Change Your Mind Day – June 7, ’03 Ciudad De Los Angeles

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Change Your Mind Day-June 7, ’03, Ciudad de Los Angeles

Wrongly, the Buddha’s Teaching is sometimes considered to be a doctrine diffusing melancholy. Far from it: the Dhamma leads step by step to to an ever purer and loftier happiness.–Nyanaponika Thera

Expectantly I drive up the pretty green hills of the largest cemetery in the world: Rose Hills, in Whittier, California. On a rare clear day I can view L.A.’s downtown skyscrapers silhouetted further west by the abundant blue and white foaming, waving Pacific.

I pass purple-flowering jacarandas; “Remember Death” whispers from shiny gray grave markers and tender memorials. When I read the inscriptions, I’m always curious about how many years the person lived. Today I’ll see the grave of two children. My friend, Joe Michell, sometimes goes to the cemetery to view his grave site. “Well, before I know it, I’ll be lying dead, here.”

We set up: chairs, cushions, two tents, the main one, flagged on each side by descending blue-yellow-red-orange stripes; reverently we place a white statue of samadhi-sitting Buddha, midst flowers, a slight wind shaking pink-yellow-red-white petals. A golden brass bowl burns three fragrant sticks, in the middle of two red candles; to the side of our “instant” shrine, tall green plant leaves blow across Buddha’s head and juicy-ear-lobed face, joyful, serene, relaxed yet just so present.

Joyful. Happy. Full. Human. I remember Suzuki Roshi teaching that we need to be kind to ourselves, really kind, thoughtful, caring, rejuvenating ourselves, cultivating the best for ourselves. “We put emphasis on warm heart, warm zazen. The warm feeling we have in our practice is, in other words, enlightenment or Buddha’s mind.

It all comes down to how we practice love.

Ven. Dao Yuan, Alaskan, in a black robe, shaved head, welcomes us. We’re a group which would grow to 28. He describes Buddhist meditation as “mind-heart” cultivation by our own right effort, as the whole persons we are, actively, morally, spiritually, with wisdom, attention and perspective, you yourself growing, patiently, seeking and planting the seeds for a propitious flowering of understanding and compassion. Find a quiet space. Count your exhaled breaths up to 10. See how you get distracted. Come back to your breath.

Next, the Sri Lankan abbot of Rosemead Monastery, Bhante Chao Chu, orange-robed, round faced, cheerful open-eyed, speaks of two forms of Buddhist meditation: first, one pointed focus upon an object of contemplation (samatha) and second, allowing the mind to see and observe (vipassana), to be present to see clearly just the way it is, now and now. Buddha suggested we see how inter-connected we all are, both with each other and our environment. We appreciate we aren’t separate selves, that it’s all ever-changing, that we shouldn’t get stuck it what’s not true happiness and peace. Direct your mind, yet do not force or try to control your mind. Relax and don’t struggle; there are no strict rules for sitting: its purpose is to find out what’s going on deep in yourself, with compassion, not blaming ourselves and others.

Yogini Pat Collins leads us in some yoga. We do belly and alternate-nostril breathing, followed by a break where we enjoy Ven.Hui Cheng’s scrumptious wheat bread, tofu, avocado, lettuce and apple sandwiches. I engage in a few conversations, as well as imbibe rich silences and the pines smelling so sweet in the breezy, dark overcast air.

Wispy 80 year old Tai Chi Master, Yong Nian Miao, pony-tailed, in a faded dark suit, with brown sweater-vest , black and yellow tie leads us in slow-fluid-motion, pushing our arms out and to alternating sides, scooping and circulating chi.

Bhante and Brett close with questions, discussion. Let’s loosen the pressures from our lives. Our minds-hearts are our 6th sense. We see that when we have any effects, there are causes-conditions to be inquired into.

We recite the Metta Sutta: “One should be balanced…humble. Let no one deceive another nor despise another anywhere. Cultivate a heart of loving kindness.”

Clean up: pack, carry chairs, chop wooden hearts (ever so tenderly), say-shake-hug grateful good-byes.

write by Verity

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