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…”

Meditating While Thinking

When we meditate, do we think it is good to have a lot of thoughts in the mind? Or do we think it is better to have only a few thoughts, or even no thoughts in the mind?

If we believe it’s better to have few or no thoughts in the mind, then we are likely to resist thinking whenever thoughts arise in the mind.

But thinking is just nature. Can we stop nature or avoid nature? It’s impossible. Instead we merely need to see that thinking is nature. That is right view. With this view we can start to skillfully live with thinking instead of resisting the nature that is thinking.

You need to be able to recognize when the mind is think­ing, but not get entangled in what is being thought. There is no need to get caught in the story your thoughts are telling. There is no need to automatically believe that the story running in the mind is true.

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Practicing in a Pandemic

Just before the new year, people living near a market in Wuhan, China, started to get sick. Another week passed before people knew what they were dealing with: a new strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, which proved deadly a few days later. Despite increasingly strict measures to contain the disease, it continued to spread around the globe, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11 to declare the coronavirus a pandemic. 

Much remains in flux as governments and health professionals continue to figure out how to respond to the coronavirus. Perhaps the only constant has been this uncertainty. Even those who are healthy have had to grapple with troubling questions about their risk of infection, the well-being of their loved ones, the threat of widespread panic, and the extent of the economic fallout—all as people become more isolated and without an end in sight. 

Tricycle is not immune. In New York, where our office is located, Gov. Andrew Cuomo placed a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people and has been encouraging people to telecommute and avoid the crowded mass-transit system. We, too, have been working remotely this week. We are fortunate to be able to do so. We also are fortunate that our work brings us into contact with Buddhist teachings on mindfulness, equanimity, interdependence, impermanence, and compassion, which have been especially relevant in recent days. 

One doesn’t have to be Buddhist to know that ignoring difficult problems or thoughts doesn’t make them go away. Or that when panic sets in, people tend not to make the best decisions. Or that the things we treasure won’t be around forever. Or that no matter how alone we may feel, we are always part of something bigger. Or that we are at our best when we take care of each other. But Buddhist teachings place these ideas at the fore, and ask us to keep them in mind when we are otherwise prone to get swept up in our day-to-day tasks. 

Some may feel that these teachings have prepared them for times like this one. Others may find comfort in knowing that they can return to them now, or they may have previously encountered these ideas and now see them in a new light. There also are those who feel that they currently are unable to access the dharma. 

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Dharma Centers Close Doors as COVID-19 Takes Hold

At first the coronavirus seemed like a crisis happening at a great distance in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Then COVID-19 infections started happening close to home. I’m not a big worrier, but I’d worked with infectious disease experts for over a decade as the director of communications for the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative, so I knew a bit about how quickly a virus can spread.

I began wondering how places I frequent, especially dharma centers, where groups of people sit in close proximity and often eat and sleep communally, were preparing for the arrival of an infectious pathogen.

I contacted a number of centers across the United States, some big, some small, all with staff and teachers scrambling to do the right thing—the skillful action—as information and recommendations changed on an hourly basis. Here’s what I found out.

Cloud Mountain, Washington State

On January 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the United States: a man in his thirties, who returned to Seattle after traveling in Wuhan, China, presented with symptoms and tested positive.

The first death in the US also occurred in Washington state. A man died from coronavirus on February 29, just a week after 27 meditators arrived at Cloud Mountain Retreat Center in rural Washington and took vows of silence for their month-long retreat. The retreatants had traveled from the US, England, and Continental Europe.

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Dharma Talks for the Coronavirus Outbreak

Three Dharma Talk video series offer guidance for working with our fears, finding meaning in mortality, and cultivating compassion and resilience during difficult times.

By TricycleMar 13, 2020

Marcela Clavijo, Reverend Marvin Harada, and Ayya Yeshe

The current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, is rapidly transforming everyday life around the world and taking a toll on mental health. We are making available for free three video Dharma Talk series that offer guidance for facing our fears, including our fear of death, and caring for ourselves and others. 

How to Be a Light for Yourself and Others in Challenging Times
with Ayya Yeshe

Our culture often associates spiritual practice with a form of escapism, but practice can be a powerful force for good in difficult times. Ayya Yeshe, a longtime Tibetan Buddhist nun and founder of the Bodhicitta Foundation, explores how to take obstacles as the path and walks us through bodhisattva training, or the spiritual commitment to work for the enlightenment of all beings.

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Working with Judgment and Fear

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Questions and Answers Retreats

We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this ninth post, we hear two questions.

Photo copyright Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism.Two years ago I was here extremely depressed and anxious. You said, people feel the storm of the mind when experiencing depression. For now that storm has subsided. I now have fear about losing my mother, and people in my family, and how can I transform this fear?Thank you for your light. Often times I struggle with judging, and I think I’m getting better, but when I do judge people I am happy to be proven wrong. The challenge is when I judge other people for being judgmental. How can I overcome this type of judging judging? 

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

Original author: Chan Niem Hy
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