Personal Ethics, Self Help, Self-Awareness, Spiritual Practice

Come Into the Light

I believe that when we move along in life, we realize that treating ourselves and those around us with kindness, consideration, and compassion becomes the very point of living.  Not only does this type of awareness and behavior make our existing life happy, but it will come to play at the end of life.  Regret and remorse over what we did, and did not do, to and for ourselves, and to and for others, weighs heavy.  It makes our departure all that much harder.

We talk about people’s demons: these inner monsters hold the reins to self-centered, inconsiderate, hurtful, and inhumane behavior.  These demons are nothing other than manifestations of hurt, anger, and self-loathing.  We do anything to deny, divert, mask, and avoid facing our hidden pain.  To get in touch with these forces of destruction, we have to look at our own hurt, to begin with.  It is deep-seated, unconscious, you might say.  To heal, we have to go deep and bring up this pain and hurt to the surface, to the light.  We do this by examining–inquiring into–every single thought that arises in our mind.  By doing this, we begin to see what kinds of thoughts occupy our everyday mind and drive our words and actions.  We get in touch with our hurt, from childhood (when virtually every person we encounter can either lift us to our potential or damage our psyche and soul by the manifestation of their own hurt) and all ensuing encounters throughout our life.

Meditation, counseling, and a spiritual path are tools (guides) for diving to the bottom of self.  When we deny and fail to know and take responsibility for our own mind, we are driven by the unconscious manifestations of hurt, and then anger, and then destructive words and actions.  This cycle creates more and more self-loathing, and suffering-for ourselves and everyone around us.

There may be nothing more frightening than looking deeply into our own personal darkness.  When we lack that courage, though, the demons from the darkness most certainly drive our life.  We have a choice.  It is a personal thing.  No one can make us do anything.  It’s up to us.  Every single moment of every single day we live with ourselves, within our own minds.  The path of self-awareness takes ultimate courage.  We make the workings of own minds as conscious and transparent as we can.  When we are able to do this, we are living our own lives.  Otherwise, we are victim to everything everybody has ever said or done to us, and to the things that happen beyond our control.

Live a conscious life.  Live a true life.  Live your own life.

Buddhism, Zen, Zen practice

The Practice Is To Perfect

Lovingkindness, metta, serves as one of the paramitas of Buddhist practice.  We practice to perfect lovingkindness so that we can realize our true nature.

Lovingkindness sounds like a grand, lofty goal, maybe something that only the Dalai Lama can reach all the time.  But it is really the most simple, everyday thing we can imagine.  It is present in every encounter we have throughout every day, with other beings, and with ourselves.

I practice lovingkindness while shopping at Target.   I was there early one afternoon, standing in the checkout line.  The two women in front of me had three separate orders on the belt, set off by those red plastic batons.  The checker ran each item over the laser beam, in no particular hurry.  One of the women paid with a piece of paper.  The checker ran the paper through her cash register.  As I stood waiting, I felt impatient.  I imagined that I would step up to the check stand and be taken immediately.  I would whisk through and be out the door.  My situation was not what I thought it should be.  The checker stood in front of register with the piece of paper.  I glared at her.  She looked up and our eyes met.  “It froze up,” she said in my direction.  I simmered.  She got her machine going again, and finally the women completed their transaction, and left.  I stepped up.  The checker cheerfully asked how I was, and I grunted something and stayed silent.  I paid and left the store.  Even as I walked to my truck, I did not feel as if I acted kindly toward the woman behind the check stand.

The next time I went into Target, I was resolved to be more patient and kind.  When I got in front of the checker, who was a different woman, she asked me how I was doing.  I smiled and joked with her.  She looked at me with the biggest smile and giggled.  Her face lit up.  Looking into that face told me everything I need to know about my own nature.

It might seem impossible to be loving and kind, twenty-four/seven.  We don’t feel that way in every situation.  But the practice is to perfect our lovingkindness.  That is our resolve.  This metta practice follows the steps of the Eightfold Path (intention, speech, action, effort, view, livelihood, mindfulness, and concentration).  The Eightfold Path also follows lovingkindness.

Buddhism, Buddhist Practice, Zen, Zen practice

Ice Cream Store Zen

I walked up to the ice cream store.  A long line backed out the front door.  I stood waiting and watching the server carefully scoop each customer’s cone.  I felt impatience rise inside me.  It made me feel annoyed that I had to wait.  The thoughts started: “Why don’t they have another server working?”  “Why can’t the people in line move up so we can come into the store?”  “Do I even want to wait?” “Maybe I don’t need this ice cream.”  On and on.  As I faced a situation that I refused to accept, I felt irritated.  I watched the thoughts rise and fall away.  I felt the uncomfortable sensations in my body.  Because I was aware of my mind, I had a choice.  I could continue to be annoyed, or I could accept the situation and be patient (and friendly and fun). Of course, once I sat and ate my dessert, I forgot that I was ever impatient.

Patience is one of the practice perfections, the paramitas, of Buddha’s teaching.  Impatience is, of course, where we meet the practice.  Once we accept our circumstances, we develop gratitude and compassion.  We suffer less and cause those around us to suffer less, as well.

Buddha was very clear about this.  He advised that we have infinite patience at all times, no matter what the situation.  He said that no matter what someone else does to us, even the worse thing we could ever possibly imagine, we still keep a mind filled with compassion.  In fact, our awareness is always filled with love–abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.

That, he said, is how we train ourselves.

Every moment.  Right here.  Right now.

Even in an ice cream store.

Buddhism, Eastern Philosophy, Zen

The Energy to Sit

I have done zazen every day for forty years.  When I started my daily sitting practice, Gerald Ford was president.  Charlie’s Angels started on television.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer.  Hank Aaron hit his final home run.  And the very last slide rule was made.

Every morning and evening, I lower myself onto my cushions, fold my legs, arrange my hands in my lap, look at the floor a meter in front of me, and breathe.  I meditate for thirty minutes.

What has fueled my meditation for all these years?  Virya is one of the practice perfections, the paramitas.  The meaning of the word from an ancient language is “hero.”  A great warrior needs virya, power and energy, to fight off enemies.  So, heroic effort?  As we all know, to sit perfectly still in the face of all that comes before us in our meditation takes that kind of energy, endurance, and courage.  To keep doing it every day, for a month, a year, ten years, half a century, and finally to do it just to do it, to sit still as an expression of who we truly are, takes commitment and conviction of heroic proportions.

All the effort, determination, discipline, and energy in our practice leads to wisdom and compassion.  We gather indomitable strength to help others.

Buddhism, Eastern Philosophy, New Age & Spirituality, Philosophy, Religion and Spirituality, Religious Philosophy, Uncategorized, Zen, Zen Philosophy, Zen Spirituality

The Sound of Freedom

I stood in my front yard in the bright, illuminating sunlight.  Out on the road, a few feet away, two cars passed, followed by a loud motorcycle.  I watched the procession and realized, “I accept things exactly as they are.”  No judging the noisy motorcycle.  No judging anything.  No judging.  No separating myself from the truth of the moment.

Seeing things exactly as they are, and accepting things exactly as they are bring wisdom to our practice.  Prajna, the Sanskrit word for wisdom literally means “supreme understanding” and also “springing up,” as a spontaneous knowing, as with intuition.

As I stood in my front yard, I knew that I am connected to everything around me.  I do not separate myself from the truth of the moment because I judge something to be bothersome and annoying.  This acceptance and tolerance in our Zen practice offers forth great compassion.

As the Hsing Hsing Ming says, “The burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness.  What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations?”

Buddhism, Eastern Philosophy, New Age & Spirituality, Philosophy, Religion and Spirituality, Religious Philosophy, Zen, Zen Philosophy, Zen Spirituality

Let It All Go

When I was in middle school, I started hanging out with this tough kid named David Morry.  He lived a few blocks from me.  It is funny that I cannot remember seeing him in school.  He went to my school, but I don’t place him there.  David didn’t like school and he didn’t do well.  I liked it enough to excel.  We were not in the same group.

David got into trouble a lot.  He shoplifted, destroyed property, and was rude to people, especially adults.  At first, I thought this behavior was interesting, because it was so different from the way that I acted.  It seemed exciting and dangerous.  But no one liked David except for a couple of other tough kids that he hung out with.  David made his parents miserable with worry and concern.  He didn’t seem to care.  One time, he asked me to steal some beer from my parents.  As I tried to carry a pack out of our kitchen, my mother caught me.

“What are you doing?  This is so unlike you,” she said.  I could see she was sad.

She was right.  It wasn’t me.  I didn’t like the way I felt, the things I did, or the way I made other people feel when I hung out with David.  So, I gave him up.  I renounced him.

In our Buddhist practice, we renounce, as well.  Renunciation is one of the paramitas, the perfections that we strive for.  We give up thinking, saying and doing everything in our life that causes us and those around us pain and trouble.  We face so much that makes us want to get, hold on to, and never let go of.

Meditation is a good vehicle for renunciation.  We see the true nature of all that comes in front of us and we practice to let go.

“Those true [humans] bent on renunciation

Detached from all the planes of being.

Plow their course for the good of the world.

Striving to fulfill the paramitas.”











Buddhism, Eastern Philosophy, New Age & Spirituality, Philosophy, Religion and Spirituality, Religious Philosophy, Zen, Zen Philosophy, Zen Spirituality

The Good Boy

Mick led me into his room and pointed to his bed.  “Sit.  Don’t touch anything,” he said.  “I have to go back in and talk to my mother, thanks to you.”

We were just in there and Mick’s mother said to him what she always said when I was around.  “Why can’t you be more like Richard.”

Mick was sick of it.  I couldn’t help it.  I was a good boy, the one all the parents liked.  I got good grades.  I never got into trouble.  I had the manners, and the manner, of a good boy.

How did I get like that?   My mother told me I was an easy baby.  I didn’t fuss or cry much.  It seemed to be part of my nature.  I learned early that my parents appreciated the fact that I only brought them pleasant results.  I got their attention by being good.  I got praise for being good.  It seemed to work for everyone.

As I started practicing Zen, the façade cracked and crumbled.  I found a lot of pain, anger and aggression behind my identity of being a good person.  After diving to the bottom of the ocean of self, I found out how a wholesome, moral, and trustworthy person truly moves in the world.

First, I became aware of the ways in which I harmed myself and those around me.  I stopped thinking, saying, and doing things that brought distrust, disrespect, and fear.  I committed myself to the harmonious, virtuous, and helpful.  I took refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and practiced the teachings of the Eightfold Path.  I stopped doing things that hurt and start doing things that help.