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…”

A 10-Minute Guided Mindfulness Meditation to Foster Forgiveness

Two monks are walking down the road. They arrive at a muddy stream crossing, and a well-dressed woman declares without introduction, “Don’t just stand there. Someone carry me across this mess.“

Without pause, the older monk lifts her across. She says nothing, not even a thank you.

The two monks walk all day. The whole time, the younger one stews in his mind—How could he pick her up? We’re not supposed to touch women, or even talk to them. And she was so rude, someone should say something to her, she didn’t deserve our help.

Finally, arriving at the inn for dinner, he can’t hold himself back. “What were you thinking?” he asks his friend. “She was nasty, and you broke the rules, and she didn’t even say thank you.”

The older monk smiles gently and replies. “Wow, I put that woman down hours ago, but you’ve been carrying her all this time!”

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Three Emerging Insights About Happiness

Last month, researchers from over 60 countries gathered at the International Positive Psychology Association’s 6th World Congress in Melbourne, Australia, to share cutting-edge insights on the science of well-being, adding depth and complexity to our understanding of the major keys to a flourishing life.

In Melbourne, we heard about when kindness makes us happier—but also when it doesn’t. We learned how the elderly can be meaningfully engaged in helping others. We discovered many concrete ways to boost our sense of meaning in life, and how cultural differences influence the pursuit of happiness. Researchers also addressed modern obstacles to happiness—from the way we’re hooked on technology to a widespread sense of disconnection and loneliness.

However, there were several insights presented at the World Congress that stood out to me as new or surprising. Here are some of the emerging pathways to well-being that positive psychology is just beginning to explore, and the exciting potential they might hold. 

1. Positive solitude

Researchers have repeatedly found that social connection is one of the keys to happiness. And for many of us, feeling separated from other people translates into a sense of loneliness and disconnection. But does solitude have to be a negative experience? Can time alone feed our well-being? 

Researchers at Russia’s National Research University Higher School of Economics have investigated the phenomenon of positive or “productive solitude,” in contrast with the more unpleasant experience of being alone. Productive solitude doesn’t occur because we feel disconnected from others; it’s something that we deliberately seek out. Rather than being lonely or ruminating on negative experiences, we use the solitary time for contemplation, reflection, or creativity.

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At Fort Sill, a Prayer That History Would Not Repeat Itself

In the following letter, scholar and Soto Zen priest Duncan Ryuken Williams recounts the events of July 20, 2019, when 25 Buddhist priests and lay leaders joined over 400 demonstrators in Oklahoma to protest the transfer of immigrant children to the Fort Sill Army Base, once the site of a Japanese internment camp. Shortly after the Trump administration’s June announcement that it planned to use Fort Sill to house 1,400 undocumented and unaccompanied migrant children, Williams joined a demonstration at the base organized by the immigrant-youth led advocacy group United We Dream and the Japanese American activist organization Tsuru for Solidarity. Planning for the next stage of action, Williams called on Buddhist leaders to come together and hold a remembrance ceremony paralleling a historic funeral service performed by 90 Buddhist priests at Fort Sill in 1942 for the people who died in internment camps (which Williams wrote about in his book American Sutra). He asked people who could not attend to show their support by sending paper cranes. The Buddhist leaders answered the call, and sangha members sent over 4,000 paper cranes. A week later, the White House announced that it was halting plans to transfer the 1,400 children to the former internment camp. In his letter, Williams expresses his gratitude to supporters and reflects on the power of “Buddhist free speech” to change the course of history. 

“We should study how kind and compassionate words . . . have the power to turn the destiny of the nation.” Zen master Dogen (1200-1253), from his Bodaisatta Shishobo

Multi-layered Buddhist robes are not usually worn in 102 degree heat or advisable for marching down a two-lane highway in front of a US Army base, but it felt perfectly fitting to wear them despite such conditions on July 20, 2019 in Lawton, Oklahoma. On this day, a group of 25 Buddhist priests and lay leaders donned their robes and marched with nearly 400 other protestors—including members of a Japanese American organization, Tsuru for Solidarity, that had invited us—toward a fence in front of the Bentley Gate at the Fort Sill Army Base.

We Buddhists walked the highway hoping not to get arrested before we could fulfill our responsibility to the day’s direct action. We planned to chant a Buddhist sutra as close to that fence as possible—a fence that was the site of two shootings of Japanese immigrants by US Army guards at the World War II Fort Sill Internment Camp, and a fence that was also slated to demarcate the confinement site of up to 1,400 asylum-seeking children from Central America, who have been separated from their families. 

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: What Americans (Don’t) Know About Dharma

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week. 

Most Americans Don’t Know Much (Or Anything) About Buddhism, Poll Shows

More than half of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center said they know little to nothing  about Buddhism, according to a new report. Of the people asked what they knew about various religions, 38 percent responded “not much” and 20 percent answered “nothing at all.” Only 6 percent said they knew “a lot,” and 36 percent said they knew “some.” The survey also included a brief quiz, on which only 18 percent of respondents correctly answered the question Which of the following is one of Buddhism’s four “noble truths”? [Answers: the truth of suffering (18%, correct), the truth that every living being has an immortal soul (22%), the truth that the Buddha was perfect and free from sin (5%), the truth of monotheism (1%), and not sure (52%).] And 20 percent answered “The Mahayana Sutras” as the text “most closely associated with the Hindu tradition,” beating the correct answer, “Vedas,” at 15 percent. 

Related: Buddhism For Beginners 

Bhikkhu Bodhi Addresses the United Nations on Climate Change

On the International Day of Vesak held in Vietnam in May of this year, Buddhist teacher Bhikkhu Bodhi gave a speech to the United Nations, suggesting that Buddhist teachings provide indispensable insight into the psychological craving that is at the root of the widespread reluctance to take the climate disaster seriously. “We know what lies behind climate change; the causes have been determined with scientific precision,” he said in his speech, a video of which was posted online in late July. “The Buddha’s diagnosis would take us a step deeper and show what underlies the climate crisis at the most basic level are distortions at the base of the human mind: the interplay of craving and ignorance, greed and delusion.” In September, Bhikkhu Bodhi, the founder of the Buddhist Global Relief charity, will join other climate activists at the New York Insight Meditation Center for “Right Action in the Anthropocene: A Buddhist Response to Global Warming,” a two-day event of meditation and lectures that will explore the causes and conditions of climate change, as well as the ways we can move forwardly collectively.

Related: A Call to Conscience and Climate Change Is a Moral Issue by Bhikkhu Bodhi

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The Healing Power of Wild Places


On average, we spend just 5 per cent of our day outside. What effect might that have on our bodies and minds?

Florence Williams spent the last three years writing about our relationship to the natural world—motivated in part by her own move away from a lush natural setting: a view of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado to Washington, DC.

In her book, The Nature Fix, she explores the healing power of wild places. Here are three ways spending time in nature impacts our health:

You don’t need to live in a cabin in the woods to soak in all the benefits nature has to offer.

Williams says that within the first five minutes of being outside—be it on a bike ride to work, a walk around the block, or an adventurous hike in the woods—we experience immediate benefits. Our heart rate slows, our muscles start to relax, and regions of the brain involved in decision-making and emotions begins to quiet down.

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