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Beyond Mindfulness: The Radical Practice of Unified Self – Domyo – 8-7-16
I present an alternative to mindfulness practice that I call, for now, the “Radical Practice of Unified Self (or Presence).” I offer this because I believe the concept of mindfulness – at least the way it is typically understood – can limit our spiritual development. It can become a dualistic trap that causes us to reject much of what we are as human beings…
Before I explain, I want to state that I think it is essential that we start our practice with mindfulness. We also benefit from returning to that practice again and again over the course of our days and lives. What I’m going to talk about here is how we move beyond mindfulness and avoid (or drag ourselves out of) the potential pitfalls of the practice. I discovered these pitfalls by falling into them, so, in part, this is a confession of my own struggles with mindfulness…
Reconciling the Absolute and the Relative in Your Life – Domyo – 2-15-15
Most of us experience the relative nature of our life more or less as default. This is the realm of duality: large and small, correct and incorrect, self and other. The relative is where we function, and this functioning requires discernment and attention to cause and effect. The absolute is the reality of our direct experience right here, right now, free of any conceptualization whatsoever. Experienced directly, everything is simply thus – inexplicably precious, luminous, and complete. Becoming personally intimate with the absolute nature of life is an essential step in our Zen practice. The absolute and relative are not just complex spiritual concepts. They are at the center of every pressing human question, from the personal to the global.
Keeping Vows And Resolutions – Domyo – 1-5-14
Whether our intention is to meditate more, get in shape, manage our time better, keep in touch with family, or be more generous, it is useful to clarify and state our intention in terms of a vow or resolution. But why is it vows or resolutions are so often forgotten or broken? What can we do to help ourselves maintain them? How can we carefully craft our vows so they are doable but still inspiring? How can a vow reflect our deepest aspiration, instead of being a thinly veiled rejection of part of ourselves?
Four Elements Of A Bodhisattva’s Social Relations – Domyo – 12-22-13
Dogen Zenji wrote “Four Elements of a Bodhisattva’s Social Relations” in 1243, but it is still very relevant today. A Bodhisattva is an “enlightening being” – one who continues to enlighten her or himself, and works to support others on their path to awakening. According to Dogen, a Bodhisattva does this through 1) free giving; 2) kind speech; 3) helpful conduct, and 4) cooperation.
Change Without Violence – Domyo – 12-15-13
How do we identify things we want to change in our lives and in ourselves without indulging in subtle rejection, which breaks the precept “do not kill”?
The Noble Eightfold Path – 11/10/2013
We don’t talk about the Eightfold Path very often in Zen, but Zen includes all the same elements – we just refer to them a little differently, or assume they are part of our practice. It can be useful to hear the Dharma phrased and described in different ways – sometimes something sinks in because we hear it for the first time in a new way. The Eightfold Noble Path: Right view/understanding/knowing, Right resolve/intention, Right speech, Right action, Right livelihood, Right effort, Right mindfulness, Right concentration
The Four Divine Abidings – 11/3/2013
The Four Divine Abidings, or the Four Immeasurables, are an ancient Buddhist teaching on peaceful and intimate relationship – with other beings, and with everything. They are loving-kindness (metta), compassion (karuna), empathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha).
Inviting Our Ghosts to Be Present with Us – 10/27/2013
In the fall, Zen Buddhists celebrate the Segaki festival, or the festival of the hungry ghosts. “Ghosts” can be the persistent and troubling memories of people we have lost, but ghosts can also be unresolved karma of other kinds. It is very tempting to avoid or repress our ghosts, so during Segaki we consciously invite them to be present with us for a while. This allows us to remember and acknowledge them, learn from them, and maybe even take a step toward the resolution that will allow them to leave us in peace. (In this talk we read an article on Segaki aloud, written by Kyogen Carlson, which can be found here: http://dharma-rain.org/on-segaki/)
Bringing All of Our Selves Together
A “self” is way we manifest at particularly times, in particular situations. A self is always changing, but it does have some continuity in terms of tendencies, energies and habits of thought. Using this manner of speaking, you have lots of “selves:” a parental self, a child self, a politically righteous self, a sad, discouraged self, an angry self, a teacher self, a daydreamy self, a greedy self… We need all of our selves to participate in Zen practice. We may hope to exclude, reform or banish some of our selves, but it’s not going to work. Any self that we fight will only fight back, and prevent us from finding any peace in our practice. Instead, we need to gently and respectfully encourage each self to participate in practice. The more “selves” we get together on the cushion, the more energy and motivation we have for practice.
Stages of Practice When You’re Going Nowhere
With no clear course of training and no external affirmations of whether we are doing it right, progressing, or achieving anything, how can we maintain our focus and motivation in Zen practice? In Zen we are taught to give up petty ideas about attainment and to realize there is no place to go other than right here. In essence, we are asked to patiently and diligently apply ourselves to a demanding and repetitive practice, and… well, that’s it. There’s nobility in this kind of goalless patience and diligence, but how realistic is it to expect it from Zen practitioners who don’t have their black belts yet? After all, goallessness is a goal, not something that comes easily (unless you are actually just uninspired).
Not Needing to Have an Opinion
It’s rather amazing, but it possible to experience something without having to judge it, evaluate it, or form an opinion about it. Instead, you rest in don’t-know mind – leaving you more receptive and objective.