silence and the frog…and silence

An old silent pond…

A frog jumps into the pond,

splash! Silence again. ~ Basho

zen garden

On Saturday, April 7, 2018, I will be Investigating the Power of Silence with attendees at the annual Free Day of NLP, held at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. My presentation is at 1 pm.

To RSVP, please click here, which will help with planning for the free breakfast and lunch and free parking (you need to register your license plate number — otherwise it’s $3).

Each moment, life as it is, the only teacher: quotes from Joko Beck

I posted this originally on June 16, 2011. Needing to remind myself of her wisdom, I thought you might want to (re)read her words and appreciate her wisdom too.

~~

Charlotte Joko Beck died yesterday, very peacefully, at the age of 94. She was a Zen teacher who made a major impact on American Buddhism.

Here’s a quote from article that puts her work into perspective (no longer available):

The Ordinary Mind School was among the first Zen communities to consciously engage the emotional life and the shadows of the human mind as Zen practice. The late Charlotte Joko Beck and her dharma heirs adapted elements of the vipassana tradition — a relentless inquiry into the contours of the human mind — as unambiguous Zen discipline.

Here are some quotes from her:

With unfailing kindness, your life always presents what you need to learn. Whether you stay home or work in an office or whatever, the next teacher is going to pop right up.

Caught in the self-centered dream, only suffering;
holding to self-centered thoughts, exactly the dream;
each moment, life as it is, the only teacher;
being just this moment, compassion’s way.

Enlightenment is not something you achieve. It is the absence of something. All your life you have been going forward after something, pursuing some goal. Enlightenment is dropping all that.

Wisdom is to see that there is nothing to search for. If you live with a difficult person, that’s nirvana. Perfect. If you’re miserable, that’s it. And I’m not saying to be passive, not to take action; then you would be trying to hold nirvana as a fixed state. It’s never fixed, but always changing. There is no implication of ‘doing nothing.’ But deeds done that are born of this understanding are free of anger and judgment. No expectation, just pure and compassionate action.

Practice is just hearing, just seeing, just feeling. This is what Christians call the face of God: simply taking in this world as it manifests. We feel our body; we hear the cars and birds. That’s all there is.

Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru.

So a relationship is a great gift, not because it makes us happy — it often doesn’t — but because any intimate relationship, if we view it as practice, is the clearest mirror we can find.

Practice can be stated very simply. It is moving from a life of hurting myself and others to a life of not hurting myself and others. That seems so simple — except when we substitute for real practice some idea that we should be different or better than we are, or that our lives should be different from the way they are. When we substitute our ideas about what should be (such notions as “I should not be angry or confused or unwilling”) for our life as it truly is, then we’re off base and our practice is barren.

We have to face the pain we have been running from. In fact, we need to learn to rest in it and let its searing power transform us.

We learn in our guts, not just in our brain, that a life of joy is not in seeking happiness, but in experiencing and simply being the circumstances of our life as they are; not in fulfilling personal wants, but in fulfilling the needs of life.

Meditation is not about some state, it is about the meditator.

Zen practice isn’t about a special place or a special peace, or something other than being with our life just as it is. It’s one of the hardest things for people to get: that my very difficulties in this very moment are the perfection… When we are attached to the way we think we should be or the way we think anyone else should be, we can have very little appreciation of life as it is…whether or not we commit physical suicide, if our attachment to our dream remains unquestioned and untouched, we are killing ourselves, because our true life goes by almost unnoticed.

“The 5 rhythms are a contemporary shamanic Zen practice” ~ Gabrielle Roth

Okay, so science has recently showed us that dancers have genes for transcendence and social connection. (And if you don’t dance, maybe you have these genes too and don’t know it yet. And consider this: if stress turns on the bad genes, maybe the opposite of stress — joy? contentment? — turns on the good genes! Just sayin’….)

In this interview, Gabrielle Roth explains the connection between ecstatic dance, Zen, and shamanic practices.

The 5Rhythms are a contemporary Zen, Shamanic practice. Zen, in that they are a map to an inner journey for seekers of wisdom and freedom, the wisdom to know who we are and the freedom to get over ourselves. Shamanic, in that they address the Great Divide, the divorce of spirit from flesh that has created the loss of soul, which haunts us. We’ve rendered the soul homeless, it can’t breathe, exist, or move disconnected from the body. The body is the womb of the soul, a begging bowl for spirit, like Aretha when she sings….

The fastest way to still the mind is to move the body. All the profound spiritual teachings in this world don’t mean anything if they’re not embodied. Feeling totally high and connected to the divine mystery while sitting on a meditation pillow is fine, but how do we put the rubber to the road? As Charlie Parker said, If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn. So I take refuge in the 5Rhythms practice to keep my horn in tune.

There are videos of Gabrielle as well on the site. Check ’em out!

Become a living question for Halloween!

 

 

I’m adding this to my Favorite Quotes page here on my blog:

 

 

 

The most important part of the practice is for the question to remain alive and for your whole body and mind to become a question. In Zen they say that you have to ask with the pores of your skin and the marrow of your bones. A Zen saying points out: Great questioning, great awakening; little questioning, little awakening; no questioning, no awakening. ~ Martine Batchelor (from Tricycle Daily Dharma)

 

Try this: Sit in an upright posture. Chair, zafu, floor, doesn’t matter. Spine straight but not rigid. Breathe. Get yourself centered.

 

Zafu. Roma

Zafu. Roma (Photo credit: Roberto Poveda)

 

Ask yourself this question:

 

 

 

Who am I?

 

Ask very slowly and don’t expect an answer, but really, really listen.

 

 

 

What do you notice?

 

 

 

Repost: Why experts are not the best teachers

Why Experts are not the Best Teachers | The Psychology of Wellbeing.

Good teaching requires a beginner’s mind.

This made a lot of sense to me. It’s not that everyone who is really excellent in a field of endeavor is a bad teacher.

It’s that teaching is a separate skill that involves communicating how to do something. Many experts don’t know how they do it. The whole field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) came about because of this. It started with modeling excellence in people who had no idea how they did what they did so well.

A good teacher, besides knowing her stuff, is also good at tuning into the learner’s current level, putting herself in the student’s shoes, and discerning what the best next step is in terms of developing mastery.

The Japanese word shoshin means beginner’s mind.

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few. ~ Shunryu Suzuki

 

What if there is no “normal” to return to after long-term PTSD? Be unfaithful to your sorrows.

I tagged a customer review of a book on Amazon because it moved me and I wanted to track comments on the review. It spoke to me.

(The book is In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness by Peter A. Levine, author of Waking the Tiger, a book that changed my life.)

Fred wrote:

I agree with the comments about this book. I have the book and a couple of his other ones and I learned from them, they were my first knowledge of what trauma could do. I want to make a specific trauma comment and since the author has helped me alot what better place to do it!

At age 60 I am finally and only recently past the terror of early, continuous and prolonged childhood abuse because of the healing work I have done on my own. I recommend books and techniques from Alice Miller, Peter Levine (of course!), David Berceli, Babette Rothschild, EMDR, EFT, PARTS/EGO STATES work, NLP. I am a little leery about unsupervised guided imagery and meditation because they can be so close to dissociation, I sure did.

My comment is that with early abuse in whatever form the child has to create coping and defensive mechanisms to be able to survive mentally. These PARTs then prevent the child from growing naturally like all children should. As an adult these PARTS drew me to abusers and perpetuated actions which continued to retraumatize me. I didn’t know any better.

People who experience trauma as adults can use the techniques the author describes and those listed above to get back to normal. I have come to the awful realization that I have no NORMAL to go back to! My former desires and reasons for living no longer exist. They were based on avoiding reality, lessening the pain and terror, and plowing through dissociation to be able to function. While I don’t have the terror anymore I am still trauma parallyzed (Freeze, surrender) as I have been for most of these 6 decades and I don’t have the NORMAL interests and motivations which would help me get past that. “I” do not exist.

My hope from this review is that this Catch 22 can be added to trauma discussions. I don’t know what can be done to create a resource or if there are even more people like me out there.

I guess a correlary is to emphasize the need to help children who do experience trauma, as early as possible. (Another of the author’s books.)

Fred says there’s no normal to return to because of childhood abuse.

I ask Fred and others who have experienced long-term PTSD who don’t believe they have anything like a “normal” self to return to:

What if “normal” is an illusion? What if there is no normal?

Really, if your trauma began at age 1 or 11 or 21, the “returning to normal” is returning to how you were before the trauma began. What would it look like for a 60-year-old healing trauma victim to return to being a normal one year old? It doesn’t seem to work like that.

Perhaps “normal” is a concept that the mind desires that doesn’t really exist. Even for so-called “normal” people!

If that’s the case, then I say you get to determine what normal means for you.

Maybe normal means being a more present, heart-centered, resourceful person.

Maybe normal means finding what you believe you missed out on: a sense of worthiness, love, inner peace, trust, self-respect, and so on.

Maybe it’s having a strong connection to an enlightened witness. Maybe that enlightened witness is an inner part, Divine Essence, or another person.

Maybe normal is being a valued member of a community and building close relationships.

Maybe normal is being playful and having fun. Maybe it’s setting the boundaries you need to thrive.

Maybe normal is feeling centered in your body and having your energy flow freely, and learning how to return to that state when you become uncentered or blocked.

Maybe it’s wanting to experience the most joy, connection, sanity, and love — both giving and receiving — as you can and having a damn good reason for doing so. Living really well is the best revenge and the best healing you can possibly do.

Imagine that you fully and completely have the experience of being normal. What would that do for you ? Let’s hear it! “Then I’d be…”

And what would that do for you?

Take it as far as you can and enjoy experiencing that staate.

There’s a Zen phrase “unfaithful to my sorrows” that I use on my About me page. To me, it means that no matter what your sorrows are, or how many or deep they are, or how long you’ve had them, there are at least moments when you’re unfaithful to them — times when you forget them and notice something else. A rainbow. Some music. A dream image. A dust bunny. A release of tension.

We tend to believe we’re defined by our sorrows and traumas, but we’re not. We can let these non-sorrow moments become large.

Krishnamurti put it like this:

What can be described is the known, and the freedom from the known can come into being only when there is a dying every day to the known, to the hurts, the flatteries, to all the images you have made, to all your experiences— dying every day so that the brain cells themselves become fresh, young, innocent.

My dear friend Keith Fail says it more simply,

We’re always bigger than we think we are.

I’m reflagging this post from Ben Howard’s One Time, One Meeting blog about the practice of Zen. Read Markus Koch’s comment below about learning yoga and changing his attitude.

One Time, One Meeting

If you have ever played a competitive sport, you have probably been exhorted to give 100 percent. Or, as the sports cliché would have it, “110 percent.” And the attitude embodied in that exhortation extends well beyond the arena of athletics. Whether the field of activity be business or law, selling cars or playing tennis, giving 100 percent of one’s effort and energy is widely regarded as a virtue, if not a moral imperative.

In the present American workplace, those fortunate enough to be employed might have little choice but to give 110—or 150—percent, day in and day out, to their jobs and sponsoring institutions. But for the conduct of everyday life, a wiser guideline may be found in the ancient Chinese practice of Tai Chi. At once a martial art and a contemplative discipline, Tai Chi is rooted in the Taoist tradition. And a cardinal principle of Tai Chi…

View original post 792 more words

Top 20 thoughts to think while meditating

This is a repost from Elephant Journal, written by Blake Wilson. I found it quite hilarious!

My favorites:

15. I got this shit down!

12. Everyone would totally freak out if I started floating.

If you’ve spent much time on the zafu, you may like this a lot too. Click the link above to read the rest.

You can check out Blake’s blog here.

 

Each moment, life as it is, the only teacher: quotes from Joko Beck

Charlotte Joko Beck died yesterday, very peacefully, at the age of 94. She was a Zen teacher who made a major impact on American Buddhism.

Here’s a quote from an article that puts her work into perspective (no longer available online):

The Ordinary Mind School was among the first Zen communities to consciously engage the emotional life and the shadows of the human mind as Zen practice. The late Charlotte Joko Beck and her dharma heirs  adapted elements of the vipassana tradition — a relentless inquiry into the contours of the human mind—as unambiguous Zen discipline.

Here are some quotes from her:

With unfailing kindness, your life always presents what you need to learn. Whether you stay home or work in an office or whatever, the next teacher is going to pop right up.

Caught in the self-centered dream, only suffering;
holding to self-centered thoughts, exactly the dream;
each moment, life as it is, the only teacher;
being just this moment, compassion’s way.

Enlightenment is not something you achieve. It is the absence of something. All your life you have been going forward after something, pursuing some goal. Enlightenment is dropping all that.

Wisdom is to see that there is nothing to search for. If you live with a difficult person, that’s nirvana. Perfect. If you’re miserable, that’s it. And I’m not saying to be passive, not to take action; then you would be trying to hold nirvana as a fixed state. It’s never fixed, but always changing. There is no implication of ‘doing nothing.’ But deeds done that are born of this understanding are free of anger and judgment. No expectation, just pure and compassionate action.

Practice is just hearing, just seeing, just feeling. This is what Christians call the face of God: simply taking in this world as it manifests. We feel our body; we hear the cars and birds. That’s all there is.

Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru.

So a relationship is a great gift, not because it makes us happy – it often doesn’t – but because any intimate relationship, if we view it as practice, is the clearest mirror we can find.

Practice can be stated very simply. It is moving from a life of hurting myself and others to a life of not hurting myself and others. That seems so simple — except when we substitute for real practice some idea that we should be different or better than we are, or that our lives should be different from the way they are. When we substitute our ideas about what should be (such notions as “I should not be angry or confused or unwilling”) for our life as it truly is, then we’re off base and our practice is barren.

We have to face the pain we have been running from. In fact, we need to learn to rest in it and let its searing power transform us.

We learn in our guts, not just in our brain, that a life of joy is not in seeking happiness, but in experiencing and simply being the circumstances of our life as they are; not in fulfilling personal wants, but in fulfilling the needs of life.

Meditation is not about some state, it is about the meditator.

Zen practice isn’t about a special place or a special peace, or something other than being with our life just as it is. It’s one of the hardest things for people to get: that my very difficulties in this very moment are the perfection… When we are attached to the way we think we should be or the way we think anyone else should be, we can have very little appreciation of life as it is…whether or not we commit physical suicide, if our attachment to our dream remains unquestioned and untouched, we are killing ourselves, because our true life goes by almost unnoticed.

Is anyone else doing the trauma releasing exercises?

Just checking. I’ve taught them to one person so far during this challenge and am curious to learn whether anyone else is doing them or has tried them at least once or intends to do them.

If so, would you please comment? I’d just like to know someone’s there.

Last night my releasing was mild compared to the previous wild session. A little shaking in my left hand, but not my left shoulder this time. Mostly my legs shook. I experienced some mild, gentle pelvic rocking. Lasted about 10 minutes.

~~~

This morning I went to Appamada Zen Center for the Sunday service. I got there just as the clappers signaled time to get seated before the service begins.

Had a nice practice inquiry session with Peg Syverson, my teacher. So much has changed since I saw her last, which was maybe in early January. We had a really good connection. She asked what stays the same while so much of my life is changing — selling my house, moving out, doing temporary work — and advised to notice it all.

During the sitting parts of the service, I noticed tight places in my body. I attribute it to the kettlebell swings I’ve been doing to strengthen my body. I’m working my way up from 10 swings with a 15 lb. kettlebell. Right now I’m at 20, and I feel it slightly afterwards.

Then I had tea afterwards with some sangha members, and we chatted about the revolution in Egypt, Islamic finance, the environment, and people’s difficulty in dealing with long-term incremental change like climate change, among other things. Some of my sangha read a lot.

I haven’t been to Appamada for weeks. I’ve been spending time with my granddaughter while my daughter works at her nursing job on Sundays. She had this weekend off, and I got to sit with my sangha.

I’m grateful to have my daughter and granddaughter in the same city as I and to be able to spend time with them.

I’m grateful for Appamada, Peg, the Buddha, Zen, the sangha, and my zafu.

I’m grateful to be exploring the trauma releasing exercises.