Archive for the 'prayer' Category
Thursday, January 24th, 2013
how to cultivate compassion
Cultivate equanimity in the face of life’s ups and downs, and find deeper access to joy.
A lot of people I know avoid reading the paper first thing in the morning—being confronted with all of the injustices and bad deeds in the world is an unsettling way to start the day. It’s difficult to read about the latest corporate finance scam or the obscenity of human trafficking and keep your peace of mind, and it’s even harder to know how to respond. The conflict feels even more immediate when you witness an unjust act firsthand, or are yourself the recipient of one, whether it’s having your wallet stolen, your car broken into, or any sort of hurtful behavior directed your way. The answer to this problem could be upeksha, the fourth of the brahmaviharas.
This understanding of upeksha as equanimity stresses the importance of balance. A balanced heart is not an unfeeling heart. The balanced heart feels pleasure without grasping and clinging at it, it feels pain without condemning or hating, and it stays open to neutral experiences with presence. Insight meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg speaks of equanimity as a “spacious stillness of mind,” within which we can remain connected to others and all that happens around us, while remaining free of our conditioned habit of grasping at the pleasant and pushing away the unpleasant.
One way to experience equanimity is to experiment with mindfulness meditation. Rather than fixing attention on a single object such as the breath or a mantra, mindfulness meditation involves the moment-to-moment awareness of changing objects of perception. Mindfulness is like a floodlight, shining awareness on the whole field of experience, including sensations, emotions, and thoughts as they arise and pass away in the dynamic, ever-changing flux that characterizes the human experience of body and mind. Mindfulness allows you to see the nature of the unfolding process without getting caught in reactivity, without identifying with your sensations, emotions, and thoughts. This insight changes your relationship to the mind-body. The waves keep coming, but you don’t get swept away by them. Or as Swami Satchidananda often said, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf!” This ability to remain balanced amidst ever-changing conditions is the balance of equanimity.
How to be calm within
There’s an old story that illustrates the wisdom of this state of mind. A farmer’s most valuable asset is the one horse he owns. One day it runs away. All the townspeople commiserate with him, “Oh, what terrible luck! You’ve fallen into poverty now, with no way to pull the plow or move your goods!” The farmer merely responds, “I don’t know if it’s unfortunate or not; all I know is that my horse is gone.”
A few days later, the horse returns, and following it are six more horses, both stallions and mares. The townspeople say “Oh! You’ve struck it rich! Now you have seven horses to your name!” Again, the farmer says, “I don’t know if I’m fortunate or not; all that I can say is that I now have seven horses in my stable.”
A few days later, while the farmer’s son is trying to break in one of the wild stallions, he’s thrown from the horse and breaks his leg and shoulder. All the townspeople bemoan his fate: “Oh, how terrible! Your son has been so badly injured, he’ll not be able to help you with the harvest. What a misfortune!” The farmer responds, “I don’t know if it’s a misfortune or not; what I know is that my son has been injured.”
Less than a week later, the army sweeps through town, conscripting all the young men to fight in a war…all except for the farmer’s son, who is unable to fight because of his injury.
The fact is, you can’t know what changes your life will bring or what the ultimate consequences will be. Equanimity allows for the mystery of things: the unknowable, uncontrollable nature of things to
be just as they are. In this radical acceptance lies peace and freedom—right there in the midst of whatever pleasant or unpleasant circumstances we find ourselves in. When we open to the truth that there is actually very little we can control other than our own reactions to circumstances, we learn to let go. Cultivating the qualities of kindness, compassion, and joy opens your heart to others. Equanimity balances the giving of your heart’s love with the recognition and acceptance that things are the way they are. However much you may care for someone, however much you may do for others, however much you would like to control things or you wish that they were other than they are, equanimity reminds you that all beings everywhere are responsible for their own actions, and for the consequences of their actions.
Without this recognition, it’s easy to fall into compassion fatigue, helper-burnout, and even despair. Equanimity allows you to open your heart and offer love, kindness, compassion, and rejoicing, while letting go of your expectations and attachment to results. Equanimity endows the other three brahmaviharas with kshanti: patience, persistence, and forbearance. So, you can keep your heart open, even if the kindness, compassion and appreciative joy you offer to others is not returned. And when you are confronted with the nonvirtuous deeds of others, equanimity allows you to feel compassion for the suffering that underlies their actions as well as for the suffering their actions cause others. It is equanimity that brings immeasurability or boundlessness to the other three brahmaviharas.
adapted from Yoga Journal Magazine, by By Frank Jude Boccio
Frank Jude Boccio is a teacher of yoga and Zen Buddhism and the author of Mindfulness Yoga. Find him at mindfulnessyoga.net
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Saturday, September 1st, 2012
Utamaro Kitagawa, The Courtesan Hanaogi of Ogiya, Ukiyo-e Woodblock Print
As far back as 300 B.C., the philosopher Chuang Tzu observed that when an archer was practicing, he shot with calming relaxation and skill. When a moderate financial award was placed in front of the archer, he got a little tense, his aim faltered and he often missed the target. When a large award was offered for his accuracy, he became nervous and worried, with obvious results. This led Chuang Tzu to wryly observe that, “He who looks too hard on the outside gets clumsy on the inside.”
In modern times people who play golf find their swing is near perfect when there is no ball to hit. But once a ball is placed on the tee and someone is keeping score, the inexperienced golfer’s swing inevitably fails and the ball goes off its intended path. When a golfer has a drink, he often becomes more relaxed and his game improves. So even though a specific feat can be improved by artificial means, it is at the expense of our being fully present and reduces our ability to respond to other circumstances. Imagine how our performance in everyday life would improve if we could learn to find rest and calming relaxation from within ourselves.
The question is, “How could we relax in the process of living?” or, “How can we have rest in our daily lives? How do we live for the rest of our lives?”
Ohara Koson (Shoson) 1877-1945, Ukiyo-e
Here are six resting points or techniques that can assist us in finding rest and calming relaxation, peace, tranquility, and restoration within ourselves and within the great self that embraces and holds us all. Try one and you’re on your way to the rest of your life.
1. The Breath: Following the rise and fall of your breath can bring you to a peaceful and calm place and restore your energy. It brings you present. Allow your breath all the way into your belly to reduce stress. The key to natural and full breathing is in the exhalation – the letting go. However, don’t force anything.
2. The Nap: It is very underutilized in our culture. Twenty minutes is ideal but even a five-minute nap can be very restorative. Don’t go more than 20 minutes or you may feel groggy. If you only have a minute, try this. Hold some keys in your hands and bend forward in your chair with your lower arms resting on your thighs. As you nod off, the keys will drop and wake you up. Even in that minute, you will feel a little more refreshed. The point here is that taking a little time for yourself for rest, prayer, meditation, or spiritual exercises can profoundly affect the quality of your day. Remember to set your Zen Chime Timer to awaken you gently.
3. The Pause: Learning to pause is a great tool to have up your sleeve. Its value is in bringing you consciously present. You can pause a moment in your daily routine and say, “I am present. I am here, now.” Then allow yourself to be with whatever is revealed. A further refinement is to bring your attention to the pause between exhaling and inhaling. Even doing this once will give you a moment of rest and restoration.
4. Silence: The word “listen” contains the same letters as the word “silent.” Choose to be present and alert and to listen past the inner conversations of the mind. Listen past the sounds of the world and just listen to the silence. Listen attentively to whatever comes forward out of the silence. If things start to distract and disrupt you, bring your focus back to the silence. When you practice bringing your presence into the silence, you will experience a knowing and a wisdom that will start flowing within you. It will usually bring you to a state of peace, calm and clarity.
5. Doing nothing: A great way to interrupt the pattern of habitual doing. It is akin to entering a state of observation, where you perceive things clearly just for what they are. An analogy is watching boats going out to sea. You observe them as they pass you. Then you observe the next one. If you gawk or think about how you would like to be in a boat, you have moved out of observation. Observation is only about what is, not what you know or don’t know about a situation. The power that comes from that, internally, is tremendous. It’s an active place of neutrality. The process of observing what is, is the process that releases and restores us.
6. Meditation – Resting in Yourself: “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” Lao-Tzu. When you haven’t developed an intimate relationship with life or with yourself, you’ll tend to look toward having sex or acquiring more money, or to any attractive distraction to fill the emptiness inside. To fill yourself, you have to be prepared to spend time alone – quality time with yourself, not with a good book, not watching television, art or with music. Although those have their place, learn to be quiet with your own inner self. Any time you can bring your focus onto one thing, a flower, a sacred word, a scene in nature, you are meditating. The simplest way to meditate is to observe the rising and falling of your breath.
Zen Alarm Clock, Ukiyo-e Hokusai Wave Dial Face, mediation timer and clock
Adapted from Men’s Health, June 2003 by Paul Kaye, DSS, President of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA)
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Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
Compassionate Listening Practice by Thich Nhat Hanh
When we speak of listening with compassion, we usually think of listening to someone else. But we must also listen to the wounded child inside of us. The wounded child in us is here in the present moment. And we can heal him or her right now.
“My dear little wounded child, I’m here for you, ready to listen to you. Please tell me all your suffering, all your pain. I am here, really listening.” If you know how to go back to her, to him, and listen like that every day for five or 10 minutes, healing will take place. … Do that for a few weeks or a few months, the wounded child in you will be healed. Mindfulness is the energy that can help us do this. —Thich Nhat Hanh, from Anger: Wisdom to Cool the Flames
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Singing Bowl Mindfulness Gong and Timer
adapted from Natural Solutions Magazine, January 2008
Zen Timepiece with brass bowl, a perfect meditation timer with gentle gong
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Sunday, May 9th, 2010
The term mendicant refers to begging or relying on charitable donations, and is most widely used for religious followers or ascetics who rely exclusively on charity to survive.
In principle, medicant orders or followers do not own property, either individually or collectively, and have taken a vow of poverty, in order that all their time and energy could be expended on practicing or preaching their religion or way of life and serving the poor.
Many religious orders adhere to a mendicant way of life, including the Catholic mendicant orders, Hindu ascetics, some dervishes of Sufi Islam, and the monastic orders of Janism and Buddhism. In the Catholic Church, followers of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Dominic became known as mendicants, as they would beg for food while they preached to the villages.
adapted from wikipedia.org
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Sunday, April 4th, 2010
Buddhist Loving Kindness
Buddhist loving kindness Mettā or maitrī (sanskrit) has been translated as loving-kindness, friendliness, benevolence, amity, friendship, good will, kindness, love, sympathy, and active interest in others.
It is one of the ten paramitas of the Theravada school of Buddhism, and the first of the four Brahmaviharas. The mettā bhāvanā (“cultivation of mettā”) is a popular form of meditation in Buddhism.
“Loving-kindness” is a term first used in the 1535 Coverdale Bible. The idea is associated with the Christian concept of agape, or love of God, which is reflected in the quote:
“God is inherently kind, naturally compassionate, and everlastingly merciful. And never is it necessary that any influence be brought to bear upon the Father to call forth his loving-kindness.”
Beyond Christianity, English translations of the writings of the Bahá’í Faith also use the term “loving-kindness” when referring to the original Persian “mohabbat”.
Buddhist Loving Kindness adapted from wikipedia.org
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