Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mondo Zen and the Emotional Koan

Mondo Zen

 I've moved to San Mateo, California from Columbus, Ohio and when I left Columbus I left King Ave Methodist Church which was a huge loss for me. In San Mateo now, i've joined a Mondo Zen virtual sangha. Joining Mondo Zen means making a commitment to 5 daily practices:

1. Daily meditation of an hour

2. Stewardship vow - do something for others or the earth

3. Daily reading of Mondo Zen book guides of 10 mins a day

4. 30 mins of movement meditation (like yoga) 3 times a week at least and

5. Work on an emotional koan It is this last piece that I want to write about. An emotional koan is an emotional puzzle. Some place in your life where you are going into old patterns and it is getting old and no longer serving you. So, this is a challenge to take your responses to a familiar cause-effect pattern to a new level and grow.

 My current emotional koan is what I do in response to two things I experience on a frequent basis:

1) Verbal put-downs in regards to my skills in the work arena.

2) Not receiving straight answers from people who I know have the information. For some reason, they aren't giving the answers up. This is also in the work arena. The reasons for this vary greatly.

 My habitual patterns are defensiveness and frustration. The new patterns I want to learn are shrugging laughter and acceptance/surrender to what is for whatever reason. In order to learn new patterns, one has to slow it down in the moment and catch the energy rising and divert it.

Slogans or mantras can help with this process. A new ritual can help too.

 So, for the put-downs:

slogan for when i receive a put-down - "I did what I could and I'll do what I can, I can see we are in a dilbert cartoon in this moment."

ritual - just fix posture, breath, smile, and return to your work

 For the no-answers:

slogan for when I receive no-answers or blocking to answers - "OK. that is a dead-end. I accept that. What can I do to work on this without continuing down this route?"

ritual - open a piece of paper and just list some things you can do in a different route to find out the answer. If you can't find out the answer, then what other project could you work on or what other tasks could you do?

 Learning to handle these two things with skill is a game changer for me. It makes me less reactive and much more skillful in my life. And in Mondo Zen, it is a part of becoming awakened spiritually. If we meditate and meditate and are still reactive in our daily lives then we haven't woken up. We haven't learned to live skillfully.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Debbie Ford Workshop at the Omega Institute

I went to The Omega Institute over the weekend in New York City. I attended a workshop by Debbie Ford. It was truly a transformative weekend. I cannot really explain it but it was a life-changer type of weekend.

It is interesting to compare these types of spiritual workshops to Christian church and to Buddhist sanghas.

I got the feeling that many of the people who were in the workshop had been to workshops like this before and so it was all happening at a face pace. Basically, Debbie Ford talked and then led the group of about 400 people through a guided meditation and it was incredibly effective in finding answers and guidance from within yourself.

Christian Church is a powerful experience for me but it is a ritual, a community ritual. We come together and perform a worship session as we have our entire lives. We sing songs, listen to a story from the bible and pray for and with one another. Perhaps we take communion. I feel an enormous amount of love and I also feel a spiritual chiropractic adjustment from the holy spirit every time I go to church. It gets me back on track and reminds me to love my neighbor as myself. To me, it feels like a community heart exercise and the best one I know.

A Buddhist Sangha experience is one of peace if I'm rested and sleepiness if I'm not. I come together with others and we are calm and reflective and meditative. I have insights and often they are profound ones. The insights bubble up and reveal enormous amounts of wisdom. I leave more mentally rested, at peace, and also wiser for having done the practice.

At Debbie Ford's workshop, which reminded me a lot of the IFS workshops I have attended at Make You Your Hobby workshops, one actually has emotional and spiritual breakthroughs through exploring their own inner self or inner world. It is very self focused but I do think it can make a person more centered to deal with their own behaviors and thoughts or feelings. We all have feelings and we all have a past. Sometimes I look at some of the things in my past and I just do not understand them. Going deep within yourself can help make sense out of past and present behaviors and beliefs.

All of these different forms of spiritual practice are so valid and beneficial. They're all so different. However, at their root, I really do believe that all roads lead to the same path.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Buddhist Ethics in Practice

The 5 Mindfulness trainings

I am going to work on a few points from each of these in the next year. Here is what I will focus on mastering.

Reverence for Life
(1) I vow to change the poison of fear and anger in myself into courage and patience.

True Happiness
(2) I vow to learn how to make work a spiritual practice of giving and receiving. I will work to channel my energy for constructive and creative endevors only. Lastly, instead of chasing fame or ego driven rewards, I will instead focus on mindfullness work habits only.

True Love
(3)I will keep these two quotes in mind
If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we cannot share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.

If you do not give right attention to the one you love, it is a kind of killing. When you are in the car together, if you are lost in your thoughts, assuming you already know everything about her, she will slowly die.>THICH NHAT HANH, O Magazine, Feb. 2007

Loving Speech and Deep Listening
(4)I will cultivate loving speech in all interactions.

Nourishment and Healing
(5) I will practice mindful eating

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cycle of Life

What surprises me most about my dad dying is how much I feel his love now. I feel loss but I also feel his love. Clear as day, stronger than ever.

I have a memory of walking with my family (mom, dad, brother) in Berkeley California in the 1970's. We went to the bookstore and I was given a tshirt. My dad filled my mind with dreams of going to college. I was only 10 years old. We walked around and I remember there were so many interesting people and street performers and I just thought Berkeley was the most amazing place. I remember my father and his love for me and for our adventure that day. It was a day I'll never forget.

That was 31 years ago.

In order for me to have the same feelings that I had on that day, you would have to take me to Mars and I'd have to love Mars.

Being older, means you know things and adventure is behind you in many ways. College is behind me. Berkeley seems small and while still a nice place, I'm not filled with wonder.

Middle age is a strange land filled with wisdom but also loss. You've lived enough to have been home in several different places, lived a few different lives, been a few different personalities, and then lost it all and rebuilt somewhere else.

Today I walked the labyrinth and I was overwhelmed with love for my nephew Jackson. I also got hit with the loss of my dad as I always imagine him standing near the labyrinth sending me love.

If you generate love for your family and friends, it really is eternal. They can feel it long after you leave this earth. My parents planted the seeds of my dreams and their love is so strong that I cannot imagine a day not rooted in it. Your love once given, lives on and on and on. It must travel the universe and back again, hitting the beloved again when they least expect it. We should hold back nothing because this is our legacy to each other.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Faith and Death

The one thing that makes me question my faith is death. My dad died in may of 2011 and my faith was really not much help at all. I find that my faith and religious practices and studies help me live but I'm still having trouble letting people and even myself go and pass through death. Basically, I question if there is a heaven and if heaven does exist I wonder if it resembles anything at all as to what we have here on Earth. I really loose my faith on this topic as you can see.

Basically, faith helps me live but as far as helping me die or helping me handle others around me dieing or face death, it isn't helping at all.

I have a feeling that there is "life" after death in some capacity but I fear that death changes us in such a profound way that I wonder if we even recognize ourselves and our loved ones or worse, that it won't even matter.

I've changed after almost 2 years of living in Ohio vs. living in Chicago. I changed when I lived in Michigan, Virginia, and California. I can't even imagine how much heaven or living without my body as I know it now would change me.

Nothing scares me like this topic. Now that my dad has passed away, this is much more on my mind. I want to know where he is and if I'll see him again. Living with this everyday is a lot to ask. Faith? Faith isn't enough for me in this case. I need to know my dad is ok and that we'll be reunited. Until I know know, I won't be happy. At least this is how i see it today.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gay and Christian and what is a sin?

Being gay isn't a sin. However, it may be possible that judging people for being gay is in fact a sin. I think we've been taught a lot of things about the bible that are misleading. What changed my mind was scholars like Pastor Jennifer Wright Knust.

Basically, what the bible says about sex in general is not understood and outside of that larger context it is easy to point fingers at people who are different and much harder to look at oneself and understand right action in this important area of life.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Way Of Forgiveness Part 1

At my church, King Ave Methodist Church I have joined a few weeks long seminar called The Way of Forgiveness. The book we are reading is The Way Of Forgiveness, the Participant's Book written by Marjorie J. Thompson.

This class involves readings, bible readings, and introspection exercises and journal. It is run by our Pastor and I am loving the class! wow, its great.

Insights so far:

Identity is important
"In order to receive and offer reconciliation, we need to be able to claim a self whose very identity lies in God, a self which we know can neither be given away or stolen." - Roberta C. Bondi

No matter what mistakes we have made in the past, there needs to be a reset button. A way to start over. All that God asks is that we are honest. When I do something wrong and I am awake enough to notice my wrong doing, I seem to have trouble letting it go. I do not think God wants this. We are going to make mistakes. I think the key is to learn from it. At the root of being able to forgive ourselves is to have an identity rooted in being a child of God. No matter what crime we commit, mercy is always available for us.

We don't know the half of it!
Our guilt, over things we have done is only part of the story. Many things we have done wrong, we haven't even noticed. I think about how we are all part of a system that hurts others constantly and yet as long as we don't directly cause it, we are off the hook? No way! One of the things that made Martin Luther so brave as to fight the establishment, is that he felt he would be judged on what he did on earth. He didn't think as we think, that if we are asleep or if we do it as a community that we'll be off the hook for wrong doings. If we believed we would be punished for buying Nike's made by slave like conditions we'd be more urgent about correcting that wrong. I do think that in modern times, we believe we'll be let off the hook for wrong doings that we remain most unconscious about. This helps us sleep and serves to perpetuate the wrong doings.

Anger has a purpose
If you meditate on this enough or if you read the book, its clear that anger must have a purpose. Even Jesus is angry. The key is channelling the anger into something constructive. We must master our anger. Jesus used his anger to bring truth to others in the form of sermons. He brought righteousness through words. He told the truth. What he didn't do is sin. "Be angry but do not sin" says the book.

Most of my thoughts over last week were about the purpose of anger. Why do I have to deal with anger. A lot of what I'm angry about is often misguided. I have noticed that sometimes others can make me angry and then control my actions. I guess it all comes down to the fact that anger is something to master, to aspire to master, a force to be channeled for the common good. Of course, that is tricky.