Posts Tagged ‘goals’

Emerson:  “Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which animates aajahn-brahmll whom it floats, and you are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and a perfect contentment.”[1]

Zen Ajahn Brahm: “Contentment is the opposite of a faultfinding mind.  You should develop the perception of contentment with whatever you have, wherever you are, as much as you can (page 44).”[2]

Wow!  What a concept!  In America we find ourselves often in a place where contentment seems impossible.  Especially during times like Christmas.  From the time we are very little until we die we make lists all year long asking for the newest toy on TV or the bike like your best friend has, or a new car like the neighbor down the street just got.  We long for material things and money and trips and more.

When was the last time you were content with what you had?  When was the last time you spent time in meditation and prayer where your mind was not drug off into thoughts of discontent?  Discontent with your relationships, your job, your income, with your health, or the world in general.

Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of people in need all over the world. In need of food, shelter, and safety from floods and bombs and more.  And we should do all we can to help them from supporting peace not war, supporting food banks, homeless shelters, veteran’s benefits, and more.  However, we must start with ourselves and our own consciousness.  Start with the little things and work your way up to the big things!  If you need to lose weight and you create a plan to do so celebrate even the smallest improvement be it losing three pounds, exercising three days in a row, or changing your diet to healthier foods this week.

Be open to “baby steps—baby steps” as Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) told his patient Bob Wiley (Bill Murry) in the movie “What about Bob.”  Find contentment in the little things wherever you can—whenever you can.   Longing for things that are out of reach makes you discontented with life and robs you of your contentment and your peace and joy in the present moment.  It doesn’t matter whether that discontentment is about things, places, or people.

We attract what we think about the most.  So if you want peace meditate and focus on peace and like a magnet you will draw it to you!  Remember contentment is hiding within it! If you want better health, or a different more fulfilling job, or a new relationship do the same and watch what happens!  Open your mind to receive your good by placing yourself in the middle of contentment!

Let me know how it goes!

In gassho,



[1] http://www.azquotes.com/author/4490-Ralph_Waldo_Emerson/tag/contentment

[2] Brahm, A. (2014) Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond A Meditator’s Handbook. Wisdom Publications: Boston


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Emerson: No great man [person] ever complains of want of opportunity (page 94).[1]
Emily Dickinson: I dwell in Possibility-—[2]
The Poetry of Zen, Yuan Mei (1716-1798):
The single sound of the bell brings out the whole hall’s monks (page 78).[3]

Where do you look for opportunity? The sound of possibility and opportunity is everywhere from the words of Emerson and Dickinson to Yuan Mei to you and me!  The simple ringing of the bell brings the whole hall of monks out to dine or do chores.  It brings the children in school out for lunch or recess into the play grounds.

Today we set our cell phones and computers to ring to remind us of appointments, and meetings, and chores that need to be attended to.  We may be in deep thought when the bell rings but it instantly brings us back into the present moment, time, and project.  It even startles us some times, or makes us laugh, or increases our heart beat.  Remember reactions occur when opportunity arrives.

Are you creating your own opportunities to learn and grow and work to make this a better place in which to live or are others creating your opportunities for you?  Are others creations for you really in line with your dreams and goals? Are you the master of your ship?  Have you missed opportunities in your life because you were not looking for them?

When I was young I worked with a man in our community theater who was a fantastic actor!  He worked in his father’s shoe store to earn a living. Then one day he came into our rehearsal and proudly and excitedly said, “Once this play is over I’m moving and am going to spend the rest of my life being an artist.”  We were all shocked and a little saddened for us—but happy for him!  I had no idea he had this dream and talent that he felt was not being fulfilled.

How about you?  Are you living your dreams?  Are you grabbing hold of the “brass ring” on the merry go round or are you just living day to day just getting by, spinning round and round?  Remember what Emerson wrote: No great man ever complains of want of opportunity. How many of those opportunities have you let slip between your fingers?  Be like Emily Dickinson and “dwell in the possibilities!” As we learned to affirm in Unity—Open your mind to receive!

Let me know how that goes!





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

[2] http://www.ikedacenter.org/thinkers-themes/thinkers/poems/emily-dickinson

[3] Hamill, S. and Seaton J.P. (2007) The Poetry of Zen. Shambala:Boston & London

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Emerson: Live, let live and help live.

Zen: Evening Gatha [Prayer]

Let me respectfully remind you.
Birth and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes and opportunity is lost.
We should all strive to awaken.
Awaken! Take Heed!
Do not squander your life!

Both of these quotes are profound in so many ways.  Each tests us to live our lives fully every day and make a difference in the world in which we live.  Notice that each asks us to go beyond our “self” and to help others.  To live life fully, to let others lead their lives fully, and to help those who need help so they too can live life fully.

How have you done that today?  How about this week, month, or year?  Every time you open the door for someone with their arms full of packages, or let someone in front of you in a traffic jam, or bring a meal to a sick neighbor you are “awake.”  Awake to the needs of another.  You have taken the opportunity to think of someone other than yourself, to identify a need, no matter how small it may seem—you have helped meet that need for another.

When you are walking through life looking down at your cellphone checking your Facebook page or texting someone—you are missing life at its fullest.  You may have missed an opportunity to help a stranger or a friend.  When you are focused on self only you miss many opportunities to live.

Just the other day I was teaching at the college on the 11th floor when we had a fire scare and everyone was told to immediately exit the building.  So all 16 of my students and I walked those 11 floors down to the street. One of them needed extra attention as she was pregnant.  I rushed ahead so that I could make sure all of my students were out of the building and safe.  As one of them walked through the door I was holding for them he said, “Oh, you don’t have to do that. Why are you holding the door for all of us and the others?”  The question had never come into my mind.  “Live, let live and help live” I guess.

Think of the fireman who runs into the fire, not away from it.  To the policeman or security guard who runs toward the shooter in a mall.  Or a teacher who stands in front of the children to protect them from the bullets being sprayed in his or her classroom.

Awaken, Take Heed! Do not squander your life! Find your purpose each and every day because time swiftly passes by and you do not want to lose the opportunity to be of service to others to go beyond yourself wherever and whenever you can.  Even if it’s simply to hold the door for another. Let me know how that goes!


In gassho, Shokai

(1) Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com (page 9)

(2) Southern Palm Zen Group Service Handbook, Mitch Doshin Cantor.

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Emerson: “The best efforts of a fine person are felt after we have left their presence.”

zen-at-work-bookcoverLes Kaye: My real motive was to create a more collaborative relationship. In other words, I saw that we had not so much an information problem as a “boundary” problem.  I wanted us to invite ourselves into our customer’s circle, and them into ours (page 30).[1]

For Emerson it is imperative to understand how your actions direct a person’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings of you once you have “left their presence.” While you are in their presence they may be polite and even complementary, but how do they really feel after you leave? For Les Kaye as a Buddhist teacher and in his work at IBM he was highly interested in how people felt after their encounter with him and his team because it would determine whether they were customers now and in the future or not.

Les Kaye always encouraged his team to put in the best effort, to understand the customer’s requirements, to go beyond sending a survey or questionnaire.  He encouraged face-to-face dialog that demonstrated to the customer real relationship building and a desire to put the customer first.

In our lives we need to understand that everyone we meet is our customer too!  Our family members, the grocery clerk, our co-workers, and everyone we meet throughout the day.  Are they buying what we’re selling?  What are you selling? Friendship, love, compassion, and our dedication to the principles of ethics and Buddhism, and more. Or are you selling fear, hate, bigotry, anger, ignorance, and small mindedness?

Where are you putting your so called “best efforts?”  Which side of the coin are you working from—the one of peace, love, and compassion, or fear, hate, and small-mindedness?  It may be minutes, hours, or days after you have put your “best efforts” into the situation or conversation that the feeling Emerson describes is acgold-face-buddha-with-three-pure-precepts-2tually realized by the person.

That’s okay, because we don’t do it for the outcome we simply do it because it is the right thing to do.   As our Three Pure Precepts remind us: A disciple of the Buddha vows to not create evil, to practice good, and to actualize good for others.

What are people feeling after you leave their presence?  Have you really put in your best effort? It is up to you whether you help to make their day great or NOT. If you follow the Three Pure Precepts their encounter with you will be great and you just might have made their day!  Let me know how it goes!

[1} Odelia, F. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson http://www.odeliafloris.com

[2] Kaye, L. (1996) Zen at Work, A Zen Teacher’s 30-Year Journey in Corporate America. NY,NY: Three Rivers Press

[3}, Photo Mitch Doshin Cantor, Listening With the Eye



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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!



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

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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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My quote today is by Russell Simmons from his wonderful book, Success through Stillness Meditation Made Simple.  In his chapter entitled “The Heaviness of Success and Failure” he quotes this phrase from the Bhagavad Gita “You have control over your work alone, never the fruit (page 116).”[1] Then he writes

There are a lot of different ways you could interpret that passage, but to me it’s always meant “Stop worrying about how much money you make off your work (the fruit) and instead just stay focused on your work itself.” Because when you embrace the process of your work, instead of focusing on the results, you’ll always be happier, plus do a much better job (page 116).[1]

For some your work may be school, some may be working on friendships and/or relationships, or working to stay clean and straight and not use. For others you may be thinking about a paid job where you earn your living.  In life we want to be successful in all aspects of our lives not just at the so-called work that we may do for a living to support ourselves and our families.


I wonder what our lives would look like if we had the same definition as Russell Simmons. There are so many Thich Nhat Hanhpeople throughout history that we could point to who simply did the “work” without focusing on the outcome or the money or the fruits of that labor. In Buddhism we study people like Thich Nhat Hanh who started out as a young Buddhist student, then monk, then founded the Engaged Buddhism movement in response to the Vietnam War. From there he served as the delegate for the Buddhist Peace Delegation at the Paris Peace talks in 1969 and the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 to help end the war. Today he lives in Plum Village in France surrounded by his students and friends.[1]

Or what about those adventurous people in history like the Englishman Doctor David Livingstone who went to Africa in 1840 with two goals: to explore the continent and to end the slave trade.  In 1871 Henry Morton Stanley went to find the then “missing” Dr. Livingston.  Eight months later he found him and upon meeting is to have said these famous words, “Dr. Livingston, I presume.”[2]

Success does not mean that you have to be as brave as Thich Nhat Hanh or as adventurous as Dr. Livingston and Henry Stanley, but I hope that it does mean you look within and discover your passion and run to it. Live it. Love it. Discover it. Find it. Share it. Meet it.

How far will you go for your goals, passions, and dreams? What will you do for success? Where will you meet your success today?  Keep me posted I can’t wait to hear!

In gassho


[1] Simmons, R. (2014) Success Through Stillness Meditation Made Simple. NY, NY:

Gotham Books

[3] http://www.lionsroar.com/thich-nhat-hanh/?goal=0_1988ee44b2-cc25a1b6a0-20869581&mc_cid=cc25a1b6a0&mc_eid=f78b7768c4

[4] http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/stanley.htm




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