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“He who sees himself only on the outside, not within, becomes small himself and makes others small.”

–Mani (turfan fragment M 801)

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“It has been observed for centuries that the Hebrew word for nature, hateva, is numerically equivalent to one of the words for God, Elohim. Depending on your perspective, this may be mere numerological wit or a linguistic insight into the cosmos, but the sensibility is sublime. What would it mean to experience the natural world, the context of the body, as merely a mask of God? What is the significance of the fact that when we simply leave our homes and enter the wilderness, a change takes place within us?….

Our texts tell us that wilderness is the realm of the sacred, and the journey is irreplaceable.

There is no substitute for actually going there yourself. Lech Lecha – go…..

Mindfulness is utterly transparent. On the outside, your embodied spiritual nature practice may look like a simple walk in the woods or a hike in the desert. On the inside, what is happening is that the body is changing, and the soul is shifting – and you are aware of it all. In particular, focusing on a few key elements of your experience in nature can transform a simple day trip into an embodied spiritual practice.”

– Jay Michaelson (God in Your Body: Kabbalah,

Mindfulness and Embodied Spiritual Practice)

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I was walking out on the exercise yard last week, along the fence, staring up at the beautiful clear sky. It was a gorgeous day. Then something frightening happened: someone got stabbed on the adjacent yard. In the gun mens tower, prison guards were racking rounds into their rifles. They were shooting at two guys scuffling and fighting and trying to kill each other. I knew immediately that someone was going to die. Either the guards or one of these two prisoners would be responsible for taking a human being’s life.

The tower gunmen ordered everyone face down on the ground as they swung their fully loaded rifles around the three adjacent yards. I didn’t know what to think. Since I didn’t hear any gunshots, I figured the two guys must have stopped fighting. At least the gunmen had been saved from taking someone’s life. But what about the prisoner who had been stabbed? Was he dead? What had I been thinking about before all this happened? Why am I lying here like this? Is this all real? Shit! How long can I go on trying to be a Buddhist in this prison culture that has me lying face down? Who am I kidding?

Just as I thought my head would explode from so many flashing thoughts, I locked onto a single idea; how some people in this world have only a tragic five seconds to put their entire lives in order before they die-in a car crash or in some other sudden way. I realized that what really matters isn’t where we are or what’s going on around us, but what’s in our hearts while it’s happening.

I used to feel I could hide inside my practice, that I could simply sit and contemplate the raging anger of a place like this, seeking inner peace through prayers of compassion. But now I believe love and compassion are things to extend to others. It’s a dangerous adventure to share with them in a place like S.Q. yet I see now that we become better people if we can touch a hard­ened soul, bring joy into someone’s life, or just be an example for others, instead of hiding behind our silence.

The key is in using what we know This calls for lots of practice. There is this vast space in life to do just that, both as a practitioner and as someone who walks around the same prison yard as everyone else in this place. I’ve learned how to accept respon­sibility, for the harm I’ve caused others by never letting myself forget the things I did and by using those experiences to help others understand where they lead.

-Jarvis Jay Masters (Written on Death Row)

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Hugging meditation is a practice I invented. In 1966, a woman poet took me to the Atlanta Airport and then asked, “Is it all right to hug a Buddhist monk?” In my country we are not used to expressing ourselves that way, but I thought, “I am a Zen teacher. It should be no problem for me to do that.” So I said, “Why not?” and she hugged me. But I was quite stiff. While on a plane, I decided that if I wanted to work with friends in the West, I would have to learn the culture of the West, so I invented hugging meditation.

Hugging meditation is a combination of East and West. According to the practice, you have to really hug the person you are hugging. You have to make him or her very real in your arms, not just for the sake of appearances, patting him on the back to pretend you are there, but breathing consciously and hugging with all your body, spirit and heart. Hugging medita­tion is a practice of mindfulness. “Breathing in, I know my dear one is in my arms, alive. Breathing out, she is so precious to me.” If you breathe deeply like that, holding the person you love, the energy of care, love, and mindfulnesss will penetrate into that person and she will be nourished and bloom like a flower.

At a retreat for psychotherapists in Colorado, we practiced hugging meditation, and one retreatant, when he returned home to Philadelphia, hugged his wife at the airport in a way he had never hugged her before. Because of that, his wife attended our next retreat in Chicago. To be really there, you only need to breathe mindfully, and suddenly both of you become real. It may be one of the best moments in your life.

-Thich Nhat Hanh, from Teachings on Love

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“Where love is little, all acts are imperfect.”

–Mani (turfan fragment M 801)

 

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