MomenTech, United States

Residency Period: 1 November 2013 - 30 April 2014


Bio

MomenTech is an experimental production studio based in New York City, founded in 2010 by Filipino-American conceptual artist Reynard Loki and Polish-American multimedia artist Maciej Toporowicz. American filmmaker Mika Johnson joined in 2013. Inspired by transnational progressivism, cosmology, post-humanism, ecology, neo-nomadism, futurism and more, MomenTech has created pop culture remixes, instructional works, site-specifc installations, public space interventions and user-generated content pieces, developing over 35 projects and participating in 18 group exhibitions in the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Greece, South Africa, China and the Philippines.

momentech.blogspot.com/


On-hiatus Proposal Summary

As of November 1, 2013, MomenTech is on hiatus from any and all creative production for a six-month period as they engage fully with our proposed on-hiatus activity: a daily meditation practice.

MomenTech's hiatus residency also includes meditation research, data collection and progress updates posted to the RFAOH website.

This investigation into meditation continues MomenTech's interest in the practice, which began in 2010 with Field Experiment, an interactive, site-specific audiovisual project that explores meditation, self-hypnosis, the media and our cosmic origins (via Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, or CMBR) by asking participants to imagine a field after having stared into live television static for a period of 10 seconds. Field Experiment was selected by the Behring Institute of Medical Research to be a part of their first publication for "Placebos for Art," a long-term research project investigating the influence of "art-based placebos" on public health.

Meditation was also a theme in MomenTech's 2011 project Mandala-Tanque, in which pétanque competitors are invited to play a game on the surface of the pétanque court on which a Tibetan Buddhist sand mandala has been drawn. The project was selected for inclusion at the 2011 Dumbo Arts Festival.

MomenTech will resume its normal production schedule on May 1, 2014.

To contact MomenTech, please email: m01123581321345589144@gmail.com.


Final Report

Reynard Loki:

Being the primary writer in MomenTech, the task of composing the group's response to the exit questionnaire naturally fell on me. My suggestion to my fellow collaborators was that I would draft a response from the group as a whole and Mika and Maciej would add their own thoughts. But the more I thought about what we "should" express as a group, the more I realized that it was a bit of a fool's errand. It makes sense: Meditation—the daily practice of which was the main activity of MomenTech's residency—is ultimately an individual journey.

Of course, group meditation is a common practice; I have participated in several such gatherings at the Tibet House in New York during our residency as part of my own exploration into the various styles of meditation. But in the end, meditation is an intensely personal activity that can lead to intensely personal revelations, even as it may help to strip away what is to be one of humans' heaviest burdens: the ego.

The initial structure of our residency was straightforward: Each of MomenTech's three members would engage in an individual daily meditation practice for the residency's six-month period. But while the design of our residency may have been rather simple, its goals were anything but: to "develop mindfulness, concentration, insight, wisdom." That's pretty heavy-duty stuff.

Did we develop any of these aspects? I'd like to say yes, but who can really know? Meditation is not so much a "fix-it" therapy as it is a lifestyle, a way of being present in the world. Perhaps that movement towards "being present" and "being in the present" affected MomenTech's ability to plan for future events around the residency. For example, at the outset, we were all gung-ho about hosting weekly online open meditation sessions via Google Hangouts. That plan never materialized until the very end. (We hosted an open meditation on Google Hangout on the last day of our residency.)

One thing is for sure, MomenTech really did go on hiatus and for the first time in our four-year history, took a break from making art; or rather, taking a break from producing the things MomenTech produces (MomenTech, as a rule, avoids using the terms "art" and "artists.") But is that even possible? Art is often compared to life. And if art, like life, is a continual process, then can an artist truly avoid "making art"? Perhaps MomenTech did not think about, design and build a "product," per se, but the experiences we had, both individually and as a group, during our six month hiatus will forever be a part of all our future work in some fundamental way.

Our residency did "create" one kind of important thing: questions. And perhaps the best thing about our residency with RFAOH. Some of the best effects that meditation can call forth have to do with a growth in awareness. And part of becoming aware is to challenge one's status quo, to continually ask questions. What is art? What does it mean to create it? Can an artist take a break from making art? Is meditation an art form? Conversely, can making art be meditative?

I asked my fellow MomenTechnicians to email me a few lines of thoughts and observations a few days after the residency ended.

 

Maciej Toporowicz:

"Having a surgery and recovery during the residency taught me that meditation has its limits, at least for me," Maciej said. "I wasn't able to meditate, because the post-surgery stress was too much." He added that "having opportunity to meditate more often than usually moved me closer to solving my personal koan, the one I have been trying to solve since a while."

 

Mika Johnson:

"The main challenge the residency posed for me was in relation to self-discipline. On some days finding time to meditate was not an issue, whereas on other days it was almost interruptive, even frustrating. Undoubtedly, this was partly because the residency was not in a physical space, with a community of artists or meditation practitioners working toward a common goal. However, in the end, this absence of a physical space and community made my practice stronger, in the sense that I had to learn to integrate my meditation time with my normal routines and responsibilities, which is also a useful approach to art making as well.

"In the beginning, we had originally set out to answer short daily and weekly questionnaires. We took a lot of time formulating these questions, which were later abandoned. My guess is that the practice immediately became something very personal, which in many ways was difficult to comment on, at least by questionnaire. I responded similarly to the blog, in the sense that I found it challening to write about something that felt entirely personal. I simply didn’t feel I had much to contribute, as the content of that practice was my own subjectivity, not something that I could generalize about or even articulate. In retrospect, I do wish MomenTech had agreed to do one spontaneous drawing before and after each meditation session, as it would have physicalized that response, without rationalizing it. We did this on the last day and all found it surprisingly interesting and satisfying."

"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through," wrote French author Anais Nin. "Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death."

 

Could taking a break from "creating art" help to avoid a kind of "artistic death"? Perhaps. One thing is for sure, for six months, a residency with RFAOH changed the normal "elected" state of MomenTech. The decision to meditate during our hiatus only heightened the experience.

Finally, on behalf of MomenTech, I would like to thank Matt and Shinobu, the founders of RFAOH, for making this all possible. We are fortunate to have been a part of this program. Through our residency, MomenTech sowed important seeds for the future.


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Obstacles

I usually find that I have little or nothing to say about meditation; maybe because many have said what I think there is to say, before, as in the last few millennium, or maybe because it feels too personal, too subjective. This week, however, I have something to say since my practice, over the past month, has been disrupted for reasons that made me think.  To begin with, I moved. Boxing up my life and changing spaces has always been incredibly un-grounding. There is shift, it feels, in my total pattern of existence, which is sometimes good in the sense that I become aware of my accumulated possessions and my daily routines, most of which belong to a space. Only when I lost the room where I meditate did I realize the value of that space. Now I have a makeshift space, with distractions, but not a space I can devote to the practice entirely. But then a second thing happened: I got sick and have remained sick for almost four weeks. These were different illnesses, almost back to back, but one has held on, I suppose partly due to the stress of moving.

What does being sick and meditating feel like? It depends on the sickness of course but in my case, which is sinus related, my head feels like it’s in a bubble. Furthermore I become more aware of the general discomfort of my body, not the free flowing energy that usually comes with meditation. I can only hope that this feeling lifts next week so that my desire to meditate returns (I am still meditating, but against my will or desire to do so). Who, after all, would consciously want to intensify their awareness of pain? It makes more sense, at least when your body is sick, or feels pain, to stay distracted. Of course most of us have heard the opposite: that you should go into that sickness, that you should ask the question why? — since your mind and body are using that sickness, or that pain, to make you conscious of something etc. All interesting ideas, but ideas no less, most of which remind me of the story of Aesop’s “Sour Grapes” (cognitive dissonace).

So rather than looking too hard for a reason for my sickness, instead I have used this experience to reflect on things I took previously for granted, specifically a.) that meditation comes easy with a space devoted to the practice and b.) that meditation also comes easy when in good physical health. This is more interesting to think about when we realize that most of our species do not have access to a space without distractions or a physical body, free of sickness or pain. For example hunger is a pain and where I live right now, in America, which is often considered the wealthiest country in the world, we have approximately 50 million people who live in food-insecure households; that means 50 million people, on any given day, who might experience hunger.

Having read one of my collaborators blog entries – especially “My Garden”, in January — which describes his experience with meditation after open-heart-surgery, and mitral valve replacement, his words return to me. It makes me wonder what other obstacles people everywhere feel in relation to meditation; things that I have simply not thought about; things that I take for granted. Would love to hear what others have to say on the subject.

Leave a Comment (4)

Mika wrote on Apr 6:

Hi Shinobu - no don't worry. Not the hiatus - that would be funny though. Just a long winter, I suppose, and some unfortunate brushes with illnesses. Finally mine is gone :)

shinobu wrote on Mar 30:

are you guys, all alright? Is being on-hiatus making you all sick???

Mika wrote on Mar 29:

Thanks JT for your comment. I realized, after writing this post that the opposite can also be true. That distractions, such as sounds we can't control, and hunger and body pains and such might also make our practice all the more stronger. I can't say that about my particular sickness, especially after thankfully coming out of it, but it's an interesting idea - obstacles in general and how they affect our practice.

JT wrote on Mar 26:

I live in an old building where heat cannot be controlled at all. It comes and goes without any logical pattern and it makes hell of a noise. Sometimes there is no heat at all. I had to learn to sit in cold. I also learned how to incorporate freaking sounds of heater, firetruck siren and other urban noise in my meditation. I dream sometimes about doing my ZEN in countryside, where you can hear only birds and wind blowing..

 


Interview with Roshi O’Hara (Part 3 of 4)

In the third part of our chat, Zen master Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara talks about Zen art, walking meditation and her “Five Expressions of Zen.” To read Part 1, click here. To read Part 2, click here.

Your Five Expressions of Zen are meditation, study, communication, action and caring. How did you come to develop these expressions?

There is a rubric, in the Tibetan tradition in particular, of the Five Buddha Families, each of which represents one aspect of an enlightened mind. That’s what inspired me to develop the Five Expressions. They cover what we need to cover.

What makes Zen Buddhism unique in the Buddhist practice?

First we have to look at the cultural source. Zen Buddhism is profoundly influenced by Taoism. Tibetan Buddhism was profoundly influenced by the indigenous Bon religion of the Himalayas. That was a mystical tradition, so a certain mysticism flowed into the Buddhism that arrived in Tibet and Nepal. Likewise, the Buddhism that went to Southeast Asia incorporated cultural elements of those regions. In the early 19th century, Westerners did not know that those were all variants of Buddhism and thought they were different religions. They looked so different and they they began to realized that they were all talking about this person called Buddha. [laughs.] And Zen means “mind.” It’s Taoist, so it tends not to be deity-oriented, much more secular, much more grounded in the everyday. Zen “says” we don’t believe in writing and conversation. However, what’s a little embarrassing is that there’s more written in China and Japan than in the other traditions. Zen had an appeal to the intellectuals in China, and then Japan. But our form of practice is to continually critique the use of language as a way to understand the world.

Is that why there’s a lot of silence in Zen? 

Exactly. And there’s also a lot of [makes sudden loud yell] to break things up, which says you’re not going to capture it with words. Words are fine. But they are not the truth. So that’s fundamental to the Zen tradition. Whereas, say, in the Tibetan tradition, there’s much more attention to analytical thought, more scholarship, more debate. In the Southeast Asian tradition, there’s an incredible emphasis on the “Vinaya,” or rules that outline morals and ethics.

As part of my own meditative practice, and because I’m also a visual artist, I started doing sumi ink drawings. How can this type of activity help achieve mindfulness?

Because they really are the same thing. You have your brush ready, you have your ink and paper ready. And you take a moment, a breath, and then pick up the brush and start painting. That’s it. That’s what we’re doing on the cushion. These practices interact with one another quite beautifully.

Do you think that because of the heavy influence of the arts in the Zen Buddhist tradition, that artists and artistic type might gravitate more towards the Zen style of Buddhism as opposed to the more theory-heavy Tibetan Buddhism or the more yoga-centric Buddhism of India? 

That’s certainly true of this sangha. We have a lot of artists here. Most Zen communities I’ve experienced have a strong artistic element.

Can you recommend one Zen artist or poet as a good introduction to the artistic creativity of Zen philosophy?

Definitely check out the Edo-era poet Bashō. He was a great master of haiku. Also Ryokan, who was a late 18th- and early 19th-century Buddhist monk and hermit who revealed the essence of Zen life through poetry and calligraphy. And Hakuin Ekaku, a  painter and calligraphist from the late 17th- and early 18th century who helped revive the Rinzai school of Zen. I really suggest going to the Japanese wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

How is Zen meditation different from other meditation traditions?

The body, breath and mind are the foundation, the tripod, of Zen meditation. We do not do affirmations, mantras or Metta, a Theravada tradition that involves sending loving thoughts to others. We don’t imagine deities. We’re actually facing the wall. If someone says to me, “Oh, I’m starting to see something,” I’ll tell them, “Well maybe your posture isn’t right.”

It’s really more basic. More raw.

Absolutely. Ordinary. Plain water. No traces.

Some meditators recommend closed eyes so that you turn inward, some say half-closed so your mind doesn’t think it’s time to go to sleep. There’s also Hindu “fixed-gaze” technique of trataka in where the eyes are open and staring at a single point. Which technique do you teach?

We instruct eyes half-open, looking down. This prevents you from having hallucinations or sleepiness. In my experience, the wide-open technique tends to put too much strain on the eyes and they start to water. And you want your eyes relaxed.

Obviously a big part of meditation is about sitting. Can you explain walking meditation?

We do it all the time. We sit for half an hour and then the bell rings. We stand, and we do one of three different kinds of Zen walking meditation. There’s very slow walking, so you take a half-step with every full cycle of the breath. Talk about mindful. You have to be very aware, or you’ll start walking fast. It’s inhale, exhale, half a step, inhale, exhale, half a step. That was at the temple where I studied in Japan. And it was so fascinating; I’d see these guys across the hall and you never saw them move, but somehow, after five minutes, you’d look over and they were in a different location. It was so gradual, it was amazing.

It’s like butoh. 

Yes, very much so. It’s very Japanese. So we would do that for five minutes and then we’d hit the clappers a normal walking meditation. Now, when we go on retreat and we can go outside, sometimes we’ll lead the group out. But everybody follows one another in a line. And the third kind of walking meditation moves at a trot. We don’t do that very often. That’s a Rinzai style. But everyone does it at some point. If I feel things are getting really sleepy, I’ll say, “OK, let’s speed up now.”

I know several people who tried to incorporate meditation into their daily lives, but weren’t able to stick with it. What would you recommend to them?

In my experience, the only way to do it is to join a group. That is just it. And I’m not a “joiner” and I could never join groups, but it’s what I have learned through my own life experience and the people who have come. Maybe there are a few people who can sit on their own, but not very many. But when you come here, you agree to sit still for 30 minutes. You’re not going to get up and check you phone, because we won’t let you. We’ll say, “Sit down.” [laughs] What’s most important is to find a group, a place that where you like the people and the setting that will make you want to go and sit. That’s all it takes.

Stay tuned for the fourth and final installament of my chat with Roshi O’Hara, in which we talk about social justice, compassion and whether or not meditation can be used for evil ends. — Reynard Loki


ABOUT ROSHI PAT ENKYO O’HARA

Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara serves as Abbot of the Village Zendo. She received priest ordination from Maezumi Roshi and Dharma Transmission and Inka from Bernie Tetsugen Glassman. Roshi Enkyo’s lineage comes through Maezumi Roshi whose teaching was uncommon, bringing together Soto priest training and study of the Rinzai koan system. Moreover, Roshi Glassman’s focus on social engagement and peacemaking underlies much of her vision of Zen practice. Roshi is a Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Family, a spiritual and social action association. Roshi’s focus is on the expression of Zen through caring, service, and creative response. Her Five Expressions of Zen form the matrix of study at the Village Zendo: Meditation, Study, Communication, Action, and Caring.

ABOUT VILLAGE ZENDO

The Village Zendo is a community of people who come together to practice in the Soto Zen tradition. The Village Zendo offers zazen (sitting meditation), one-on-one instruction with a teacher, dharma talks, chanting services, retreats, workshops and study groups. Co-founded in 1986 by Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara and Sensei Barbara Joshin O’Hara, the Village Zendo is committed to authentically continuing the Zen tradition while keeping it contemporary and relevant to today’s world. The Village Zendo is located in lower Manhattan, offering a place of healing and sanctuary in the midst of one of the world’s busiest and most vital cities.

http://villagezendo.org/

 

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The ZEN of Steve

Q : Steve, can you tell us how did you implement elements of ZEN in your life and work?

SJ: For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Q: Would you agree with Yamamoto Tsunetomo, who wrote the following words in Hagakure, the Book of Samurai: “If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.”

SJ: Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Q: Tsunetomo also writes: “Every morning a warrior should recommit himself to death. In morning meditation, see yourself killed in various ways, such as being shredded by arrows, bullets, swords, and spears, being swept away by a tidal wave, burned by fire, struck by lightening, dieing in a earthquake, falling from a great height, or succumbing to overwhelming sickness”. Isn’t it a bit too heavy shadow to live under?

SJ: No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.

Q: The only thing that doesn’t change is change itself?

SJ: Things don’t have to change the world to be important

Q: What is important?

SJ: Focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

Q: The beauty of Zen is also found in simplicity, tranquility  and harmony. Meditation could be said to be the Art of Simplicity – simply sitting, simply breathing and simply being, says Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Is this all what is needed?

SJ: If you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much. We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? So this is what we’ve chosen to do with our life.

Q: Not everybody can be so focused and single minded as you.

SJ: You’ve got to find what you love and that is true for works as it is for lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t find it yet, keep looking and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you’ve found it.

Q: It reminds me what ZEN master Dogen said: “If you can not find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?. Do you agree?

SJ: Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

Q. Simplicity, heart and intuition. Is this a base of your personal system?

SJ: The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Process makes you more efficient.

Q: Do you believe in linear progress based on process?

SJ: I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why. Because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed.

Q: How can you maintain such an attitude when everyone says that you failed?

SJ: You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Q: ZEN master Shunryu Suzuki said, that in Japan they use phrase shoshin, which means ”beginners mind”. The goal of practice is always to keep our beginners mind. Do you agree?

SJ: The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again — less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

Q: To be a beginner is the secret of all arts, but it seems to be against work based on skill and experience.

SJ: I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next. Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday.

 

Leave a Comment (10)

Tess wrote on Mar 24:

The Zen of Evil Businessmen compares Steve Jobs with Donald Trump. He is clearly an idiot.

LP wrote on Mar 20:

I think Malcolm Gladwell is wrong. Forgetting Jobs is like forgetting Gutenberg. It's not gonna happen. Statues of Bill Gates across the Third World?..yuck!

Jobs was a total asshole wrote on Mar 21:

Normally, I would not speak ill of the recently dead but all this gushing over this piece of shit human being has really disgusted me. Here are some examples of the gag inducing idiocy on the part of the masses that are devoted to this fucking asshole who certainly wouldn’t have given a shit if you, or I, died.
Apples and flowers and candles and notes littered the sidewalks in front of Apple stores around the world Thursday. In a rare show of emotion for an American CEO, the world reacted to the death Steve Jobs with an outpouring of devotion. -Washington Post
Even our idiot corporate-puppet president had his stupid say, he said,
Michelle and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs. Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.
Seriously? Changed the world? I’m sorry but making fucking cell phones and tablets for yuppies to show off to each other is not changing the world for the better, and it certainly isn’t a reason people should be mourning an asshole. His phones didn’t even have anything that groundbreaking about them, sure the UI was better, but its not like he discovered cold fusion people. Stop this bullshit. Even actual good people aren’t mourned like this when they die and they at least tried to help starving people or were doctors to people in Africa, or tried to help people in some other way. Instead, we don’t even know those people’s names, but we mourn an asshole who helped create the fucking iPhone, the most overrated piece of technology ever. This says a lot about our civilization and its messed up priorities. Steve Jobs, with his technological creepy marketing-created cult and the factories in China where slaves build the iPad and iPhone, only made the world worse, since humans become a bit more monstrous each time they exchange wholesome emotions for the empty worship of electronic gadgets.
To be honest, I am glad he is dead. It shows that while rich people have taken everything away from the poor; their hopes, their dreams, even their minds and their dignity, at least they still haven’t achieved immortality yet. They die just like us and for that I am glad. In the end, all the advanced medical technology and transplants of 3rd world children’s livers weren’t enough to fight off the great equalizer, death.
He wasn’t even a nice person, he was an arrogant, aggressive and temperamental jerk who just used people. He claimed to be a Buddhist, but there is nothing Buddhist about a greedy asshole who only cared about wealth and his own inflated ego. I think lots of people like him because he is epitomizes the values of our bullshit society. Our society which wants us all to just fawn over products, be bland people who love money, and, most importantly, not give a fuck about each other. He is like every bullshit asshole I meet in Manhattan, claiming to be part of some “counterculture” but in reality just being conformist money-grubbing egotistical pricks. Steve Jobs was what all the asshole hipsters and yuppies who worship him wanted to be, and that is both sad and horrifying. Changing the world indeed, changing it into something worse. Even his own once-illegitimate daughter lived on welfare for 2 years because he just didn’t give a fuck, he even denied paternity by claiming he was sterile.
He even fucked over the Woz, who is a much nicer person, on numerous occassions, one of which is,
Jobs noticed his friend Steve Wozniak—employee of Hewlett-Packard—was capable of producing designs with a small number of chips, and invited him to work on the hardware design with the prospect of splitting the $750 wage. Wozniak had no sketches and instead interpreted the game from its description. To save parts, he had “tricky little designs” difficult to understand for most engineers. Near the end of development, Wozniak considered moving the high score to the screen’s top, but Jobs claimed Bushnell wanted it at the bottom; Wozniak was unaware of any truth to his claims. The original deadline was met after Wozniak did not sleep for four days straight. In the end 50 chips were removed from Jobs’ original design. This equated to a US$5,000 bonus, which Jobs kept secret from Wozniak, instead only paying him $375.[1][2][3][4][5][6]
Also, after resuming control of Apple in 1997, Jobs eliminated all corporate philanthropy programs. So don’t be fucking stupid and cry for Steve Jobs, he wouldn’t care about you. He didn’t care about anyone except himself and his ego. Fuck Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was an asshole.

http://www.dystopiaearth.com/?p=645

Bill Gates vs Steve Jobs? Basically good vs. evil . wrote on Mar 21:

"Steve Jobs was a hero only in the Ayn Randian sense. A living, breathing character out of Atlas Shrugged, he treated the people who actually manufacture Apple products like serfs and hoarded his $8.3 billion fortune to no apparent purpose. Apple is a wonderful company for its customers and investors...But Apple is also an engine of misery for its subcontracted Chinese workers...thirty-four-hour shifts, beatings, child labor, an epidemic of suicides and a general prison-camp atmosphere prevailed...How ironic that the media love to celebrate this alleged icon of ’60s idealism at the expense of poor, square Bill Gates, who is devoting the better part of his fortune to improving the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people. " -- The Nation

M wrote on Mar 21:

Oh boy, what an outpour of negative energy flows after "The ZEN of Steve" interview! I am frankly taken aback. Too bad all of it comes as quotes from others. It is too easy and not very creative. My interview with Steve Jobs never took place . All his answers are made up from his quotes. I came up only with questions..
I don't want to judge Steve Jobs as good or bad person, or make him a saint or a hero. I simply noticed how close are his statements about death, simplicity and other subjects to ZEN principles. Perhaps he showed in his life traces of what Tibetan Buddhist call a crazy wisdom. It refers to unconventional and outrageous behavior, being either a manifestation of Buddha nature, or a method of spiritual investigation.

Zen of Steve ok, but how about the Buddha of Bill! wrote on Mar 21:

Steve Jobs clearly brings up extreme emotions: devotion and adoration on one side, and hatred and disrespect on the other. Perhaps some may find it interesting that he made statements which seem Zen. But it was sadly just an affect of a life philosophy that is not at all Buddhist. The Buddha said, "Do not commit evil; Do good devotedly...that is the precept of all Buddhas." Steve Jobs was certainly no Buddha. When you look at his life, he was an ingenious capitalist driven by primarily by greed who did not care for the welfare of others and who amassed an obscene fortune. There is no comparison between him and Gates, who is giving away his fortune to help save lives. Jobs had zero public record of philanthropy. ZERO. Jobs made cool gadgets via slave labor. And he said a few things that sound Zen while his slaves toiled away and his dedicated sheep bought his Macs and iPhones. Time to move on from Jobs. He did his damage, we are still seduced by his gadgets. Oh well. In the end, he was a bad person, arguably evil, who doesn't need more airtime now. It is more interesting to look at the Buddha nature of Bill Gates, someone who is a true humanitarian who follows the precepts of the Buddha.

anonymous wrote on Mar 21:

For the record. Everyone has a Buddha nature. This is one of main ZEN principles. It applies to me, you and Steve Jobs. We all have right to opinions, so I don't mind sparring. However I won't further exchange opinions with my predecessor who clearly shows lack of balance and hysteria in his opinions. It is demagogy per se.

who cares about steve jobs wrote on Mar 24:

why people continually feel the need to talk about this clearly evil person is shocking...move on people

The Zen of Evil Businessmen wrote on Mar 24:

I suggest creating an entire series of these. You can call it "The Zen of Evil Businessmen." You can do a similar interview with Jeffrey Skilling and Ken Lay (Enron), Robert Rubin (Goldman Sachs), Dennis Kozlowski (Tyco), the Walton Family (Wal-Mart), Donald Trump, Hermann von Siemens…the list is endless. Steve Jobs, as the king of slave labor, would top the list, of course.

Alan W. wrote on Mar 20:

"Of the great entrepreneurs of this era, people will have forgotten Steve Jobs. 'Who was Steve Jobs again?' But ... there will be statues of Bill Gates across the Third World…There's a reasonable shot that -- because of his money -- we will cure malaria…I firmly believe that 50 years from now [Bill Gates] will be remembered for his charitable work. No one will even remember what Microsoft is." -- Malcolm Gladwell

 


Kill the Buddha!

Meet Buddha, kill Buddha. Meet Master, kill Master. (逢佛殺佛,逢祖殺祖)

 Linji Yixuan

 

Leave a Comment (3)

seo wrote on Sep 10:

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To wrote on Mar 16:

OK Wu, I corrected it. Wiki didn't translate the second part about teacher.Does it sound too radical?...ha ha

wu wrote on Mar 16:

translation is only first 4 words, last 4 are missing

 


The Zen of Shit, the Dharma of Dung: The Path to Enlightenment Goes Through the Bathroom

 

“Finally, he saw himself at the foot of a mountain of filth and excrement; he climbed the mountain; he reached the summit; he descended, and neither the filth nor the excrement had defiled him. He awoke, and from these dreams he knew that the day had come when, having attained supreme knowledge, he would become a Buddha.” — A. Ferdinand Herold, The Life of Buddha (1922)[1]

It may not be discussed often, but the path to enlightenment includes many visits to the toilet. The Buddha was keenly aware of the importance of feces and encouraged us to pay attention to our excrement. According to the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha said:

“Just as if a sack with openings at both ends were full of various kinds of grain…a monk reflects on this very body from the soles of the feet on up, from the crown of the head on down, surrounded by skin and full of…feces, bile, phlegm, pus…”[2]

We are socially conditioned to be repulsed by shit, to hide it, to be ashamed of it, to ignore it, to avoid talking about it in polite discussion, to keep it separate from the rest of our lives. The Buddha tried to change this automatic reaction by changing the normal context in which we view shit. As the Dalai Lama noted during a lesson he gave in London in 1988, “The Buddha said that although excrement is dirty in the town, it is helpful when used as fertilizer in a field.” The Dalai Lama went on to say that one should “place his or her mind in a deep state beyond the discriminations of…clear or dirty, which enables him or her to transcend such worldly conventions.”[3]

This duality—separating things things are “clean” from those that are “dirty”—sets up a roadblock on the path to enlightenment. Seng-ts’an, the Third Chinese Zen Patriarch would disagree with this separation. “To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind,” he said. “Do not remain in a dualistic state; avoid such easy habits carefully…[or] the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.”[4]

The Buddha is a dried shit-stick
Robert Colpitts of the Interdependence Project, a multi-lineage secular Buddhist center in New York City, argues, “When we are not mindful of our poop, we lose our sense of connection between our mind and our body.”[5] Indeed, the Buddha saw no meaningful distinction between the temple and the toilet. The view that one is divine and the other dirty is a result of an attachment to a false dualism, one that separates mind from body, pure from impure.

Eliminating the distinction between temple and toilet is part of the experience at Ittoen, a commune near Kyoto, where toilet cleaning is considered a critical aspect of the path to self-knowledge. In her book Other People’s Dirt: A Housecleaner’s Adventures from Cape Cod to Kyoto, author Louise Rafkin describes the moment of Zen she felt after mopping the communal shithouse: “In my heart I saw a big tree, with everything in its branches. You, me, air, birds, flowers. I knew everything was related. That was my realization after cleaning that toilet.”[6]

Members of Ittoen cleaning toilets in the Delhi airport. (Photo: Ayako Isayama)

There is a sense of piety that we associate with a temple—from the robes to the golden statues to the incense—that we don’t normally associate with the bathroom. But these are merely external trappings of an inner sensibility. On his blog Dharma Space, author and meditation specialist Dillon Masters recants an ancient story that erases the false line that is often drawn between the temple and the toilet:

In ninth century China, Chan Master Yúnmén Wényan (known in Japan as Ummon Zenji) made quite an amazing impact by deflating all such forms of piety. His most famous one-liner stemmed from a question posed to him by a monk. The question from the monk was ‘What’s the Buddha’? His answer: ‘A dried shit-stick.’ If that doesn’t strip away holy robes it is hard to imagine what would. And how should such an obvious statement of disrespect be understood? The modern day equivalent of a ninth century ‘shit stick’ would be Charmin toilet tissue used to wipe excrement from our anus and then flush it down the toilet. Getting rid of our egos is a most useful endeavor but once that is accomplished we need to resist attaching ourselves to the means and just flush it down the toilet.[7]

Feces: one of the 31 “Great Elements”
The Buddha believed that one of the obstacles that prevent people from realizing the “empty nature of the purified mind” is the repulsion to certain elements of life and living that are normal, healthy and fundamentally vital to the proper functioning of the mind and body. One of these elements is feces (karisam), which is considered one of the “Great Elements” (mahabhuta). There is a traditional Buddhist meditation technique called Patikulamanasikara, one of the four “protective meditations” that reflect on feces and 30 other elements of the body, such as saliva, mucus, blood, sweat, tears and urine.[8]

In the Sampasadaniya Sutta (DN 28), Ven. Sariputta (one of two chief male disciples of the Buddha, along with Maudgalyayana) declares that meditating on feces along with the other bodily elements leads to “the attainment of vision,” describing how this method can be used as a springboard by which one “comes to know the unbroken stream of human consciousness that is not established either in this world or in the next.”[9]

In the SÄ«hanāda-sutta, Sariputta said:

“It is just as the earth receives what is pure and what is impure, excrement, urine, snot, and spittle, without for this reason hating it or liking it, without feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or humiliated…I am like this; my mind is like the earth. Free from fetters or resentment, without ill-will or quarrel, I dwell pervading the entire world [with a mind] boundless, exalted, immeasurable and well-cultivated.[10]

 

Down with dung: Sariputta

One of the central tenets of Tibetan medicine is the study of excrement. An important basic reference book for Tibetan medicine is the first volume of The Essentials of Gyud-shi, a three-book treatise written by Dr. Pasang Yonten Arya that expounds and explains the traditional Gyud-shi (The Four Medical Tantras) and its contemporary practice and interpretation. In it, Dr. Arya describes the “5 Wind Branches”  of the body. The fifth branch is known as “The Descending Wind” (thur sel rlung). It resides and functions in the colon, bladder, reproductive organs, thighs and especially in the sigmoid colon. In addition to regulating sexual functions, it controls the evacuation of feces and urine. A disturbance in the Descending Wind can lead to constipation, hemorrhoids and painful urination.[11] (n.b. The Rubin Museum’s current exhibition, Bodies in Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine, will extend from the galleries and into the bathroom, where visitors can partake in a free urinalysis.)

Letting go from both ends: emptying the mind and bowels
Both Eastern and Western medical experts recommend meditation to help relieve bowel stress. Dr. Carrie Demers, an Ayurvedic holistic physician and director of the Himalayan Institute Total Health Center, writes:

“Chronic constipation sufferers need to learn to relax deeply enough so those muscles will remember how to let go. This won’t happen overnight: habitual holding in the pelvis often stems from long-term chronic anxiety, stress, or trauma that will take regular practice to resolve. Agni sara, twists, and forward bends, along with systematic relaxation in shavasana or a similar restorative pose, will move stagnant energy in the pelvis and help unwind chronic gripping.”[12]

That feels better: Agni sara pose

The Mayo Clinic recommends yoga and meditation as treatments for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).[13] Nutritionist Stephanie Rolfe writes, “Meditation and relaxation techniques help relax the colon or bowel.”[14] The Sutra of Buddha’s Diagnosis warns that sickness can come from sadness and anger as much as from postponing excrement.[15]

A 2011 study led by Dr. Susan Gaylord of the University of North Carolina’s program on integrative medicine, found that the physical and psychological symptoms of IBS were more effectively managed by people practicing mindfulness meditation than in support group therapy.[16] Dr. Gaylord was the recipient of a seed grant for a pilot study of “Mindfulness for irritable bowel syndrome” from the UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders, which noted in their 2006 annual report that by using relaxation therapies like meditation, “a person can learn how to ‘turn down the volume’ on their GI symptoms by becoming more calm and relaxed about them.”[17]

“The meditation tradition has always understood that even after experiencing enlightenment you still have to go to the toilet,” writes Dr. Graham Williams, an ordained Lama with 25 years experience in teaching meditation and the director of the Lifeflow Meditation Centre. “And, in fact, going to the toilet is a classic Buddhist meditation.”[18]

The mindful poop
So how does one turn a spin in the loo into a “classic Buddhist meditation”? Colpitts offers this mindful plan of action to achieve what he calls a “Right State of Poop”[19]:

1. Take your seat. Before pooping, we generally have to remove our pants and underwear so that the poop has a clear pathway to the toilet. Find a comfortable posture. Some people like to hunch forward, that’s fine. Others don’t like to sit, but instead prefer to squat. If you do so, make sure you are balanced so you don’t fall. There is a Burmese style of pooping that is comfortable, but requires some getting used to. Whatever posture you choose, make sure your body is energetic, but filled with ease.

2. Check in with yourself. What is your state of mind? Are you filled with fear? Filled with hope? Is your mind open? Closed? How does your body feel? Tense? Sore? Loose? Ready to poop?

3. Bring awareness to your pooping mechanism. Feel the pooping in your body, not your idea of pooping, but the felt sense of pooping. As the poop goes out and even when it comes back in, notice that.

4. If you find yourself thinking of Branson, Missouri, or fantasizing about Jimmy Fallon, or wondering where that taste in your mouth came from, gently bring your awareness back to the area of pooping.

There’s also Toilet Yoga, a book that uses the yoga techniques to achieve satisfying poops, offering 15 unique poses that work “in various situations and locations.” According to the book’s publisher, Toilet Yoga MovementToilet Yoga “will offer the opportunity to connect with others around the world as you share in the joy of relief and satisfaction” and a “way to change how you spend your precious alone time,” adding, “As this book is based on an open-door policy, feel free to keep yours open if your relationships allow—to share in the joy of the book and these special movements. If your spouse, mate, friend, roommate, etc. isn’t fond of seeing you, pants down and stretching while on the throne, please be respectful and at least close the door part way.”[20]

Dharmic discharge: toilet yoga 

One can also engage in one of the Buddhist healing chants specifically designed to increase bowel health, such as the mantra “Om Rum Namaha while doing the Acceptance Mudra (right hand: thumb touching index and middle fingers; left hand: thumb touching middle and ring fingers).[21]

No pressure: Acceptance mudra

From the temple to the toilet: meditative music
What about listening to meditative music in the bathroom? Traditionally, music is not a part of a meditative practice. “If you’re trying to pay attention one-pointedly to your breathing, then you can’t also listen to music,” writes Bodhipaksa, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order and founder of Wildmind Buddhist Meditation who has taught meditation for over 20 years. “And if you’re trying to listen to music then you can’t fully concentrate on your breathing.” Does the same go for pooping? Not necessarily. If you want to incorporate sounds into your meditation, Bodhipaksa recommends using the sounds of nature (as opposed to catchy pop songs, which distracts the mind) as a “meditation object.”[22]

“Listening to music as a meditation practice can be a very powerful practice,” he writes. “As I became more familiar with the experience of the dhyanas (Pali, jhanas), which are very concentrated, calm, and blissful states of meditation, I realized that I’d been experiencing these states for years while listening to western classical music. And by treating music as a meditation object, I’ve found that I can experience all of the dhyanas.”

Plus, listening to meditative music while on the toilet may help achieve not only a mindful poop, but may also help ease the pain associated with IBS. According to a 2005 study by researchers from Vanderbilt University, patients who suffered from painful IBS reported a reduction in rectal pain after listening to relaxing music.[23] In 2001, psychotherapist and guided imagery expert Belleruth Naparstek released a guided meditation album with meditative music specifically for this purpose: “Meditation to Help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.”[24] 

Poop occurs
Whether you use meditative music, yoga poses, mudras, chants or simple mindfulness meditation, bringing a sense of inner peace to the toilet is an enlightened idea. As Gerry Stribling, a student of the Venerable Omalpe Sobhita Thero and the Vietnamese monk Zen Master Thich Hang Dat, notes on his blog Buddhism for Tough Guys, “The Buddha said that the act of pooping can be a sublime event if you do it with proper mindfulness and concentration.”[25]

As an amateur scatologist, I had a feeling that shit was key. But I had no idea that the Noble Eightfold Path went fearlessly (and without a hint of repulsion) through the bathroom door. After all, it makes perfect sense: Who hasn’t at one time or another felt a cessation of dukkha, i.e., suffering, after a good poop? (The Buddha is reputed to have said: “I have taught one thing and one thing only, dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.”)

Squatters welcome

Clearly, emptying one’s mind and one’s bowels are closely connected. So next time you’re on the shitter, instead of reading a magazine, try meditating. Lighten your load while enlightening your mind.

Soyen Shaku, the first Zen Buddhist master to teach in the United States, knew the importance of shit to the pursuit of truth. At a lecture given to a group of Japanese religious leaders, he said, “We must search for whatever glimmer of truth there is, even amongst the rubbish, even amongst the excrement, we are willing to bow before it and rejoice.”[26]

A simple existential observation that life is full of imperfections and unpredictable events.” That could be the central concept of a Buddhist lesson or Zen koan. Actually, it’s how Wikipedia defines a common slang phrase that is one of life’s most fundamental truisms: Shit happens.

Just remember to flush.

— Reynard Loki

NOTES

[1] Herold, A. Ferdinand. The Life of Buddha. Santa Cruz, CA: Evinity Publishing, 2009. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://sacred-texts.com/bud/lob/lob20.htm.
[2] Satipatthana Sutta: Frames of Reference” (MN 10), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition). Last modified November 30, 2013. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.010.than.html. (h/t Robert Colpitt)
[3] His Holiness the Dalai Lama. From a teaching given in London, 1988. Translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa and edited by Jeremy Russell. Originally published in Chö-Yang (No.5) published by the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala. From Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, “A Survey of the Paths of Tibetan Buddhism.” Last modified September 6, 2012. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://www.lamayeshe.com/index.php?sect=article&id=421.
[4] Seng-ts’an, Third Chinese Patriarch. Verses on the Faith-Mind. From Hsin-hsin Ming: Verses of the Faith Mind, translated by Richard B. Clarke. Reprinted on Mendosa.com. Last modified February 27, 2014. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://www.mendosa.com/way.html (h/t Robert Colpitt)
[5] Colpitts, Robert. “A Mindful Poop.” The Interdependence Project. Last modified April 26, 2013. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://theidproject.org/blog/robert-colpitts/2013/04/26/mindful-poop.
[6] Rafkin, Louise. Excerpt from Other People’s Dirt: A Housecleaner’s Adventures from Cape Cod to Kyoto. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 1998. From “A Yen for Cleaning.” Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Spring 2008. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://www.tricycle.com/feature/yen-cleaning.
[7]. Masters, Dillon. “A Dried Shit-Stick.” Dharma Space. Last modified August 29, 2011. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://dillonspace.blogspot.com/2008/10/dried-shit-stick.html.
[8] There is a set of 13th-century Tibetan texts that prescribe the consumption of five human by-products known as “the five nectars”: urine, feces, menstrual blood, semen and flesh. (see Garrett, Frances. Tapping the Bod’ys Nectar: Gastronomy and Incorporation in Tibetan literature. Book chapter. University of Chicago, 2010. https://www.academia.edu/601969/Tapping_the_Bodys_Nectar_Gastronomy_and_Incorporation_in_Tibetan_Literature.)
[9] Walshe, Maurice (trans.). The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Pubs, 1995, pp. 419-20.
[10] Anālayo, Bhikkhu. The Arahant and the Four Truths in Early Buddhist Discourse. Lecture 3. MÄ€ 24 – Discourse on the Lion’s Roar (Parallel to the SÄ«hanāda-sutta AN 9.11 / AN IV 373) Accessed March 15, 2014. http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/fileadmin/pdf/analayo/2012-03lecture.pdf
[11] Arya, Pasang Yonten. The Essentials of Gyud-shi. Reprinted on Tibetanmedicine-edu.org. “Physiology of the humors and constituents.” http://www.tibetanmedicine-edu.org/index.php/n-articles/the-three-humors-part-4. Accessed March 15, 2014.
[12] Demers, Carrie. “Ayurvedic Tips for Constipation.” Yoga International. Last modified May 11, 2013. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://yogainternational.com/article/view/ayurvedic-tips-for-constipation.
[13] Mayo Clinic. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Alternative Medicine.” July 29, 2011. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/basics/alternative-medicine/con-20024578.
[14] Rolfe, Stephanie. “Natural Constipation Cures that Work.” Nutrition Articles Online. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://nutritionarticlesonline.com/constipation_cures/
[15] Kwiksure.com. “Happy Buddha: The Health Benefits to Living a Buddhist Lifestyle.” Accessed March 15, 2014. http://www.kwiksure.com/blog/health-benefits-to-living-buddhist-lifestyle/
[16] Gaylord, Susan. “Mindfulness for Stress and Pain Management: Implications for IBS.” Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, UNC School of Medicine. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://www.med.unc.edu/ibs/files/educational-gi-handouts/Mindfulness.pdf.
[17] UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders. Annual Report 2006. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://www.med.unc.edu/ibs/center-publications/annual-reports/ar2.pdf
[18] Williams, Graham. “Meditating on the Spot.” InnerSelf. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://www.innerself.com.au/archive/from_the_editors/sa015_in_flow.html
[19] Ibid., 5.
[20] Toilet Yoga Movement. “Meditation on evacuation: Toilet Yoga.” Alltop.com. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://holykaw.alltop.com/meditation-on-evacuation-toilet-yoga.
[21] Balakumar, Naran S. “Acceptance Mudra.” Mudra Healing. Last modified August 2, 2009. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://healbymudra.wordpress.com/2009/08/02/acceptance-mudra/
[22] Bodhipaksa. “Should I listen to music when I meditate?” Wildmind Buddhist Meditation. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://www.wildmind.org/background/can-anyone-meditate/music
[23] Morgan, V., et al. “Amitriptyline reduces rectal pain related activation of the anterior cingulate cortex in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.” National Institutes of Health. From Gut. May 2005. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1774484/.
[24] Naparstek, Belleruth. “Meditation to Help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” iTunes. Accessed March 15, 2014. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/meditation-to-help-irritable/id421743184.
[25] Stribling, Gerry. “Poop, I say!” Buddhism for Tough Guys. October 17, 2011. Accessed March 15, 2014. http://buddhismfordudes.blog.com/2011/10/17/poop-i-say/
[26] Snodgrass, Judith. Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 2003. p. 256.

 

Leave a Comment (2)

Zen Poo Zazen wrote on Mar 20:

Some Zen bathroom design ideas: http://www.stylemotivation.com/21-peaceful-zen-bathroom-design-ideas-for-relaxation-in-your-home/

shinobu wrote on Mar 19:

I've been told that Asians have intestines 1.5 times longer than Caucasians so I believe we poo more too

 


Interview with Roshi O’Hara (Part 2 of 4)

Sonja Jyakuen Nuttall, Donna Karan, Richard Gere, and Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara
(photo courtesy Urban Zen Initiative)

 

In this second part of my chat with Roshi Enkyo Pat O’Hara, Abbott of the Village Zendo, we talk about mindfulness and her own introduction to meditation. Click here to read Part 1.

For some people, meditation is about relieving stress. For others, it’s about improving concentration or other brain function. For some, it’s about getting on a path to enlightenment. There seem to be a lot of different ways to get to a meditative lifestyle.

Some of my students come from AA. Some come from Sex Addicts Anonymous. And others come in and their life is fine, but something is missing.

Was something missing for you?

I found that I wasn’t fully expressing my life. I felt that I had  gifts  and I had a hunger to express them. I wanted to break through.

How long did it take for you to break through?

It took a long time, but I tend to overdo things. So when I decided to start, the first thing I did was to go on a 10-day silent retreat. People take years to work up to that, but that’s just kind of my style. It almost killed me, but if you’ve never done that, and then suddenly you just do it, it’s very, very powerful.

Sounds like a trial by fire. Would you recommend that approach?

Well, it depends on the person and how resilient they are.

What was the experience like?

It was wonderful. To finally let go, to sit in silence, to be intimate with myself. What was I afraid of? I was afraid of myself. But I didn’t know that going into it. I realized that my fears were these things I had built up.

Did you feel an immediate effect?

I did. And yet, it’s just like Rinzai and Soto. There was an immediate effect, and then over many years, a gradual clarifying.

So much of a meditative life involves the concept of mindfulness? What does this mean to you and how to do integrate it into your day-to-day existence?

It’s become a very popular term. It’s a huge concept. There are some neuroscientists who are doing great work describing the connection between mindfulness and changes in the fundamental character of the brain. One reason that these findings are so powerful is that for us, as a culture, science is God, our religion. So if science says it’s true, we can believe it. So the concept of mindfulness really emerged from the work of neuroscientists and educators, who found that we can use this technique—meditation—to better educate kids, to help soldiers who are traumatized, to help Google employees relax so they can do better work.

Do you need to be optimistic to be a good Buddhist?

[laughs] No. You can be a pessimist. I’ve got some people here who are real pessimists. They come in and say, “Oh Roshi, don’t say that!” But that’s just the way I look at the world. It’s not the right way. It’s just my way. 

When the Buddha achieved enlightenment, it was just part of a bigger journey that included his own personal conflict.

After achieving enlightenment, he taught for 45 years. And he had to face all kinds of issues. But I would love to have a more contemporary myth about the Buddha, so we could hear some of his problems and so forth. They’ve all been so idealized, but he was confronted all the time with all these questions, and that’s what the teachings are, how he solved various problems. 

The legend of the Buddha as a wealthy prince who was shielded from human suffering who then, upon seeing all the suffering, devotes his life to ending it, shows that it is possible to make a 180-degree change.

That’s right. That’s really true.

Once you achieve a certain level of mindfulness, does it ever go away?

Yes, absolutely. It’s a misconception about Zen teachers like me. We can all make lots of mistakes. It’s not a “fixed-and-done” thing. It is a life. It is a practice. It’s constantly working. And if you stop, you lose it.

Would you say that a synonym for mindfulness is awareness?

Yes, absolutely.

Do you think that the increased interest in meditation and mindfulness is part of a human evolutionary path? 

I think so. I really do. But I’m an optimistic person.

###

Stay tuned for part 3 of my interview with Roshi O’Hara, in which she explains how Zen Buddhism is unique within the Buddhist practice, Zen art, walking meditation and her “Five Expressions of Zen.” — Reynard Loki

ABOUT ROSHI PAT ENKYO O’HARA

Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara serves as Abbot of the Village Zendo. She received priest ordination from Maezumi Roshi and Dharma Transmission and Inka from Bernie Tetsugen Glassman. Roshi Enkyo’s lineage comes through Maezumi Roshi whose teaching was uncommon, bringing together Soto priest training and study of the Rinzai koan system. Moreover, Roshi Glassman’s focus on social engagement and peacemaking underlies much of her vision of Zen practice. Roshi is a Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Family, a spiritual and social action association. Roshi’s focus is on the expression of Zen through caring, service, and creative response. Her Five Expressions of Zen form the matrix of study at the Village Zendo: Meditation, Study, Communication, Action, and Caring.

ABOUT VILLAGE ZENDO

The Village Zendo is a community of people who come together to practice in the Soto Zen tradition. The Village Zendo offers zazen (sitting meditation), one-on-one instruction with a teacher, dharma talks, chanting services, retreats, workshops and study groups. Co-founded in 1986 by Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara and Sensei Barbara Joshin O’Hara, the Village Zendo is committed to authentically continuing the Zen tradition while keeping it contemporary and relevant to today’s world. The Village Zendo is located in lower Manhattan, offering a place of healing and sanctuary in the midst of one of the world’s busiest and most vital cities.

http://villagezendo.org/

 

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