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Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

basket of fresh fruitThere are many variations of the prayers that the Buddhist communities use before they eat to bless their food.  This is the one we use at the Southern Palm Zen Group.  I like it a lot as it is simple and to the point.

“Earth, water, fire, air and space combine to make this food, numberless beings gave their lives and labors so that we may eat, may we be nourished so that we may nourish life.”

Thus we focus not on the “food” but the reason that we eat: to nourish our bodies and minds.  It’s really that simple.  As humans became more social beings we began to eat for pleasure and times of sharing, fun, and celebration with our families and friends. We created reasons to eat and to give thanks before the meal to show our gratitude for the food, our families, and our friends.

Brown encourages us to do a little less “picking and choosing” when it comes to food.  He says, “So instead of picking and choosing, as students of life we might at times choose to practice acceptance, gratitude, enjoyment, thanksgiving (page 145-6).” That is easy to do by always blessing your food before you eat.

I used to teach the kids in Sunday school when we had snack time to say, “Ruba dub dub thank you God for the grub.” Some of the parents did not like it but the kids loved it and it started them off on a great practice of giving thanks for the food they had been given–even if they disliked it.  It can also be a time when you can share with them that many children have no food to eat and to be grateful and happy that they have food on their table.  To value the food that they have will help them have compassion for those who have none.

Giving thanks is something we all do at Thanksgiving with our families and friends sitting around the table, but I hope you’re doing it every day not just one or two days out of the year.  You’ll be surprised how much better the food will taste, and how much less Pepto-Bismol you’ll have to take after the meal.  Regardless of who cooked it–the  worst or the best cook in your family–giving thanks will make it go down easily!

Just remember what Mary Poppins said: Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down or Uncle Joe’s chili…well maybe not Uncle Joe’s chili…but giving thanks may help!

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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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For me prayer is when we talk to God or a higher power and meditation is when we shut up and listen!

There are all kinds of prayers and ways to meditate that are available to us. Below is a simple list of some of the most common ones:

Affirmation/affirmative: A good example of this is to recite “I am open and receptive to receive my good in health, wealth, and happiness today and every day to do the work I have come here to do.” This type of “prayer/affirmation” can help your conscious mind direct to you all the good that the universe has in store for you.
Centering: Silent prayer that helps us open ourselves to receive by quieting our minds, body, and spirits.
Contemplative: Focusing on an idea, scripture, quotation, sutra, poem or words of wisdom.
Intercession: Praying for help for others i.e. healing or prosperity for a friend in need.
Lectio Divina: reading, reflecting, responding, and resting on a sutra, scripture, or spiritual reading.
Meditation/sitting: Sitting quietly while focusing on your breath, a word, or counting 1 on the in breath and 2 on the out breath to quiet and center your rambling/monkey mind and become one with all that is.
Thanksgiving: A simple prayer of giving thanks often done before a meal or after a challenge has been overcome such as an illness, accident, or having passed your final exam in school.

Today I want to focus on the affirmation since I have had several requests from friends and students for prayers of prosperity, jobs, healing, and more. Affirmative prayers keep us in a positive mood with a wonderful outlook for the future. They help to keep us from ruminating on the negative, fearful, or harmful thoughts that seem to invade our minds in times of need.

Charles Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity, said that prayers have weight and measure and ultimately energy. All words are prayers in some way. In Genesis 1:3 we read: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” The first demonstration of the power of the word! What words are you saying from the time you awake to the time you go to sleep? Are they words of illness, lack, limitation, frustration, and fear? Or are they words of affirmation, health, healing, prosperity, opportunity, love, and compassion. The universe does not care which you choose it will bring you whatever you think and pray for!

When times are tough, and they will be in life, center your prayers on positive affirmations and your mediation times on sitting in the silence to help quiet down that monkey mind and allow your body, mind, and spirit to rest. Give yourself a “meditation break” instead of a “coffee break” which just fills you with caffeine and sugar and calories!

Each day it would be helpful to end it with this Buddhist prayer/chant:

Let me respectfully remind you
Life and death are of supreme importance
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost
Each of us should strive to awaken
Awaken, take heed do not squander your life.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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Shunryu Suzuki in his famous book wrote, “Every existence in nature, every existence in the human world, every cultural work that we create, is something which was given, or is being given to us, relatively speaking.  But as everything is originally one, we are, in actuality giving out everything.  Moment after moment we are creating something, and this is the joy of our life (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, 1970, page 65).  At Thanksgiving time we are especially busy giving and creating things from a sumptuous dinner for family and friends, to decorations for the table, to food for the local food bank for the Thanksgiving Dinner baskets for the needy, and this year to the victims of the Super Storm Sandy.  We are creating and giving from the material to the ephemeral in our prayers and well-wishes for all those on planet earth, planet earth herself, and beyond.

How do we do this?  Suzuki goes on to say, “But this “I” which is creating and always giving out something is not the “small i”; it is the “big I.”  Even though you do not realize the oneness of this “big I” with everything when you give something you feel good, because at that time you feel at one with what you are giving.  This why it feels better to give than to take. (page 65)”  This month in church we have been collecting money to purchase enough celery for 250 families that are receiving Thanksgiving Baskets from the food bank.  We do this every year!  We give the celery.  Sounds silly maybe but what would Thanksgiving be without celery in your stuffing, or on the table filled with something like cream cheese or peanut butter, and what would the leftover turkey salad be without the celery.

Those in need of food baskets often do not get fresh vegetables and fresh food because the food pantry cannot take perishables.  So even a bunch of celery can be an exciting thing for children to experience and green is good for everyone.  In fact, many children in urban areas today do not even know where the food comes from.  When a classroom of children were taken to the grocery store one day and the teacher asked them where the meat came from in the packages they could not tell her that it was from a cow or a pig.  They could only identify that the chicken was at one time a living bird.

Suzuki goes on to say “Actually, to create with the “big I” is to give; we cannot create and own what we create for ourselves since everything was created by God.  This point should not be forgotten. But because we do forget who is doing the creating and the reason for the creation, we become attached to the material or exchange value.  Everything you do should be based on such an awareness, and not on material or self-centered ideas of value. Then whatever you do is true giving, is dana prajna paramita. (pages 66-67)”

This is why we enjoy this time of year so much because it gives us that opportunity to have a reason to give whether it is gifts for our family and friends, time at the food bank or soup kitchen, help to provide food for the turkey baskets for families in need, or just to give a smile to the clerk in the store.  Rich or not so rich—we can give with abandonment.  And most of the giving can be free of any monetary value, so how about giving some of your time and yourself this year along with your cash.  When we do this type of giving from the “big I” Suzuki believes “we will not be attached to it, and we will not create problems for ourselves or for others.”

Today is the perfect day to view each thing that you give as coming from the “big I” and seeing yourself as the conduit of the teachings of the great masters of the world from Jesus to the Buddha to Mohammad, to Krishna, and many more whose names I have not mentioned, down to you.  Selfless giving is selfless living at its best.

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