Thursday, June 13, 2019

Exposed to Fire


Broken Glass, North Wales

An important part of the Zen Way is learning to meet difficulties without reactively running away from the pain or rushing to find a fix for the situation.  Facing what is present requires a great deal of courage, and an ever increasing capacity to stay with challenges until they either transform, on their own, into something else, or until a path of transformation is revealed.  In my own experience this transformation and/or revelation is subtle and may not necessarily feel like it's heading in a positive direction.  But things have a way of revealing their essence if we can stay present to what is here, now.  


Along these lines, I was very encouraged by the following quote from a Sufi teacher, H. I. Khan, from an article by my mindfulness mentor and friend Saki Santorelli.  The purpose of transforming suffering by learning to bear it is a part of the bodhisattva path.  As we realize our bodhisattva nature, we discover that we are a part of everything else in the entire universe.  And so, anything we do to facilitate our own healing helps to heal the world.The transformation of suffering is not for our own self-improvement, but a necessary part of realizing our bodhisattva nature -- that we are all connected and that our own healing is ultimately a part of healing others and the entire world.

….”There have been hearts that have been exposed to fire for a long, long time, and there comes a sulphury water from them, purifying and healing; for it has gone through fire, it has gone through suffering, and therefore, it heals those who suffer.  There are hearts with many different qualities, like water with different chemical substances: those who have suffered, those to whom life has taught patience, those who have contemplated. They all represent one or other kind of the water that heals, and so do their personalities. People who have deep appreciation of any kind, of suffering, of agony, of love, of hate, of solitude, of association, of success, of failure, all have a particular quality, a quality that has special use for others.  And when a person realizes this, he will come to the conclusion that whatever has been their life’s destiny, his heart has prepared a chemical substance through sorrow and pain, through joy or through pleasure, a chemical substance that is intended for a certain purpose, for the use of humanity, and that he can only give it out if he can keep his heart awakened and open. “ 


-- Khan, H.I.:  The Heart Quality In Sufi Teachings,Volume VIII


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Radiant World Spring Sesshin


This past weekend we had our Boundless Way Zen Temple Spring Sesshin, taught by David Rynick, Roshi, Michael Fieleke, Sensei and myself.  Our tanto, Alan Richardson, named it the Radiant World sesshin, following the theme of awakening being available everywhere.  Indeed, it is so!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Great Vehicle Heart Connections


Two Tibetan monks and two nuns visited Boundless Way Temple on Sunday, and joined us whole-heartedly in our regular Zen practice. They are on a 2 week visit to Worcester State University, and decided to drop in to our regular Sunday night practice period, which included chanting, sitting and walking meditation, and a Dharma talk by Dharma teacher Rev. Paul Galvin.  During the Dharma dialogue following Paul's talk, they participated along with the rest of the sangha, and we all enjoyed laughter and insightful comments and stories from a number of participants, including the Tibetans of course.  And at the end, they insisted on a photo -- ordained folks on the floor, with the rest of the sangha standing behind, grouped around the Buddha altar.  Just before the photo was taken, one of the monks shouted "Mahayana!" a reference to what connects us.  Zen and Tibetan Buddhism are both part of the Mahayana, or "great vehicle" tradition in Buddhism.  Sharing the practice and feeling our heart connection was simply delightful!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

On Not Having a Headache

water spout gargoyle, Italy

After a couple of weeks of enduring various bouts of illness, including bronchitis caused by a virus that kept moving from one part of the body to another (lungs, sinus, throat) I am noticing the absence of sickness as a most subtle joy.  This feeling is physical, emotional and mental.  It arises as a softness and ease in navigating the world. 

When I'm sick, I often resign myself to feeling tired and miserable forever.  This attitude, while admittedly negative and fairly depressing,  has the positive effect of eliminating the anxiety that comes with wondering when and if I will ever feel good again. 

I've been lucky in my life so far -- my various chronic conditions have very mild or absent symptoms, and it's only when I'm struck down by a bacterial infection, headache or virus that I get to experience what many people know intimately on a daily basis.  I'm reminded, in this tender presence of the absence of illness, of the Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh's description of the return of health as "the feeling of not having a headache."  When we are suffering, we forget what the absence of suffering feels like.  It's so subtle...and so sweet.  I'm planning to enjoy it until it changes once again into something challenging.  The memory of illness acts as a reminder to have empathy for everyone who struggles with ill health, while knowing that at some point I will once again join this noble company of suffering myself. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Alan Sunhyo Richardson completes Shuso Hossenshiki

David Rynick, Roshi, Alan Richardson, Melissa Blacker, Roshi,
Mike Fieleke, Sensei
photo by Jenny Smith
Our three week Coming and Going Sesshin at Boundless Way Temple ended this morning.  Last night we held our Shuso Hossenshiki (Dharma Combat) ceremony for our shuso, Senior Dharma Teacher Alan Richardson.  He spoke on a koan, which was presented to him moments before he gave an impromptu talk about it, and then answered questions from the sangha.  The talk, and his answers, displayed his wisdom and compassion in equal measure.  Congratulations to Alan and endless gratitude for his service to the Sangha and to the Dharma.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

coming and going audio recordings

Ango: Peaceful Dwelling Place

Coming and Going Sesshin 2019
  
Three-week Residential and Non-Residential
Open House Meditation Retreat
  
January 4 - 25, Currently in Progress

If you are unable to attend, you can still take part by listening to the two talks given daily. Recordings are posted at

Please visit the Coming and Going Sesshin information pagefor more detailed information.https://worcesterzen.org/cags/
Coming and Going Sesshin is our most flexible opportunity for experiencing a silent meditation retreat in the Zen tradition. There are two options: commuter and residential practice.

Non-Residential (Commuter) Retreat
You can drop in and practice for one or more of the four daily practice periods listed below, on as many days during the sesshin as you like, with no registration required. 
  • 6-8 am
  • 10 am-12:30 pm
  • 2:30 pm-5:30 pm
  • 7-9 pm
Donations for any part of a practice period will be gratefully received in the collection bowl in the front hallway. The suggested donation is $5 - $50/day.
 
Residential Retreat

You can come and go at the Temple as your schedule allows during the sesshin. You could stay for just one night, one or more of the three weekends, for the entire three weeks, or any stretch of days in-between.

If you've been curious about residential practice, Coming and Going Sesshin is a good opportunity to try it in a way that works for you.  

Advance registration is required for residential practice. Early registration is encouraged, but you can register up to 24 hours before your arrival. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

the karmic flow

water shapes on the path at Cascade Park, Worcester

The flow of our lives, like the shape of water, is caused by an infinite array of causes and conditions.  Some of these events are known to us, but the vast majority are hidden from conscious awareness.  We barely understand what has already happened, and none of us can know what lies ahead.  Still, we can hope...

May this new year be full of unexpected blessings for you and everyone you love!