This is Samsara. This is Nirvana. Exactly as it is.
The sun blazing open clear blue sky, as afternoon heat tenderizes the body, easing the remaining rough edges of self. Or maybe its the other way around, the penetrating heat of a heart opened through Loving Kindness and Compassion clarifies the sky, allowing the Summer Sun to blaze forth unhindered.
Can we really know for sure–the interpenetration of our sense world and environment, the interconnection of heart and sky? How a single smile opens with a bed of wild flowers, or how sitting unmoving in the painfully, hot tension of self-consciousness simultaneously ripens a plum in the orchard and our own compassion.
Perhaps this recognition was obvious to our ancestors, who spent their time meditating outside, immersed in the changes of the season and the attributes of the landscape. Evoking Dogen Zenji’s image of a plum blossom opening Spring, as a movement of the Heart, Chozen Roshi sent us outside, to learn through stillness and attention the practices of the natural world.
I am of the nature to be loving and kind. I will cultivate my heart’s kindness toward all beings.
There are three ways you can engage the practice of Loving Kindness, Chozen Roshi instructs, during the first dharma talk:
1. Recite the phrases in your mind with the breath. First clear away negativity with—may I be free from fear and anxiety. Then cultivate a neutral state—may I be at ease. Then sprinkle positivity—may I be happy. Receive the virtues for yourself, then offer them to others, by changing the “I” to “you”.
2. Breath in peace, allow the peace to enter your heart. Breath out peace. You can recite the word peace on your breath. And then release the word and just breath peace and the wish for peace in all those you encounter.
3. Become aware of the field of Loving Kindness. Using a seed crystal, an image of someone who is easy to love. Allow your body and mind to soften. Expand the field a loving kindness to contain all the beings in your presence, open the field beyond limit. Let anyone or any experience that arises in your mind be included in the field.
I am of the nature to be compassionate. I will cultivate my heart’s compassion for their suffering.
1. Reflect on a time when you performed a compassionate act towards someone else. How did it feel? Make a list of compassionate acts that you have done. Carry the list in your pocket, and reference when you begin to forget your positive qualities.
2. Place a hand or hands on an area of the body that is tired or sore. Let your touch be soft, compassionate, as if you were touching a loved one or a child, gentle, lovingly.
3. If you are experiencing pain or difficulty, breath into the pain, willing to feel the pain completely. Imagine that you are breathing in the pain of those around you or even the entire world. FLASH into emptiness, resting in the quiet openness of your own awareness. Breath out all the positive qualities you have, willingly giving them to others and the world.
I am of the nature to be joyful. I will cultivate my heart’s joy for another’s happiness.
Opening to the joy of another, is an opportunity to experience joy in our own hearts, to infuse more joy into a moment, and is an antidote for jealousy and envy. Here is one transformative practice that Kyoko shared.
In the moment of jealousy or for someone you often feel envious of try working with these phrases:
MAY YOUR HAPPINESS AND GOOD FORTUNE NEVER LEAVE YOU
MAY YOUR HAPPINESS AND GOOD FORTUNE INCREASE
MAY YOU KNOW THE JOY OF YOUR TRUE NATURE
I am of the nature to be equanimitous. I will cultivate my heart’s equanimity within impermanence.
“Nature teaches us about equanimity,” Chozen Roshi remarks. It is the hottest day of the summer, “go outside,” she says, “sit with the trees, sit with the rocks, sit with the flowers—how do they respond to the changes in temperature? “
She also remindes us as a continuous practice for the week, “Keep your feet rooted to the Earth, and Mind clear and open like the Sky. “ As if we were learning equanimity by becoming trees.
Every being is dear to me and will benefit from my love and compassion. I am the inheritor of my kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. A clear mind and warm heart are the ground on which I stand.
“We are doing it!” Lizzie Thompson verifies, at the end of sesshin. Sitting upright and confidant, her eyes clear and shining. “This is the work.” Sitting together, holding spaces of silent, safety–being present with and to our own negativity, dissatisfaction, and hatred, and letting the karma exhaust. Allowing the heart to break open—able to hold more and more in presence and love.
Kyoko reminds us, the Four Immeasurables, are immeasurable, because you cannot measure their importance in your life. Or how your life may transform when you sincerely practice them.