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On my arrival at the Southern Palm Zen Group I asked the teacher, Mitch Doshin Cantor, if there was a special way to meditate here and, if so, could he give me some tips. He said, “Well as a beginner I would have you start by simply counting your breath and focusing your mind on the counting. You can count one on the in breath and two on the out breath and when you get to ten start over. Since the mind wanders you may not reach ten, but don’t worry just begin again at one. Then he said, another way might be to simply focus on your breath and feel your chest moving up and down as you breathe in and out. If your mind wanders on to your to-do list for the day, don’t worry just return your focus onto your breathing.

The next thing he said was you might want to set your intention for your time spent on the cushion. I asked how I could do that. He said we have a saying that I could use, it went like this: “Now I sit in order to save all beings.” I thought about that after saying it for a while and it came to me that our planet Gaia was a living thing as well and without working to save the planet from global climate change our children and grandchildren would have no place to live.

So I added some words to my opening: “I sit in order to save the planet and all sentient beings.”

Prayer and meditation is a process and the longer we do it–more is revealed to us. So as you can expect one day I was sitting with a guest teacher in dokusan (private meeting with the teacher) and we began talking about my relationship with my mother. She said if you want to improve that meditate on it and so I did.

I realized that dad loved people and mom loved the 10 commandments of her Protestant upbringing and followed the rules. She taught me how to live an ethical life working for the benefit of others. From there came this phrase which I added to my prayer of intention: “I sit in honor of my mother and father who gave me life and taught me to do good.”

And the last part of my intention came when I had the pleasure of volunteering with the Maitreya Project Relic Tour who were bringing their exhibit to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Boca Raton, FL, where our group meets. That experience brought extraordinary things into my life one was a prayer sheet that you got when you arrived. One of the prayers on it was called the “Seven Limb Prayer” and one of the phrases seemed to catch hold of me and stuck to me. So much so that I had to add it to my intention. It went like this: “With hands pressed together I request the buddhas of all directions to light the lamp of Dharma [teachings] for those who are groping in the darkness of suffering.”

This phrase, over time, was changed to include those who have specifically asked for prayers or those who I thought might be in need of prayers after things like the mass shootings in our schools. It now goes like this: “I ask the buddhas of all directions to light the lamp of dharma for all those on my prayer list named and UN-named, and for all those who are groping in the darkness of suffering.”

I hope that you will take the time over the next few months to go through this process yourself and to create a wonderful prayer to set your intention each time you sit in meditation. I’ll bet it will help both you and them. Let me know how it goes.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai
My prayer of intention: I sit in order to save the planet and all sentient beings. I sit in honor of my mother and father who gave me life and taught me to do good. I ask the buddhas of all directions to light the lamp of dharma for all those on my prayer list named and UN-named, and for all those who are groping in the darkness of suffering.

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Both of my parents met in WW II at Eglin Air Force base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  Dad said that the first time he saw mom she was selling cigarettes and newspapers in the PX.  He fell instantly in love and said, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” And he did. Mom was in the Women’s Army Air Corp working in the clerical pool (state side) and dad was stationed in England.  He was a belly gunner on a B-17 bomber and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for shooting down two (some say three) German fighter planes.

Mom was a Kansas Methodist and Dad was a Brooklyn Jew both of their parents said, “it would never last.”  Boy were they mistaken! They were married for 62 years when dad passed away.

Mom was a poet and this poem was the last one that she wrote.  I hope you enjoy it.

Mom WWII Military Portrait 001

I have a little scooter

That I ride down the street

I can go so fast

You can hardly see my feet

I often run a race

With my brother on his bike

And when I ask dad, who is the fastest

He says we’re both just alike

~Iona Louise Bird Bishop

Dad was a man whose mission in life was to “cheer people up and make them laugh.”  And this mission was accomplished as well.  He was an avid baseball fan as you can tell from the message below that he recorded on his answering machine at home. I found the handwritten note on which he wrote the message recently and it was fun seeing dad’s handwriting and hearing (in my head) his voice as I read it.

“It’s the top of the ninth with 2 outs and the Bishops at bat, the pitcher throws and the Bishops hit to the short stop, who throws to first and the Bishops OUT!  But they will be back shortly, so if you leave the time, your name and the 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.”

Dad WWII Portrait Military Uniform 001

In Loving Memory to my parents on this Veterans Day,

Daughter #2

Kathleen Ann Bishop

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I have been invited once again by Rev. Barbara Lunde to be a part of the interfaith Christmas Eve Service at the Center for Spiritual Living in Boca Raton, Florida.  Each year I am privileged to read the Metta Sutra The Loving Kindness of  Shakyamuni Buddha.  I use our beautiful bells and make it a time of meditation for the people in attendance.  They leave the service feeling as though they have experienced a great calmness and peace as Jesus had asked his followers to do when he walked this earthly plain.

As a retired Unity minister I can see these words being written or even recited by Jesus himself.  Some say that his lost years were spent studying in the Far East and thus he would have been exposed to Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism. The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama the historical Buddha was born in 566 or 563 B.C.E.[1]  Jesus of Nazareth was born  2,013 years ago. So it is clear by his age that he could well have been exposed to these teachings as he too preached love and compassion, and opened his heart to all people, rich or poor, sick or well, gay or straight, and sinners of all kinds just as the historical Buddha had taught.

You can see this clearly written in many of the verses in the Bible, start with Luke Chapter 7:

  • But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!
  • Do good to those who hate you.
  • Bless those who curse you.
  • Pray for those who hurt you.
  • Give to anyone who asks
  • Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
  • If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even Sinners love those who love them.
  • You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

And I could go on and on, but I won’t.  To illustrate the Christmas Spirit in the words of the Buddha pay attention to the words below with an open heart and an open mind and see that all Wisdom is from the same source which had no beginning and has no end.

Blessings from my house to yours for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

In gassho, Shokai

 Metta Sutra: The Loving-Kindness of Shakyamuni Buddha

May all beings be happy.  May they be joyous and live in safety. All living beings, whether weak or strong, in high or middle, or low realms of existence, small or great, visible or invisible, near or far, born or to be born, may they all be happy.  Let none deceive another nor despise any being in any state; let none by anger or hatred wish harm to another.

Even as a mother at the risk of her life watches over and protects her only child, so with boundless mind should one cherish all living things, suffusing love over the entire world, above, below, and all around without limit.

Standing or walking, sitting or lying down, during all one’s waking hours, may one remain mindful of this heart and this way of living that is the best in the world.

Unattached to speculations, views and sense desires, with clear vision, such a person will never be reborn in the cycles of suffering.


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

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