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Posts Tagged ‘metaphysics’

Sitting Zazen facing wallThere are so many kinds of meditation from the simple Zen method of clearing your mind and counting your breath 1 on the in breath and 2 on the out breath.  Then there is the wonderful description by Frances W. Foulks in her iconic book Effectual Prayer where she writes: “To meditate on a subject is to give it attentive, earnest thought with the idea of having all its meaning revealed; that is, all the meaning that one is capable of receiving at the time (page 65).”[1]

These are different types of meditations, yet both are equally valuable in our lives.  Sometimes we simply want to go where “no” thoughts live.  Where the infinite universe and I are one.  Where no sound, or thought, or fear, or feeling exits.  Then we sit with the Buddha and become one with the breath and emptiness.

And sometimes we would like to sit as Frances describes in her chapter on meditation.

…each moment we give to meditation on the higher truths reveals to us fresh glories.  At any moment, in the night watches or in the midst of the duties of the day, in any place, on a busy street corner, at home or in the office, alone in the open field or deep in the woods, one can drop all outer things, relaxing from crowded thoughts and activities, and sink down, if for only a moment, into a holy meditation that will bring him forth filled with peace and strength, refreshed in mind and body (page 65).”[2]

She describes a “holy meditation” as something outside the ordinary and the mundane.  A place where perfect silence and love exists. Where no thoughts and all thoughts exist simultaneously.  The place outside of fear, anger, judgment, and anonymous.

Where Jianzhi Sengcan in his writing, Engraving Trust in the Heart, reveals

            One is inseparable from all.
All is inseparable from one.
If you realize this,
You go beyond thinking (page 72).[3]

This is the gift of meditation given freely to all who enter its silence, who chant the words of the teachers, and the words of our heart.  It is the giver of life and love, peace and tranquility at any time and in any place.  Regardless of the faith from which it comes we can blend our truths and our prayers and our chants and create what is right and perfect for us in the moment.  The importance is to begin a practice of prayer and meditation that works for you in that moment.  And in the next moment a different chant or prayer or breath will appear in the right and perfect time, at the right and perfect place, with the right and perfect tenor.

The thing is we have to be open and receptive to receive it and embody it and be one with it! Or expect nothing and be one with that. Are you?

[1] Foulkes F.W. (1945) Effectual Prayer. Unity School of Christianity: Lee’s Summit MO

[2] Ibid.

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

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We continue our series on the 10 Paramitas with Energy called Virya Paramita: Perfection of Energy.  The idea of the power of energy in our lives appears in Buddhism, Taoism, and metaphysics frequently.

Charles Fillmore, co-founder of the Unity movement, wrote frequently about energy. He taught that each of us has 12 powers which are related to the 12 disciples and one of them is the power of zeal which resides in the back of the head at the base of the neck and is represented by the disciple Simon who was often referred to as the zealot. Charles invited us to try a simple technique to increase our energy.  He said when you feel a lack of energy give a good massage with your fingers to the area where the head and neck meet, and it will quickly help bring back your energy.  Stop for a second and give it a try—test it out to see if it works now and anytime when you feel you need a little burst of energy.

At the age of 94 Charles Fillmore wrote this affirmation, “I fairly sizzle with zeal and enthusiasm to do the work that is mine to do.”  I sure hope I can feel that way when I am 94!

In Charles’ book The Twelve Powers of Man he wrote, “Zeal is the mighty force that incites the winds, the tides, the storms; it urges the planet on its course, and spurs the ant to great exertion.  To be without zeal is to be without the zest of living.  Zeal and enthusiasm incite to glorious achievement in every aim and ideal that the mind conceives.  Zeal is the impulse to go forward, the urge behind all things.  Without zeal stagnation, inertia, death would prevail throughout the universe.  The man without zeal is like an engine without steam or an electric motor without a current.  Energy is zeal in motion, and energy is the forerunner of every effect.”

In Buddhism we talk about energy this way: “Virya is energy or zeal. It comes from an ancient Indian-Iranian word that means “hero,” and it is also the root of the English word “virile.” So, virya paramita is about making a courageous, heroic effort to realize enlightenment. To practice virya paramita, we first develop our own character and courage. We engage in spiritual training. And then we dedicate our fearless efforts to the benefit of others.[i]

“In the case of Taoist practice, it is the effort, vigor, and diligence applied to our spiritual path. It is a kind of zeal or exertion, a fearless brave activity, which supports us in overcoming the various obstacles that inevitably present themselves — whether our practice is a martial art, qigong, sitting meditation, calligraphy, recitation and ritual … or anything else.[ii]

Each of us at some time or another may need to bring zeal, energy, and enthusiasm into our life.  It really does not matter where you live, what job you do, or situation in life you are currently in, because life without zeal, enthusiasm, and energy is flat, boring, and nonproductive.  Since we are given such a short time on this planet it might be a great thing to realize our full potential and have the mind, body, and spirit energy to do the things we have come here to do.

For some it may be living a life of work in the business world, for others it may be public service, or teaching or the medical field or being a stay-at-home mom or dad, and yet for some others they may be in unique living circumstances where their days are planned for them not by them.  Regardless of which circumstance you may be in take control of your life and direct your zeal, energy, and enthusiasm to the matters at hand.

How about doing the dishes, cooking, walking, eating, reading, studying, or meditating with an enthusiasm that sends electricity through you and fills the air around you?  I have known people like that and when you stepped into their presence you knew there was something special about them, even though you may not have been able to put your finger on just what it was!

Enthusiasm in life is catchy!  Many years ago I worked in Community Theater with a man who was so fantastic his characters were so real; his dedication to the script and the play was incredible.  He left the audience mesmerized.  And when you worked with him your acting was brought up a hundred fold.  It was fantastic!  I caught his love for live theater and have never lost it.  His enthusiasm was catchy!

Imagine what a wonderful world this would be if we did everything, even the most minute and maybe even boring thing, with zeal, energy, and enthusiasm: ZEE.  Think of the little ant that Charles wrote about—that ant can carry from 20-50 times its weight, so the scientists say.  Now that’s energy backed by zeal and enthusiasm!

Imagine if you filled your life with ZEE and you could SEE life through that lens.  How about seeing people, chores, places, and things through the lens of ZEE just think how happy you could BEE!  Remember the little ant: if he can—so can you! Try it out this week and let me know what you SEE!

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I have been invited to study to become a monk in my Buddhist tradition and began wondering about the roles that women have played throughout the years.  I went to the library and found a beautiful book by Sandy Boucher, Opening the Lotus: A Woman’s Guide to Buddhism. It is filled with great tips to help with your practice and wonderful information about the history of women in Buddhism where I was introduced to the Therigatha sutras (poems). The tips and practices shared here although written for and about women, of course, can be practiced by men as well.

I searched the internet for a few minutes and found the Therigatha sutras translated there.  I began to review the topics and ideas that these nuns wrote about during the time of the Buddha. I was especially intrigued by the title and the closing line of this one.

Dantika & the Elephant

Coming out from my day’s abiding
on Vulture Peak Mountain,
I saw on the bank of a river
an elephant
emerged from its plunge.

A man holding a hook requested:
“Give me your foot.”
The elephant
extended its foot.
The man
got up on the elephant.

Seeing what was untrained now tamed
brought under human control,
with that I centered my mind —
why I’d gone to the woods
in the first place.

Although I may be petite in size my mind, for all of my life, has been much “untrained” until I began to study the principles of metaphysics through the Unity Church and found the great benefits of meditation and contemplation.  When I started my seminary to train independent Unity ministers and teachers I wanted to include a course in the curriculum on world religions and in writing that curriculum and reviewing textbooks for the course I discovered that there were many similarities between Buddhism and the teachings and writings of Unity. Serendipity led me to the South Florida Zen Group and my new life and studies as I move from an independent Unity minister toward ordination as a Zen monk.

Yet, after several years sitting and studying Buddhism I find my thoughts can still be those of fear, anxiety, criticism and the like and they overtake my life as huge as an elephant—for sure!  So the analogy was not lost on me as I read and re-read this sutra.  I especially enjoyed the last verse, it freed me from my anxiety over the intrusion that these thoughts have had on me during the day, week, or month.  It allowed me to see that the time that I spend in meditation (sitting as we call it in Buddhism) and the time I have spent in the past in meditation and contemplation have not been in vain.

Each time I sit I am like the elephant taking a “plunge” in a river of calm and cleansing with a hand reaching out to me to help me move from confusion or fear to peace and compassion.  I am like the nun who wrote the sutra who realized that her walks in the woods were a way of cleansing her mind, body, and spirit of its human pains and sufferings and that allowed her to move into a world of a centered mind—one with all there is.

And in the sutra “Uttama” the woman ends her verse thus:

For seven days I sat in one spot,
absorbed in rapture & bliss.
On the eighth, I stretched out my legs,
having burst the mass
of darkness.

If you would like to tame the mind, burst the mass of darkness, or simply live a more peaceful and compassionate life I recommend sitting.  If you desire to be more focused at work, have improved relationships at work and at home, and to have a healthy body, mind, and spirit in all ways take the advice of the nuns who penned the Therigatha poems.  If they could do it in a time where there was no dishwasher, car, train, or bus, computer, washing machine, or epidural block during delivery you can too!

Many of you reading this blog already sit either by yourself or with a group and how wonderful is that! For those who do not have either  I recommend that you find a group near where you live, if there isn’t one, you can sit by yourself  as often and as long as you can.  You can find hundreds of Buddhist websites and links for readings, information, and tips. You can find groups, teachers, and individuals like you sitting, searching, and finding a simple way to tame the elephant in their minds.  It is a lifelong adventure that will transform your life.  I recommend it highly and I hope you will join me in this great and joyous adventure today.

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