“There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.”

– Martha Graham

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VTH (that stands for Venerable “The Husband”) and I went to the small, arts colony of Idyllwild, CA last weekend. After dinner, we were sitting on the porch of our rented mountain cabin, sipping tea. He got out his iPad.

“What are doing?” I asked.

“I’m going to play some Solitaire,” he replied. “What are you going to do?”

“Well, I could get out my Kindle, or I could watch the sky go from indigo to black.” I paused to consider the options. “The latter seems far more interesting.”

As it turned out, I made the right choice. Ah…  🙂

 

Bodhi Day

After traveling for six years, studying with several teachers, and practicing extreme asceticism to the point where he nearly died, Siddhârtha Gautama resolved to practice the “middle way.” A woman named Sujata nursed him back to health on rice milk. When he was strong enough, he sat overnight in meditation under a ficus tree. By dawn, he had become the Awakened One – the Buddha.

That day was the 8th day of the 12th lunar month of 596 BCE (plus or minus a few years). Using our modern calendar, most Buddhists commemorate Bodhi Day on December 8th. Bodhi means “awakened” in Sanskrit and Pali.

If you’d like to mark this important holiday, here are some things you can do:

  • Set aside a few extra minutes to meditate. Or take the time to read up on the Dharma or the life of the Buddha.
  • If you’re feeling festive, you can decorate your home or a tree with multicolored lights. The different colors symbolize the many paths to enlightenment. The tree represents the original ficus – now often referred to as the Bodhi Tree – that sheltered the Buddha on the night of his enlightenment. 
  • You can also decorate with a strand of beads representing the interdependence of all things. 
  • You can choose three special ornaments – shiny is best – to represent the Three Jewels of the Buddha (teacher), Dharma (teachings), and Sangha (spiritual community). 
  • Have a meal of rice and milk. Try eating in silence, using the process of eating as your meditative focus.

At the very least, it’s a good opportunity to remember that Siddhârtha was a human being who woke up to the nature of reality. If he can do it, so can we.

Happy Bodhi Day!

~Rev. Jăbō

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Happy Thanksgiving

This is the time of year we reflect on our blessings. This year, I’m grateful for the start of the Single Flower Zen Center. I’m grateful to Buddhamouse, the Claremont Forum, and Open Door for hosting us at a low cost. I’m grateful for each person who’s come to practice. I’m grateful for the Dharma, and to everyone who’s passed it on from the Buddha’s time until now. I’m grateful for you. For my next breath. For this moment. And for so much more.

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This Thanksgiving, you may want to try going around the table and letting each person express one thing they’re thankful for. Or, you can ask people to write it down on a slip of paper anonymously, then draw and read the papers during or after the meal.

But this isn’t the only time we should remember to be grateful. You can start writing down things as they happen over the next year, putting them onto bits of paper – perhaps some colored or patterned paper that makes you smile. Put the papers in a jar or box. Then next year at Thanksgiving, you can review the wonderful things that have come your way. (Or you could start this on New Year’s Day, too, and review it each New Year’s Eve.)

Personally, I keep a gratitude journal. Every day, I answer these three questions from M.J. Ryan’s book Attitudes of Gratitude:

  1. What am I grateful for?
  2. What did I enjoy today?
  3. Where do I feel satisfied?

Or you could use this list from Seventeenth Century Dutch Rabbi Baruch Spinoza:

  1. Who or what inspired me today?
  2. What brought me happiness today?
  3. What brought me comfort and deep peace today?

Try not to repeat the same list from day to day. I’ve been doing a daily gratitude practice since 2010 – even during my breast cancer journey – and it truly has given me a better perspective on life.

Now it’s your turn. What are you grateful for?

~Rev. Jăbō

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