Posted in meditation, zen

Fountain City Meditation: Encourage Others

The world is a crazy place right now and I am scared.

Lots of people’s lives are turned upside down right now by current events and things are really hard to understand and hard to deal with.

This is a story I like to share.

A student went to Nakagawa Soen Roshi during a meditation retreat and said, “Master, I am feeling very discouraged. What should I do?”

And Roshi replied, “Encourage others.”

That story has meant a lot to me since I heard it. I think we’re best at encouraging others when we feel discouraged and it feels like there’s no hope.

I am discouraged. How can I encourage you?

Encouragement is central to this new project and I will not lose sight of that intent. I want to encourage you.

I teach online. I think if you’re reading this you know that. I reach people all over the world and it’s rewarding. I’m trying to figure out if I can serve my local community too.

Right now I’m envisioning “Fountain City Meditation” as a floating community, a group where we come together at different places and different times.

I want to provide opportunities for meditation practice and I want to encourage that practice. There are several meditation communities in town. I want to reach the people that aren’t feeling served by those communities. I know those people exist.

I used to belong to a Buddhist community as a very active member, I was around for years. I saw so many people come and go.  Some people would come once or twice and then go. But others would stay for months and years and then just be gone. I don’t know what the disappearing people needed. I just know they weren’t getting it. I want to reach people that feel like they don’t belong anywhere. I want to reach people that no one is reaching and I want to encourage them.

(if you want to know why I left, just ask. I want to share with others and I want others to feel comfortable sharing with me. There are real human issues in life and no one is perfect)

I also want to reach people that maybe don’t feel totally lost, but are interested in something a little different.

So, this is my invitation to you, if you’re in or around Kansas City. 

If you want a community where none of us pretend that we’re perfect or that we have it all together.

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong in a Meditation Center or  Buddhist Temple.

If you’ve ever felt like you’re the only person in the meditation room who doesn’t know what’s going on.

If you really want a sense of community with your meditation group.

If you feel like you can’t meditate, or you’re not calm enough, or everyone will look at you like a fraud.

If you feel alone in a room full of people because no one in the community has reached out to you.

Come join. I want to encourage you.

Facebook Page

Fountain City Meditation

I don’t know how many events we’re going to have, or how often. A lot of that will depend on how much demand there is.

But I’m inspired to serve. I’m here to help.
What do you need?

 

How can I encourage you?

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Posted in zen

What is Zen?

The purpose of Zen practice is Enlightenment, self realization, awakening to the absolute truth of reality. It’s a path of transformation instead of salvation.

We have a constructed image in our minds of who we are and what the world is. Zen is about being in the moment without the constructs. Dropping ego. Dropping the past and our thoughts about the future and engaging with the present moment.

Easier said than done. Our minds want to do anything but stay in this moment. Zen involves learning to quiet our minds and penetrate through these layers of delusion. Zen is teaching our minds how to sit still.

We do this by following a set of principles: meditation, mindfulness, and morality.

Anyone can do it. The path to awakening isn’t restricted to some lucky or noble few. It’s for everyone.

Our true nature is one with everything and the only reason we don’t see that is because we are in layers of delusion. When we meditate we clear some of that delusion. We have to dig ourselves out.

We train to realize our true nature. We investigate ourselves.

We just have to be present to perceive our true nature.

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Posted in zen

Dharma Winds

It feels like I’ve been an independent Dharma teacher for a long time.

I guess I haven’t really been independent because I’ve been teaching online at the Open Heart Project for a few years, but that feels like more of a guest teacher role to me.

Recently I was invited to join an international Buddhist community called the Dharma Winds Zen Sangha, which is a branch of the (not much) larger Order of Hsu Yun. This order is in the Chan (Chinese Zen) tradition and comes from the tradition of Hsu Yun and Han Shan, some of the same historical teachers that inspire me. I felt the need to mention that it’s international because I wanted to make it clear that they’re not here. I, at best, exist on the margins of the communities that are here in Kansas City.

And that’s okay.

I’m sort of a Zen hermit, largely practicing on my own and/or with the people in my household.

I’m still independent, really, but also part of something. I’m part of a tradition. It’s about recognition and connection. And although no one that practices in this tradition is close by, it’s still meaningful.

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I was welcomed into this international order and ordained as a Zen Priest. I’ll have to think long and hard about what it means to be a Zen Priest before I try to explain it in detail. This doesn’t really change anything other than making my relationship to Zen, as a practice and philosophy, more clear. To me it essentially means I’m committed to the path and I’m obligated to share teachings with anyone that asks. I have to meet the world with an open heart and to be as genuine as I can. Maybe we should all be trying to do that anyway. We say “priest” and not “monk” because I am in the world with everyone else living an ordinary life and that is not going to change. I’m not a monastic teacher, I’m a householder teacher. I have a family and a career. And I’m also trying to carry the teachings forward and pass them on whenever I can.

I was given the ordination name QianMing. This translates to “Supreme Clarity”. I’m not sure if I have great clarity. The clearest things to me are usually my own shortcomings. But maybe facing our imperfections honestly is the greatest clarity there is. I’m dedicated seeing myself clearly and sharing what I see with honesty and sincerity.

I believe in a Zen practice that includes all things. All beings that I meet are part of the path. So are the wind and the rain. We’re part of a connected whole. And this path isn’t about going away from the world. It’s not about retreating. It’s about being in the world fully and completely, manifesting authenticity and compassion.

So that’s what I’m trying to do.

I’m not going to try to build my own temple or anything like that.

But I am going to share the teachings with anyone that asks.

 

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thanks for taking the time to read this.

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Posted in zen

“I have pacified your mind” (video)

This is the story of Bodhidharma and his student Huike.

Let me know what you think.

 


Upcoming Events:

8/25/18: 11:00AM-11:30AM

Meditation Mob KC

Nelson Atkins Museum of Art

4525 Oak Street
Kansas City, MO 64111

We are going to meet up on the south lawn of the Nelson Museum and we’re going to meditate in public. I’ll give a little bit of guidance and a short talk and we will sit (in the shade of course) and meditate together with open hearts and awakened minds.

Go like the page Kansas City Zen to get updates for events like this.

9/9/18: 9:00AM-10:15AM

Dharma Talk and Meditation

Tam Bao Buddhist Temple

16933 E 21st St, Tulsa, OK 74134

I’ve been invited to travel to a beautiful Buddhist temple to give a dharma talk. While we’re there, we’ll have the opportunity to visit the largest Buddhist statue in America.

To learn more about this group, click HERE

Posted in zen

Zen Failure?

I ran a Zen sitting group at the Rime Buddhist Center for two years. At least I think it lasted two years…

Anyway, it started right after my divorce. I was a wreck and I asked for the opportunity.

The main reason I did this was so I’d have something to do Monday nights.

I love this old Zen story:

STUDENT: Master, I am feeling discouraged, what should I do?
MASTER: Encourage others.

I was feeling very discouraged.

But also I wanted to see if people in this Tibetan Buddhist community would be interested in something different. As it turned out, not very many of them were interested, but that’s okay.

I want to write now about my mistakes, about how I’d do things differently if I ran a sitting group now.

I’m not going to go into detail about what our practice was, except to say that there was some sitting, some walking, and just a little bit of chanting. And also, bells and banging the wooden fish. You know, regular Zen stuff.

But, what’s significant to me now is what I didn’t do. I led this practice for two years and I didn’t give any talks. I didn’t give any talks and I didn’t open up for questions. I just handed out instructions and introduced myself and we just did the practice and went home. Now it feels like I didn’t even really try.

And that is my regret. I could have been giving talks, sharpening my teaching skills and engaging people.

So why didn’t I?
It starts with confidence. Back then I didn’t have it. I didn’t know, in spite of all my training, if I was good enough. I didn’t know if I was capable. I didn’t have nearly the level of experience that I have now.  Now I’ve given over 100 talks. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

But there’s more, of course.

Two of the people that came to my sitting group are students of a Zen Priest that they travel to go retreat with. And I was glad to have them. They helped me design aspects of the practice and lead chants. They were so very helpful. And at some level I thought it wouldn’t be okay for me to be giving talks because they already had a teacher and it wasn’t me.

Sometimes our minds really lead us down weird paths and when try to follow what we were thinking it’s hard to understand.

Looking back it’s so weird to me that I felt that way because I think they would have liked seeing me give talks. I was just…well, timid, I guess.

And, of course, once I spent a few weeks not giving talks…well, inertia took over. It was too late to change what I was doing. Or at least it felt that way.

Anyway, people would come and not come back. Some of that is, of course, curiosity. But I often wonder if some of those one-time visitors might have come back if they had been able to hear a talk or I had been better in some other way.

Ultimately the group didn’t really grow. There were even some nights where I sat alone. Attendance was not good and it kept getting worse.

And really it’s because I was afraid to teach. I didn’t have the confidence that I have now.

 

So it feels like those two years were wasted. But maybe they helped me prepare in some way.


 

I’m not leading a sitting group anywhere now.

But if you want to see me, please look at my Events Page

 


and if you want me to come give a talk at your event or your temple…please, let me know.

 

Posted in ch'an, zen

Silent Illumination

In complete silence, words are forgotten; total clarity appears before you.” -Hongzhi

Silent Illumination (mozhao) is a formless meditation practice.

It’s an approach to practice that emphasizes our true nature as fully enlightened. The practice of Silent Illumination is a fundamental practice of Tsaotung Ch’an Buddhism.

Silent Illumination is what’s called an objectless and still meditation. It’s said that in this practice we can step outside of duality and experience enlightenment manifesting itself.

The practice was introduced by Hongzhi Zhengjue in the twelfth century. It was referred to derisively as a heretical teaching by a master in another tradition. “Silent Illumination” was meant to be a derogatory term, but Hongzhi decided to take the name as a positive thing.

In the practice of Silent Illumination we aren’t striving for an Enlightenment experience. We are just trying to enter a state beyond thought where Enlightenment can manifest on it’s own. We’re just being here now with what is.

Silent Illumination is distinct from other forms of practice because there is no point of focus. We aren’t following the breath or a mantra or anything else. In Silent Illumination we are simply paying attention to our experience as it is.

Posted in zen

Hakuin and the Accusation

A zen story:

A zen teacher named Hakuin lived in a small hut outside of a village. He had a great reputation and was liked by all.

One day a poor young woman in the village became pregnant and lied to her parents. She told them Hakuin was the father.

After the baby was born this young woman’s parents took the baby to Hakuin’s hut and said, “you got our daughter pregnant! You must take care of this child. We can’t afford it!”

They were very angry.

Hakuin said, “is that so?”

And accepted the baby, raising it as his own in his small hut.

This woman had ruined Hakuin’s reputation. People thought he was a wise and virtuous teacher and suddenly they didn’t think that anymore. They thought he was a creep. No one would be coming to learn from him any time soon, he obviously couldn’t be trusted.

And he just responded with patience. He could have responded with anger. He could have aggressively denied the accusation. He could have called the young woman crazy or evil. Would that have worked? Would they have listened to a denial? Who knows.

Instead his attitude was just, “Okay, I guess I’m raising a child now.”

He took care of that baby for over a year. It’s said that he took really good care of it. He borrowed milk from a neighbor and fed and clothed the baby, caring for all it’s needs, raising it as though it were his own.

A year went by and the young woman confessed. The baby’s father was a fisherman or something.

The parents came back and apologized to Hakuin for ruining his reputation and giving him the baby. They said they’d take the baby back since it wasn’t his responsibility.

And Hakuin said, “Is that so?”

And he let them take the baby he had cared for. This must have been hard on Hakuin. He had plenty of time to bond with this child and then he had to face what a lot of foster parents have to face. He had to just let the child go.

So, Hakuin can teach us something about how to handle drama. He was attacked and he handled it with humility and stoicism. He didn’t even worry about his reputation, he just did what had to be done.

Posted in stories, zen

Ma-tsu and the treasure

In the 8th century a student went to visit the great master Ma-tsu.

The master asked, “Why have you come here?”

And the student replied, “I seek enlightenement.”
The master said, “Why go out to see it and forget that you have the treasure already? I have nothing to give you.”
The student said, “But what is my treasure?” The master answered, “It contains everything and lacks nothing. There is nothing to seek outside of yourself.”
There are actually a few similar stories about Master Ma-tsu. I really like this one. The student has come asking for some kind of secret to be revealed, a key to Enlightenment.
Ma-tsu is telling him there is no secret. We all have the treasure inside and it’s our true nature. Enlightenment is not something to seek outside of ourselves.
That is the message.
Posted in ch'an, zen

Our Empty Nature

Form is Emptiness,
Emptiness is Form.

That’s what the Heart Sutra said. Emptiness is all, from the very beginning.

We have to dig through and penetrate all of our delusions to really get at the truth of things. We have to put down our baggage and habitual thought patterns. We have to let go of who we thought we were. Because that’s not who we are.

Only then can we dwell in our true nature, which is emptiness.

Our true nature isn’t our history; we aren’t what happened to us.

Our true nature isn’t our weaknesses; we aren’t defined by our flaws.

Our true nature isn’t the circumstances of our birth; we aren’t defined by our heritage, status, or nationality.

Our true nature is emptiness, the source of all things, a vast field of boundless possibility that transcends all of the dualistic filters through which we see the world.

When we sit and develop awareness: settling our thoughts, stilling the mind, we can dwell in wonder and wakefulness. We can engage our true nature right now.