Tag Archives: mindfulness

Top of the Mountain


I hiked at Phoenix Mountain Preserve on Good Friday with quail, lizards, saguaro, and chipmunks. At the top of the mountain I sat on the ground and waited for nothing.

A man and his two children –teenager and a tween—soon arrived.

What did they say when the reached the top of the mountain?

“Nice job, buddy,” the man told his son. “Alright, we’ll chill for a minute.”

They posed for photos of themselves against the cityscape: selfies, group shots, never turning to view the side that held no streets. What did they capture inside their camera?

I heard the flies buzz, felt the sand against my palms.

“Okay, let’s go down, we’re done,” said the man after three minutes.

A middle-aged couple soon came to the top.

“Is this it?” said the woman, disappointed. She searched for a higher point, found it, and led her husband to the next crest. I watched them climb and once they reached that peak, they immediately turned for the descent.

What did they find at the top of the mountain? More rocks and sand perhaps. Something they climbed for, but could not name and could not touch; something always there, but unseen, untouched, unheard, un-experienced by sleepwalkers.

What do you find at the top of the mountain?


The World is Already Spiritual


“Real spirituality is an acceptance of the world as spiritual already. So you don’t have to remold the world. For those who believe in a traditional view of mysticism, the world is mysterious. They can’t experience mysticism in its fullest sense because they expect too much. They become deaf and dumb to the teaching. It is highly mysterious for them. But it isn’t mysterious for those who actually relate to mysticism in its fullest sense. The reality of the world could be called self-secret. Something spiritual or mystical in this sense means something that strikes the truth. True spirituality is an absence of frivolity, an absence of belief in good and bad in the religious sense, an absence of religiosity. So spirituality seems to transcend the religion of an established church. It is that which is contained in the living situation, which speaks truth, which reminds you of the natural situation of things as they are.”


— Chögyam Trungpa, from dharma talks compiled as Work, Sex, Money: Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness

Self / No-self, merely names


“Self does exist.  It is a literary construct used to explain the individual perception of the outside world. . .No-self just means we are all entities of this Earth, etc.”

–Ven. Dr. Wonji Dharma, FMZO, from a Dharma talk on October 1st, 2016

Voodoo Doll Zen


Irritation, like love, is part of of the human experience.

Zen Master:  How are you today?

Student:  I’m irritated.

Zen Master:  Good.

Student:  Zen Master, I’ve been practicing loving kindness meditation every day but I’m still so irritated by that person. Am I doing something wrong?

Zen Master:  Well, if that loving kindness bullshit doesn’t work, then get a voodoo doll.  Beanie babies work well for that.

Student:  (hysterical laughter)  That’s awesome.

Zen Master:  If you’re irritated, be irritated.

–Sunday afternoon Zen interview with an FMZO Zen Master

In search of hermit teachers

A seeker  crossed Chuanchen Cliff in search of hermit-teachers. On the steps of Hsienku Temple he posed with Master Hsieh who told him many things, among them:

Hsieh and porter

“Q [Porter]:  Aren’t they [the hermits] interested in teaching others?

“Hsieh:  Yes. But before you can teach others, you have to cultivate yourself.  You have to know something before you can teach something. You can’t explain inner cultivation just because you know words in books.  You have to discover what they mean first.”

—from Bill Porter’s Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits

The Empty Boat

Empty Boat

“He who rules men lives in confusion;

He who is ruled by men lives in sorrow.

Yao therefore desired

Neither to influence others

Nor to be influenced by them.

The way to get clear of confusion

And free of sorrow

Is to live with Tao

In the land of the great Void. . .


“. . .Who can free himself from achievement

And from fame, descend and be lost

Amid the masses of men?

He will flow like Tao, unseen,

He will go about like Life itself

With no name and no home.

Simple is he, without distinction.

To all appearances he is a fool.

His steps leave no trace.  He has no power.

He achieves nothing, has no reputation.

Since he judges no one

No one judges him.

Such is the perfect man:

His boat is empty.”

excerpt from “The Empty Boat” by Chuang Tzu



Working with Heart Chakra (Anahata)

“Be universal in your love. You will see the universe to be the picture of your own being.” –Sri Chinmoy


Many people consider the heart chakra the most important, but I caution against assigning supreme value to any single one. The reason is that all of the chakras work together; when one is unbalanced, they all tend to tilt.

Anahata governs our physical heart and lungs and is essential to vitality and the spiritual nourishment of love. When we ground ourselves in the love aspect we give our lives purpose and meaning. The ability to receive love is, for many people, as difficult as (or more so) than giving it. In keeping with the theme of balance and unity, we cannot fully give love until we can allow ourselves to receive it.

Heart Chakra, or, Anahata

Color: Green

Gemstones: Rose quartz, diamond, peridot

The chakra’s themselves are energy centers that distribute prana (life force). Both the yogi Patanjali and Siddhartha Gautama (later known as Buddha) viewed physical sensations as sources of mindfulness and, as such, gateways to understanding levels of higher consciousness. Anahata (or “unstruck”) is said to be the center of love and Selfhood. In this context, “selfhood” does not connote selfie’s, or the billion-dollar self-help industry; nor does it connote egotism and its ugly cousins, vanity and narcissism. What it means is Unity, not universe+1. It is not interconnection; it is “I am One with the universe because I AM the universe.” There is no True separation between you and me and they, all of us, in our natural state, are Love and Unity. That, my friends, is Anahata, and the further we veer from that concept; the further we stroll down the dualistic road of separateness, the more of an imbalance we create in our heart chakra. So, Selfhood is not you, it is You as in OM, or, the Universal nature of Love. It is a concept that is made clear through feeling and experience, rather than explanation and logical discourse. After all, how does one describe the feeling of love in any accurate way? We can show love and feel love, but wfawn Anahatahen we try to describe love the limitations of language cause us to fall short.

Anahata is not mere attraction, infatuation, or a passing crush; it is lasting love that transcends sex and romance and fear of loss. Lasting love does not mean co-dependence or jealous possession; it means a feeling of joy that remains in the heart forever, qualities like peace, unity, brotherhood and sisterhood. It is a love of life and an interest in the sacredness of all thing. Because unity is fundamental to the heart chakra (and all of the chakras) each must be balanced. Without embracing the fundamental truth of Personal Power offered by the Solar Plexus chakra, the Heart Chakra will not function properly, and so on.

Gentleness is at the core of this chakra so it comes as no surprise that the animal most often associated with it is the deer.

Archetypes of Heart Chakra

Positive: The Lover

Her love unites those is all-inclusive and unite others. She is not withholding; she shares her love with everyone – the mosquito, the dog, the neighbor next door. She appreciates the sacredness in all life, small and large, and sees herself in all things. She knows that to love is to live fully and appreciates and honors the Is-ness in each being.

Negative: The Actor/Actress

Her love is conditional, shrouded in expectations over what is proper to love and what is not proper to love. Hers is a selective love, an inconsistent love, a love of trends and fads and fashions. When the object of her “love” does not meet her expectations, her love is withheld. She loves in a framework of judgment, limitations, critique and imitation. Her love is based on status rather sacredness, on egoism rather than unity. Her love is not Love, but a performance that serves her notion of how she wishes others to perceive her.


Working with Hearth Chakra / Anahata

  1. Let go of the past and forgive those who may have hurt you. Grudge-holding serves no one, but ruminating over pain, loss, and abuse will inevitably lead to depression, unchecked anger, or worse. You cannot change the past, but you can let it go. It will not be easy, but it will be worthwhile. The past is what it is; let it stay that way. Acknowledge the lessons you’ve learned from your past (without overthinking, without ruminating) and move forward by cherishing the present moment and allowing yourself to love life. You owe it to yourself to do this – take the first step. The point of power is in the present and it is only from within the present moment that you can create love.
  2. Mindfulness or Guided Meditation. There are many excellent guided meditation videos on YouTube and I urge you to find one that works for you. For a beginner’s video on mindfulness meditation please go here. For detailed guidance on a mindfulness meditation practice, consider the classic book by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English.
  3. Affirmations.

    1. Love opens and heals me.
    2. I choose to be united with all beings, visible and invisible, in the realm of love and light
    3. Joy is my reason for living.
    4. I look for the joy in myself and see it in all tings.
    5. I am worthy of love.
    6. There is an infinite supply of love.
    7. I live in balance with others.
    8. I am loving to myself and to others.
  4. Metta Practice (loving kindness meditation). This can be performed in the morning when you first wake, during the day, or at night before you fall asleep. Wherever the place and whatever the time, it is incredibly beneficial in shifting energy toward unity and love. The idea is to start small and move outward. A summary is below, but for a more detailed look at metta practice please click here.     Metta-Prayer-Plaque
    1. Assume your preferred meditation posture and location.  Steady your breathing.
    2. Repeat the following (or a version that you can easily remember):    May I be free from harm, May I be safe, May I be free from suffering, May I be happy, May I be healthy and strong, May I live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, and with ease.   
    3. Repeat the phrases above, but substitute “May I” with the name of someone who inspires unconditional love. This should be someone you look up to and admire, i.e. parent, grandparent, teacher, mentor, etc. For example, “May mother be free from. . .”.
    4. Repeat phrases by substituting “May I” with the name of someone you consider a dear friend. For example, “May J-Jo be free from…”
    5. Repeat phrases by substituting “May I” with the name of someone about whom you feel neutral, i.e. your postman, the cashier at the grocery, the barrista at Starbucks, etc.
    6. Repeat phrases by substituting “May I” with the name of someone with whom you have difficulty, i.e. your boss, a coworker, your nosey neighbor, etc.
    7. Move outward by saying “May all beings in the air, on land, and in the water be safe, happy, healthy, and free from suffering.”
    8. End the meditation by saying, “May all living beings everywhere, on all planes of existence, known and unknown, be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering.”

Special Dedication: This post is dedicated to J-Jo, a dear friend of mine who, at age 41, has allowed her Anahata to finally blossom.

Dear friends, thank you for reading and, as always, take what works for you and leave the rest behind. Be the journey.

Suggested Reading:

Minfulness Plain          Amodea

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REBLOG: “Buddhism in the West Today” an opinion piece by FMZO Founder

Hello Friends!  This is a reblog of a post I saw on my Facebook thread and I felt it was an appropriate one to share.  The piece was written by Wonji Dharma, founder of the Five Mountain Zen Order and Provost/Dean of Buddha Dharma University.  The article below is part of the Five Mountain Zen Order Newsletter; the newsletter can be viewed in its entirety here.   I found many good points in this article and encourage you to give it a read at your convenience.  As always, take what works for you and leave the rest behind.


First and foremost we must all understand that Ahura Mazda, Buddha, Krishna, Yahweh, God, Muhammad, The Dao, Jesus, Universal Consciousness, or whatever you conceive your higher power to be, created no religion. There is one religion and it is beyond all speech, sometimes referred to as before thinking or Beforethought. The teaching of before thinking is that, the truth is about the appearance of phenomena in this world. One of the great sages of the middle 20th Century, Jiddu Krishnamurti, called it the fact of the situation of this moment. 

As a society, we have become a very profane bunch, choosing rather to feel superior to all things which also include our planet, our environment, and our fellow inhabitants of this planet which we might label as not human. Advaita Vedanta, Chàn Buddhism, Mystical Christianity, Sufism, and the Kabbalah are all based in non-duality.

In our modern society, silence and solitude are avoided like the plague. When out for a walk in the park, people wear earphones and listen to streaming audio or mp3s, because many find the sounds of the real world too boring. Who wants to listen to birds and squirrels, leaves rustling in the wind, or footfalls made by one’s shoes on a path? While driving in our autos, we turn on the radio. Who wants to listen to the hum of the car engine, the air rushing past the windows, the honking of horns, or other traffic sounds? The Christian Bible may say, “Be still and know that I am God”; however, most have no idea what this verse means or what this verse demands. As a culture and a society we have no experience of the depth that lies in stillness or the world that only mental silence can reveal.  

Sadly, all organized religions eventually form factions that ignore the living wonder of the present moment and focus upon the idea of some heavenly future or nirvana that dislodges the focus from being here in the very moment. Millions of us hunger for spiritual depth, but mainstream temples, synagogues, and churches do not have a clue how to provide it. Much of the blame for this sad state of affairs is due to our western world’s unconscious adoption of a philosophical perspective that might be called hard-core dualism. 

Although different groups of early Greeks had opposing views about the nature of reality, the philosophical battle between those who conceived the universe as empty space filled with chunks of matter (the dualists) and those who saw the universe as a unified field (the monists) was won by the dualists. Today, the western world bears the terrible consequences of that philosophical battle’s outcome. As Westerners, we automatically assume that the universe is composed of objects that we, as subjects, observe. We perceive the universe in terms of form and void and automatically assume that reality is empty space littered with independently existing things. Beyond these basic dualistic perceptions of subject–object and form–void, we are further attached to a wide range of other dualities, such as life–death, inside–outside, up–down, good–bad, right–wrong, etc. 

Because we focus so strongly upon these abstract sets of polar opposites we never realize that we, ourselves, are creating and then projecting these ideas upon reality—that the things we perceive are not separate from one another but are aspects of a unified field abstracted “in here” and projected as if they were “out there.” In fact, when the concept of gestalt perception is explained to those of us unfamiliar with it, we often cannot grasp the underlying unity of figure and ground—so strong is our mental indoctrination and ingrained patterns of thought.

Chàn Buddhism emphasizes, “Great Love, Great Faith, and the Great Bodhisattva Way!” Constant introspection into our lives is the key of each and every moment of our lives unfolding before us. Faith is put to the test when the situation is most difficult. Chàn Master Dàhuì Zōnggăo (1089 – 1163), who was the primary disciple of Chan Master Yuánwù Kèqín, (the Author of the Bi Yen Lu “Blue Cliff Record,” noticed that his practitioners were beginning to attach to the words of his late Master with blind and superficial understanding. Consequently, and without hesitation, he attempted to destroy the “Blue Cliff Record” printing blocks, such that the book subsequently became out of print. It was certainly an unusual event for a disciple to do such a thing to his master. In the eyes of contemporary people what the disciple did was outrageous. At that time, Master Dàhuì Zōnggăo destroyed all the printing blocks, nevertheless, years later, later disciples cut new ones, and the book came into circulation once again.

Master Dàhuì is known as the functional founder of our modern method of practice, mainly the huàtóu and kongàn method of insight and transcendence. Dàhuì attained enlightenment at an early age and was assigned as the principle teacher to the Lay Students who were practicing under the tutelage of Chàn Master Yuánwù. Because of this, Dàhuì wrote many of his treatises with the Lay Student in mind. It is because this great teacher stepped out of the normal function of a monk and spent his time almost exclusively with the Nuns and Lay Students in his early years of practice, that we today have a methodology that can work within the life of a householder.

“To attain enlightenment, it is not necessary to abandon family life, quit your job, become a vegetarian, practice asceticism, flee to a quiet mountain top, or enter a ghost cave of dead Zen to entertain your subjective imaginings. If you have been practicing quiet meditation but your mind is still not calm and fee when in the midst of activity, this means your haven’t been empowered by your quiet meditation. Furthermore, if you have been practicing quietude just to get rid of agitation, then when you are practicing quietude just to get rid of agitation, then when you are in the midst of agitation, the agitation will disturb your mind just as if you had never done any quiet meditation.

When you are studying Zen, as you meet with people and deal with situations, never allow bad thoughts to continue. If a bad thought arises, immediately focus your attention and root the thought out. If, however, you just follow the thought unhindered, this will not only make it impossible to have any insight into your own true nature it will also make you a fool.

Good and bad come from you own mind. But what do you call your own mind, apart from your actions and thoughts? Where does your mind come from? If you really know where your own mind comes from, boundless obstacles caused by your own actions will be cleared all at once. After seeing that, all sorts of extraordinary possibilities will come to you without your seeking them.”

It is clear that Great Faith becomes impotent when it ventures into matters pertaining to logical discursive thought! As my great teacher Seung Sahn often said, “Understanding will not help you.” Additionally, the great teacher Shunryu Suzuki Roshi said, “Usually when someone believes in a particular religion, his attitude becomes more and more a sharp angle pointing away from himself. In our way the point of the angle is always towards ourselves.” Religious practices point to the other and attempt to control the masses, spiritual practices point to the individual in the great round mirror! 

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi also said about religious attempts to control the masses, “The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in its wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good; that is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them.” I believe in the fundamental truth of all great spiritual traditions of the world.

A spiritual leader is useless when he or she acts within the confines of political authority. Spiritual authority is never limited by popular government or causes. In all matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place for a spiritual practitioner. It is about equanimity and compassion, once we sell ourselves to any political machine, we limit our ability to connect with the masses. Śakyamuni Buddha railed against the Caste System which existed in what is now known as modern day India and Nepal. He sought to also elevate woman, who had no place in society, to that equivalent to that of a man. Had he worried about being politically correct he would have never followed his heart. The power of Śakyamuni Buddha was just that, he followed what he “observed” to be true or factual. 

It seems that we have a growing movement in the United States which is supporting increasing bifurcation of the Buddhist community. Groups want to separate themselves from the whole to deal with specific issues, or backgrounds, or even tastes. Many years ago I asked Soen Master Seung Sahn in an interview about the difference between Korean Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism, he answered me this way, and I will have to paraphrase what he said, “It is not correct to say Korean Buddhism, or Chinese Buddhism, or Theravada Buddhism or Mahayana Buddhism. To speak in this manner is a mistake. There is only one Buddhism, yet it is alright to refer to a Korean style of Buddhism or a Theravada style of Buddhism, just realize we all practice only Buddhism.” 

This is a point being lost today, as groups try to form Secular Buddhism, or Against the Stream Buddhism, or Generation X Buddhist Teachers, and on and on and on….ad infinitum. Buddhism at its core is transcending all thoughts, and labels about who you are and who everyone else is. 

There is much cultural baggage that goes with each of these “Styles” of Buddhism, and we as United States practitioners (if I said American I am afraid I would be chastised for not being politically correct) need to find a practice free of, primarily our own cultural baggage, and secondarily be wary of importing too much of the Eastern Culture into what will eventually evolve in this country.

The following is purely my own opinion and not a fact in any sense of the word, take my words into your own heart and see what appears for you.

Wonji Dharma