Thursday, September 04, 2008

Full of Your Own Opinions

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the cup overflow until he no longer could restrain himself.

"It is overfull. No more will go in."

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Where is Your Attention?

One of the methods I use to work on my attention skills is a beeping watch with a countdown timer. I'll set the watch to go off every 47 minutes. When I hear it beeping I try to notice where my attention is. Am I in the present moment? Or am I daydreaming and thinking about a mistake made in the past or worried about something that hasn't actually happened yet? Am I focused on the world around me or caught up in my feelings? Am I aware of how other people and objects are supporting my life and work, or thinking about why my life is so hard and wondering why people aren't meeting my expectations?

In Japanese Psychology we have a maxim,


When I first started doing this exercise I was amazed at how often my attention was in the "wrong" places. And I realized that where my attention was focused determined what my experience was.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Force of Love

The practice of metta, uncovering the force of love that can uproot fear, anger, and guilt, begins with befriending ourselves. The foundation of metta practice is to know how to be our own friend. According to the Buddha, "You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." How few of us embrace ourselves in this way! With metta practice we uncover the possibility of truly respecting ourselves. We discover, as Walt Whitman put it, "I am larger and better than I thought. I did not think I held so much goodness."

-Sharon Salzberg

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Elements of Non-Self

I think there's a way of training ourselves in order not to become the victim of fear and grief -- that is to look deeply into ourselves and to see that we are made of non-self elements. And when we look around ourselves, we can recognize ourselves in the non-self elements, like a father looking at his children can see himself in his children, can see his continuation in his children. So he is not attached to the idea that his body is the only thing that is him. He's more than his body. He is inside of his body but he is also at the same [time] outside of his body in many elements. And if we have the habit of looking like that, we will not be the victim of our attachment to one form of manifestation, and we will be free. And that freedom makes happiness and peace possible.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

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