Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Wonderful Book on Zen, Part 2

     In his book Zen Master Class, Stephen Hodge has compiled a wonderful overview of the great leaders in the Zen Buddhist tradition.  He gives a brief biography of each leader, then details some contributions that they made to the tradition.  It's fascinating to see how each leader/teacher used various methods to cut through the mind chatter of their students.  Some used violence (we must remember that they lived in a very violent age, so a slap here and there isn't that bad), humor, shouts, surprise, and so on.  Hodge also gives pointers, based on the leader being covered, on how to deepen one's meditative practice.  If you want to explore Zen more, pick up this book.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Wonderful Book on Zen, Part 1

     I found a wonderful book on Zen Buddhism entitled Zen Master Class.  It is a historical overview of the concepts and developments in this rich spiritual tradition.  I was intrigued by the author's definition of karma.  We usually think of karma as something that someone brings on themselves because of bad actions (the old adage goes:  "What goes around, comes around").  But he lifts the bar much, much higher:
Because our actions are charged with emotional energy, the Buddha taught that the effects of our actions go beyond the immediate results of which we are aware.  In fact, every thought, word, and deed imprints some of its energy on our mindstream.  Positive actions leave positive imprints; negative actions leave negative imprints.  The energy of these imprints will be released at some time in the future when circumstances trigger experiences that reflect the energy pattern of the original motivation.
Oh, my.  We have karma from our thoughts.  Ouch.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Do the Eyes Have It?

     I have been reading an overview of Zen Buddhism (more on that at a later date) and decided to give another try meditating with my eyes open.  I hadn't been successful in the past and always preferred to meditate with my eyes closed.

     The advice in this book was to sit with my eyes only partly open, gazing downward at a spot about 3-4 feet in front of me.  I tried that and found that my eyes kept jerking to the right, as if they were suddenly speed reading.  Has that ever happened to you?

     Then I learned to soften my focus a bit and that helped.  However, my eyes would then get heavier and heavier and want to close.  Blinking every breath or two helped that.

     After I softened my focus, I found that I could still have an awareness of the outer world while maintaining my primary focus inward.  Ta-da!  That is probably the whole point -- to learn how to keep an inner focus while in the world.  Now, all I need to do is practice, practice, practice.

     Maybe then my eyes will finally have it.

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, September 6, 2014

An Open Letter to Extra Terrestrials

Dear E.T.:

     If some of the things on the internet and certain cable shows are correct, you are responsible for giving humankind technology, especially in the last seventy or so years.  Please stop.

     We humans, I am noticing, are not ready for all this technology.  I don't know how many times I have seen fellow humans almost kill themselves because they are so focused on their hand-held technological devices that they totally lose awareness of their surroundings.  I was in an elevator with a male human a couple of weeks ago who was so engrossed in his "smart" phone (I'm sorry, but how did something that makes the user stupid get called "smart"?) that he was totally unaware of what floor he was on.  We could have stopped at the gates of Hades and he would have happily disembarked right into a fiery crater. 

     And how many humans have either fallen into manholes, run into walls or other humans, blocked aisles in stores (my personal pet peeve), lost track of their children, or caused automobile accidents while engaging with their tech device?  Clearly we are not yet evolved as a species to handle this responsibility.

     Perhaps it is part of your secret agenda to kill us all off.  If so, you are doing it rather piecemeal, if you want my opinion.  Unless, of course, your plan is to have this whole technological addiction to culminate into the mass extinction of our species through tech-driven war, biological weapons, and extreme climate change.  If that is your plan, you won't have much of a planet left to take over. 

     Whatever your objective is, you may wish to reconsider and allow our species to grow up a bit.  Or a lot, in many cases.  I'm sure we will have much more in common with you if we are able to evolve before we have further contact.  By then, you may find that we are finally able to do two things -- well -- at once.  You may even find us interesting.

     Until then, kindly please desist.