Category: Zen (Page 1 of 5)

Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

wherever you go there you areThe title of this book, Wherever You Go There You Are, speaks to the present moment. No matter what we think about, the present moment is truly all we have. In this simple book, Kabat-Zinn helps us to be more mindful of the present moment. This book is written for those who are new to the practice of mindfulness or those who have cultivated a meditation practice.

Buddhists warn of ignorance or mindlessness when we become too involved in the past or the future or even in the actions of others. Kabat-Zinn presents the practice of mindful meditation as a way to understand the present self as it unfolds, moment by moment. It is a practice that is beyond any Eastern philosophy. The author presents mindfulness that is self-responsible and not self-absorbed.

The book is organized into three parts: Part One provides the background to introduce and deepen practice of mindfulness into your life; Part Two examines formal meditation practice; Part Three explores a variety perspectives on mindfulness. Occasionally, Kabat-Zinn shares some poems, like this one:

The heavy is the root of the light.

The unmoved is the source of all movement.

Thus the Master travels all day

without leaving home.

However splendid the views,

she stays serenely in herself.

Why should the lord of the country

flit about like a fool?

If you let yourself be blown to and fro,

you lose touch with your root.

If you let restlessness move you,

you lose touch with who you are.

Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-Ching

This is the 10th Anniversary Edition of Wherever You Go There You Are; I hope to see a 20th Anniversary Edition. I have read other books on meditation, and they sometimes seem a little austere. Kabat-Zinn makes meditation accessible. He delivers a kindness that adults often find difficult to allow themselves. Kabat-Zinn gives us permission to stop the hectic pace of our modern lives and find a place of quiet within.

Original to Well-Being Magazine

Hunger Mountain: A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape

hunger mountainHunger Mountain: A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape

by David Hinton

(Shambhala, November 2012)

David Hinton is one of my favorite translators of Chinese poetry. I’ve enjoyed many of his works, of which Mountain Home stands out and might be my favorite. I was excited when I received his own Hunger Mountain, his account of a series of walks up and down a mountain near his Vermont home.

As David walks, he also weaves a human consciousness into his natural environment exploring the texture of his own experience. Transcendental moments open windows into ourselves. For us his reader, we can use his walk to explore our own internal culture. While walking with David, we address the textures and fundamentals of our own everyday experiences. Through his wisdom we begin to truly see more of who we are and better understand our cultural landscape.

The lessons (or chapters) are focused on real life issues. Chapter one “Sincerity” sets the tone of this transforming essay collection. We want to see our lives as clearly as possible, and David uses his many years of understanding the great Chinese masters to adapt nature as poetry as he translates his musings.

Hunger Mountain offers us a spiritual ecology of walking, using natural happenings to express how things arise and pass away, how our observances reappear transformed into other generating forms. Hunger Mountain is a walking meditation where we watch the process of forming our thoughts, as they come and go, moving us deeper into who we are.

I consider my experience reading Hunger as a personally transforming prose poem itself. For me, it is a book length poem, a meditation to help the reader find out more about their truest self. To read poetry this way is how I learned to enjoy reading poems. Using the hidden, the unsaid, to fill in the gaps helps me address dormant emotions. That is the diamond of joy that a real reading experience can bring.

If you want to explore you inner ecology, treat yourself to the pleasure of transforming yourself on Hunger Mountain.

*     *     *

 A mountain can be a great teacher–not only because it manifests the cosmology of sincerity and restless hunger with such immediacy and drama, but also because it stands apart, at once elusive  and magisterial. Walking up Hunger Mountain today, its imposing and indifferent presence reminds me yet again that things in and of themselves remain beyond us, even after the most exhaustive and accurate scientific or philosophical account , the most compelling mythology, or the most concise and penetrating poem.

-David Hinton

Bringing Home the Dharma

Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are

by Jack Kornfield

(Shambhala, 2011)

Dharma is the nature of things, including the nature of our mental lives and the world we live in. Dharma is the “great norm” underlying our world. The teachings of the Buddha are recognized as Dharma. Dharma is the manifestation of reality through the norms of behavior and ethical rules. Dharma includes mental content, objects of thoughts and reflections of a thing in the human mind.

For me I sum up Dharma as simply trying to live with truth in reality, and this concept drew me to Jack’s new book.

I enjoy reading mind books. It seems I always have at least two different approaches going. I guess being a child of the 50s, born in 1950, and coming of age during the counterculture movement, I’m hounded by the neurosis of my era.

Born in 1945, Jack Kornfield  has been on the forefront of the study of self-reflection for us baby boomers. His books have been instrumental in expanding the modern cultural blending of Buddhism and Western Psychology.

After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1967, he trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, Burma and India. In 1975, he co-founded the insight meditation society in Barre, Massachusetts. He holds a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology. He is one of America’s most respected Buddhist teachers with over 40 years of committed study and practice.

Jack insight is shared with his new book Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are. The first section is a reflection for learning who you are. The following sections deal with accepting your place in time now, developing insight about how you got here, and understanding your present through mindful reflection. These lead to developing a spiritual path that fits your perspective amid the ups and downs of daily life.

Jack reviews lessons from three modern masters who influenced him. He addresses some of the problems early Buddhist leaders confronted when opening the doors for the West. This section was very interesting as it dealt with issues like:

1. The sex lives of our modern gurus

2. Drugs and spiritual practice

3. Shadow work or healing personal pains

4. The different interpretations of enlightenment

Jack’s final section offers suggestions about useful daily practices.

Jack also selected and edited The Buddha Is Still Teaching: Contemporary Buddhist Wisdom. Last year I read this and have enjoyed sharing this easy-to-read little book with others. Jack picked out short sections of the lion’s roar from the most highly regarded contemporary Buddhist teachers. These selections revolve around a common theme, for example, compassion and courage. The index of teachers is a Who’s Who and the bibliograpy is an excellent reading list.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed Jack’s writing. Four favorites are:

1. Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation with Joseph Goldstein (Shambhala, 1987)

2. A Path with Heart: A Guide through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life (Bantam, 1993)

3. After the Ecstasy the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path (Bantam, 2000)

4. The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology (Bantam, 2008)

Why Meditate? Working with Thoughts and Emotions by Matthieu Ricard

Why indeed, meditate? Humankind has engaged in this activity for more than 2000 years of recorded time, possibly longer. Ancient practices that persist into our own time through many cultures and even religions do so because the benefits can be transformative, medicinal or just plain relaxing.

People like myself who have a monkey mind, a mind that flits from one thought to another as quickly as a firefly dims its light only to blink again can learn to focus and eliminate agitation, thus quieting the monkey mind who can find no place to rest.

Ricard says everyone of us has a mind and every one of us can work on it. We needn’t set up a cozy place with fluffy pillows, soft blankets and props. We can just sit comfortably, relaxing our shoulders while keeping our spine straight “like a pile of gold coins,” in lotus or half lotus position, hands resting palms up, chin tucked, tongue comfortable against the soft palate, eyes open or half closed and directed downward. And then stay there, just like that for up to 20 minutes focusing the mind on one’s breath or some insight.

Committing to such a practice on a daily basis, he says, not only benefits the person meditating but also the greater community of humankind. When we love ourselves and accept ourselves from a quieter gentler state of being, we are able to project that compassion and gentleness into the world at large. When we meditate we are not retreating to a remote place alone with our ego, we are expanding and shifting and opening to new possibilities, new ways of seeing ourselves and the world.

You will benefit from my clearer, more focused mind and we will engage in more compassionate, baggage free relationships by just dedicating a few moments a day to our well being. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Of course, Ricard has a lot more to say about how and why to meditate but he has vowed to keep it simple and has added a dvd at the end of the book to facilitate our practice.

He offers suggestions on meditative subjects like “the antidote of love and compassion” and then gives short pithy statements from well known meditators to inspire that particular subject like D. K. Rinpoche who says “instead of hating so called enemies, the real target of your hatred should be hatred itself.”

This book can be read in about an hour. The benefits of meditation can last a lifetime.

Why Meditate? Working with Thoughts and Emotions by Matthieu Ricard (Hay House Books, 2010)

The True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dōgen’s Three Hundred Kōans

The True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dōgen’s Three Hundred Kōans

Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi and John Daido Loori with commentary and verse by John Daido Loori

Shambhala (2005)

This time of year is special for me, mostly because the extremes placed on the retailer lifestyle during the Christmas season slowly begin to evaporate. For retailers, January & February is the time to settle up, analyzing the previous work and discard baggage. Also, it’s time to formulate the processes to put into place before the next retail season. It may sound crazy, but for the retailer, when a Christmas is over, the work on the next Christmas starts as promptly as it can be perceived.

This time of year, I always look forward to finding new books to read on daily. Ones to live with, not read too much of the time. Reading just enough to relax with, to ponder on and develop a reading friendship.

Near the end of 2011, I finished The True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dōgen’s Three Hundred Kōans with commentary by John Daido Loori. In past readings, I have touched on reading kōans, but until I lived with them daily, did I begin to absorb ever so slightly their value.

Kōan literally means “public notice.” In Zen, a kōan is a phrase from a teaching on Zen realization points to the nature of reality. Paradox is essential to a kōan. Kōans transcend the logical or conceptual, thus they cannot be solved by reason, requiring another level of comprehension. Here’s a kōan from The True Dharma Eye:

Kōans are a highly distinctive element of Zen Buddhism, and there is no obvious parallel to them in literature or other religions. They contain a message, but not a message expressed by way of direct instruction. Each of us must arrive at our own direct experience and understanding. Understanding the kōan is difficult or impossible to be transmitted to us by words or by others. Studying kōans is to actualize a medium from which understanding may be reached, however, this is not an intellectual puzzle. A kōan has no single answer. Here is another example of a kōan from The True Dharma Eye:

Over the past year and a half of reading The True Dharma Eye, I became fond of massaging kōans. We are constantly developing our understanding of we are and how we transmit our actions to others. Kōan study helps with the actuality of our lives. Ultimately, kōan study affects our consciousness, which is how it affects our lives and that’s how it makes a difference.

Not that I can put my finger specifically on my kōan study effects personally, but I have experienced new ways to explore the creative process. The effects, I think, have helped me with maturing my work life, my health and my mind. My relationships with people in a more present and realistic way. I hope to be the product of my kōan readings.

With all that being said, the new year brings me to two new daily books to live with in 2012.

Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh (Shambhala, 2011)

Two Zen Classics: The Gateless Gate and The Blue Cliff Records (Shambhala, 2005)

I know since I am starting another book of kōans that I must be hooked. However, if you haven’t tried picking up a book and living with it for a year, now is a good time to consider the journey. This process can lead to a sustain reading experience.

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh

by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung

Harper One (2010)

To savor is defined as “to taste with quality.” This book is not just about what to eat; it also teaches us how to eat. Anyone can become more mindful in nourishing our bodies. Savor is not just about learning to maintain a healthy weight and diet. It’s about appreciating what we eat and drink in a more fulfilling way through a more mindful lifestyle. This helps us to connect more deeply with ourselves. Mindful eating practiced along with a regular exercise program eases stress which can increase our awareness, the choices we have and our happiness. Helping ourselves in a mindful way also instills the awareness that helps us to contribute to our local community constructively.

Mind and body are not separate and mindfulness of this does not happen by itself. You need to have the desire to practice it. A holistic understanding of our feelings, mental formations and our body help us to understand our consciousness. All the observations come together when practiced positively which increases awareness. Over time we developed more skill at enjoying what is pleasant and understanding the unpleasant which help us mediate anxiety. By observing our anxiety levels and understanding the causes, we stop the internal knots from becoming  tight, choking the more present experience.

Savor lays out the guide posts for beauty, eating, moving, and living–simple methods for improving our relationships at work and home, while improving our physical and mental health. I’ve read many Thich Nhat Hanh books with pleasure and received benefit from them. Savor is a very practical and immediately adaptable if you are interested in self-improvement. If you want to see and be with your world more clearly, reading Savor might help you defrost your windshield.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh will be at Magnolia Village in Batesville September 28 – October 2. Here is the link for more information:

In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu

In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu

Copper Canyon Press (2009)

Last July I blogged about Hinton’s fine translation of Classical Chinese Poetry. While enjoying that book, I stumbled upon a poet I haven’t read much of, Wei Ying-wu. I tried to find a collection of his poems and couldn’t.

Soon after the very fine publisher, Copper Canyon Press, announced a new edition of his work, translated by my favorite translator, the respected Red Pine.

Wei Ying-wu (731-791) was known for his clear, transparent, serene style, a poet’s poet. With plainness he draws the reader into a setting and a mood focusing on seclusion and the ordinary: the feeling of emptiness and enlightenment. Living a life of simplicity, he fashioned his poetic style. By reflecting his sensibility, he achieved desired effects without waste. His clarity of description produces a calming effect on the reader. Being not interested in “the literary world,” his poetry was not written to impress people.

A favorite poem I first read Sept. 6, 2009, sitting on my porch after a day’s work:

Hearing a Flute on the River After Seeing Off Censor Lu

Seeing you off over cups of wine

in the distance I heard a flute on the river

spending the night alone is sad enough

without hearing it again in my quarters

With great pleasure I spent months reading Wei and Pine. It’s transcending each day to spend a little time being touched by great poets.

“Wei Ying-wu is not only one of China’s great poets, he is one of the world’s great poets.” -Red Pine

Bill Porter writes books of poetry under his own name, yet he translates as Red Pine. Many thanks for your fine work, a gift to us all.

Earlier Blogs:

The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain

Clouds Should Know Me By Now: Buddhist Poet Monks of China

Smile at Fear by Chogyam Trungpa

Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery

by Chögyam Trungpa

edited by Carolyn Rose Gimian

Shambhala (2009)

When the stronghold of the ego is threatened, fear is one of our strongest mechanisms. A lonely ego is constantly defending itself with an aggressive attitude. By trying to understand our fear, we can use it to find ourselves, free ourselves and give up inhibitions.

The idea is simply facing the facts with honesty. By being honest with yourself, you develop a genuine gut level of truth. By discovering what’s there you can begin to see the traps and stop yourself from falling into them. Being aware that you are aware helps to relate to life constantly, directly and very simply. Emotional character and strength comes from connecting to reality.

If we weren’t struggling, we would be lazy and accepting the manufactured reality. Action with discipline, uniformity and gentleness toward ourselves helps separate our experiences from confused to wakeful. By controlling ego produced fear, we are able to see situations more clearly and are then able to deal more effectively.

Putting effort into becoming aware helps to overcome doubt. Fearlessness keeps the mind from being enclosed by the walls of the ego, giving us a more personal connection with reality.

Through genuineness and confidence, you create a psychological base to fall back on when you experience a consciousness gap. A constant process of growth gets us to the other side of fear. Fear becomes our study material casting away depression and doubt. Genuineness is actualized while consuming the jungle of ego.

Reading Trungpa helps me to grow and understand myself better. I have enjoyed all three of his books that Carolyn Rose Gimian has edited.

Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior (1984)

Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala (1999)

The Art of Happiness at Work by the Dalai Lama

The Art of Happiness at Work
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
and Howard C. Cutter, M.D.
Riverhead Books (2003)

After writing about Linchpin and while reading reading the Dalai Lama’s new book, The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World, I decided to reflect on this helpful book that I had read years ago.

Happiness is feeling in control over what you do everyday. Happiness is the freedom to do your work your own way and assuming that responsibility personally.

Your work is not your entitlement; it’s about earning through effort. If you are not satisfied with your labor, there is nothing wrong with quitting and finding a more rewarding job.

I especially enjoyed the Dalai Lama’s comments on work overload. When the Dalia Lama was asked about being overloaded with work, he said: “What do you mean?” Conscious employers have the responsibility to judge how much a person can responsibly be expected to do. Too much overload is a lack of respect or concern expressed toward the employee. As does lack of employee effort show lack of respect for one’s job and management. The Dalai Lama suggests training our minds to use human intelligence with reason and outlook, an analytical meditation on personal initiative.

The very purpose of making money is to provide ourselves with a means to accomplish something and not basing wealth on something artificial. The realization of interdependence and interconnectedness in the workplace encourages broader vision and more satisfaction. Avoiding destructive emotions, jealousy for example, encourages teamwork with the understanding that no event yields 100% satisfaction.

Linchpin and The Art of Happiness at Work emphasize the individual’s responsibility through effort to not be bored with your job. It’s our responsibility to decide the level of challenge that provides the greatest degree of growth and satisfaction. The emphasis on the flow of absorption through work as a creative art form results in more happiness.

The Five Things We Cannot Change by David Richo

One of the great rewards of working in a bookstore is the new writers you learn about from customers. My reading has always been enhanced by loyal Lemuria readers caring enough to share meaningful suggestions with me. Thanks to Eliza, a Boston pal, I embarked on a David Richo reading path.

Accepting the difficult realities of life and dropping our resistance to them is the key to liberation and discovery. Richo, a psychotherapist, states that there are five unavoidable facts, five unchanging facts that come to visit us many times over.

1. Everything changes and ends.

2. Things do not always go according to plan.

3. Life is not always fair.

4. Pain is part of life.

5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.

Richo believes our fear and struggle against these givens are the real sources of our troubles. Exploring these facts in separate chapters, Richo provides many helpful ideas on how to break down our automatic neurotic ego controls.

In part two, Richo combines Buddhist insight to give us tools for our daily work of establishing an unconditional yes to our conditional existence. Lessons for using lovingkindness and meditation to understand our feelings. As our awareness and mindfulness improve, we are able to move toward yes to who we are psychologically and spiritually.

Using Richo’s insight of shadow-work psychology, Five Things shows how we can open our lives and decrease the automatic ego controls that narrow our lives.

Readers of James Hollis should enjoy reading David Richo as well.

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