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Showing posts from March, 2009
With palms together,Good Morning Everyone,Being grateful is an inside out thing. We must work to empty our inside so that we can be fully present on the outside. I struggle mightily with this, though less over the years. What I have found helpful is a sort of instant tonglen practice. Tonglen is based in the Tibetan tradition. Someone who has practiced Zen for awhile may be in a place where some of the key elements of tonglen may be practiced in the moment itself. Tonglen comes out of the notion that everyone suffers, everyone has toxins of one sort or another, and the effort is to draw out those toxins from others, use their toxins to destroy our own toxin, then offer our well-being, joy, and love to others. Usually, tonglen is practiced as a lengthy guided meditation.I suggest it can be used as an aspect of daily mindfulness practice. As we go through our day and are confronted by people who are clearly suffering, and acting out their pain by harming others, we might open ours…

2fer

With palms together,Good Morning Everyone,Last night at Temple Meditation, what I like to call Zen Judaism, after the book by the same name (author, Rabbi Joseph Gelberman), we discussed good and evil, the precepts, and how this plays out in everyday life. When all things are relative, how can we know what is good or bad in everyday life? I've written about this before, but it is the "everyday life" part that intrigues me. Once we begin and sustain a strong practice of mindfulness, our lives will change. The changes will be subtle and often a challenge to discern, but they will be there. We will notice our impact on others, other's impact on us. We will not our reactions. We will notice their reactions. In true form to symbolic interactionism, we will make adjustments in our "self". These adjustments will allow for a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) change in us, in our presentation of ourselves to the world. When we behave in ways that positively affec…
With palms together,Good Morning Everyone,Last night at Temple Meditation, what I like to call Zen Judaism, after the book by the same name (author, Rabbi Joseph Gelberman), we discussed good and evil, the precepts, and how this plays out in everyday life. When all things are relative, how can we know what is good or bad in everyday life? I've written about this before, but it is the "everyday life" part that intrigues me. Once we begin and sustain a strong practice of mindfulness, our lives will change. The changes will be subtle and often a challenge to discern, but they will be there. We will notice our impact on others, other's impact on us. We will not our reactions. We will notice their reactions. In true form to symbolic interactionism, we will make adjustments in our "self". These adjustments will allow for a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) change in us, in our presentation of ourselves to the world. When we behave in ways that positi…

Which Way?

With palms together,Good Morning Everyone,This morning I woke to chilled air and a few wind gusts coming through our open bedroom window. The forecast for the day is "windy" which means something in the desert southwest. My Little Honey and I are planning to drive to Palomas, Mexico this morning for her last dental appointment. We will keep a close eye on the wind.Keeping a close eye is an important practice. It is paying attention. Sometimes we seem to go through our day nearly asleep. Things just seem to happen. Sometimes we embrace them, sometimes not. Yet, if we were awake and paying attention, we might not see life as so capricious. Buddha taught "this happens because that happens." A simple phrase, but a deep, penetrating truth. It points to a beginningless beginning and an endless end: a continuous chain of interdependent cause and effect in all directions. In short, nothing is capricious, nothing happens without a cause, caused by a prior cause. Or,…

Upholding the World

With palms together,Good Afternoon All,In my very shallow study of kabbalah, I am coming to more deeply appreciate the actuality of Oneness. A 13th century kabbalist pointed out that "Being is in nothingness the mode of nothingness and nothingness is in being in the mode of being". In other words, as Rabbi Matt points out, "Nothing is being and being is nothingness". Hmmm...sounds an awful lot like "Oh, Shariputra, form is emptiness and emptiness is form" to me.We are left with the next step. In Zen the next step is always a step into the manifestation of the paramitas. In kabbalistic Judaism (which has become very much integrated into mainstream belief) the next step is always the partnership with the Divine Image to being completion to the Universe and we do this through manifesting the various "seferot". This is more specifically accomplished through doing the mitzvot (commandments regarding our actions). "One pillar extends from earth t…

Opening Space

With palms together, Good Morning Everyone, Today is mine to make. It's as simple as that. While we cannot always predict the sort of things that will happen, we are responsible for how we perceive them and how we respond to them. In short, we are responsible for what meaning we make of our day and the quality of the interactions throughout. The challenge is to be aware and responsive to this truth from moment to moment. We must be willing to practice this and not assume it will happen. It is a part of our disciplined spiritual practice. This takes both sensitivity and willingness. As the day unfolds and events happen we don't expect or like, we might say to ourselves, "This moment is mine to make, may I make it generous and thoughtful". Relaxing into the moment, we can deliberately be present. So, being awake in the moment requires us to be aware of ourselves as being intimately connected to all who are present with us. Know when you are feeling annoyed, feeling t…

The Good

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

What is good? Is good relative? If there is an absolute good, how do we know it and what is its source? Last night we had a rather animated discussion regarding ethics. It was interesting in that it seemed to me many people want an absolute upon which to rely. Yet, I maintain all things, including values, are relative and cannot be otherwise.

Some years ago a fellow named Fletcher wrote a book that lit a firestorm. Its title was "Situation Ethics". In it he argued that ethics were relative and dependant upon a given situation. People, especially religious people as I recall, had a field day tearing apart the notion of a situationally based ethics, yet, again as I recall, had little problem when pressed saying "that depends" in sticky wicket ethical dilemmas. This is internally inconsistent, and in my opinion, retracts from absolute ethics. Absolute is absolute to be internally consistent.

Still, we yearn for black and white s…

Mirror, Mirror

With palms together, Good Morning All, Yesterday I wrote about One. The thing is, we live in a multiplicity. Or so it seems to us as our brain processes automatically our perceptions into classes of this and that, subjects, objects, processes, etc. It is difficult to see what comes before the perception. Kabbalists argue we must use our imagination. Perhaps. We enter the map of the Infinite through this tool. We call this map the Tree of Life or sometimes the Ten Seferot. Yesterday I referenced the six paramitas. The sefirot are much the same. These are the natural emanations or (perhaps) attributes of the Infinite made perceptible through ourselves. We have Will, Wisdom, Understanding, Love, Power, Beauty, Eternity, Splendor, Foundation, and Presence. These go by various names which essentially deepen their meaning and application, but they are understood to be a sort of divine reflection. if you will. We should not understand these as separate from each other, just as we do n…

One

With palms together, Good Morning Everyone,The Great Way is Infinite Oneness. The Great Way is not a path, it is the thing itself: no-thing, everything. The Great Way and Buddha Nature are the same, not different, yet we live as if they were different. One a path, the other the end of the path, but this is two. There is only One. Live One. Here is the thing. As we live One, all things manifest as One. As we live One: generosity is One, patience is One, morality is One, vigor is One, meditation is One, and Wisdom is Itself. The six paramitas are not six, but One. As we live One, there is no two. Keep One.To keep One only think of the Universe. Begin and end with the Universe. As we practice, Self and Universe are realized as the same, not different, yet we perceive as if they were different. They are the same. You and Other are One, the same, yet appearing different. A prism shows one and many are the same. One light, many colors. Let your practice be your prism. Both sides of th…

Saab Zen

With palms together, Good Morning Everyone, It is Sunday morning and I am awake. This is a good thing. Yesterday, after Talmud, I spent the day with son Jason. He fixed my '95 Saab 900s. I watched and helped as I could. We had to take the oil pan out and clean a filter that rests inside it. It was an interesting process. Jack up the car; off with the air filter, off with a wheel, off with a wheel well guard, jack up the engine a little, out with the oil pan. Clean everything, reverse the process, put in a new oil filter and fresh oil, and what do you know? No oil light, no "check engine" light. Jason is so comfortable around engines. I admire him. His confidence and knowledge about the intricacies of the various systems of an engine was comforting to me, but more, inspiring. This is his Zen. We concluded the day with a short havdallah ceremony. While Livvie thoroughly enjoyed the spice box, she put her hands to her ears as the braided candle was dippid into the win…

The Great Way, Jesus, Buddha, and the Infinite

With palms together, Good Morning Everyone, On our Zen Living list we are discussing comparative religion. Comparative religion can be very interesting and informative. We approach with: are they the same or different? From a Zen point of view, it is this question that is, itself a koan. Neither, both, whatever, each gets us into trouble because we are looking with categorical, discriminating eyes. There is only life. From closed eyes, discrimination occurs. There is only Buddha Nature, the Ein Sof, the Infinite Emptiness, before it is these names. From this, through discrimination, arise Jesus, Buddha, the Prophets, you, me, plants and animals, up and down. The same or different? We look at a picture and see in accordance with our neural pathways. We release our eyes, our history of perception, and other images emerge. The same or different? I feel ice on my tongue, feel rain on my head, feel water in my mouth, steam in my shower: are they the same or different? We begin with the Infinite,…

Morning Quiet

With palms together, Good Morning Everyone, In the morning we have an opportunity to be quiet. No, you say? We must attend to children or aged parents. We get ready for work, reconnect with our spouse or partner, and maybe the world through the Net or TV or radio. Still, even so, we have an opportunity for quiet. Interior quiet is mindful quiet. We might not turn on the radio. We might leave the TV set to gather some dust. And if we must, we allow the computer to quietly display the news. Reading it, we pay attention to our posture, our breath, and our presence. Attending to our children, we practice mindful attention. Talking, we know we are talking. Connecting, we know we are connecting. Loving, we know we are loving. All in a network of interconnection. All done with interior quiet. No time to meditate? Oh, excuse me, but what about the bathroom? Do we not sit down every morning? Isn't the door closed? Carpe Diem! Extend your time on the toilet a few minutes, paying atten…

Hunger

With palms together, Good Morning Everyone, There is a hunger in the world, a ferocious hunger. People are starving in the sterility of mind. People are starving in mountains of books. People are starving in hoards in schools. They eat, but are far from satisfied. No one seems ever to be satisfied. They seek, and seek, and seek: faces blue; necks thin and gaunt, bodies in deep hunger.
What satisfies? What fills the stomach? What relaxes the neck and opens the throat? Drugs, sex, rock & roll? No. Another book by Thich Nhat Hahn or the Dalai Lama? No. Perhaps a new version of the Holy Scriptures? No. A wall. A cushion. A still, quiet room. Go there. Sit. Look inside. Open the valves and let things flow. When working at your desk, feel the materials under your fingertips: know the many lives and many hands that brought you the tools you use to make your living. Appreciate your life. Appreciate your friends, your spouse, your parents, your children. Get wet with life. Feel the dirt. Ro…

Coming Home, But Never Really Leaving

With palms together, Good Morning Everyone, My Little Honey comes home this evening. The bedding is already in the washer. She has been in the Cleveland area for a week sitting with her cousin and niece while her Aunt, who was 96, was dying. She died Wednesday and so Judy is now free to return. We have experienced a number of deaths and illnesses over recent months. Its as if an age is passing away completely while we are being reminded of our nature. The out breath of the universe is always there, followed by an inbreath. It is the nature of things, including ourselves. This morning I will set out my potted hibiscus plants. Quickly clean, then prepare the Zendo for visitors. We sit formal Zen at 9:00 AM this morning. This afternoon, I'll have lunch with my family, then teach my first class on Introduction to Kabbalah at the Academy. Life does go on. Just now, I sip my tea and open my heart to you. One lotus to another One weed to another. No lotus; no weed. May we each be what we are: …

What's in Your Head?

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,
So, we have been talking about some 'heady' stuff. Not! Big Mind, Oneness, Buddha Nature, Emptiness, Ein Sof...are decidedly NOT heady. If they are, you do not know them. Some close friends, learned men, told me a person cannot live in vast emptiness. Heck, I've said the same to my students. I lied. Well, not exactly. Teaching must be appropriate to the person we stand before. Here's the thing: as a person practices mindfulness, from cushion to cushion, that person is living in non-duality, He or she is living as one for all and all for one without a thought about it. Can this be done? Of course. The Buddha did, the Zen Patriarchs did, Abraham did, the some Jewish mystics did, some Chassids did, some Trappist and Benedictine monks did, some nuns of various faiths did. Yet, a question remains. Is is desirable to live in non-duality today? Are we so jaded, so dualistic in our cultural assumptions, that to live in non-dua…

So?

With palms together, Good Morning Everyone, There are some interesting questions that arise from a deep practice of Zen. For one thing, as we sit and come to realize this self is not permanent, that it is not the center of the universe, and in fact, all of the universe is One, then what is up or down? What is right or wrong? The lack of an Absolute point is disconcerting as all relative points are in relation to it.
Without an Absolute point that exists apart from us there can be no movement, for example, as movement is defined always in relation to an observer who is presumably at some absolute point. Oy. I'm getting a headache, already. My temple rabbi suggests that biblical mitzvot are the baseline. Yet, even these exist in relationship to a culture in a time. They are only correct if we say they are correct. and then they can only be correct for those who agree. On the other hand, we might ask if there are any moral points that are true regardless of the existence of a fixed …

Notes

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday I offered my second teaching on meditation at the Mesilla Valley Hospice. We discussed chanting meditations and the practice of Tonglen, a Tibetan practice that helps us to create compassion and equanimity in our lives and the lives of others. The teaching was well attended and the participants were excellent students.

Offering tools to others is a wonderful practice. Moses Maimonides taught that the highest form of giving was to assist others toward taking care of themselves. And many Zen teachers offer a teaching in very short order, then shuts up. A good teacher offers and then recedes. I am not such a good teacher, I suspect, as I tend to talk WAY too much.

I will work on this.

Divergent thinkers are like that. We tend to begin on "X" and before we are done, not only have we gotten to "Z", but we've touched on "A" to "W", as well. This can be delightful from an artistic or spiritual POV, b…

The Great Way

With palms together, Good Morning Everyone, In Zen we sometimes talk of non-discrimination. This is a tough one to describe. Its as challenging as the fact that we say there is no birth or death. The two are related. A few lines from the Third Patriarch: The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart. If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind. When the deep meaning of things are not understood the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail. (to read the read of this piece, go to http://clearmindzen.org and click on Hsin Hsin Ming.) What is the nature of this clarity which occurs in the absence of discrimination? What does the Patriarch mean when he says "When the deep meaning of things&…