Monthly Archives: July 2014

How to Love Yourself

Loving yourself takes two things, love and a self. Love is the easy part. If your self is difficult to love then you start with loving things that are not you. Think of people and things that you love. Think of times and places that you love, think of foods and activities that you love. If you can think of even one thing that you love and focus intently on that one thing and how it makes you feel then you can fill yourself with love. When you fill yourself with love, you have effectively loved yourself, but that is not enough.

To love yourself you have to imagine that you are lovable. To demonstrate that you are lovable, think of some thing or somebody that has loved you. Everybody has grown up with some love in their life. Without love we wither away and die. When you think of a person or pet who loves you, think about what that love is and how that love feels. Breathe in and out with how others love you. Once again you are filled with love, and you have loved yourself, but that is also not enough.

Understanding that you love and are loved and being able to fill yourself with love will help you connect with the love in your life.  To focus that love on yourself, you take a good look at yourself. If you are not feeling lovable, then you are suffering. look into your suffering and see how much you would like that suffering to stop. That feeling of wanting suffering to stop is compassion. When you feel compassion for yourself you are loving yourself. You feel clearly that you are deserving of love and peace and freedom from suffering. When you feel compassion for yourself you have loved yourself, but that is not enough.

Once you have demonstrated to yourself that you can love yourself, then you must practice loving yourself all the time. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings about yourself. Recognize when you are thinking bad things about yourself and see that when you think those things you are suffering. Conversely, if you notice you are suffering, see if you are thinking bad things about yourself. Then clear your mind, fill yourself with love and compassion and start again. You may do this 10 or 10,000 times, but it is still not enough.

When you practice loving others, being loved by others, and loving yourself, and you realize that what and where you are is enough, that is enough. Then, keep practicing.


Is Meditation Essential to a Zen Practice?

Meditation is both fundamental and incidental to a Zen practice. Our Buddha Nature is just the same whether we sit with it or not.

If I had the choice of practicing Zen without meditation or practicing meditation without Zen, I would practice meditation.

I like the idea from the Soto school of Zen Buddhism that sitting meditation is enlightenment itself. If you embrace that idea, when you sit, you have nothing to gain or lose, you are simply enlightened. You are there.

Breathing, eating, sleeping, standing, sitting, being kind, developing a compassionate heart from which compassionate actions flow, experiencing your Buddha Nature, and helping others to experience It are all important elements of a Zen practice.

To really understand the importance of meditation, just sit.


The Sixth Stage of Loss and Grief – Transformation

Grieving is a part of life. Grief is not only something we go through when we experience the death of a loved one, it is what we go through when we experience any significant loss or change. In her exploration of the grieving process, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross broke down the grieving process into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  These stages represent how we incorporate loss into our world view and how we feel as we learn to live with loss. Although the stages are presented as a progression from denial to acceptance, as we grieve, we move back and forth between the stages and can even experience them all at once.  If we really want a sense of progression in our grief, we need to be aware of a sixth stage, transformation.

By focusing narrowly on the five stages, we lose awareness that our grief is a part of our human growth process. When we remember that these painful feelings and experiences are a part of our overall transformation, we can find a sense of purpose, even in the depths of depression.

Knowing the five stages of grief and loss is a helpful mindfulness tool. We may not even know that we are grieving, but we find ourselves angry or depressed. When we are aware of these moods, we can recognize that we are grieving some kind of loss and we can remember that we are in a transformative process. In that moment, we can find acceptance of our mood, experience and circumstance. Although there is a certain amount of peace that comes with acceptance, transformation takes the loss and turns it into a deeper sense of peace infused with wisdom.

Because life is constantly changing, we are constantly experiencing some kind of loss. As we mindfully observe our experience, we can use our understanding of grief and loss to recognize where we are in the process and we can have the courage to be where we are. With the courage to be where we are, we can work through any loss and actively participate in our own transformation.