Tag Archives: meditation

2015-April Shinnyo Podcast Elevations and Heightened Expectations

2015-April Shinnyo Podcast Elevations and Heightened Expectations

  • Paradise, Almost.
  • Embracement and Nothingness
  • Waking up and Making Some Coffee (not just thinking about it)

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Lou Lawrence, Port Angeles WA US
Lou Lawrence, Port Angeles WA US

““I hear that this month practitioners are getting ready for my birthday celebration. I’m grateful that you all want to express your appreciation to me in this way. But what I hope for more than anything is for all people to live with joy in their lives. I pray that you will take this occasion as an opportunity to take action so that even one more person can find joy in the world around them.”

— Master Shinjo Ito, 1973

About this same time last year, I described the general process of spiritual elevation at Shinnyo-en and conceptually what it was about. At last month’s meditative sitting, our spiritual guide had a few interesting observations about the Los Angeles training that were worth sharing. He had travelled from Japan, first stopping up in San Francisco, and then Chicago and now in Los Angeles. The first 2 stops were typical of this time of year – still fairly cold and either rainy or snowy outside, and a general feeling of people still hibernating, so to speak. But upon arrival in Los Angeles, whereupon he was greeted with 90+F temperatures, and even now, a rain-less, overly sunny climate that defies historical record, he said “this must be a form of Paradise!”

During our training, he felt we shared a brightness and warmth similar to the weather outside, with much happiness and joy throughout the group. But as the meditation deepened, he felt the room growing darker and dimmer, and our corresponding moods and spirits turning inward and more self-centered. It’s as if we started out with a sense of communal support and joy for our training, and then shifted towards a much more singular “I must elevate. Must focus my thoughts. Be determined.” mindset. And while this sort of internally-centered focus works well for the beginning stages of learning to meditate and clear your mental dissonance, it really doesn’t work to develop the openness and compassion needed to develop embracement and oneness.

Often we find ourselves in this odd balance between the chicken and egg syndrome of sharpening our own mental and spiritual awareness, but at the same time, not shutting out the rest of the world, and ultimately compassion, in the process. it’s a little like the Zen concept of “learn everything, then learn to know nothing.” Learning to accept not only ourselves (which is an important first step), but also the rest of the universe as it is, where it is, and what it is – means embracement (jpn. Shoju or Shojou) in its truest sense.

Remember that when we pay respects to our spiritual figures, we do so as a gentle reminder that we wish to change not only ourselves, but inspire others to have aspirations and positive hope, just as the figure of the Ever-Present Tathagata Shakyamuni represents the timelessness and universality of the Buddha’s enlightenment, in other words, the potential of all people to bring forth their own innate potential (aka buddha nature) to awaken.

To become one with G*d, to walk in Christ’s footsteps, embrace Tao,

Moss or Forest?
Moss or Forest?

develop buddha nature, or simply be a good person – whatever you end up calling the process of incorporating compassionate practice into your daily life, it is the steps you take each and every moment that lead you somewhere else, and not the imagining what it will be like to get there.

“No matter where you go, there you are.”
— Confucius, Buckaroo Banzai, Luca Bloom, et.al.

/* For more information and discussion feel free to e-mail me at jlui at jlui dot net, or twitter @jhlui1; With Gassho _()_, James*/

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2013-April Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Podcast – Sesshin Meditation Training

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2013-April Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Podcast – Sesshin Meditation Training

  • Why Meditate?
  • Why Guided Meditation?
  • What’s the Difference between Guided Meditation and Sesshin Training?

At a workshop on leadership given by Henry Givray, president and CEO of Smith-Bucklin, he cites two qualities of great leaders being self-awareness, and self-management. Self-management (or self-control) comes through motivation to change, and developing discipline to alter behaviors. But what process do you follow to become more self-aware, that is, heightening awareness of your own strengths and limitations, knowing fully your values and ideals, or even knowing what you do and how you do it? Meditation, and many other closed-eye processes are a way bring focus to your own thoughts by shutting down the myriad of stimuli that bombard our senses every moment of every day.  Ever tried sitting down and thinking about one thing, and then thinking more about tangent elements of that one thing, and soon you are wondering why you were thinking about that one thing in the first place? Being able to calm down our expansive mental abilities to think and analyze many things at once takes some form of actual physical intervention, and meditation is one of the simplest and self-capable forms of performing this feat. You don’t have to soak in a sensory deprivation chamber, or alight atop a Himalayan mountain in order to achieve a state where you can focus deeply on something. The difference is similar to taking a brief glance in a mirror to check your appearance, or looking deeply at your own reflection in the mirror to see every aspect of your physicality, even what you may dislike seeing (and perhaps even being motivated to change.)

Sometimes, even the process of closing one’s eyes and attempting to pacify one’s thoughts doesn’t come easily. Too many daily distractions have piled-up creating worrisome subjects, or maybe the thought you want to focus upon isn’t easily visualized or even comprehended. You may even not know where to begin with really complicated situations. That’s when having something else provide the structure and attention focus for you helps a lot. Even your own voice and listening to your own verbalizations to yourself can help bring the extra framework of stability needed to train our mind’s excess capacity to think about many things at once, to calm the active and continuously curious senses back down to a state of focus and reflection. This is why many forms of meditation involve use of verbalized sounds or phrases, or mantras, which help achieve the same state of thinking.  Psychologically, when you task your mind to repeat an endless phrase, which doesn’t require much thought other than to make the same sounds over and over again, with closed-eyes, you have occupied your mouth, mind and body with a single task to accomplish, which through repetition, physically hones in your awareness and senses towards a common focus — even if that task is to say, “Ohmmmm…” over and over again (or in the case of those of us in the Oracle IT software world, we might use “select * from dual;”.)

So, having achieved that nice, “happy place” state, how do you go about re-focusing on that thing you wanted to ponder, whether it was self-reflection, or how to solve a problem? That’s where guided meditation comes to play. It takes a lot of practice to maintain that state of inner calm, and also be able to introduce something else to think about, without upsetting the tranquility by piling on subject after subject to think about – as we all have so many things we’d like to figure out. Having another person or even a recorded voice instill that verbalized change of subject is how we can assist ourselves to stay focused on our own calmness, while the outside world introduces the subject of study.  Listening to this podcast is a form of that kind of guidance, as you listen to each word and form images in your mind of what is being said. Guided meditation also facilitates that same process, whether in the form of a pre-recorded meditation audio track, playing Deepak Chopra’s Leela video game, or with another person providing the verbal support and guidance.

In Shinnyo-en, as in all forms of esoteric practice, self-reflection is one of the key forms of training to support our own development towards building a persistent world of harmony and joy. Shinnyo sesshin meditation training was developed by Master Shinjo Ito as a way to bridge the elements of the original Shingon form of sesshin, which involves complete isolation from the outside world and many rigorous hours of continued meditation practice, with the needs of the contemporary and practical world of today. This version of sesshin training has been arranged into differing levels of focus, ranging from simple self-awareness, to meditative problem-solving and crisis resolution. Depending on your own individual needs or objectives, you can choose to train in whichever level is most suitable for the particular area of focus you feel you need to work on as a priority. But the common element is the same – it is not that the words that the meditation guide gives you are the prescribed answers to your problems; it is about how you interpret those words, and what actions you take to actualize their meaning. The guide-person is a virtual verbal mirror for your own self-reflection. How you perceive what is said, is the key to understanding your own inner thoughts and what you do, and how you do it. And if you get the bigger picture, that’s also what the entire world is, and everyone around you – a mirror of your Self.

From this month’s Shinnyo Reflections newsletter, sesshin is one of the keys to creating a world based on friendship. The  Shinnyo-en community, together with the practitioners and temple staff as a whole, are working to create opportunities for more people to be able to receive structured sesshin. That structured setting practice goes beyond reflecting on the indications we receive. It involves thinking about our connectedness to others, putting ourselves in the place of others, and working together with others. In the process, some of our own deep-seated fears or worries will naturally evaporate—leading us to becoming more courageous overall. By acting on what inspires us and applying in daily life what we grasp through the meditative practice of sesshin, we can truly change our lives. And this starts from not being afraid to step forward because you really care for the wellbeing of others. This selflessness and letting go of attachment will surely help us to break free from the cycle of karmic suffering toward the joy of being spiritually liberated. Our efforts to act on our sesshin training experiences nurture us to overcome whatever hurdles we may face.