Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

10 Ways to Become More Grateful

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things you enjoy. Setting aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable life theme of gratefulness.

2. Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.

3. Ask Yourself Three Questions. Utilize the meditation technique known as Naikan, which involves reflecting on three questions: “What have I received from __?”, “What have I given to __?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”

4. Share your gratitude with others. Research has found that expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships. So the next time your partner, friend or family member does something you appreciate, be sure to let them know.

5. Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.

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The Timbre of Timber

Percussionists rub sandpaper on plywood at a performance of "Heartwood" in Gowanus, Brooklyn, on November 2. | Photography by A. Jesse Jiryu Davis

Earlier this month, in a warehouse on the banks of the toxic Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, four percussionists made music using scraps of trees. They crunched dry leaves, clattered Ikea bed slats, and beat on stumps. Sometimes they played brainy polyrhythms, sometimes exuberant jams, and sometimes they created chaos. The piece is called “Heartwood,” a percussion quartet composed by Jeff Shugo Berman, a student at the Village Zendo in lower Manhattan. Berman was inspired by the Mahasaropama Sutta, or “The Greater Discourse on the Simile of the Heartwood.”

Instruments included tree stumps, dried leaves, and Ikea bed slats. | Photo by A. Jesse Jiryu Davis

In the sutta, the Buddha says that someone who seeks the fundamental teaching is like a woodcutter in search of the innermost, hardest timber—they go straight for the heartwood. In the same way, a practitioner must move past their superficial accomplishments along the Buddhist path to find the deeper truth. But the sutta contains another lesson: The truth, the heartwood, is always present. Berman likened it to how the raw sound of wood can be heard in the instruments we craft from it.

“When we drag around a bunch of Ikea bed slats and make noise, it makes the point that these pieces of wood that we’re constantly around always make sounds and express textures. We can hear that all the time if we’re prepared to,” said Berman, 27, who studied ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University.

Composer Jeff Shugo Berman | Photo by A. Jesse Jiryu Davis

Berman and his quartet (including Robby Bowen, Caitlin Cawley, and Chihiro Shibayama, who hold degrees in music from The New School, the Manhattan School of Music, and Juilliard, respectively) debuted “Heartwood” on November 2 at Big Reuse, which sells demolition waste, loosely organized in a warehouse full of towering steel shelves. Rows of old toilets face stacks of picture frames; an occasional antique clock or Singer sewing machine ornaments a pile of cast-iron radiators. Berman’s quartet contributed to the mess, throwing around leaves and dowel rods. The audience sat on second-hand folding chairs in a tight circle around the musicians. When the performers rubbed sandpaper on plywood in rhythm, the audience inhaled the sawdust and coughed.

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On the Road to Healing from Abuse in Buddhism – An Interview with Kata

There is quite some discussion online about abuse in Buddhism and usually it focuses only on the first two of three points which were outlined by Kata as steps for healing:

to see and to accept that abuse happened,to understand how the abuse happened and the role of everybody involved,to process on the path by taking responsibility for what you can control and to find solutions to move on.

 
The third point can be easily misunderstood as “victim blaming”.

To avoid misunderstandings, and to dive deeper into the road of finding healing from abuse we set up an interview and a discussion with Kata highlighting aspects, rarely spoken of online, on the process of recovering from cults or healing from abuse. The goal of this discussion / interview is to help people to better understand these processes and also to see where they are now and what might be ahead of them either as tasks or as opportunities to move on in a healthy, resilient, empowering, healing way.

Please be alerted to the possibility that you might find the conversation difficult or triggering. 

Here is the interview (90 minutes):

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Mon Refugees from Myanmar Build a Buddhist Community in Akron, Ohio

The nation of Myanmar, formerly Burma, is made up of eight ethnic groups speaking 135 different dialects. The Mon, making up just two percent of Myanmar’s estimated 55 million people, are one of the smallest groups and also one of the oldest. In some histories, the Mon are known as the first people to bring Theravada Buddhism to Indochina. More recently, they’ve brought that same tradition to Akron, Ohio.

“Akron is the best place for refugees. There are more job opportunities here,” said Khin Maug Soe, a Mon man who works as an employment case manager at the International Institute of Akron (IIA), a refugee placement and settlement program. According to Soe, about 80 percent of the Mon living in Akron have stable jobs and have bought houses. “They plan to stay here,” he said.

In recent decades, Myanmar has been ruled by an oppressive military junta. While the situation has stabilized somewhat after recent political reforms, interethnic conflict persists, most notably in the Rakhine state, where genocidal violence against Rohingya Muslims has forced hundreds of thousands to flee to Bangladesh. The Mon people have also long faced persecution, and their language is in decline. Some of them have been seeking a better life in the United States, and many say they have found it in Akron.

The Mon people in Akron

“Coming as a foreigner is hard when you’re not together with people who share your language and culture,” said Mon Kyaw, 26. Kyaw grew up attending the Mon Buddhist Temple of Akron, where he found the community that he needed to flourish. Now he works as a sushi chef in Cleveland but still drives the 45-odd minutes back to the temple whenever he can to attend services or lend his support with cleaning and maintenance work or by serving as a translator. “For us as foreigners, as Mon people, as refugees from Burma, our religion is Buddha. We listen to the monks and what the Buddha have to say. They show us the way,” he said.

 

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Free Mindfulness Apps Worthy of Your Attention

There’s no shortage of mindfulness and meditation apps these days, promising to help you combat anxiety, sleep better, hone your focus, and more. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reports that more than 2,000 new meditation apps launched between 2015 and 2018. We scoured the app stores to find the most valuable and easy-to-use mindfulness apps that are available for free. Two on this list are completely free, while the rest include a free version with the option to upgrade to premium content and features.

Available for iOS and Android

Entry price: Free. But you have to navigate around the subscription screen with the button that says “Start 7 Day Trial. Once you scroll past that, you can access the free content. 

Insight Timer has an insanely huge library of content: over 25,000 guided meditations from around 3,000 teachers on topics like stress, relationships, creativity, and more.

Right from the beginning, the app feels like a community—the home screen announces, “420,065 meditations today, 5,059 meditating right now.” In fact, Insight Timer has attracted more than 6 million meditators from around the world. After you finish a meditation, you’ll learn exactly how many people were meditating “with you” during that time—and by setting your location, you can even see meditators nearby and what tracks they’re listening to.

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