Gratitude from Inside

I received this letter a few days ago and I wanted to share it with our extended sangha. We just never know how our attempts to bring the dharma to incarcerated men and women will unfold, but I am convinced that our good intentions and consistent efforts do manifest in positive ways. Your continued support of our prison program is truly appreciated and makes all this possible.

Greetings to my fellow practitioners:

These past few weeks have been exhausting, mainly because I am getting closer to my release ate. I have over a decade and a half of confinement behind me and a future filled with opportunities as well as failures. Yet I am no longer afraid of either direction because I understand that the only thing that matters is what I do right now. As I read the monthly newsletters I am reminded that I do not have to control every situation. (Before my incarceration I was extremely controlling and manipulative.) I can just “sit” and observe life as it moves in all if its various ways. This does note mean “idleness” because when there is work to do, I do it unbudgingly and to the best of my ability. Right now my main “work” to do is becoming familiar and comfortable with my own emotions. In my past I used to drink heavily and the lifestyle I lived forces you to separate yourself from your emotions. It was a means of survival and a tool that you used to excel in a criminal lifestyle. Yet here I am on the brink of re-entering society and I am still learning to deal with my emotions as they surface in my life. The one I recently had to deal with was “envy.” My wife is going on a trip with friends and family to a resort and I was envious of her. I thought about how I’m stuck where I am and she has the freedom to experience something new. It shocked me how my tone of voice was flat and somewhat irritated as I talked to her about the upcoming trip. She heard the agitation in my voice, I’me sure of it. After the phone call I felt guilty (another new one for me) because I almost ruined any chancier of her having a good time. She was about to cancel the trip but I pleaded with her to go. I already knew that my actions affect her regardless of whether I want them to or not. Yet, I see now that it is the subtle things that I never paid any attention to that either build or destroy relationships. So I sit here, accepting the fact that I was in error, grateful for the advice I have received along the way from you so that I can be more mindful of myself in this life. It is this practice that has brought me so far from where I used to be, and it is through continuing to be aware of life and myself that I will continue to achieve excellence. Thank you for your kind words of enlightenment.

In gassho…..

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"Menju"or "Face to Face Transmission" aside from being the title of a chapter in Dogen Zenji's Shobogenzo, is also the name for one of the most basic Zen traditions. This "face to face" started with Shakyamuni Buddha holding up a flower on Vulture Peak and Mahakashyapa simply smiling. It is akin to the gaze between mother and child; a mirroring; a nourishment for mutual development.

Today we have the technological "IndraNet." It offers seemingly endless resources for the sharing of written and graphic teachings. This blog is one such nodule in the vast net.

However, the blog is in no way intended to replace Menju, our being together as a group or individually with a teacher. This blog is a service only. Its intention is to use the form, like the banks of a river, to direct or awaken the flow of ancient and contemporary wisdom for ourselves and the world we are part of.

Traveling in this blog, newcomers to our group may get a scent of the climate we practice in; a taste of what appeals to those who practice with us; and might take a step to sit with us and discover what it means to be with lovers of true silence. The silence that echoes from every teaching that connects and says "I have been here all along. There never was a need to search. Rest in this shared wisdom and find the place that seems most natural." Doshin Sensei