Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘politics’

I seizeOxherding_pictures,_No._4 him with a terrific struggle.
His great will and power
are inexhaustible.
He charges to the high plateau
far above the cloud-mists,
Or in an impenetrable ravine he stands.
I have abandoned the whip and ropes
 

The fourth picture shows that the oxherd has now caught hold of the ox, using the bridle of discipline to control it. This symbolizes the rigorous discipline required of the Zen practitioner. Although he now realizes that the power to transform his life lies within himself, in his Buddha-nature, all his previous conditionings are pulling and pushing him in different directions. Holding the rope tightly means that he must work hard to overcome his bad habits of the past that developed through the ignorance, hatred and craving that gave rise to all his afflictions.[1]

Abbot Zenkei Shibayama shares a Zen story in his book, A Flower Does Not Talk, that relates to Koeller’s thoughts on “working hard to overcome bad habits.”

Bodhisattva Manjusri once asked Zenzai Doji, “Bring me something that does not do any good.” Zenzai searched around, but wherever he went, everything he saw and touched was something that would do good.  He was unable to find anything that would not do any good.  Finally, he had to come back to Manjusri and report: “There is nothing that will not do good (page 190).”[2]

The conversation continued from there and Manjusri said:

“Bring me something, then, that will do good.”  Zenzai, without hesitation, plucked a blade of grass at his foot and presented it to Manjusri.  Manjusri took it up, and showing it to the congregation, said, “This single herb is both able to kill people and to give people life (page 190-191).”[3]

So, what does this have to do with you today, your life, your plans, your wishes and dreams? Everything!  For me when I look back upon my life I see that the challenges forced me to learn, to pray, to think, to discover, to step out of my fears and anxieties to move forward regardless of them. I was able to recognize that these challenges did NOT kill me but made me stronger, more resilient, more pliable and yes, more loving, caring, and compassionate.

Some might say I need to take off the “blinders” about the reality of life. Yes, war is hell and people living in war zones, in poverty, lack, limitation, and ill health need help from those of us who can help and are willing to help and have the resources to help. That does not remove our obligation to try to help minimize or eliminate the suffering of others. As Koeller said, “Holding the rope tightly means that he must work hard to overcome his bad habits of the past that developed through the ignorance, hatred and craving that gave rise to all his afflictions.”

So, let us as, students of Zen, work daily to take the discipline that we have learned in our Zen practice of sitting into the “real” world and help those who cannot, for whatever reason, help themselves.

Let me know how that goes!  Shokai

[1] Koeller, J.M. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/weai/exeas/resources/pdf/oxherding.pdf
[2] Shibayama, Z. (1970) A Flower Does Not Talk Zen Essays. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co.
[3] Ibid.

Read Full Post »

For anything new to emerge there must first be a dream, an imaginative view of what might be. For something great to happen, there must be a great dream.  Then venturesome persons with faith in that dream will persevere to bring it to reality.

Some ideas whose time has come will spread as in a forest fire. But most need the help of a teacher.  I had the good fortune to have an extraordinary one.  He dreamed a great dream of how servanthood could be nurtured in the young, and he spent his best years in bringing it to pass (page 9-10).[1]

Where I work at Kaplan University they encourage not only the students to volunteer and make a difference in their communities but they encourage all faculty to do so as well through The Virtual Difference Makers. Here is a list of some of the things they did in 2016: ran a Spring Virtual Serve-A-Thon, hosted a Stress Management Series, a Virtual Celebration of Rio, sponsored their first annual Health and Wellness Fair, held a Fall Serve-A-Thon and more!.

I have been invited to Lynn University to participate in an interfaith dialog and will be back there again in April for another interfaith dialog.  The hall was jammed with students!  Standing room only!  They asked wonderful questions of the panel.

These were the words on the Flyer for the event: Healing the Divide: Interfaith Dialogue.

In a world where religion so often is the cause of hate and intolerance, we stand infaith-headtogether at Lynn to create a world where our religious differences are not simply tolerated but celebrated. This event is precisely that; where religious leaders from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Atheist traditions will come together in celebration of our diverse faith traditions.  Come and be amazed!

Imagine the great education the students are receiving at both Kaplan and Lynn and many other colleges around our country when their faculty and administration support such events.

If you are able to create similar events on your campuses I encourage you to do so.  Create a Virtual Difference Makers club for students and faculty, run interfaith dialogues, offer training for faculty on meditation and mindfulness.  Be the change you want to see in our world! Be the catalyst for peace, love, and kindness spreading around your campus and beyond!  The time has come to spread the message of servant leadership at all levels.  Change has always come from the bottom up not from the top down! Be the change you want to see in the world!

Good luck with that!  Let me know how it goes!

Shokai

 

[1] Greenleaf, R.K. (1987) Teacher as Servant: A Parable. The Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership: Indianapolis, IN

Read Full Post »

Teaching with mindfulness and contemplative practices is like wearing a MASCC while at the same time creating a road map for your students and for yourself.  When we use Mindfulness, Artfulness, Simplicity, Compassion, and Connectedness (MASCC) to design our courses, prepare to teach them, and actually teach them we empower our students in many important and exciting ways.

As educators it is our responsibility to educate our students not only in the course content, but also in how to live mindfully, compassionately, and successfully in an ever changing and challenging world of war, hunger, prejudice, poverty, disease, and climate change.  The power within each of your students lies dormant until we help them discover it.  But for that to occur we must first discover it within ourselves.  We must create a MASCC for our lives and the circumstances within which we live and move and have our being.

So the first step in this process is to find a practice that resonates with your belief system and discover the power that it has to expand your life in these areas.  Chose one area at a time and focus your reading, research, attention, time, and talent in that direction. Make it fun, make it experiential, and make it an integral part of your life.  Then watch what happens with your teaching ability, your creativity, and your responses from your students, friends, and family members.

Change is not easy, but it is important. Stagnation often appears as a very slow death. So slow that we often don’t even recognize it until it is too late.  Stagnation can mean the death of a relationship, a job, your health, and more.  It hinders the growth and learning for yourself and your students.

Today’s students have sensory overload with the internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more! They have trouble focusing and quieting their minds and thus it makes learning very difficult. Their attention span is short and getting shorter every day!  So if you think how and what you taught last year or two years ago or five years ago will work today think again!

mindful-games-book-coverSusan Kaiser Greenland in her book “Mindful Games” shares with her readers an exercise that I think you might like.  It is called “Drop the Monkeys (page80-81).”[1] In Buddhism we talk frequently about the Monkey Mind! Monkeys represent thoughts, sensations, distractions and emotions running around our heads throughout the day.

So what do we do with them? She has her student’s remove their power by adding them to a chain (like a necklace) filled with monkeys.  Once they’ve filled up the chain she has them dropping the chain into a barrel, letting go of them quickly and easily! Whatever you do don’t go back and take them out of that barrel!  Getting rid of the Monkeys will put you on the fast track to creating a powerful MASCC that can change your life forever!

Let me know how it goes!

In gassho,

 

Shokai

[1] Greenland, S.K. (2016) Mindful Games. Shambhala: Boulder

Read Full Post »

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,

Shokai

 

[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

Read Full Post »

As an English teacher and writer I love words! I have uploaded dictionary.com onto my cell phone and signed up for the Word of the Day. How fantastic is that? One moment every day I have the opportunity to stop and look at the word that appears on my phone. I read the word and then instantly, in that moment, know if it is a word I already know, a word I think I know, or a word I have never heard before. When I check it out I often discover things I may not have known about the word: the pronunciation, spelling, meaning, or how to use it in a sentence.

In that moment the word comes alive. It is given breadth, and width, and feeling, and meaning, and motion and power. Some words feel good when I say them and I may repeat them over several times. I may try to say them in sentences or change the pitch or tone of how I say the word and in that moment I am taken up into the word and the power it can hold in a conversation, a speech, an email, a diary, or on Twitter. Sometimes, oddly enough, I do not like the way the word “feels” in my mouth when I say it. I always try to avoid those words!

The words being spoken in our presidential campaigns for 2016 can be divisive, harmful, hurtful, angry, and mean. They can tear down a person, a town, an ethnic group, or a nation the moment they are spoken. Let us hear some words of up lifting, of compassion, of caring, and of love for humanity instead. The moment cannot be taken back, you cannot grab those words like the line of a fishing pole and pull in the fish and gently take the hook out of its mouth and drop the fish back into the lake. They are in the hearts and minds of the people, forever on the internet, on Twitter, and in the archives of some newspaper.

Everyone has wished at some time or another in his or her life that they could take back those words that were spoken in the mystery of that moment. Charles Fillmore the co-founder of Unity Church said that words have power and weight and measure and once spoken in that moment they are thrown out into the stratosphere and beyond and vibrate the cosmos farther than man can see or travel. In any moment they can cut like a knife or cure like a medicine.

I remember being in a hospice unit visiting one of my congregants who was suffering from a huge tumor the size of grapefruit on her neck. I held her hand and we prayed together I told her the choice was hers to go or stay. I could feel the calm overcome her body, in that moment, she chose life. Three months later she came back to one of my classes and we all celebrated life with her. She shared a story with us that had us all amazed. On a follow-up visit to her doctor low and behold the tumor had disappeared and he told her that because of her he now believed in a God, there was no other explanation in his mind in that moment words healed them both.

In this moment your words are healing or hurting or killing. There is power in words—choose wisely.

Let me know how that goes.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

Read Full Post »

The late Rush Kidder wrote in his book How Good People Make Tough Choices, Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living (2003), “Ethics, after all, is all about the concept of “ought.”  It is not about what you have to do because regulation compels it (like paying to ride the train) or nature requires it (like eating and sleeping).  It’s about what you ought to do—have an obligation to do—because it is “right (page 153).”

Kidder tells us that there are three principles for resolving dilemmas. These principles can be used in our own lives, we can teach them to our students, children, extended family members, and maybe even our coworkers or employees.  They are as follows:

  1.  “Do what’s best for the greatest number of people (which we’ll refer to here as ends-based thinking).”
  2. “Follow your highest sense of principle” (or rule-based thinking).”
  3. “Do what you want others to do to you” (or care-based thinking) (page 152).”

The best way that I can see to do the teaching is by using these principles in our daily lives.  If we live these principles by our example we will be “teaching” others about what “ought” to be done in life.  We will be teaching without lecturing, or shouting, or having to say “I told you so.”

Our politicians are short on these principles in every corridor of government from the top down.  We find that to win an election they will say anything.  They will pander to one group and say one thing and then pander to another an hour later and say the exact opposite.  They will pit races, age groups, and the sexes against each other to garner votes.

Our police departments are going back to before the civil rights movement of the 60s and racially profiling everyone that is not white.  The Black community has something they call “driving while black” and the Hispanic community has something called “show me your papers.” And the women have something called “prove to me you’ve been raped.”  Do these policies fall into the three ways Kidder shows us to resolve dilemmas?  I don’t think so.

Would the people who are enforcing these three ideas want them done to them (#3), if they compared them to the “highest principles” they were taught in church or temple or at the mosque would they pass the smell test (#2)? Not as far as my little pug nose can tell.  And finally, if they asked them what is in the best interest of the greatest number of people would they pass the math test?  Maybe today, but in the very near future it would not (#1).

Fortunately, for us our children are growing up in integrated schools where they see people of all colors, sizes, shapes, and sexual preference.  They have the opportunity to have teachers that are young right out of college, grandmothers teaching for 20 years, gay and lesbians, Blacks, Hispanics, and republicans, democrats, and independents, and combinations of all of these put together.  Many of these people may even be living in the same households, no less be going to the same schools, or shopping in the same stores.

So when we are making decisions and solving problems for ourselves, our families, our jobs, and our communities it is imperative that we take advantage of the three decision making tools shared by Kidder.  One may be more appropriate than another depending upon the dilemma, but they are all based on one key idea “ought to do—because it is right to do.”

When the whites in South Africa stood up against apartheid they did not do it because it was easy—they did it because it was the “right” thing to do.  When the supreme Court decided to uphold the school children’s right to an equal education in Brown v Board of Education they did not do it because it was easy—but  because it was the “right” thing to do. When President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act on his first day in office to ensure equal pay for equal work for women he did it not because it was easy to do—but because it was the “right” thing to do.  It ought to have been done in the 1970s when women were fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution because it was the “right” thing to do—but it was not.  Ponder on that thought for a moment…

What “right” thing did you do today?  What right thing “ought” you have done today?  When will the two merge?  Soon I hope because our communities, our country, and our world are in grave danger if we don’t.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »