It's sometimes difficult for me to write, as I am very fatigued, but I decided to write something anyways since today is the weekly deadline. So this may be short and not as all-encompassing as I would like, but it's better than not writing at all.
I am coming back tomorrow from "Oasis of Hope" an alternative health clinic in Mexico. Unfortunately, I have some complications with my lungs which I need to deal with when I get back. So the cancer therapies are on hold now, second in priority to my lung health, for the next few weeks.
I look forward to seeing you all at the next three Sundays 5 pm for meditation and more. I hope I have enough strength to sit with you all without coughing, and enough lung strength to speak and breathe well. If not, you can do more sharing and I will practice mindful listening. There is such a healing power when we gather together for meditation, teachings, and sharing on a weekly basis. I want to encourage you to attend in person, because "cyber-Sangha" is not enough.
Many of you ask me what I want, what you can do to help me. My number one answer is to attend weekly Sangha, to keep the Dallas Meditation Center alive and well through your regular attendance and donations.
Ever since August 2015 when we moved out of our former building into our current rental at CSLDallas, we have been losing about $2,000 per month in income. This was okay temporarily since we have some savings in the bank, but now it has added up to $10,000 in the negative. Therefore, starting now in January 2016, I am making an executive decision to step down to a volunteer position as Spiritual Director. If any of you should want to help me financially on an individual basis, that would greatly assist me in my current healthcare costs. But as far as DMC is concerned, I am no longer salaried but I will continue as your Spiritual Director strictly as a volunteer position. If more members begin to give more later on a regular basis, we can re-look at the staff budget. But for now, there are very few persons who make monthly pledges, and only one or two persons who make a $100 monthly donation. This makes it very unsustainable for our future survival. So please pray about what you can do to help us. Even just $20 per week would go a long way to help us. Or $100 per month would be even better! Ideally 20 persons at least.
I will close with some reflections I had last week. It's not finished and not edited, but I thought I woulds share it anyway, since I may not have the energy to complete it later.
(1) I've been reflecting a lot on balance, middle path, emptiness and form, Dharma as best interpreted as metaphorical and not literal, and how we need to respect both emptiness and form equally because if we get too caught up in form we drown in our human drama but if we get too caught up in emptiness we might not see the value of being human in this physical realm, here and now, for there really is a valuable purpose for us being here, even though it is only a temporary reality. One way of putting it is: we are infinite eternal Beings who get to do laundry and take out the trash ... mindfully and with love (and non-attachment)!
(2) This Earth school is a temporary reality (like a Star Trek holo-deck program), to give our eternal Souls opportunities for experience, recreation, spiritual growth, character cultivation, loving and being loved, service, adventure, learning and teaching, exploration, testing, and creativity.
What matters is not how long we live, how much money we make, how much fame or success we have, how comfortable our lives are, or how physically beautiful our bodies are. What matters is how we respond to life, one day at a time, how we love others and let others love us, how we learn and grow through every experience, how we serve others and give others opportunities to serve us, how we get through times of pain, loss, confusion, illness, dying and "death," and how we forgive each other's human foibles as we awaken to the remembrance that we are actually not humans but gods.
It doesn't matter if your temporary Earth costume is male or female, black or white or yellow or brown, gay or straight, rich or poor, Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim or Jewish, young or old, able or differently abled, healthy or ill, "beautiful" or "ugly" or "average," in the role of parent or child or sibling or teacher or student, etc.
What matters is how you use this impermanent costume and all your various roles mindfully, how you infuse it all with love, learning and service.
(3) What is the purpose of life? I don't think it's to live without any pain, suffering, illness, loss or problems; but rather to learn how to respond with understanding and compassion whether in health or sickness and all the unexpected surprises along the way, both the ups and downs of life. I don't think it's to be constantly "happy" but to experience the whole spectrum of reality, eventually coming to peace with all of it. I don't think it's to believe in the best religion or to have the most accurate theology, but to live whatever spirituality you happen to choose to the best of your ability toward cultivating wisdom, kindness and service. I think the purpose of life is simply just to live it, not necessarily to understand it all. And I do believe that we will all understand everything eventually but only after this life is finished, after our life review, after being reunited with the Light, after the veil of temporary forgetting has been washed by the waves of eternal remembrance. Yes, there is a purpose to life; but it's probably not what we think it is. WE are the purpose of life, and we are GLORIOUS beyond all imagining! (We just have some very "creative" disguises!)
(4) How to practice spirituality and mindfulness when you are in a hospital bed — So, I am physically unable to do walking meditation because of dizziness, nor sitting meditation because of extreme fatigue, nor mantra chanting practice because of coughing, etc. But I can still wake up in the morning and say a prayer of gratitude first thing, I can do silent positive affirmations during the day, I can call up my prayer partners, I can smile and thank my helpers, I can pray for the other patients, and I can listen to meditative music as a 20-minute listening meditation, and I can listen to spiritual books on audio if I cannot read a spiritual book with my one eye directly. And I can enjoy each mindful moment of breath, sunshine, air, food, and life here and now. I'm not dead yet, I am alive TODAY! :-)
(5) I had a little aha moment just now. Why should I continue doing my spiritual practices, such as mindfulness and meditation etc, if I will die of cancer anyway? Because I can go through this living/dying process with more despair, more fear, more suffering, more isolation; or I can go through it with more love, more peace, more compassion, more gratitude, and more helpfulness to others. Spiritual practice helps me in my choice toward the latter. Even in the living/dying process. Even on my deathbed.
(6) From the human perspective, there is light that constantly struggles against its nemesis, the darkness. But from a more Divine perspective, the True Light is Infinite enough to hold both light and dark in unfolding revelation. So the Light shines both in the smile of a laughing baby as well as in the tears of one beside another at the hospital having a last breath. No matter how dark it may seem to get, the Light is always there. Always.
(7) BLUE HOLIDAYS — I am so grateful for the majority of us who can truly enjoy this winter season. And I also want to acknowledge and embrace the rest of us who may be experiencing sadness, illness, death, loss, fatigue, pain or loneliness during the holidays. Life is a glorious messy blend of the whole spectrum of experience. It's not what happens that matters as much as how we respond to what happens. May we all respond to life with mindfulness, love, wisdom, honesty and an open heart. Your tears are my tears. Your smiles are my smiles.
(8) RELIGION, INCLUDING BUDDHISM, IS MORE POETRY THAN PROSE, MORE METAPHORICAL THAN LITERAL, MORE ART THAN SCIENCE. So please don't turn Buddhism or any religion into fundamentalism, which creates an "orthodoxy" which is actually heresy. Truth cannot be boxed. But guidelines do exist to be used lightly. Use the Dharma raft as "upaya" (skillful means), but once you are on the other shore, let go of the raft, as Buddha taught.
(9) This morning, I was reflecting on 4 types of spirituality, 3 of which seem unhealthy, and only 1 which is healthy —
1) Religious Fundamentalism
2) Materialistic Atheism
4) Genuine Spirituality
Many people start off with religious fundamentalism, but when that becomes unsatisfactory, they may react oppositely and turn to materialistic atheism, for example. But the spiritual void is still there, so they begin to search for a spirituality that is not fundamentalist. Hopefully, they will find and practice a genuine spirituality that is healthy, balanced and mature. But unfortunately, sometimes in their stumbling search, they may get naively seduced into a pseudo-spirituality that may be cult-like or superficial or egoistic. But I trust that, eventually, in this life or after, everyone will find their true home in a genuine spirituality. One example of a genuine spiritual path is that of a "holistic mindful zen," which Thich Nhat Hanh practices. There are many good paths, but not all paths are the same. Please be discerning.
(10) I'll write more on this last reflection next week, but for now I'll give you a little sneak peek — just by our very existence, we exert a positive force around us wherever we are. Remember that, when you gather together in Sangha meditation, for you intensify that positive force. And remember that next time you are in a waiting room or a hospital or anywhere, for you are invisibly helping those in that place, even just by simply being there. You are the Light of the world, just by your very existence! And if you do any prayer or meditation or service or spiritual practices, you simply intensify that positive force that you already emanate. AMITABHA!