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Posts Tagged ‘Zen’

To see things as they are is to know yourself. Knowing yourself is more than looking into a mirror and seeing your reflection. It is more than simply identifying characteristics or traits that are linked to your daily routine or habits. Those things may be part of who you are, but they are not all of who and what you are.

To know yourself means that you know, and understand, the nature of yourself and the things around you. Only one who knows herself can truly, genuinely be herself.

To know yourself means that you understand your nature and its relationship with all that is around you. When you meditate, you begin to see that you are not quite as separate from the things that surround you as you might think. You realize that you are very much a part of your surroundings – as much as you realize that your surroundings are very much a part of you.

It is not always easy to be yourself. It requires taking a moment to breathe in, and breathe out; to take in your surroundings; and to feel your skin and the beating of your heart. You recognize that all of these things are with you, part of you, just as they always have been. It is easy to lose sight of this awareness — to get lost in perceptions that are not in keeping with the true nature of things. I have often struggled with my perception of my relationship with those around me. I have felt anxiety and a pressure within me to entertain others and hold their attention in some unique way. I believe that this anxiety and pressure stems from a feeling or perception that people are separate from me. They are unique individuals, that is true, but they are also a part of me and I am a part of them. We are all a part of everything!

Our ego causes us to see things differently than they really are. Ego causes us to see ourselves as separate from our surroundings. We may feel that we are better than others in some way. We may snub them or ignore them and act as though the world revolves around us. Or we may feel that others are better than us, causing us to be racked with anxiety at the thought of disappointing them or embarrassing ourselves. Both perceptions are misconceptions that stem from our ego of being separate, or the only one in the universe. Both perceptions cause us to be separated, in our minds, from others. As a result, we also lose sight of ourselves.

Looking only at ego, rather than our true nature, we miss out on the true experience of life. It is as though we are ignoring reality and, instead, opting to decipher it by looking at it through a rusty, warped carnival mirror. We see what we think is reality, but it is only a misshapen representation of the real thing. The result of our attention to ego is that we get further and further away from ourselves… until we might even get to the point where we completely lose sight of who we truly are. Our true self is lost in the din of the ego — unable to find its expression in our hearts, minds, words, and actions.

These misconceptions melt away when we come back to ourselves. When we step back, take in the air, and sit quietly in meditation, listening to the hum of the universe in and around us, we come back to ourselves. We open the door to the true expression of ourselves, giving it room to surface again. We clear away the clutter of our thoughts and perceptions and find peace in the miracle that is life. People around us are no longer separate. They are no longer beneath us, nor are they intimidatingly larger than life.

There is no need to be nervous or anxious about who and what you are. Seeing things as they are, you see the nature of all things. You are free, at last, to be yourself — genuinely and joyfully. It is through meditation (sitting, walking, standing, singing, reading, skipping, working, exercising, eating… however you may mindfully go about your life) that you will be able to discover who you are. When you know who you are, only then can you truly be yourself.

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I’m reading a wonderful and insightful book right now called the “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John Maxwell. For anyone who might be interested in learning how to become a better leader, or even how to increase your understanding of the leaders in your life, I highly recommend this book! In my case, I have been interested for a long time on finding ways to hone in my leadership skills, figure out how to improve my weaknesses in leadership (I do have many!), and awaken or discover my own leadership potential. I’ve been drawn to learn more about this because I would like to increase my effectiveness and impact on the things around me. I would like to see my visions and ideas implemented in effective ways. I truly want to influence and help those around me in whichever way that I can.

I have to admit, though, that I’m finding out that there is much more to being an effective leader than I had previously understood! Leadership is an act of service that requires a great deal of dedication, patience, confidence, teamwork, and insight. I’ve discovered that I have a lot to learn.

Looking back on some of my past projects, I noticed that one of the greatest challenges on my path to leadership has been my lack of commitment to seeing through my endeavors to the bitter end.  As much as I hate to say it, I can recount numerous instances where I gave up on a project when the going got rough. Sure, I would tough it out for a while — perhaps even a few months —  but eventually I would rationalize that it was taking too much out of me and that I was better off dumping the project. It seemed that the more often I did that, the more that type of reaction would perpetuate itself in future projects.

The fact was that this had become a pattern in my life which caused me to lose confidence in my ability to lead and even lose some faith in my character. I had always thought that I had it in me to persevere, never give up, exhibit tenacity, and commit to something through the good and the bad — so why was I failing miserably every time I set out to do something? Gallant defeat, or “going out in a blaze of glory” was getting me nowhere… at least not where I wanted to go.

Well, I think (or at least I hope) the main reason I kept giving up on my projects was because I had been pursuing projects that had visions and goals that were not in line with what I truly wanted to accomplish. So yesterday I sat down, reflected for a while, considered what I thought my life vision was, and put it to paper. I had never tried to articulate my vision before – to be honest, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to put it into words! After some deliberation, I finally got something down.

What I ended up with actually surprised me! The vision statement that I wrote down ended up being the very same thoughts and ideals that guide me in my daily life. It reflects the perspective that I have of the world around me — it is a natural extension of myself. The first half of my vision are thoughts of which I have taken full ownership. The last half of my vision are concepts which I believe in concept to be true, however I am currently working to make them my own.

That being the case, if my vision truly reflects who I am today and the things that I strive to do,  how could I possibly fall away from my commitment to it?

With all of that said, I’d like to share with you the vision that I wrote down — the impetus behind my why I want to be a better leader, the reason why I’ve started this blog, the purpose behind my actions every day. As always, any thoughts or ideas are welcome!

My goal is to do what I can to help others enjoy life and appreciate the moments that they have on this earth. I want to encourage people to celebrate and accept diversity — to look deeply into the lives of others in order to increase their understanding and wisdom. I want to see people finding their inner calm and happiness, based on reflection and self-awareness. I want see motivated, and confident people who recognize their own worth and the inherent worth of others, regardless of their diversity. I truly want to see more people living lives of joy — willing to allow others to live joyous lives without being envious of their fortune or judgmental of their situation. I envision deeper connections, intimacy, awareness, and understanding between people and the creatures of the earth. I want see a world where the eyes of its inhabitants are wide-open.

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My name is Olivia. I have been practicing Zen Buddhism for about 6 years. I don’t claim to be specially “trained” in Zen, nor am I formally educated in topics such as spirituality or philosophy. I’m basically a regular person who has found profound peace and joy through Zen practice. In fact, it saved my life 6 years ago. Perhaps I’ll expound on that in a later post.

Following is a little history about me and why I have decided to create this blog:
I grew up as a devout Southern Baptist in a small town. I was a youth leader for my church and I also led a traveling youth mission team for my local college. I have many fond memories of those days… most of which involved deeply and spiritually connecting with other people who truly wanted to do good things in this world. It was exhilarating to be able to be so open and vulnerable with other people — to learn from them, help them, and experience the joys and sadness that life brings. They were like a family to me. It didn’t matter what you looked like, what clothes you wore, or how rich or poor you were — they accepted you as you were. Well… as long as you believed exactly as they did.

That’s actually where we had issues. I had friends outside of my church who were Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Church of God, Atheist and Agnostic. I hadn’t met anyone who was Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, or any other religions outside of those at the time; however I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have treated them any differently. The truth is, I was always interested in their beliefs and, subsequently, I was turned off by the fact that my own church rejected everything that didn’t fit into their idea of the true way to worship God. For my young, 19-year-old mind, it was just too close-minded for me to bear, particularly since I felt that there were far more important things to spend your days thinking about. I eventually walked away from my religion altogether and began searching for a different path. Walking away from the church was actually like losing a family. Even now, as I have found peace in my Buddhist teaching, I miss that very much.

10 years later I discovered Zen Buddhism, which, as I said previously, saved my life and helped me to bring a fresh and healthy perspective on life. The teachings I read from my books helped me to be a kinder, wiser, more compassionate person. My meditations helped me to be more focused, happy, patient, and accepting. As a new practitioner of Zen, I immediately began searching for a Zen community and a spiritual teacher or guide.

For about a year or so, I frequently visited my local Zendo for group meditation practice. A group of about 5 or 6 of us would burn incense, ring a brass bell, chant, and perform sitting and walking meditation for about 2 hours. Practicing in this way was certainly a test of discipline, especially when your feet tingle and go to sleep, you have to cough, you’re tired, or even if your nose starts whistling! I’m a fairly disciplined person, but I have to admit that I found it to be difficult at times. I was dismayed that the Zendo did not actively perform community service. It was as though we were sitting in a room, dreaming of peace and happiness to reach the corners of the earth without actually doing anything about it. I had a difficult time accepting that, so I stopped going.

Actually, there was an additional reason why I stopped going to the Zendo — I never felt like I had a guide or a real teacher. We performed meditation, chanting, and ringing of bells, but I always had unanswered questions. My mind was hungry to get at the essence of Zen, but I had nobody to help show me the way. I was reading “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind” by Suzuki Roshi. In fact, I’ve probably read the book no less than 15 times. It is quite esoteric and filled with unique analogies that are sometimes difficult understand, particularly for Westerners. However it is truly a wonderful book. There are instructions on how, physically and mentally, to meditate. But even the book says that the student of Zen needs a teacher.

I tend to agree.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find anyone in my Maryland suburban community who is a Zen teacher. That is why I have created this blog. There is a Chinese proverb that says, San ren tong xing, bi you wo shi. Translated, it means, Three people walking together have more knowledge among them than any one master. My hope is that by sharing among us our thoughts and experiences, we can be as teachers to each other. Perhaps we can even start a community.

I don’t know all of the answers of life, nor do I wish to know them. But I do believe that the act of searching for them is what makes life interesting and wonderful. I ask you to take this journey of exploration by freely reading the posts and sharing your thoughts. Any and all comments are welcome on this blog. I wish you peace and joyous life.

Namaste!

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