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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m always on the lookout for news that sparks even the tiniest bit of optimism about the future. We need that right now, right? I know I do. I look for such news everyday. And, the good news that’s recently come to my attention is minimalism. Ah, minimalism, mindfulness and affection.
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.