Posts Tagged ‘fears’

Once again I opened up this wonderful book “Teachings of Zen” getting ready to write the next section of my newest blog.  It is the first week of our new year 2019 and I was thinking about what I accomplished in 2018 and what I might accomplish in 2019 and then I read these words:

book cover Teachings of Zen Thomas Cleary“You do not plunge into sentiments of the ordinary, nor do you fall into the understanding of the sage. Empty and spiritual, serene and sublime, you do not tarry anywhere but attain fulfillment everywhere.

At this time you should know there is a final statement; only then are you a mature person. Completing the task of the mature person is called transcending the world in the midst of the world, highest of all. Hai-yin (page 142).”[1]

The first paragraph resonated with me as I thought about the juxtaposition of these two ideas. The ideas that we hold in Zen Buddhism are just exactly as Hai-yin describes: empty and yet spiritual, serene and at the same time sublime.  It is exactly like all of our lives the opposites that seem to attract each other, the time on the cushion when we attempt to “empty” the mind and yet think of our spiritual character and that being the reason we are trying to “empty” the mind.  Yikes!  The juxtaposition of the conundrum of the teachings of Buddhism.

And yet Hai-yin ends these thoughts saying: Empty and spiritual, serene and sublime, you do not tarry anywhere but attain fulfillment everywhere…. Completing the task of the mature person is called transcending the world in the midst of the world, highest of all (page 142).”[2]

Your challenge of this year will be transcending the world while being in the midst of it.  Let’s not be bogged down in this process and adding to our troubles and woes.  Let us just be aware of the juxtaposition of life and stroll through it with ease, peace, and compassion for self.  Let’s look down on our selves as if we were out of our bodies simply watching and listening without judgment.  Let’s transcend our fears, likes, and dislikes and remember it’s “just this” and nothing more and nothing less.

[1] Cleary, T. (1998)   Teachings of Zen. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc

[2] Ibid.

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All great teachers have the ability to make learning fun.  It not only helps the student learn more easily and retain the information better but it makes our jobs more exciting and fun!  Who wants to be bored at work, who wants work to be drudgery?  No one I know.  I want to be excited every morning as I wake up thinking about the great things I can do at work.  To hear the students laugh, see them smile, and to see them waiting with bated breath at what I’ll do next!

Even in my adult corporate training classes I play games, I surprise them with treats, compliments, and more.  They soon begin to expect the unexpected when they are in a class with me.  This encourages them to want to come to training, to realize that making life at work less tedious for themselves and their team will help them live longer and increase the team’s productivity and decrease its sick days!  Yes, live longer and healthier!

I don’t believe the adage that “The good die young and the obnoxious live forever.”  I believe that laughter is the best medicine and it opens my mind to creativity!

In my developmental English classes I have them write a “chain story” and in one class the last student actually killed the teacher off at the end.  Yes, the class killed me off!  I just loved the story it was such fun and they all expressed themselves so well.  They were able to see how creative they could be in just a sentence or two and how teams can work together easily and without their egos or fears taking over. Even the shy and quiet ones got to participate fully.

mindfulness-on-the-go-book-coverIn Jan Chozen Bay’s book Mindfulness on the Go, she has a great little exercise you can use with your classes she calls it “Say Yes.”  Find every opportunity to say “yes” to people. She invites us to put stickers up with the word “YES” in spots where you’ll notice them in your home and workplace.  She even encourages us to write “YES” on the back of our hand so we can see it frequently.  She writes, “This task helps us see how often we take a stance that is negative or oppositional.  If we are able to watch our mind when someone is talking to us, particularly if they are asking us to do something, we can see our thoughts forming defenses and counterarguments (page 127).”

She shares some examples of how people have used her technique.  “One person noted that an external ‘yes’ might not match the real attitude of ‘no’ inside, and that the task helped him detect a hidden constricted state of mind (page 128-29).”

So say YES to life, say YES to FUN and begin to bring it into your classrooms, work rooms, and living rooms and watch what happens.  Try it I think you’ll like having FUN for a change!

Let me know how it goes!


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

            No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind;

            No color, sound, smell, taste, touch, phenomena;

            No realm of sight

            No realm of consciousness;

            No ignorance  And no end to ignorance.

These lines begin the section where we think about reality and life and what we hold onto and how that idea of clinging to things and beliefs is filled with contradictions, falsehoods, challenges, and fears.  It can destroy relationships, jobs, and our health when we are unable to see life from different points of view.  I know because it happens to me daily and when I sit zazen it relieves me from this world of illusion as Shohaku Okumura writes about so beautifully in his book, Living by Vow, A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts writes:

Our picture of the world is our reality, but we should understand that it is distorted.  This is the meaning of emptiness.  Our mind is emptiness. Our sense organs are emptiness.  Things outside us are also emptiness. Everything is just illusion. The fact that we live with illusion is our reality.  When we really understand this and see how illusion is caused, we can see reality through the illusion. Whatever we see, whatever we grasp with our sense organs and consciousness is illusion.  When we see this we are released from attachment to our limited view, to what we have, to what we think we own.  We may not become completely free, but we become less restricted by our limitations.

. . .This letting go is prajna or wisdom. It means to become free of our picture of the world caused by our karma. In this way our view becomes a bit broader and deeper (page 175).[1]

If you are like me and want to have a deeper broader life of peace, joy, and love let us take the time each day to practice zazen (sitting or walking meditation).  Okumura goes on to write:

We keep practicing this zazen, sitting and letting go of thought, trying to see things in the most flexible way.  This doesn’t mean we negate our delusions.  We can never negate them; they are our life.  But so long as we fail to see that they are illusory and grasp them as reality, we cannot be free.  When we really see the emptiness of subject and object, we can be free from grasping, clinging, and greed (page 174-75).

So let us take Okumura’s sage advice this week and see if we can free ourselves from our illusions about people, places, and things and live a more productive, happy, healthy, and free existence.  In the big picture life is short, even if you live to 104.  So make the most of what you’ve got.  Make a difference in your life and that will make a difference in others’ lives as well.

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day by sitting in quiet meditation.

2.  I will remind myself that doing this can help free me from grasping, clinging, and greed.

3.  I release my attachment today and every day from my limited view of life.

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

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