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Posts Tagged ‘thoughts’

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2016 has been a very chaotic year, hasn’t it?

I had told my friends in December that I sort of felt like 2016 would be a year Outside of Time: not quite linear with the past, but neither would it be free from past influences. Meaning, just because things went a certain way in the past, that doesn’t mean they’ll go the same way now. We’ll still have to deal with them though, and it may even seem like everything from the past is coming up to be dealt with at once.

That’s exactly how 2016 has been feeling to me. Year of the Id. Everything bubbling up at once, resistant to the old ways of dealing with them.

The upside of this is that we’re getting new opportunities to resolve things that have gone unresolved for far too long. And if the old ‘tricks’ and ‘tactics’ won’t work, then we’re finally forced to resolve them in new ways. Since the old ways clearly weren’t working, this gives us the opportunity to finally move forward.

So if you are also feeling the crushing waves of chaos battering you against the shore — or, worse, the undercurrent pulling you under — take a moment to ground yourself.

Take a deep breath, then breathe it out slowly, releasing your frustration at all that arises.

Take another breath, then slowly breathe out your grief at all that has slipped away.

Breathe in again, this time opening your heart as well as your lungs, letting the breath of fresh air sustain you.

Breathe in another sustaining breath, letting the oxygen nourish your mind, opening it up to fresh perspectives.

Through breathing, create an eye within the raging storm, and let events continue to unfold for you. As they do so, practice acceptance for what’s unfolding, learning to look for the new possibilities opening up.

I have a sense that 2017 has the potential to be a truly beautiful year, filled with progress and possibilities that we hadn’t before thought possible. To get there, we’ll have to make it through 2016, learning as much as we can about how to build the space for such a beautiful year to unfold.

May you find peace and wisdom throughout whatever events are surrounding you this year, and may they bring you to a better place. Just hang onto your center, keep your eyes and mind open, and I trust you’ll make it through.

 

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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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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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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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Tomorrow is the third Monday of the new year.

For many of us, Sunday night is the inbreath before the next segment in this grand procession of Tomorrows. Reluctant, resigned or renewed, it’s time to bid another weekend farewell, and prepare to head back into that breach.

Yet it’s only the third Monday of a new year. I don’t know the average time it takes for New Year Resolutions to become forgotten, but I certainly feel that now is too soon. It’s far too early to already slip back into the old habits, the old routines, without consciously resisting falling into the worn-out grooves of behavior, of thought, of expectation.

It’s tough to climb out of those ruts, especially all at once. But even starting small is a huge start. Just one conscious effort can be enough to remind us to remain mindful of other ways we can live better.

As you find yourself preparing to face another week, another day, another moment… what would you most like to change? What do you feel likely to do or say that you would prefer to prepare to do differently? What do you subconsciously expect to feel that doesn’t have to be experienced in that way?

How could you, in one small way, experience a better week?

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Today was a beautiful day.

The weather was inviting, and the people moreso.

I spent wonderful time with my family.

I purchased fresh, delicious food from a local market dedicated to supporting our community.

I paused to appreciate the wonderfully blessed life I’ve had the opportunity to build for myself.

I got to walk among peacocks, flamingos, wild cats, tourists from across the world, and neighbors from across the county.

Today was a beautiful day.

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