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Buddhism, Bodywork and Bodymind Therapy



How To Use Zen, Tibetan and Theravadan Buddhist Practice,
with Structural Integration Bodywork And Netherton-Reichian Body-Mind Therapy in a Mutually Supportive Way

We Practice with the Body, Both on the Cushion & in Daily Life.
We Can Make the Body Work MUCH Better,
Physically, Energetically and Emotionally,
Quickly and Enjoyably.

Download this part of Section III

by Louis Ryoshin Gross, Ordained Zen Buddhist Monk since 1981
Founder and Director of The Institute for Enhanced Performance

School Certified Master Postural Integrator Bodyworker (1983) & Jin Shin Acupressurist,  Holistically trained in Structural Integration Bodywork, Body-oriented Psychotherapy, Nutrition, Herbology, Energy Healing and Psychic Counseling

Call 1-321-726-9083 or 310-285-8132 for free information & consultation

www.backfixbodywork.com          louisryoshin@yahoo.com

Copyright 1990, 2002, 2005   Louis A. Gross   All Rights Reserved


Download this part of Section III


Now I want to share more about Zen practice, in fact, Buddhist practice in general.  And I want to point out how it can help us in psychotherapy, in bodywork and bodymind therapy, in other spiritual practices and in personal or professional growth.  Much of what I describe about Zen Practice is true of Chan, Tibetan, and Theravadan Buddhist practices as well, because they all come from the teachings of the Buddha, and they’re all dealing with this same Life of ours.  So I’ll just call it Zen Practice or Buddhist Practice, for short, and mean all the categories.

Their forms may differ slightly.  The essence is the same.

When we do Zen practice; we can integrate all these personal development practices into a “larger context” of our lives.  For, after all, the goal of Buddhist practice is to do just that.  We could say it puts us more in contact with the much larger experience of who we are, while still in all the activities we do every day.  Just as I pointed out how Body-Mind Therapies put more of us “on line” in one respect, this Realization practice puts more of us on line in another respect. We are all much bigger than this little body and energy field, and especially much bigger than this set of thoughts that most people erringly identify as “them.”.  And by becoming more of the “bigger” self, we also carry the developments we got from the Body-mind practices into this “bigger being” we have gotten more in touch with.

What happens in this “larger” context agrees with the goals of the therapy or development training, but it gives us more of whatever we’ve done.  I would say it also makes the programs work better, and we can go further with them.  So I think “zazen” concentration breath meditation, and the other practices I describe here, are some things more people could do to make their lives more satisfying.  In fact, they have been shown to improve relationships, family, work organizations and even whole societies.

Besides zazen, we use what we call, "expedient means” in our practice.  A lot has to do with behavior, by us even when we’re alone, as well as in our relations with others.  The aim of Buddhist practice, to embody what we call the Buddha Way, is to live one's everyday life in a way that expresses the unity of all life and the inter-connectedness of everyone and everything.  While each person and each thing are totally different, totally unique, none of us are really separate from each other.  We are all this infinite, universal “beingness,” and we are all interconnected with all other beings.  The more we are in touch with these facts, the better we function.  And it doesn’t matter what religion you are.  Your “in-touchness” will make your life, in accord with your own religious form, much better.  Most people even understand their religion better.  From their own “bigger” view, they can see more of what Jesus, Moses or Mohammed was talking about.

So we do this concentration practice.  And we do other things, some of which I’ve described in this section.  But in order to accomplish ourselves well and gain deep insight and strong concentration power, it is necessary to take off blocks of time, away from our regular busy life, to practice intensively.  Typically, these range from 30 minutes to 3 hours a day, or for a weekend or a week at a time, and for one to three months of yearly, or twice yearly official training periods.  Some traditions even have one year and three year intensives.  In between doing these, or after a group of them, people return to their careers, or work.  And of course, they are noticeably changed, for the better.  They understand more about what life really is, and they are more capable as people.

While some people do become resident clergy at temples, it is definitely not taught that one should escape from the world into hiding in a monastery.  The blocks of time are taken to "study the self," in the same way we take off blocks of time to study medicine, real estate or how to fix our car.  In addi­tion, Buddhist practice is “not simply” an aesthetic technique to develop concentra­tion powers or “just” to have direct experiences of the actual nature of life.  But as one does have "glimpses" and does develop powers of concentration, it becomes clear that the natural order of things is to "automatically" behave in everyday life affairs with openness, compassion, universal love and "exquisite appropri­ateness," in everything our home life and work activities require us to do.  A strong practice also generates a strong self-confidence and a desire to help others, especially to help others develop themselves to have similar qualities.

You might want to think honestly about your own life, especially when stress occurs.  How “automatically” do you function in these ways, right in the midst of the stress?

It's this automatic function that takes so long to develop, and so much effort.  Almost anybody can go to an “est” workshop and "get" that the present moment is where it's at.  Then what?  If you have to remind yourself of the thought and then attempt to modify your behavior and try to stay present, you are indeed at least deep and clear enough to know something about what we are trying to do.  But you really do not have that necessary state of being.  It should “just be so.”

A lot of zazen practice, especially with a teacher and a group of fellow practitioners, gets us into deeper and clearer states of being.

This same point applies to what we could call New Age people, those who are always talking about "the higher mind."  If they do meditate, then one part of them may be a lot nicer than many other people walking around.  But many still get stuck in their psychological hang-ups and have to remind themselves of who they really are in their “higher minds.”  But the so-called lower minds haven’t “shifted” enough. So just reminding oneself doesn’t necessarily get them unstuck   Meditation will help at this point, to get us more “in-tune” again.

A problem I see as a Body-mind therapist and Zen Monk is that many folks try to practice with only a part of themselves, and the rest is still reacting, maybe all the time.  The people don’t know what to do about this.  They are trying.  The Bodywork and Body-mind therapies introduced in this book are a big help.

We should be in the state of that higher mind all the time, with all of ourselves.  It’s there all the time, but in a way, it’s covered over, and we’re not conscious of it.  So manifesting it well becomes a physical thing that needs to be “constructed.”  Which is why people spend years practicing; it takes that long.  Maybe I should say it’s a lifetime of developing practice.  We practice who we really are and that makes us better at it.

Now, to repeat, practice isn’t a matter of totally retreating from the world, although there are some who choose long-term monastic practice.  What does matter is how well we can practice in our everyday activities and relationships.  We should extend the power and openness we gain from the sitting and walking meditation practice into these activities and relationships.  A practice of mindfulness in daily life helps with this.

And as I just indicated, another way of describing the effects of doing zazen, this method of concentration meditation, is to say it tunes us in to what's really happening, with ourselves, and with everything else.  The more we practice, the more precisely and more fully we get tuned in.  And then the most appropriate behavior for all will occur.  My Zen Master, Maezumi Roshi used to say, "Let's do it in its best way."  The practice also increases the power of what’s called our observer mind.  So, besides becoming more aware and insightful about people and things around us, we can also become more deeply aware of our own issues, inside.  And we can also make changes in our behavior easier, with greater comfort and a better chance of success.

This in itself would be very helpful for business people.  And for anyone in personal or professional relationships.  Being automatically more in-tune makes us think, say and do the more effective things.  And effectiveness, coming from this “state of being,” is less stressful and more internally satisfying, both for ourselves, and for the people we come in contact with.

The following chapters will give you ideas about the qualities of this more “in touch” lifestyle.  You will see that they do indeed apply to our work, therapy, and developmental trainings.  These practices, or expedient means, describe how, or what we really are.  But we have to uncover it, and train ourselves in how to use it.  That’s what “practice” is about.

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I’ve been describing who we are.  But we don’t see that because our mental thoughts and emotional feelings are in the way.  I give the picture that everyone’s head is filled halfway up with water.  That water extends downward into the body and through the body’s tissues into everyone else’s’ bodies and heads.  Our usual state of mind is where the water is churning and splashing so we can’t see into the water beneath the surface.  We have so much busyness and chaos going on.  And we are continually at the effect of this churning and splashing.  Not only does that carry us away, and get us lost in these transient ups, downs, twists and turns, but it also keeps us from seeing something that will give us much greater contentedness; what “we” really are.  And then, in our everyday affairs, we can simply behave in accord with this contentedness

The aim of the sitting and walking meditation, the mindfulness, and the other practices I’m describing, is to calm down that splashing, then go into the water deeper and deeper, calming it down further as we go farther.  Eventually, we go through the water in the lower half of the head, into the torso, arms and legs, then into the water in between us and others, and then even into others.  While this is not an exact analogy of what happens, it does describe a lot of it.

By practicing who we are, we get to see, and transform into that state.  So, we could even say we’re already like this.  We just have to uncover it.

The distractions of the “little mind” are categorized as greed, anger and ignorance.  And ignorance is the major problem.  It is the lynchpin that holds all our suffering and discontentedness in place.  Our limited view has given us thought patterns and belief systems that express these qualities.  And by getting caught up in the turbulence of greed and anger, we don’t get to dissolve away the ignorance.  Greed, anger and ignorance entrap us significantly, because we haven’t developed ourselves sufficiently to see what else there is.  And that’s why the world is how it is.

Dissolve away ignorance, even a tiny, tiny bit at a time, and our attachment to the greed and anger goes down, too.  While many people may find power and pleasure in these expressions, a deeper look inside them can show how much they are dissatisfied.  That’s why so many seemingly “powerful” and wealthy people act so greedily and angrily.  The human condition of ignorance creates dissatisfaction.  And dissatisfaction gives rise to the compensational behaviors of greed and anger.

Without knowing about a way out, even rich people suffer from the dis-ease of dissatisfaction.

Concentration meditation is a way to start finding the way out.  And you don’t have to be a monk, nun, priest, renunciate or weirdo to do it.  As has actually happened in the past, you can be a general in the army, a business owner, a member of the government, a hospital administrator, a university student and even a mother of six living in a small apartment.  Doing it gives us all benefits.

One of the first things that happens when people practice breath concentration meditation is that they suddenly notice they’ve stopped thinking.  And they’re still here.  And everything is OK.  And it feels nice.  Especially nice for people who have heavily responsible and busy lives.

We can all take a vacation, every day, without leaving home, without leaving our desk, and even while we sit in the car.  Breath concentration meditation is well known, even in medical circles, as a method that “greatly” reduces stress.  Results even show up on tests. 

For one thing, breathing abdominally, with our attention down in the lower abdomen, strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of us that governs rest, regeneration, digestion and sexual energy.

Do you know people who are afraid of what will happen to “them” if they stop thinking?  If you can just see this, and keep practicing so you’re enjoying the quiet and “focus” more and more, then the neurons in the brain that connect up this “not thinking” with the thoughts of fear and death, won’t get activated.

Of course, our thoughts start right up again because that’s the nature of this “little mind.”  But this level of insight never goes away.  We have discovered something.  And we’re a tiny bit freer.

Then we can even practice watching the thoughts come and go in the mind, as if we were sitting on a hill, watching cars go by on the highway down below.  And some time later, we start to see that the thoughts have ideas that “we” don’t really have to identify with.  We have reached a state of being in that water where it has become somewhat calmer, and where we have become something else than the splashing and churning.

This discovery has made us a little freer still.  We can actually see that we don’t have to behave in those ways anymore, all the time.  Further practice enables us to “drop” those feelings easier when we see they pop up.  We are developing our “power” of consciousness.  We are developing “another place to live” besides inside those splashing waters.

Then, when we need to be firm, or angry, or kind, or sad, or even fearful, “we” can be that way.  Obviously, this is a terrific ability for actors and other performing artists to develop.  And it’s quite a help to speakers, salespeople and managers, too.  But wouldn’t it also be nice if you and your spouse or partner could be more “genuinely yourselves?”

As our practice develops strength, we notice that our concentration power in the present moment has gotten stronger and steadier, and our intuition seems more often “right on.”  This is even great for athletes.  Imagine being able to hit the ball, catch a pass, and do your swimming strokes more powerfully and accurately.  Even our mental creativity seems to be developing.  And then we notice that nicer qualities get expressed in our personality.

Part of these qualities involves the reduction of greed and anger.  We are becoming automatically more satisfied because the state of who we really are has a quality of contentedness.  And psychologically, it’s more satisfying to notice we’re getting some nice benefits from our meditation efforts.  We are getting more convinced that this new way of developing ourselves is a way out.

Then we can even apply the power and insight we have developed to the “better” use of greed and anger.  It’s all in the belief system and attitude.  You can be greedy for helping the poor and sick.  You can be greedy to make your employees and customers happy and more satisfied in their work, so you, yourself will feel better about your accomplishments and even make more money.  And you can be greedy about wanting to feel better and better from the meditation.

You can become angry at injustice, at wrong behavior by officials, at the destruction of the Earth’s eco-system, and at bullies who beat up your kids at school.  You can also be angry in your practice, at your own inability to be more of what you see could be done.  But here, don’t beat yourself up.  Use it intelligently to increase your determination.  In fact, this kind of justified anger, if free from getting hooked into ongoing upset and blame, can actually give you more power to correct these other kinds of behaviors.

As we develop more of our connection in the water with everyone else, we quite naturally “identify” more with everyone else.  Even in the limited theaters of business dealings and international negotiations, this personal development gives a person distinct advantages.  More options at creating win-win start to appear as we are more freed up from those limited thought patterns we’d been totally identifying with.  Obviously, this helps in social and romantic relationships, too.

Human beings who are still being run by their thoughts of fear, insecurity and power-control will not be able to take advantage of this state for their success.  Thought patterns and internal belief systems get created in events and then “we” can use those “understandings” as tools. Using a raincoat when it’s raining and dressing warmly when it’s cold are these kinds of understandings.  We have complete little computer programs that allow us to notice and evaluate events, and then take appropriate action on our conclusions.

Being stuck to these scripts, however, might make “us” unconscious.  At these “triggered” times, if no aware observer is present, then all that is operating the person in front of you is the script of those thoughts, the ones that were developed in the past experiences.  And obviously, any new dialogue from outside has absolutely no available response from the script.  So you can’t talk to that “person” because only a script created with other people, some time ago, is speaking and listening.  When a person has no inkling about dry weather, or warm sunny days, their choice of wardrobe can be a bother.  Being stuck to scripts, even very subtle ones, is limiting.  Whereas, the ability to function from deep in the comfortable, non-churning water gives us more wardrobe selections.  In fact, we are able to make more appropriate selections for our different circumstances.

To help us have more kinds of clothes and have more “consciousness” in how to use them, we can look at some of the methods we’ve been introduced to in Buddhist practice.  You will see that your own religion and your own successful corporate and personal successes embody many of these practices, too.
  And remember, that the more we do the meditation practice, the more capable we can be with them.

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ery central to Buddhist practice has always been the practice of harmonious community behavior.   How would the world be, how would your family be, how would your company be, if our intentions were on harmony and mutual service and support?  In the 1990’s, the Chicago Bulls National Basketball Conference team won the world championship five out of six years in a row.  Their overriding principle was the ongoing creation of a successful team in which each member was also successful.

In Buddhist intensive meditation retreats, this automatically happens, because that’s really what we are.  The Japanese word is sesshin (ses shin), meaning in English, ”To make one mind.”  When we all try to continuously concentrate on the present moment, it shows up because more and more of the noise of those clinging thoughts and tensions die away.

For the Chicago Bulls and for us as meditation practitioners, a teacher or coach, someone who’s already living in this manner, trains and guides us to be able to do it more for ourselves.

For Michael Jordan, the outstanding star of the Bulls, and for us, we get results when we practice a lot.  And that’s where the notion of precepts comes in.

In the time of the historical Buddha in ancient India, a large community of many hundreds of disciples practiced together.  Whenever any particular behavior arose that caused problems between people or hindered people in their practice, the leader, Shakyamuni Buddha, (Shak-ya-moo-nee) said not to do that anymore.  Eventually, a somewhat standardized set of literally hundreds of rules were handed down and, in themselves, became a Buddhist practice called the Vinaya.  It is very difficult even to keep a few of these rules, and those who practice the Vinaya seriously develop great powers of concentration and mindfulness, not to mention a deep integrity.

The nature of our unpolluted life is harmony, focus, compassion, clarity of mind and universal love.  So, we set up structures to direct us into this kind of development.

While the Vinaya are usually practiced only by monks living in a monastic or temple setting, more commonly used is a set of what are called the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts, or "kai" (ki;long i).  These are something like the 10 Commandments, used to focus our minds on appropriate behavior, to help us live our lives better.  When you become an ordained Zen Buddhist lay person or monk, you take vows to maintain these kai.

In the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, Bodhisattvas are greatly enlightened beings who are said to put off their final complete enlightenment until all other beings have attained it.  Yet they are exceptionally well-developed people with incredibly deep religious embodiment.  Figuratively, they are said to act as the guides on the snowy mountain pass, showing us the way to Shangri-La.  In actual fact, Great Bodhisattvas have practiced in human form for untold numbers of lifetimes and have accomplished themselves far, far above we ordinary humans in our stage of development.  But we are all moving in the same direction as these great beings.  And in Buddhism, we say that when you're moving on your religious path, Bodhisattvas will come to help you, in everything from giving you a lift downtown to being one of your primary, long term teachers.

We also say that Bodhisattvas manifest through each of us some exceptional qualities, and when we ourselves express these qualities, we are, at that time, being those Bodhisattvas.  As we become “clearer,” through the meditation, concentrated prayer, Body-mind therapies, and other means, the Bodhisattvas’ expressions can do more though us.  The three most important Bodhisattvas in Buddhist practice are those of Great Transcendent Wisdom, Great Universal Compassion and Uncondi­tional Universal Love.  If you’re Christian, you might think of these as manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

As the English translation indicates, the kai themselves are often called precepts, or behaviors which we can try to follow.  But as we reveal our true selves more and more, we find ourselves automatically acting more in line with these behaviors.  So they're really more like expressions of the enlightened life itself rather than things we should try to interpret and force ourselves to be like.

My teacher, Maezumi Roshi, often said it should come from inside us (as we practice), and that's what I've seen is so appealing to many of us American students.  We want to better ourselves with our own efforts.  It's even part of our political culture.  So while the kai might already be there, Roshi said we should act “as if” we are already more accomplished.  Thus, as we go along, doing a "gut check" against the kai helps us "steer."

In fact, we should recognize right from the start that keeping these precepts all the time is an impossible deal, until you’re a fully realized Buddha.  Even when you get more and more accomplished, you see the subtler places where you slip up.  These are guidelines from the more accomplished people.  As with the rest of Buddhist practice, it’s a development.  The masters even say we’re already part of the Buddha’s family.  But we’re the children.  When we grow up, we become the Buddhas.  And when we really focus on the kai, we are studying what we already have the potential to be.  We learn more at the same time we can do it better.  As I said in the Bodymind Therapy sections, we are increasing what I call our State of Being.

The kai are studied with a teacher one-on-one near the end of formal Zen training, because we need to see clearly what our life is in order to understand how to behave in it.  And they're studied from three points of view:  literal, appropriate, and absolute.  A few examples will be helpful to illumine this study as well as give some insight into the Buddha's instruction on how we should live.  You might even try this with your own religious teachings, or even with regard to how to develop your company’s personnel.

The first of the "10 Grave Precepts" is “ Not killing.”  Literally, this means don't kill anything.  But we have to kill even plants to eat, we have to kill bacteria when we brush our teeth, and our immune systems are killing invading foreigners even without our conscious knowledge of it.  Thus, we can't totally not kill.

But we can be aware of what we're doing and take action not to kill unnecessarily.  It's common to see someone who's been practicing zazen catch moths and crickets in their rooms and put them outside without killing them.  This kindness to all beings appears when we're not run by our hecticness nor by our reactive fears and aggressions.

Appropriateness relates to whom you are and what the circumstances are that you're in.  We kill roaches at the Zen Center, to maintain the health in our community kitchen.  This allows us to practice.  And we then dedicate our practice back to everything else.  Before each formal meal, we chant apprecia­tion for all the efforts that brought us the food.  And then we dedicate the food to our ability to practice better and be of greater service to the world.

Absoluteness relates to the fact that our universal life is absolute and nothing can be killed.  All life and death as we know it is simply changes in the form of this universal life we call Buddha.  I've been told that if you're not really at that place, you're killing the life of the Buddha.  Maybe that's the biggest sin.  Maybe it's the only sin.   This precept is often translated, not as “Do not kill,” but as “Non-killing.”  If you see the fact that nothing can be killed and you are living your life in accord with that understanding, then you are embodying “Non-killing.”  But you still need to be appropriate and aware in the “relative event” sense, too.  The "goal" of practice is to see what all this really means and incorporate it in our daily lives.

Another precept is non-stealing.  Part of this means, don't take anything not offered.  Are we always centered enough to not do this?  Are we self contented enough or do our appetites run us?  Do our thoughts and urges overtake our minds so “we” become unconscious?  This is pretty hard to do, huh?!  Imagine having 250 of these things to be aware of!  That’s why people who follow all these Vinaya develop a lot of concentration power and “presence.”

Another precept is not criticizing others as we elevate ourselves.  Everyone is what I call "legitimate" and has a function.  And we all have many faults.  Constructive criticism is OK.  Especially if you are treating the person as the Buddha and as you, yourself would like to be treated.  What this says is not to put others down in order to gain for your own ego self-esteem.  Maybe it also means not to fight another's aggression with your own aggression, as a personal battling thing.

It's also an issue about seeing what works in life.  One reason for this guidance is that elevating oneself by putting others down doesn't help us develop ourselves better. It’s a distraction.  And again, it’s when a script takes us over.  It also generates bad feelings and negativity that comes back at us.  “That’s” not so good.  And it's founded on the false fact that you can actually get something for yourself by putting someone else down.  In reality, it’s not what is called a “zero sum” game.  Just as with sports teams, we can only control how well “we” play.  We have to work on ourselves.  So what the masters are telling us, is that doing this reacting creates bad vibes and confusion within ourselves.  And it takes the focus away from going deeper.

The precepts also include one described as “not putting ‘yourself’ down.”  It says do not speak ill of the Three Treasures:  Everybody being One, Everybody being different, and the Harmony between these two sides of the same coin.  Accepting oneself as each of these Three Treasures, one by one, are the very first three of the Sixteen Bodhisattva Kai.  The Three Treasures describe what our own lives are, or should be.

So this says appreciate our lives for what they really are.  When we do that, we don't speak ill of anything, even when we are making constructive criticisms.  And this doesn't mean we don't take appropriate action in the face of unruly people.  As an exercise for a few days, you can try not speaking nor thinking ill of anything, and yet doing the best thing to correct a bad situation.  As you pay attention to this, you might also make a list of the characteristics of your reactive thought patterns.  This can sometimes help to separate ourselves from the automatic reactions.

In a body-mind healing context, I think this could also relate to not abusing your body with bad substances, and maybe not abusing the Earth itself.

One precept says do not be intoxicated.  Maezumi Roshi translated it as do not be ignorant, to give us a larger picture than just not to drink alcohol.  When we get intoxicated with our own views and ideas we miss what is really going on.  This makes us ignorant.  In an even larger context, the foundational problem in all human activities is, as I said, that we are ignorant of who we really are and that creates dissatisfaction.

So when you see what life really is, in the absolute sense, you take care of ignorance.  But if you then hold that as an idea, and don't practice being in-tune with all the everyday stuff that's always happening, you make yourself ignorant again.  This is really a job, huh?!  These precepts are a great tool to increase our awareness and strengthen our own religious practice.|

What studying the precepts from these perspectives does, in part, is deepen a person's understanding of how each and every moment of our "relative" lives is also absolute and universal life.  Understanding what this actually means is part of the practice.  That fact that our water and everybody else’s water is the same ocean has always been true, whether we've been aware of it or not.  That’s what’s called the intrinsic side.  But becoming aware of this fact for ourselves allows us to act on the fact purposefully, and thereby help make everybody's life more satisfying.  You can't just say, "Oh, sure, I understand that.  I've always been Enlightened.  It's all OK."  You can mouth the words but if they don't come from your own experi­ence, they mean nothing.  You really don't feel OK, and you surely lack the power to effectively help others.

A translation of the words Buddha and Christ are, I’m told, “the one who woke up.”   And for most people, we wake up in degrees.  The typical “awakening” experiences over years of practice, called enlightenments, or openings, is to see the same reality over and over, but clearer and clearer as you go on.  After each opening, there's more assuredness.  Then we bring up the question again and work harder to resolve that.  When you see it clearly and you grasp it for yourself, and it doesn't fade away, then you'll have no more doubts.  THEN it is all OK.  But we still have to practice and integrate the fact into our everyday behaviors.

Because the kai are expressions of the totally enlightened life and nobody but the Buddha is living that way, the kai are, quite literally, impossible to maintain fully.  That's OK.  Obviously, the Buddha and the Masters know this.  So we have monthly or semi-monthly ceremonies for Renewing the Vows, and I'm told these have been held since the actual time of the historic Buddha, over 2500 years ago.  We say we "defile" the kai, get them dirty so to speak.  And the Renewing the Vows ceremony is a way to wash them off.

When Shakyamuni Buddha had his complete, total enlightenment, he is supposed to have said, "How wonderful.  All beings everywhere have the same wisdom and virtue as the 'Suchness.'"  When we students have the ceremony of ordination, we're saying publicly, I sincerely believe these are the aspects of my life and I sincerely believe I am the same Suchness as the Buddha...even if I haven't fully realized it yet.  Some teachers say that when we're sure enough to have this ceremony, it indicates a certain degree of clarity has already appeared.
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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 it's 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.

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 Ju-kai.

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.

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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Concentration meditation and behavior, or precepts, are two strong ways to practice.  They are two parts of another, commonly used expedient means, the Six Paramitas.

These are practices to do, that if exceptionally well developed, bring us into living the enlightened life. The Paramitas are vehicles we can get proactive with.  And doing them this well requires a lot of presence and awareness.  Paramita, a Sanskrit language word, translates as “getting to the other shore.” The six Paramitas are: giving, kai (or behaviors), patience, effort, concentration and wisdom.  There are others, too, one of which is the “wishing” Paramita, or vows, that I explained.  Of course, we do that in the Renewal ceremony, and even each night at the end of the meditation period.  Roshi said we should all have personal vows, too.

Looking at these Paramitas in a little detail can give us further insight into the psychological well being that we aim to develop in Buddhist practice. It is purposely designed to make us more sane.

In our interpersonal relationships, giving, the first Paramita, is one we can work with a lot.  So let me sum up how giving can be done using all the other Paramitas as a framework.

We can give physical things, words, and deeds.  In order to give at our best, we should be clear and attentive to our behavior, the kai, developing our focus to be naturally and comfortably disciplined in our “higher” nature.  If we cannot give the things we want because the other person is closed to us, we can give the person positive energy in our minds.  We can always be practicing the giving of good, blessed and compassionate energy to everyone.  We can be intelligently supportive.

But we have to have patience, because many times, what we want to give cannot be received until later.  And we must be smart enough, and in-tune enough, to know what other things to give in the meantime.  Then, we must make the effort to give.

We would like to make the “right” effort.  So we can combine our knowledge of the current circumstance with our “spiritual openness” and with our clarity of mind. That effort should also be focused, so it carries power.  Giving with clear intention and strong attentiveness is more effective, both for us, and the recipient.

So in spiritual practice, giving is often recognized as a means for us to feel good as we are helping others.  Master Dogen Zenji, said, "The giver should be thankful."  In fact, the Golden Rule is very good advice.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Why?  Besides the fact that giving creates good benefits for the giver down the road, “good karma” we might call it, the fact is that whatever we are giving, at this very moment, is creating who and what we are, right now, and ongoing into the future.

So, people who give angry blame are hurting themselves.  They are creating physical, emotional and energetic blame throughout their beings. They are perpetuating in themselves the very same suffering they are experiencing underneath their angry “counter-punch.”  Similarly, people who somewhat unconsciously keep making statements that predict the worst affects from others’ actions, are perpetuating, and strengthening, that deep fear within themselves.

On the other hand, giving positive things over and over actually can change our own energies to be more positive.  Then, in times of stress, this “more positive” energy field will help us through.   This requires courage, which really means there has to be a conscious, deep faith in the positiveness of life, or if you wish, in our direct relationship with the goodness of God.  It can become more than just our own positiveness in times of luck and success.  It can also become an ability to see and “feel with” positive factors in times that seem negative.

Being unselfish with material things, and sharing religious teachings, are known about in the American Judeo-Christian tradition, and in the Buddhist tradition as well, Master Dogen also points out more subtle kinds of giving:  One is, “Give kind, loving words,” and another, to give No Fear.

Think about it.  How often do our petty psychological hang-ups of fear and defense keep us from being sincerely loving to people around us?  So often, people choose to be angry, as a defense against feeling the fear, or as a revenge to get back at people. What Master Dogen is saying is that if we are really free of our fear, we will then be able to act from a place “inside us” that has the strength to act openly, with compassion and appropriateness, even in the face of other people's negativity.  We may still have fears and even feel them strongly. We might also take direct action to correct the situation.   But the idea is to have “another place” to “live in,” that is not bound up in these levels of fear and anger as the “psychological base” from which we live.  A lot of concentration meditation practice can “reveal” this place in ourselves.

The ultimate way to give No Fear is to help people have direct experiential insight into the fact that their own life cannot die.

Further, this means to be "clear" and developed enough, so that in each moment, we view any person or thing's beingness as full and complete, no matter what the relative appearance of loss or gain, or sickness or health may be.  When people have actual enlightenment experiences, they see for themselves that part of the nature of our lives is that we actually have nothing we can lose, including life itself.  When a person eventually gets to have what is called Great Enlightenment, he or she actually sees this fully, and "grasps" it with his or her whole being.  At that point, there is No Fear.

Then that person can live an everyday life without these battling kinds of psychological hang-ups.  They will then be able to decide what they wish to do, instead of this “stuff” deciding for them.  So their action becomes “free” as well as "in-tune."  And that's what is referred to as Right Action.  Before or after attaining Great Enlightenment, we can use the kai, or precepts, as guidelines to help us focus our actions.

Another name for the Buddha, the totally enlightened person, is "The One who is able to be patient."  While accomplished Zen students are very dynamic and can accomplish a lot, their "in-touchness" with the flow of our life gives them an ability to know when to go forward and when to wait for events to unfold.  We should note this when observing our psychological progress.  In psychotherapy, it takes time for people to go through processes.

Being patient is the opposite of being impatient, which often has a nuance of anger associated with it; anger at things not being what we want them to be, or think they should be.  Zen practice seems to change blaming, complaining anger into determined, accomplishing anger; and manifesting that energy with love, patience and appropriateness.  It also seems to change what we get angry about, from petty selfish things, to wrongs against the well being of life on earth.  As you might imagine, being patient requires strong strength of character.

At the bottom of that strength of character is contentedness.  When we are contented in the foundation of our minds, we can be patient.  Each moment is already OK, even when we’re constructing something in a hurry.

However, practicing being patient as a strain on oneself is not very effective and can be restricting.  That kind of effort often comes from tightening muscles.  We want our practice to come more from a deep, concentrated energy “center.”  But we can also have our actions come from a release of all that tension, the part we strain with consciously, and the part underneath that, which we are straining against.  So it is the actual energy increase, centeredness with increased awareness, developed by doing the practice, which develops this strength of character.  We could say we make the efforts in a positive, outgoing way.

Maezumi Roshi says that effort is necessary to accomplish anything worthwhile.  People who say they just want life to flow without putting in effort don't see the truth of the physics of physical life.  Sometimes I find these behaviors in people who are in psychological rebellion against their parents' direction, when the parents pushed them in ways they didn't want to be pushed.  And then they carry that hang-up to this day, against all kinds of effort, even things that would be good for them to do.  It's transference.  And in the Bodymind Therapy section I described that this kind of activity is an automatic behavior caused by the fixed physical and energetic walls that were created in the original events.  But now the person is attached to them because he or she does not see his or her own mind without the thoughts.

Life does flow in our direction if we move in the direction of our growth, and the stronger and better focused the effort, the greater accomplishment we can achieve.  Because it tunes us in, doing zazen often puts us in the right place at the right time, saying the right thing, and getting the right people doing things for us.  But we also have to be clear about our own personal lives and develop the skills necessary to accomplish our individual goals.  The nice thing about the energy buildup from zazen is it gives us more energy, and a quality of energy, that allows us to do more, more enjoyably.

Concentration is a power of physiological being and body energy field as well as mental intention and focus.  Doing Zen practice develops this power just as lifting weights and doing aerobics develops other powers.  The mistake many people make is to try to develop concentration with the mental thoughts alone.  And I've found that people who actively resist the idea of doing it with the body and breath, are usually mentally out of touch with their bodies, and psychologically out of touch with a lot of their rigid patterns.  The power of concentration allows us to use our effort more pene­tratingly and more continuously, without being distracted by events around us.  This includes not being distracted from our own convictions and path as well as not being distracted by noises while reading.  Concentration power also allows us to stay in the present and "stay" with difficult issues as we work them out in therapy.  It also allows us to practice the kai and patience better.

Wisdom in this case does not refer to knowledge.  However, it is a quality that we all possess.  But not being aware that we possess it, we don't use it under our control.  These are different nuances of wisdom, including the ability to function without the idea of separation from others, and the ability to function as a unique and different individual from all others, yet still coming from the experience of unity with all things.  Everything is made from the same oneness and, simultaneously, everyone's form is completely different from all other forms.  Living what this really means in one's daily life is the goal of Zen, Chan, Tibetan and Theravadan training.  We train, like an athlete.

So you can see that the Six Paramita practices inter-relate with each other, and they are good tools toward psychological well-being.

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A third expedient means is the first formal teaching of the man called Buddha who lived about 2500 years ago in India.  He is said to be the first one in recorded history to totally accomplish himself in this kind of life practice.  (Although it is said other Buddhas in past eons also came to teach.)

This Buddha’s first teaching is called the Four Noble Truths and it essentially says the following.

Life as we usually know it embodies suffering, or dissatisfaction, of one sort or another.  This is the problem.  Being with people and things (or events) you don't want and not being with people and things you want, kind of sums it up.  There is also suffering of a sort when we are with people and things we like and then we think about them ending.  And the reason we suffer, or have dissatisfaction, in these kinds of circumstances, is that we are placing our satisfaction on temporary things.  Everything comes into being, and then fades out of being.

If you’re sensitive to your body’s feelings, you might be able to feel physical tension increase when you’re having this kind of dissatisfaction.  One body-oriented way to help yourself at these times is to physically release the tension.  Tension is associated with fear.  And we can work on the problem from both directions.  If we have no fear, we won’t generate tension of this type.  And from the other direction, if we keep our bodies purposely released, we can minimize the grasp of fear upon us.  Once we see that we’re tight, part of the battle is won; consciousness has returned.  Now, enable the consciousness to relax the tension.

What is truly satisfying, on the other hand, is being in touch with this always present, universal life that we all are.  That’s the solution, but it’s a lot more involved to get there than my simple statement might imply.  Yet, while this achievement requires a “lot” of concentration meditation, even some amount of meditation will allow our busy, clinging minds to let go of what they’re engulfed with, and settle down.  Then we can experience the ongoing phenomena of our life in a fuller, and more enjoyable way.

Psychologically, this requires letting go of anger as well as fear.  That’s sometimes hard.

But there is a more direct approach, a solution to the problem.   Just be whatever you are.  But don’t have a little bitty extra part of you reflecting on it.  They say, “Just BE it.”  Also very hard.  Yet that’s the “practice” that we are encouraged to keep practicing.  We are practicing who we are by using all the phenomena and experiences of our life.

So it really isn’t a very complex kind of thing to do.  It just takes repeated effort in a particular direction to get better and better at it.  And while that does, admittedly, take a certain amount of time in the day, the rewards seem to be more than worth it.  For one thing, it seems to enable us to get our things done faster.  And the big part is, life feels so much more satisfying for hours afterward.

We talk about “work practice.”  At Buddhist Centers and Monasteries, there's a particular time of day for clean-up work, and then for office, kitchen and yard work.  In our lay lives, we have a plethora of work activities, often all day.  There’s driving activity, office or outdoor activity, being with the kids activity, shopping activity, developing relationship with spouse activity, and even work-out or athletic activity.

The way to “get with” this always present, universal life is to be fully present in our daily life.  That means we can’t be attached to anything, or that little anything takes up a certain amount of the mind that can’t be fully present.  There’s a gap between who I am and how much I’m experiencing who I am.  We could even say there’s some level of distraction, or that there’s a certain amount of filmy interference.

Thus, in accord with the Great Enlightened One’s teaching, Buddhist “practice” is to keep trying to focus in on each moment.  And if you care to try it, you’ll see how “much” you are distracted into the thoughts and feelings of our little mind.  Concentration breath meditation helps us stay more focused and present, moment after moment, especially while sitting in a good physical position that actually increases the physical energy we can put into it.  Then we take that energy concentration power and try to extend the “involvement” into walking, moving, working and so forth.

The circumstantial problem in daily life then, is that we “miss the mark” somewhat.  This, I am told, is the original meaning of “sin.”  Maezumi Roshi liked the word “intimate.”  Be intimate with your self.  In - to - mate.  We could say, however, that we are not intimate with ourselves much of the time.  We are not well enough accomplished yet.

From a kind of Bodyworker perspective, we are not really integrated on all levels with what is really happening.  And to a subtle, or very big degree, we are thus not accepting what is happening either.  And working with it.  Most people would agree that this is hard to do skillfully in many situations.  And those who already have a sincere spiritual practice might be feeling the pain that this non-acceptance creates, for ourselves as well as for the people we are in contact with.  Nobody likes being unacknowledged and rejected.  And a Bodhisattva is said to be someone who recognizes her errors of omission as well as commission.  She’s that aware.

Strong Buddhist practice is hard.  Well, it might not be so hard to simply practice, but it takes a lot of ongoing effort to achieve an exceptionally strong degree of ongoing concentration in the present.  The little mind cannot do it.  And it’s not just devotional where we pray to the higher beings.  We do ask for their help, big time, if you follow the masters’ instructions.  But it’s just help, to be able to keep getting us back on this personal development, down to the very deep levels of our being.

We’re also supposed to keep trying in all our daily activities.  That’s tough, from the point of view that our little mind keeps trying to wander and distract us.  Ya gotta eat good food to keep going.  Maezumi Roshi sometimes kidded us, with some polite but blunt distain, when he recognized we could take it.  One thing he told me was how much I was on vacation.  I still remember that, and part of me can’t stand being on that kind of vacation.  If I think of what he said when I am taking a vacation, even slacking off a bit while typing, the words hurt inside my chest.  When I focus again, my feeling is one of power and happiness.  But it does take effort.  And interest.  Maybe even a quiet kind of passion.  Luckily, the more we practice, the stronger our concentration power gets.  And in a way, it’s easier to keep going, even pleasurable.  This is one of the benefits of doing a weeklong sesshin, the intensive.  After the middle of the fourth day, concentrating, and receiving the benefits of it, gets more pleasurable.

The masters are here to help us feel better.  And even do our activities better.  That’s why I include concentration practice as a key feature of professional development.

The first Noble Truth is that life is unsatisfying.  The second is that there is a reason for this dissatisfaction.  The third says there is indeed a way to obtain satisfaction.  And the fourth Noble Truth gives the recipe for doing so, called The Eightfold Path.  It’s eight things to develop.

The end result can be summed up like this.  One teacher told us that Roshi once specifically encouraged her to change “why” to “how.”  Why, she said, meant the little mind’s thought patterns that say, “Why is this happening to me?”  This little mind thought pattern just doesn’t have the energetic power and “depth” of seeing to handle all of what is coming up in our life.  And, even if you’re a big strong athlete, a celebrated musician or the chairman of a big company, if your thought patterns limit your harmonious responsiveness in a variety of situations, you’ll sin and suffer.  Your little mind will have thoughts that complain about what’s happening, create a defensiveness, and take you out of “being with it well.”

How means, “How can I handle all that is coming up in its best way?”  And you’ve got to be deep and strong in your mind to even attempt it well.  But I think great athletes, performing artists and CEO’s have a lot of good training for this practice. They can be tough and focused.  I am recommending they accomplish themselves even more.  As a personal growth coach, I predict they will be more successful from doing so.

Roshi used to tell us, “Let’s do it in the best way.”  What would that best way be at every moment of life?  We could describe it as being fully with the universal inter-relationship of whatever is happening, and coming from a fully enlightened state doing it.  That’s pretty wordy.  But in Zen we might say, it’s living this ever present, fully open life, in all the circumstances that come up in the day.  That’s a way to be in tune and accomplish what we need to do.

And that’s what produces satisfaction at a number of levels.  Performing artists have told me they like it best when the emotion of the music or the character of their play comes out “cleanly,” and their own interpretation doesn’t taint it.  Athletes and dancers say they feel the best when their bodies do just what they’re trying to do, with no distortions.

We have lots of emotions, too.  It isn’t just about getting things done.  Sorrow at funerals, laughter at jokes, and pain in auto accidents are natural results of everything that came before them.  Being separated from the experience, what­ever it is, causes dissatisfaction, which manifests as a kind of suffering.

See, we all know the problem.  Concentration practice is a solution.  And the Eightfold Path gives us a sequence of the way “we work.”  Yet we can plug into any point in the Path at any time.

The elements of the Path are Right Belief or Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Effort, Right Livelihood, Right Concentration and Right Wisdom. This works even in our everyday world.  If you understand current events accurately, you'll think appropriately to achieve what you want, say the right things, move in the right direction, put in good and constructive effort, and make life function better along those lines.  But if you start off with incorrect or inaccurate understanding, your expressions down the line, the results of your inaccuracy, will also be inaccurate or incorrect.

So the first thing in self-realization practice, or self-development practice, is to have the Right Understanding.  Understand who we are, as accurately as we can for now, so we can practice developing ourselves better.  This is our Belief System.  From the Right Understanding, we’ll have the Right kinds of Thoughts, not only about how to proceed, but about people we relate with.  I’m told that enlightened people really see everyone as the Buddha.  And so what they say to us will help us become more satisfied and accomplished.  That’s Right Speech.  And what they do, to further their own accomplishment and how they get things done and help us, is Right Action.

Put these together, the belief system, the thoughts and the actions, and we have Right Livelihood, which isn’t just working as, say, a social worker and not working as a defense contractor.  According to Maezumi Roshi, Right Livelihood is about living one’s life accurately in accord with our universal state of being.  While being of service to others and doing no-harm are part of this activity, they are supposed to come out of that state of being as much as possible.  I think most people have seen peace marchers and even nurses who are personally angry, greedy and ignorant about the Buddha Nature of the people they are trying to influence, or help.

In Right Livelihood, we can have determined anger and big desires for good.  The best way I have seen people do it is from a clearer Mind.

As you might surmise, we can use our jobs and relationships to start at Right Livelihood.  And that will encourage us to develop the Right View, the Right Thoughts and the Right Speech and Action.  A teacher told us that one man, her student, said he used to come home and yell at his wife.  After practicing for a year, he said he went home one day and just shut his mouth.

Now, in psychological therapy we don’t want people to repress their feelings.  As a Bodyworker, I know the damage that can do.  But here, this person realized the inappropriateness of his beliefs, thoughts and actions.  He saw they weren’t Right to be happening in that situation.  So a bigger, or “clearer” part of him just stopped the tape from rolling.  And he got to express his energies in a more positive way that probably made their relationship a little better.

We aren’t trying to repress energies or feelings.  We’re trying to see a bigger picture of what our life is about so that the energies we really “want” to express will be more positive.  One teacher gave the analogy of first being on the street, in the midst of enormous foot traffic, as on a street corner in New York City’s financial district at lunch hour.  People going all over the place.  Waves of people.  From the street level, it’s a mess.  But then, she said, go up higher and higher in the building on the corner, and as we look down, we see the patterns of flow clearer and clearer.  That’s one analogy about seeing life clearer so we automatically see how it fits together.  This is Right View, and of course, we’ll then think, say and act more “in tune.”

Right Effort is just what it seems to be: putting our energies into what we’re doing in these ways.
  But I think there’s another point.  The effort has to be as focused and in-tune as possible.  We say “non-dualistic.”  Right Effort seems to be the right kind of effort in Buddhist realization terms,

This is where Right Concentration comes in.  I’ve been explaining that.  And from these efforts, in these Right Ways, we gain Right Wisdom.  We see a little more, and behave a little more, with our better or higher selves.

And then the circle continues into the next round.  From Right Wisdom, we automatically have a more accurate Right Understanding.  And that produces better thoughts, speech, action, livelihood, effort and concentration.  Which then gives more Right Wisdom.

In my method of Bodymind therapy, we focus on removing the incorrect belief systems that, over time, have created rigidity and misalignment in a person's mental and psychological outlook, as well as their physical body.  Our belief systems were imbedded in earlier events, as reports of fact at those times.  But when they stay with us unconsciously, they run our thoughts, speech, action, and our whole lives inappropriately.  And we, and those around us, suffer.

It helps me to use the technique of the Four Noble Truths and the Eight­fold Path in correcting the general problems of separateness that all people have, and for the individual problems of inappropriateness that each person has in his or her psychological make-up.  It’s even a handy management tool for career and work decisions.

On the one hand, the treatments work to remove separateness and inaccuracy. This is the release processing part.  And they allow us to more easily develop positive qualities.  This would be the behavior improvement part.  The less resistance and blockage, the easier it is to want to develop better qualities, and the more of us that’s available to be those qualities.

In fact, the very act of doing the processes helps develop a lot of positive qualities.  Among them would be things like awareness, understanding, appreciation, belief in oneself, gratitude, determination and knowledge about the difference between acceptance, which is love, and preference, which is like.

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Copyright 1990, 2002, 2005   Louis A. Gross   All Rights Reserved

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Copyright 1990, 2002, 2005   Louis A. Gross   All Rights Reserved