For the last two months on Thursday evenings I’ve been offering teachings on meditation. These teachings have been loosely based on Pema Chodron’s brief, easy to read and highly understandable book called How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends With Your Mind. I especially like Pema Chodron’s making friends with your mind approach to meditation. It’s so down-to-earth and real.
Given my role as a Zen priest, if I do harm to another person these days that harm generally springs from either something I’ve said, or from how I’ve said it. Or, the harm might also arise from something I’ve left unsaid because I didn’t have the courage, compassion, or wisdom to say it when it could have made a beneficial difference. For this reason, Right Speech is a central focuses in my practice. I try to be as absolutely harmless with my speech as I’m able.
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.
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.
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.
Why meditate? Why practice mindfulness? The general consensus today is that meditation and mindfulness reduce stress. Fortunately, if we simply stop, sit down, and pay attention to our breath, we find relief from stress—for sure. Yet, there is much more to meditation and mindfulness. So this post is about how meditation and mindfulness can heighten our awareness of something called Inattentional Blindness. A force that hinders our happiness and our ability to make human connections.
The Buddha wisely recommended a relaxed, calm body and a non-harming frame of mind for meditation. The Buddha said he found this path of gentle practice through reflecting on a delightful memory of safety and ease from his childhood.
Meditation and mindfulness literally change the human brain. Therefore, virtually anyone who practices consistently becomes less reactive, less stressed out, and less fearfully and defensively self-centered. What’s more, meditation practitioners progressively begin to see the interdependent nature of life more clearly. This is because a meditator’s heart begins to accept natural limits. She becomes simpler, less biased, more open hearted over time. Consequently, unfrozen from biases and fearful hesitation, she can act rightly when action is needed.
Sweeping Heart Zen has taken root in Gloucester in 2017. We’ve grown as a website and settled in as a center for meditation and Buddhist practice. Consequently, I think it’s a good time to write a post to (re)introduce SHZ to our growing community of members, readers, and friends. The Buddha described his teachings as, “…visible here and now, immediate…, to be experienced by the wise.” That is, he invited us to inspect, test, and experience his teachings firsthand. The Buddha did not offer his teachings as dogma. They’re not a catechism-like checklist of ideas to believe. On the contrary, the teachings are experiments in living to be tried and tested. One asks, “Do I grow in joy, peace, and contentment as I practice these teachings? Do the people close to me suffer less as I grow in this way of life?” Testing the merits of the teachings and the value of the techniques can be likened to mindfulness in action, to compassion in action. Consequently, the Sweeping Heart Zen Way is practical, experiential, broad minded, and nonsectarian.