Announcement: Invitation Accepted

I’ve just accepted an invitation to be an editor over at the Filipino Buddhism blog.  According to the email I got, as an editor I have the power to:

“publish and edit any post, as well as moderate comments and generally make the site a better place.”

Learn more about the Filipino Buddhism blog by clicking on the links below:

https://filipinobuddhism.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/welcome-to-filipino-buddhism/

https://filipinobuddhism.wordpress.com/about/

I’ll still be blogging here about my personal Buddhist practice, which is Zen, as well as – of course – music, and movement.  But I’m also looking forward to collaborating with my fellow Filipino Buddhist bloggers.

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The Marrow Of Zen (from “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”, by Shunryu Suzuki) and a Few Thoughts on Global Service Day

Last weekend I was fortunate to receive two Zen books from my cousin (well technically she’s my niece, but she’s older than I am so our relationship is more “cousin-ish”).  One is Shunryu Suzuki’s “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”.  This book is rather well-known among Zen folks, especially in the West.  I actually have the audio of this book; still, it’s nice to have it in a physical form that I can bring along anywhere.  What I find amusing though is that every time I read, I hear the voice of the narrator in the audio format.  Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

THE MARROW OF ZEN

In our scriptures (Samyuktagama Sutra, volume 33), it is said that there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones.  The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver’s will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one does, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones.  You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn how to run!

When we hear this story, almost all of us want to be the best horse.  If it is impossible to be the best one, we want to be the second best.  This is, I think, the usual understanding of this story, and of Zen…(t)his is not the right understanding.  If you practice Zen in the right way it does not matter whether you are the best horse or the worst one…

When you are determined to practice zazen with the great mind of Buddha, you will find the worst horse is the most valuable one.  In your very imperfections you will find the basis for your firm, way-seeking mind.  Those who can sit perfectly physically usually take more time to obtain the true way of Zen, the actual feeling of Zen, the marrow of Zen.  But those who find great difficulties in practicing Zen will find more meaning in it.  So I think that sometimes the best horse may be the worst horse, and the worst horse can be the best one.

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I posted about Treeleaf’s Global Service Day last week.  Well, it’s done.  The two-week period is over.

And at the same time, it’s not.  After all, if you truly understand the intent behind Global Service Day, you’ll know that everyday is Global Service Day.  Every moment is, after all, an opportunity to be of service to the world.  That might mean cheering up someone who’s feeling down, or offering to help a neighbor, or volunteering for some type of community service.  Every moment can be a moment dedicated to work of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout space and time.

Anyway, a few folks over at the Filipino Buddhism Facebook group have expressed interest in having our own Global Service Day.  We even have our own blog already – though it’s still new so you won’t find much in there right now.


Treeleaf Zendo and Global Service Day (October 20-November 2)

You’re all invited to participate in Treeleaf Zendo’s Global Service Day. Just what is “Global Service Day”?  Simple: pick a day within next week (it’s supposed to be within a two-week time period so as to provide flexibility, but I’m blogging this a week late – sorry about that).  On that day, do something – anything – that will help even just a little.   Here’s an excerpt from the About Us page:

Global Service Day is a project sponsored by the teachers, members and friends of Treeleaf Zendo. We practice Engaged Service together in our communities across many countries and geographies – in this blog you will find our stories and experiences.

and from the Welcome Page:

Global Service Day is an opportunity to contribute a day of service in areas of need in our own communities – it is our hope and plan that this effort not be limited to our Sangha. Buddhist Sanghas of all flavors … and churches and civic organizations of all kinds … are engaged in projects such as this. We are now joining in. Some projects may be primarily done with and among our own Sangha members, some may be in cooperation with other Sanghas, churches and groups. The most important point is that the work should not be done for our benefit (although certainly there is endless merit and personal benefit in generosity and kindness to others), but should be undertaken with an eye toward “where can we truly help” and “how can we be truly effective.”

We sincerely believe that our Practice is found – beginning and end – on our sitting cushions in stillness, yet our Practice continues as we rise up from sitting to be with our families, in our workplaces, towns, communities, society, the whole world.

Here are some examples of what some of our members did in the past:

-I plan to do some charity sewing every month for the next year. There are needs in the world that I had no idea were not being met.

-I recently spent a few hours explaining the benefits and problems of social media to my hospice’s director…maybe it will help them organize their first Facebook page..

-I will once again be sharing the wonderful antics of my pet with my granny and fellow folks at her retirement facility.

-I also will be doing something at school for mentally challenged kids.

-Starting this weekend, and for 3 or 4 weekends more, I’ll be part of a team delivering toys and blankets to children’s hospitals

-My volunteering over the last couple of years has progressed from the commitment of a day four times a year to a new career in social work and environmental advocacy.

-I have become a “Chemo Angel.” I basically, have been assigned to a person who has cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. I write notes/cards of encouragement and send small gifts every week.

-I’m volunteering to assist the caretakers of the aged, infirm, ill, developmentally disabled

-I’m volunteering at the animal shelter.

-I’m going to work one full day for free for a person who just started his business

-I’m volunteering with a local Buddhist group tidy a neglected community garden

I should add that we have four Global Service Day periods for every quarter of the year.  Each period lasts about two weeks.

“WHOA!  Two weeks, four times a year?  You mean there’s more than one?” is probably what you’re thinking right now.  Well, like I said earlier, we figured we could use some flexibility.  And if you think about it: EVERY-FREAKIN’ DAY can be Global Service Day – you just need to start the day with the intention to be of benefit to the world, no matter how small your actions might seem to you.

So if you want to take part in Global Service Day, simply pick any day within the two-week period.  Actually, we’re about to start week 2 already so just choose one day out of the week starting today.  And you don’t even need to limit yourself to just one day if you really want to do more and can’t fit everything into one day.

Oh, and if you don’t mind, I encourage you to visit the Global Service Day “Get Involved” Page and sign up.

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If you want to find out more about Treeleaf, click on the links here, here, and here.

If you want to find out more about Global Service Day, click on the links here and here.


The Feeling of Having My Arms Replaced with Jelly

I am going to fall.

I’m going to lose my grip and fall backwards on my ass…

That’s pretty much what I was thinking while training for pull ups this morning.  I say “training for pull ups” instead of “doing pull ups” because right now, I can’t even do a single pull up.  And I don’t recall ever being able to do one even as a kid.  Well, there was that time in 6th grade when I could jump up to a bar and pull myself up – but I’m talking about a proper pull up from a dead hang, without the help of a jump.

The problem with training for pull ups when you can’t even do a single pull up is that the solution can’t be as simple as “Just do more pull ups.”  How can I “just do more” of what I cannot do?  If I could do even just one that would be enough – I’d just work on adding one more rep every session.  That’s why I’ve been working on my upper body strength: because right now I’m relatively weak. My biggest weakness is my grip.  Part of it is my body type: I have small wrists and small hands (which is also my problem when working on my handstands), making it hard for me to maintain my grip for long.  It also doesn’t help that I am overweight by about 8 kilograms (that’s 17.64 pounds for those who measure in pounds).

Hence the thought of losing my grip and falling backwards about halfway into the set.  I’d been working on reverse row-sit backs, and still had a set each of straight arm bar pull ups and TRX bicep curls to look forward to.  This, after practicing getting in and out of a straddle press to handstand against the wall, followed by a set each of hollow body pushups and TRX tricep extensions.  Just another normal handstands-and-pull ups training day, a.k.a. upper body strength day, a.k.a. “try-not-to-fall-on-your-ass” day.

Training for pull ups really is a pain in the ass – well, more like pain in the forearms and hands actually – but it’s also rewarding.  I like the feeling of getting stronger gradually.  Sure I’m still weak, but every session I get less weak.  And even if after a couple of months or so I still am unable to do more than a single pull up, that one pull up will be more than zero!  And it will really help with my parkour and freerunning, especially once I start training wall runs and under-bars.  It will even help me keep my grip on my kali sticks during FMA practice.

So I welcome the feeling of having my arms replaced with jelly in the morning.  It’s all good training.  And look!  I can still type.  Oh yeah!


Ground Training

I am a beginner in Parkour and Freerunning.  That means that you won’t see me doing those crazy leaps from buildings, running up or flipping off walls, or any of that stuff any time soon.  Are you kidding me?  I wanna have fun, not kill myself.

So how do I train?  On the ground.  No obstacles – just the hard, firm, but ultimately much safer earth.  This way I can train in moves without worrying too much about getting hurt.

This also solves the problem of finding training spots.  All you need is enough space.  If you go outside to a park, a field, or a vacant lot, you’re good.

Now I have my own way of training on the ground, but here’s a video from the Tapp Brothers of how to train on flat ground.  If you’re a beginner looking for a way to train safely and you happen to be reading this, bear in mind that this video assumes that you can at least perform the roll with reasonable proficiency (meaning it doesn’t hurt when you do it on concrete), as well as know the proper mechanics for the other basic moves shown.  If not, I recommend either subscribing to the Tapp Brothers’ YouTube channel or going to their website.  They have tons of free useful parkour and freerunning tutorial videos*.  And no, I am not paid to say this – I just know their stuff is useful because I use them in my own training.

*They also offer more (I imagine) comprehensive and structured programs that you have to buy online.  I haven’t tried those out so I can’t say anything useful, but judging from the usefulness of their free stuff I say if you have the cash and you’re willing to part with it to buy their program, go for it.


There’s Failure…and Then There’s Failure

A month ago I posted here that I made it to the short list of the 2014 Elements National Singing-Songwriting Camp.  Those who made it to the short list had to undergo a live audition.  Out of the live auditions, 60 singer-songwriters would be chosen as the campers.  Because I am based in Davao City (one of the three cities where the live auditions were held), I was originally supposed to audition here.  However, circumstances were such that I couldn’t make that date.  Fortunately Connie, the (I don’t know what’s her official job: manager? Organizer?) one in charge of calling the shortlisted applicants, was very helpful and she offered to give me a slot in Makati.  So on the 29th of September I flew out to Makati, checked into my hotel, then proceeded to the Radio Republic studio for my audition.

In the end, I did not make it to the final 60.  I gotta admit – that kinda stung.  A bit disappointing, especially after all that excitement.  At the same time, I felt relieved.  At least I don’t have to go about my days worrying about whether or not I made it.  I already had the answer: I didn’t.

And at the same time, I felt something else: Confidence.  Real, gut-level, solid-as-rock confidence in myself.

I wasn’t turned down because I was no good – I wouldn’t have made it to the short list if that were the case.  No, I was turned down because there were 60 other people who were better.  And I felt strong and confident because I failed by doing something, and I know all too well the feeling of the opposite kind of failure: to fail by not even trying.

I know what it’s like to fail by not even trying.  To fail at your dream because you were too scared to really give it a shot, and instead you settled for less and tried to rationalize that you were being practical and sensible.  I know how that kind of failure feels like.  It hurts more.  And it weakens you, draining you of your confidence as you cast around for all the excuses you can think of instead of focusing all your creativity on doing what you truly want to be doing.  I passed up so many opportunities in the past because I was afraid to fail.

And now I simply am not.


The Blade-of-grass Temple

Attention! When the World-Honored One was walking with his disciples he pointed to the ground and said, “It would be good to erect a temple here.” The god Indra took a blade of grass and stuck it in the ground and said, “The temple has been erected.” The World-Honored One smiled faintly.*

*From Case 4 of The Book of Equanimity: Illuminating Classic Zen Koans (Gerry Shishin Wick)


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