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Posts Tagged ‘Unity Church’

I post this as a counterpoint to all the celebrations of July 4th’s so called “Independence Day.” 

Flose Boursiquot and Chip at Rally June 30th 2018The poem is written by Flose Boursiquot and taken from her incredible book Close Your Eyes, Now Breathe.”  The picture was taken on July 30th in Delray Beach, FL at the “Families Belong Together” rally sponsored by http://www.moveon.org where she was one of the incredible speakers.  She is with Chip Frank my friend and former production manager when I was a Unity Minister. How lucky we were to meet her! She gifted me her book for which I am ever grateful.

 

Voice

I have a voice!
you cannot silence me
my feet burn through the pavement and leave enough dust
for my grandchildren to make clay pots
the thoughts that travel through my mind leave textbook pages
ashamed

you cannot silence me
my boot straps awaken the Black Panthers and take notes from
Malxom X
I know what it means to starve
a physical pain that engulfs your intellect and spirit

you cannot silence me
I am a young Nikki Giovanni with words so freeing notebook pages
fling their legs open when i peek at them with a side eye
master’s grandchildren stand miles away when air escapes my
lungs and thoughts juxtapose that of W.E.B. DuBois

you cannot silence me
I am not a mindless crab in a bucket
i refuse
yes, i refuse to step over the hands and feet of my people
we are intertwined like the molecules in our bodies

you cannot silence me
my children will not wake up caved in by debt, miseducation and
fear
they will know that beauty doesn’t solely lie in blue eyes
and that wealth isn’t manufactured green on trees

you cannot silence me
my ancestors taught me how to read a map
they left blueprints imprinted in my DNA
if I ever lose my way, i look in the mirror
touch my wide nose
feel my naps
embrace my brown skin
and i find my way

you cannot silence me
death does not scare me
i welcome heavy words sung by kings and queens on the block
they are reminders of journeys taken so i can stand here today

you cannot silence me
my back may weaken
but my boots will carry
my brothers and sisters will lift me

you cannot silence me
because with every step i will roar
we will roar
arm-in-arm, a destiny will be set
and we will achieve

*********************

This poem was written by an incredible woman a “24-year-old Haitian-rooted palm tree dancing in the Florida sun” woman. “She is a product of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communication and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.”

I hope you’ll buy her book!

In gassho, Shokai

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oliver-px.1-195-175Many of us may remember the wonderful play and movie “Oliver! the Musical” with warmth and laughter.  There is a song in it that is so powerful and yet sad if you really listen to the words. Watched by his fellow orphans, Mark Lester, as Oliver Twist, dares to ask for more, in the film “Oliver!” (Columbia Pictures). [1]

There’s not a crust, not a crumb can we find,
Can we beg, can we borrow, or cadge…
When we all close our eyes and imagine food, glorious food!

There are 12.9 million children in the US who are food insecure.[1] There are 15.6 million US households suffering from food insecurity. Around the world 795 million people do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life and thus are undernourished. Every second a person dies of hunger.  This year 36 million people around the world will die of hunger[2]  while billions of tons of food are rotting in our gardens, farms, and city dumps. In 2010 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food was wasted.[3]

In fact, the highest or next highest person in any zendo and monastery is the Tenzo who is in charge of the kitchen! The monks were initially mendicants who went out with only the clothes on their backs and a bowl which they used to beg/ask for food to keep them alive. Thus, the power of prayer before every meal!

In Zen we have many different meal Gathas/chants.  I particularly like the one we use in our Zendo and before I eat, wherever it may be, I recite this gatha to set the tone for a mindful and thankful meal.  How many times a day do you eat so quickly and mindlessly that you haven’t really tasted the food, felt its texture in your mouth, the smell of it, or hot or coldness of it.  In fact, so much so that some time later you do not remember if you ate and if you did what it was. Yikes! Imagine what one of those 36 million people would have done with that meal? If nothing else remembered it as their last. How sad is that?!

Southern Palm Zen Group’s food blessing or chant goes like this:

Earth, water, fire, air, and space combine to make this food.
Numberless beings gave their lives and labors so that I (we) may eat.
May I (we) be nourished so that I (we) may nourish life.

And finally, as a Unity minister we often had meals together and we always said a prayer, of course, before the meal.  At the children’s table our prayer was “Rub-a-dub-dub thank you God for the grub!” Sometimes the parents got a little bent out of shape and upset with me when I taught them this prayer.  However, I knew that it was something easy for them to learn and memorize and to say whenever they ate at school, church, or at home. It helped set up the age-old practice of giving thanks for the good/food that was in their lives.

The song goes on…

What wouldn’t we give for that extra bit more that’s all we live for.  Why should we be fated to do nothing but brood on food, magical food, wonderful food, marvelous food, beautiful food, food, glorious food.

 What can you do today to make a difference in someone’s life when it comes to food insufficiency? Now go and do it…

[1] https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/packages/html/movies/bestpictures/oliver-re.html?scp=2&sq=night%2520train&st=Search
[2] https://whyhunger.org/just-the-facts/
[3] http://www.theworldcounts.com/…/global_hunger_statistics/how_many_people_die_from_hu…
[4] https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm

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Sitting Zazen facing wallThere are so many kinds of meditation from the simple Zen method of clearing your mind and counting your breath 1 on the in breath and 2 on the out breath.  Then there is the wonderful description by Frances W. Foulks in her iconic book Effectual Prayer where she writes: “To meditate on a subject is to give it attentive, earnest thought with the idea of having all its meaning revealed; that is, all the meaning that one is capable of receiving at the time (page 65).”[1]

These are different types of meditations, yet both are equally valuable in our lives.  Sometimes we simply want to go where “no” thoughts live.  Where the infinite universe and I are one.  Where no sound, or thought, or fear, or feeling exits.  Then we sit with the Buddha and become one with the breath and emptiness.

And sometimes we would like to sit as Frances describes in her chapter on meditation.

…each moment we give to meditation on the higher truths reveals to us fresh glories.  At any moment, in the night watches or in the midst of the duties of the day, in any place, on a busy street corner, at home or in the office, alone in the open field or deep in the woods, one can drop all outer things, relaxing from crowded thoughts and activities, and sink down, if for only a moment, into a holy meditation that will bring him forth filled with peace and strength, refreshed in mind and body (page 65).”[2]

She describes a “holy meditation” as something outside the ordinary and the mundane.  A place where perfect silence and love exists. Where no thoughts and all thoughts exist simultaneously.  The place outside of fear, anger, judgment, and anonymous.

Where Jianzhi Sengcan in his writing, Engraving Trust in the Heart, reveals

            One is inseparable from all.
All is inseparable from one.
If you realize this,
You go beyond thinking (page 72).[3]

This is the gift of meditation given freely to all who enter its silence, who chant the words of the teachers, and the words of our heart.  It is the giver of life and love, peace and tranquility at any time and in any place.  Regardless of the faith from which it comes we can blend our truths and our prayers and our chants and create what is right and perfect for us in the moment.  The importance is to begin a practice of prayer and meditation that works for you in that moment.  And in the next moment a different chant or prayer or breath will appear in the right and perfect time, at the right and perfect place, with the right and perfect tenor.

The thing is we have to be open and receptive to receive it and embody it and be one with it! Or expect nothing and be one with that. Are you?

[1] Foulkes F.W. (1945) Effectual Prayer. Unity School of Christianity: Lee’s Summit MO

[2] Ibid.

[3] Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala: Boston and London

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Emerson: We can only see what we are…(page51)[1]

Zen Gautama Buddha: We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.Zen Eight Fold Path

This may be the best thing you’ve read all year and I hope that it will help you in 2017: What you think is the master of your life.  If you think thoughts of peace, love, health, and prosperity you will attain just that.  If you think thoughts of fear, anger, illness, and hate that is what you will manifest in your life.

It is time that we get over blaming our parents, our upbringing, our teachers, our genes, and life for the situation we are in today.  Yes, they affected us in a myriad of ways but as adults it is our opportunity to forgive and forget.  To create a new life that is filled with goodness and love.  To create the life that we want to live instead of letting others or the past have power over us!

I read an article many years ago in a Unity publication about a woman who had a terrible childhood and so her adult life was filled with lack and limitation in all areas.  Then one day she decided to recreate her life and she began slowly by remembering one good thing that happened to her as a child.  She focused on an aunt who was kind and loving and shared that goodness with her. From there she discovered other memories that had been hidden and blocked by her anger and hatred.  She began focusing on them and little by little her life turned around.  She became a loving and compassionate person with success in all areas of her life.

She began to really be what she was born to be a happy, healthy, loving person regardless of her past circumstances.  She began to succeed in all areas of her life and it was filled with peace, love, prosperity, and happiness.  Life is like the script of a Broadway play.  Some scenes are dramatic and scary others are filled with music, dance, and love.  What is your script reading like today?  Will you create a new script for 2017?  Or will you keep playing the same drama over and over? How about writing a musical filled with fun and laughter and love?

You are what you think the Buddha said. He also said our thoughts make the world.  Let’s create a world, from today forward, that is filled with peace, love, and compassion for self and all others!  Do not be like the blind leading the blind—be like the knowing leading the knowing!  Follow The Eightfold Path above and watch what happens!

See what you truly are—a perfectly divine, loving, healthy, prosperous you!

In gassho,

Shokai

[1] Dillaway, N. (1949) The Gospel of Emerson. Wakefield, MA:The Montrose Press

 

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Emerson: “A man is what he thinks about all day long (page 24).”[1]robert-aitken-roshi

Robert Aitken, The Mind of Clover: “The self that is autonomous and also one with all things is the self that is forgotten… How do you forget the self?  In an act—in a task. You don’t forget yourself by trying to forget yourself.  When you are absorbed in your reading, the words appear in your mind as your own thoughts (page117).”[2]

Wow, how often have you thought about the self, what makes us who we are, what will happen to our “self” after we die and more.  In both Emerson’s writings and the writings and teachings of the Zen masters they remind us that the “self” is represented by our thoughts and how absorbed we become in them.

We are all able to remember a time when we were so absorbed in our thoughts that we actually felt that we were there in that moment encompassed by them, moved by them, one with them.  The self and the thought were merged together and ultimately represented “who” we were.  So if our thoughts were fear thoughts or anger thoughts our behavior represented them and manifested them in our life.  We found ourselves afraid, or mad, or sad, or jealous or even revengeful.

If our thoughts were joyous or selfless or curious or inventive we found ourselves in a totally different place.  Thoughts create your reality and the way you see your life, live your life, and experience your life.  I am a happy and sometimes funny person just like my dad.  There are times when people will say to me, “What are you so happy about don’t you know “X” is happening!”  Well, of course I do!  But I’m not going to make that leak into my emotions and end up having a bad day!  There are a lot of awful things going on in the world so I could be mad, sad, and upset 24-7!  I “choose” to live otherwise!

In Unity and New Thought teachings we use affirmations to help us focus on the great “self” and keep ourselves motivated.  You might subscribe to a website or blog or newsletter that helps you stay positive.  I get some great tips and affirmations from those I follow on Twitter, a blog, or get emails from.  My dear friend Harold Wardrop a Divine Science minister sends me an affirmation and prayer every day.  Harold’s affirmation for today was “There is nothing that can challenge me that cannot be handled and turned into a blessing that I will hardly be able to contain. So it is.”

Image what your day would be like if your “self” focused on those words from Emerson from Aiken, and from Harold! Remember your thoughts create your reality and thus your “self.”  Which “self” do you want to appear—the sad, mad, angry self?  Or the happy, prosperous, loving self.  It all depends on what you think about all day long!

Let me know how it goes with your “self”!

ingassho

Shokai

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

[2] Aitken, R. (1984)  The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics New York: North Point Press

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yuan-mei-and-his-friends-in-color

Emerson: No great man [person] ever complains of want of opportunity (page 94).[1]
Emily Dickinson: I dwell in Possibility-—[2]
The Poetry of Zen, Yuan Mei (1716-1798):
The single sound of the bell brings out the whole hall’s monks (page 78).[3]

Where do you look for opportunity? The sound of possibility and opportunity is everywhere from the words of Emerson and Dickinson to Yuan Mei to you and me!  The simple ringing of the bell brings the whole hall of monks out to dine or do chores.  It brings the children in school out for lunch or recess into the play grounds.

Today we set our cell phones and computers to ring to remind us of appointments, and meetings, and chores that need to be attended to.  We may be in deep thought when the bell rings but it instantly brings us back into the present moment, time, and project.  It even startles us some times, or makes us laugh, or increases our heart beat.  Remember reactions occur when opportunity arrives.

Are you creating your own opportunities to learn and grow and work to make this a better place in which to live or are others creating your opportunities for you?  Are others creations for you really in line with your dreams and goals? Are you the master of your ship?  Have you missed opportunities in your life because you were not looking for them?

When I was young I worked with a man in our community theater who was a fantastic actor!  He worked in his father’s shoe store to earn a living. Then one day he came into our rehearsal and proudly and excitedly said, “Once this play is over I’m moving and am going to spend the rest of my life being an artist.”  We were all shocked and a little saddened for us—but happy for him!  I had no idea he had this dream and talent that he felt was not being fulfilled.

How about you?  Are you living your dreams?  Are you grabbing hold of the “brass ring” on the merry go round or are you just living day to day just getting by, spinning round and round?  Remember what Emerson wrote: No great man ever complains of want of opportunity. How many of those opportunities have you let slip between your fingers?  Be like Emily Dickinson and “dwell in the possibilities!” As we learned to affirm in Unity—Open your mind to receive!

Let me know how that goes!

Shokai

 

 

 

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

[2] http://www.ikedacenter.org/thinkers-themes/thinkers/poems/emily-dickinson

[3] Hamill, S. and Seaton J.P. (2007) The Poetry of Zen. Shambala:Boston & London

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Emerson: Live, let live and help live.

Zen: Evening Gatha [Prayer]

Let me respectfully remind you.
Birth and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes and opportunity is lost.
We should all strive to awaken.
Awaken! Take Heed!
Do not squander your life!

Both of these quotes are profound in so many ways.  Each tests us to live our lives fully every day and make a difference in the world in which we live.  Notice that each asks us to go beyond our “self” and to help others.  To live life fully, to let others lead their lives fully, and to help those who need help so they too can live life fully.

How have you done that today?  How about this week, month, or year?  Every time you open the door for someone with their arms full of packages, or let someone in front of you in a traffic jam, or bring a meal to a sick neighbor you are “awake.”  Awake to the needs of another.  You have taken the opportunity to think of someone other than yourself, to identify a need, no matter how small it may seem—you have helped meet that need for another.

When you are walking through life looking down at your cellphone checking your Facebook page or texting someone—you are missing life at its fullest.  You may have missed an opportunity to help a stranger or a friend.  When you are focused on self only you miss many opportunities to live.

Just the other day I was teaching at the college on the 11th floor when we had a fire scare and everyone was told to immediately exit the building.  So all 16 of my students and I walked those 11 floors down to the street. One of them needed extra attention as she was pregnant.  I rushed ahead so that I could make sure all of my students were out of the building and safe.  As one of them walked through the door I was holding for them he said, “Oh, you don’t have to do that. Why are you holding the door for all of us and the others?”  The question had never come into my mind.  “Live, let live and help live” I guess.

Think of the fireman who runs into the fire, not away from it.  To the policeman or security guard who runs toward the shooter in a mall.  Or a teacher who stands in front of the children to protect them from the bullets being sprayed in his or her classroom.

Awaken, Take Heed! Do not squander your life! Find your purpose each and every day because time swiftly passes by and you do not want to lose the opportunity to be of service to others to go beyond yourself wherever and whenever you can.  Even if it’s simply to hold the door for another. Let me know how that goes!

ingassho

In gassho, Shokai

(1) Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com (page 9)

(2) Southern Palm Zen Group Service Handbook, Mitch Doshin Cantor.

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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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I was looking for a quote one day to use in a blog I was writing and I came across a great quote by Emerson.  I remembered studying Emerson as an English major in college and just loved his writing and his progressive outlook on life.  When I began studying at Unity Village to become a licensed teacher we often used his writings as well.  And so he has been a part of my life for a very long time and I hope that he has been one of yours as well.

But just in case he has not I have been moved to write my next workbook on his quotes and writings and to share with you how they can be relevant in the 21st century—even though they were written in the 19th Century when horses were the main form of transportation, and slavery was still legal, and women did not have the right to vote.  You’re probably thinking, “What could his thoughts and words have to do with me today?  Plenty!

Let’s start with this quote from Emerson: “Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.”[1]

Every day—all day we think!  Our thoughts create our reality. Sometimes our thoughts slowly arise like a tulip as it breaks through the frozen ground at the first sign of spring.  Other times our thoughts pop up when we least expect them to like weeds in a garden that we had just weeded that morning. Or are they like the massive cherry blossoms that appear in Washington, DC in the spring? Some of your thoughts simply fly away like the dandelion when it turns into a fluffy white cloud of seeds.

There is action like the fruit behind the cherry blossoms that we look forward to and expect. There is action behind the dandelion seeds as they fly through the air and plant themselves in our neighbor’s yard so their kids have to painstakingly dig them out as one of their summer chores.

What thoughts are you having right now that are taking action in your life?  What thoughts have you had today, yesterday, and will more than likely have tomorrow?  Do the seeds/thoughts produce positive events in your life, improved health, happiness, and friendship?  Or are they like the dandelions that produce more weeds in the garden that take time, effort, and energy to get rid of?bouguet of flowers

So what is the thought you are speaking aloud and the action that has resulted from it?  Are you living a life filled with cactus covered with thorns, or with the softest petals of the pink ranunculus each being a vision of beauty to the eye and softness to the touch?

If you want to change your life remember you’ll need a new thought—or a new blossom! Why not try something that has a wonderful smell that excites your senses like the jasmine.

What is blossoming in your thoughts and words today?  What language are you speaking? What results are you creating? Change your thinking—change your life!

Remember, “Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.”

Keep me posted on that!

Shokai

[1] Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. http://www.odeliafloris.com

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I just spent 5 days at a silent retreat (Sesshin) at the Brevard Zen Center in Coco Beach and I was surrounded by like-minded people.  People who decided to take time off to focus on their practice, on stillness, on quiet contemplation, and on quieting the mind and body.  I know that not everyone has the luxury of taking extended periods of time out of their family and work lives; however, if you can even take one day I recommend it highly.

Being around like-minded people can be an invigorating experience, or a hellish experience depending on which “mind” you are choosing to focus on.  If you feel sometimes like an angry, unhappy person with a mind that’s always focusing on the negative you surly do not want to be around “like-minded people.”  Today would be a good day to discover the happy, upbeat, positive, helpful people that you, at times, envy and sometimes dislike, and sometimes may even try to emulate.

I’ve had many people in my life ask, “What are you so happy about all the time, smiling, laughing, and joking?  Don’t you know there are terrible things going on in the world or at work or at home?” Of course, I do know that life is not always a panacea; however, I’d rather create a life like Pollyanna then a life like the Wicked Witch of the West any day!  Life is what you make it, unless of course you let outside circumstances or outside people like the Wicked Witch of the West make it for you?  The choice is up to you.

I often relate a story about one of my congregants who came home from work and found a man in her house who proceeded to rape her and stab her 62 times.  She lived and they caught the man and put him in prison.  Her life seemed to be falling apart from that day forward until, as she says, she decided to forgive him and move on with her life.  So she went to the prison, faced him, and forgave him.  From there she began to heal to be able to live a normal life.  She saved herself and spent the rest of her life living around “like-minded people” those who can forgive, and love, and reach out to others in times of need to help console and hold them up with love and compassion.

She is an inspiration to me and my role model for unconditional love.  Till that time my love came with conditions.  I have been lucky enough to have jobs like my work as a Unity minister, a hospice chaplain, a college professor, and a Zen Buddhist priest which has allowed me to be surrounded by like-minded people.

Buddha quote anger, goodness truth generosity

I hope you are surrounded by those people who will love you unconditionally and have a life filled with peace, joy, love, and happiness.  A life filled with people that lift you up and not tear you down.  This is my wish for you that you meet your good today and it is filled with like-minded people who will celebrate the uniqueness of you and see the good in your heart! Let me know how that goes.

In gassho, Shokai

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