Monday, April 15, 2013

Five Aspects of a Well Being Life

In Bernard Glassman's book, Instructions to a Cook: A Zen Master's Lessons on Living A Life that Matters, the author proposes that a life well lived consists of five aspects and that these five aspects constitute a zen life.  I define a zen life as a life of well being.The five aspects are:

Study and Learning
Social Action and Change
Relationships and Community

In elaboration...

*helps us realize the oneness of life
*provides a still point at the center of all our activities
*consists of certain spiritual practices, such as prayer, meditation, singing, taking walks, spending time alone, spend time with others, reading, listening,      discussing, creating, anything that reminds of the oneness of life

Study and Learning
         *provides intelligence and wisdom
         *before you begin things
         *never merely abstract
         *practical application to our lives
         *sustains us in the spiritual world
         *work and business-the meat and potatoes
         *taking care of ourselves
         *making a living in the world

Social Action and Change
         *grows naturally out of spirituality, study and learning, and livelihood
*once we begin to take care our own own basic needs, we become more aware   of the needs of the people around us
         *realizing the oneness of life
         *reaching out to people

Relationships and Community
*brings seemingly separate parts of our lives together into a harmonious whole
*the aspect that brings all of the other aspects into a joyous gathering of people

To paraphrase Glassman, all the aspects make up the supreme aspect of all our lives: well being.  It is not question of of trying to arrange our lives so that we have equal amounts of each aspect.  We all need different parts and different amounts at different times in our lives.  We have to look at our situation and find out how much of each aspect is needed at any given moment.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Reading a Book More Than Once

Reading a book again that you consider meaningful, important, or enjoyable for its literary value and its impact on your life rewards you.  In this fast paced, consume once, and consume as much as you can society reading a book a second time and certainly multiple times challenges this mentality.  You consciously choose to experience reading as a luxurious retreat of ideas and narratives through words read in silence to yourself.  You set aside other extraneous errands and shush the noisy world for your reading respite.  Reading becomes a statement against the constant din and constantly doing something exterior.  You go interior, inside the author's imagination which provokes and evokes your imagination.  Reading becomes an act of mindfulness.  You pay attention to the ideas and narrative through the words in order to understand the ideas and narrative.  Mindfulness is always paying attention to whatever you are doing. 

Reading a book twice or several times provides you familiarity since you know the book's premise; and yet, when you read it a second time, you notice different aspects and details you didn't notice the first time. Reading a book once is meeting a person you really like and calling that person a friend, even though you only know the person through the glimpse of meeting them once.  Reading a book a second time is revisiting that friend, getting to know her or him better and noticing new things about that person.  Regarding the person, the person has changed; regarding the book, though, the book is exactly the same.  It is you, the reader, who have changed through your experiences and understandings, and therefore, the book is different to you as you are reading it the second time. 

This is a zen mind, beginners mind.  Although it not the first time you have read it which is when it would seem like beginner's mind, it is still beginner's mind because it is the first time you are reading it for the second time.  You will never have that moment again.  Therefore, that moment can be beginner's mind.  Beginner's mind is zen mind.  Zen mind is beginner's mind.