The Daily OM for January 28th – Who Am I

Who Am I
The Heart of Unknowing

by Madisyn Taylor

The question of who we are is a seed that can bear much fruit if given the chance to unfold.

At some point in our lives, or perhaps at many points in our lives, we ask the question, “Who am I? At times like these, we are looking beyond the obvious, beyond our names and the names of the cities and states we came from, into the layers beneath our surface identities. We may feel the need for a deeper sense of purpose in our lives, or we may be ready to accommodate a more complex understanding of the situation in which we find ourselves. Whatever the case, the question of who we are is a seed that can bear much fruit.

It can send us on an exploration of our ancestry, or the past lives of our soul. It can call us to take up journaling in order to discover that voice deep within us that seems to know the answers to a multitude of questions. It can draw our attention so deeply inward that we find the spark of spirit that connects us to every living thing in the universe. One Hindu tradition counsels its practitioners to ask the question over and over, using it as a mantra to lead them inevitably into the heart of the divine.

While there are people who seem to come into the world knowing who they are and why they are here, for the most part the human journey appears to be very much about asking this question and allowing its answers to guide us on our paths. So when we find ourselves in the heart of unknowing, we can have faith that we are in a very human place, as well as a very divine one. “Who am I? is a timeless mantra, a Zen koan ultimately designed to lead us home, into the part of our minds that finally lets go of questions and answers and finds instead the ability to simply be.

The Daily OM

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Let’s Talk Witch – Even Witches Need To Know How to Meditate

Witchy Comments & Graphics
Let’s Talk Witch – How To Meditate

To begin, sit in a darkened room (not pitch dark, but dim lights). Sit still, sit quiet, for 10 minutes. No music, no talking, no tapping your fingers, no jiggling your foot, no moving your head or cracking your neck or looking around. It’s harder than you think. If you don’t make it through the first time, try again the next day (don’t rush it or you’ll just get really mad at yourself – this isn’t a speed competition!) and keep trying until you can sit still and quiet for 10 minutes. You can think about anything you want, the point is to be physically still, and not have any external stimuli (no TV, no music, no whatever). This teaches you to have a quiet body. This also teaches you about time, because it’s hard to know how long 10 minutes is. Your eyes can be opened or closed, it doesn’t matter (and blinking isn’t counted as moving, so you can blink all you want).

Once you are able to sit still for 10 minutes, then try sitting for 10 minutes and think only about white things. If you start to think about something that isn’t white, stop yourself, and start thinking about white things again. Here’s a list of words to help you get started:

Snow, polar bears, cotton, vanilla pudding, paper, light bulbs, chicken, arctic hare, white wolf, beluga whale, dove, cream, soap, flower, milk, flour, rice, refrigerator, tooth, swan, snowy owl, sand, stones, clouds

Once you have done it, do it twice more, on different days. Ten minutes thinking about things that are white. It will teach you how to concentrate and how to have a quiet mind. If you think about white things and you start to move, try again. If you are still, but you think about what that jerk on the bus said to you today, try again. Each time you try, take at least a one day break in between your tries. You will learn concentration and discipline, both very important for meditation. Don’t rush it, this isn’t a contest!

When you are comfortable with spending 10 quiet, still, minutes thinking about things that are white, try 10 minutes thinking about things that are natural, like animals, grass, trees, sky, and so on. Anything in the natural world, made naturally and not altered by human hands. Remember to keep still, and keep quiet. Don’t say the things out loud, just think them in your head.

If your mind wanders, just pull it back. So if you are thinking about animals, and you think about your cat, and your cat’s fur, and your cat’s meow, and the neighbourhood dog that chases your cat, that is fine. If you then think about the neighbourhood dog that barks, and your stupid neighbour who lets the dog bark at night and it wakes you up and then you get a bad sleep and you have an important meeting tomorrow and… now you have let your mind wander. Immediately think of another natural thing, and refocus yourself.

Then, practice and practice and practice until thinking about natural things is really really easy, and being still is really really easy. Think about different things each time – maybe think about animals one time, and then flowers the next time.

I recommend thinking about natural things because it is a great way to connect to the Goddess. So that when you want to meditate on the goddess Diana, for example, you can concentrate on things that are important to Her: trees, a cool stream, a deer, a dog and so on, without getting off track.

Give it a try, it will take some time to get good, but it will be worth every minute you spend trying. It will let you connect better with the Goddess, and that will increase the power of your spells and magick.

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Daily OM for December 3rd – Keeping Our Minds Supple

Keeping Our Minds Supple
Questioning Everything

by Madisyn Taylor

Being open-minded means that we are willing to question everything, including those things we take for granted.

A lot of people feel threatened if they feel they are being asked to question their cherished beliefs or their perception of reality. Yet questioning is what keeps our minds supple and strong. Simply settling on one way of seeing things and refusing to be open to other possibilities makes the mind rigid and generally creates a restrictive and uncomfortable atmosphere. We all know someone who refuses to budge on one or more issues, and we may have our own sacred cows that could use a little prodding. Being open-minded means that we are willing to question everything, including those things we take for granted.

A willingness to question everything, even things we are sure we are right about, can shake us out of complacency and reinvigorate our minds, opening us up to understanding people and perspectives that were alien to us before. This alone is good reason to remain inquisitive, no matter how much experience we have or how old we get. In the Zen tradition, this willingness to question is known as beginner’s mind, and it has a way of generating possibilities we couldn’t have seen from the point of view of knowing something with certainty. The willingness to question everything doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t believe in anything at all, and it doesn’t mean we have to question every single thing in the world every minute of the day. It just means that we are humble enough to acknowledge how little we actually know about the mysterious universe we call home.

Nearly every revolutionary change in the history of human progress came about because someone questioned some time-honored belief or tradition and in doing so revealed a new truth, a new way of doing things, or a new standard for ethical and moral behavior. Just so, a commitment to staying open and inquisitive in our own individual lives can lead us to new personal revolutions and truths, truths that we will hopefully, for the sake of our growth, remain open to questioning.

The Daily OM

Daily OM for August 19th – Savoring Ceremony

Savoring Ceremony
Tea Rituals

by Madisyn Taylor

 

Tea time with friends can be turned into ceremony simply by the intention in which you prepare your tea.

 

Coffee may be the power beverage that gets us revved up in the morning and fuels us when we’re burning the midnight oil, but tea is the drink we turn to when we want to relax and be refreshed at the same time. Black, green, white, herbal, hot, or ice cold, tea is more than a soothing beverage. It can be a ritual, a cultural experience, and even a spiritual practice.

The reverence for tea has inspired ceremony in many cultures. From the spirituality of Chanoyu, the Japanese way of preparing and serving tea, to the sharing of Maté in Latin America, tea rituals are for celebration, ceremony, and relationship bonding. In China, tea rituals are part of many wedding ceremonies with the bride and groom serving their elder relatives in a show of respect and gratitude. The Chinese art of drinking and serving tea has been a source of inspiration for poetry and song. The Russian custom of chaepitie has inspired a unique style of teapots, caddies, teacups, and cozies. The samovar, a special brewing device, has become the symbol of the Russian tea ceremony and an object of art in its own right. Iced tea, popular in the U.S., as well as other parts of the world, is a modern ritual bringing cool relief on a sweltering summer day.

You can turn your own tea time with a friend into a simple ceremony by preparing your tea with the intention of offering nourishment and good wishes to the other person. When you are seated together, rather than drinking your tea right away, look at one another and express your gratitude and appreciation for your friendship. When you pour the tea, again intend it as an offering. Drink your tea slowly, savoring its flavor and aroma. Let its warmth or its coolness soothe your body. When you are finished drinking your tea, thank your friend for taking part in this nourishing ritual with you. Whether savored in the presence of another or tasted alone, the custom of drinking tea provides a soothing pause in our hectic world. Drinking tea can be a daily ritual that brings inner calm and clarity to the body, mind, and soul.

Daily OM

Your Daily Zen Meditation for February 6th


New Age Comments & Graphics

Your Daily Zen Meditation for February 6th

The realm of enlightenment of all the Buddhas and

patriarchs is the same as that of you monks.  If you

have a head full of Buddhas and patriarchs, how will

you ever get to see what is your own?

But if you see what is your own, at that time there

cannot be any Buddhas, patriarchs, other people or

dharma established…The patriarch is not another

person separate from yourself, and the Buddha is

miraculous, pure awakening.

– Hongzhi

Cleanse Your Mind

Cleanse Your Mind

This spell is used to get rid of headaches and stress.

Items You Need:

Wand

Pentacle

Pillow

 

The Spell:

Unplug the phone, lock the doors and find a quiet place in the house to perform this spell. Tie the pentacle around your neck and sit with a pillow, close your eyes and take three deep breaths then with your eyes still closed, chant the following:

“Air I am,

Fire I am

Water, Earth

and Spirit I am.

Return to me.

Restore me.

So Mote It Be.”

Now touch the middle of your pentacle with your wand and hold it there until you feel the headache gone or the stress relieved.

Today’s Affirmation, Thought & Meditation for Wednesday, March 21

Wednesday Images, Pics, Comments, Graphics, Photos
Today’s Affirmation for March 21

As I begin to explore new territories of the self, the shell of my false self-image begins to fracture under the pressure of my growth. I emerge – a newly hatched chick. I look forward to the adventure of learning.

 

Today’s Thought for March 21

Anyone who claims to be not yet ready or else past the age for philosophy is like the person who claims to be too young or too old for happiness.

Epicurus (c 341 – 270BCE.)

 

Today’s Meditation for March 21

Wisdom of the Family

The family has much to teach us about ourselves and the world, in your mind’s eye, visualize a tall tree whose branches reach up into the clouds. Looking up at the tree you see the members of your family sitting on the branches. You begin to climb the tree, stopping to converse with your relatives long the way. Ask them what lessons they have to teach you.

Driving Meditation

Driving Meditation

  • Annie B. Bond

If you feel as if you have no time to meditate but have a long commute, try this Driving Meditation, by former Zen monk and teacher in the Soto Zen who has worked directly with the Dalai Lama.

To practice Moving Meditation you must fully accept where you now find yourself, here in your car. Divest yourself of all expectations, standards of comparison and technique, take that clear, observing, unobserving, unobstructed state of being, and keep on driving!

Now, instead of sitting erect and attentive in a quiet stationary place like a zendo or meditation hall, you are now sitting erect and attentive in your moving vehicle. You are now meditation as you move along. Do not be ruled by anything inside or outside you.

See and experience without intrusion, but when an intrusion does rear its ugly head in the form of anger, an opinion, some driver cutting you off, simply acknowledge the stray image and return your focus to being aware of everything around you. Now, driving along, be intimately involved in the action and be aware that everything around you is happening for the first time.

Everything is constantly changing, each traffic situation requiring its own set of responses. Nothing is left to rote. Keep your mind, body and senses wide awake, and as you drive along know that all that you see is as new as a baby’s smile, no matter how many times you think you have seen it before.

Try this. Spend an afternoon-walking, driving, eating-all experienced as if for the first time. Fresh, new, open.

Adapted from The Tao of Now, by Josh Baran (Hampton Roads, 2008).

Cosmic Calendar for Friday, December 23rd

Every so often the universe quiets down and goes on hiatus. This is happening today as the cosmos reveals a Sun-Vesta 60-degree rapport (4:32AM PST) followed 5+ hours later by a Sun-Chiron 60-degree rapport (9:49AM PST). Then – to reinforce these two 60-degree aspects – Vesta unites with Chiron at 2 degrees of Pisces (6:16PM PST). Fundamentally, you have a pretty open track to do your thing in this 24-hour time-period. The Moon transiting in Sagittarius continues to strengthen your optimistic mind-set and a happy-go-lucky temperament. Meanwhile, the Sun-Vesta and Sun-Chiron aspects help you work with soul-sisters and holistic healers who can nurture your mind-heart-body connections. In addition, you can make gains on the investment and business horizons. The Vesta-Chiron conjunction is fairly rare and suggests that soul-searching and in-depth studies are advised tonight. Don’t be surprised if visions and intuitive flashes inundate your consciousness. Learning more about Zen Buddhism, oracles, sacred dance, mantras, talismans, ETs, UFOs and esoteric brotherhoods and sisterhoods makes sense. Gear up for a potent weekend as the Capricorn New Moon of Saturday will lead to Jupiter’s shift from retrograde to direct motion on Sunday.

Daily Zen Meditation for November 23

New Age Comments & Graphics
Meditation Hall

Clear the land, thatch the rush for roof,
All around cherish the empty, the pure.
Mountain blossoms fall by a secluded door,
Within, one who has forgotten the world’s schemings.
Concern with existence needs no possession,
Comprehending the void does not wait upon reason.
All things are of conditions born,
Profound is the silence in the midst of clamor.
A person’s mind is very much the same;
A bird in flight, leaving no tracks behind.

– Liu Tsung-yuan (773-819)

 
~Magickal Graphics~

The Daily Zen Journal for the Month of November

On The Way

Guidelines for Studying the Way

Dogen (1200-1253)

 

What you should know for practicing Zen

Practicing Zen, studying the way, is the great matter of a lifetime. You should not belittle it or be hasty with it. A master of old cut off his arm and another cut off his fingers. These are excellent models from China. Long ago Shakyamuni Buddha abandoned his home and left his country. This is an excellent precedent for practicing the way.

People of the present say you should practice what is easy to practice. These words are quite mistaken. They are not at all in accord with the buddha way. If this alone is what you regard as practice, then even lying down will be wearisome. If you find one thing wearisome, you will find everything wearisome. It is obvious that people who are fond of easy practice are not capable of the way.

In fact, the dharma spread and is present in the world because our great teacher Shakyamuni practiced with difficulty and pain for immeasurable eons and finally attained this dharma. If the original source is like this, how could the later streams be easy?

Students who would like to study the way must not wish for easy practice. If you seek easy practice, you will for certain never reach the ground of truth or dig down to the place of treasure. Even teachers of old who had great capacity said that practice is difficult. You should know that the buddha way is vast and profound.

If the buddha way were originally easy to practice, then teachers of great capacity from olden times would not have said that practice is difficult and understanding is difficult. Compared with the people of old, those of today do not amount to even one hair from nine cows. With their small capacity and shallow knowledge, even if people of today strive diligently and regard this as difficult and excellent practice, still it does not amount to even the easiest practice and easiest understanding of the teachers of old.

What is this teaching of easy understanding and easy practice, which people nowadays like? It is neither a secular teaching nor Buddha’s teaching. It does not come up to the practice of Papiyas, the Demon King, nor does it come up to the practice of those outside the way or of the Two Lesser Vehicles. We should regard it as the product of ordinary people’s extreme delusion. Even though they try to attain liberation, they find nothing but endless rounds of suffering.

On the other hand, we can see that breaking bones or crushing marrow is not difficult, but to harmonize the mind is most difficult. Again, the practice of prolonged austerities is not difficult, but to harmonize bodily activities is most difficult.

Do you think crushing bones is of value? Although many endured such practice, few of them attained dharma. Do you think people practicing austerities are to be respected? Although there have been many, few of them have realized the way, for they still have difficulty harmonizing the mind.

Brilliance is not primary, understanding is not primary, conscious endeavor is not primary, introspection is not primary. Without using any of these, harmonize body-and-mind and enter the buddha way.

Old man Shakyamuni said, “Avalokiteshavara turns the stream inward and disregards knowing objects.”

That is the meaning. Separation between the two aspects of activity and stillness simply does not arise. This is harmonizing.

If anyone could enter the buddha way by means of brilliance or broad knowledge, then the senior monk Shenxiu would have been the one. If anyone of ordinary appearance or humble position were excluded from the buddha way, how could Huineng become the Sixth Ancestor? It is clear that the buddha way’s transmission lies outside brilliance and broad knowledge. Search and find out. Reflect and practice.

Being old or decrepit does not exclude you. Being quite young or in your prime does not exclude you. Although Zhaozhou first studied when he was over sixty, he became a man of excellence in the ancestral lineage. Zheng’s daughter had already studied long by the time she was thirteen, and she was outstanding in the monastery. The power of buddha-dharma is revealed depending on whether or not there is effort, and is distinguished depending on whether or not it is practiced.

Those who have studied sutras a long time and those who are accomplished in secular texts, all should study at a Zen monastery. There have been many examples of this. Huisi of Nanyue was a very learned man, but still he practiced with Bodhidharma. Xuanjue of Yongjia was an excellent scholar, and still he practiced with Dajian.

When you practice with a teacher and inquire about dharma, clear body and mind, still the eyes and ears, and just listen and accept the teaching without mixing in any other thoughts. Your body and mind will be one, a receptacle ready to be filled with water. Then you will certainly receive the teaching.

Nowadays, there are foolish people who memorize words of texts or accumulate sayings and try to match these words with the teacher’s explanation. In this case they have only their own views and old words, and have not yet merged with the teacher’s words.

For some people their own views are primary; they open a sutra, memorize a word or two, and consider this to be buddha-dharma. Later when they visit with an awakened teacher or a skilled master and hear the teachings, if it agrees with their own view they consider the teaching right, and if it does not agree with their old fixed standards they consider his words wrong. They do not know how to abandon their mistaken tendencies, so how could they ascend and return to the true way? For ages numberless as particles of dust and sand, they will remain deluded. It is most pitiable. Is it not sad?

Students should know that the buddha way lies outside thinking, analysis, prophecy, introspection, knowledge, and wise explanation. If the buddha way were in these activities, why would you not have realized the buddha way by now, since from birth you have perpetually been in the midst of these activities?

Students of the way should not employ thinking, analysis, or any such thing. Though thinking and other activities perpetually beset you, if you examine them as you go, your clarity will be like a mirror.

Practice throughout the way

To practice throughout the way is to actualize the limitless realm of the buddha way and to illuminate all aspects of the buddha way. The buddha way is under everyone’s heel. Immersed in enlightenment, you are complete. Therefore, even though you arrive at full understanding, still this is only a part of enlightenment. This is how it is with practice throughout the way.

People nowadays who study the way do not understand where the way leads or ends, so they strongly desire to gain visible results. Who would not make this mistake? It is like someone who runs away from his father, leaving a treasure behind and wandering about. Though he is the only child of a wealthy family, he endlessly wanders as a menial in foreign lands. Indeed it is just like this.

Those who study the way seek to be immersed in the way. For those who are immersed in the way, all traces of enlightenment perish. Those who practice the buddha way should first of all trust in the buddha way. Those who trust in the buddha way should trust that they are in essence within the buddha way, where there is no delusion, no false thinking, no increase or decrease, and no mistake. To arouse such trust and illuminate the way in this manner, and to practice accordingly, are fundamental to studying the way.

You do this sitting, which severs the root of thinking and blocks access to the road of intellectual understanding. This is an excellent means to arouse true beginner’s mind. Then you let body and mind drop away and let go of delusion and enlightenment. This is the second aspect of studying the way.

Generally speaking, those who trust that they are within the buddha way are most rare. If you have correct trust that you are within the buddha way, you understand where the great way leads or ends, and you know the original source of delusion and enlightenment. If once, in sitting, you sever the root of thinking, in eight or nine cases out of ten you will immediately attain understanding of the way.

Immediately hitting the mark

There are two ways to penetrate body and mind: studying with a master to hear the teaching, and devotedly sitting zazen. Listening to the teaching opens up your conscious mind, while sitting zazen is concerned with practice-enlightenment.

Everyone has a body-mind. In activity and appearance its function is either leading or following, courageous or cowardly. To realize buddha immediately with this body-mind is to hit the mark. Without changing your usual body-mind, just to follow buddha’s realization is called “immediate,” is called “hitting the mark.”

To follow buddha completely means you do not have your old views. To hit the mark completely means you have no new nest in which to settle.

Dogen

Excerpted from Moon in a Dewdrop – Writings of Zen Master Dogen, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi

*

I often marvel at how contemporary the ancient writings sound. You can see how students of all ages fell into the same pitfalls of practice we do. Teachers always seem to talk about students of “today” not having the same intensity or commitment to difficult practice. There must have always been people talking about an easy path, a short cut, a revolutionary 3 Steps to Enlightenment method; hence the need to step back and ask ourselves, if it were all really that easy, then why aren’t more people living an enlightened life?

Then there is also the admonishment given that to really study one needs to find an awakened teacher to transmit the teachings. Let’s remember the Buddha’s story. He had no awakened master to go study with; he sat under the Bodhi tree in meditation and struggled with Mara and his own mental distractions until he broke through. The greatest function of a teacher or a spiritual friend is to honestly point out when we stray off track, when we are fooling ourselves, an extremely difficult task to do for oneself.

However, reality is that many people have not found an awakened master to trust their spiritual training to. So in this real world, where for many people, there are not the funds nor time to go hunting all over the world to find this person, what do we do? Even though the purist may take issue with our approach, we are left with studying as best we can with these masters of old, tried and true, to guide us. The difference is there is no one going around correcting our posture in meditation or striking us if we fall asleep on the mat; there is no Master to have a spiritual encounter with to challenge us, and that IS the crux of our situation. We can so easily fool ourselves in complacency.

Who will wake us up? Zen Master Zuigon had his own unique approach:

Every day Zuigan used to call out to himself, “Master!” and would answer, “Yes!”

Then he would tell himself, “Wake up!” and he would answer himself, “Yes! Yes!” Then he would say to himself, “Don’t be deceived by others, any day or any time!” and he would again answer himself, “Yes, yes!”

What creative approach will we find to wake ourselves up?

Waking up once again,

Elana

Daily Zen Meditation for Tuesday, October 18th

New Age Comments & Graphics

Rather than break my vow to plum blossoms
I have settled here in this disheveled hut
Grey sleet seeps through briars at my window
Plumes of snow dance around its papered panes

Steep scarps loom above frozen woods
Deep clouds conceal the pool’s icy stones
Such weather; I stoke up a few charcoal twigs
Wish for a way south, to Chiang-nan’s shore.

– Shih-shu (17th c-early 18th)

 ~Magickal Graphics~

Daily Zen Meditation for October 1st

We had warm, wet weather all spring.
Now, white autumn is clear and cold.
Dew frozen, drifting mists gone,
Bottomless heavens open over this
Vast landscape of clarity,
And mountains stretch away,
Their towering peaks an unearthly
Treasure of distance.

These fragrant woodland chrysanthemums
Ablaze, green pines lining the clifftops:
Isn’t this the immaculate heart of beauty,
This frost-deepened austerity?
Sipping wine, I think of recluse masters.
A century away, I nurture your secrets.
Your true nature eludes me here,
But taken by quiet,
I can linger this exquisite moon
Out to the end.

– T’ao Ch’ien (365-427)