Posts Tagged ‘Zen’

Blocked? – Part 2

June 13, 2014 Leave a comment

I know; it’s “poem Firday”. But this business of “blocks” is on my mind.

Yesterday I wrote here about being blocked: blocked from listening to my intuition, from changing my language to speak (and think) in positive terms. And I wrote about practice. After 10 years Tenno became a teacher of Zen; he was practiced. Then Nan-in demonstrated how he was not “fully aware.” So Tenno became his student and practiced another 10 years! And I concluded my post yesterday with …another nine years of practice and study and “lessons in lost sunglasses”!

But practice what? OK, I’ve got 9 more years, probably 10! But what am I to practice; what am I to learn; how do I break through the blocks?

Later yesterday I was in one of my practices: Artist Pages writing as prescribed by Julia Cameron. I am fairly disciplined in writing my “morning pages” (sometimes afternoon); and I really know when I skip that something isn’t quite right with my day. I wrote yesterday and came up with some answers to my blocks; not only what is blocking but how to respond; to break through. Here’s what I wrote:

“I wrote my blog post for Rosemary’s site this morning – on “Awareness” again although the title was about blocks. What are my blocks to “full awareness”?

“I think the main one is fear – fear of letting go completely and relaxing into full awareness. If I let go completely I might lose myself! I am not yet fully willing to let go of the ego – that little self that appears to be so important to me. I have no problem with this for moments – while sitting, while doing Qigong, while writing pages when I merge and let come whatever words flow. Practices like these are easy times to let go. But when I’m at a bank ATM my ego is busy in the forefront – considering a number of choices: what’s my balance, how much cash do I need, what do I want to buy at the market, how long will this nice weather last, on and on…

“The conscious mind, the ego, can only handle 7 to 9 bits of information at one time. The thought of the sunglasses on the shelf gets pushed aside. The ego can’t handle all the information. And I am not practicing standing at the ATM. Why not?

“What if I had stood at the ATM in a relaxed but present Qigong posture? What if I had softened my focus moving into peripheral vision? What if I had remembered to breathe deeply and slowly as when practicing Qigong or sitting on my cushion? Would I have seen the sunglasses and remembered?

“Practice can be constant. And there needs to be no fear in this. If we drop our attention and expand our awareness the ego doesn’t disappear, it simply recedes into the background of the 10-million bits of information being processed by the unconscious mind. It is there, aware, processing its 7 to 9 bits, and content to rest, yet ready to come alive as needed. The “full awareness” is in the unconscious mind lifted out of its obscurity through constant practice.

“Blocks are revealed, recognized and broken through by balancing conscious ego awareness with practiced unconscious access.

“Relax, let go, breathe deeply, sink, broaden, move fully into self and become fully aware of Self.”

I think I have my answers! Now to put them into practice…

Happy Full Moon. Have a good weekend!

Blocked? – Richard’s Commentary

June 12, 2014 Leave a comment

It was a bright, sunny day with low humidity and a light breeze – a lovely June day in Maryland. I stopped at the bank on the way home to get some cash for the farmers’ market the next day. Because it was a sunny, bright day I wore my new “reader sunglasses” – sunglasses with a bifocal area for magnification to aid these aging eyes when reading in bright light. I needed to take them off to see the ATM screen at the bank; I placed them on the handy ledge below the machine.

I was halfway home when I realized I wasn’t wearing my sunglasses – my route is shady and the light less bright. I quick search of my many-pocketed vest – my alternative to carrying a purse – turned up empty. Reverse, dash back to the bank – no sunglasses on the ledge. Inside the bank the teller I know by name is free – “did anyone turn in a pair of sunglasses in the last few minutes?” She looks at other tellers and in their lost-and-found area – “no, sorry.”

I am disappointed – mostly in myself. Why these lapses? And when will I listen to my unconscious mind, my intuition? You see, when I placed my sunglasses on that little ledge under the ATM I had a brief glimpse of forgetting them there – just a flash. And I may even have muttered to myself – “don’t forget your sunglasses there.”

If I listened to that voice my unconscious mind heard “forget your sunglasses there.” The unconscious mind does not process negatives. It only hears and processes positive statements – I learned this in hypnosis and NLP training when I went to a few classes with Rosemary when she was earning her certifications.

So, how am I blocked from listening to my intuition, changing my language used in “self-talk” to make only positive statement and become more fully aware, in every moment, of what is going on within me and all around me? And, what do I do about it?

Here’s what Rosemary writes in her post about this subject:

Be grateful for your unconscious mind. It keeps your heart pumping and your brain functioning and your lungs breathing and a whole lot of other processes operating in your life without your having to consciously make things happen. However, that same unconscious mind is operating in ways that can cause patterns and blocks that you might not know consciously, and might not have chosen if you did know, and you struggle with understanding why you can’t get things done or why you seem to be blocked from your successes.

Yes, that seems true for me and does explain the blockage to becoming fully aware so that sunglasses are not lost. Is there a solution to the blocks; a way to move into full awareness?

Rosemary writes: …if you are reading these words, then you are called to continue forward on your path. Take a step in the direction of your dreams. If you feel blocked, if you stumble, rejoice that you are growing. There are ways to see beyond what is holding you back. There are tools to help you and people to support you in your growth.

Another lesson, another growth opportunity. Is this what my lost sunglasses episode is telling me? Here you can imagine hearing a loud groan!

It was just about a year ago (June 28, 2013, as a matter of fact) that I wrote a similar post here titled “Awareness.” In that post I told the Zen tale of Nan-in and Tenno. The master, Nan-in, asked Tenno when he arrived on a rainy day to which side of the door he had placed his umbrella and clogs on entering Nan-in’s house. Tenno could not answer; he studied at the feet of Nan-in for 10 more years to become fully aware!

I guess this means I have another nine years to go, another nine years of practice and study and “lessons in lost sunglasses”!

MONDAY’S POEM: Awareness and Action

June 9, 2014 Leave a comment

I published today’s poem here about a year ago. I publish it again as a reminder and as a setup for my post coming on Thursday: a commentary on Rosemary’s article Blocked? and an exploration of my own blocks that seem to hold me in unawareness.

The poem’s reference to Nan-in and Tenno is to a classic Zen story.

Awareness and Action

A million bits of information
Streaming from a thousand sources.
Are you aware of seven or nine?
Your unconscious mind
Absorbs it all!

Awareness is a nebulous thing:
Seven, nine, ten-thousand things
Add to consciousness moment
To moment even as we sleep.
Absorb it all?

Nan-in asks Tenno umbrella to clogs,
Left or right? Ten-thousand bits
Lost in unconsciousness. Ten more
Years of Awareness practice;
Absorb it all!

Practice in Action. It is all
Practice! For what you ask;
How will you ever know
Bliss if you don’t
Absorb it All?

©2013 Richard W. Bredeson. All rights reserved.


June 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Today’s poem doesn’t exactly belong in the “Rhythms and Cycles” collection; and yet, the lessons come at us, sometimes in waves. And we have to deal with the lessons as they come. I learned this Koan through an article in Tricycle magazine several years ago and do apply it often when I catch myself in the midst of some crisis (lesson). The practice is to ask this question when something disrupts the flow of life. And when the first answer arises, ask the question again. Continue this cyclic, nested examining, analyzing and asking, spiraling in until a satisfactory answer manifests. Try it the next time you meet up with frustration!

What Is This?

A Koan in the Korean Zen tradition:
When impatience arises ask
What is this?

A question to penetrate to the essence.
When fear stares from the mirror ask
What is this?

A lesson in each waking moment.
When doubt and despair assail ask
What is this?

An offering to self and life and growth.
When wonder and joy abound ask
What is this?

©2014 Richard W. Bredeson. All rights reserved.

My Authentic Buddhist Self

December 20, 2013 Leave a comment

I’m not very fond of labels. Maybe it’s because I prefer to go through life flexibly, avoiding being “type-cast” in any particular role. Perhaps this keeps me in flow, ready for change, evolving through the lives I have lived, even in this one life-time! Or does it keep me from commitment?

I grew up in a so called Christian home. We didn’t so much think of ourselves as Christian at that time; everyone was one so there was no need to distinguish ourselves with the label. When filling out forms and the “religion question” was asked I checked the “Christian” box; this was automatic but I’m not so sure how authentic it was.

The University, Peace Corps and life experiences, not the least of which was initiation into Transcendental Meditation in 1969, moved me smartly beyond the Christian label. I wasn’t anti-Christian; I had just moved beyond the dogma and form I had grown up with.

I was ordained in December 2000 as an “Interfaith Minister” through Pebble Hill Interfaith Community Church in Pennsylvania. Yes, this is a label but it seemed broad enough to fit my approach to “stay loose.” And my ordination wasn’t so much to earn a title as to continue the search for an identity. My course of studies helped me along that path but I did not conclude anything other than to continue the search.

What am I searching for? Certainly not a label. But I am looking for an authentic identity. Don’t we all want to know who we are?

Rosemary and I have written a lot about this subject, “Purpose.” It really does come down to this in the end. Don’t we all long to know “why”?

It has come to this: in these days when we have written about authenticity it is time to go inside and seek the clear answer to the question. I have studied, practiced, remembered, sat for hours, been in silence, bowed to statues and other iconic art, chanted, risen in the dark before dawn to the call of the Han, considered the vows, all the while feeling the familiarity of it. And I have resisted. It is time now to embrace who I truly am.

For much of my life now I have been a practicing Zen Buddhist without taking the full vows and without the label. But I’m not a Zen Buddhist. What I have been truly resisting, or perhaps more accurately not fully realizing and embracing, is the call to study and practice Tibetan Buddhism, Vajrayana, The Diamond Path.

Why the resistance? In part I’ve thought of the Vajrayana as ornate, overly ceremonial and complex; I like the simple, clear Zen-way of things. In part I have resisted Tantra as a practice overly foreign and strange; I prefer the straightforward, easily comprehended approach to practice. And, in part, I have walked the Vajra Path in previous lives; I’ve done that, don’t need to do that, learn that again in this life.

KalachakraThen I began to receive visions in my meditations; visions of the very ornate and overly ceremonial practices and technologies of Trantra. I began, again, to read the Kalachakra Tranta Rite of Initiation, this time with clarity and excitement. I researched when His Holiness is conferring the initiation again: 2014 in Ladakh! And I began having visions of doing this!

It has taken me my whole life to return, again, to something familiar, something genuine, something that has been calling to me to come back. I’ve known I’m a Buddhist at heart. And now I am embracing the truth that I am a follower of the Trantric Path. Perhaps in some mysterious way this is my ultimate label.

You will be reading more about this journey I’m setting off on in the coming weeks and months. It is a journey home to my authentic self!


June 28, 2013 1 comment

I often use this word, awareness, as a key word for both my blogs and Rosemary’s. It is a good synonym for “consciousness” and, I’m sure you know by now, we are all about increasing our level of consciousness, our awareness! I don’t think I have ever written about this subject specifically, but several events lately have caused me to pause and wonder just how developed my awareness is!

The other day I went to Radio Shack to replace a power supply for Rosemary’s portable DVD player. I took the player with me to be sure I got the right one with the correct tip to plug it in. I purchased the adapter which we tested in the store; it worked perfectly and even brought up the DVD in the player. I left the store with my purchase and drove off in the car for the next errand. When I got to my next stop I looked around for the DVD player and it was gone. I ransacked the car thinking it had slid off the seat or under a seat. It was nowhere to be found. I went back to the store in case I had left it there. No one had seen it. I retraced my route in case I had left it on the car roof and driven off with it there. No sign of it! Now I was frustrated, confused and upset; how could a DVD player simply disappear. I returned the power adapter to the store. The player has never shown up!

Awareness. My awareness shifted focus at some point in this transaction and I lost a DVD player. I was distracted by my next errand and failed to successfully complete the current errand.

And then again, the other day, I was preparing for my Qigong class. I have this delightful alarm-clock, Zen meditation timer that I began using a couple of weeks ago to gently remind me with a very pleasant chime where I am within the schedule of the class and practice. The timer was not in the bag I use to carry things back and forth to class. I looked everywhere, even the car in case it had fallen out of the bag in transit. A day or so later I decided to look for it in the place I used to keep it before I started using it for Qigong; and there it was! I have no recollection of putting it back in its old place!

These two stories remind me of an old favorite Zen story of mine; in this version it’s called “Full Awareness” and goes like this:

After ten years of apprenticeship, Tenno achieved the rank of Zen teacher. One rainy day, he went to visit the famous master Nan-in. When he walked in, the master greeted him with a question, “Did you leave your wooden clogs and umbrella on the porch?”

“Yes,” Tenno replied.

“Tell me,” the master continued, “did you place your umbrella to the left of your shoes, or to the right?”

Tenno did not know the answer, and realized that he had not yet attained full awareness. So he became Nan-in’s apprentice and studied under him for ten more years.

Yes, I can easily say I have, at least, 10 more years of practice to reach “full awareness.”

I am finishing this post just after returning from my Svaroopa Yoga practice. The opening and closing Shavasana focuses on body awareness; whole body awareness from the tips of the toes to the crown of the head. The guided meditation is a wonderful practice of total relaxation and yet a heightened sense of awareness. Ten years more is not such a long time!


PS: The contemplation for my yoga practice this week speaks pointedly to this subject of awareness:

Real happiness abides in Self-knowledge alone. All else is fleeting. To know one’s Self is to be blissful always. – Ramana Maharshi

Change, the Brain, and Life Force Energy—Richard’s Commentary

April 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Change has certainly been on my mind lately—can you tell from my posts? Some of this change energy, maybe most of it, is coming from outside sources, including the influences of the planets, stars, heavens, recalling the quotes I used from my astrologer friend, Chris Largent, last week.

It is important to be aware of these outside influences in order to react, reflect and respond appropriately. And this happens on the inside, the only source and cause of true change. We have to consciously step through that gateless gate!

I was still in the middle of all this rumination when I wrote my “morning pages” this past Monday. Here’s what I’d like to share:

Everybody seems to be on edge, maybe a threshold, balancing on that edge, uncertain, teetering forth and back, wondering, hesitant, angry at the hesitance, fearful of the advance. Yet, advance we must straight into April and lovely days ahead to celebrate wakefulness.

It is good to wake up. It is good to be alive. Yes, I have met with irritation today, my old friend. And he is as grumpy as ever, rasping about people in his way, people with attitudes, people not following the rules – his rules. I have met with him and asked him to leave. I have too much to do to deal with irritation. It is a pointless and wasteful feeling. He is gone and I welcome the clear, clean air of April.

And maybe I’m a fool to seek happiness and joy in all things. There is often good reason to be in irritation’s field. But reason doesn’t make it right. The foolishness of joy is not wrong. Maybe it is unreasonable but never wrong.

I will seek out joy today. I would much rather be in his company. Some days I would rather be happy and irrational, living with Pi and Phi, than living in my left brain with the thinker, too often stinker.

Flow, goodness, grace, Tao. These are the way. This is The Way, the Immortal Way. How can an irritable man ever be good company, live as an Immortal? This is not the way!

And so I write, I look for the change. The door to Immortality stands wide open. The threshold of that door is joy. Happiness lives beyond. The simple act of crossing that threshold concludes the Pursuit of Happiness. It is right there, a fool’s paradise, so easy to reach out to, beyond. Just beyond.

Is this an April Fool’s joke I’m playing on myself? Can it really be so easy? And what if it is? Isn’t everything I write about choice? I believe it is. Stepping across the threshold is a choice. And this door of the threshold? It is that gateless gate of Zen. It swings both ways. There is always the “anti-choice” of reversion to old ways, meeting up with irritation again! Why I would want to do that is a mystery but it does happen. But maybe with the support of Heaven it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe I can stay on the grace and happiness side of the gate. Maybe the world over there is perfect, just as it is. There is nothing wrong on that side of the gate that needs my attention. It is all good, just as it is. All I have to do is see it that way. And maybe some would say this is looking through “rose-colored glasses”. So what? Those who say that covet the glasses!

Is there sickness, old-age and death on that side of the gate? Of course there is! All the people caught up in all their desires are still there. Those still pursuing happiness are still there. It is a gateless gate—there is nothing that gate separates! In this sense nothing has changed. They have not crossed the threshold. It is I who have changed. It all only bubbles up from the inside. The gate that is not a barrier is inside. The threshold of joy is inside. The choice to cross the threshold is made in silence, promised to no one, confessed only in the stillness of every moment.

Change is that simple. And this may be the most difficult vow I can take and keep. Is there any way that I can say goodbye to irritation, dismiss him forever? This is only one step to take beyond the threshold. And from that new place I can hope to say, yes to this promise. One step into the new current is all it takes. And the flow will take me in a whole new direction…I am willing to let that current take me.

This is the water of my life. It is moving now, spinning beyond the stagnant backwater I have been stuck in for too long. This pretty April day with Sun, high sky, light breeze ringing bells is a brand new day for this fool to let go of old companions of irritation and rules and head into the unknown space of happiness flowing with whatever currents will come to jostle, cajole, and rejoin me onward beyond joy!

…so it all came tumbling out! And in tomorrow’s post I’ll offer a sequel to this flow toward change, toward happiness I stepped into this week…