Monday, May 14, 2007

The following excerpt is from a letter sent by one of our prison Sangha members.
It is being shared, with his consent, so that you might get a taste of the results of our program and the teaching that it offers those inside and outside the walls. Truly "No Barrier":

Please, continue to support the program...

Gassho, Doshin Sensei

"....I am still in confinement all by my lonesome. I quite enjoy the solitude. It's just me and my monkey mind.

"I must admit that I always found it easier to meditate while we've been together gathered as a Sangha. Being in the company of fellow practitioners lends me the resolve and motivation to discipline myself to sit still and observe. When I am alone, I tend to substitute mindfulness more than actually doing zazen. I guess I have work to do but I also realize that there is no wrong or right way in its absolute arbitrary form to do things. Attachment has many guises.

"Right now, my main goal is to observe my vows and remain centered in mindfulness. that is as best as I can expect from myself. I still catch myself entertaining certain thoughts and projecting certain scenarios where I'm always the leading actor basking in all the glory, fame and riches of the world. And yet I observe this absurd drama unfolding within my mind's eye and I just smile! When will it ever end? That of course is a rhetorical question because I don't know the answer and am quite comfortable in my ignorance -of sorts.

"I do not know when I will ever see you again. I kind of felt like a pupil that was dismissed by his teacher when the teacher finally realized that he had nothing further to teach his student and sent him on his way lest the student get overly attached to his teacher. I realize now that my journey is mine and no one else's and sometimes the weight of that knowledge can be overwhelming. Yet I know that everything is temporary and like you always said -'no feeling is final'. I draw strength in the Buddha, the Dharma and the lineage throughout thousands of years of practice by those brave men and women who have passed on the torch in an otherwise dark and confusing world.

"The Dharma teachings are simple and beautiful and yet I cannot even begin to explain what those teachings are when some curious soul begins to question me on Buddhism and Zen. I sort of just notice everything around me in its minute detail as if the inquiry wax the cue for me to remember the present. I cannot presume to give a reasonable explanation on what Buddhism is because to this day I don't quite know what it is yet. I feel and know exactly what it is but words are an inadequate medium, it wasn't always so at the beginning of my practice...

"Anyways, I am thankful that I found Zen and the teachings of the Tathagata. The Dharma has been a guide to me. The teachings of the Enlightened One has been the torch bearer that has lead me in time of great turbulence. I am only grateful and I can only truly manifest my gratitude by perpetuating the love and good works of the Dharma. It is hard because I must face and conquer my greatest arch-enemy -myself. I can always hear the negativity that arises within myself when I try to do something positive.


"The journey continues and I feel that I'm better equipped to face the travails of the world. I feel at peace with the world because I have learned to accept the unknown and mysterious with an open mind."

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Much Wisdom

You'll find posted here an exchange of correspondence that you may find both stimulating and amusing...

Recently, Koka (Evelyne) sent me an email asking: "Do you have a story with a Zen theme for our blog?"

Hoping to give myself time to review the myriad of short stories I've written (some published, some not), I replied: "What do you mean by 'Zen Theme'?"

Her reply:
"Anything that is inviting us to open or broaden our mind, has some wisdom, is down to earth, helps us to face reality, is coming from your heart, and turns us away from contemplating our own belly bottom"*
floored me with the thought that she's asking for everything including the kitchen sink. Because I'm not a Zen plumber, we discussed my not knowing what to write, and I mulled myself into the following:

Water is wet; fire is hot; the wind blows; and the earth is dense.
Undesired "weeds" flourish; whilst desired "flowers" wither and die.
The world/our life is as it is...warts and all.
That which is born will die.
Acceptance (not resignation) of the above provides liberation...a tacit understanding.

Evelyne (Koka) also suggested that she should use my story that was recently published in The Palm Beach Post because of its theme is the circle of life.
I present the gist of it as follow:

On a recent visit to Massachusetts to visit my sons and their families, I wound up on a beach at the foot of an out-cropping of house-sized boulders watching my sons and my grandsons scamper up and over the seaweed and barnacle-covered surfaces to get to the "good" fishing spots. Knowing that my arthritic knees and confused eyesight presented a valid danger, I suppressed my inner machismo's screeching of "Go ahead. You can do it.' and asked my 48-year-old son, Scott, for help. As he gripped my hand and voiced cautions as to where I should place my feet, time reversed itself to when I was gripping and guiding him as a toddler up these same, timeless rocks. Our eyes locked, and he croaked, "It all comes to full circle, doesn't it, dad?"

As we both grow older, Scott's noir, but Zen-like, humor often manifests with, "Dad, you're on your way to becoming just a photograph."

This is a statement of the isness/suchness of my/our life. Any critical emotions that the Truth of his words ignites create suffering.

Sid Bolotin

* ...English is not Koka's mother tongue...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Making Friends with your Emotion

By teaching us to relate to emotions in a non conceptual way, meditation provides direct access to our raw aliveness. It is not oriented toward the content of feelings, or their meaning, but instead involves opening to feeling directly. When surges of emotional turbulence arise, we practice being still and opening to their energy.

Thus we are allowed to discover a freer, more open awareness, even when we are caught up in emotional reactions. At the same time, it becomes possible to transmute this raw power of our emotions to further the path of realization. we may be able to wonder in the midst of an eruption of anger, "Am I really this angry? Are these people really as wrong as I'm making them?" At this point, we can still be deeply in touch with the power of the emotion, but be free enough from it to choose a more helpful way to use this power, besides just dumping our anger on someone.

The first step in developing this freedom from getting pushed around by our emotions, is to feel and let them be, without judging them as good or bad. when we open to the actual texture and quality of a feeling, instead of trying to control or judge it, the ego -the activity of trying to hold ourselves together- starts to dissolve into the larger aliveness present in the feeling. and consequently, new choices not under the control of what the ego wants, can spontaneously arise and be acted upon.

I think this is partly what Suzuki Roshi meant when he spoke of he weeds of the mind being used to feed the awakening of awareness: "We pull the weeds and bury them near the plant to give it nourishment -you should be grateful for the weeds, because eventually they will enrich your practice. If you have some experience of how the weeds in your mind change into mental nourishment, your practice will make remarkable progress."

This process needs to be practiced over and over again with what for us at any particular moment are workable emotions. A delivering mother, with no epidural to relieve the pain, and in the throes of agony, won't be able to use what's being said here, without first practicing this process exhaustively with less threatening emotions.

After many years of practice, perhaps almost all of our emotions can be perceived in the open space of being at the core of all experience, before the ego can take control. This spaciousness cuts our emotional turmoil down to size, so that it appears as a small drama in the middle of a vast sea of awareness. When we no longer fear our emotions, this promotes greater fearlessness toward life as a whole, know in Buddhism as the "lion's roar".

Roger Shikan Hawkins Sensei

Roger Shikan Hawkins Sensei is teaching in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
If you would like to connect with his site and learn more about here

... if you like to read or listen to some of his dharma here

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Are you hungry?

If you are interested in healthy eating and cooking, as well as feeling great, there is a wonderful site you can explore that will provide you with 'unbiased scientific information about how nutrient-rich world's healthiest foods can promote vibrant health and energy and fit your personal needs and busy lifestyle'.

You'll easily navigate through a mine of information, useful tips and delicious recipes, all clearly and beautifully presented.

To reach "The World's Healthiest Foods" website, here.

It is important to remember that we are not only made of what we eat, do and think but also transformed by how we eat, act and think...

Do I respect the form, color, taste and smell of the food that I prepare or eat? Do I value its presentation?

Am I grateful for the work and sacrifice that a meal represents?

Do I take the time to be really present when I eat?

Am I attentive to the needs of those who are sharing their meal with me?

Am I attentive to my mood and thoughts, or to the conversation I am sharing, while eating?

Surely we can all find many more questions to check how we honor the gift of food, the gift of being alive and having to eat...

Would you like a recipe of mine to make a vegetable soup?

Cook together 1 potatoes, 1 leek and 1 celery sticks in a stock. Liquidize. Cut 2 zucchinis in chunks and simmer in the soup until cooked but still crisp. Add some grated cheese and heat until it melts. Season to taste.

Garnish with lots of chopped fresh parsley... maybe some flaked almonds...

And enjoy!