Turn around and look within. Can you see the sound of silence? Can you hear the flowers smiling? Can you taste the setting sun? Do you know that I am the one? Do you know the one is you? No separation, no birth, no death. Only this moment. Only this breath. No self to suffer. No pain, no loss. All is perfection, even the dross. Do you know that I am the one? Do you know the one is you?
That is a poem that I wrote and also set to music a few months ago after a weeklong Zen retreat of very intensive meditation. And there is something that is then master from Japan said that opened something deep within me, a little glimpse of the marvelous reality within and all around us. Words cannot fully express it, and so I would like to share in the spirit of our peaceful piggie yoga this morning a joke that one of my Zen teachers told me last year. Maybe you have heard it in your own version. I'm not sure.
There is this police officer that was just checking the cars as they were driving by on the highway, and suddenly he saw this car with the driver and three piggies in the back. So he was wondering what in the world are these pigs doing here, and so actually they were penguins, but that is okay. I don't think it really matters for this joke. They were pig-like penguins. Anyway. So he stopped the car and said, "Sir, do you realize you have three penguins in the back seat of your car?" He says, "Yes, sir. I do." He says, "Well, this is not good. You need to take them to the zoo right away," and he says, "Yes, Sir. Yes, Sir. Yes, officer. I will." So he says, "I'm just going to give you a warning, but please take them to the zoo." "Yes, sir." "Thank you, sir." So then he goes off.
The next day, the police officer's patrolling the highway once again, and again the same car, the same man driving, and these three penguins in the backseat. He stops him, and he says, "Look, Mister, I told you to take these penguins back to the zoo. Why are they still in here? Why are they still here?" And by the way, they had sunglasses on this time. They all had sunglasses—sunglasses on these pig-like penguins. This is what happens when you do not write out your sermon. So the officer is really kind of frustrated, and the man says, "Oh, Sir. Yes. I did take them to the zoo yesterday, and today we are going to the beach."
Well, just like my Zen poem and this piggie penguin joke, it helps us to realize the limitations of words, the limitation of language. This morning I woke up and I did my meditation. At first I thought maybe I should just do everything else first and then do my meditation before coming, but I said, "No. I'm going to meditate. That is what I do when I wake up. I'm going to meditate for an hour and then go shower and have breakfast and things like that." And I even made my bed, even though I was feeling like I don't have much time left. But I did it on purpose because making my bed is an act of enlightenment. Enlightenment is not just some momentary high or some experience on a mountaintop. Enlightenment is a lifestyle, and that is the message that I bring to you today. Enlightenment is a lifestyle.
Now today has been a very interesting collage so far. In fact, I'm not calling this a sermon at all, but rather a dharma collage. And with the collage, you don't really know what to expect sometimes. For instance, I had hoped that the theme was going to be walking meditation, but it is a little too cold today. But that is okay. Since enlightenment is a lifestyle, you just go with the flow and see what happens. And this has been my practice. I was not quite sure what I was going to talk about instead of walking meditation today, but that is okay because I've learned that if I just meditate and put myself in the present moment, there is a reservoir within me already, but wisdom already within that can come through if I just simply trust.
So here is our collage today. First, I would like to talk about blessings. There are times in my life I know that I might not feel very grateful, and I might think that the universe is conspiring against me. But in those times, I know that I have a choice, just like at a retreat in August that I went to. The theme of the retreat was written on the door to the entrance to the hall where we were all sitting, and the words were, "Resistance is futile." But it is true. Resisting life, resisting what is in the moment is futile, and it causes great suffering, and in that moment of choice, we can either choose to accept and embrace the reality that is right here and right now and then move with it, or we can choose to resist and hate and completely reject or push aside the reality. Now there are times when we do have to get away from situations and breathe and take a breather and step away. I'm not saying that that is not a good thing. But ultimately we still have to come back to face reality after we have collected ourselves and centered ourselves.
One time I was sitting on a curb at Motel 6 because I had lost my wallet at the airport in California, and I could not get a rental car without my ID. So I took the little cash I had to take a cab to a motel nearby, only to be told that I needed an ID to actually get a room. I had no more money left to get a taxi to go back to the airport or somewhere else, and I was going to give a workshop the next day. And so I sat there on the curb at almost midnight, and I thought to myself, okay, this is interesting. But I choose not to resist this moment.
It is like in aikido, the way of aikido, which is a martial arts practice, is not to resist the opponent but to completely take in the energy of the opponent and then gently and effortlessly change it. But you first have to accept it and then move with it. And so in that moment I was choosing to try to remember all the blessings in my life, and I call this gratitude practice. So I began to think about things I was grateful for, and I heard a gunshot. And I said, "Okay. I'm going to think about more things that I am grateful for."
And I remember a few years back when I was trying to move to California to Minnesota, and I had completely used up all my savings to go to seminary, and I just quit my job so I could move and pack, and I asked for my deposit back from the landlord. Unfortunately, it bounced, because they gave me the wrong check from a different account, which then made my account go below zero, and then I started collecting more fees. Someone needs to talk to those banks. Is anyone a banker here? All right. Anyway, I was going below zero, like $-300, and I had only $50 cash in my wallet. So I was complaining about my life to some friends, and they said, "ChiSing, you teach and preach meditation and spirituality. Why are you complaining? If you really believe in what you talk about, then you need to walk your talk." And they kind of shocked me instead of comforting me and wallowing in my misery with me. They were like confronting me with this truth. But that is a good friend.
And so, I took that to heart, and the next day I went to a nearby Buddhist temple in Berkeley, and I asked the monk to do a ritual blessing for me, and he took a ritual element and dipped it in the water and began to sprinkle me while he was chanting as I was putting my palms together and just breathing in and breathing out, receiving the blessing. And then at the end, I decided I want to give an offering as a token of my gratitude. Even though I only had $50 in my pocket and less than zero, $-300, in my bank account, I still gave $10 and put it into the little box for the donations. The next day, at my meditation group, someone came to me that I don't remember ever seeing, but they said they had come once before, and he was so grateful, he kept thinking that night in what way he could show his gratitude. He gave me a check for $10,000. I got down on my knees and said, "Okay. I believe. I believe."
The point was, according to my friends, if I am doing the work of the universe, if I'm putting my heart into my work, and I believe this is good work, then I should also believe that it is supported because this is a universe that supports the good. It is the universe that conspires for our good. I'm not saying everything that happens is pleasant, but I believe the universe is trying and is constructed in such a way that it is conspiring for our good. And when things like that happen, it reminds me that life is not happening to me. Life is happening for me, and so in that moment of choice, I try to remember, okay. What is the lesson here for me to learn? Or what action is the universe calling me to take? Or what quality of character is the universe asking of me in this difficult situation in this moment? Do you see what I'm saying? Instead of just, oh gosh, I can't stand this, rather, okay. What is being called for here? It's like aikido. Okay. I accept this, and now how do I shift the energy?
Another thing that I remember was last year, I decided to stay over at a friends', but I had brought everything, all my toiletries and everything an extra change of clothes, but I forgot my razor, and I really wanted to shave because I was doing a presentation later that day, and I didn't want to look to scraggly. I didn't have my razor. My friend didn't have an extra razor, and so he went and got the morning paper, the Dallas Morning News. Maybe some of you remember that this happened. They put a razor in with the newspaper that morning. Okay, I believe.
Well anyway, going back to Motel 6. I'm on the curb. I was recalling all these things, practicing gratitude, everything I'm grateful for, remembering all these things so that my mind could create a field of positive energy. And when your mind creates a field of positive energy, it begins to attract more of the same. And so as I sat there, a couple of people were coming into the motel, and one of them asked me why I was sitting on the curb with my luggage, and I explained my situation, and he kind of said, "Okay." And then he went back and did his own thing, and then after a few minutes, he came out and said, "You know what? I am a Christian, and I think I'm going to get you a room, and I will put it under my name as long as you can pay for it." So the little cash I had, I had enough to pay for the room, and he put it under his name, and I told him, "Thank you. I am a Buddhist, and I think that Jesus and Buddha just shook hands tonight." Blessings.
So as we look at our lives, let us try to see what the lesson is there. Let us try to see even in the painful, negative situations of our life, well, what is the blessing in disguise here? And I know it is not always easy. Just ask my roommates. I complain sometimes, and that is okay. We all complain from time to time. But it is not okay to stay in the complaining you want to stop suffering. But if you want to continue to suffer for the rest of your life, go ahead and keep complaining. But the truth I have learned is that, okay, go ahead and complain for a little while, but then come back to breathing and to your center and to remembering what you can be grateful for.
One of my meditation students came to me recently, and she told me, "Thank you so much for that spiritual practice you gave me several months ago," and I did not even remember what I told her. She said, "You told me to just remember everything that I am grateful for when I'm letting my mind get into all the negativity and thinking negatively." And she said it was amazing what happened. Starting from that point forward, everything shifted. So gratitude, practicing gratitude, and practicing seeing what the lesson is here and that the universe is happening for me, not to me, and the universe is conspiring for our good. And it is up to us to make the choice in each moment to see it in that way.
Now, let us talk about some practical things. The emotion of anger is quite difficult. Recently I have been having some difficulties with the new friend, and I tried to think of what were the practices I know to help me with this? And what came to mind was one of the Buddha's writings called "How to Transform Anger." It is literally called, "The Five Ways of Putting an End to Anger." I would like to share this with you because I think it is a very practical way of dealing with emotions and to see a way to shift the energy rather than resist the energy.
So, let's say, according to the Buddha's teachings, you meet someone whose words are kind but whose actions are not kind, and so you're very angry with this person. The Buddha's advice was to focus on their kind words and not think so much about their unkind action. The second example is with someone whose words are not kind and whose actions are kind. Is that right, or did I switch it? Okay. Words which are not kind and actions that are kind, and the Buddha's advice was focus on their kind actions and not so much on their unkind words. The third example is someone whose words are not kind and whose actions are not kind but in their heart there is still a little kindness inside. And the Buddha said, "Do not focus on their unkind words and their unkind actions, but on the little kindness but is still in their heart."
And in the fourth example, let's say there is someone whose words are not kind, whose actions are not kind, and there seems to be no kindness at all in their heart. In the Buddha said, "If there is someone whose words are not kind, whose actions are not kind, whose heart is not filled with any kindness, then you know they must be suffering a great amount of suffering and pain. To live that kind of life is great suffering. Realize that and compassion will well up within your heart." And the fifth example, someone whose words are kind, someone whose actions are kind, and someone whose heart is beautiful and kind, "And if you are angry with them," the Buddha said, "Think twice." Someone that beautiful doesn't deserve our anger, and so it is an opportunity for us to meditate on ourselves, on what it is in us that is so angry toward someone like that.
Sometimes things come into our lives where we my label it one thing or another, good or bad, negative or positive, but mindfulness meditation is us just to be with what is without trying to label it, without trying to categorize it, just be with it first. There is a story from China—since this is the Chinese New Year tonight, I thought I would share this with you—of an old man and his son who were tending a horse that they had, and the horse runs away, and all the neighbors say, "That's such bad luck." And then a few days later, the horse comes back with another horse. I guess it made a friend, and it came back, and now they have two horses, and all the neighbors say, "What good luck." So the man's son tried to tame the horse, and the horse kind of bucked him off, and he fell and broke his leg, and so all the neighbors said, "What bad luck." And then the army came through and took all the young men and took them off to become soldiers except for the man's son because he had a broken leg, and all the neighbors said, "What good luck."
But the point of the story is that instead of trying to judge everything as good luck or bad luck, just see it as life itself, and then go with it instead of labeling and categorizing. It is because of our propensity to label and categorize and dissects and judge, it causes more suffering. You know, there is a big difference between pain and suffering. For example, let's say I am trying to find something over here. Ow! That is pain. So oh my gosh. I think I probably broke my toe. I don't have enough money to go to the doctor, and oh gosh, they're going to have to maybe do surgery, and it is going to be gangrene, and they're going to have to cut it off, my whole foot, and no one is going to want to marry me because no one wants to marry a one-footed man. That is suffering. Pain is just what is, a sensation, pleasant or unpleasant, and suffering, the mental interpretations and stories and thoughts that we put over on top of it to make it so huge. And the Buddha and many other spiritual teachers gave us many methods, especially mindfulness meditation, to help us to stop that, to come back to the present moment, and to be with reality just as it is, and then you can transform it.
It is not such a big deal really. It is just living life. Enlightenment is not just some major realization, though it can include that and does many times. I know it has for me. But ultimately, you have to come down from the mountaintop and just live life each moment, making your bed, drinking your tea, brushing your teeth, sweeping the floor. When I was at another Zen retreat, I remember them telling me I had to wipe my cushion and dust the mat and then bow to it after each sitting meditation. We were doing so many during the day. After the third day when I was doing that, it was like, it is clean already, for goodness sakes. I was thinking this in my mind because it was silent meditation, but I was talking in my head.
But on the fourth day, as I was doing the same thing again, all of a sudden time slowed down, and every moment, every motion was like its own universe, and as my hands touched the cushion, as I wiped it clean and wiped my mat, it was like the universe was cleaning the universe. And in that moment, I realized that if we cannot take care of the little things in life, how can we say we're going to take care of all these big things, save humanity, change the world? We save humanity and we change the world by one dust particle at a time. How we do one thing is how we do everything. How we do the little things is how we're going to do the big things.
And so that is why I chose to make my bed this morning. That was how I prepared for this sermon/collage. To meditate, to make my bed, and to try to be as mindful as possible. I have to admit during breakfast, I was doing some writing and eating, but when I was writing, I was writing, and when I was eating, I was eating, and when I was writing and eating, I was writing and eating. Mindfully.
So, one more practical thing before I close this sermon/collage is the usefulness of living your life with a mindful routine and schedule for the day and for the week. A lot of my friends, they go to sleep at different hours every night, and they wake up on different hours every morning, and I have been guilty of this a lot most of my life also, but what I have found is if we can have time set aside for when we are going to meditate and when we are going to go to bed, when we are going to have our meals, if we can have a nice schedule like that, it gives us the opportunity not to conform to routine, but rather just like in music, you need those structures. When you have the structures in music in place, like those lines and everything, then it is possible to be creative within the structure and make beautiful music. The same thing with our life. If we can be mindfully living our lives, having our meditation, having our times of doing this, what it does is it creates space. And it is not about trying to form to sameness, but rather within that mindful structure, then we realize every day is unique because now you have a structure to see that. Well, I'm doing the same thing, yet it is different every time. It is unique and it is beautiful. Every moment is fresh.
So, through gratitude, through blessings, through willingness rather than willfulness, we can let go and let God. We can let be and let Buddha. We can create a reservoir of positive energy that helps us to go with the flow of life rather than resisting life. Instead of talking about the watermelon that we have never had before—you know, if you try to tell someone what a watermelon tastes like that has never had one, can you really use words describe it? Just chop the darn thing and give them a piece of watermelon and let them know directly by experience. That's what we're talking about here. Do the practice. That's why I wanted originally to do the walking meditation with you all because I know as a Unitarian Universalist, we can kind of get caught up in words and ideas sometimes not practice. For instance, how many of you started meditating regularly after I talked about meditation last time I spoke here? Right? I want to encourage practice. That is what it is about. So let the Buddha breathe and let the Buddha walk in our daily lives.
You know, my teacher wrote this song, "Let the Buddha breathe. Let the Buddha walk." Well, he wrote the words, and I wrote the music to it, and I would like for us to sing that together, if you don't mind. And it is just a way to remember that in our daily life, in our enlightenment lifestyle, we don't have to struggle and strive to make it happen. We can just simply let life live itself through us. It doesn't have to be such a struggle if we can be willing in view of the moment as it is. So I really love this poem, and I hope you enjoy this song.
[Plays music and sings] Let the Buddha breathe.
Audience: Let the Buddha breathe.
ChiSing: Let the Buddha walk.
Audience: Let the Buddha walk.
ChiSing: I don't have to breathe.
Audience: I don't have to breathe.
ChiSing: I don't have to walk.
Audience: I don't have to walk.
ChiSing: Now, there are a few more verses, but before we continue on with that, I want to also mention that the reason why my teacher wrote this song is because he was going to lead a walking meditation in Korea with thousands of people and reporters flushing their cameras trying to touch the living Buddha because they thought he was this holy person, which he is. And it was like, how in the world is he going to do a walking meditation for everyone? It was just chaotic. So he took a deep breath and he said, "Okay. Buddha within me," and you might use a different word, God within me, spirit within me, Higher Self within me, "You are going to have to do the walking for me." And so he did. He let that life force do it through him, and him, as him, and it took a step through his body, and from that point forward, it was like the Red Sea parted, and everyone became quiet, and it was, he said, one of the most profound walking meditations he has ever led in public. So let the Buddha breathe. Let the Buddha walk.
All right. [Sings] The Buddha is breathing.
Audience: The Buddha is breathing.
ChiSing: The Buddha is walking.
Audience: The Buddha is walking.
ChiSing: I enjoy the breathing.
Audience: I enjoy the breathing.
ChiSing: I enjoy the walking.
Audience: I enjoy the walking.
ChiSing: Buddha is the breathing.
Audience: Buddha is the breathing.
ChiSing: Buddha is the walking.
Audience: Buddha is the walking.
ChiSing: I am the breathing.
Audience: I am the breathing.
ChiSing: I am the walking.
Audience: I am the walking.
ChiSing: There is just the breathing.
Audience: There is just the breathing.
ChiSing: There is just the walking.
Audience: There is just the walking.
ChiSing: There is no breather.
Audience: There is no breather.
ChiSing: There is no walker.
Audience: There is no walker.
ChiSing: Peace and joy while breathing.
Audience: Peace and joy while breathing.
ChiSing: Peace and joy while walking.
Audience: Peace and joy while walking.
ChiSing: Peace and joy the breathing.
Audience: Peace and joy the breathing.
ChiSing: Peace and joy the walking.
Audience: Peace and joy the walking.
ChiSing: Breathing, walking.
Audience: Breathing, walking.
ChiSing: Sitting, singing.
Audience: Sitting, singing.
ChiSing: Cooking, cleaning.
Audience: Cooking, cleaning.
ChiSing: Hugging, living.
Audience: Hugging, living.
ChiSing: Breathing, walking.
Audience: Breathing, walking.
ChiSing: This is enlightenment. Amen.