Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hurry corrodes Meaning

I have a teaching story or Koan from Tomoe Katagiri who is a teacher for many of us in her quiet way.  She is Katagiri-roshi’s widow.  Thursday, Sosan and I went to her house to work on Jukai (Buddhist initiation) names.  We are continuing again this Jukai to give the participants Japanese names with translations.  Perhaps some day, we will only give out English names, which would be much easier, but for now, we are still struggling with Japanese names.  We are very dependant on Tomoe-san to help us.  I don’t want to give out a Japanese name that may have a strange meaning in Japan.   Sometimes western practitioners have gone to Japan and their dharma names have some strange, laughable, translations.

This Jukai class is large.  We have around 23 people to name.  So I gathered up all the lists of names I have collected and thought, well, we can just look at these lists and give someone a name that has already been put together.  That would be the fastest and most efficient way.  I bring this huge bag of dictionaries and lists to Tomoe-san’s house and we start to work.  About half an hour into the session, she pulls back in her chair, and looks at me and shakes her head very gently and almost imperceptibly.  I ask her, “What’s wrong?”  Tomoe-san replies,  “I don’t think using someone else’s name is a good idea. “ She smiles, “We are, after all, naming baby Buddhas.  Each name should be the teacher’s deep wish for that baby buddha’s life.”  Sosan and I are stopped in our tracks.  Tomoe-san continued, “You should start with the wish for that person and then find the two characters that fit that wish, like we have done in the past.”  I say, “Tomoe-san, I am trying to find an easier way, that won’t take so much time, for you and for us.”  She raises her eyebrows.  And so we began again.

The next day, in the morning, I am feeling swamped by all the work I have to do.  “I am so behind”, my mind says to me over and over.  I look at my schedule and it is filled with things I need to do, but not things that will advance my “to-do” list.  I’m disturbed about that.  There are a few meetings, exercise, and attending a memorial service for a friend I admired.  In the evening, some special friends are coming over for dinner and I am the cook.  I feel swamped again.  Then, I feel Tomoe’s admonition to me for being in a hurry and trying to find the easier softer way.  So, after I meditate, I allow myself to let go into the day I have, not the day I think I should have.  Quite early in the morning, I put up the sweet potatoes for dinner, they can be in the fridge ready to go, and I decide to set the table.  I pull out the tablecloth and napkins and they are very wrinkled.  Normally, in my hurry, I would just put them on the table ignoring the fact that they need to be ironed. Maybe, I would simply refold the napkins, pressing them with my fingers, and say, “that’s good enough.”  But with Tomoe-san’s gentle scold in my head, I said to myself, “Okay, let’s really set the table”.  I pull out the ironing board and iron and spend a half hour quietly ironing the tablecloth and napkins.  It is so deeply nourishing to attend to the table for my friends in a slow way.  The table looks fantastic. 

I’m almost going out the door to my first activity feeling very centered and nurtured by slowing down and I hear my husband take a call in the next room.  From the end of the conversation that I can hear, our special guests are sick and not coming.

Oh, I laugh.  Somehow, I’m able to let go immediately, and thank myself for the True Nurturance of ironing.  I feel so much better, grounded and here.

My husband comes in and remarks at how easy I am taking the news that our guests aren’t coming and I went to all that trouble; going shopping late Thursday nite when I was tired from work, ironing and setting the table and making the sweet potatoes.

Following my teacher’s instructions from long ago: become one with what you are doing and let go of the results.

I laugh and say to my husband with a smile: Zen Practice!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sorrow and Loss

It seems that a combination of things has caused me to think about aging and death a lot lately; having an empty nest, turning 63, some of my friends getting sick.  I’m at my eldest son’s graduation from college – tomorrow it’s cap and gown, but underneath is this sorrow for my life passing and the grief of letting my children go and their entrance into this crazy, painful world.

I am traveling for 12 days to pick up my kids at their respective colleges, packing them up, witnessing them leaving their cultivated life at college and entering the unknown.  Two things that are hard for me as a mom is to keep my mouth shut about advice, and to witness their pain without trying to fix it.  Sometimes on this trip, I have felt so restless that zazen has been hard for me and yet I know that if I don’t have a contemplative time, I really can’t handle this life of mine.  So in the mornings, I have been meditating with Divine Abode phrases and they are helping me so much.  First, to find my center in the middle of my changing life and second, they will pop up during the day and help direct my actions and my speech, which usually means to be more silent around my adult children.  I need and want to let them go and to allow them their own choices.  Here are some of the phrases I am using, which are taken mainly from a list made by Sharon Salzberg and Joan Halifax.  I believe they are listed in Joan Halifax’s book,  “Being with dying, cultivating compassion in the presence of death” and on the Upaya website.

The 4 Divine abodes:
1.     Loving-kindness
2.     Compassion
3.     Joy
4.     Equanimity

Here are some phrases that I am currently using:

Loving-kindness phrases:
May the power of lovingkindness sustain me.
May love heal my body and mind.

I care about your pain and suffering, may I be present for it.
May I find the inner resources to be present for suffering
May I find grace in the midst of suffering.

Serving others:
May I offer my care and presence unconditionally, knowing it may be met by gratitude, indifference, anger or anguish.
May I find the inner resources to truly be able to give.
May I find peace and strength that I may use my resources to help others.

May I accept things as they are.
May I remain in peace and let go of my expectations.
I care about your pain and suffering, and your release from suffering depends on your choices and your own karma.
I wish you happiness and peace and I cannot make your choices for you.

On dying and loss:
May I and all beings live and die in ease.
May I be at peace with living and dying.
May I fully face life and death, loss and sorrow.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

me, my, mine

I have been working with a mindfulness slogan to remind me that the whole world doesn't revolve around me and my life.  In fact, there is no centralized self!  "I" am just a dynamic function of the 5 skandhas (form, feeling, perception, formation and consciousness) that isn't owned by "me".  So, I work with this phrase, "me, my, mine" to remind me to let go of this idea that everything revolves around a solid sense of self.

I have also been wanting to laugh more.  So now, I have memorized and sing a few lines of the chorus in Toby Keith's song, "I wanna talk about me".  and just laugh.

You can hear the song on youtube for free.  I don't really like the video, so my suggestion is to just listen to the lyrics of the song, and laugh.

Toby Keith, "I wanna talk about me"