Shoshin – The Beginner’s Mind

Sounds a bit paradoxical, but I can easily say that despite lessIknow45.pnghow much I’ve often thought that I knew throughout my life, or how hard-won that advanced knowledge came into being for me, the older I get the better I appreciate how little I actually DO know.

In truth it seems that with every passing day I feel this almost humorous certainty growing stronger within me: a certainty-of-my-own-ignorance—that jolting realization that what you once believed to be truth, actually wasn’t, and you may never know the REAL truth no matter how old or knowledgeable you become because that TRUTH exists in a realm that is incomprehensible to your present existence.

This body shock of awakening to our own innate ignorance can be scathingly honest and quite humbling.

It certainly was to my ego.

But to those who study Zen, this isn’t some new concept—some might simply call it ‘cultivating the Beginner’s Mind.’

What is Beginner’s Mind?  Here’s a good explanation first from Wikipedia, then from a Zen master himself.

Shoshin (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning ‘beginner’s mind.’ It refers to having shozinbeginnersmind.pngan attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. The term is especially used in the study of Zen Buddhism and Japanese martial arts.”

Text source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoshin

Master Shunryu Suzuki can explain it far better than I can:

“People say that practicing Zen is difficult, but there is a misunderstanding as to why. It is not difficult because it is hard to sit in the cross‑legged position, or to attain enlightenment. It is difficult because it is hard to keep our mind pure and our practice pure in its fundamental sense.

In Japan we have the phrase shoshin, which means ‘beginner’s mind.’ The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind…

For Zen students the most important thing is not to be dualistic. Our ‘original mind’ includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. You should not lose your self‑sufficient state of mind.

This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.

The most difficult thing is always to keep your beginner’s mind. There is no need to have a deep understanding of Zen. Even though you read much Zen literature, you must read each sentence with a fresh mind.

You should not say, ‘I know what Zen is,’ or ‘I have attained enlightenment.’ This is shoshinmaster.jpgalso the real secret of the arts: always be a beginner.

Be very, very careful about this point. If you start to practice zazen, you will begin to appreciate your beginner’s mind. It is the secret of Zen practice.”

Shunryu Suzuki
from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

 

So I acknowledge that here I sit in my own ignorance while trying to make sense of our life existence.

These are the very things I often write about: What is reality?—What is consciousness?—What are we doing here? Why are we here? Who benefits and how do they benefit from our incarnating here during this time period or ANY time period?

All those unanswerable questions come down to the battle in our minds over the relevance between our DOING and our BEING.

Here is a basic truth as I presently know it:  I AM.  I EXIST.  I EXPERIENCE.  I OBSERVE.

And I try like the dickens NOT to judge the value of what I am observing because to do so implies a comparative knowledgebase that I do not have—at least not from my humble human perspective.

the-older-i-get-the-less-i-know-by-that-i-mean-the-less-i-am-sure-of-i-view-p-403x403-nkb3nfSo each day I open my eyes and wonder what this day will bring to me. I wonder what new realization will occur to my sensing abilities. I wonder what type of sense I can make of whatever is happening to me and around me, but knowing full well that ‘making sense’ is a judgment in itself.

However, I also know that only through shoshinbeginner’s mind—can I simply observe all and note those observances without judgment or expectation—knowing I must simply allow all occurrences (and not labeling them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’) to flow along with the river of life into the great sea of consciousness that connects us all and patiently awaits our return.

This I also know:  Beginner’s Mind is not easily achieved nor sustained for long unless you willingly intend it.

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Identifying Perimeters

leafcapillaries.jpgThis image fascinated me—the intricacies of the water dispersion system in the leaf itself.

Of course it wasn’t the first up-close view I’ve had of a leaf’s moisture-dispersal system, but it was the image that so clearly defined the leaf capillary perimeter that caught my eye.  Look closely at that perimeter.  What told the leaf to create that particular perimeter border and to stop spreading those veins outward into infinity?

Recognizing that leaf perimeter is so important because it actually defines the origin of the leaf— it represents the tree species that created the leaf.

See the next image to better understand that a leaf petreeidentifyshapes83.jpgrimeter is indicative of the plant’s DNA and the growing environment that produced it. 

And while there are many leaf shapes for all those multitudes of tree DNA, all have the same function on the tree.

“Function of leaves leafcotoosystem

 

The function of leaves is to help the plant produce food by converting the energy in sunlight into chemical energy that the plant can eat. Chlorophyll is the molecule in the structure of the leaves that takes the energy in sunlight to turn water and carbon dioxide gas into sugar and oxygen gas. This conversion process is known as photosynthesis.  The structures within the leaf convert the energy and make it possible for the plant to get food. … The leaf also has veins that can help to support the leaf by transporting food, water and minerals to the leaf and to the plant.”

So while I am mid-research into leaf function and leaf shapes, I find the shape that most matches the original image above showing the elaborate capillary system appears to be a leaf from the Bodhi tree.bodhitreewithleaves.jpg

Okay. What is significant about that? Well, to Buddhists the Bodhi tree is extremely significant because it was the location chosen by Siddhartha Guatama to meditate under until he reached enlightenment. He sat there supposedly for 49 days and endured unimaginable difficulties during the process before he transcended earthly existence and experienced the purity of Source itself; and was forever changed by it.

“Bodhi Tree – Fig Tree

buddhaunderbodhitree69.jpg

The Bodhi Tree, also known as Bo, “peepal tree”, or “arasa maram, was a large and ancient sacred fig tree located in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India, under which Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher who became known as the Buddha, is said to have attained enlightenment or Bodhi. In religious iconography, the Bodhi Tree is recognizable by its heart-shaped leaves, which are usually prominently displayed.”  (Wikapedia)

So I’ve suddenly realized that my initial intention on writing about the intricate leaf structure and its defining perimeter has gone astray with educational sidebars.  Now I’m even into the tale of Buddha. Does this still pertain to my original intention of showing that a tree’s DNA defines the majesty of the tree’s stature/shape and the shape of its identifying leaves all while I miraculously segue into how our own DNA shapes the perimeter of our lives and defines us, only if we let it?

Well, maybe or maybe not.  It’s not the most direct route taken to a conclusion. But that’s part of the point here, I think.

We, as individual leaves growing outward from our Soul Source are defined to some extent by our DNA, by our ancestral history of nature and nurture, and by our karmic debts from all other lives. Our personal leaf perimeters are somewhat distinct and defined because of those factors mentioned. You even know which tree we grew from by our shapes and functional life success.

But at the same time, we have potential for unimaginable changefor breaking through our pre-defined perimeters.

Take the Buddha himself. He wanted to be enlightened so badly that he was willing to sit in meditation until he ceased to exist in this world or until he reached the Source of All Knowledge and Wisdom itself.  Fortunately for him and for the rest of us, he tapped into that Source and survived to share his experiences with the rest of us.

You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the enlightened mind or what it took/takes to reach that state of awareness. And some would argue that Buddhism isn’t actually a religion as much as it is simply a philosophical path toward enlightenment. That tangent is not my concern today.

It would appear that during this leaf examination I have spread my word capillaries far from original intentions and only reined them back with a fragile border of pertinence.

The only other thing I know for certain is that my Bodhi tree still awaits me.

foster_bodhi_leaves.jpg

 

“If Not Now, Then When?”

(Thanks to Tao & Zen on  May 25  for this posting from Lama Surya Das in 1994)

(I personally align to no particular religion, but am open to quality spiritual thought. I like Buddhism for its psychological depth and self-examination aspects. I like Hinduism for its ancient Vedic Seers (as well as more modern saints) who were capable of parting the veil obscuring our perceptions on this life. I like agnostics who claim that we can’t possibly know God based solely on our limited comprehensions. And I especially like the wisdom of our own Higher Self aspects that define our life experiences within the context that this human vehicle is capable of understanding.  To me, this article expresses all of those ‘likes’ by simply discussing Dharma—the way of awakening to one’s fullest potential.)

“Buddhist meditation is the heart of the path of awakening. It is called Dharma… the way of awakening to one’s fullest potential, in Western terms.buddhamedpic5.jpg

‘Awakening from what?’ you might ask. Awakening from the sleep of semiconsciousness, the dream of delusion. Awakening to enlightenment, illumination, freedom, nirvanic peace, inner peace as well as outer peace.

This is a path that we travel. It is not a dogma or belief system that we need to accept. In fact, as a very wonderful wise friend of mine, an American lama, once said, “It doesn’t really matter what we believe. It only matters what we do and are.”

I found that interesting. In Buddhism we usually say it doesn’t matter what we do, it matters how aware we are. It shows that the outer and inner are totally inseparable. It is what we are that counts, but that is what we do, actually. Our inner state shows up in our behavior…

If we practice this path, we experience the fruits, the results. Each of us innately has that Buddha potential or Buddha-nature, enlightened perfect nature.

Not just in us, like a needle in a haystack, so hard to find; rather, it is us, just waiting to be realized fully, or actualized. So this path of meditative practice, of self-inquiry, of cultivation of awareness is a practice path that we travel ourselves. Not a dogma we need to believe.

This meditative practice is like a mirror to help us see ourselves, to better know ourselves, thoroughly — our true selves, not just our superficial personalities and conditioned social selves, our persona, but our true nature, our true selves. To unfold and realize that is possible. That’s what we call awakening the Buddha within.

An ancient rabbi, Hillel I think, said, “If not you, then who? And if not now, when?” If you are not the Bodhisattva, a selfless spiritual activist or hero serving the welfare of beings, who will be?

And if not now, when? This is a call to action–not just worldly, compulsive busy-body-like activity, but a call to Buddha-activity, enlightened activity, enlightened living… ifnotnowwhen7.jpg

Not just living wisdom from the eyebrows up, totally cerebral and intellectual. Rather, embodying truth and living it.”

~ Lama Surya Das ~ Excerpts from “Dharma Talk,” October 24, 1994; Cambridge, MA.

 

It’s All in the Process

rainonbuddhaequally.jpg

While this posting could be on analyzing the importance of life’s journey vs. destination, it is actually more so about the importance of bringing awareness to how karma eventually unfolds for all, even when we doubt that it will.

When I saw this “raining on Buddha head” graphic I realized that I’m holding a concerned anxiety over the integrity of certain processes that are currently underway: processes like the democratic process, like the judicial process, like the equal law enforcement process for both rich and poor.

And while part of me—the shadow part that has NO patiencefears corruption at the highest levels of government will undermine our slowly creaking wheels of justice; another part of mewheelsofjustice.jpg recognizes that those wheels must keep turning on their own until all the cogs fall into proper place and the clock strikes the proper hour for judgment to be rendered. I might not be happy with the speed of justice, but the process is underway.

Justice is an ongoing process, although an often fairly slow one.

I’ve personally seen a similar slow-process-leads-to-eventual-resolution situation on a much smaller scale where those once in power positions were eventually toppled. However, it took far more time and hand-wringing by all involved than I would have believed possible for it to happen, but in fact, it DID happen. It is to that example of “the once powerful shall fall” that I keep reminding myself when I now want to shout at the television and pound my fist on my chair arm in frustration.

“His time will come,” I warn the uncaring images on the TV screen. “Justice will prevail. Democracy and our United States Constitution will hold solid and will right itself from this temporary tarnished upheaval.”  However, the television screen isn’t so easily convinced.

I truly hope it turns out that way—that justice does prevail and the guilty are punished. But pertaining specifically to the graphic statement above, no matter the pending justice dalailamakindnessor lack thereof in the current political mess, I had to ask myself in all honesty: “Where is my kindness in this situation?  Where is my kindness to all participants in this mock political drama?”

The only answer I had was that I’m not sure where it is, but I sure know where it isn’t.

So how do I address my inability to feel love and compassion to those demonstrating such blatant self-serving stupidity and such flagrant attempts at self-preservation at the expense of damaging the foundations of our democratic system of government? How do I feel compassion and show kindness (or even express kindness) to them?

First of all, I’m not Buddhist. I’m not anything other than me. I don’t follow any religion’s doctrines and dogma. But I am an energy worker, and from a pragmatic perspective, as an energy worker I know how important holding your personal frequency as high as possible is for all positive experiences around you to materialize.  The frequencies that you hold, are what you attract to you.lovecompassiondl.jpg

I know that holding kindness frequency—the love and compassion frequencies—are key to holding the space from which the best possible outcomes can emerge. You don’t get a lot of resultant positives from holding the low-frequency emotions of fear and anger—love and the highest frequencies of compassion and joy manifest those positive outcomes in our lives.

And yet in honesty, love and compassion really aren’t what I’m feeling over the present situation. How do I shift that energy in myself?

The non-rational, emotional part of me says, “I don’t. I feel what I feel. I have a right to be angry and anxious. It’s a genuine feeling.”  That may be true enough. Of course I can easily fret and fume and stew in my own negativity. But it’s pretty nasty energy, and it only ferments more anger and hatred in my mind and my life.

But the rational, practical energy-worker part of me says, “Don’t shoot myself in the foot over this slow-moving process. The compassionate stance may not be what I am feeling at present, but if I can shift my own perspective to the over-view of this energetic interaction—if enough of us can simply help to hold the highest possible frequencies of einsteinenergyfreq.jpgDivine Love and Divine Light for all of us in this mess, then the situation will resolve itself in the most harmonious way because disharmony naturally flows toward harmonious stability; like water, due to the force of gravity, flows to its lowest level of containment.

The solution for me in this situation (and likely for many of us) is really pretty simple: Hold the space for higher resolution to occur! Just hold the overall collective energy as high as possible without judgment for all of the participants. Allow the Universe to resolve this within Its own timeline, not mine.

Can I (or we) do that?

I sure hope so.

Predictions for Year 2018

2018predict.jpg

 

“Hey ya, hey ya, …right here folks. Get your 2018 Predictions…hot off the psychic!”

Might be funny if it weren’t so true that folks are looking for what the future holds for everyone in general, but especially what the future holds for them personally.

I know.  I’ve listened to my favorite astrologer predicting that 2018 will look a whole lot like 2017 in terms of chaos and uncertainty. But he seems to think that we, as a collective consciousness, are “birthing” something new—a NEW perspective—a NEW attitude—a NEW enlightened state of being.

I hope he’s right. That would be nice.

It would be nice if it means that people will stop being so cruel to each other—stop being so greedy and selfish.

But as I imagine, that wish is more along the lines of what His Holiness the Dalai Lama said awhile back when asked about ‘praying for peace’, something to the effect that ‘Praying is nice but it won’t change anything because it isn’t GOD that is creating the problem here—it is people creating the problem; and people have to want to change for the better. So take responsibility for your role in all the chaos and violence—be more loving toward others and be at peace to spread peace.’dalai-lama-quotes4.jpg

So with that thought in mind, my prediction for the New Year of 2018 is that this ONE person of ME, will try to do that very thing: To be more loving toward others, and to be at peace to spread peace.

Let’s make 2018 the year that it all turned around for the better.

Yeah!  No matter how improbable that might be—let’s do it!

Archetype as Manifestation

om symb.jpgReading a blog post on Hinduism, I ran across a sentence that stated that Hinduism is often thought to be polytheistic (many deities) but actually it is monotheistic (one Supreme Being which is TRUTH); and the various other Hindu Gods and Goddesses depicted in statues and iconic art are merely manifestations of the Supreme Being. They are the recognizable ways that TRUTH manifests Itself in the world that we know.

True, this may be one person’s opinion/perception in general on the subject. But it spurred a thought in me that each of the iconic manifestations (Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Ganesha, Tara, Kali, …etc.) which handle specialized functions and forces of the arch black.jpgrecognized Hindu Universe, were similar to archetypes—specific behavioral patterns depicted in a generalized, recognizable form for the collective mind to grasp.

In no way can I, nor would I, try to adequately explain one of the most complex, ancient belief systems of humanity, but I can recognize that religions in general were often created to help people conceptualize/rationalize the interacting forces of their lives from birth to death—to help make a type of sense to how fragile their lives often seemed.

  • What’s the purpose, the reason, or the point of LIFE in general?
  • Why come into this existence for so short a time and then leave with little evidence of our having even been here?life purpose.jpg

Well, religions have tried to supply those illusive answers. Some folks might be satisfied with those answers, and some may not.

But what most religions do is to provide their followers with a purpose of life narrative that many find comforting in some way. To be believable, that narrative needs a cast of characters to provide the story’s action. Those action characters often provide the religion’s examples of the human-like behaviors to admire or detest—the should’s and should not’s examples—the goodness aspects to emulate and the badness aspects to avoid.

With deities, however, it is not so much the human attributes and failings that are primarily important about them, because their importance lies in the affecting forces of the Universe that they represent—forces for destruction or creation—forces for condemnation or adulation—forces for cruelty or compassion—forces for personal defense or protection—forces to block adversity and to clear obstructions.

These forces are often depicted as recognizable human-like figures—meaning that they are ARCHETYPES—a collectively recognized symbol representing a pattern of thought or behavior.

Example: When Shiva or Kali manifest in the world—watch out! shiva.jpgThey both represent destruction.

So if we wish to change our social and cultural concepts of how the world around us should function and flow, perhaps we should examine the archetypes/symbols we often associate with peaceful co-existence.

If we truly want to manifest a loving and compassionate world, we need an archetypal model to emulate. That may be the draw of Christianity, where you have an entire religion based on a recognized symbol of love and compassion for all in Jesus.

In Hinduism or Buddhism it might be represented by Tara, or Buddism’s Avalokiteśvara (male Bodhisattva) or Guanyin (female Bodhisattva) who also represent mercy and compassion.  But the point being: There are recognized archetypes already existing that represent the desired state of being. We don’t even have to create them. We simply need to utilize them as archetypal examples of loving forces for the betterment of humanity.

I am NOT a fan of organized religions. But I do recognize that their function is to promote models of positive human behavior and right-attitudes for humanity’s peaceful co-existence.wild angel.jpg

So perhaps if we focused less on the doctrine espoused by these religions and more on the general intention by all for positive, peaceful human co-existence, then there would be less necessity for warrior archetype to remain the primary action hero of today’s life narrative. Let’s switch to SAGE archetype for awhile. We need a little less automatic reaction and a bit more consideration before action in the world we occupy.

It’s a stretch, I know. But it’s definitely worth the effort.

Remember that an archetype is representative of a pattern of behavior, so what behavior is most productive for all of our futures? Hatred and destruction only create more of the same.

Love and peaceful co-existence assure that there might actually be a tomorrow to enjoy.

I vote for that.love hate.jpg

When “NOT DOING” Isn’t Doing It for You

buddha quote.jpg

At present this is the conflict I feel inside: the NOT DOING (and not reacting to aggravations and frustrations over what is happening around me) at times feels like a betrayal to my inner fire—the driving force of ME-ness.

The “Why aren’t you out there marching for Women’s Rights to be heard, seen, and respected?” is in conflict with my philosophy of “Be at peace, to spread peace”.

So while questioning myself over this tumultuous, mental agitation I remembered the ultimate example of peaceful protest, Mahatma Gandhi, who not only changed the direction of a continent, but also deeply influenced another of the great Civil Rights icons: Martin Luther King, Jr.

I know that Gandhi raised peaceful protest to an artform; and many of the women’s marches last Saturday were meant to mirror that—a peaceful display of our right to disagree and stand for something greater than ourselves.womens-march

The numbers participating were impressive—far more so than the blatant attempts to discredit and distract from them was, BUT…..numbers alone won’t change anything, nor will standing around NOT DOING anything make the necessary changes.

So I researched a bit on Gandhi and found a few quotes that might apply to the conundrum of my own being at present.

20 Inspiring Quotes from Mahatma Gandhi:

  1. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
  2. “A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.”
  3. “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
  4. “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”
  5. “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
  6. “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
  7. “An ounce of patience is worth more than a ton of preaching.”
  8. “Change yourself – you are in control.”
  9. “See the good in people and help them.”
  10. “Without action, you aren’t going anywhere.”
  11. “Take care of this moment.”
  12. “Be congruent, be authentic, be your true self.”
  13. “Continue to grow and evolve.”
  14. “A no uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ uttered merely to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”
  15. “Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.”
  16. “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”
  17. “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
  18. “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”
  19. “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
  20. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

 

I now thinkgandhi.jpg that if anything can change the world for the better, it is a unified effort designed to do this, believing as Gandhi proclaimed in his own calm way: You can “Be the change that you want to see in the world,” and as such, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

Well, let’s start shaking it. My NOT DOING just became DOING.