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FACILITATING SIGNIFICANT SPIRITUAL, PERSONAL, ATHLETIC & PROFESSIONAL TRANSFORMATION
HOW TO USE ZEN, TIBETAN AND THERAVADAN
BUDDHIST PRACTICE, STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION BODYWORK AND NETHERTON-REICHIAN
BODY-MIND THERAPY IN A MUTUALLY SUPPORTIVE WAY
When we practice, we see what we should be doing, and realize we can’t do it that well yet. So a question comes up. We’re trying to live our lives in accord with a level of behavior that we acknowledge is better than what we're currently capable of doing. So, we might ask, “From a Buddhist point of view, how "should" a person feel when s/he does something s/he recognizes is wrong? And then what should s/he do about that inadequacy?"
To make a long story short, in everyday terms, you just do what you can to right the situation, just like anything else we know of says to do. Bodhisattvas, I'm told, also feel badly about what they did not do to make things better, as well as what they did do to make things worse.
So, we have to become aware of what effect our actions have on others. That takes a lot of awareness. Then we have to acknowledge what we find out, to the other person as well as to ourselves inside. That takes courage, to be so open, and maybe so vulnerable. But it does build integrity.
And it forces the serious self-developer to over-ride his or her revenge. You know, so many of us act defensively when we have hurt or feel a threat underneath. And that reaction happens so fast! The more focused we are in the present moment, the more facile we can be at letting go of this reaction. In fact, we are often encouraged to just feel the experience of hurt or threat.
So we have to come clean about our revenge. We also have to “want” to stop it from acting out. That means we have to develop ourselves to the level where we recognize the harm revenge does to everyone, especially to ourselves. Probably, that means we see that revenge is an inappropriate response. It isn’t in tune with the reality we have come to see. And we also can’t just stuff the hatred and disassociate from any feeling. We have to open up to those feelings of anger, too. That only comes from a deep, powerful, and confident experience of oneself.
Can we have a win-win situation like this? We can if the other person is practicing his or her own life with this kind of openness, too. Further, when it comes time to “pay the piper,” my experience says it’s better if we, ourselves, have already broached the subject. Sooner or later, someone else is going to bring it up. Less damage seems to happen if I acknowledge it first. And if I’m not aware enough so that someone else has to bring it up, it works far better to look into the subject myself and do some acknowledgement and unconditional love “clean up.” Then no matter how the other person is, in one respect, I still win. There seems to be some kind of trust in this practice, too, isn’t there?
The amount of ongoing effort that this requires does not, I believe, come out of an intention to work on one’s psychological makeup. In the introduction I stated that my work comes out of my Zen practice understanding, and years of practice. We cannot attain this level of psychological openness just from a psychotherapeutic level. It has to come from a deep dissatisfaction about who we are and how we behave. Otherwise, there isn’t enough drive to keep going and working so hard.
We have to yearn to be satisfied in what turns out to be a deeply religious sense. At the end of our twice monthly renewing the vows ceremony, we renew our own deep aspiration, which includes “Raising the Bodhi Mind,” the Mind that seeks enlightenment. This is the state of seeing, and realizing, a life of such openness and deep contentment.
According to the acknowledged experts about Life and Death, “He who dies with the most toys, wins,” is not an accurate assessment of what they say always happens. This statement comes out of some thought pattern. It is not a description of physical reality.
Serious Buddhist practice is down to earth, no-nonsense work on oneself, rather intensively. In fact, we are encouraged to “practice as if extinguishing a fire upon our heads.” If you do it in conjunction with others, and with a teacher, you can get tremendous support as well as clear guidance.
If you were a top manager being hired, then trained, under the famous Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric, your job in running the company had to be focused, serious and sincere. When working on ourselves, we have to be that way, too. Inside, there is also much to do.
There's a story about a little bird flying over a forest that sees a forest fire. The bird is somehow compelled to just keep flying back and forth between a nearby lake and that fire, bringing what water it can in its wings to try to put the fire out. Of course, the little bird dies, trying to do the only thing it can physically do in accord with what it feels compelled to do. Not doing something is, for that bird, worse than dying while trying.
Again, we're talking about integrity. But in a larger sense, we’re talking about a practice that makes us more integrated with everyone else. We may even recognize that at some level, we and those other people are the very same being, even though we have different functions. Two hands, a stomach and two legs are all part of the same person. They all have different roles in the healthy functioning of the person. But they are the same person.
Do we behave that way? Do we think of others in our own lives that way? And when we can’t, because we’re just not accomplished enough yet, do we still “want” to think and behave that way? Those who say “yes” to this last question can eventually answer, “yes” to the first two questions. And when people want to make a public statement of their conviction in this matter, they often have the formal, public ceremony of “Receiving the Precepts.” In Japanese, it’s called Jukai.
If you have a psychological issue about having to be right, or refusing to be controlled by others, or resisting input, you might want to do some Body-mind release processing to diminish this enough so you’re willing to try some of this meditation for yourself, on a consistent basis for a few months to a couple years. At least that can give you a small glimpse of the benefits. But you still have to have that deep urge. Without it, maybe you should try some other method to reach your psychological or professional goals. Even when people start small and sit meditating in a chair, they continue for a long time only from this inner drive.
But social support from people who know more than you, and can help, will make your way much easier, even if all you want to do is be a better salesman or homemaker.
Practice almost always energizes more practice. While it is difficult and somewhat confusing at the beginning, it gets easier to get involved with it as you become more of your own self. It even becomes comfortable and desirable to do. But the focus for what we have to do also gets stronger. And the beneficial, positive results carry over into one’s personal and professional lives.
Most people I know who've practiced for a long time become more and more determined to get more tuned in. The further you go, the more you see that so much more needs to be done. At the same time, you become more tolerant and accepting of others in daily life, because you realize on the one hand, it's so hard to do. On the other hand other people are all the life of the Buddha (so you ought to treat them that way even if your task for them is rather significant). On the third hand you get more capable of handling more difficult situations. And on the fourth hand, practicing being One with each moment is the real goal anyway.
This practice in each moment is where Buddhism brings in the word atonement as part of repentance. We break the word atonement down into syllables to take it as what we should do to repent. AT - ONE - MENT.
There is no way anyone can erase the past. It's gone. Since each new instant of time is all that is available to us, all anyone can possibly do is act in the best tuned in way in that very next instant. Nothing else exists.
Our actions with whatever comes up now affect the present moment. And since both the past and the future are contained in this “thing” we call this moment, then practicing “in tune” as much as possible will have the “best” affect on what brought this moment into existence, as well as what will now be happening in the future.
So atonement in the Zen Buddhist sense really means attempting to practice better, because that's the best thing any human can do. Zazen Breath Concentration practice increases one's ability to practice better in daily life. And “fixing up” inter-personal human affairs, in accord with the Bodhisattva Precepts, is something we should do.
Twice a month, in many monasteries and Centers, people participate in a ceremony of renewing the vows. It includes renewing our atonement.
This is one of the practices to keep us going. Life is filled with phenomena that pull our attention away from us. I liken the situation as moving around from place to place on the surface of the globe. To actualize our “true self,” we need to move downward from wherever we are on the surface, toward the center of the globe. When you’re with an enlightened master, you get to be in the energy of the enlightened state. Even when you’re not speaking with him or her, you’re energetically moved in the right direction. And your own efforts can do more. When you’re practicing something like this ceremony that was designed by masters, you are doing something to pull yourself back onto the path and take some steps down it.
In this ceremony, we first call the Great Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas to be present with us. Then we say a short gatha of repentance, acknowledging that our slip ups are due to our insufficiencies. Once we’ve gotten that “cleared up, we can more effectively recite the Four Great Vows for all. Then we may have a talk by the master. And finally, we all chant more vows, to bring up our desire to accomplish the way, and to help others become more deeply satisfied, too.
Vows are similar in some ways to affirmations, but different in others. We are encouraged to make our own vows to accomplish the Way. This fosters determination as well as embedding the desire deep into the mind. It also taps into the desire for Enlightenment that’s already there for everybody. It’s called Raising the Bodhi Mind.
The Four Great Vows for all, in an explanatory text form, are: No matter how many beings there are, I vow to save them all. No matter how inexhaustible desires are, I vow to put an end to them. No matter how boundless all teachings are, I vow to master them. No matter how unsurpassable the Buddha Way is, I vow to attain it.
All our Zen practice can be studied through these vows. And there is a formal study with a teacher associated with them. One key point on behavior, for example, is that the line on desires can actually mean, change selfish desires to selfless desires. For example, I get hungry, so others must, too. I should help them be fed..
At the beginning and end of the ceremony, and at times in the middle, we all make full bows to the Buddhas, showing gratitude to the people who have worked so hard to accomplish themselves and then put their efforts into helping us. We\are also bowing deeply to our own Buddha nature, acknowledging the better part of ourselves, and bringing that recognition more to the forefront.
This kind of ceremony really does have an effect on us psychologically, as well as on our state of being.
Traditionally, the Renewal of the Vows ceremony is done at the new moon, when we are just beginning a 14 day period of “growing into ourselves,” so to speak, and at the full moon, when we reach a peak of that little bit of development, and begin another 14 day period of sharing our accomplishments with others. We are reminding ourselves who we are. And we are rekindling the flame to accomplish our own life.
So if you feel a little overwhelmed by all this, just know that even highly accomplished people feel the need to renew their vows regularly. I think it would be a nice practice to do even at small meditation groups without a teacher.
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