“Social networking technology allows us to spend our time engaged in a hyper-competitive struggle for attention, for victories in the currency of ‘likes’. People are given more occasions to be self-promoters, to embrace the characteristics of celebrity, to manage their own image, to Snapchat out their selfies in ways that they hope will impress and please the world. This technology creates a culture in which people turn into little brand managers, using Facebook, Twitter, text messages, and Instagram to create a falsely upbeat, slightly over exuberant, external self that can be famous first in a small sphere and then, with luck, in a large one. The manager of this self measures success by the flow of responses it gets. The social media maven spends his or her time creating a self-caricature, a much happier and more photogenic version of real life.”

from The Road to Character, by David Brooks

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“As a poet I hold the most archaic values on earth . . . the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe. I try to hold both history and the wilderness in mind, that my poems may approach the true measure of things and stand against the unbalance and ignorance of our times.”

Gary Snyder

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What is it about photographs of women standing together in unity that always draws my attention?

Perhaps it’s because they are doing something seldom seen in any culture – taking a strong yet peaceful stand together.  When women speak wordlessly through their stance of strength and courage, they speak volumes that strike right at my heart.

Yet having a physical voice is also important.  In different cultures, many have been conditioned to believe women should not have a voice.  As a result many women today limit themselves when it comes to vocal self-expression. We don’t feel worthy or smart enough to have an intelligent opinion.  Shame and fear are in rampant in our American culture.  How do we learn that we are enough in ourselves, that our opinions are worth sharing?

Participants of Women's Retreat, May 2015 at ZLMC

Participants of Women's Retreat, May 2015 at ZLMC

The first step is to recognize the habitual thought that we have about ourselves.  If we don’t see what we’re thinking, we can’t ever change the pattern.  Changing deep-seated thought patterns may be difficult but not impossible.  We can replace it with new, wholesome thoughts about ourselves.  It will take patience and gentle perseverance to change.

My practice of meditation and mindfulness gives me a little space to notice what I’m feeling when I have to speak up in a group.  Sometimes I feel great anxiety or even real fear of speaking up.  I can notice my heart speeding up and my mouth getting dry.  Then I pay attention to the story I’m telling myself that causes these emotions.   The thought is that I’m not smart enough to speak up in a group.

Once I get worked up, it usually takes me about 15 – 20 minutes to calm down.  That’s how long the brain stays flooded with neurotransmitters after an intense emotional experience.  And according to neuroscientific research, as much as we try to think our way through difficulties when we’re upset -  thinking never helps but only extends the flooding of the brain.  So being in your body is a good thing and helps cut the story line that feeds the feelings.

Meditation is a process of being embodied.  We notice the mind and we keep coming back to the breath and body which brings us into the present.  That is the practice.  It is also a practice that builds courage and helps us to see that we are enough, that we are each unique and beautiful as we are.

Hula dancers know the wisdom of our bodies.  It’s such a wonderful thing to experience our bodies dancing!  When we are really dancing, we are “in the moment,” rather than evaluating or comparing or planning.  We’re just dancing.  What a relief!

We can use a lot of energy playing mind games about shame and personal unworthiness or even blaming others.  These are dead-ends and lead to suffering.  We can use that same energy to dig deeper and begin the process of changing our thoughts.  This is a very brave and compassionate thing we can do for ourselves.  And when we can truly be compassionate with ourselves, then we can naturally be compassionate with others.

Malama pono (take care of body, mind and heart),

June Ryushin Tanoue Sensei

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“People with character may be loud or quiet, but they do tend to have a certain level of self-respect. Self-respect is not the same as self-confidence or self-esteem. Self-respect is not based on IQ or any of the mental or physical gifts that help get you into a competitive college. It is not comparative. It is not earned by being better than other people at something. It is earned by being better than you used to be, by being dependable in times of testing, straight in times of temptation. It emerges in one who is morally dependable. Self-respect is produced by inner triumphs, not external ones. It can only be earned by a person who has endured some internal temptation, who has confronted their own weaknesses and who knows, ‘Well, if worse comes to worst, I can endure that. I can over-come that.’”

from The Road to Character by David Brooks

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Unhappiness and self-centeredness go hand in hand. Ironically, a self that is absorbed in itself may be a self that is cut off from itself. When we stop experiencing ourselves, we end up treating ourselves as objects of evaluation.

Ellen Langer

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I’m very much looking forward to our first Women’s Retreat that I co-lead with Roshi Eve Myonen Marko this Friday evening and all day Saturday.

My first vivid memory of Eve was when we went to Bernie Glassman’s Auschwitz Bearing Witness retreat in the mid 90’s.  Along with Bernie, Eve was a key organizer of this ground-breaking retreat now in it’s 20th year.  In the midst of my retreat experience that was thick with fear, I remember Eve’s courage as she spoke eloquently about her own family’s experience in Auschwitz.

Then in 2001, Bernie invited Robert and me to work with his Peacemaker Community.  So we left Hawaii and joined the Peacemakers in Santa Barbara and then to Western Massachusetts.  Eve was a role model for me as to how a woman could be a leader in the Zen world.

Eve is a founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order and the resident teacher at the Green River Zen Center in Massachusetts.  She co-founded Peacemaker Circle International with her husband Bernie Glassman, which linked and trained spiritually-based social activists and peacemakers in the US, Europe and the Middle East.

I asked her to tell me what inspired her to help organize the Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats twenty years ago.

Eve Myonen Marko:  I think it was part of my karma. Family members had died in concentration camps, including Auschwitz. I had no way of knowing it at the time, but it started me on a long, 20-year arc of confronting historical trauma that dealt with my family and my Jewish culture, and ended by raising what I feel was powerful bodhicitta that extended outwards, transcending the boundaries of family and nation. Auschwitz, which started off raising anger and pain, ended up nourishing my deepest wishes for this planet. This was also thanks to our retreat container there and the vision of Bernie Glassman. And of course, it then drew me to other places of trauma, like Rwanda, Bosnia, and our own Black Hills.

June Ryushin Tanoue:  What do you see clearer now in terms of your life as a woman and as a zen teacher?

Eve:  I’m 65 years old.  I am looking how to simplify my life and work with people who have a deep commitment.  I like to work with small groups of people – there’s trust – we can work on our lives together.  I have less and less interest in working with big groups.

As a woman – I spend more time taking care of my body and walking a lot.  I love to walk in the woods of New England.  I love looking at animals, looking at trees. I love to feed birds over the winter.   We had a harsh winter.  Care of the body and care of nature, and how the two come together, is becoming clearer at this point.

Speaking of women, and having worked in areas of conflict and pain, it’s also obvious to me that the roles that women play in these places are crucial.  In my experience, women often have less patience for blame because they have to take care of their families, they have to get back on the bandwagon and get to work. Sometimes they repress the trauma for years, but often they can heal faster and help others heal, too.

June: You were one of my first hula students when I began to teach hula. Why do you like the hula?

Eve: After a “diet” of Japanese flavored Zen, I found hula feminine and flowing. I always appreciated the tremendous discipline involved. I was surprised to see how unself-conscious I was, how I could plunge into those gorgeous movements. And of course, I had a great teacher.

In addition to the Women’s retreat on May 1st and 2nd, she will give the dharma talk at Sunday Morning Zen at 10 am.  Her talk is entitled, “The Practice of Wonder.”  Bring your Hidden Lamp books and have Eve sign the page with the koan “Ziyong’s Earth” that she reflected on in the book. I hope you’ll help me welcome her to Chicago.

Interview conducted by Sensei June Ryushin Tanoue

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In Zen we have a saying, “sit like a mountain.”  I understood that in my bones when Robert and I lived in Hawaii in the late ‘80s until 2001.  We had a magnificent backyard view of Mauna Kea also known as Mauna a Wakea.  She was breathtakingly majestic sitting there in great dignity and silence.

Mauna Kea is that rare mountain – very tall and alone – in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Such attributes make it a perfect spot for the science of astronomy.

Astronomers love the clear air, low humidity and dark skies.  Many scientists have taken advantage of the mountain by building 12 telescopes in a special land use zone on the summit.  This zone is located on land protected by the Historical Preservation Act which recognizes it’s significance to Hawaiian culture.

According to legend, Mauna Kea is the first born mountain child of Wakea (Sky Father) and Papa (Earth Mother).

Myfamily and I lived on the Hamakua slide of her slopes for three generations.  Hawaiians who live in Hamakua take care of the mountain and also of Waipio Valley.

Recently, something big has happened in response to the building of the thirteenth telescope, known as the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).  A consortium of countries -  Japan, China, India, Canada and the United States coordinated through the University of Hawaii, has almost completed the hurdles needed to build TMT. Bulldozers and heavy equipment have reached the site.

A small group of Native Hawaiians calling themselves “protectors” have taken a stand and shown up on the mountain to respectfully block the way of the bulldozers.  They are conducting themselves in their culturally disciplined manner of peace, love and non-violence called ‘Aloha ‘Aina and Kapu Aloha.

‘Aloha ‘Aina literally means deep love of the land.  Kapu Aloha means respect towards others, under any and all circumstances.  It has been beautiful and inspiring to see people practicing these two spiritual principles given the great challenge they face against this $1.3 billion project. And they have been gaining support all over the islands and world-wide.  The governor has called a 2 week building moratorium as discussions have continued about building TMT.

It’s not that the protectors disagree with science and telescopes.  It’s just that they feel it’s not the right place for one more.  The top of mountains are most sacred to native peoples because they are closest to the heavens.  So it makes sense that the actions of the protectors on the mauna (mountain) must be pono (right with themselves and with their god) and most respectful to all – even to people they don’t agree with.

So how do we live ‘Aloha ‘Aina and Kapu Aloha everyday?  I take inspiration from the mauna and these ‘Aloha ‘Aina warriors.  Both exhibit strength and calm.  We know in our hearts when we are called to do something that we must listen.  That is fearlessness.

When we love something deeply, including ourselves, we do what must be done.  We malama (take care) in different ways.  We find our courage.   We are strong enough to listen to others who do not share our viewpoint.

We are calm and spacious (or we pause, breathe and regain composure) and we speak from our na’au (guts) and pu’uwai (heart). The response arises with truth and aloha so we can remain connected even in the midst of conflict.

We have to act alone sometimes or so it seems. Like when we sit, it can feel solitary. In reality, we are always deeply intertwined with each other and the ‘aina (land).  And that knowing gives us strength and perseverance to continue to love and respect ourselves, one another and the land.

Sensei June Ryushin Tanoue

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Therese Marie Carolyn Keyes passed away on Friday, April 10, 2015 at approximately 7:00 am at the University of Chicago Hospital with her brother Carl by her side. She was 64. She died of cancer on the lungs, a complication from her leukemia. She was a member of an orthodox Christian contemplative order.

Therese was also a member of our Zen Life & Meditation Center. She rode her bike and sat meditation with us as often as she could. She called if we didn’t see her for awhile to let us know that she was thinking of us and always wishing she could be sitting with us more. She’s call June by her Hawaiian title and name, “Kumu Kaililani”.

She never talked much about her illness. She was very humble and a a great sense of humor. She didn’t take herself too seriously. When we did get to chat, she’d always get a sparkle in her eye and we’d end up laughing. She left June a video that she said was the very best comedy called, “The Best of Red Green” and that we should watch it sometime for a good laugh.

Her brother Carl said this on her website where she kept people appraised of her health status. “I know how much it meant to her knowing so many wonderful family and friends would visit this site. Near the end she asked me to be sure to thank you all for the amazing amount of love and support over these very difficult times.”

We are holding a memorial service for Therese this Friday, April 25, 2015 from 5:30 to 6:30 pm at the Zen Life & Meditation Center located at 38 Lake Street in Oak Park, IL. As per her wishes, in lieu of flowers Therese would like donations to be made to your favorite charities.

 

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“When you have little awareness you are easily given over to reactive behavior based on fear. Mindful awareness watches everything impartially. It does not pick or choose. It does not take sides. It does not fight. So when you strengthen this awareness in yourself you can let go of what you cling to. You can let go of the contraction.”

Robert Joshin Althouse

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“In working with the felt sense, we need to counteract the way in which conceptual thinking usually dominates our waking consciousness. We have to learn how to drop the story line of discursive thought in order to enter the nonconceptual felt space of direct experience. The story line is our internal narrative about our life experiences. It helps us make sense of our experiences and allows us to share them with others—both very important—but it is an interpretation of experience rather than the experience itself. This is a subtle point: most of the time we get along fine without differentiating direct experience from our interpretations of it. But it is a crucial difference. Like the proverbial finger pointing at the moon, our interpretation points towards the experience, but if we take it as the whole truth, we lose the connection to our actual, lived experience and can easily end up misleading ourselves. To contact experience directly, we need to release the story line and sense, beneath it, how our body is actually living our life situations. ”

from Your Body Knows the Answer by David Rome

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