breathe in – still alive, breathe out – let it go

Peter had sciatica nerve pain due to Herniated Discin in March 2020 when the COVID lockdown started. This was extremely painful for Peter.  He wanted to get treatment, but physical therapy and doctors were not immediately available due to the lockdown. He was frustrated and angry as nothing was helping his pain. His mind was full of negative feelings and thoughts. Then, he heard someone say meditation might help ease his pain. He would like to give it a try out of desperation. He read a book about meditation and learned the importance of breathing. When he breathes in, he can feel the pain and feel the relief when he breathes out.  Through meditation, Peter became mindful of his body’s doing and recognized the pain.  Breathe in – still alive, breathe out – let it go… 

Also, when he was in pain, his wife asked,” How are you doing?”  He initially felt, “Don’t you know I am in pain?” and felt anger. However, as he started to meditate and be mindful of his surroundings, he began to feel differently; his wife’s question was “love.”  Meditation helps Peter shift the state of MIND FULL of negative and stressful thoughts to MINDFULNESS which allows him to see things clearly with calmness and peace felt inside. 

The clinic office reopened in June, and Peter paid his first doctor visit since the onset of his sciatica problem.  He was given medical treatment from March through September.  His pain gradually eased off, and he started returning to his daily walking exercises. He meditates while walking.  He meditates while walking. Through mindfulness, Peter learns and practices living fully at every moment in the present. Both were saying hello to a stranger and slowing down paces to enjoy the beauty of nature (flowers, trees, hills, clouds, etc.), aware of their surroundings, giving him energy and joy.  

Peter recognizes Meditation cannot totally eliminate his pain and suffering. But meditation can help Peter alleviate his pain with calmness inside his mind and peace at heart. 

“Mindfulness does not regard pain as an enemy that needs to be suppressed. It does not want to throw the pain out. It knows the pain is a part of us.” —Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned Buddhist Monk.

Shujinko 主人公 : True Self

In zen teaching, shujinko means “true self.” So how can we find our “true self”?

無想 Muso:  Don’t think anything, get rid of all thoughts

無念 Munen: Let go of desires,  don’t get distracted by the stimulus from the outside world 

無住 Muju: Let go of your attachment to material things

What remains is the “true self.” Zazen is the practice to help remove these noises and find “true self.”

Two Approaches to Happiness

Talk by Lakshmi

There are, we could say, two basic approaches to manifesting a happier, more fulfilled life. The first and most familiar to us is to try to maximize the quality of our day-to-day experiences and circumstances as best we can. However, one of the inherent challenges of trying to engineer or control our experiences and circumstances so as to maximize well-being is this: Life is invariably filled with all manner of experiences and circumstances we find difficult, challenging, or unpleasant and many of these are not very amenable (if at all) to control or change. Whether internally (thoughts, feelings, sensations) or externally (situations and circumstances), things often don’t go the way we would like them to go, despite our best, most artful and sincere efforts.
But there is another approach to happiness and fulfillment and that is to investigate what the dream is actually made of, rather than reflexively trying to create a more desirable one. Whether we call it a happy one, a sad one, an exhilarating one, or a terrifying one, in this second approach, we simply inquire into the nature of the dreaming itself, and through this, discover that no matter its content, no matter what the dream may look like, it is all life, all reality, appearing in the many guises life can appear.
Experience is ultimately undefinable.
We imagine that we know what experiences are because we have names for them. However, through more carefully exploring the texture or felt sense of experience, we can discover that all experiences, whether they’re conceived of as mundane or sublime, lie beyond the reach of our conceptualizing faculties. Feel into any state—fear, anxiety, joy, exhilaration—and what becomes apparent is the inadequacy of our descriptive labels, the failure of our conceptual maps to convey the unthinkably vast, subtle, and nuanced territory of experience.
We can certainly try to manifest more of what we conventionally think of as “states of well-being.” But the second approach reveals another order of well-being altogether, one that is discovered to be present in every moment of experience, irrespective of the conventional labels we may give it, a well being that is just as present in sadness as it is in joy. This is a stable, indestructible well-being that can neither be given nor taken away because it is reality itself, the same ever-present reality that appears as each changing moment of life, a field of fathomless mystery and well-being that is beyond our capacity to definitively label or describe.
It’s fine, of course, to continue trying to live life as skillfully as you can, minimizing those states of mind and circumstances conventionally thought of as undesirable while maximizing those considered (based on your descriptions) to be more desirous. But while you engage in this more conventional approach to well-being, you can at the same time take up the second approach and begin to discover that the very
experiences you’ve imagined yourself stuck in or troubled by are in fact infinity itself, the inconceivable, miraculous display of reality, shining forth as each instant of life, no matter its conventional label.
Astin, J. (2018). This Extraordinary Moment: Moving Beyond the Mind to Embrace the Miracle of What Is Non-Duality Press. Kindle Edition.

wa kei sei jaku 和敬清寂

This sign used to hang outside of our gate to the zendo. “Wa, Kei, Sei, Jaku,” famous Sado (tea ceremony ) word describing four essential elements of Sado.

和(Wa) Harmony

敬(Kei) Respect

清(Sei) Purity

寂(Jaku) Tranquility

So why this word for tea ceremony relates to zen?

It is believed that Eisai, who established the Rinzai Zen, brought green tea seeds from China and promoted tea culture in Japan. As a result, at many zen temples, sarei (茶礼) is offered, after morning zazen, after meals during the break, and before going to sleep.

We can apply these principles to our zen practice

When we enter our zendo, we can

-Open up our minds (Wa),

-Respect each other, and be compassionate (Kei)

-Clean up surroundings. Also, we can purify our minds by leaving  any biases (Sei)

-Keep ourselves calm (Jaku), which we try to archive through zazen meditation.

We can apply this to our daily life.