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Posts Tagged ‘David Baird’

Paramita #9 Loving Kindness…the Bodhisattva way

“The teaching of Mahayana Buddhism, the teaching of Zen, is the teaching of love, not hate.  My teacher did not teach people to hate one another, he taught people to love one another (Anderson page 178).” So writes Reb Anderson in his wonderful book Being Upright Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts. So what we are talking about here is not romantic love, but agape love, the love of humanity with all its frailties, foibles, and mistakes.  Loving kindness when it is hard, when it is not deserved, when it is well deserved, and when it is simply plain fun.

This is the way of the adept, the Bodhisattva, the monk, the minister, the rabbi, the priest, and the wayfarer. When a person is surrounded by the idea of loving kindness inside and out it can be seen on his or her face, heard in his or her voice, and noticed in the actions taken.

Are we all perfectly loving and kind all the time?  Not hardly, but to be so more often than not David Baird says, “We must learn from the past, prepare for the future, and live in the present (Baird page 161).”[1] To do so we may want to take an inventory of the times in the past when we were not practicing loving kindness, and when we were practicing loving kindness, and then look at the things we need to do to prepare for the future opportunities that may appear to practice loving kindness.  How do we do that—by living in the present!  In this very present moment when I am living mindfully I am fully conscious of my thoughts, feelings, and actions and if I catch myself being unkind I can quickly and immediately make a 180 degree turn and show loving kindness.

Sitting, meditating, and praying on a regular basis will make this happen more often, it will make it much easier to catch ourselves in the moment and ultimately improve our relationships with everyone we meet be they family, friends, co-workers, customers, bosses, inmates, or strangers.

When we do this Reb Anderson tells us there is light at the end of the tunnel.  “You practice being upright to generate love, not to generate states of mind. States of mind come and go, and happiness comes and goes; but love can be developed so that it doesn’t come and go (Anderson, page 26).”[2]  We can learn to love the person and not the actions.  We can learn to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes and thus show loving kindness for the pain and anguish they may be in.

Many people walk around with very low self-esteem, with voices in their heads that remind them of the hundreds of times they may have been put down, marginalized, or physically or mentally abused when growing up.  For these people loving kindness was never shown to them and so they have no example to pattern themselves after.  These, my friends, are people who need more loving kindness than your average Jane or Joe.

This week we will practice loving kindness when it is easy, when it is hard, and when it is fun.  We will be given many opportunities to do it I am sure!  There is never a moment when loving kindness cannot be displayed.  Keep an inventory of how many opportunities you were given each day, notice where they came from and how you responded to them.  If you were unable to respond with loving kindness do not be unkind to yourself.  Simply look at your behavior and what triggered it and determine to not let that trigger take you away from showing loving kindness in the future.

It will take practice with some people and some situations, but it will be well-worth it in the end.  You will see your triggers getting smaller, and lighter, and appearing less often.  You will find solace and peace in the action of loving kindness and just maybe you may see it returned in kind.  Keep your eyes and ears open for that! Loving kindness is on its way to you today! Namaste…


[1] Baird, D. (2000), A Thousand Paths to Enlightenment. London, England: MQ Publications Limited

[2] Anderson, R. (2001). Being Upright Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts. Berkeley, CA: Rodmell Press.

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Chill out I said to my 92-year-old mother with Alzheimer’s as she was pacing around the house for about one hour saying “let’s get out of here.”   Needless-to-say, we had just come home from running errands, volunteering at her church with the clean-up committee, grocery shopping, and visiting the library.  I thought about her and 99.9% of the rest of us running away from silence, quiet, peace, sitting and simply enjoying doing nothing!

When did we unlearn the art of leisure?  If we watch some old black-and-white movies we often see people in lawn chairs reading, or writing a note to a long lost friend, or sharing a glass of lemonade with a family member or neighbor.  We may even see them taking a leisurely stroll on the shore, through the woods, or across a large green expanse with wild flowers strewn about.

My best friend Pat gave me a wonderful little book by David Baird, A Thousand Paths to enlightenment (2000), and in it he wrote, “There is no greater curse than the lack of contentment.”  What does contentment mean to you?  If you were asked to define it what would you say?  If you were asked to give an example out of your life what would it be?  How long would it take you to remember it?  How long ago was it?  Mine was just last night.

As I waited to pick up a friend from his new job I gave myself time to listen to a beautiful CD that I checked out from the library entitled “Holy Harmony” by Jonathan Goldman.  When I read the back of the case it said it was specifically written for deep relaxation and healing.  After a busy day of work and errands and helping my mom and my friend I sure could use some relaxation.   And boy did I get it!  The CD is one track that lasts 72 minutes.

I turned down the lights, propped myself up on my bed with a bundle of lovely pillows, put the ear buds in and spent the next 72 minutes in another world.  Only a few times did any thoughts enter my mind beyond the thought of how relaxed I was, or how beautiful the chant was. I repeated the words a few times to embed them in my memory, creating new synapses that I could recall when I needed the relaxation and did not have access to the CD.

How fantastic the mind is when we just let it relax for a few minutes.  Les Kaye in his insightful book, Zen at Work (1996), writes, “Our minds move constantly: we cannot stop them.  If we try to stop our minds, we do not understand their nature.  Zen practice is to stay aware of our moving minds to recognize their movement but not be distracted by it.  Not being distracted by our moving minds is how we quiet them.  So there is no need to try to stop our minds.  We just try not to be caught by their movement.  Then we can see how things really are (page 129).”

Whether you practice Zen or any other contemplative practice you can still learn how to “chill-out.” I read a book many years ago that asked the reader to spend 24 hours in bed when they were NOT sick—just to see if they could do it.  The author said that most people cannot do it!  We have this Puritan work ethic drilled in us that tells us that unless we are “doing” we are “nothing” or “no one.”  Yet, all the great thinkers, philosophers, and spiritual leaders throughout time took many hours and even many years just sitting,  or meditating,  or praying, or walking, or hiking around their countries contemplating the beauty of their mind and spirit.

Let’s take the time this year to find as many places and ways as possible to simply “chill out.”  Discover for yourself what that word means, what it looks like, what it feels like, and respect and love yourself enough to go forward with your chill-out time!  If you don’t you just may end up dead in mind, body, or spirit from the stress of non-chilling!  Goodness gracious that would not be an adventure you would want to embark upon for 2013—would it now?!

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