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Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

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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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follow-your-dreams

What is that thing that makes you light up at the idea of doing it?

What kind of activity do you feel that itch-under-your-skin to get done, and done right?

When you’re feeling idle or delayed by some part of the day-to-day, what is it you daydream about accomplishing?

How could you pursue that thing, just a little more?

How could you fit a few more minutes, or perhaps an hour, into your day or week?

How much brighter might your life be with more of your dreams alive in it?

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This morning, my husband got up very early & woke our 5 year old so they could go outside to see the Planetary Alignment. The sky was clear, and the moon was nearly full behind them. It was a magical experience for my tiny little astronomer to be introduced to the galactic bodies by his dad who’s watched them since he was young.

My son asked me to let them star gaze alone, so when I got up a little later, he was engrossed in a show he likes to watch where little cartoon jets explore the solar system. He was so excited to have seen the planets with his own eyes, all lined up.

I was excited, too. His wonder and happiness reminded me to be mindful of the truly spectacular and valuable experiences: observing the universe around us, appreciating the beauty.

It reminds me to keep my gaze up, and my eyes open.

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lbugs

Today went very quickly for me, yet didn’t seem to leave anything of itself in a meaningful way.

Looking for meaning in that, I have only this haiku by Issa:

A giant firefly:
that way, this way, that way, this –
and it passes by.
Issa

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cat_hugging_dog

In any given day, you may interact with people who think of and/or treat you as a complete idiot.

You may feel the same way about them.

But as a rule, it’s counter-productive to dwell on either. What they think of you is their problem, not yours. The reverse goes for what you think of them. If you can turn the interaction into neutral, or at least not as bad, it’ll help you get through it in a better way.

More importantly than that, it can help you practice being mindful of how interacting with such people makes you feel, and what you can do about that. Is there a reason things like that would tend to get to you? Is there a way you could strengthen your sense of self and/or patience and compassion? Interactions like these can be an Advanced Course in finding out more about how your mind works, and how you can make it work better.

Running into people we really feel at odds with isn’t always such a bad thing. These can be the times we can most quickly learn lessons we wouldn’t have mastered another way.

We must be patient with our differences. Our best teachers are often the hardest to hear.

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fundainzunantei

I was raised with the ideal to be no Respecter of Persons. That is, don’t put somebody to be higher or lower than anybody else, but to treat all human beings as equally valuable.

Zen has that ideal, too:

Keichu was a great Zen teacher. He was the head of a cathedral in Kyoto, called Tofuku.

The first time the Governor went to visit him, he gave his calling card with Keichu’s attendant and asked to be announced. Keichu took one look at the words “Kitagaki, Governor of Kyoto”, and handed the card back to the attendant. “I have no business with anybody like that, tell him to leave.”

After the attendant returned with the message, the Governor apologized for his error. He scratched out his title from the card, and asked the attendant to try again.

On receiving the card again, Keichu brightened. “Ah, that Kitagaki! Yes, I’d like to see him, bring him in!”

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

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One way I learned to create a happier life was to try to find more reasons to smile, and create more reasons to laugh. Even when I was feeling pretty low, the mere act of smiling and laughing helped me train myself to feel better as a default feeling.

Now, when I see people, I try to remember to smile at them, even if I’m deep in my own thoughts. When things get tough and stressful, I try to think of something to bring up that will help people laugh and ease the tension in an appropriate way. Sometimes it’s just the smiling and tone of voice that helps move the mood upward.

I’ve had a long day trying to beat a flu or something, and tomorrow is going to be a day with more than the usual amount of pressure and stress. I’m going to go find something funny to watch before resting, to remind myself to continually find the laughter.

Tomorrow, I’m going to keep on the lookout for reasons to smile. May you find many reasons also!

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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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I’m going to write more about why Being Special isn’t a competition. I’ve explored more on how each moment is special, and this leads into how each experience is special.

Yesterday, I wrote about using mindfulness to break out of the habits of a dreary routine. This is about more than just escaping a boring rut. It’s about turning your eyes away from that rut, and toward the opportunities to experience that routine in a new way.

We are a collection not just of our experiences, but also of how we perceive them. The same people can come from roughly the same situation, yet come away with entirely different perspectives. Same teacher, different lessons. Why is this?

More importantly, how can we use this knowledge to make better use of the experiences we face?

In each day, we are faced with many moments we can experience as fun, boring, unpleasant, exciting, forgettable… so many ways. In each of these moments, we have the opportunity to try to experience them in a new way. Even if we can’t quite turn a boring moment fun, or a painful moment into pleasure, we can experiment with finding another side to it we’d otherwise miss. As we do so, we’ll learn something valuable about ourselves, and also hone our skills of living.

A skillful life involves building greater understanding and influence in how we experience it, and how we grow with those experiences. Each moment presents a new opportunity to improve these skills, in its unique way. By practicing finding what makes that moment Special, we prepare ourselves for the kind of life we hadn’t before imagined.

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