Open to good and bad

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A story about Zen master Suzuki Roshi. Once his students had been sitting and they were 3 or 4 hours into a very hard sitting period. The person who told the story said that every bone in his body was hurting. Not only that, his thoughts were totally obsessed with either, “I can’t do this, I’m worthless. There’s something wrong with me.” or “This whole thing is ridiculous. Why did I ever come here? These people are crazy. This place is like boot camp.”  Probably everyone else in the room was going through something similar. 

Suzuki Roshi came in to give the lecture  and sat down. He started to talk very, very slowly and said, “The difficulty that you are experiencing now…” (And that man was thinking….“will go away”)… and Suzuki said, “will be with you for the rest of your life.”

That’s a sort of Buddhist humor, but it is also the essence of  maitri (friendliness towards ourselves). It seems to me that we come to a body of teachings  or any spiritual path, or to meditation, in some way like little children looking for comfort, looking for understanding, looking for attention, looking somehow to be confirmed. And the truth is actually that the meditation practice isn’t about that. Practice is about that part of our being finally being able to open completely to the whole range of our experience, including all that wanting, including all that hurt, including the pain and the joy. Opening to the whole thing so that this little child-like part of us can finally, finally, finally, finally grow up.

But this issue of growing up, it’s not all that easy because it requires a lot of courage… to relate directly with your experience. By this I mean whatever is occurring in you, you use it. You seize the moment. Moment after moment? You seize those moments and instead of letting life shut you down and make you more afraid, you use those very same moments of time to soften and to open and to become more kind.

Pema Chodron

photo infrogmation of New Orleans

Sunday Quote: Being content

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Contentment seems more about switching off, at source,  some of the driven aspects of our personalities,

rather than achieving that “more” which we think will fulfil them.

It is related to a quality of not-always-leaning towards something else:

A person is satisfied not by the quantity of food,

but by the absence of greed.


photo timothy krause

Endings are also beginnings

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Become totally empty. Let your heart be at peace.

Amidst the rush of things coming and going,

observe how endings become beginnings.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

 To see beginnings and endings is a great support in difficult times. Early on, as I began to trust in the fiber of my being that nothing lasts, I became less afraid of pain. The fact that everything has an end comforted me. “One way or another,” I would say to myself, “this too will pass.” I was glad I saw that…the end of the day is the beginning of the night, and that a dead rose becomes compost for new growth….When I recognize the pain I feel as the legitimate result of loss, I am respectful of its presence and kind to myself. My mind always relaxes when it is kind, and around the edges of the truth of whatever has ended, I see displays of what might be beginning.

Sylvia Boorstein

photo dominicus johannes bergsma

Stop pushing

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In one of his insightful talks Zen master Shunryu Suzuki said that in your practice you should walk like an elephant. “If you can walk slowly, without any idea of gain, then you are already a good Zen student.” There’s a mantra for your religion: Walk like an elephant. It means to move at a comfortable pace. No rushing toward a goal. No push to make it all meaningful.

Thomas Moore, A Religion of One’s Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World

photo charlesjsharp

with thanks to the always inspiring and nourishing blog

Start again: A gentle way in a harsh world

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Be patient with everyone, but above all, with yourself.

I mean, do not be disheartened by your imperfections, but always rise up with fresh courage.

I am glad you make a fresh beginning daily.

There is no better means of attainment to the spiritual life than by continually beginning again…

How are we to be patient in dealing with our neighbor’s faults if we are impatient in dealing with our own.

All profitable correction comes from a calm and peaceful mind.

from the ever gentle Saint Francis de Sales,

photo LinSu Hill

Fall and get up

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The reality is that,  despite our best efforts, life can be challenging sometimes, and we can fall short and not fully measure up. Thus, some way of starting over is an essential practice. The mind likes to have ideas about things and people, and they are often ideas of perfection, which is probably not possible in this world.  This can makes it harder to be at ease with vulnerability or have patience with a world that has ups and downs

We’d so much rather be kind, generous, loving and wise all the time – not to mention calm and peaceful – [but…] our major task as persons of the Way is to accept our human-ness...which includes greed, anger, ignorance and all the other emotions, thoughts and behaviors that we’d rather not feel, think or do.

How to cope with this paradox?  It’s very simple, really, although not easy…we rely on the practice of vow and repentance.  We vow to do our best, and then, when we make our inevitable mistakes, we repent.  We recognize that we have done harm, and then we vow again to have as big a view as possible under the circumstances, so that maybe the next time….and on and on, endlessly, forever. This practice is not something we can learn and complete…it’s a lifetime’s worth of, as we sometimes say, 9 times fall down, 10 times get up.  Or, an infinite number of times fall down, and an infinite number of times, plus one, get up.

Melissa Myozen Blacker, on her Blog Firefly Hall

photo brian snelson