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Posts Tagged ‘Reb Anderson’

It’s a game—yes life is a game and anger is used as a tool in the game to help people get what they think they want, need, or desire.  In life there are rules and so many rules that it is hard to keep track of them.  When you are young the rules are less and they are easier to remember.  Rule #1 cry or have a temper tantrum when you are hungry or wet or want something that you cannot reach and someone will pay attention to you and give you what you are asking for.  Rule #2 laughing and smiling does not get as quick a response. Rule #3 go back to rule #1.

So this game continues into our youth and adulthood.  We play this game with family members, friends, co-workers, and total strangers.  You’ve seen and heard the game, you’ve played the game.  Sometimes it works in the immediate moment, but afterwards you end up with regrets, broken friendships and relationships, and even lost jobs.

That is not to say that anger or aggressive words or actions are not appropriate in certain situations in life.  When I teach assertiveness training in my classes and workshops I let people know that there are three types of ways you can behave in any situation: passive, aggressive, and assertive.  Depending upon the situation any one of the three may be the effective one and the perfect one at that moment.

Liberation is one of our main goals when sitting and so we need to be liberated to choose, to say “just this,” or to respond in the most aggressive way or the most passive way.  Wonderful examples of inappropriate and appropriate anger are given in Reb Anderson’s book Being Upright (2001). Reb describes a day when his 2-year-old daughter was walking ahead of him and she suddenly turned and started trotting quickly into the street.

 “I immediately shouted with my full voice, “No!” My tone was fierce and aggressive, like a fast moving truck.  She stopped in her tracks and turned back toward the sidewalk. I felt no anger toward my daughter, but there was harshness in my voice.  The strength of my shout surprised me, and I watched her response.  Afterward she seemed calm and happy, so I felt that perhaps it was all right that I had yelled so fiercely (page 180).”[1]

You could call this appropriate anger and from there he moved back into the “gentle way” with his daughter and they both found a “peaceful balance” as they continued their walk through town.  Reb goes on to say, “Peace is realized in entering the flow—meeting and dancing with aggressive energy (page 181).”

To be liberated in this game of life is not to be stuck with rules that are “always” and “only” one way or the other, but that there is latitude to determine when and how to use the rules.  Being angry all the time is not one of them.  Being passive all the time is not one either.  But developing the “middle way” is.  Developing and practicing patience is a great way to find the middle way.  Reb writes:

  “Patience is an antidote to anger and primary condition for enlightenment.  Through practice your vision clears and you see the dependent co-arising pain, frustration, and anger.  Practicing patience does not mean gritting your teeth and ignoring the pain, but developing and expanding your capacity for experiencing pain, opening wide enough to feel the pain without either running away or wallowing in it.  When you practice patience, the path to harmful anger is blocked.  You can face the pain, and relax and breathe with it (page 182)”[2]

This leads to liberation and the use of “appropriate anger” when it is called for and choosing the “middle way” the rest of the time.  It frees you from using “harmful anger” to control and manipulate the people around you.  It will help clear the way for compassion, love, and kindness in the game of life that you are playing.  Today you may be the pawn, the queen, the knight, or the king—one never knows—but when you are liberated you can choose them all or simply choose not to play.

So let’s not act like our baby self above and get caught in the cycle of Rules 1, 2, and 3!

Things to focus on this week:

  •  Step one: Begin simply by giving up inappropriate anger and replacing it with compassion, love, and patience.
  • Step two: Set your intention to think before you speak when you hear one of your anger triggers coming and choose the middle way.
  • Step three: Find a way to be kind even when confronted with the most extreme aggressiveness.
  • 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] Ibid.

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What is the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie?  For some this may be difficult to discern because lying has become such a staple in their lives that they cannot tell the difference between it and the truth.  A friend of mine used to say “the truth would have served her better.”  But alas, the truth was not told.

Dictionary.com defines it thus: “a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.” We have even divided up our lies into categories and given them different names.  Let’s say we’ve got the following list:

  • white lies
  • outright lies
  • bold-faced lies
  • deceitful lies
  • malicious lies
  • exaggerations
  • deceptions
  • plagiarism
  • the beneficial lies

The last on the list is written about in Reb Anderson’s book Being Upright Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts (2001).[1]  He takes what is called the “beneficial lie” and relates it to the person during World War II in Nazi occupied Europe who lied about a person’s whereabouts in order to keep them from being imprisoned and/or put into a concentration camp.  From there he says,

In the practice of the Bodhisattva precepts, our ultimate concern is for the welfare of all beings.  We therefore extend the meaning of ‘not lying’ to include ‘not speaking in a false or harmful way, or standing by in silence when others speak in a false or harmful way.’  All speech based on self-concern is false or harmful speech, and speaking the truth naturally arises from selflessness. (122).

This really simplifies the list above doesn’t it!  Boy that makes it much easier for me than trying to determine whether what I’ve just said is on the list. All I have to do is ask myself—is what I am saying based on self-concern or on the concern for another.  If it is based on “concern for another” then I am apt to be going in the right direction as I travel the bodhisattva way of living. If it is not then I need to think before I say the words and choose words that show my concern for another rather than for me.

Next, he talks about the times when “speaking the truth” can get us in trouble and he says, “Buddha said that you should not speak the truth when it is harmful, but we need to distinguish between what is harmful and what is hurtful.  Sometimes people tell you the truth and it hurts a lot, but it is very helpful  (page 125).”

I remember a time in my life when my nephew was about five or six years old and he was pushing his younger sister and my brother-in-law ran over and told him he was a bad boy and to stop pushing his sister.  But I did not want him to think badly of himself at such a young age so I took him aside and told him that he was not a “bad boy” that he was a “good boy” but his behavior toward his sister was not good and could hurt her if she fell down.  I made the clear distinction between him and his actions and what was actually “bad.”  I doubt that my words stopped him from pushing his sister in the future, but I hope that they helped minimize his negative self-thinking in the future.

My brother-in-law’s comments were “harmful” and I hope mine would be considered somewhat “hurtful” but something he needed to hear to help him grow into a more loving caring adult.   I am happy to say that he has!

What harmful or hurtful things have you said this day?  Reb talks about “right speech” in the community or sangha.  He says, “ . . . it generates trust and harmony within the community and becomes a strong support for others’ liberation.  . . .when members of the sangha speak falsely or act in a way that encourages others to use false speech, it brings about a deterioration of trust among people in the community and undermines the practice of liberation (page 126).”  What happens at the Sangha is exactly what happens at your home, office, or school.  Life plays out the same in all ways and in all places.

So let’s take a look at our self and use this week to practice not telling lies.  Let us focus less on self-concern and more on selflessness and doing good for all others through our words and actions as we follow the bodhisattva way.

Things to focus on this week:

  •  Step one: Begin by deciding how you will refrain from false speech and focus on right speech instead.
  • Step two: Set your intention to do so before each possible encounter.
  • Step three: Remember to be mindful of being upright in all you do and do not harm others with your false speech.
  • 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

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In a culture where almost everything is sold around “sex” whether it is toothpaste, cars, clothes, furniture, houses, or hair dye we have been misusing sexuality.  When studying and practicing The Ten Grave Precepts students of Zen are invited to take a look at their sexuality and decide what it means to them, how they use it, and how its use affects themselves and those around them.

Reb Anderson in his wonderful book Being Upright (2001) has a beautiful chapter entitled “NOTHING IS WISHED FOR: Not Misusing Sexuality.”  He talks about various ideas from sexual greed to sexual imagery, energy, and intimacy.  He describes it in one paragraph as—

. . .dancing in perfect harmony with the rhythms of our sexual passion. Eventually, the time comes when a human being appears before you as a brilliant and shinning god or goddess, acting as a mirror reflecting your wholeness.  This reflection reveals the dazzling promise of orgasmic unity and the bliss of the complete integration of your whole being (page 118).

When I read this passage it brought back to me a time many years ago when I had a lucid dream about my partner and we were both walking through a doorway, he coming from one side and me from the other.  The doorway was too small for us to pass by without touching and yet neither of us wanted to wait for the other so we both proceeded and our ethereal bodies slowly merged into one and from the top of my head to the tips of my toes I felt the energy—you might say it was a super orgasmic lucid dream from which I did not want to awaken.   But now these many years later I realized that is exactly what Reb was talking about in this chapter.  The merging of the “rhythms of our sexual passion” was “reflecting each others wholeness” and not as separate individuals but as one.

This is how we are taught to live in Zen Buddhism—as “One” with everything.  Regardless of where we are or what we are doing when we focus on the person or the object not as “the other” or something “separate” from us then we are practicing the Bodhisattva way.

I was counseled many years ago by a Unity minister friend of mine, Edwene Gaines, not to sleep with anyone whose consciousness I did not want to own.  I did not understand it very well then, but now I do.  She understood that when you had sex with someone you became one with them, as Reb speaks about, and that his or her energy—good or bad—enters you and yours enters them and you share thoughts, emotions, dreams and more.  Ask yourself before the encounter is this someone I would want to merge with.  Are his or her thoughts, energies, and emotions similar to mine?  Is the person filled with peace, love, compassion, and kindness? These are simple but tough questions to ask and to answer.

Remember Reb says it is a “mirror reflecting your wholeness.”  Is this person’s wholeness the wholeness you want to embrace and make your own?

In the end of the chapter he closes by saying he compares it to sitting Zazen which he calls “sitting upright.”

The world of sex is sitting upright, too.  Whenever you do anything with complete warmth and devotion, it is the same.  Creating a work of art, cooking a meal, or cleaning house: any action of body, speech, or mind, when done in this spirit of complete devotion, without imagining anything else, and without the slightest separation between yourself and the task, is the same.  This is immaculate sexuality (page 121).

This is not the sexuality we see on TV in the ads, or in the movies, or soap operas.  This is the sex that was illustrated in this joke that I heard many years ago.  A young married couple is having sex and in the middle of her husband’s organism the woman opens her eyes, looks up and says, “hmmm.  I think we should paint the ceiling pink, don’t you?”

Today and everyday I see you dancing in perfect harmony with the rhythms of your sexual passion as you recognize your oneness with all there is.

Things to focus on this week:

  •  Step one: Begin by deciding how you will refrain from misusing sexuality this week.
  • Step two: Set your intention to do so before each possible encounter.
  • Step three: Remember to be mindful of being upright in all you do and do not misuse sexuality.
  • Step four: Finally, keep a journal on the precept and make note of how learning to embody it in thoughts, words, and actions is affecting your life. Good luck with that!

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Paramita #9 Loving Kindness…the Bodhisattva way

“The teaching of Mahayana Buddhism, the teaching of Zen, is the teaching of love, not hate.  My teacher did not teach people to hate one another, he taught people to love one another (Anderson page 178).” So writes Reb Anderson in his wonderful book Being Upright Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts. So what we are talking about here is not romantic love, but agape love, the love of humanity with all its frailties, foibles, and mistakes.  Loving kindness when it is hard, when it is not deserved, when it is well deserved, and when it is simply plain fun.

This is the way of the adept, the Bodhisattva, the monk, the minister, the rabbi, the priest, and the wayfarer. When a person is surrounded by the idea of loving kindness inside and out it can be seen on his or her face, heard in his or her voice, and noticed in the actions taken.

Are we all perfectly loving and kind all the time?  Not hardly, but to be so more often than not David Baird says, “We must learn from the past, prepare for the future, and live in the present (Baird page 161).”[1] To do so we may want to take an inventory of the times in the past when we were not practicing loving kindness, and when we were practicing loving kindness, and then look at the things we need to do to prepare for the future opportunities that may appear to practice loving kindness.  How do we do that—by living in the present!  In this very present moment when I am living mindfully I am fully conscious of my thoughts, feelings, and actions and if I catch myself being unkind I can quickly and immediately make a 180 degree turn and show loving kindness.

Sitting, meditating, and praying on a regular basis will make this happen more often, it will make it much easier to catch ourselves in the moment and ultimately improve our relationships with everyone we meet be they family, friends, co-workers, customers, bosses, inmates, or strangers.

When we do this Reb Anderson tells us there is light at the end of the tunnel.  “You practice being upright to generate love, not to generate states of mind. States of mind come and go, and happiness comes and goes; but love can be developed so that it doesn’t come and go (Anderson, page 26).”[2]  We can learn to love the person and not the actions.  We can learn to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes and thus show loving kindness for the pain and anguish they may be in.

Many people walk around with very low self-esteem, with voices in their heads that remind them of the hundreds of times they may have been put down, marginalized, or physically or mentally abused when growing up.  For these people loving kindness was never shown to them and so they have no example to pattern themselves after.  These, my friends, are people who need more loving kindness than your average Jane or Joe.

This week we will practice loving kindness when it is easy, when it is hard, and when it is fun.  We will be given many opportunities to do it I am sure!  There is never a moment when loving kindness cannot be displayed.  Keep an inventory of how many opportunities you were given each day, notice where they came from and how you responded to them.  If you were unable to respond with loving kindness do not be unkind to yourself.  Simply look at your behavior and what triggered it and determine to not let that trigger take you away from showing loving kindness in the future.

It will take practice with some people and some situations, but it will be well-worth it in the end.  You will see your triggers getting smaller, and lighter, and appearing less often.  You will find solace and peace in the action of loving kindness and just maybe you may see it returned in kind.  Keep your eyes and ears open for that! Loving kindness is on its way to you today! Namaste…


[1] Baird, D. (2000), A Thousand Paths to Enlightenment. London, England: MQ Publications Limited

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

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