Posted in events

Paper Airplane

Last night I took my seven year old stepson to meditation with me. I don’t take kids to meditation unless they ask to go. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that would NEVER take a child to a meditation event and I do understand that. But I believe that, as mindful parents, we should share the practice with them if they’re interested. Some people believe kids can’t really get much benefit from meditation practice and I really disagree with that. A long time ago I used to teach meditation to kids. Sometimes I think about doing that again.

Anyway, he was determined to attend. I don’t know why. There are four children in our house and he’s the only one that seems interested. He has gone in the past and (to my surprise) participated in the whole meditation. An hour of sitting still is a long time for anyone, if we’re honest.

But, although he really wanted to go, he also brought some activities. He said, “Just in case I get bored.” He brought some Dogman books and a notebook for writing and drawing.

I wasn’t leading the practice. I had invited a zen monk named Thich Tam Cu to come lead for the night. He did a great job, by the way. So, I had the opportunity to just be a participant in the meditation practice, instead of leading.

Thich Tam Cu is someone I don’t know very well. He’s from the American South and many years ago he was in the United States Navy. He’s a Zen monk and hospital chaplain now. He’s student of Sunyananda Dharma who, a long time ago, was once my teacher. He’s been studying with him way longer than I did and is still studying with him today.

Whereas I decided a long time ago to take my teaching in a non-traditional direction, Thich Tam Cu did the opposite. He wore a yellow robe when he led meditation, because he wears robes when he teaches. He’s actually not as traditional as I thought he would be, but more traditional than I am. He uses humor just like I do, which I didn’t expect.

It seems like I swear and talk about memes, drinking, and how fucking hard it is to start and maintain a consistent meditation practice in all my dharma talks. Not traditional, a little different. I’d rather be your friend and inspire you than be your teacher.

Anyway, what I discovered was that his style is similar to mine. That time I spent training with his teacher may have had more influence on me than I realize. Who knows.

Maybe ‘traditional’ is just a word I’m attaching importance to that isn’t there. I’m probably not as different as I think. If I’m honest, for a second there I thought to myself, “Maybe I should get the robes out of the back of my closet…”

Anyway. I was there and we were sitting, doing a very similar practice to the one we do when I lead, presented by this monk in a very similar way to the way I present it. 30 minutes of meditation, just like we do when I lead.

My stepson sat with me a few minutes. Then he left to go across the room where he had his bag full of activities. It’s a big room, he was pretty far away.

We were sitting there doing the practice and I heard this ripping sound. Paper getting slowly pulled out of a notebook. Then, I heard some other sounds. He made a paper airplane and he was throwing it. He was, however, still being quiet, as quiet as one can be when throwing a paper airplane.

At first I thought, “Why the hell is he throwing a paper airplane? He knows what we’re doing here! He’s going to bother everyone.”

I was not mad, but I was irritated.

And I decided, since we were meditating, to bring attention to that irritation.

And I realized two things.

First of all: No one cared but me. No one even noticed.

AND
He’s seven years old. He far exceeded all expectations for a 7 year old boy, as far as not bothering anyone. Between the meditation and the discussion (which was a Q &A) we sat there for an hour. That’s a long time for a kid to be quiet and all he did was make a paper airplane. (!)

 

And that’s when I found equanimity. In truth, I was only irritated for a moment. A moment was all I needed. That’s what meditation really gives us, I think. A little extra space between thoughts, or between stimulus and response, or a chance to reflect mindfully and stop a growing irritation. This is something that happens to all of us often. Some nonsense thing happens and we make it a bigger problem in our minds that it really is. We get bothered by so many things. The poet Charles Bukowski said, “We are flattened by trivialities, eaten up by nothing.” I really like that quote.

Would I have found equanimity if I wasn’t meditating at the time? I don’t know. Everything was quiet so it was really easy for me to hear the crafting of a paper airplane. In a more active day-to-day situation I may not have even noticed, and I wouldn’t have had that expectation that I was putting on him to be quiet. And the expectation I was putting on the room to be a quiet place.

The truth is that in meditation we’re learning how our minds work. We’re learning to see those gaps between thoughts. And when we learn how to do it on the cushion, the hope is that we strengthen those pathways in our minds so we can also do it when things happen off the cushion. The training we get in meditation is supposed to help us when we’re not meditating.

Otherwise, why are we doing it?

So, that’s my story.

A real and personal lesson. The gaps are really important. The space between thoughts. If we can get handle on that, we’ll be a lot happier.

 

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

You can listen to me on:  The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

 

Posted in meditation

I think we all struggle with self doubt sometimes.

I had this vision for a group to do Buddhist meditation every Monday. And it’s been going for six months now.

We practice Mindfulness of Breathing (anapanasati) and Silent Illumination (mozhao) and then I give a talk and sometimes there’s discussion.

For a while I had some great doubts. When I saw the people showing up I thought to myself, “I need to avoid mentioning Buddhism as much as possible because these people are just interested in Mindfulness.”

And I tried to present things according to that view.

I’m not doing that anymore. Because what I’m teaching is Buddhism. It’s Buddhism in the Chan tradition and I shouldn’t pretend it’s not. I realized I need to just teach what I want to teach. The right people will come and keep coming…or they won’t. But it’s better not to just switch and do something else.

And, that being said, I teach a very secular and down to earth Buddhism. No chanting, no robes, plain language. I don’t believe in spirits or reincarnation, so that stuff will never come up. Some would hesitate to call what I teach religion at all. Maybe it’s more like self help or life coaching.

No…maybe it’s more like a support group. Sure, people are coming to listen to me (or guest teachers). But, more than that, they’re coming because meditation is hard. It’s too easy to make excuses and let yourself skip meditation on your own.

Having support really helps. And I think when people struggle in their spiritual practice it’s often not their personal failing…it’s a failure of their support system.

Anyway, I had big ideas about creating a community too. And I still do. But I was trying to force it instead of letting it arise naturally, and I guess that created a lot of discouraging feelings. Once I realized I can do this without trying to build something out of it, it felt like a weight was lifted. I don’t want to build some thing.

I just want to meditate with people and encourage them. I just want to find more opportunities to teach people these things that have been so helpful to me.

So come meditate with me Monday nights at 7.

The only thing we’re missing is you.

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

If you’re not in Kansas City, you can still hear most of my talks on my Podcast, The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

Visit my YouTube Channel to see Videos!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

 

Posted in stories

The Buddha Holds Up A Flower

This is the story that gets told as the beginning of the Zen tradition. The Buddha was a beloved and well known spiritual teacher. People just followed him around and listened to what he had to say. He would regularly just get up in front of a crowd and start dispensing wisdom.

On one occasion he stood up before a crowd. They were all very excited, thinking they were about to hear some great wisdom, something that would really awaken or encourage them.

The Buddha stood up and just stood there silently. Then, he held up a flower.

So, we can imagine, the crowd is thinking “What the fuck?” They were expecting some great, serious, profound teaching and they didn’t get one. It was just a flower.

They were holding onto their expectations, memories, and disappointment.

And one guy in the crowd smiled.

Why did he smile?

He smiled because he wasn’t holding on to anything. When he saw the flower, it was just a flower. He wasn’t carrying all the baggage and expectations that we often carry. Sometimes a flower is just a flower.

This story is meant to inspire and encourage us. If he can see the flower and just see a flower, so can we. We don’t have to bring all of our baggage into every situation all the time. We can also just smile at a flower.

here’s a video about this story:

here’s the audio version:

The Flower and the Smile

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

Posted in videos

Hakuin and the Accusation (video)

Hakuin was a zen teacher in Japan in the 1700s.

further reading:

Hakuin and the Accusation

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in videos

Entering the Gate (video)

The path is sometimes called “the Gateless Gate”

The only thing stopping you is you.

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If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

Want to come meditate with me? I’m at HDKC Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in fountain city meditation, videos

Face Whatever Appears Before You (video)

This is talk was recorded at Fountain City Meditation on 9/30/19.

The meditation is 29 minutes and the talk is 7 minutes.

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If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

Want to come meditate with me? I’m at HDKC Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in podcast, videos, zen

Zen Mind Workshop @Aquarius (video)

I had this opportunity to give this talk at Aquarius KC in their “Saturday Sages” series. Aquarius KC is a pagan/new age book store that has been in Kansas City for many years. People don’t realize it happens to be the best place to shop for malas and Buddha statues too, as far as I can tell. If you’re in KC, you should go there. Here’s their website: https://aquariuskc.com/

The video contains about half of the talk. The podcast linked below contains audio of the whole talk.

This talk was recorded on September 28th. Around 30 people were in attendance. If they invited me to give another talk there, I definitely would. It was a good experience.

 

click here for the audio version of the complete talk and discussion, including Q and A. The audience asked some great questions.

Zen Mind Workshop -Podcast episode

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at HDKC Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear Dharma Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

 

Posted in zen

Be Real and Live Your Best Life – Four Zen Gates

 

I’m going to talk about an old Buddhist teaching and see if I can tie to our everyday life and find meaning in it for us. This is the teaching of the four gates. It’s from Zen Master Bodhidharma. He listed these four things that he thought were important to us as we start on the Buddhist path. I’m going to go through these one by one.

  1. Retribution of Enmity; in our lives we need to realize when we’re wrong. We need to admit our flaws and not lie to ourselves all the time, because we do lie to ourselves all the time. We’re often when think about ourselves either lifting ourselves up and pretending we’re better than we are or tearing ourselves down and thinking very lowly of ourselves. We rarely see ourselves clearly. When we do something wrong we need to admit it and we need to try to make it better. We need to try to be better. I’m trying to learn how to stop saying I’m sorry and instead say “I will do better.” Because when you say, “I’m sorry,” you’re sort of putting an expectation on the other person to say it’s okay. We should try to forgive people, but also we should focus on trying to be better rather than trying to get forgiveness so that we don’t have to apologize again.
  2. Acceptance of Circumstances; equanimity. Our ability to weather the storms of life. To be moderately content with whatever is happening. Sometimes we really let life tear us down, over big things and small things. We’re talking about accepting things and having an even mind, not falling apart when things go wrong. Sometimes one bad thing goes wrong and it ruins everything for us. In Buddhism we often call that equanimity. Sometimes we call it patience too. We’re talking about keeping an even mind with whatever is happening because the truth is life is going to kick us all the time and we need to learn how to accept things.
  3. Absence of Craving; we shouldn’t be giving in to all our temptations all the time. Be mindful of what we’re doing and know when something is not a good idea. I have a habit of giving in to my temptations all the time and that’s something a lot of people struggle with. There’s all sorts of temptations. We might eat all our kids Halloween candy. Or drink too much (alcohol or soda) there’s so many ways we can overconsume and give in to craving. Sometimes we feel like there’s a hole in us that we need to fill. We crave all sorts of things and we pursue them too much. We even think about sex too much. That’s a craving too. We have all sorts of cravings and Bodhidharma is telling us we need to learn how to manage that and not get carried away with our cravings. We’ve all had the experience where we know we shouldn’t indulge something, but we really want to so we do it anyway. I think we can all relate to that. Bodhidharma is telling us we need to reign that in. We need to make the best choices we can instead of giving in to our temptations all the time. Think about what you’re doing and don’t over-do it.
  4. Act in Accordance with the Dharma; to us this line might not resonate very well. So, with all respect to Bodhidharma I want to paraphrase that and say “act to be real” when he talks about being in accordance he’s talking about living our best life and seeing the way the world is and learning about our place in it. Being more aware, attentive, mindful and honest with ourselves. The Dharma is sort of the correct way of reality, of letting life unfold as it should. We should be real, fully real. In a world full of people that are lying to themselves and lying to others and not being authentic, we should be real and genuine in all our relationships and in all our situations. I like to say that is the core of what Buddhism is all about. It’s about being real because it’s very easy to not be real. It’s easy to be fake. So let’s be real.

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear Dharma Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in buddhism, zen

Virtue – Meditation – Wisdom

Our goal on this path is to live as genuinely as we can. We want to be real and unleash our full potential to see things clearly and to lessen the suffering of ourselves and others. We have within us incredible potential for wisdom and compassion and what we’re trying to do here is manifest that potential. We are enslaved by our baggage, delusion, and lack of clarity. This path is about learning to manage those things.

How do we do this?

The Zen tradition has something called the threefold study that we can think about here. The cultivation of virtue, meditation and wisdom. All Buddhist teachings contain these three categories, really.

The traditional way of cultivating virtue is in the five precepts. No killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no false speech, no indulging in intoxicants. These are not commandments, I can’t stress that enough. It’s just been demonstrated that if you’re not going around killing people, you have an easier time settling your mind and developing clarity. Precepts also help us lessen our attachment to our ego. We are so pulled around by our desires and our aversions. Precepts are meant to help us resist our temptations some. We might try to think of precepts as a walking stick rather than as a chain. The nature and intent of the precepts is to help us maintain a life of harmony. If we have harmony with the world around us, we have a much easier time practicing. As a result of cultivating virtue, the mind has an easier time settling and focusing.

When we turn our awareness inward, we can start to develop deeper and deeper awareness. This is what meditation is all about. When we develop concentration and clarity, it gives us a chance to see our true nature, which is free of all this baggage and delusion. Our attention is scattered and fractured and meditation helps us to direct it where we need it to go.
When we learn how to focus, it gives our minds a chance to manifest our inherent clarity. This is wisdom. Wisdom means seeing the world as it actually is, without being clouded by our judgments and preconceived ideas and labels. These things filter our reality and we rarely get a clear picture of what’s happening. Wisdom is the great insight into how things really are: interdependent, dynamic, and full of wonder.

To cultivate virtue is to free ourselves from our fixations of attachment and aversion, love and hate. To cultivate meditation is to free ourselves from distractions. To cultivate wisdom is to stop obstructing our true nature. In this tradition we are practicing these three together as a way to awaken to our true nature.

 


 

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear Dharma Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind