Posts Tagged ‘family’

Today, I spent most of the day with my son. So I’m going to share a koan for today’s Happy Zen Year celebration.

Shoun & His Mother

Shoun became a teacher of Soto Zen. When he was still a student his father passed away, leaving him to care for his old mother.

Whenever Shoun went to a meditation hall he always took his mother with him. Since she accompanied him, when he visited monasteries he could not live with the monks. So he would built a little house and care for her there. He would copy sutras, Buddhist verses, and in this manner receive a few coins for food.

When Shoun bought fish for his mother, the people would scoff at him, for a monk is not supposed to eat fish. But Shoun did not mind. His mother, however, was hurt to see others laugh at her son. Finally she told Shoun: “I think I will become a nun. I can be vegetarian too.” She did, and they studied together.

Shoun was fond of music and was a master of the harp, which his mother also played. On full-moon nights they used to play together. One night a young lady passed by their house and heard music. Deeply touched, she invited Shoun to visit her the next evening and play. He accepted the invitation. A few days later he met the young lady on the street and thanked her for her hospitality. Others laughed at him. He had visited the house of a woman of the streets.

One day Shoun left for a distant temple to deliver a lecture. A few months afterwards he returned home to find his mother dead. Friends had not known where to reach him, so the funeral was in progress.

Shoun walked up and hit the coffin with his staff. “Mother, your son has returned,” he said.

“I am glad to see you have returned, son,” he answered for his mother.

“Yes, I am glad too,” Shoun responded. Then he announced to the people about him: “The funeral ceremony is over. You may bury the body.”

When Shoun was old he knew his end was approaching. He asked his disciples to gather around him in the morning, telling them he was going to pass on at noon. Burning incense before the picture of his mother and his old teacher, he wrote a poem:

    For fifty-six years I lived as best I could,
    Making my way in this world.
    Now the rain has ended, the clouds are clearing,
    The blue sky has a full moon.

His disciples gathered around him, reciting sutra, and Shoun passed on during the invocation.

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I’ve had a long, but much easier day in my 30 Days Without Anger (or frustration) practice.  It’s made me very introspective, and I had a hard time sitting down to write some thoughts here, especially after all I wrote yesterday.

But as I’m getting ready to sleep, I started thinking about how taking a few moments to love and accept myself despite my mistakes, and forgiving my own ineptitudes… how it helps lessen the impulses of frustration and anger.

I’ll have more to share on that idea tomorrow or soon, but in the meantime, I thought perhaps it might get your own mind going as to what it could mean to you.


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The other day I was reading something about Mister Rogers on Wikipedia, and came across the part where it talks about his testimony being pivotal in the household VCR becoming available. Most television people insisted that it would be illegal for people to tape shows for their home use, and wanted VCRs to be heavily regulated and/or taxed.

But not Fred Rogers. He felt it was important that people be allowed to select what was valuable in their lives and use it in the way that worked best for them and their families.

Rather than try to paraphrase his thoughts and why I think they’re so very giving and lovely, I’ll just quote him. Here’s his testimony as it shows on Wikipedia, cited as a footnote in the Supreme Court decision on ruling that Betamax didn’t infringe copyright:

Some public stations, as well as commercial stations, program the “Neighborhood” at hours when some children cannot use it … I have always felt that with the advent of all of this new technology that allows people to tape the “Neighborhood” off-the-air, and I’m speaking for the “Neighborhood” because that’s what I produce, that they then become much more active in the programming of their family’s television life. Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach in broadcasting has always been “You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.” Maybe I’m going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important.

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Mothers’ Day is this weekend, which is a wonderful holiday, so long as we don’t let the mommyguilt thing get us down. I think you know what I mean… did I do enough as a parent/spouse/child? Could I have done more? Am I doing enough now? What mistakes might I be making that I won’t even know how to fix? Actually, this can become an issue as a friend, an advisor, etc. etc.

The stress of helping someone stay safe and happy and appreciated can really get in the way, yeah? As a perspective, I’m trying to remember the phrasing on something I read some time back. It was about the goal of parenting, the ultimate end result, which was something like this: The whole point of parenting is to raise somebody who won’t need you anymore when they become an adult, but will (hopefully) enjoy having you around all the same.

That’s pretty simplistic, but I also think it’s a great way of putting it on a very basic level. This means a lot of mistakes are going to be made on all sides, but so long as no real harm is done and everybody comes out the better for it, it’s all good. Perfection isn’t the goal in relationships, but wholeness. So this weekend, I’m hoping we can all take a bit of time to relax, forgive all mistakes, and feel a little more whole.

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I’ve been talking with some friends recently about giving feedback, advice or even ‘admonishment’ to friends or strangers. The issue was how much really needs to be said, how harsh a comment the situation might call for, and how to tell the difference. I’m still not sure I can really tell the difference, but I do know that as a rule I’ll tend to err on the side of few words as possible, until it’s clear to me that more would be both needed and helpful!

I’ve got a mondo / zen story that illustrates my idea that sometimes, just making sure a situation is acknowledged can sometimes be enough:

There was this meditation master named Sengai, and as usual, his students were expected to keep a pretty solitary and contemplative life inside the temple walls. And, as usual, there was one student who just couldn’t stand sitting that still.

So several nights a week, this guy would sneak over the back wall and head into town for some forbidden fun. One of these nights, Sengai was inspecting the dormitory and found both the empty bed and the tall stool against the back wall. It didn’t take a zen master to figure out what was going on, so he moved the stool and stood in its place, just waiting.

It was well after midnight when the student snuck back to the temple and hoisted himself over the wall. He had already had his feet on Sengai’s head and was jumping down before he realized what was going on. He then stared at his master, speechless.

Sengai just quietly said, “It’s very chilly out this early in the morning. Be careful that you don’t catch a cold.” And that was the end of it. The student never snuck out again.

Yeah, it’s not always that simple. But among friends and family, sometimes just a hint will be enough to bring things back together. 🙂

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