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Posts Tagged ‘Zen’

MORE OF A PHILOSOPHY THAN A RELIGION. BUDDHISM...

(Photo credit: ronsaunders47)

“Our Buddhist vows are basically good medicine

for our wayward minds and forgetful hearts.”

~~Thich Nhat Hanh,

For the Future To Be Possible:  Buddhist Ethiccs for Everyday Life

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Thich Nhat Hanh, Sister Chan Khong and Kenley

Thich Nhat Hanh, Sister Chan Khong and Kenley (Photo credit: kenleyneufeld)

Here is a clip of a song which is often sung in Thich Nhat Hanh‘s tradition.

“Happiness is here and now,

I have dropped my worries,

Nowhere to go,

Nothing to do,

No longer in a hurry

Happiness is here and now,

I have dropped my worries,

Somewhere to go,

Something to do,

But I don’t need to hurry.”

And here is a PDF of some of their other songs

Today I had some dental work done and I can honestly say that I have more angst about going to the dentist than my own death.  At least with death, there is probably an end of suffering.  At the dentist, it certainly doesn’t feel like it.

I know I am not the only one who has this problem.  Google dentist and dukkha and you’ll see what I mean.

I try to bring my iPod and listen to Thich Nhat Hanh while I am there.  I find him comforting, especially when he is chanting in Vietnamese.  It soothes my “soul”.

What I was listening to was the audio version of Living Without Stress and Fear.

I didn’t plan to listen to that but I used the search function, typed in Thich Nhat Hanh and it was the first audio that came up.

Between my angst, the drill, stopping for Xrays, etc, I could actually hear bits and pieces of the talk.

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Inspired by:  Cultivating the Mind of Love:  The Practice of Looking Deeply in the Mahayana Buddhist Tradition by Thich Nhat Hanh

This afternoon when I came back to work from lunch, I started to notice my neck getting tight.  I had a good night’s sleep last night, had eaten healthy food, etc.  Luckily for me, but not for him, I found out that my colleague two doors down was “with a headache” as well.  I can always tell when there is something in the air when he gets one too.

My plan was to stay quiet today since I had no meetings and there wasn’t a lot being expected of me.  I had on some quiet music and opened the window to allow some of the odd Spring-like weather to flood my office.  At lunch, I had thrown to books into my bag so that if I had time, I found find a reading for my blog.

In the one book, I quickly found the section I wanted to read but put it down.  I picked up the other book and just let it open to any page.  I fumbled to the beginning of the chapter and found myself utterly delighted in the reading before me.

I had purchased this book back in 2002 while in Queens, NY.  I remember that time in my life.  It was a good and strong time, where it seemed all things were possible.  It was New Year’s Day and we went to Barnes & Noble just to get out of the apartment.  There could be no better time for me, for it was winter and I was in a place that I loved, longing to be back home to the East Coast.

Today, it was sweet to connect to those memories and I appreciated them for just what they were –memories.  I turned to the book and read this short chapter.  I remember feeling a tug when I read it the first time.  I was in love and it was so different from this experience described in the book and yet, I had a similar experience years before, when I was a child.

I knew that I was grieving a bit for a love like this; one that was so perfect that it was better to have let it touch your heart lightly and go than to have let it manifest fully.  And maybe part of the perfection was in the exquisite now-ness because there was no other place to be.  I hope Parallax Press forgives me being indulgent with the text as I am going to be as this is one of the most beautiful passages I’ve ever read.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“. . . In every temple, there is a special seat for the abbot, and I had to sit there, because the abbot was away for a few days and had asked me to serve in his stead.  I invited her to sit in front of me, but she sat off to the side.  Member of the community never sit in front of the abbot.  It is just the form.  To see each other’s faces, we had to turn our heads.

Her behavior as a nun was perfect – the way she moved, the way she looked, the way she spoke.  She was quiet.  She never said anything unless spoke to.  She just looked down in front of her.  I was shy, too.  I never dared look at her for more than a second or two, and then I lowered my eyes again.  After a few minutes, I said good-bye and went to my room.  I didn’t know what had happened, but I knew my peace had been disturbed.  I tried writing a poem, but I couldn’t compose even one line!  So I began to read the poetry of others, hoping that would calm me down.

I read several poems by Nguyen Binh.  He was longing for his mother and sister, and I felt the same way.  When you become a monk at a young age, you miss your family. . .  I remember that I had a few tears in my eyes when I chanted this classical Chinese:

Night is here.

The wind and the rain announce the news

That spring is coming.

Still I sleep alone, my dreams not yet realized.

Flower petals falling

Seem to understand my dreams and aspirations.

They touch the ground of spring in perfect silence.

. . . We had dinner together, and afterwards, I read her some of my poetry.  Then I went to my room and read poetry along.  Nothing had changed from the day before, but inside I understood.  I knew that I loved her.  I only wanted to be with her – to sit near her and contemplate her.” 

We tend to think of grief as something we experience when we have lost something.   But sometimes we grieve for what has eluded us.  I don’t think that Thay really eluded love because he was genuine in his ability to admit that it was there.

What I find endearing about this chapter is that he does not have condemnation for being a young monk who is loving another person.  He doesn’t flounder in what could never be.  But rather, he allows himself to be moved by this love, to accept the bits of discomfort, longing, and sweetness that it brings for him.  There is such a great acceptance of the moments.  I think his story personifies what happens when mindfulness is transformed from a practice to a way of being for us.  There is an unconditioned love and whole-heartedness when we can simply be with what is.

At the beginning of this chapter, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that we use this as a meditation, to sit with the recalled experience of our first love.   He equates it to the koan, “What was your face before your parents were born?” and that as we look deeply we find that our first love is “still present, always here, continuing to shape your life.”

My gift to you is to suggest that you use something similar for your meditation. . . perhaps allowing yourself to sit and be present to the relationship that you have lost – it might be a relationship to your younger self or a relationship that has “ended” because of death and loss.  So much grief theory suggests that we “let go” of the relationship we have with the deceased.

I think what Thay suggests is what we are finally starting to realize with theories such as social constructivist views of grief – that relationship is always present and informing your life.  The love is not gone nor is the relationship even though you cannot physically put your arms around the person whom you miss.  That love is within the depths of you and accessible with every breath you take.

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I’ve written articles on mindfulness, shared quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh and Sharon Salzberg.

I’ve even given you some links to Youtube videos and a sneak peak of Mark Thornton’s work Meditation in a NY Minute.

So, how it changed your practice?

Do you have a daily practice?

Share via the poll or comments below this post.

Let us know what works, doesn’t work, what helps and what makes it a tougher struggle. . .

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Buddha Shakyamuni

Buddha Shakyamuni (Photo credit: secretlondon123)

“The Buddha said, “The mind, through its action, is the chef architect of one’s own happiness and suffering.”  It’s hard for the mind to be peaceful when the body is not in a physical space that’s peaceful.”

~~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Look around right now. . .

What’s your space like?

Does it reflect your interior space too?

Is the room you find yourself in cramped, cluttered, in total disarray?

If it is, are you in the middle of being creative. . . turning the chaos into magic?

Or it is the dark claustrophobic like cramped, “this doesn’t fit” kind of space?

Is the desk or table you sit at made of fine wood, leather, marble?

Or is it a 2×4 between milk crates because you aren’t buying furniture because you aren’t staying long?

And what color our your walls?

Are they three shades of off white?

Are they rich deep hues like wine, forest, crimson?

Are they light and airy like a French kitchen?

What about windows, light?  Is there a sense of spaciousness?

Does the air feel stagnant and stale or is there a crisp fresh breeze?

Now take a minute and close your eyes.

Breathe in and out slowly, 5 times.

Get in touch with your physical body and after you do, pay close attention to your heart space, your third eye. . .

Is your perception of your physical space mirrored in your body, mind, spirit?

Do your relationships and work resemble the area?

Are you satisfied with your answers?

If so, savor the feelings of coherence with your world.

If not, ask yourself, what now. . .

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A Post-it note is a piece of stationery with a...

A Post-it note is a piece of stationery with a re-adherable strip of adhesive on the back, designed for temporarily attaching notes to documents and other surfaces. Although now available in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes, Post-it notes are most commonly a 3-inch (76 mm) square, canary yellow in color. A unique low-tack adhesive allows the notes to be easily attached and removed without leaving marks or residue, unless used on white boards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You have sticky notes… I know you do… if not, you have scrap paper or something. . . old wrapping paper, etc.

You have a cell phone, a tablet, a computer. . . I know you do…

So why not turn these every day things into every day mindfulness bells?

Mindfulness bells, for those of you who are new to meditation or mindfulness, are things that wake us up and remind us to stop sleepwalking, to pay attention, and to be present to what is going on inside of us and around us.

Here are some ideas for you to put around your house, in your pocket (on your cell phone), to burn into wood, to write in lipstick on your mirror, because remember, wherever you go, that’s where you are…

Make every moment a time to pause and re-member what’s important.

“Forgetfulness is the darkness; mindfulness is the light.  I bring awareness to shine upon all life.” (great for light switches and lamps)

“The mind is like a computer with thousands of pages.  I choose a world that is tranquil and calm, so that my joy will always be fresh.”

“Mindful breathing brings your body and mind back together.”

“May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.”

“May I be safe and free from injury.” (Good one for the car?)

“May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.”  (Find your toughest place to be; maybe hang this all over that place.”

“May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.”

“May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.”

“May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.”

“May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself ever day.”  (Good for the kitchen, near the placemat, fridge, etc)

“May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.” (Great for work!)

All of these can be found in Thich Nhat Hanh‘s Creating Space.

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Fundamental group of the circle

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My first real experience with this shape was in high school.

I was in a program that combined peer counseling, leadership training, and learning how to provide a day camp experience for children.

It was the dreaded circle.  I could not come to pull my chair into the circle.  I didn’t feel like I belonged.

In college, I was part of a year-long intensive, studying Rogerian therapy in a program that was didactic and experiential.

I would not trade this for the world, but we were in circles again.  And as this was the second great experience that taught me about group process, it also taught me that groups can have a shadow side too.  There were times that business didn’t get finished.  People walked back to their dorms hurt, hand in heart, not knowing how to cope with what came up and how to live with it for the following week.

As a project for a meditation class I took in my second philosophy class, I visited my first Zendo. . . in New Paltz, NY.  And I was greeted into a strange circle where people sat facing the wall, in a dark room, with incense billowing.

After school was done, I went to work in social services. . . circles for staff meetings and staff retreats, circle for support groups . . . I couldn’t get away from them.  I was part of a women’s group — all of us were therapists, educators, etc and we came together to process.

As I became a group facilitator, I learned to love the group process and felt comfortable in the dreaded circle.  I was welcomed into a wonderful sangha in Madison, WI — Snowflower Sangha, in Thich Nhat Hanh‘s tradition and I got to see deep listening and compassionate speech.  I got to see a Starting Anew ceremony.  And I saw a wonderful community — like I got to experience at Upaya Zen Center in April.

Along the way, I came across a book, The Way of Council.  I yearned for this kind of group experience.

The lessons, guidelines, and spirit that is conveyed in The Way of Council works for a family, for close friends, for team members, for intimate relationships, etc.

Calling council gives one the guidelines and means for sustaining deep connections in community, to invite ritual into one’s life, and shares ideas for holding council in all of the relationships just mentioned above in the previous paragraph.

I will be writing more about holding council, about nonviolent communication, deep listening, compassionate speech.  I hold these practices in high esteem.  I have seen the light and shadow sides of groups (and families that I have worked with in therapy and in home visits through hospice, staffs that had a lot of undercurrents and lack of health).

I cannot think of a greater gift that I could give to the readers of this blog — to the therapists, to those who might want to start a peer-led grief group, to those who want to create intentional communities and have deep and meaningful relationships.

Creating the intimacy of council, of truly being present, is scary, doesn’t come easy, sometimes hurts, always heals, and is worth the time, energy, attention, and intention.

I hope you enjoy the blogs that will follow.

In the next post on this topic, I will discuss the Four Intentions of Council.

Stayed Tune.

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