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Posts Tagged ‘letting go’

Sensei Kaz Tanahashi

Kazuaki Tanahashi

“The concentrated endeavor of the way I am speaking of allows all things to come forth in realization to practice going beyond in the path of letting go.   Passing through the barrier [of dualism] and dropping off limitations in this way, how could you be hindered by nodes in bamboo or knots in wood [concepts and theories] (page 105)?”[1]

I love this quote by Kazuaki Tanahashi from his beautiful book Zen Chants.  It brought to mind what often happens when I sit down to meditate.  Up come all the nodes and knots that I’ve experienced throughout the day or the week.  I focus on how hard they were to surmount or maneuver around.  When I catch these thoughts arising I think to myself, I need to let this go.  It is disrupting my meditation! And thus, the simple thought of letting go is now the catalyst for more thinking, self-recrimination, and more.

Round and round on the merry-go-round I go until my head is spinning and I’ve made myself dizzy.  So how do I “pass through the barrier of dualism?”  How about becoming one with the barrier? One with the thought, feeling, or idea.  To give it the freedom to be, to go, to sustain, or disappear without judgment, fear, or insistence.

To breath into it slowly, lovingly, and kindly.  We are so quick to provide loving kindness to a friend or family member in need.  To hold back recrimination or judgment.  To give them space to find themselves to live their life as they need to.  To respect their boundaries, dreams, and desires.  Yet, how often do we not give ourselves the space, advice, room, or love?

How often do we give ourselves permission to let go, to make mistakes, to get up in the middle of a sit when we have a cramp in our leg?  I recall some time ago when I was sitting in dokusan with one of my favorite teachers, Lou Mitsunen Nordstrom, and I told him I was going to start my own zendo and name it “If it itches, Scratch it.”  I may go to the fictious “Zen Hell” for that idea.  Luckily the only hell I have is between my own ears!  And for sure I need to “let go” of that idea!

Wow! Maybe I should start my new adventure by letting go of the idea that hell is between my own ears!  What a great ending for my workbook on The Secret to a More Fulfilling Life.

Definitely THE END!

[1] Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala: Boston and London

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Our thoughts today will be on the verses from the “Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra” below.  Although they sound a little crazy once we get the idea that is trying to be expressed in the sutra our lives will be filled with much less stress, strain, and worry.

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.

No gain thus Bodhisattvas live this Prajna Pramita.

Shohaku Okumura in his book Living by Vow A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts writes about these verses beautifully.

If our life is based on dichotomies like good and bad, we chase after good things and run from bad things.  We are concerned about whether we are good or not.  If we think we are good, then life is worth living. If we think we are bad, then life is just a mistake. This dualistic thinking makes our life rigid and narrow.

No matter what mistakes we make, we can start over because everything is impermanent.  We can change. We can change the direction of our life.  This is the way we transform our life, our thinking, and our views.  According to Dogen Zenji, sitting in zazen and letting go of everything is the key to shifting the basis of our life (p. 163).[1]

Yet, we allow the above thoughts of old age and death and suffering to chase after us each day and we allow those thoughts to upset us and ruin our day.  Or, if we choose, we can begin our day with sitting (meditation) and let go of everything good and bad, fear and happiness and more.  We can be free of the mind made chains of emotions and thoughts. We can focus on the now and the only thing important in the now when sitting is “your breath.” Allow your mind to be free of the to-do lists, the past conversations and actions, the fears and the joys. Simply wait and watch quietly for the body to become still and the mind to become quiet and the breath to become deeper and slower.

I am not tied down forever to the behaviors that have been hindering me in my life and can see them for what they really are impermanent.  The programming may be old and deep but with time and effort all things are possible.  Remember the old saying, “All things are possible for those who believe.” So begin today to let go of your fears of old age and death, suffering, and limitation or whatever else may be holding you back from being the person you desire to be, a person living a life of compassion, love, and peace.

This is a new year the perfect time to begin your life a new!  You are a Bodhisattva, whether you know it or not, so live this Prajna Paramita today and watch the results manifest in your life.

Things to focus on this week:

  1. I will begin each day by sitting in quiet meditation letting go of everything but my focus on my breath.
  2. I will remind myself that doing this can help free me from my fears and my rigid and narrow thinking.
  3. I am changing the direction of my life for good today!
  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 Texts, Wisdom Publications, Boston: MA

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Wow!  This is a really big subject and I have to write something brilliant in 900 words or less…Yikes.  I am possessive of everything from my purse to my relationships, to my clothes, and my car.  How about the furniture I spent so much time picking out and waiting for that sale to buy it?  What about my friend if I see him or her enjoying the company of someone else without being included?  Goodness, don’t forget the place that you sit in the Zendo each time?  Feels like I could go on and on for at least 500 words on this list alone–but I won’t!

The thing about my possessions is that they end up possessing me—it is not the other way around.  I had to move in with my mother a few months back due to her Alzheimer’s disease and then I had to give up some of my “stuff” because it would not fit in her two bedroom apartment, which was already filled with her stuff, I was in a quandary.  So I left a lot of the things in the apartment that I had been sharing with a friend.  Then my friend had to move!  Now what?! So I really had to decide what possessions I was willing to give up, which ones I “could” give up, and which ones I just “had” to hold on to…not sure for what reason but the urge was there.

Believe me when I tell you that I have been a corporate trainer, teacher, and college professor for over 25 years and I filled up two giant recycle bins with files, papers, tests, handouts, and more!  It took me 2 days to go through them all and to dwindle the “to keep” pile down to one small box from the moving section at Home Depot.  Did I possess them or did they possess me? So now I think I’ve got it…I’ve mastered this possession “thing” and I am able to throw things out, release them, and let them go.

Oh yeah! Then I opened Reb Anderson’s book and Robert Aitkin’s book and I read from Reb, “Even if you do not hold onto ordinary things of the world, the merit of that is insignificant compared with the merit of not avariciously holding onto dharma treasure (page 168).”[1]  So, when I finally make a breakthrough in my sitting, or in my demonstration of compassion, or showing unconditional love and patience and am feeling great about my successes in my practice I have to give that up too!  So what can I keep?

Robert writes about Hui-hai. He says, “When Hui-hai was asked about entering the Tao, he said we enter by the danaparamita, the perfection of relinquishment, the perfection of giving over (page 83).”[2]  He goes on to say, “When the Buddha held forth a flower before his assembly, that was a full and complete presentation of the entire universe and of all the teachings of all the Buddhas and Ancestral Teachers (page 85).”  And what did the Buddha do with that flower, he immediately gave it away!

There is great wisdom in the eternal idea of giving things away—any and all things.  Meister Eckhart said, “To give a thousand marks of gold to build a church or a cloister would be a great thing, but to give a thousand marks for nothing at all would be a far greater gift (page 83)”[3]

Looks like I’m stuck with giving it all up, giving up the good of giving, giving up the pride of giving, giving up the self-righteousness of giving, and giving up the giving up.  Now does that mean that I can’t collect things, ideas, or good deeds?  Not at all simply get them and at the same time release them and let them go.  In Unity we had an affirmation that said, “I release it and let it go to find its highest good elsewhere.”  Or you could say him or her in place of the pronoun it.  So yes you can give and receive!  So give away—just don’t give with the idea of attachment—of getting something in return.  And if you can’t figure all of this out—you may want to give up  trying! That may be the best “give away” of all…

To this “flower” I bow, three full bows…for no reason at all.

Things to focus on this week:

  •  Step one: Begin simply by giving up whatever needs to be released each and every moment of the day: ideas, thoughts, things, people, emotions etc.
  • Step two: Set your intention to release and let go of your attachment to either “having it” or “releasing it.”
  • Step three: Accept the Buddha’s help throughout this process.
  • Step four: Finally, keep a journal on the precept and make note of how learning to embody truth in all its aspects thoughts, words, and actions is affecting your life. Good luck with that!

[1] Anderson, R. 2001, Being Upright Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts. Rodmell Press: Berkeley, CA.

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

[3] Ibid.

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