Books Behind Bars is an ongoing project of the Prison Mindfulness Institute in Deerfield, Massachusetts. I’m happy to say that Books Behind Bars is now one of Sweeping Heart Zen’s ongoing community service activities.
What we’re learning in Buddhist practice, and in Buddhist meditation specifically, is to let go of our attachments and our aversions, our likes, dislikes, and biases so we can rest and relax in now. The pure potential of being in every moment is now. Fortunately, we have unrestricted access to now. That’s fortunate because now is the most instructive teacher we could ever have.
One out of one hundred Americans is currently behind bars. At our April 2018 meeting, the Sweeping Heart Zen Board voted unanimously to send ongoing financial support to the Prison Mindfulness Institute. Support for PMI and its programs to relieve suffering is now part of Sweeping Heart Zen’s ongoing community service work. At the present time then we’ve added our support for PMI to the monthly support we provide to The Grace Center and Action, Inc. in Gloucester.
Okay, I love the point, so I borrowed the “Buddhism Schmuddhism,” thing from Lama Surya Das. His point? The point? Don’t bother becoming a Buddhist, or becoming anything at all, for that matter. Just wake up to the way things are now, to the way you are now. Wake up to your life. Grow your inner goodness. Be the wide open knowing at your center. Fall in love with and share your gifts. Live who you truly are. Not tomorrow, not last week, live right now.
Though I was thirteen when the song Me and Bobby McGee came out, as I listened to Janice Joplin sing, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…” those words touched my heart and blew my mind and I still love that lyric to this day. Then I loved the rebelliousness of the lyric. Now I feel and think that having “nothing left to lose” is just another way to say “Awakened.” And those who have nothing left to lose are capable of what we need more of today, which is Awakened Action.
Diane Constantino is a member of the Sweeping Heart Zen sangha and a fluency specialist at The Center for Stuttering Therapy at Boston University. In her inaugural guest post here at sweepingheartzen.org, Diane writes about how she and her profession use mindfulness-based therapies to help people who stutter free themselves from the clutches of “shenpa.” What’s shenpa? Most of us face some version of it everyday. Diane skillfully fills us in on the nuts and bolts of mindfulness and shenpa below.
I’d like to encourage everyone on the North Shore to join in the 5th Annual Pete Seeger Legacy Sing this evening Sunday, March 18, from 6 to 8 o’clock at Magma, 11 Pleasant Street in Gloucester. It’s free and all freewill donations from the sing will go to March For Our Lives. This promises to be a heartwarming, good time and I’m sure you’ll agree that March For Our Lives is something that deserves our support. Here’s a link with the details: magma.center/event/pete-seeger-legacy-sing/
One of the things we’re learning in meditation is to live in the always present, unspeakably spontaneous, unpredictable liveliness of each moment. After our early morning meditation at Sweeping Heart Zen we chant “May the mind flower bloom in eternal spring.” That is, we remind ourselves that human beings can touch the eternal spring in each moment.
Two memories really got me thinking about Zen and mopping floors this week. But before I go into that, I want to talk about one aspect of Zen. You’ve heard the expression “Chop wood, carry water.” Zen’s flavor is earthy and this saying captures that perfectly. This simple phase could just as well say, “Mop floors, wash dishes.” One thing this saying does is give full-throated encouragement to a Zen practitioner who aims to cultivate mindful attention in everything she does. This is how we practice. In addition, the saying is encouragement to unhesitatingly do what needs doing. Without doubt or fear. Mopping floor Zen is down-to-earth, affectionate, and intimate.
We just entered our first 6-week practice period here at Sweeping Heart Zen. Before we started the period, people who formally entered this time of invigorated practice submitted what’s called a Practice Period Intention Form. One questions on the form asks, “What theme or issue do you intend to focus on during this Practice Period?” I intend to deeply rest and relax in awareness.