Zen 101

Monday, June 30, 2008

To be Worth Our Salt

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There are sixteen vows to being a Zen Buddhist. They are: Vow to take Refuge in the Buddha, Vow to take Refuge in the Dharma, Vow to take Refuge in the Sangha. Vow to Cease Doing Evil, Vow to Do Good, Vow to Bring About Good for all Beings, Vow not to kill, Vow not to steal, Vow not to misuse sex, Vow not to lie, Vow not to intoxicate the mind, Vow not to gossip, Vow not to elevate oneself at the expense of others, Vow not to be greedy, especially with the Dharma, Vow not to indulge in anger, Vow not to speak ill of the Three Treasures.

It is important to note that these vows are both positive and negative. We must not only vow to not kill, but also affirm life, for example. A religious life is not simply rule based, however. A religious life is a life devoted to being awake. From a Big Mind perspective, what is killing? What is supporting life? This planet is but an infinitesimal speck in an expanding, boundless universe. There is no number for the number of planets, stars, and celestial material. As Dr. Carl Sagan pointed out in his Varieties of Scientific Experience religion to be worth its salt must account for this vastness and the essentially small part of the vast universe we occupy.

Solar systems and galaxies are constantly being born and dying; just as the complex human body is born and dies. Yet, we say, in Zen, there is no birth and death. We say this because we often speak from Big Mind, the mind of the Infinite.

So, we accept life and death are both cycles, like the in-breath and the out-breath, but that the names we give them are not them, themselves. Living and dying are ultimately processes of eternal life, eternal life on a vastness of scale we cannot imagine. So, how do we reconcile the particular? If death is a part of life, just this, then why not die, kill, or otherwise not worry about it?

This is a koan for each of us.

Be well.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

On Pins and Needles

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I plan to meet my son in Old Mesilla for a bike ride. I have taken the last four days off from exercise in order to recover from a tweak in a hip muscle and an inflammation of my skin disorder (chronic folliculitis). I took a Zyrtec to relieve the terrible itching and it pretty much knocked me out for two days. Now the Zyrtec has worn off, I have some energy, and the itch is steadily returning.

I often sit with this itch. I watch it as what feels like pins stick my skin and remain there for awhile. I watch my response. Most of the time I float with it. When I am not mindfull, however, yikes, I scratch it...not good. Like a lion the thing roars. More follicles get inflamed and I am desperately searching for something to calm it down. These things used to be on my neck. I now have some on my forearm. They seem to be getting better overall. Fewer follicles are subject. But those two or three...goodness.

I sometimes am able to be thankful for them. Like sometimes I'm thankful that My Left Foot is what it is. This thankfulness is about appreciating being called to the present moment. Its a deliberate effort to come into alignment. Nothing wakes someone up like stumbling in front of people or having a flame war going on on your skin. Its when I start feeling sorry for myself that things go downhill.

We each have our issues, don't we? Some of us are in wheelchairs. Some have visual impairments. Some have hearing loss. Some are lost in nostalgia and fearful of the next day. What matters most, in my opinion, isn't the issues. Issues are part of the human condition. What matters most is our attitude toward them.

When we deal with issues directly, no problem. If my arm itches, it is my wishing it wouldn't itch, that's the real problem. That desire to be free from suffering causes the scratching, the medication taking, and the emotional irritation. When I am mindful, noticing the pins, I just wash the affected area, put something on it, place my attention back on my breath or whatever activity I was involved in, and the itch loses its power. This is Zen practice.

Zen practice is internal. It is how we orient our minds, hearts, and bodies to be in our environment as one.
Be well.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Fresh Face

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There is a sense of history being made, a turning of a corner in the United States with this election. Senator Obama's youthful, happy face and focus on change, the vibrant primaries with a very strong, very smart woman who ran a terrific campaign for the nomination for president, and on the other side a tired old man treading over the same old stories, supporting the same old industries, big businesses, and wars. In a word, its unsettling.

I like Senator McCain. I think he is a man of character. He fought for his country when many chose not to, was a prisoner of war for years, and yet had the willingness and fortitude to work with his previous captors to bring an end to hostilities post Vietnam War. Like John Kerry, he chose a career in politics to give something back to his country. Both men have been maligned in their careers by political opportunists and operatives.

Yet, here's the thing. Senator McCain is not the man of the hour. This is not his decade. He's in the wrong party, fighting for the wrong side of causes, and in nearly every photo opportunity, he appears tired.

We need a fresh face in America. Nearly eight years of idiocy, abysmal foreign policy, and a trashing of our constitution to address political agendas have wounded us deeply. Our economy is in the trash can, our housing market through deregulated craziness and market greed, is threatening to destroy the American dream, and oil...well just fill up that SUV and feel the hit on your overused plastic. We need a fresh face in America.

The religious and spiritually inclined people of the United States have, according to a recent Pew poll, a sense of openness and mutual respect of other religions...with a few exceptions. We must see past the abuses of the religious right to honor each of us as children of God, whether that God is Adonai, Allah, Jesus, or simply, the Infinite.

Moreover, we the religious and spiritually inclined people of the United States have an obligation to bring about social change for the good of all. As religious people our focus is always on the greater good of the community. We address the social ills, the inequities, and the disgraces of greed, illness, war, and other forms of violence. We must focus on what brings us together as human beings rather than on the insidious issues that break us apart.

It is time to engage our communities in ways we have not been willing to do. We need to hold ourselves responsible and accountable for the mess we are in and, as a result, build a better world.

Be well.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Do Nothing Club

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The day is finally overcast. Clouds are offering us shade from a brilliant and hot summer southwestern sun. This morning we rose early to meet some friends at our new house under construction. The wall framing is up and we did a tour of the house. Its wonderful. From there we went to a yard sale, then on to our friend's home where My Little Honey served up a coffee cake she baked last night. We had a stimulating conversation where I showed myself a bit. Hmmm. Sometimes we need to vent a-little, I suspect. No worries.

So, home now I am faced with a day open and free...the kind I like. This evening we will go to Rabbi Kane's for Shabbat dinner. In between I will sometime do a run (or walk) and a weight workout with a swim (perhaps) to cool off. I also plan to draw out the presentation of my book club selection for Sunday. And still have time for nothing.

Having time for nothing is essential to us all, in my humble opinion. We have far too little time for nothing in this day and age. Everyone multitasks, keeps to schedules packed, sometimes over stuffed, with things to do and few have open expanses of time to do nothing.

Its in do nothing time that our creative energies begin to emerge. We are so often far too consumed with matters of consequence to be in touch with them, yet there they are just beneath the surface. I am convinced earlier ages were far richer because of this. Open expanses of time to do nothing... no TV, no radio, no computers... just this, encountering oneself in the natural world, are essential to our well-being.
Fellow meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn suggests we get down on the floor at least once a day. He suggests that such a change in vantage point, coupled of course, with the obvious doing nothing, I am adding does wonders.

Perhaps we should start a new club, the Do Nothing Once a Day club. I'll be the first charter member.

See ya!

Be well.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Zazen

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

On the Zen list there has been some discussion of sitting and stretches for sitting. For those of you who have access to Three Pillars of Zen, please consult the excellent advice in the back of the book. Posture, whether seated in a chair or on a cushion is critical. Some, oddly enough, such as the unorthodox Brad Warner, are strong proponents of the full lotus. Others argue that any position is OK as long as the back is upright. Still others, Jon Kabat-Zinn comes to mind, suggest that any comfortable position, including lying down, is good.

I do not favor the notion that position should be comfortable. Our purpose at Zazen is not to be comfortable, not to "zone out", go to some altered state of consciousness, or any other pleasant place. Our aim to to be awake, not feeling good. The lotus and half lotus position offers tremendous stability; the cushion offers the proper cant to the hips so that our knees are thrust down as our bellies are extended out and our backs arched so that our shoulders are open and we can breathe freely.

If using a chair, and most of my hitbodedut (Jewish meditation) students use chairs at the synagogue, we should try to sit on the forward third of the seat with our backs NOT resting. Knees should be shoulder width apart and feet planted solidly on the floor. The feeling should be one of stability: we sit like a mountain.

Our aim is to be fully and completely present without engaging any thing, any thought, any feeling, any noise, or any smell. We notice and return to our breath. Nothing more; nothing added.

I cannot stress enough the importance of daily zazen practice. It is eternal life.

Be well.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Notes from the Mundane

With palms together,
Good Afternoon Everyone,

This morning we clicked on Robbie the Robot to sweep the floors. As Robbie was doing his (or is it, her(?) thing, I went down to the hundred year dam and did a speed workout through the grove beside it. Ended up doing two miles with 4 x 0.10 mile repeats. We then went to the audiologist and My Little Honey was fitted with new hearing aids! She now notices every sound including our kiss (she just left to have lunch with the ladies).

I am busily preparing for our Temple book club this Sunday. It is my turn to lead the discussion and I selected a book by Rabbi Karyn Kedar entitled, God Whispers: stories of the soul, lessons of the heart. The book is a collection of her reflections as a rabbi working with people. Its the sort of thing I write, actually. Stories of real life used as lessons for myself and perhaps others.

Writing is a great way to clarify. The act of putting words on paper...or in this case, a computer screen...is an act of simultaneous creation and organization. One must put thoughts together so they make sense and at the same time are both interesting and challenging for the reader. I sometimes wonder if I ever make sense. Maybe making sense is not optimal, I don't know. Rabbi Kedar suggests at one point that we must "expand our boundaries". By this she means we should not let artificial limits cut off our choices. I thought of comedian George Carlin as I re-read through that section recently. Carlin had a way of seeing outside the box that made the box itself an exemplar of our limits. He used this skill to great advantage as he just went right through the limits.

However, we cannot always do this and pushing limits must be intelligent and purposeful. Too often people act out just because they can, setting aside the question of whether they should or not. Not good enough. Civilization suffers. Still, we must get out of our habits of thinking, feeling, and seeing, as only then are truly new possibilities open to us.


Well, I now have to clean the bamboo flooring with wood cleaner...an easy job, and then get back to my book.

Be well.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Life Itself is the Verb

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

When we say, "Just this!" we point to the field of deep interdependence and oneness. Just this, the moment we see clearly, the moment the point is understood as both one and many, where near and far, birth and death, fall away, is also the moment to get off our butts and do something.

Awakening is just to open one's eyes; living is to be alive with those eyes open.

As living beings awake to the true nature of reality, we see what is to be done and we do it. There is no real room for should, would, or could. Oneness is seamless. No subject; no object: life itself is the verb.

If we want to live in peace, we just live in peace. Inner and outer are one. No separation. Separation is illusion. A mind at peace with doing is at peace, period.

One might say, but what if killing needs to be done? What if people are causing harm? An awakened person addresses such people with compassion, understanding such people are acting out of an interest to be free from suffering. They are taking short-cuts and creating suffering in the process. We model a peaceful, non-violent, and compassionate way. We know that as we are non-violent, the world is offered the gift of non-violence. It is very important to take a long view of this. In the short term many non-violent people may suffer at the hands of violent folk, but we see a trend, an evolution of sensibility and ethics, if you will, that points in the direction of enlightened living.

While we know something may be harmful, we may not yet be ready to stop doing it...but we do know better! This knowing is a seed that can be watered. As a global human culture, we are moving quickly together...some, especially the fundamentalist and conservative, kicking and screaming, into a progressive future, but we are evolving.

Be well.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Transitions

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Last night we attended our synagogue's annual Gala. It was our first...we are not really fancy party people...but, after last night, I can tell you, it will not be our last. Moreover, since I am now a board member, a page must be turned and I will have to do things I'm not necessarily comfortable with. This event is a fundraiser for the Temple and contributes mightily to our annual budget. Tickets are pricey and there is a large silent auction of donated gifts.

As we arrived, the wind was blowing very badly. The event was to be held outside under two large tents with the auction held inside. We have been having days of clear skies and triple digit temps so we anticipated being baked as we ate and danced and bid on gifts. Not so. Instead, the sky decided to develop massive clouds, thunder and lightening and, of all things, rain. Everyone in their finery were either windblown or rained on...so we hustled inside, moved the sanctuary chairs and brought in the tables from the tents! It was a close fit, but actually rather intimate.

After eating tons of delicious hors dourves, and great entrees, bidding, and great conversation, the rains let up (as did the lightening), so the band set up and we all went outside to dance under the stars. Judy and I went home around nine...I can't stay up much past that...and so we didn't see if we were successful on our bids. We'll see.

Anyway, I was thinking about turning pages. How difficult it is to move on from a past place to a new, uncharted place. One of the more challenging points in life to transition is from one role to another, such as in retirement or in a change of professions. I have gone from being a religious leader in my own right to a participant with no real expertise. To move from leader to member can be a challenge as we are used to being looked to, used to taking charge, and used to having answers. As a plain congregant, the situation is much different. I go to Temple and am often lost in the Hebrew, the liturgy, as it moved from one point to another. When to stand, when to sit, when to bow, when to rise up on our heels...a myriad of subtle and sometimes not so subtle liturgical events.

In Zen Centers the word is hushed silence, a turning inward, and long periods of sitting zazen. There I am "Roshi," a Zen Master. In synagogue, I am just Harvey, and the word is loud, with song, and in what amounts to a very strange and foreign language. I go from silence to making joyful noises to the Lord; I go from knowing myself as no self to knowing nothing and learning each day. I go from standing in front to sitting as close to the back as possible.

But here's the thing: the page is turned.

I must learn how to be a simple congregant. I must learn how to approach the daily life of a Jew as a simple Jew. Now, the good news is that this is exactly what Zen teaches us. To approach our lives in the most plain and simple and direct way possible. As I have been, and continue to be, a willing student of Zen; so to I will now be a willing student of Judaism and congregational membership.
As I open my zendo to others when our new home is completed, I will be a better Zen teacher as I will truly have nothing to teach.

Be well.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mindfulness

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

To practice Clear Mind Zen is to practice with an open mind. Our mind should be so open that its like a room with large, open windows on each side. Nothing resides in this room. Whatever enters this room enters without being spun around, redressed, or otherwise altered. What is there is brief and pure and free to leave.

I am reading a book recommended by Rabbi Citrin entitled, Your Word is Fire. Its a collection of teachings from Hasidic masters of contemplative prayer. Usually, in our modern, superficial, sense prayer is considered a plea or supplication to God who we imagine might be listening. Rife with anthropomorphic simile, this understanding nearly always reflects, then forces, a concept of God as a "being".

Chasidic masters, like Zen masters, are masters of Emptiness. Prayer is a practice that allows heart/mind (in Zen, shin) to open and be filled with no-thing. Prayer becomes a dynamic process of joining the entire universe as it is, directly. This entire universe, as it is, is God.

Prayerbooks, liturgy, chanting...all are pathways to openness. Invitations to enter the empty room with its expansive, open windows. We read the prayerbook, go through a daily liturgy, and chant our way into emptiness: a total union between everything and us. We must see them, as Buddha saw practice, boats to the other shore. They are tools.

Yet, tools with a rub. The rub is that we never leave one shore for the other. The other shore is this shore: the tools are both a means and end. Practicing zazen is practice enlightenment. Prayer is direct and complete communion with the Universe.

In Judaism, prayer functions as a daily set of pathways, as well. We get up in the morning, thank God for returning our soul, we express our mindful awareness that we have a body and that all its tubes are working. we prepare to pray, we recite our statement regarding the oneness of God, we recite blessings, we ask for healing for those who are ill, we bless God when thinking of those who have experienced death. Throughout the day we are asked to be mindful of everything: flowers, trees, bread, fruit, the sights of life, good news, bad news, you know, the whole enchilada. In short, we move from a focus on ourselves to a focus of the entire universe as our domain in partnership with the Universal. We have work to do!

In Zen, it is exactly the same. We recite blessings upon waking and going to sleep. We are asked to be mindfull of the many hands and many lives that bring us our food. We are enjoined to recite the Wisdom Heart Sutra, a sutra expressing the core understandings of Zen: everything comes and goes, nothing lasts forever, and that we have a part to play in daily life and that part is to live mindfully. We recite the Four Great Vows of the Bodhisattva and take refuge in the Three Treasures, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. We move from the contemplative cushion to contemplative social action, an action demanding we help all beings throughout time.

My sense is that every religious tradition has this oceanic movement from the particular to the universal. We each come to understand we are both wave and water. It is our life to practice Zen, whether it is Zen Buddhism, Zen Christianity, Zen Islam, or Zen Judaism: the key practice is the practice of mindfulness.

Be well.



PS: We have received two additional donations, one for $50.00 and another for $20.00! Thank you both!
Items we will need are: mokugyo (about $150.00; large gong on cushion (about $140.00); small bell on cushion (about $50.00), and a statue of Manjusri (about $50.00).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Between This and That

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,
My open windows reveal a cool morning breeze. I set my floor fan to pull that cool air into the living room. We have had temperatures above 105 for days now. The day before yesterday I am told we were at 109 in some parts of Las Cruces.

All this heat reminds me of the story suggesting there is no hot or cold. Of course, its true. Hot and cold are words referring to concepts we construct based on a temperature normed by the earth and its relative distance from the sun and our particular body's capacity to exist within that range. In an Absolute sense, however, there is no hot or cold; these concepts exist in the Relative world, the world in which we live.

An awakened being experiences hot and cold as they are and not as that being wishes them to be. When we experience heat as it is, heat, per se, ceases to exist. There is just the experience of perspiration, burning skin, etc. Even these are a problem if we focus our attention on them and the relativity of their existence. To just experience is to just experience: no words added, no concepts added, no desires to change what is (or I suffer) added. Of course, within this frame of reference we also pay attention and act. We perspire so we drink water and turn on a fan or get under the shade of a tree. We experience just drinking water, turning on a fan, or getting under a tree. We experience these as they are.

Do not become too attached to this or that. Thinking life events, people, or conditions should be a certain way brings suffering upon us. Instead, just exist within your life as it is, gently adding or subtracting, making daily adjustments and living out those adjustments as they are. In this way we turn toward Buddha-dharma. In this way we live the Middle Way.

Be well.


PS. This morning I was greeted with a notice that someone donated $50.00 to Clear Mind Zen. What a wonderfully generous gift! Thank you!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Moments

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There are some moments we would wish lasted forever. A grandchild's smile, the delight in our partner's eyes, or just a soothing moment in quiet peace. Yet, as we know, nothing lasts forever and our desire to hold on to moments does, indeed, produce suffering. So, what are we to do?

Relax. Have faith. Moments, while moments, are always moments. Life has a way, when we are open and accepting, to offer us moment after moment of wonder and delight. By setting aside our need to control a moment or have a certain kind of moment, we surrender to the actual moment, as it is.

These are the most delicious of moments as they are often completely unexpected.

Let yourself be surprised by your life.

Be well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Meditation

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Someone suggested the topic, meditation, as a thread for the Zen Living list. Interesting. Zen living is about contemplative living. Every post is about meditation in the largest sense of the word. My sense is the writer wanted to focus more on seated meditation, our practice of zazen.

Zazen is nothing special. Zazen requires us to select a time and place. It requires us to be willing to gather our mind and body together on a cushion facing a wall in that time and place. It requires us to place our hands together in the cosmic mudra and our attention on our breath, in that time and place. It requires us to sit there for a predetermined period of time. All of this means, of course, that zazen requires us to face ourselves completely; alone and, essentially, naked. We sit stripped of our distractions: no radio, no CD, no television, no book, no eating, no gum chewing, no magazine, no talking, no drugging, no drinking, no getting sticky. Just sit.

On that cushion, everything about us is exposed. We experience our distractibility, our lack of patience, our lack of vigilance, and worse, our actual lives. No mind candy allowed. Just sit. Just paying complete attention to nothing.

Many say they cannot do this. They say they need music or bells, chanting or some other distraction from the work at hand. Yes, we are a culture enculturated to need distraction. This is why we need to practice zazen. Zazen teaches us, over time, that we are enough as we are. What a wonderful lesson!

Be well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sharing

Good Morning Everyone,

In the desert southwest we are already in the dog days of summer with temperatures in the triple digits. June is typically the hottest month here in New Mexico because July through August marks the rainy season. We marked Bodhidharma Day in silence on June 7th and will celebrate Obon in the latter part of July. Bodhidharma is credited with being the founding Patriarch of Zen and Obon is a festival that feeds the hungry ghosts..In other words, Obon is the time we consciously offer whatever "merit" we may have accumulated to those in need. As the weeks between are hot, then wet, and the desert transforms itself, so too, we move from a recognition of our beginning to an honoring of our interdependence.

Sharing is both a sign of transformation and itself transformative. When we willingly step outside of ourselves we let ourselves drop away, thus joining the great sea of humanity: an ever expanding circle of life, as a raindrop falls into the ocean. Who am I? I am We: a part aware of its whole.

Oh my, I slipped into ZenSpeak there.

Just now, I have to get this body up off this sofa and out into the world. The June heat hits like a hammer as soon as the mighty sun crests the mountains. This morning I run two miles, then bike 4-6 miles. I don't want to be the sun's nail.

See ya!

Be well.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Daily Living

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I plan to ride my Diamondback with my son, Jacob, in Old Mesilla. We try to get in a longish ride on Sundays. Sometimes it works out; sometimes it doesn't. No matter, the experience of being with my son is enough.

We often look to the activity rather than the company. Sometimes this is necessary, as with training in Zen or training in running. When we train our focus is on our ability within the activity. Yet, we often do these things with others. On long slow days, such as these Sunday rides, the focus can shift from the activity to the person. I enjoy this allowance.

Most of the time, though, training is about training and the key element in training is disciplined focus.

When we practice zazen, we sit upright and gather ourselves together in the moment. All of our attention is on the boundaries of our consciousness: our thoughts, our feelings, our sensations. Notice, let go; notice, let go; notice, let go.

Just so with other training. Running, I notice My Left Foot as the toe drags. I pick it up and let the thought go. In biking, I notice my breath and the cycle of the peddles, lift, press, lift, press, etc. In weights, I notice the contraction of muscle, the balance of my core muscles as they balance my body under the weight.

In all activities through the day we can place our attention on these boundaries of interconnection.

Let's practice together.

Be well.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Bored

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I would like to talk about being bored. There are times in all of our lives, I am sure, when we just are not excited about the view in our lives. Often these times come as we transition from something, but are not yet caught up in something else. Or when the something else is either not clear or not very interesting or something we really do not want to engage.

I am in that place just now.

As I moved away from being the leader of our local Zen Center, I had a sense of wanting something different in my life. I looked at streetZen, a lonely effort, but necessary one. I looked at Zen Judaism and renewed my study of Judaism itself, explored Jewish Spirituality, Jewish History, and even delved into Hebrew and began a study of kabbalistic texts. Recently, I was elected to the Board of Directors at our Temple.

All of these efforts are wonderful experiences. Yet here I am this morning feeling bored.

Life is like that. We cannot always be flying high. Its in these times, the lower times, that the real work gets done.

Disciplined spiritual practice means digging in and doing the practice regardless of the feeling we have at the moment. The Zen of life is the willingness to do and experience. Zen is the willingness to open to all experience, good, bad, and indifferent.

What is this practice? Zazen in both the most narrow and most expansive sense.

In its most narrow sense it is sitting upright facing a wall and being completely present. In its most expansive sense, it is being completely awake through each moment of each day even when those moments are taxing, boring, or just plain evil. In truth it is we who add those assessments to situations. It is our own minds which imagine how things should otherwise be; images on a comparative screen: reality v dream.

Live in reality.

Be well.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Gratitude

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

We should live with a sense of gratitude in our daily lives. Regardless of our circumstances, we are alive to greet the dawn's light; we can confront each moment of a new day, we can learn, we can appreciate, and we can be of help to others. These are true blessings.

To live this way, we must decide to live this way. To live this way, we must live out this decision.

How often do we think, "I will practice mindfulness" and then as life throws us a curve (and life always throws that curve), we are hardly mindful at all and caught in the emotion of the moment. A decision must be lived other wise its just pretty words. We gain this ability through a disciplined spiritual practice.

In Zen we often place our palms together. This gesture, known as gassho, is a hand mudra. It signifies an effort to bring ourselves (our energy) together while at the same time communicating humility to others. It is very difficult to remain angry with a person when we place our palms together in front of them. It is true. Try it.

Moreover, this small gesture acknowledges the Universal in each of us. In this gesture we release our self and open ourselves to others. Opening is wonderful. It allows bad thoughts and feelings to escape and good thoughts and feelings to enter. When we live life with an open heart we live gracious lives.

Place your palms together, gather yourself, place your attention on your breath, lower your eyes, and take in the moment as it is.

Be well.