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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Emerson: “There is no planet, sun or star could hold you if you but knew what you are.”

Shodo Hashodo-harada-roshi-sanzenrada Roshi in his beautiful book, Moon By The Window, wrote:

“In a dualistic world we will fumble and fall. When we see with the eyes of the Buddha, we know the joy of the Dharma [teachings] in daily life. We become one with the heavens and earth, and there is no longer any division between inside and outside (page 169).”[1]

We are made up of stars and light and when we use the talent, energy, compassion, and love of which we were born all things are possible.  We have sent spaceships to Mars, found cures for diseases that in the past had destroyed civilizations, we have created music, and dance, and poetry, and literature that has moved millions.  It is possible to be one with each of these things as we travel through life on planet Earth. I know because I have done it at a Cherokee Indian Fire Walk with Unity Minister Edwene Gaines on a dark night in an Alabama forest during one of her workshops

That is who we are. That is what we are. Shodo Harada Roshi goes on to write, “We have to throw away our small way of thinking and live in a place where we hold on to nothing whatsoever. It’s here that we discover the Buddha, and there is nothing sturdier than the strength that comes from this discovery.  The Buddha discovered that he was a part of the “all” as he awoke under the Bodai tree and taught us that through our direct experience we could realize that as well (page 169).”

As Louise Howard and Chris Riddell illustrate in their book Buddhism for Sheep: “Train your mind iBuddhism for Sheept is the source of everything.”[2] As we sit in zazen (meditation) we are training our minds to “throw away our small way of thinking and to hold on to nothing.” Then and only then can we know what we are—a piece of the heavens and the earth.

As Emerson said, “know what you are.” Sheep or not sheep…that is the question.

Shokai

[1] Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com (page 25)

[2] Harada, S. (2011) Moon by the Window, The Calligraphy and Zen Insights of Shodo Harada. Boston, MA: Wisdom Press.

[3] Riddell C.,  Howard, L. (1996) Buddhism for Sheep. London, England: Ebury 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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Health is a state of mind as well as a state that the body and mind either has or does not have.  We often take our health for granted and do things that are detrimental to the body such as improper eating, lack of exercise, lack of mental calmness and fortitude, abuse of substances, and more.  We cannot abandon the mind/body connection in this life unless we are dead set against living.  The fact is living can be hard at times. However, I always find that much better than the alternative.

Book Cover How To Train a Wild ElephantDr. Jan Chozen Bays author of How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness (2011), has a great exercise that I recommend for everyone who feels limited in health of mind, body, and/or spirit. She is a physician and Zen teacher who has written this great book filled with easy exercises to invite mindfulness, meditation, and concentration into our lives in a fun and playful way!

She calls this exercise “Loving-Kindness for the Body” below are the directions for the exercise.

The Exercise: For one week, practice loving-kindness toward the body.  Spend at least five or ten minutes a day with this practice. It could be during your meditation time. Sit down in a comfortable chair and breathe normally. On each in-breath, be aware of fresh oxygen and vital energy entering your body. On each out-breath, send this energy throughout your body along with these silent words: “May you be free from discomfort. May you be at ease. May you be healthy.”

Eventually you can simplify this process by just saying “ease” with the out-breath. Any time during the day when your attention is drawn toward your body (when you see yourself in a mirror or when you feel discomfort), send loving-kindness to the body, even if only briefly (page 211).

A healthy body, mind, and spirit makes life so much more fun!  I hope you’ll try it out and let me know how it goes!  I hope you’ll buy her book and work through all of the exercises in it. Meet your good health today! It will transform your life in many ways!  I know that from experience.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

 

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What does it mean to be free?  There will be different connotations if you live in the middle of a war zone in the Middle East, or in a job that you feel chained to that is joyless and boring, or if you are incarcerated in a prison “behind the fence” as we say.  Then there is the prison of our minds and emotions that keep us from being free of our thoughts of lack, limitation, and ill health.

As a college professor I have seen that fear in my students eyes when they enter my developmental English class and know that they will not be free to take the “for credit courses” and earn a degree in their favorite area of study if they don’t pass my class. And yet at some time during that semester I can see the light go on in their minds when they finally “get it.”  They are finally free of their negative thoughts and fears and able to move on with their education.

H. Emily Cady in her book Lessons in Truth wrote:

You may think that something stands between you and your heart’s desire, and so live with that desire unfulfilled, but it is not true.  This “thing” is a bugaboo under the bed that has no reality.  Deny it, deny it, and you will find yourself free, and you will realize that this seeming was all false.  Then you will see the good flowing into you, and you will see clearly that nothing can stand between you and your own [good/freedom].[1]

You will be free!

Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years and yet he was still able to be a powerful symbol of black resistance to apartheid. On February 11, 1990 he was released by President de Klerk and in 1991 he was elected president of the African National Congress. In 1993 Mandela and President de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work toward dismantling apartheid.

A similar story can be told in our country about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Susan Bright Eyes LaFlesche (Omaha Native American civil rights activist.) and R.C. Gorman painter, sculptor and Native American the first Native American to be internationally recognized as a major American artist.

R.C. Gorman Native American artist

Freedom: Nothing stood in the way of their “hearts desire.” Do not let anything stand in yours either. Freedom is not a place—it is a consciousness.

Be free to meet your good today!  Let me know how that goes!

In gassho,

Shokai

[1] Cady, H.E. (1903).  Lessons in Truth. Unity Village, MO: Unity House

 

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When deciding what to write about I had trouble coming up with something special so I turned around to my bookshelf, as usual, and a very weathered and yellowed book by Les Kaye jumped out at me: Zen at Work, A Zen Teacher’s 30-Year Journey in Corporate America.  I quickly flipped through the pages looking for that ever present yellow marker and my eyes caught a chapter entitled “True Nature.”

Wow, it would be great to meet my true nature today and thus I read on…

The point of Zen practice is to let go of ideas about boundaries and to feel our limitless true nature.  When we express our limitless true minds, we understand that there are no boundaries and no center (page 16).[1]

And so how do we live this “limitlessness?”  Kaye and I have created a list of does and don’ts.

Begin with these ideas in mind:

DON’T_jones-gap-stream-1

  • Don’t be afraid
  • Don’t grasp after it
  • Don’t look for a road map
  • Don’t cling to it
  • Don’t get sidetracked by comfort, pleasure, or desire

DOsmoky-mountain-stream-copy1 Morningjoy weblog

  • Do remember we really have “nowhere to go”
  • Do open yourself to the limitless Big Mind
  • Do let Big Mind be your guide
  • Do let your limitless true nature express itself
  • Do know that wisdom IS your true nature
  • Do realize your inherent completeness

Picture these ideas as stepping stones in a mountain stream. The first stream is filled with boulders and rushing water that keep you from crossing and moving toward your limitlessness. The second stream is filled with rocks that allow you to cross easily and discover your limitlessness.  Which stream are you in?

In gassho, Shokai

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

[2] B&W Picture http://listeningwiththeeye.squarespace.com/galleries/recent-works-2012/ from my teacher Mitch Doshin Cantor’s work

[3] Morningjoy.wordpress.com picture Mountain Vistas Weblog

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“All the great prophets taught that you will find a sense of peace and purpose in stillness.  They all wanted you to be able to find peace within yourself (page 42).”

~Russell Simmons (Success through Stillness)

Stillness can be seen sometimes out my office window when not a single leaf is moving on the trees. Sometimes I see stillness in my dog Annie as she lays contentedly next to me sleeping in her little bed.  At times she is so still that I have to look at her stomach to see if she is still breathing!

I find stillness in my mind and body when I am sitting each morning meditating.  I even have felt stillness as I’ve sipped my morning coffee savoring the taste of it on my tongue, feeling the warmth of it moving down my throat while breathing in the fragrance of the coffee and the hazelnut creamer.

Stillness can be found anywhere and anytime if you are looking for it. Even at the Fourth of July fireworks celebration you can be so focused on the beauty of the fireworks and the sound of them that your entire being is one with them.  You are so connected that you don’t hear the screams of the children or the barking of the dogs.

Stillness is not a thing—it is a place that we go when our minds are focused so thoroughly on one thing that time has stopped and space and eternity is everywhere in that moment of stillness.  When I was a child I loved to read the Nancy Drew mysteries.  I was there in the stillness of the book and the moment.  I was Nancy walking, running, jumping, solving the mystery.  I sat still for hours on the couch or on my bed engrossed in the book. There were many days when my mother would literally have to walk into the room and shake me to get my attention.  She was so exasperated that I did not respond to her calling my name to come in for supper.

Stillness, what is it really?  What mysteries does it hold? Oh, the places you will go! There is no time in stillness.  Stillness can last a nanosecond or an hour without differentiation.  We welcome stillness sometimes when things are getting too busy at work, school, or home.  We crave it when we are stuck in activity, thinking, emotions, and the adrenaline rush!

Such is a time to hold up a big STOP sign in your mind.  Such is a time to take hold of your breath and breathe three times slowly simply counting one on the in breath and two on the out breath. To find stillness in the breath, to live between the heart beats, where eternity lives is divine.

Take charge of your life, find time every day, as often as possible for a “stillness break” instead of a coffee break or an ice cream break!  Meet the peace within yourself. You’ll be glad you did—so will everyone around you, I’m sure!

Let’s meet in the stillness where we will definitely find our good today! See you there! I await your presence!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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Today is the day that I begin to meet my good and look for the things in life, in Buddhism, in philosophy, in religion, and beyond that can assist me in this new adventure in living.  Why begin each morning with the same old thoughts, feelings, wishes, and desires?  If I haven’t attained them yet maybe I don’t need them, maybe I unconsciously don’t want them, or maybe I just haven’t figured out how to manifest them.  Maybe they were really someone else’s goal or desire that was put on me or given to me such as following the same career as one of my parents or living in the same town that I grew up in.

In this new series I am going to challenge myself, my beliefs, my life, and my dreams.  I am going to allow myself to go outside of my comfort zone and beyond my fears to take a very honest look at myself.  To decide what it is about my life that is working, what is not working, what I can release and let go, and what I desire to keep. I might even discover something about myself that I have kept submerged for days, weeks, or even years, or maybe never even recognized.

Dr. Susan Jeffers writes in her book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, these profound words:

One of the biggest fears that keeps us from moving ahead with our lives is our difficulty in making decisions.  As one of my students lamented. “Sometimes I feel like the proverbial donkey between two bales of hay—unable to decide which one I want, and, in the meantime, starving to death.” The irony, of course, is that by not choosing, we are choosing—to starve.  We are choosing to deprive ourselves of what makes life a delicious feast (page 11).[1]

In Buddhism we talk about life being “just this” whatever this is.  So as “this” occurs I can simply deal with it and then ask myself, “How did I do?”  Did I deal with it in the same old way, did I take the time to look at in a new way, did I allow myself to experience it (I mean really experience it), and how did that feel?  No judgment—simply looking for the wisdom in each moment of my life. What did I learn about myself, the other person, or the event? If it didn’t go exactly as I had planned or it didn’t go well I might ask myself, “How could I handle it differently in the future?”  Or how could I see it differently in the future?  And yet, today I can stop ruminating over it, beating myself up over it, or putting myself down over it.

As I meet my good today and throughout the week I am going to put more trust in myself and my innate wisdom. I am going to allow myself to “feel the fear, and do it anyway.”  Why, because my good is out there—so long as I am open and receptive to receive it!

Let me know what “good” you meet today!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Jeffers, S. (1987) Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. Ballantine Books: NY, NY

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In this moment I’m sure that I leave not only a trail but a trace of myself almost everywhere I’ve been and with everything I’ve done or said.  There is some little bit of myself left behind, whether it is bread crumbs by the toaster, a friendly email to a long lost friend, or a painful heartache as we spoke of a loved one who passed in the Viet Nam war.  Not only do I leave physical things but I leave emotional things, thoughts, promises, and energy behind.

I leave a trace of me.

What trace have you left and where did you leave it?  Was the smell of your after shave or perfume left behind in a room?  Was it a plate of something that you cooked and left for an elderly neighbor, or cookies for the local school or church bake sale, or a bag full of clothes that you’ve outgrown left at the Goodwill or the homeless shelter?

I often wear clothes that I kept from both of my parents.  The trace of them is still there in the softness of the fabric, and the memory in my mind of the look on their faces when they wore them. Then there is the feel of the energy as I sleep in those softly worn flannel pajamas of my father or as I wear the red flannel robe of my mother on a chilly night.

When I look at the quilt that my grandmother made as it lies on my bed I can picture her farm worn hands clutching the needle and thread tightly as she sewed this special blanket for her granddaughter while saying her Methodist prayers and knowing that God was guiding her hands in every move.

They all have left a trace in this moment even though they may not have known that they would.   What trace are you leaving? One of peace, love, and compassion or fear, anger, and hate? Are you leaving a trace of bread crumbs and dirty dishes in the sink for someone else to clean up?  How about the trace of condemnation or anger in the hearts and minds of others?

Leave a trace
Fill the earth with love
Inspire the youth
Heal the sick with a prayer
Remember the poor
Leave a trace of love[1]

What trace are you leaving today?  Keep me posted.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

 

[1] Inspired by the music of Michael Hoppe’s “Romances for Solo Piano.” Thank you Michael I am blessed by your love of music.

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In this moment what do you have to be thankful for?  If I asked you to list 10 things in your life that you are thankful for what would they be?  Would they be people, things, possessions, your health, happiness, or your job?  When was the last time you actually gave thanks out loud for a good deed received, or in your mind for something tangible, or in your heart for a person or a pet?

Rumi has a wonderful poem about “Thanksgiving”

Thanksgiving is sweeter than bounty itself.
One who cherishes gratitude does not cling to the gift!
Thanksgiving is the true meat of God’s bounty;
the bounty is its shell,
For thanksgiving carries you to the heart of the Beloved.
Abundance alone brings heedlessness,
thanksgiving gives birth to alertness…
The bounty of thanksgiving will satisfy and elevate you,
and you will bestow a hundred bounties in return.
Eat your fill of God’s delicacies,
and you will be freed from hunger and begging. [1]

In Buddhism we might think of everything being “just this.”  So if we are grateful and give thanks for whatever “that is” we might be able to receive the bounty that is lurking behind the gift.  Sometimes even a difficult event or a cantankerous person can be a blessing and bring us bounty when we least expect it. When I look back on the event I might discover that I learned something very valuable from that experience.  It could be something that may have saved my life, or my job, or a relationship.

Are you open in this moment to fill your life with delicacies, to be freed from hunger and begging?  Energy has movement and weight and measure and it all depends on the energy that you give out in this moment what you will get back in return.  Making it a habit to show thankfulness every day as often as you can will do wonders for your health both mental and physical.

So if someone slams the door in your face as you walk into the store or office you could get mad, nasty, angry, and kick the door or you could think “just this.” Just this could have been a broken nose if I was closer or I wonder what made the person so upset, distracted, or angry. It looks like they could use a little loving kindness and understanding today.

Life is painful if you let it be that way.  So today be thankful for the lesson learned from the slamming of the door, for the lesson learned when you acted with love and compassion instead of anger and hate. In this moment give thanks for the person that you are and the person that you are becoming.  Because “thanksgiving gives birth to alertness” and in that moment it kept you out of harm’s way!

I take this moment to give thanks for all of my readers, and followers, and friends, and family for each of you have given me much too be thankful for!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] https://darvish.wordpress.com/tag/rumis-thanksgiving-poem/

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I thought about what to write for my next blog on “The Mystery of the Moment”  as Merle Haggard sang: “I’ve got heartaches by the number, troubles by the score, every day you loved me less each day I loved you more.”

You can listen all day on the radio or on your iPhone or computer about the loss of love, the finding of love, the happiness of love, and the pain of love.  Endless poems, movies, songs, and books have been written about it.

Eventually the word loses its passion and meaning when we begin to say “I love my new car, new house, this food I just cooked, or the way my hair looks in the mirror.” With the presidential race going on in America I can hear more words of animosity, hatred, and vitreal than about love.  I hear hate words projected on all races, people, religions, political opponents, and more.

It’s amazing how the universe works!  I turned around to my very large bookcase behind my desk looking for something on “love” to add to my blog post and I was drawn to pull down a book by one of my favorite Zen teachers Robert Kennedy, Zen Gifts to Christians (2004).  I open the book up at the back looking for an index to see if he had anything about love in it and sure enough the page was not an index but a page with a quote on it about love!  What are the chances that in this moment I would find the perfect quote on love?!

Kennedy shares a quote by …Etty Hillesum, a Jewish woman, who was swept up by the Germans in Holland in 1941 and sent to her death in Auschwitz in 1943. Though she knew nothing of Zen, her Interrupted Life parallels the final poem of our ox herder poet and puts a modern face on Zen teaching. In it she writes (page 121):

And a camp needs a poet, one who experiences life there, even there, as a bard and is able to sing about it.

At night, as I lay in the camp on my plank bed, surrounded by women and girls gently snoring, dreaming aloud, quietly sobbing and tossing, and turning, women and girls who often told me during the day, ‘We don’t want to think, we don’t want to feel, otherwise we are sure to go out of our minds,’ I was sometimes filled with an infinite tenderness, and lay awake for hours. . . and I prayed, ‘Let me be the thinking heart of these barracks.’  And that is what I want to be again. The thinking heart of a whole concentration camp.

I know that those who hate have good reasons to do so.  But why should we always have to choose the cheapest and easiest way? It has been brought home forcibly to me here how every atom of hatred added to the world makes it an even more inhospitable place (pages 121-22).[1]

How many atoms of hatred have you added to the world today, how many of love, peace, and compassion?

What will you do in each and every moment today to make your life and surroundings “a more hospitable place?”  Keep me posted on that!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Kennedy, R. (2004) Zen Gifts to Christians, Continuum: NY, NY

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