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Posts Tagged ‘death’

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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The power of a smile is incredible.  When you see a little baby grin from ear to ear it sure does warm your heart.  When you see a group of people smiling and laughing it seems contagious–kind of like a yawn!  Take a moment and simply smile. Then focus on how it feels and what it does to you physically, emotionally, and mentally.  If it feels good you might think about smiling more often.

Have you ever known someone whose mouth actually was in the shape of a frown 24/7?

Here is a quote from an article in Psychology Today by Sarah Stevenson entitled “There’s Magic in Your Smile.”  Her article helps decipher the mystery of the smile.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

For starters, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress (3). Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. They facilitate messaging to the whole body when we are happy, sad, angry, depressed, excited. The feel good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well (4). This not only relaxes your body, but it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.[1]

The endorphins also act as a natural pain reliever – 100% organically and without the potential negative side effects of synthetic concoctions (4). Finally, the serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as an anti-depressant/mood lifter (5).[2]

My dad was one of the happiest people I ever knew.  He smiled and laughed and joked all the time.  Even the message my dad wrote for the answering machine was filled with fun.  Here is what you heard when you called my parents up and they were not at home.

It’s the top of the ninth with two outs and the Bishops at bat, the pitcher throws and the Bishops hit to the short stop, who throws to first and the Bishops are out!  But they will be back shortly so if you leave the time, your name and phone number, they will get back to you shortly.  Thanks for calling and have a happy day with a big smile. Wait for the beep!

You can see he was a great big fan of baseball as well as smiling, joking, and laughing.  How’s that going with you?  What announcement do you have on your voice mail?

In this moment if you want to be healthy and pain free in mind, body, and spirit how about a few more smiles today!  Let me know how that works out!

In gassho,

Mom, Dad, Kathy 2009 59th wedding anniversay

Dad and Mom and Shokai (2009 59th wedding anniversary party)

Three big smiles for sure!

 

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201206/there-s-magic-in-your-smile

[2] Abel E. and Kruger M. (2010) Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity, Psychological Science, 21, 542–544.

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I am reposting this in the memory of my mother for what would have been her 98th Birthday on October 8th. Her sister will soon be 90 and her brother is 102 both healthy and happy in Colorado. Let’s honor all of our parents today who sacrificed so much to give us what they could when they could. Love goes around the world to all of them!

In gassho, Shokai (Kathy)

The Sadness of Clothes
Emily Fragos

When someone dies, the clothes are so sad. They have outlived
their usefulness and cannot get warm and full.
You talk to the clothes and explain that he is not coming back

as when he showed up immaculately dressed in slacks and plaid
jacket
and had that beautiful smile on and you’d talk.
You’d go to get something and come back and he’d be gone.

You explain death to the clothes like that dream.
You tell them how much you miss the spouse
and how much you miss the pet with its little winter sweater.

You tell the worn raincoat that if you talk about it,
you will finally let grief out. The ancients etched the words
for battle and victory onto their shields and then they went out

and fought to the last breath. Words have that kind of power
you remind the clothes that remain in the drawer, arms
stubbornly
folded across the chest, or slung across the backs of chairs,

or hanging inside the dark closet. Do with us what you will,
they faintly sigh, as you close the door on them.
He is gone and no one can tell us where.

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Fragos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

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No old age and death, no cessation of old age and death; No suffering, no cause or end to suffering: No path, no wisdom and no gain.

These verses from the “Heart Sutra” remind us of The Four Sufferings in Buddhism:
1. Birth
2. Old age
3. Sickness
4. Death
When we think on these things we suffer. We all want to live a long life and be happy, healthy, and rich! But ruminating over it will not change the situation one bit. We are all born, hopefully we will reach old age, hopefully it will not be filled with sickness, and ultimately it will end in death. So why worry, be happy. Happiness may just be the antidote to that sickness and suffering.

But no matter how we try there will be times when suffering will enter our lives. Some of our family members and friends will die before we do and that will be sad and we will feel pain and suffering. But for some death may be the only escape from the physical and/or mental suffering that a person experiences. For those dying of a very painful disease they might even feel relieved that the pain and suffering will end upon their death. Thus we can live a life empty of futility knowing that there is each and both: “No old age and death, no cessation of old age and death; no suffering, no cause or end to suffering.”
The Four Noble Truths were expounded by the Buddha in his first teaching immediately after his enlightenment. He is to have said this about the “extinction of suffering:”

But what, O monks, is the noble truth of the path leading to the extinction of suffering? It is the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to the extinction of suffering, namely: perfect view, perfect thought, perfect speech, perfect action, perfect livelihood, perfect effort, perfect concentration (page 72).

The origin of suffering has been and will always be desire. If we desire things material, physical, relationships, or to undo the death of a loved one—we will suffer. If we cling to our desires that clinging adds to our pain and suffering. Remember the line is “No suffering, no cause or end to suffering.” In life we will have times of complete joy and accomplishment and times when we do not. Remember these words were spoken by someone who had already attained liberation. I don’t know about you but I have not yet done so. Maybe you have not either. So don’t beat yourself up simply do the best you can, in the moment, with what you have, where you are, and then move forward toward peace, love, and compassion for yourself and all others.

So dealing with our suffering can be a challenge, but not a mountain too high to climb if we follow the Noble Eightfold Path. Let’s live our life each day the best we can, by helping others and working for the good of all concerned. Let’s take one thing at a time. Using mindfulness and love—without clinging to anything—will help us deal with our suffering.

The next line says, “No path, no wisdom and no gain.”

Sekkei Harada writes about this idea in his book Unfathomable Depths, Drawing Wisdom for Today from a Classical Zen Poem (2014).

We also mustn’t be stuck between understanding and not understanding forever. That happens when we cannot transcend and get hung up on something because of it. . . .You have to transcend both what you understand and what you do not understand, and beyond that even transcend what you have transcended (page 175).

No path, no wisdom and no gain!

Things to focus on this week:
1. I will begin each day by sitting in quiet meditation to transcend the four sufferings if even for only a few minutes.
2. I will remind myself that doing this can help free me from suffering.
3. I release my attachment today and every day from my limited thoughts and fears.
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.

In gassho, Shokai

ingassho

[ ] The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991) Shambhala Dragon Editions: Boston, MA

[2] Harada, S. (2014) Unfathomable Depths, Drawing Wisdom for Today from a Classical Zen Poem. Wisdom Publications: Somerville, MA

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weapon-violence-children-child-52984After today’s school massacre in Texas I am obliged to repost what I wrote before.

Today on Twitter I saw a post forwarded to my account from John Fugelsang from someone named JohhnyBoy that said “I wish gun related deaths were just as scary to Americans as ebola.”  During our Zen Buddhist service and sitting this morning we prayed for the families and friends of the students killed during school yesterday in Marysville, WA (Florida, Texas etc.etc) .  The combination of this incident and the post from JohnnyBoy brought back to mind the short piece that one of our teachers had given me to put into our Zen Bulletin and on our website he titled it  “Excitement.”  Wilbur Mushin May Sensei wrote:

We cannot live without excitement.  However, when excitement becomes the sole purpose in life that’s out of balance, that does not work.  It seems, we strive to be on a constant high all the time.  Having fun almost becomes an addiction.  But the craving for the extraordinary dulls the palate, and we lose our sense for the ordinary.

In Zen, when our practice is calm and ordinary nothing is lacking and our everyday life itself is enlightenment.

Don’t engage disturbances and emotional reachings gradually fade away.

Don’t engage distractions and spiritual practice naturally grows.

Violence, fear, and panic have become an everyday thing.  The news touts it and wants us to “be afraid…be very, very, afraid!”  This will draw people to the 24-hour news stations and to the internet for minute-by-minute updates.  Thus, we can see more of their commercials, buy more of their products, and I could go on and on.

But in Buddhism we live by the values of the Buddha and his followers and students who focused on the good and the gracious and the generosity ingrained in all human beings.  We step in to help the family, friends, and teachers in their time of need.  We do all we can to minimize gun deaths with stronger gun laws and the like at local, state, and federal levels.

Hopefully living a life of peace, love, and compassion will be an example that others will want to follow.  Change comes one person at a time. Knowing this we can change the world in which we live to one where the loudest form of excitement is only as bold and brash as cheering for your favorite team, or blowing out the candles on your birthday cake, or sharing tears of joy when your favorite relative greets you with a smile and a hug.

This is the excitement I wish for you each day!

In gassho,

Shokai

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Once again I picked up the book Peace Pilgrim for words of wisdom and came across something that is so relevant today as we watch the killings and destruction of people of different faiths. Some people are even killing others who are the same faith only a different sect or denomination of that faith. Whether you believe in a religion, or a faith, or a spiritual teaching or a God or Supreme Being or not I hope the Peace Pilgrim’s words resonate with you and help you deal with your life and your challenges more easily today.

I am a deeply religious person, but I belong to no denomination. I follow the spirit of God’s law, not the letter of the law. One can become so attached to the outward symbols and structure of religion that one forgets its original intent—to bring one closer to God. We can only gain access to the Kingdom of God by realizing it dwells within us as well as in all humanity. Know that we are all cells in the ocean of infinity, each contributing to the others’ welfare (page 85)[1]

Roshi Robert Aitken in his wonderful book The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics writes this about oneness and war and peace.

Acting upon the First Precept [Not Killing] is also the spirit of not harming applied in the natural world. The same poisons that set us apart in families, communities, and across national boundaries—greed, hatred, and ignorance—blight the grasslands, deplete the soil, clear cut the forests, and add lethal chemicals to water and air. In the name of progress, some say. In the name of greed, it might more accurately be said (page 20).[2]

So if we let go of the outward symbols, laws, and structures and move toward the natural world or “God’s World” or the world of the Bodhisattva as Roshi Aitken says, “Compassion and peace are a practice, on cushions in the dojo, within the family, on the job, and at political forums. Do your best with what you have, and you will mature in the process.” You and I can be more like the Peace Pilgrim and the Buddha and be a part of “all cells in the ocean of infinity” contributing to the peace and welfare of everyone and everything.

If only we could feel and see ourselves afloat as an integral part of this infinite sea of creation we could not harm the cell that is in the other because we are that cell as well. Together we are that united one: separate we could not exist. Just imagine how our lives and the lives of those around us could be blessed if we lived each day in that “ocean of infinity.”

How about joining me for a swim!

In honor of our wonderful teachers I post these words:

Doshin and Jundo

Good Friends and good teachers of Zen: Jundo and Doshin

I feel within me a peace

Above all earthly dignities,

A still and quiet conscience.

–William Shakespeare

 

[1] Peace Pilgrim (2004), Peace Pilgrim, Editors Friends of Peace Pilgrim http://www.peacepilgrim.org

[2] Aitken, R. (2000) The Mind of Clover, Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. North Point Press: NY, NY

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On December 7, 1975 a short piece was published in the Family Weekly Magazine about Peace Pilgrim. In it she talked about the idea of peace that Americans held:

Peace is much more than the temporary absence of war; it is the absence of the causes of war. I believe it will take another 10 years for an outer peace to develop and sustain itself, but even after that time I will continue to talk about the inner peace man needs to maintain outer peace (page 180).[1]

Sadly 42 years have gone by since she made this statement and wars on the common people by their governments and the fundamentalist religious groups around the world are raging harder, longer, and in more places than ever…from the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to the mountains of Iraq, to the sovereign state of Ukraine, and still fermenting are wars between the Israels and the Palestinians that live in the Gaza Strip. Just to name a few!

So what would you suggest to the Peace Pilgrim if she were still amongst us as to the “causes of war”? The absence of war for me will come when we all develop a constant and consistent attitude of peace, love, and compassion for self, and then allow that to flow freely and fully to all beings at all times, and in all places. Next, move that peace, love, and compassion to the trees, lakes, mountains, and rivers, to the grass beneath your feet and the sun and stars above—to see everything through the eyes of love. Finally, to teach these principles in every town and village on the planet to the young ones who will be the future caretakers of it. This is what’s missing and is the cause of war everywhere from the bedroom to the boardroom to the city and to the countryside.

The eyes of love for self disappeared in Robin Williams as his depression and life’s challenges grew harder and harder to accept and manage until he took his own life. His peace and compassion for himself began to dwindle and finally to disappear. That is just what the Peace Pilgrim was speaking about when she said, “I will continue to talk about the inner peace man needs to maintain outer peace.”

We are a union of minds melding together through the energy that moves around this planet. We feel the energy of others in our presence all the time. Sometimes we can feel the energy of joy, laughter, and love and sometimes we feel the energy of fear, hatred, and sadness. But feel the energy we do, sometimes it is so palpable there is a saying that “you could cut it with a knife.”

While sitting in the Zendo this morning one of our teachers, Mushin Sensei, put on a beautiful piece of music for us to focus on after the talk given by our teacher Doshin Mitch Cantor. The music was a piano piece that was so fabulous it brought the energy of a recently departed friend into the room. I saw his light, I could feel his love, I could see how his spirit/energy was everywhere present as far as the mind could imagine from cosmos to cosmos from heart to heart and from mind to mind. I felt both tears of joy and sorrow begin to roll down my cheeks as our energy merged with the music and I was once again reminded that “all is one” that there is no separation in time and space when agape love is concerned.

Wouldn’t it be great if the love energy of the Peace Pilgrim and my dear friend Kevin Dulling could be flowing in and through all that is to help end this madness on planet Earth? I know they both would approve!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

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When the phone rings and you hear the voice of someone you have not spoken to in a very long time you are happy and excited to hear his or her voice, yet a small whisper of a thought often begins to emerge, “I sure hope this is not bad news” and some times it is.  For me that call from Catherine was to tell me that our dear friend Jack Corbett had passed away.  I did not know he had been ill and that was because he did not want anyone to know, nor did he want visitors in the hospital or hospice.  He was not young in years but he was definitely young at heart.

I know I am not supposed to out someone in AA but he was not shy about talking about AA, inviting people to AA, sponsoring hundreds of people over the 30+ he was a member and giving them unconditional love and support.  He was the greatest example of what AA was all about.

He was also a life long member of the Unity Church to which I belonged.  I was his teacher early on and then his minister and he followed me no matter where I went to minister.  Jack offered to be on my board when I started my own church, Unity by the Ocean in Fort Lauderdale, he worked tirelessly to keep the church running, volunteering his time, talent, and treasure in way to many ways to even mention.

I know that Jack’s presence on earth was a miracle.  He ran away from home at the age of 13 due to some very horrible conditions in which he lived.  He was homeless at the age of 14.  And in his early 20’s graduated from Rutgers College in NJ.  Now that’s a feat! He was my mentor, my friend, and my idol.  To be like him was my goal in trying to reach that goal I became a better person. Just knowing him is a treasure and one of the Jewel’s in Indra’s net that I am blessed to have in my collection.

Good-by Jack and good luck in your next adventure!

In gassho,

Kathy (Shokai)

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I woke this morning hoping that yesterday’s news of the commercial airline being shot down in the Ukraine and watching the bombs and lights flashing through the evening sky between the Gaza Strip and Israel was just a dream. But it wasn’t. It did however make this just another reason and another opportunity to continue my series of blog posts on war and peace.

Peace Pilgrim said:

My pilgrimage is an opportunity to talk with my fellow human beings about the way of peace. It is also a penance for whatever I may have contributed by commission or omission to the tragic situation in the world today. It is a prayer that this war-weary world of ours will somehow find the way to peace before a holocaust descends (page 27).[1]

If I did not know better I would think this was written today. We have more wars then ever being fought around the globe. We have not only countries fighting countries, but political parties fighting political parties, and religions fighting religions.

Robert Muller1Robert Muller, who was the former Assistant-secretary General of the United Nations for forty years wrote a little book titled Dialogues of Hope wrote:

It is very important that religions work together, listen to each other, while keeping their own creeds and rituals, in order to determine what is fundamental to all of them and what is the deeper structure of the global spirituality inborn in the human person and race. When people get together and work together as we do in the UN, they discover that they do not really disagree on the fundamentals (page 92).[2]

Our life on this planet is so short why must we spend it fighting and fussing over things that do not really matter, things that do not make a positive effect in our life, things that are not filled with peace, love and compassion for ALL beings? If they do not make this world a better, kinder, gentler world they should be discarded by me immediately and replaced with some thoughts, words, actions, and feelings that do make this a better, kinder, gentler world for all those who come across my path. Just like the Peace Pilgrim did. Just like Mahatma Gandhi did. Just like Jesus and Shakyamuni Buddha did.

I hope that I am not, as the Peace Pilgrim said, contributing “by commission or omission to the tragic situation in the world today.” I do make every effort to be mindful of my thoughts and actions, to catch myself and change my behavior and thinking if it is not filled with peace, love, and compassion.

In the Diamond Sutra it reads:

Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world; a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream; a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.

So everything is impermanence: you, me, war, peace, love, hate, so what is all the fighting for?! Too bad these violent actors are not just a phantom and a dream and I could wake up tomorrow and all of this world would be a place filled with peace, love and compassion. And our newspapers and TVs would be filled with only good stories of peace, love and kindness. Then I would never want to awaken from my dream…

In gassho, Shokai

ingassho

 

[1] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

[2] Muller, R. (1990). Dialogues of Hope, World Happiness and Cooperation, Ardsley-on-Hudson, NY

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War is breaking out in the Middle East again and in Central America the conditions are so treacherous for the regular citizens they are sending their children on pilgrimages to America by walking a thousand miles to our borders and turning themselves in to the Border Patrol. Being in an American detention center is safer for them than being in their own beds in their own homes in their own countries. How sad a state of affairs is that?

So we are hearing “war cries” once again from some in our country to fight in the Middle East and to “fight” back the influx of women and children trying to escape a life of fear and hell in their home countries. Today in Guatemala 1 out of every 14 people have a chance to be murdered. If you are a parent what lengths would you go to in order to save your children?

In the book, Peace Pilgrim her Life and Work in Her Own Words, in Chapter 9 “Extensions of Pacifism,” she quotes Herman Goering, at the Nuremberg Trials:

Why of course people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country (page 114-15).[1] [Emphasis mine.]

Sound Familiar?

Pastor Martin Niemoller

Pastor Martin Niemoller

Yet in all countries and in all times there were those who spoke out, who stood up to the powers that be for peace even if it meant their own death or imprisonment. Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) is perhaps best remembered for his oral admission of personal guilt and condemnation of the bystander during WWII. Many years after his release by the Allied Forces from a prison camp in which he was interned he was elected president of the World Council of Churches.

The exact words that he is credited with are in dispute; their sentiment is not:

First they came for the communists and I did not speak out because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Finally, they came for me and there was no one left to speak out.[2]

 

What will you do for the children, for peace, for the planet? Turn a blind eye and go shopping at Saks or Bloomies, or K-Mart? Write your elected officials, carry a sign, vote them out? Pass the buck, see with a blind eye, and turn off the news? Save the children, save the planet? Get elected to office yourself?

The Gateless Gate

The great path has no gates,

Thousands of roads enter it.

When one passes through this gateless gate

He walks freely between heaven and earth (page 79)[3].

 

If it is to be—it is up to me! Hope lives eternal…Which gate will you take?

 

[1] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

[2] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/414633/Martin-Niemoller

[3] The Little Book of Zen Haiku, Koans, Sayings, (2001) edited by Manuela Dunn Mascetti. The Book Laboratory, Inc. Fall River Press: NY, NY

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