religious household or a religious one of any denomination or teaching truth is truth no matter where it comes from.  In your life I know that you have discovered what you believe through actions propelled from book learning, intuition, help from another, or seemingly by accident.  It does not matter how it came the important thing is that it did.  It gave you that cosmic AH HA! Or Yikes—Or Oh my god!  It could have felt like you were hit with a hammer, a banana, or a cream pie, but hit you were!

I hope our wandering through this wonderful book will give you many cosmic experiences! Good luck with that…

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healing-anger-the-dalai-lama-book-cover

Emerson: Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.[1]

The Dalai Lama: Patience cannot be cultivated in isolation from other people.[2]

As students of Buddhism we are given the opportunity in the West to practice as lay people and live at home, go to work, run our errands, raise our families, take care of our elderly parents, and more.  Each of which can cause us to—as they say “lose our patience” very easily.

When things don’t go my way, or I encounter people who don’t think like me, or talk fast enough, or clean up after themselves I lose my patience.  Thus I am given hundreds of opportunities each and every day to cultivate the principle of patience.

I suppose if I were like the Buddhist monks of old who found a cave at the top of a mountain and simply spent all day meditating and looking at a wall with the only interruption being a small curious animal that might arrive and stare in wonderment at the person sitting facing the wall—what would I have gained in the way of patience? Other then maybe cultivating the patience to reach my goal of “enlightenment” and being inpatient about its arrival.

So let’s try Emerson’s way to cultivate the art of patience by looking at nature.  Spring has the patience to wait until winter has decided to be done.  Summer has the patience to wait until fall arrives to begin its nap and get some rest.  The tulips have the patience to wait till the ground thaws just enough so they can begin pushing their way up through the earth and reach the sunlight. The beauty that comes from the tulips in your garden makes the process and the time so worthwhile for those of us who have the patience to wait for their arrival and don’t run off to the flower shop to buy some there instead.

And so when we sit and meditate we are given the opportunity to practice patience.  Patience with our body as it aches, or with our Monkey Mind as it keeps interrupting, and our breath as it moves slower and deeper the longer we sit.  It is a great place to practice and cultivate patience. With no judgment of right or wrong, good or bad, simply as they say: Waiting for Godot.

What situations in your life are arriving to help you develop and sustain patience in your life?  If we let them they can bring us great pain, suffering, anger, and annoyance.  Or we can enjoy the journey, allow the journey to reveal its “secrets” in its own time and be open to receive its gifts with joy and at nature’s perfect timing.

Good luck with that.  Let me know how it works out as soon as you can!

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com (page 1)

[2] The Dalai Lama, Translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa. (1997) Healing Anger the Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications

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Emerson: “There is no planet, sun or star could hold you if you but knew what you are.”

Shodo Hashodo-harada-roshi-sanzenrada Roshi in his beautiful book, Moon By The Window, wrote:

“In a dualistic world we will fumble and fall. When we see with the eyes of the Buddha, we know the joy of the Dharma [teachings] in daily life. We become one with the heavens and earth, and there is no longer any division between inside and outside (page 169).”[1]

We are made up of stars and light and when we use the talent, energy, compassion, and love of which we were born all things are possible.  We have sent spaceships to Mars, found cures for diseases that in the past had destroyed civilizations, we have created music, and dance, and poetry, and literature that has moved millions.  It is possible to be one with each of these things as we travel through life on planet Earth. I know because I have done it at a Cherokee Indian Fire Walk with Unity Minister Edwene Gaines on a dark night in an Alabama forest during one of her workshops

That is who we are. That is what we are. Shodo Harada Roshi goes on to write, “We have to throw away our small way of thinking and live in a place where we hold on to nothing whatsoever. It’s here that we discover the Buddha, and there is nothing sturdier than the strength that comes from this discovery.  The Buddha discovered that he was a part of the “all” as he awoke under the Bodai tree and taught us that through our direct experience we could realize that as well (page 169).”

As Louise Howard and Chris Riddell illustrate in their book Buddhism for Sheep: “Train your mind iBuddhism for Sheept is the source of everything.”[2] As we sit in zazen (meditation) we are training our minds to “throw away our small way of thinking and to hold on to nothing.” Then and only then can we know what we are—a piece of the heavens and the earth.

As Emerson said, “know what you are.” Sheep or not sheep…that is the question.

Shokai

[1] Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com (page 25)

[2] Harada, S. (2011) Moon by the Window, The Calligraphy and Zen Insights of Shodo Harada. Boston, MA: Wisdom Press.

[3] Riddell C.,  Howard, L. (1996) Buddhism for Sheep. London, England: Ebury Press

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Ralph Waldo Emerson “We are always getting ready to live, but never living.”[1]

What does that quote mean to you?

In Zen we have a practice of sitting zazen or meditating and Katageri Roshi, one of the most recognized Zen Buddhist priests in America, wrote this about the junction of these two ideas: living and buddha-nature. He says, “Don’t attach to thoughts and emotions, just let them return to emptiness. Just be present there and swim in buddha-nature (page xiii).” [1]

Just be “present” be ready to live each and every moment.  As I found my mind wandering in meditation this morning I realized that I had just squandered away several minutes of my life!  I just gave up the “present moment.” I missed the experience of the feel of the cushion beneath me, of hearing the breath of those near me, of the sounds of the cars driving by on the road, and of the birds chirping in the trees.

I forgot to live!  What I was doing was getting ready to live later on by creating a conversation with someone in my head that may or may not even happen in the future. I was “getting ready to live” but not really living.

The Teachings of Ptahhotep tells us to “Follow your heart as long as you live (page 21).”[2] But if you are living in the future with thoughts and fears, or living in the past with memories and regrets you are not actually “living.” What is your heart telling you to do right now?  What are you doing right now? What are you thinking right now?  Are you getting ready to live or are you actually living?

“Swim in buddha-nature” means to be fully present in the now moment. I love the picture that comes into my mind when he uses the word “swim.” I can see myself in the swimming pool at my grandmother’s house and since I could not swim on top of the water I had to always swim under the water there I was surrounded by buddha-nature above, below, and around me: swimming in buddha-nature.

I was really living!  I had to be perfectly present in that moment in order to hold my breath, keep my eyes out for others swimming in the pool who might not see me below, and still keep swimming.  I had to keep my mind on how long I could hold my breath, and when I was close to running out of air, and when it was time to start swimming to the top!  One time I did not realize how deep I had gone and I panicked and thought I was going to drown! But alas, I was swimming in buddha-nature” and made it safely to the top before I ran out of breath.

Don’t be following what Emerson said, “We are always getting ready to live, but never living.” Don’t be that person! Be the one that is swimming through life with happiness and glee! Following your heart with each breath—in each moment.

Let me know how that “living” is going!

Shokai

[1] Okumura, S. (2012) Living by Vow Wisdom Publications: Boston, MA

[2] Hillard A.G. Williams, L. & N. Damali Editors. (1987) The Teachings of Ptahhotep The Oldest Book in the World. Blackwood Press: Atlanta, GA.

[1] [1] Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. http://www.odeliafloris.com

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I opened up one of my favorite books by Kazuaki Tanahashi, Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary, looking for some sage advice today and sure enough I got it!

Setting Out The Bowls

We now set out
utensils of the Tathagata.
May the three wheels in boundlessness[1]
be equally liberated![2]oryoki style eating

In Buddhist monasteries you may sit and eat in oryoki style which is sitting on the floor with your bowls of food in front of you.  The word oryoki roughly means “that which contains just enough.”[1]  When you are ordained you receive these three bowls nested together with chopsticks and wrapped in a napkin. Additionally, you carry these with you wherever you travel.  This allows you to dine sitting anywhere.

When was the last time you took a meal where you focused your time and energy on the eating.  Where you did not fill the plate to over flowing and eat way too much—but just enough to be satisfied.  If you focus your attention on the food and savor the textures and the flavors and the smells your food will taste better, it will satisfy you more, and the process will ultimately have you eating less.

You will be liberated from indigestion that is caused by the ruminations controlling your mind from the day or the week of that nasty boss, or the bills, or the fears and anxieties of everyday living.  You can focus on the boundlessness of that liberation and know that through silence comes liberation, whether the silence is during a meal, during your meditation, walking the dog, or at break during your workday.

Our lives are filled with noise from the TV, radio, cellphone, traffic, people talking, children crying, or the chatter inside our heads.  Silence is a “utensil” that you can use to clear your mind and body of irritations, “stinkin thinkin,” and more.  Silence can bring you liberation from the self-talk and exaggerations that we create about our life and its circumstances.  Liberate yourself from hyperbole, and critical thinking, and see how peaceful your life can be.  See how filled with gratitude, love, and compassion it can be. Then watch your physical ails slowly disappear into nothingness.

Remember you are boundless and limitless only if you think you are! Create your own “three wheels” of peace, love, and compassion in your body, mind, and spirit then watch what happens in your life—liberation!

Let me know how it goes!

ingassho

Shokai

[1] The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen  (1991) Shambhala Press:Boston
[2] The three wheels of boundlessness:
The Four Noble Truths
Emptiness
Buddha Nature
[3] Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambala: Boston & London

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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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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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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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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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“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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