Thursday, April 25, 2013

Finding Rest in a Restless World

If I were to pick one common theme in the reasons that people seek out meditative or contemplative practices, it would be the desire to find a place of rest in what is becoming an increasingly speedy and overwhelming world. The desire can almost be best described in the phrase, "wanting the world to stop for just a little bit so I can catch my breath."

It is often not that we do not know what to do when faced with life's challenges; but that they come so fast we don't have the time to look in our bag of tools to find the right one to use. Left with speed choices, it is no wonder we often pick things that leave us more rushed than before. For relaxation, we watch highly emotional television shows and movies that make us tenser than we realize. To gain health and wellness, we embark on programmes that emphasize the "wrongness" of just about everything we have been doing that increases feelings of guilt and shame. We join gyms and dojos not thinking through the extent of the monetary and time commitment they really demand in order to be considered "worth it." We turn to medicine in hopes that there is simply something wrong with us that we can manage away with a well-timed pill, not considering how powerless a medicine regimen can make you feel or the complication side effects can be.

So people turn to meditation and contemplation because they have heard rumor of a place where you can go and be in quiet. Where you can rest in an atmosphere of acceptance and regain your footing. So why doesn't meditation work for most people?

Meditation won't work if it is done as a solution rather than a supporting process. If you come to meditation thinking that by learning how to quiet your mind you will find rest, you will inevitably become restless. To be restless is best defined as wanting an immediate change or solution; or better yet, to be restless is to want something to be different NOW.

The key word is "want." When we "want" an outcome, there is much greater chance that we will experience disappointment because we close the door on being present to experience the process. And, if we are not present, we then miss the opportunities that will organically present themselves to us. When we have a "want," we are also more likely to make choices that are emotionally and reactive, rather than an organized response to opportunity.

The world now, West or East, is a restless world. We have come to communally believe in the illusion of immediate solutions -- that if a law is passed, people's thinking and behavior will change, that if a study finds a reason for a health problem, avoiding the cause will always prevent the problem, that pursuing a spiritual practice guarantees a spiritual depth. The food we eat must be fast and good. The entertainment we see must in some way excite our emotions. Our spiritual practices must all come with goals we can sum up, achievements we can realize and tchotchkes we can display.

To find rest in this restless world, one may not need to seek out esoteric and demanding meditative practices, one must learn to rest. Master Sheng Yen surprised an interviewer when asked about the correct posture to meditate in by devoting much time to correcting the wrong posture. He pointed out that many people who sit to meditate are not engaged in cultivation of concentration and wisdom, but are resting. "To rest properly, he demonstrated, "one must sit back and let the chair take all of your weight." You must give yourself up to rest. Count your breaths, concentrate on your breathing and let your mind empty itself of thought - that is true rest and something that all of us need to learn.

Learning to recognize what you need is the first step to creating balance within your life. When you feel that you have not done enough, been enough, are enough -- recognize it as a restlessness and want. When restless -- rest; for that is the meaning of the word -- to be restless is to be one without rest. Once you have rested, then look toward what practices would best support you in pursuing the cultivation of your life.



Monday, April 1, 2013

Pawtucket, RI - Outdoor Traditional Shao Lin Qi Gong and Kung Fu

Believe it or not, it's finally warm enough to being the outdoor community classes!

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5:30 to 7pm and Tuesdays from 7 to 8pm the Zen Community & Cultural Center will be offering outdoor Traditional Shao Lin Qi Gong and Kung Fu sessions. The first 20 minutes is all Qi Gong and serves as the warm up and stretching for the Kung Fu portion. You are welcome to come to the Qi Gong only, both or just the Kung Fu. The suggested donation for each class is $5.

What is Shao Lin Qi Gong?

There are thousands of different types of Qi Gong.

Shao Lin Qi Gong is relatively recent, as it originates in the 6th century AD, with the historical and legendary figure of Bodhidharma, said to be the first Chan/Zen patriarch,  the very founder of the Chan/Zen tradition.

Bodhidharma was born as a prince in the south Indian Pallava kingdom. In the same way as the historical Buddha centuries before, he renounced the kingdom and became a monk. Upon Realization, or Enlightenment, he traveled to China and arrived at the Shao Lin Monastery. There, he saw the monks immersed in their most demanding meditation practices and he gave them  a series of exercises or “forms” called the 18 Lohan Hands, destined  to bring them optimum physical health, vitality, serenity, emotional balance and mental clarity. A “form” is a combination of 3 elements: specific movement in space, particular breathing pattern and focused and relaxed attention.

What is Shao Lin Kung Fu?

It is the original Martial Art from which all others grew. It fully embraces the union of body, mind and spirit to create one strength. In traditional Shao Lin, there are no ranks or belts, the practice is about gaining insight, wisdom and skill and a master can learn much from an absolute beginner.

Shao Lin Kung Fu not only strengthens the body and improves balance, circulation, coordination and flexibility but it builds moral character and personal integrity. The study of Shao Lin can provide you with the means to gain victory in any confrontation whether physical confrontation is required or mental agility and emotional strength is needed.

Shao Lin is wisdom and it is life. It is complex and mastery of the Art is rarely achieved for it is as vast and complex as the Universe itself.

The details -

How "fit" do you have to be?
Every exercise is adaptable to any level of fitness or ability. The goal is to help you achieve wellness as it is best for you in your life, not to become a copy of someone else. The forms encourage individual identity so no two people doing the same form will ever perform it identically.

What is the age limit?
From 7 yrs old and up. We do ask that for children between 7 and 14 to participate, a parent or guardian must participate along with them.

Is there parking?
Lots and it is free.

Is it on the busline?

Yes, the 78. From Pawtucket, get off at the first stop after the light where Water and School merge and the Launch is right down the hill. From Providence, get off at Rhode Island Farms (Memorial Hospital), walk down the hill to School Street. Turn left and walk down till you see the Boat Launch on the left.

Are there facilities?

No bathrooms or changing rooms. There are grilling pits and picnic tables.

What is the cost?

A $5 dollar per session donation is suggested. Whatever you can reasonably afford is fine, the cost to the Z-CC to provide this is low, but there is a cost. You can make a donation each time you come, or do a one time donation per month. Cash/Debit/Credit are accepted. Absolutely no checks, no exceptions.

What should I bring/wear?

Comfortable sneakers or shoes, loose clothing (long pants, t-shirt), water/sports drink. Shorts are not recommended.

Anything else?

Please let the instructor know if you have any physical concerns or limitations so they can help you adapt the exercises to bring you the most benefit.

Each session is weather permitting, please email your mobile number to us if you would like a txt notification by 4pm if the session is cancelled or, follow us on twitter (@ZenCommunityRI) where we will tweet cancellations only by 4pm.

I look forward to seeing you soon!



Map to Boat Launch,+Pawtucket,+RI&hl=en&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=37.735377,86.572266&oq=pawtucket+boat+launc&hq=Pawtucket+Boat+Launch,+Pawtucket,+RI&t=m&z=16