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Zen and the Art of Dishwashing

Try being fully present in the moment. Zen isn’t about making lists or setting a timer. It’s about doing what’s needed in the moment and not worrying about how long it takes you or how many things you can get done. Trust yourself; trust in the process. The world will turn even if you don’t get a million things done.

There’s an old zen saying, “chop wood, carry water.” Unlike many koans, this wise saying it’s not difficult to unravel. It means do what’s needed. It may be mundane but it needs to be done. Do what you’re doing; don’t worry about what hasn’t been done yet. This is reflected in Jesus saying,” Leave tomorrow for tomorrow; think about today instead.”

One way of thinking about Zen is that it’s a matter of focus. Give your complete attention to what you are doing. There are a couple of books entitled “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and “Zen and the Art of Archery.” What this means is you can apply Zen to every task you are doing. And that is actually a form of meditation. It’s very powerful. You let yourself be a tool in the task you are doing. One method of this meditation is called Shodo or Japanese zen calligraphy. In this technique you concentrate on the meaning of the word you are doing and not on your penmanship. In this way the very shape of the brushstrokes conveys the meaning. You are an extension of the brush and the energy of the intention is what is completing the action. In this way you don’t become distracted buy other things. You are fully present in the creation of your calligraphy. This method has also been used by feudal Samurai and other Japanese artisans such as flower arranging. This is because this technique can be applied in everyday life. Using it to do calligraphy it’s like practicing for the rest of your life. Many people think that meditation is a kind of recharging of your battery or resetting your hard drive. But really in this technique it is practice for how you can be all throughout the day. Try using this technique with whatever mundane tasks you’re doing. If it’s washing the dishes, wash the dish that is in front of you and in your hands until it is completely washed. Pay attention to it; did you get all the parts inside and out? Is it free of dirt? Then you rince it and set it in the drying rack. You pick up the next dish and give it your complete attention. Soon your dishes will be clean. There’s no need to set a timer. If one of your children need your attention in the middle of this task then you can give your attention to what is most important.

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Freedom From Chaos

Learn to meditate for real. For free. For real. Today. Here. 

There is a lot of turmoil in the world right now. Maybe you are reading this a hundred years after I wrote this. I’ll bet there was a lot of turmoil going on in the world. There has never been a time when there wasn’t. It can be difficult not to get caught up in it. In fact, it may be important for you to take action. Nevertheless  it is also important not to let it consume you. That’s what turmoil does. Another word for turmoil is chaos. The world is chaos. Chaos is the original formless, orderless void, or absence of order that existed before God created the Cosmos or ordered universe in Genesis. It’s important to not let such a force take over our lives. We need to connect with the original creative force.

We should remember that we are always connected. The connection cannot be severed. We have only to tune in to the vast unending peace and love available to us. It could be listening to music, meditating, reaching out with love to your community. You could take a nature hike, read a special book. It’s important to take time to recharge your batteries as well as truly meditate.

 

There are many ways to meditate, but if it’s what I call “true meditation,” its purpose is to tune in to the creative force. I refer to this as Beloved, or Devi. You may connect to this sacred energy by whatever face or culture that suits you. The most common word is God, but this word is so full of loaded preconceptions that I avoid it. The energy is pure, undying, Neverending Love. There are many superb books  recordings and videos that can teach you how to meditate. It’s a good idea to find one that suits your sensibilities. However, I will share one with you here.

This meditation practice is called Kundalini meditation. It is a sacred and powerful form of meditation kept secret from the world except for a few select and dedicated people who received it directly from their lifelong guru, and in turn taught it to their few handpicked students or chelas. There is an energy transfer that takes place between guru and student called “Shaktipat.” this can only happen in person, and is thought to be necessary for true liberation or enlightenment. If this is the experience you seek, you need to find a personal guru, experienced in this type of training. I have chosen this type to relate to you, because anyone can do it, and I learned it by reading about it, so I know it can be learned this way. I learned this practice from several texts, but the book that was my main source is called  “Kundalini Awakening,” and is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Kundalini-Awakening-Gentle-Activation-Spiritual-ebook/dp/B002IPZJY2. I recommend getting a physical copy that you can use to concentrate on the mandala illustrations. My guide will differ from this text as it is not my only source and the guide I am giving you is a short synopsis of the technique.

First, set aside some time that you won’t be interrupted. Find a quiet, comfortable place where you can be alone. The accepted position is called the lotus position and it is seated cross-legged with your back straight. If you know the yoga position, then use that, if not, simple “Indian style” cross legged is fine. You can use a cushion or sit against a wall if you like.

Kundalini refers to a latent energy source located at the base of your spine in what is known as the root chakra. Chakra means wheel, and there are seven located a various points on your spine. (some sources refer to them as being part of your subtle body, a spirit body inside your physical or “gross” body. For the purpose of practicing the technique, further knowledge is not required but is recommended.

Now, to begin the meditation, it is recommended that you close your eyes  Breathe deeply in through your nose, hold it just for a moment and exhale through your mouth. Repeat this a few times and relax your body.pay attention to the breathe entering your body, filling your lungs, feel your pulse  at various points on your body as the oxygen is delivered and transfered with the exhaust that you exhale. Feel the breathe leave your lungs, rise through your trachea and exit to provide life to plants as they give us oxygen. We are connected to everything in various ways.

 

Now concentrate on your perineum. This is the location of the root chakra, also known as the Muladhara chakra, the seat of your sleeping Kundalini energy. Picture it as a red four petaled flower. Feel this area heat up as you exhale like applying a billows to a forge, causing the red flower to glow. Your subsequent chakras cannot be activated until you have successfully activated the Kundalini energy within this root chakra. However, we will continue to meditate up the chakra tree of your spine, as I think connecting all your chakras and connecting to the cosmic Shakti through your crown chakra can aid in activating you Kundalini.

So, having fired the red furnace of your root chakra, send the heat and energy to your next chakra located just below your navel, known as the sacral, or Svadhisthana chakra, this one is orange. Each chakra blends into the next color of the rainbow and you can feel the energy flow and change through each blend.

Each chakra has many elements associated with it. There are musical notes to hum and mantras and behaviors said to be tied to each chakra. I am concerned only with the meditation technique in this post. I have said at several points to educate yourself further about this, but it is also important not to get caught up in minutiae that might distract you from concentrating on the meditation itself. Full and complete focus is necessary for meditation. As you master the basics, you may introduce new elements to your practice.

Feel the energy move up your spine to your solar plexis chakra, even with the bottom of the front your ribcage. Known as the Manipura chakra, its color is yellow. Travel up to each successive chakra as you inhale, and rest as you exhale. Ignite and stoke the chakra as you exhale, as if you are blowing on a fire you are lighting.

Next comes the heart chakra, called Anahata. It is green in color. To many, this is a very important and special chakra. It is associated with love, and is very powerful. This is a good place to grow this energy rising up through you. Feel your heart beat with the energy of love coursing through you.

Next, as we continue our journey up the chakra rainbow, we come to Ajna, the (light) blue throat chakra. As you exhale, feel your breathe cause the chakra to glow brightly.

Next is the famous third eye, Vishuddha, located in the center of your brow, above and between your eyes. To me, this chakra starts in the peneal gland at the center of the brain, this would be where the glowing ember is located, and then, when activated, shoots a deep blue beam from your third eye, giving spiritual sight.

From there, we arrive at the crown chakra, the sacred Sahasrara, seen as violet, it is the gateway to the blessed holy Shakti, the all pervasive power of the cosmos. Our bodies and our chakras are antenna, receiving this energy is their purpose.

Now travel down through each chakra, taking the same slow deliberate steps, delivering the outer cosmic energy to the Muladhara and sending out the sacred Kundalini in and “breathing” in and out becoming one with the source of life.

When you have completed as many cycles of these Kriyas (action) as you are comfortable with, sit in contemplation a few minutes, allowing the energy to settle.

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Telling the Tao

fotor_147869657337290“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao” so begins the Tao te Ching; “The Book of the Way,” by Lao Tsu. Over 25 years ago I consciously began my journey on the Path. One of the first books I stumbled upon was Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao. I keep a copy with me and drag it out every once in while. Sometimes I get in a mood where I take my pocket copy with me everywhere, though I may never look at it when I do. The message is pretty simple: Don’t try to control the universe. Be in the moment, let life guide you, and become a master by not trying. Of course there’s more to it than this. I refer you to the first sentence in this post. I’m sure the Old Boy knew the irony of making that the first line of his book.
In the passing years I’ve learned many things, and unlearned many as well. I have to keep unlearning them. One of the things I’ve seen real value in for me is practicing zen calligraphy. The method is very similar to what I’ve just stated; be in the moment, let the universe be in charge and in this way, become a master. As zen is a Japanese form of Buddhism, the calligraphy is Japanese as well. Japanese traditionally write in Kanji, which was originally Chinese, like Taoism. The calligraphic method can be applied to any writing; indeed it can be applied to life itself. Using the tools to render the Taijitu (yin yang symbol) is a natural.

fotor_147869716888396What made me realize this was of course watching Kung Fu Panda III.
I was struck by the idea that the image can be seen to describe a spinning effect; as is often depicted with the yin and yang chasing each other. What was significant this time was how it is a symbol for everything. our galaxy is spinning, the sun revolves around it, the earth around the sun as it spins on its own axis. Dervish spin in meditation. Also, in reading up on the symbol, pronounced “Tai Chi tu” by the way, many of the complimentary aspect it represents were explained including one which I hadn’t thought of: the expanding contracting duality of life. This is key to Hamsa meditation, as well as understanding non dualist Kashmiri Shavism, which is another key component of my education.
So rendering the Taijitu deeply gratifying to me. It is a powerful exercise and a powerful symbol.

 

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Meditation part 1

madonna blueMeditation is an important part of my life. My pursuit of authentic meditation has fueled my spiritual path. When I was a teenager, I was curious to learn about spiritual paths other than the Catholic faith I was born into. A child of divorce, and of a parent who had been previously married, I felt that the rules I had been taught about my family and my soul were not that of a loving and understanding God.
It wasn’t until College that I really became pro active in researching spirituality. Until that point, my thinking was still centered on what had  been drilled into my head since I was born. So I worried that other religions might lead to damnation. Yet I became more and more certain that the people who had been building and guiding the Church were not as divinely guided themselves as they claimed. I was still building a case against my indoctrination into a religion that I had accepted and loved growing up.
I finally came to the conclusion that God showed Himself to different people in different ways. I was certain that God didn’t love Europeans more than Indians or Asains. Why would He expose some people to certain religions and others to other ones if being born in India was a sure ticket to Hell. I also concluded that God would want us to use our brains and our hearts to figure out for ourselves what religion was best for us. Just automatically accepting what I was born into as the only right way to worship seemed arrogant and lazy to me.
I began reading and taking classes that taught comparative religion. I am part Native American, so I went to sweat lodges. I learned about Wicca, which predated Christianity in Europe. Some will take offence at calling it that because it is a modern term. It’s just the term I learned about the worshipers of the Earth Mother Danu. Their way was almost completely wiped out and Danu’s Consort, the horned god, became the image of the Christian devil. Leave it to a Patriarchal society to completely miss that the main deity is a woman.samhain 001

Eastern religions have a common tradition of meditation. Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi religions all employ meditation. The purpose of meditation is to connect with God. This is the definition of the word “Yoga.” it comes from the same root word as “yoke.” many people meditate to calm or center themselves. Sometimes people want to improve their health. This is how yoga has come to be a health regimen in the West, but that is like only using a powerful computer as a calculator.

There are many types of meditation. Sufis twirl, some people chant mantras. Some people concentrate on a mandala or other visual aid. Many of us are familiar with Zen Calligraphy, but did you know that it’s a form of meditation?

In future posts, we will explore different ways to meditate in more depth. I hope this introduction was helpful to you.

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The Song of Awakening

There is long and interesting history of how God=sound. Where to start? How about the beginning?
 “1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” The Gospel according to John, King James Version.
I love the old English phrasing of the King James Version. This is easily my favorite Bible passage. Notice that God is also “Light” Most people will tell you that this is a metaphor. This is funny to me because many of these same people will tell you that the story of Adam & Eve is not a metaphor. Well the story of Adam & Eve is a metaphor (this is a story for another time as it could be its own blog post), But the idea that God is sound and Light is not a metaphor. God is more than sound and light, don’t get me wrong, but the idea that the existence of all things came into being through God as sound is accurate. 
In Sanskrit, the ancient Indian sacred language, this sound is “Om” and is written in what appears to Westerners to be a 3 with a tail, and an umlaut over it. In my description of of my hand carved lino print of this sacred word, I combine these two ideas and say; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was Om” This ancient spiritual symbol is a sound and it is the Creator.
Sometimes the symbol is translated; “Aum” The thinking is that the vowel sound where the word originates itself originates at the back of the throat and the ending “m” sound ends at the mouth, thus traveling the expanse of the physical body creating it. This explanation is a metaphor for the beginning and end of all creation. Compare this to Jesus’ saying; “I am the Alpha and the Omega”. Here the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet signify the beginning and the end (which is the line that follows in the Bible) but also anything that can be spoken as Jesus is saying he is not just the beginning and the end but everything in between.
But you say to me, “Rod, What about science?” First of all don’t interrupt, it’s rude. Second of all, good question.
In the 1950’s the phone company, at that time concerned with quality service, wanted to get to the bottom of a buzz that was coming through on all their lines. They hired and deployed two scientists; Peebles and Dick to discover and fix the problem. What they found was that this sound was everywhere. It permeates everything. It is the background radiation leftover from the Big Bang. (you know, the sound and light that created everything that exists.) It existed at exactly the wavelength that the scientist who postulated the Big Bang theory predicted it would.
There are many mantras (sacred words or phrases to repeated many times) and prayers (like the rosary) that believers know will bring them closer to God. The Sufis have a saying, “Nothing exists save God” pronounced, “La Illaha Illa Allah” Which is more of a mantra than a prayer, but they don’t use the Sanskrit word. 
In his book “Autobiography of a Yogi” Paramahansa Yogananda states that sacred Indian music can bring us closer to enlightenment, as can the music of Bach. Astronomers and alchemists refer to the “Music of the Spheres”
Listen
It is all around you.
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