Pointing to the Same Moon

 

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Something I learned the first time I walked into a Zen Center in my city fifteen years ago: meditation techniques may be central to Buddhism, but those who practice and teach its techniques don’t ask that you officially call yourself Buddhist to join in. You can, but you can also be Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, a theist, deist, an atheist, agnostic, a witch, a clown, have a fancy for hobbits, elves, unicorns, and dragons, or do Parkour or be a hardcore surfer or rock and mineral collector. It really doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe, disbelieve, or spend your time doing; meditation is an exercise of mind and body designed to bring peace into the lives of all.

“Religions are the fingers of one hand pointing to the same moon.” This is how Nonin Chowaney, Abbot of the Nebraska Zen Center Heartland Temple, explained the Buddhist perspective on religious practices as I stood among a small group of people—some Buddhists, others not—in the sunlit kitchen of the center after an hour of the morning spent in sitting and walking meditation. Drinking the tea offered and looking from face to disparate face, I considered how nice it would be if everyone could so easily see the simple relationship that exists between all of us as we find ourselves facets of this world.

Whatever you practice, we have only one source from which we were derived from and which we will, however that works, slip back into. A single source that creates and receives our energies and, being from the same source whatever that may be, we are all unified to each other in the very simple way of existing together in this reality, on this planet, as members of the same intellectual and emotional species. Together.

My mom and aunts went out to look at arts and crafts one weekend when they came across a small statue of a Buddhist monk in meditation, legs crossed in Lotus position, palms in the upward mudra position that allows for the free flow of energy through the body—the give and take of positive energy during meditation. My aunt commented that it looked like something I would appreciate, and so the little monk was brought to me as an unexpected gift. For me, having a family that understands and accepts diversity adds to my passion to help others find our connections more readily despite how different we seem in look, behavior, or belief. Coming from a predominantly Catholic family, having been baptized and raised in Christianity, and now fitting comfortably into the Muslim faith, no one in my circle of loved ones fears, judges, or denigrates the journey I’ve been on and where I’ve settled in. And no one worries about why a Buddhist monk statue sits on our balcony.

Sitting with the little, peaceful monk on warm early mornings to catch the remainder quiet before peoples’ daily routines make their ways into the neighborhood, his contemplation undisturbed by the world around him, I think of the many ways we pray or otherwise think spiritually; the natural flow of methods within us as naturally embedded as melody is within the bird’s psyche. A look to the sky, and I see the big sun blinking down, knowing that between sun and earth is the one, single moon that centers itself in our nighttime vision of the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“I Respect” and Other Affirmations

 

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Affirmation: 1) the assertion that something exists or is true. 2) emotional support or encouragement.

Life is beautiful. Courage is easy to find. Peace is possible. I trust life’s process. I will accomplish. Each of these statements is an example of an affirmation. My husband and I often fall asleep to wisps of moonlight and affirmations sifting through the darkened room. The affirmations of motivational author Louise Hays—who also authored the Power Thought cards I’ve kept here or there for years in whatever home I’ve been in—have been regulars for the week.

Affirmations are something I have been using throughout my life, intuitively, before I was ever able to give it such a definition; more than likely, everyone has been. The orderly, optimistic patterns of praying or affirming seem a natural function of the human mind, an inherent action driven by that sweetly mysterious place of us that many refer to as soul. Soul or spirit, immaterial yet fully operable essence of us consistently seeking meaning, purpose, and connection to some source greater than ourselves, greater than all of this big, glittery, growing, blinking, complex universe holding us.

What is the power of an affirmation? Simply, the power is within the positive emotions and motivation evoked by the repetition of sayings that remind you to do, think, and believe good things.

If you don’t believe in God or soul, believe in this one thing, at least: energy. Energy (elusive itself because it has no one specific form, but rather converts to different types and inhabits various forms) is what we run on, our thoughts and bodies bundles of energy. Energy is needed in all of our physiological processes, including neurogenesis. Previous thought in the biological sciences was that we are born with a finite number of neural cells, and once they’re gone, they’re gone, leaving us in the state of development they left us at. We were a species that peak and then plateau in emotion, ability, or behavior by the age of 40. The ability of brain neurons to reorganize throughout the human lifespan, now known as neuroplasticity, was first suggested 120 years ago by an American psychologist and philosopher named William James. Since the time of publication of James’ book, Principle of Psychology, studies into neuroplasticity have shown that new neurons can absolutely be generated—neurogenesis—and new neural pathways created that allow us to adapt ourselves to new skills at any age, including into advanced age.

Believe in energy. By using the energy it takes to think and take care of how our thoughts are physically affecting us, we have the opportunity to clear stress from ourselves, physically and emotionally, and recharge so we’re able to jump out into the world with renewed interest and motivation.

What do you have to say to have an effective affirmation? The beauty of positive thought is that it just has to be positive, it should lead you into positive visualizations and goals and it doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it. There is no one formula. The universe is a vast place of creation, and therefore creative energy. You use your creativity to fit your beliefs and needs.

You can say your affirmations aloud or let them resound in your mind, quietly away from the external world. You can take a break from background music and select audio affirmations on CDs or from Youtube to fill your aural space. You can also bring your attention to them more regularly by making them visual. Try carrying them written in a journal or on notecards you can bring out and use the extra concentration necessary for reading to keep you focused. I once met a woman who wrote out affirmations on brightly colored sticky notes that she placed along her dashboard to read at red lights or while sitting in her car on break at school or work. Some people tape them to their refrigerators; inside of folders or binders that hold their work or school assignments; onto walls next to a table, desk, or couch they frequently sit at. Others tape them or simply write them on the mirrors they stop in front of most.

I’m a fan of the mirror affirmations; the bathroom mirror is one of the first places that sees the start of my days as I splash water on my face to refresh, brush teeth and hair to feel ordered. A look up, and there are the words chosen for the day, the week, maybe the month. However long they need to stay. Lipstick is easy enough to write with and to clean; window markers are wonderful inventions and just right for mirrors also.

Affirmations are natural for us as seeking, thinking and orderly beings. Positive thinking is a must for us if we are to stay motivated and hopeful and good. Whatever it is you need to put into your collection of thoughts is what is right for you to use as your affirmation, whether thought up on your own or learned from someone else, or a combination thereof.

The mirror in our home for now greets us with a collection of “I respect” statements, some repeated from the affirmations of Ms. Hay and some inspired by the way we’ve learned to give blessings after Kundalini meditation. Whatever “I” does can be positive and healthy and good, all it takes is commitment, and a reminder that “I” is part of a greater whole. You can write these particular statements into your own life word for word, or with any revisions and additions that fit you. Like air or sunlight or compassion, positive words are infused into the world as elements meant to touch all of creation.

I respect myself.

I respect other people.

I respect animals.

I respect plants.

I respect all creation.

I respect this community.

I respect this country.

I respect all countries.

I respect this world.

I respect this universe.

I respect Source.

 

What do you need or want to think about each day to be and feel your best?

Happy affirming and positive energy to all. ✿

 

Official Website for Louise Hay

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