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Posts Tagged ‘kindness’

Landscapes of Wonder book coverIn his chapter titled “Earth Tones” Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano talks about mindfulness and detachment and how they are like two sides of the same coin.

Observing the world and its changes mindfully, with detachment leads to disenchantment and peace and eventually liberation from suffering—Nibbana.  In order to restrain the reflex of greed it is important to try to stop looking at things crudely as potential enjoyments, and to see them more as means for understanding.  As long as we unthinkingly surrender to objects the power to infatuate or distract us or to force us into rash action, we live in peril, because of their inherent instability; but if we view with detachment both the repulsive and the love, if we see things exactly as they are and not as we would like them to be, then we can live safely and independently (page 64-65). [1]

When we become attached in this way what happens is the person, thing, object, or the words control us, have power over us, and thus can make our lives cold, bitter, sad, and lost. And yes, they can make us happy and feel loved, and worthwhile.  Regardless of whether we perceive these as good or bad just the naming of them tethers us to them through our thinking and our emotions. We are ultimately controlled by them.  To be free we want to be detached from them.  It is okay to observe them, recognize them, acknowledge them, and then let them go.  Detach them—see them floating away like a helium balloon.

Just this! Just this moment in time.  If the words are true of you it might be a good thing to say maybe I could have been nicer, or kinder, or more empathetic and then make a plan to do better the next time.  Then drop it!  Don’t be attached to the negative thoughts, the previous actions, or deeds.  Don’t ruminate over the past since you can’t go back and you can’t change the past!  The best thing to do is remove your attachment and move forward toward the good.

Avoid allowing others to control you by what they think, say, and feel about you.  Detach yourself from the objects you precede with the words “must have” in your life. Those are things that you have convinced yourself make you part of the team/crowd or worthy of someone’s attention or love. You were born divine and perfect regardless of how you feel today and regardless of what “they” think or say about you.  Detach yourself from their words and the names that they call you good, bad, or indifferent.

Simply observe the world without attachment. Make any changes you think are necessary.  Be the person your dog or cat things you are! Nyanasobhano says, “To be free of the tyranny of the senses—including the mind-sense—is to walk with mindfulness in the present moment, to think, act, and feel without distortion, to be unruffled and capable (page 65).” [2]  This is the person that you really are! Now act like it!

 

[1] Nyanasobhano, B. (1998) Landscapes of wonder Discovering Buddhist Dhamma in the world around us. Somerville Massachusetts: Wisdom Publications

[2] Ibid.

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Emerson: “Man’s life is a progress, and not a station (page 51).”[1]world-peace-2

Zen: Robert Aitken “It is the peace of the self forgotten, doing the work of the world (page 24).”[2]

Life is progress, life is doing, and life is simply putting one foot in front of the other to discover the greatness of who you are.  When you move through the day focused on just this moment in time you will find great joy!  If, however, you get stuck in the past ruminating over something that did not go your way it will be like being on a merry-go-round.  You may be moving but it is not progressing!  You are simply going round and round and where it stops no one knows.

Or maybe you find yourself looking down a train track thinking of the thoughts of the past and living those thoughts and fears over and over again? Have you been stuck at a station where only the # 5 comes all day every day! Or maybe you are looking in the other direction in expectation of the future when you can see yourself riding on that train moving quickly to the next station where your good is waiting.  Maybe that perfect mate or job or health is there? Seeing what needs to be done to help move your family, community, or country into a better more peace filled and loving place is moving toward progress.  That progress only arrives when we live fully and mindfully in the present moment.

Are you progressing in life toward opportunities that arrive for good to enter your life? When we forget the “self” (ego) we find the “real” self and are automatically led to do the work of the world.  And boy it needs a lot of work! The work of spreading loving kindness is in dire need of help.

There is an old saying, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”  I hope you’ll progress in life and not stand still doing the work that the world is in desperate need of in this moment and every moment to come.

To be happy in life we must have progress in all aspects of our lives…so let me know how it goes!

In gassho,

Shokai

 

[1] Dillaway, N. (1949) The Gospel of Emerson Wakefield MA: The Montrose Press

[2] Aitken, R. (1984) The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics New York: North Point Press

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My special friend, Dr. Davele Bursor, and I went on Sunday to the beautiful Center for Spiritual Living (formerly Science of Mind Church) in Boca Raton and when I opened the bulletin they had a little prayer card in there with this affirmation on it: Today I use kindness plentifully in every thought, act, and circumstance.

Yet, when I got home and turned on the TV there was very little kindness being projected toward people of all political persuasions, religions, ethnic groups, and professions.  It seems that we’ve forgotten the basic ideas of what it takes to make a country livable, one that will grow and prosper and be a safe place in which to grow up, raise our children, and live a happy, healthy, peaceful, and successful life.

Civility has left the discourse and simple religious and spiritual principles have gone out the window. There are “Dragons in the Trees” as one of our Zen members, Lawrence Janssen, writes in his book of poetry Zen Paradox: No Knowing.

Mara the prince of darkness
Exuberantly dances from cloud to cloud
Dragons silently wait in withered trees
No howls of approval or broken rice bowlsbridgewood-white-tree-flower.b
Only swords readied for an execution
Nobel truth twisted and distorted
With cunning argumentation
We witness the ritual of self immolation
As vultures circle endlessly
Overwhelmed by shame and guilt
The teacher raises a flower in hope
The compassionate words and nurturing spirit
Of Bodhidharma echo in the land (page 23)![1]

Too few voices “echo in the land” for kindness for our brothers and sisters around the world—so let us be the voice of reason, of love, and of kindness during this troubling time.  Begin by being kind to yourself.  Then move that energy out into your family, friends, co-workers, and strangers.  Be the voice of reason; raise the flower of hope with your compassionate words as Larry encourages us to do!

Let’s do it! You’ll meet your good today when you help others meet theirs!

In gassho,

Shokai

[1] Janssen, L.I. (2013) Zen Paradox: No Knowing. Xlibris.com

2 http://listeningwiththeeye.squarespace.com/galleries/bridgewood-white-tree-flower

 

 

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The way we recite this verse/gatha at our zendo and with our prison ministry groups in Florida is as follows:

All harmful karma ever created by me of old,
on account of my beginningless, greed, anger, and ignorance,
born of my conduct, speech and thought,
I repent of it now.

This is a very powerful gatha. As I’m reciting it things come into my mind very quickly where I violated the gatha. Sometimes I feel like I’ve violated it many times during that day or week. I might have done something that may have been harmful to myself or another. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I robbed a bank or anything like that, but it can be something as simple as speaking in a demeaning tone of voice, or gossiping about someone, or even thinking a not so nice thought about him or her. How about this one, “Oh my god, doesn’t she look in the mirror when she gets dressed in the morning?”

How about you? Do these types of thoughts and behaviors keep you from practicing the principles of love and compassion for all beings?

So why is it “harmful karma?” Because as my friends Armand and Angelina sing in their song “Love is a Boomerang” the verse goes:

“Love is a boomerang, give it away and it comes right back, so is anger so is judgment, give it away and it comes right back. Love is a boomerang. When you wake up in the morning try a different attitude instead of drinking coffee fill yourself with gratitude. Try loving everything you see it will change the way you live. Love is a boomerang, give it away because it comes right back!”[1]

If you follow Armand and Angelina’s advice you’ll see that what you give out comes back at you each day so make the giving peace, kindness, love, and compassion. Now that’s the perfect boomerang for me!

Remember that boomerang runs both ways and can come back at you pretty fast! So say this gatha as often as you need to it will help remind you of the power of your conduct, speech, and thought. Good luck with that!

Let me know how that boomerang works!

In gassho

ingassho

Shokai

My dear friends Armand and Angelina

armond and angelina

[1]You can find Armand and Angelina at their website: http://www.armandandangelina.com/

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Well, we may think that this is an easy topic to talk about when it comes to ethics in business and in life. There are stories every day about people who get caught up in their inability to resist temptation which often can result in “evil” actions. We can name them by the dozens, from big thieves like Bernie Madoff, who made off with everyone’s money and Jerry Sandusky the Penn State coach who turned out to be a serial child molester. But what about the smaller actions that we take every day in business and in life that might not create “evil” but could create hardship and anguish in our loved ones, friends, or co-workers lives. Those actions could be on purpose or by accident, but they can still create harm. Today might be a great day to look within and see the faces that we show to others though out the day.

Naming things good or bad or evil is what we do as human beings. If you look up the word on dictionary.com you’ll find 14 different definitions for the word which can be used as an adjective, noun, adverb, or idiom. Definition #10 was my favorite, “anything causing injury or harm: ‘Tobacco is considered by some to be an evil.’” Wow! The word is so broad that we can use it daily until it becomes meaningless.

Barbara O’Brien (http://buddhism.about.com/od/basicbuddhistteachings/a/evil.htm) defines evil in two ways.

First evil as intrinsic characteristic: It’s common to think of evil as an intrinsic characteristic of some people or groups. In other words, some people are said to be evil. Evil is a quality that is inherent in their being.

Second: Evil as external force. In this view, evil lurks about and infects or seduces the unwary into doing bad things. The problem with doing that Barbara says is then “it becomes possible to justify doing them harm.” Then who becomes the “evil one”? She goes on to say, “Buddhism teaches us that evil is something we create, not something we are or some outside force that infects us.”

We had a saying in Unity: “What you resist persists.” Because while we are “resisting evil” what are we doing? We are thinking about it, mulling over it, doing something “evil” to the “evil doer” and that creates more energy and “evil” thoughts and deeds. That then affects our lives in a negative way. Remember good thoughts beget good actions, bad thoughts beget bad actions. That’s the law. Look for the good in all things. If bad things are happening look for a way to turn that into an opportunity for thinking good and doing good.

A great example of this technique is Malala Yousafzai the young woman who was shot in the head for wanting to go to school in Pakistan. She is now an education advocate for girls around the globe and was awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. [1]

It is good to recognize that every day is a new day and we are given the opportunity to look a new at our thoughts and the actions that they create in our lives. As we observe we can choose to act on the negative thoughts or not. We can choose goodness, happiness, kindness, and compassion over evil thoughts and mean actions or harmful words–or not.

We can learn how to quickly identify the negative thoughts in our minds and just as quickly dismiss them and let them go. Or we can continue to give them power and harm ourselves and others. Just this…as we say in Buddhism. Or how about turning them into good like Malala? The choice is yours, which will you make today?

In gassho,
Shokai

ingassho

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66tIRTm91F8&spfreload=10)

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Today we begin our adventure with the third of 10 Paramitas in Buddhism.  So far we’ve worked on Generosity and Morales and today it is Renunciation.   I looked up the word on Dictionary.com and it gave some great synonyms for the word: denial, forgoing, sacrificing, relinquishing, abandoning, surrendering, and yielding.  I liked all of these so much better than the word “Renunciation.”    The example they gave of the word was a king renouncing his thrown, which reminded me of King Edward III giving up his thrown for his lover Wallis Simpson, the famous American divorcee. To me it was more of sacrificing a life of fame and power for love.  For others it seemed like he was abandoning his country for sex and personal desires.

Each of us must follow our path in this life if we are to be true to ourselves.  Renouncing his thrown was not easy for him, accepting his proposal with all its intended and unintended consequences was not easy for her either.  Our lives may not be as dramatic and open to the eyes of the world as Edward and Wallis, but each and every day we make choices to renounce, to forgo, to sacrifice, to surrender things, ideas, habits, and more—we do so to be faithful to our “true self.”

Today let us take an inventory of our lives, let us see what is helping us design and live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life—one that embodies the 10 Paramitas and beyond—one that lifts up humankind.  In the Christian Faith we are coming into Lent which is a time of renunciation a time when we sacrifice something for the memory of Jesus and his teachings of peace and love.  The Buddha is said to have sacrificed a life of riches and luxury to wander and seek the real meaning of life.

Sylvia Boorstein talks about Buddhism and life in her book Pay Attention, For Goodness’ Sake (2002), she writes: “And maybe it also means that people are realizing that what seemed important to them in their life—materialism and consumerism—doesn’t work at all to make a happy heart. It actually makes an unhappy heart. And an unhappy world. And maybe people are discovering that they really need something that speaks to the essence of their being, something that connects them directly with conscious intention, to the truth of their experience so that their lives become meaningful (page 4).”

And so when you take inventory of your life look closely at the things that made a difference, the things that brought you joy, peace, love, contentment, and a meaningful life. Then list the things that brought you pain, fear, anger, suffering, and loss.  Taking an inventory is not easy; it can open old wounds, faults, fears, frustrations, and losses.  But it can also help us remember past joys, happiness, loves, and successes. 

Once the inventory is completed take time to review the list and remind yourself of the things that you had to renounce or yield in order to survive.  It has been said that if life’s experiences do not kill us they make us stronger—sometimes in ways that we may not even recognize. 

I had to move in with my 92-year-old mother with Alzheimer’s disease and that meant giving up many of my so-called freedoms.  Freedom to come and go when I pleased, to sleep in or stay up late, to think only about myself, my schedule, my wants, desires, needs, ability to travel at will and more.  But what I have sacrificed is not nearly as much as I have gained in opportunities to actually practice what I teach: Living a life of the 10 Paramitas.

This experience gives me many opportunities daily to practice kindness, compassion, unconditional love, patience, yielding, relinquishment, and to sacrifice time and energy for something good and important—giving my mother a life of honor and respect where she can feel love and compassion each and every day.  Do not get me wrong it is not an easy path for me or anyone else that is taking care of an elderly parent or relative or a child or significant other who may be ill or disabled.  But millions of us do it and are, in the end, better people having had the experience.

For others reading this blog post you may be desiring the opportunity to relinquish an addiction to drugs, alcohol, food, or shopping—whatever is holding you captive to a life of fear, ill health, financial difficulties and the like.  Others may find themselves looking at a job or a relationship that is not functioning or fulfilling and it needs to be relinquished.  Let us each surrender to our good today.  Let us sacrifice expediency, fear, anger, and revenge for love, compassion, and joy.  Self-love and respect can be awakened in us if we yield to our good today. 

So take one thing from your list of past hurts and abandon it and surrender to the joy and peace that lives deep within you.  Creating a new you is not done overnight, and many of you will need help from friends, family members, self-help groups, spiritual/religious groups, doctors, and the like, but if you are willing to reach out, to relinquish your fears the consequences of change will be magnificent! Be free to relinquish the powerful hold the negative has on you, give it up, renounce it and instead yield to your good today! You may even find your true self! How wonderful is that. 

Let me know what happens!

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