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Posts Tagged ‘teachers’

timelessness

“Each moment carries all of time (page 13),”[1] writes Kaz Tanahashi in the section of Moon in a Dew Drop entitled “Timelessness of a Moment.”

Wow!  Now that’s a powerful thought for sure.

Yet throughout the  day we depend on time to be the arbiters of our life. We consider each minute, hour, day, week, and month and think and plan as to how it will go.  We have our daily, weekly, and monthly planners on line for instant access.  The new Google calendar now lets you have today’s view on the right side of your google email also! Some of us even have a paper one as well.  Okay, I confess that is me!

We are always looking toward something in the future: the next promotion at work, the birth of a child, the next vacation or holiday, our next meal, or the results of that final exam.  When we are doing this we have missed this very NOW moment.

Why is it when we are having fun time flies and when we are bored it drags on forever?  Remember that endless date or college class where the teacher just droned on and on.  I had a teacher once in college who read her lectures from a yellow legal pad and interjected 125 “ums” in there as well. How do I know?  I got so bored one day I simply made a hash tag in my notebook every time she said one and then I counted them up at the end of the class!

That teacher was my first real life experience of Taz’s quote…there was an eternity in every second of her lecture! He goes on to write, “But to one who is awakened, spring is just spring; it is not expected to turn into anything else (page 14).” [2]

Dogen illustrates it beautifully with one of his poems (page 14).[3]

 As usual
Cherry blossoms bloom
In my native place,
Their color unchanged—
Spring

So let us not fret over time or lack thereof.  Let’s bask in the joy of the timelessness of this moment, right here, right now—for now is all that really exists. I bet I just caught you looking at your watch or calendar!?

[1] Tanahashi, K. (1985) Moon in a Dewdrop Writings of Zen Master Dogen North Point Press: New York
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid

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We are currently studying a book by Shunryu Suzuki entitled Not Always So, Practicing the True Spirit of Zen.  In the chapter entitled “One with Everything” he talks about how we can make more or less problems in our lives and he relates it to making cookies.  How wonderful is that!  So just in case you’ve discovered or created or uncovered some problems in your life making cookies may just be the answer to them!

He writes. cookie with sunglasses

In short don’t be involved in making too many homemade cookies your ideas of big or small, good, or bad.  Make only as many as you need.  Without food you cannot survive, so it is good to make cookies, but don’t make too many.  It is good to have problems, and without problems we cannot survive, but not too many.  You don’t need to create more problems for yourself; you have enough problems (page 123).[1]

The “problem” isn’t that we like chocolate chip cookies.  I have a recipe that I call “Everything but the Kitchen Sink.”  Suzuki calls my cookie “One with Everything.” I’ve made them many times for our Zen group for a pot luck supper or an all-day zazenkai.  I start with the basic peanut butter cookie recipe and then I put in whatever I have in the cabinet that might be great in a cookie, chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, and more!  Each cookie is so heavy it takes two hands to eat it!

Sometimes my life feels like that, so heavy I can’t get out of bed in the morning or fall asleep at night.  Sometimes I make too many cookies and they go stale before I can eat them and other times I eat them all and then get indigestion and gain 3 pounds!  During those times I’ve forgotten to take Shunryu Suzuki’s advice and “make only as many as I need.”  Having no problems in life can make our lives boring, small, and inconsequential.  It is when we encounter problems and then discover the solutions that our lives begin to expand. We may see a wonderful change in our consciousness, our prosperity, our health and in a myriad of other ways in our lives that we never thought could be possible.

I bet each of you can remember many times in your life when a “so-called” problem at home, work, or in an organization that you belonged to turned into the best thing that you ever did.  For me one particular situation comes to mind.  I had a disagreement with the powers that be at Unity Church’s world headquarters.  So when going through the ordinary bureaucratic channels did no good I decided to start my own association of churches, ministers, and teachers and create a seminary to train and ordain them.  I did that and for several years we helped people around the world get credentials and degrees to continue working at their current churches, create their own churches, and more!

A problem turned into a bigger and better idea, had the problem never existed the wonderful work that all of our members did would have never been possible.  So make just the right amount of cookies in your life, fill them with just the right ingredients, and bake them just enough—not too much and not too little! Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Eat your goodies today! Let me know how they taste!

In gassho, Shokai

[1] Suzuki, S. (2002) Not Always So, Practicing the True Spirit of Zen HarperOne: NY, NY

[2] picture of the cookie is from We Heart It.

 

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On Saturday I was invited to give a short training on Multicultural Diversity for a non-profit youth and teen athletics development group in Miami Gardens, The Global Team Foundation. As the participants arrived and introduced themselves I found myself in a room with 20 of the most fantastic entrepreneurs and leaders in the community. These men and women are focused on two things—the young athletes who they are working with on areas of leadership and character development and developing their businesses into viable organizations that can help, inspire, provide jobs, and income to themselves and their community.

I was awed by the time and energy they spend each day on making Miami Gardens a fantastic community in which to live, grow, and succeed. We talked about the differences and similarities of ourselves and our youth and our community and how in appreciating our diversity we help our community live in peace, prosperity, and love.

Through their efforts they are developing the character of the young athletes, which is not an easy thing to do when you watch the news and see how some of the so called “role models” in professional sports are not living an ethical life. These mentors are there on a regular basis showing them the other side of sports, and life, and learning. They are role models as parents, entrepreneurs, teachers, coaches, and spiritual leaders. They are developing the leaders of the future.

At the end of my presentation we read this beautiful poem below by Emmet Fox, author, minister, and supporter of the founders of AA. It is through their love that miracles are occurring every day. Please check out their website and if you can support them I am sure they will be grateful for the help of your time, talent, and treasure.

Be the difference you want to see in the world!

LOVE

There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer;
no disease that enough love will not heal;
no door that enough love will not open;
no gulf that enough love will not bridge;
no wall that enough love will not throw down;
no sin that enough love will not redeem.

It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble,
how hopeless the outlook,
how muddled the tangle,
how great the mistake,
a sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.

If only you could love enough you would be the happiest
and most powerful being in the world.
-Emmet Fox

 

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

 

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On December 7, 1975 a short piece was published in the Family Weekly Magazine about Peace Pilgrim. In it she talked about the idea of peace that Americans held:

Peace is much more than the temporary absence of war; it is the absence of the causes of war. I believe it will take another 10 years for an outer peace to develop and sustain itself, but even after that time I will continue to talk about the inner peace man needs to maintain outer peace (page 180).[1]

Sadly 42 years have gone by since she made this statement and wars on the common people by their governments and the fundamentalist religious groups around the world are raging harder, longer, and in more places than ever…from the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to the mountains of Iraq, to the sovereign state of Ukraine, and still fermenting are wars between the Israels and the Palestinians that live in the Gaza Strip. Just to name a few!

So what would you suggest to the Peace Pilgrim if she were still amongst us as to the “causes of war”? The absence of war for me will come when we all develop a constant and consistent attitude of peace, love, and compassion for self, and then allow that to flow freely and fully to all beings at all times, and in all places. Next, move that peace, love, and compassion to the trees, lakes, mountains, and rivers, to the grass beneath your feet and the sun and stars above—to see everything through the eyes of love. Finally, to teach these principles in every town and village on the planet to the young ones who will be the future caretakers of it. This is what’s missing and is the cause of war everywhere from the bedroom to the boardroom to the city and to the countryside.

The eyes of love for self disappeared in Robin Williams as his depression and life’s challenges grew harder and harder to accept and manage until he took his own life. His peace and compassion for himself began to dwindle and finally to disappear. That is just what the Peace Pilgrim was speaking about when she said, “I will continue to talk about the inner peace man needs to maintain outer peace.”

We are a union of minds melding together through the energy that moves around this planet. We feel the energy of others in our presence all the time. Sometimes we can feel the energy of joy, laughter, and love and sometimes we feel the energy of fear, hatred, and sadness. But feel the energy we do, sometimes it is so palpable there is a saying that “you could cut it with a knife.”

While sitting in the Zendo this morning one of our teachers, Mushin Sensei, put on a beautiful piece of music for us to focus on after the talk given by our teacher Doshin Mitch Cantor. The music was a piano piece that was so fabulous it brought the energy of a recently departed friend into the room. I saw his light, I could feel his love, I could see how his spirit/energy was everywhere present as far as the mind could imagine from cosmos to cosmos from heart to heart and from mind to mind. I felt both tears of joy and sorrow begin to roll down my cheeks as our energy merged with the music and I was once again reminded that “all is one” that there is no separation in time and space when agape love is concerned.

Wouldn’t it be great if the love energy of the Peace Pilgrim and my dear friend Kevin Dulling could be flowing in and through all that is to help end this madness on planet Earth? I know they both would approve!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

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A crazy thing happened to me today.  I caught myself reading mindlessly this morning as I picked up a new book that I bought the other day that was recommended by one of the groups that I belong to (The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society www.contemplativemind.org) it is entitled Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning by Daniel Barbezat and Mirabai Bush.

Now imagine picking up a book about contemplative practices and be reading mindlessly!  Well believe it or not, I did!  Partly because my mind was distracted from the reading and my thoughts and feelings were placed upon the e-mail I had just received about one of our Sangha members, Sid Bolotin, having passed away peacefully in the night.  My mind wandered to his statuesque physical presence and his peaceful countenance that permeated the air and the room each time I was in his presence.  It did not matter whether we met in the Zendo or we met in the library he was always present, smiling, and kind.

I cried a little as I remembered our last meeting how frail Sid had appeared and how slowly he walked into the library yet with great determination to keep living and loving with each moment he was given upon this earth.  That memory led me to pick up my book and begin reading again.  This time I caught the idea that was being shared in this chapter about contemplative reading in the classroom or anywhere—Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina has “four levels of meaning: literal, metaphorical or symbolic, moral, and mystical. Through the process, the simple words on the page become integrated into the moral and spiritual life of the reader (page 111).”[1]  Just imagine what our lives would be like if we lived our lives with these four levels in mind.  If each day we looked at life from the literal meaning it has for us as we went through the practical tasks of our lives.  This morning I did a load of wash, threw it into the dryer, took it out, folded it and then put it away.  Done!

If I then looked at that task in a metaphorical way and compared that to my life in general how would it look?  I always say to my teams when we are working on an initiative on the adventure training course that whatever you do here is exactly what you’d do or how you’d act on the job!  So if you are controlling and always taking charge you’ll do that here.  If you are shy and quiet you will be that way here as well.

So washing my clothes might be something I could think about doing with my mind and/or thoughts.  I could look at the symbolic way that enfolds my life.  I might even want to wash my mind of some negative thoughts. For some of those thoughts I might have to add bleach or a stain remover because they are so embedded in me and not helpful when trying to live a peaceful life of contemplation and compassion.  But like the spot remover once I recognized them and their effect on my life I could change them and therefore change my life. I could visualize it like some nice clean clothes that might be hanging on the clothes line on a beautiful spring day blowing in the breeze, clothes filled with vibrant colors, smelling of the fresh air, and moving without resistance to the wind.

From there I can view my life through the moral lens of compassion and peace that is a part of my studies and through the Buddhist vows I have taken. Finally, I can bring those actions and thoughts through this spiritual lens and hopefully make a difference in someone’s life today.

So I encourage you today to not only read through Lectio Divina but live through Lectio Divina: literally, metaphorically or symbolically, morally, and mystically—then  watch your life transform.

So long Sid…


[1] Barezat, D.P. & Bush, M. (2014). Contemplative Practices in Higher Education Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

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When I first arrived at my Zen group Doshin Sensei gave me some tips on sitting.  He suggested that I set my intention first and then go into watching and counting my breath.  That resonated with me because I am a person who has written down my goals and worked to attain them my entire life.

Not long after that we had a wonderful teacher, Dr. Brenda Shoshanna author of Zen and the Art of Falling in Love, come to visit us for a weekend retreat at the Southern Palm Zen Group.  I went and had dokuson (private meeting with a teacher) with her and during the visit we talked about my relationship with my mother.  She gave me some sage advice and told me that when I set my intention I could include my parents in it.

I have three lines that I say when I begin.

I sit in order to save the planet and all sentient beings.  I sit in honor of my mother and father who gave me life and taught me to do good.  I ask the Buddhas of all directions to light the lamp of dharma for all those on my prayer list named and unnamed and for all those who are groping in the darkness of suffering.

I then go into the silence counting and/or watching my breath and letting the universe take care of the rest.

There is a Zen Koan that goes like this:

One day, Layman Pang and his daughter, Lingzhao, were out selling bamboo baskets.  Coming down off a bridge, the Layman stumbled and fell.  When Lingzhao saw this, she ran to her father’s side and threw herself to the ground.
“What are you doing?” cried the Layman.
“I saw you fall so I’m helping,” replied Lingzhao
“Luckily no one was looking,” remarked the Layman.

Joan Sutherland reflects on this koan in the beautiful book The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women.

Lingzhao’s action obliterates the idea that there is a helper and a helped.  Compassion isn’t a commodity we deliver but a commitment, according to Chan, to help liberate the intimacy already inherent in any situation.  ‘What is most intimate?’ the koan suggests that we ask.  Usually the most intimate response to another’s difficulty begins with the willingness not to flee.  Fleeing can take the form of abandoning the situation, and it can also mean escaping into ‘helping,’ into a whole constellation of ideas about what ought to happen.  Intimacy is being willing to stay and accompany and listen, to be vulnerable and surprised and flexible.  It’s a willingness to fall with someone else, and see what becomes possible when we do (page 294).[1]

So what does this story have to do with thanksgiving?  For me it reminds me of what happened with my mother when I began setting my intention—we became the best of friends and I was given the opportunity to be her caretaker, as she had done for me in my early years.  I give thanks to the universe for bringing me the opportunity to be like Lingzhao and throw myself down beside her and say, “I saw you fall so I’m helping.” And thus it was with my father in his last years as well.  And so I give thanks for my Buddhist teachings which have given me the strength and “willingness not to flee” when others could have and did.

Namaste mom and dad wherever you are…

So I take this opportunity now to give thanks for my teachers, mentors, and friends at the Southern Palm Zen Group, for my dear departed parents, for my friends and family, for the men that I sit with at our prison ministry, and for all of my clients who keep me employed doing what I love to do the very most—teaching.

In gassho, Shokai

ingassho


[1] Caplow, F. and Moon, S. Editors (2013) The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women. Wisdom Publications. Somerville: MA

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When was the last time you went on a hike and were able to actually enter into a physical stream?  When was the last time you felt the water rushing over your feet or shoes and toes and ankles?  When was the last time you heard the noise of the rush of the water over the rocks and pebbles and the cacophony of sounds that it produced?  That may just be the last time you and “prajna” were one.

So what is prajna anyway? “Prajna, consciousness or wisdom in Mahayana Buddhism refers to an immediately experienced intuitive wisdom that cannot be conveyed by concepts or in intellectual terms. The definitive moment of prajna is insight into emptiness, which is the true nature of reality (page 171)”[1]

One of my “prajna” moments occurred many years ago in the Colorado Rockies hiking with a friend—the water was so pure we could drink from it and refresh our bodies, minds, and spirits and all it seemed to take was just one cold crisp handful. For hours no words needed to be spoken as we immersed ourselves in the beauty of the forest and its insentient capacity to answer all our questions and fulfill all our needs.

Dogen says, “To dedicate yourself and take refuge in the manifestation of prajna is to see and uphold the Buddha, the World-Honored One.  It is to be the Buddha, the World-Honored One, seeing and accepting (page 65).”[2] For students of other paths it may be seeing and accepting the Christ, or Mohammad, or Krishna, or Kwan Yin all honored ones amongst their followers.  How you get there is not the point, the point is simply getting there.  As if “there” was someplace to get, which there is not. But on the physical plane we always think of it that way.

Since prajna cannot be conveyed in concepts or intellectual terms it is important for us to take time each day to simply experience the moment in which we are living.  Regardless of what we are doing in that moment: eating, shopping, bathing, singing, sitting, walking, or cleaning—be there fully, wholly, and unabashedly!

Enlightenment is not some “place” that you go to or get to—it is right here, right now. So if you are still waiting for just the right meditation, sitting, sesshin, prayer, teacher, time, or location you’re going to miss it.  You’ve taken your eyes off the ball—life—and the multitude of opportunities you will be given today to enter into the stream.

Intimate with everything I see,

Walking, sitting, and lying down are truth itself.

If someone asks the inner meaning:

“The treasury of the dharma eye in a speck of dust.”

–Dogen (page 172)[3]

Be here now.

upaya-gold-buddha-Doshin

Upaya Gold Buddha

Photo by my teacher, Mitch Doshin Cantor

http://www.listeningwiththeeye.squarespace.com

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day being “intimate with everything I see” and everything I do.

2.  I will remind myself that prajna is not a place to go, but is an experience.

3.  I will remember that I am in charge of my experiences and not the circumstances that I find myself in.

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] Kohn, M. H, Editor, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, Shambhala Dragon Editions (1991) , Boston, MA

[2] Tanahashi, K. Levitt, P. (2013) The Essential Dogen, Writings of the Great Zen Master. Shambhala: Boston, MA

[3] ibid

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