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Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

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When I began practicing Sitting Zen, my best aid was an occasional temple bell. Its beautifully ringing sharpness and clarity created that same resonance within my mind, pulling away any stray thoughts with it as its tone gently faded.

The temple bell is also the best aid for my practice of Active Zen. That is, trying to bring that same quality of receptivity and non-judgment to all parts of my life, not just the quiet times. In particular, my practice of Driving Zen.

I don’t have a terribly long commute in the morning, but it is 30-45 minutes of generally heavy, somewhat dangerous traffic. While I try to focus my mind within the Zen state upon awakening, it’s during this drive that I most dedicate myself to this practice. I have a whole day of many, many issues to tackle, so it’s important to center my awareness.

My practice of Driving Zen involves trying to be aware of all of the cars around me: ahead, behind, and to the sides. I also focus on being aware of the sky, the trees, and other landmarks that I pass. If anything has changed about the environment, I try to be aware of it, and welcome it into the otherwise familiar space. I also stay mindful of how I am feeling, without allowing those feelings power to control my thoughts. Through all this, I focus on retaining a joyful receptivity, taking it all in without judgment or hangups.

This can be pretty difficult some days, and not just because Rush Hour on the Florida Turnpike is a Master Teacher. I’ll have interesting dreams I remember snippets of, memories from the day before, or even problems to resolve at work that try to pop into that space I’ve cleared and demand attention. Often, they’ll get some of that attention for a little while, until I remember to return to my practice.

At those times, I let my mind ring with the sound of the temple bell. I let the clarity wash through me, and allow the sounds to gently fade from my mind.

Refreshed, I turn my awareness back to the road I travel, joyfully receptive to all it may bring.

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When all the world spins
with Change the only Constant
Close your eyes. Center.

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It’s Tuesday.

The sun rose and set.

Birds called to one another.

A breeze rustled leaves.

Words were exchanged: some in annoyance, some in kindness.

Breath inhaled, exhaled.

From this day, what is to be carried forward for years to come?

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Let’s pretend you are a community bus.

When a single mother needs to get to her second job, you’re right there to get her to work on time. When an elderly couple need to get some  groceries at the store they’d gone to for decades, you deliver them right there, and back. And when children need to get to the park, you are their first choice to bring them!

Yes, whatever people need, you’re always ready and willing to share of yourself, giving all you can. That’s how you become a good and valuable vehicle for kindness, right?

Or is that really all there is to it? What if giving of yourself whenever you possible can doesn’t make you the best vehicle for kindness you should be?

What happens when a vehicle is always in service, never taking time out to be idle, to be repaired? Yep, it breaks down. Often, right in the middle of the busiest crunch time, leaving people stranded when they could instead have had their needs met through contingency plans.

How often do you schedule yourself time to repair, and recuperate? Is it nearly enough to fulfill your responsibility to keep yourself as healthy, centered and grounded as you can be?

Also, sometimes giving someone a free ride right to where they want to be isn’t the best way for them to get there. What if there was a much better job for that mom nearer her home, one that would give her enough hours so she could just work one — but she never looked for it, because she had a ride to her other ones? What if there was cheaper, fresher food at a market right next door, but they never broke their habits and tried it? If the park is just a block or two from the children’s home, wouldn’t it be healthier for them to walk there?

How often do you feel as though you’ve failed someone when you can’t get them what you think they need? Could you do with more patience when it seems like things aren’t working out, and instead open your heart and mind to better possibilities? Are you able to accept that maybe your help isn’t what’s needed in a given situation, or at least not the way you’d thought?

I think that on some level, most of us realize that we need to take better care of ourselves. We may even put some guilt onto that, piled onto the guilt we may also carry about not being able to do more for other people, too.

I think we’d do well to fret about it all just a bit less, and simply schedule that time to take care of ourselves. Where we feel we’ve fallen behind a bit — so what? We are where we are. Winding ourselves up into not being where we think we want to be is a waste of precious time and energy. Our energy is best spent in tending to our own needs, moving forward in the way and pace that suits us best.

I’ve heard all these things before, and I think even written them, too. Yet I’ve been working through these lessons lately… again… and thinking that writing this all down may help me in my practice.

In this case, I think practice isn’t about getting perfect; it’s about being at peace with and tending to our imperfection.

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I wanted to break my latest hiatus by letting you know I’ve been thinking of you. I know I haven’t reached that many people with my words in the grand scheme of things. That said, I do believe that those whom I have touched have in turn touched the lives of others, just as I continue to share the gifts of insight and love that others have given me. We are sharing the human experience, and we can’t stop our influence from spreading beyond our reach.

It is my sincerest goal that my life bring more love, more peace, and more joy to the lives of those around me than I would have thought possible. And that, through enjoying those blessings we share, those lives then shine their light forward to illuminate the dark spaces of others. In this way, the light and love that I have received with may continue that work throughout our world.

Please, take a moment to remember something that is special to you, that warms your heart. Remember a thought, an experience, a talent or a dream that helps you feel your spark inside. Take three deep, slow breaths, savoring this moment of precious peace. Feel the sacred beauty of nature, and of the human heart, savoring that precious unity-point where the outside world touches your skin. Remember we are one people, sharing one planet, and enjoy a moment of gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of it.

Take another moment, please, to experience the positive, warm peace that dwells within the stillness. Form a memory of what that feels like. And from now on, whenever possible, call up that moment of peace to your conscious attention, to help you through a hectic time, or even to periodically brighten your day.

As you practice this, you can’t help but create a positive influence for the world you inhabit. May that warm embrace of the joyful stillness come easier and easier for you, until it shapes your every day.

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I live in an odd culture. Americans are encouraged to prize individuality on a broad scale, with our celebrities and our icons. Yet we are also individually discouraged from lifting ourselves up, as we are accused of being arrogant, and there are many who will try to knock or pull us down.

We are taught that each life has meaning, but are then encouraged to act in ways that disregards that precious value in each living being. We say that all people are unique, but then are ridiculed if we stress that each individual is special in a way that is separate from being “more than” or “better than” another person.

Men and women experience these pressures differently, but we each are subject to this push-pull of “try harder” and “don’t try so hard.” None of this seems designed to help us discover who that unique being is inside of us. Few examples help us see that it’s not only possible to meet and make friends with this contradictory, mysterious inner chorus of thoughts and feelings inside us… it’s the only way to connect with the truest friend we can ever have.

American culture is very off-balance because we are continually distracted from finding our center. For whatever reason, the pushing and pulling and chaos and stress is a constant force, keeping our eyes and ears focused on the outside, rather than inward. Yet just as on a centrifuge you must pull your arms and legs close to your body to keep still along the wall, in this spiral of life we must pull our thoughts and feelings close to our selves to find stillness.

Once we have found our center, we can enjoy that sense of perspective that helps us truly see one another, as ourselves. Once we connect with that stillness, we have an easier time recognizing that same spark in others, valuing their core as much as we value our own. We aren’t in competition to find that precious gift of peace, as we’ve discovered that peace can only be created from within.

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Changes to our environment have subtle effects on us. Soon they are no longer changes, but have become just more background hum running through our lives.

While we may not be consciously aware of these effects, our subconscious pays close attention to every tiny detail. If our environment has happy, friendly people, our subconscious begins to recognize that as normal. If we are surrounded by negative, violent people, our subconscious begins to recognize that as normal, too.

Our subconscious will also try to normalize our experiences to those expectations. It will help us see the good it feels we expect, as well as the bad. It can also help us say and do things, making choices that will continue to reinforce the good or bad that have become the baseline “normal” in our lives.

So it’s important to take a breath – a deep breath – and let it out slowly, paying attention to how we feel. As we breathe in, what kind of environment are we taking in? As we breathe out, what expectations are we sending out?

Taking a few of these moments a day for several days in a row should help us become more aware of this sea of experience we’re swimming in. Once we’re aware, we may make more conscious choices as to how we wish to experience our days to come.

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