First, just a few words about blogging: Mixed feelings: so much Zen practice effort aims at releasing self-centeredness, and blogging has a self-centered flavor. Sometimes it feels not very different from a sea of Tweets and Facebook messages about nothing very interesting, and, at its most shadowy, not entirely distant from The Jerry Springer Show. Still, blogging offers the possibility of connecting and communicating in a thoughtful way. So I’m at it, and trying to be careful. My intention is to encourage Zen practice (or any other form of sincere spiritual practice) by sharing questions, thoughts, and materials I’ve found useful.
Having just retired, I’ve been nearly overwhelmed with gratitude for my health, family, friends, practice, teachers and overall good fortune. A growing body of scientific research suggests gratitude and happiness are closely related and that cultivating gratitude increases feelings of happiness. One example is cited here: http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/09/practicing-gratitude-can-increase.php. While it’s true that Buddhists are big on suffering, gratitude is also a natural and nourishing part of practice; countless Zen stories express the experience of deep gratitude that arises from practice. Many Zen poems subtly express appreciation for the smallest tender moments. Here is a beautiful poem of gratitude by American poet W. S. Merwin (who studied Zen with Robert Aiken Roshi in Hawaii, beginning in the mid-70s):
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you we are standing by the water thanking it smiling by the windows looking out in our directions back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging after funerals we are saying thank you after the news of the dead whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you over telephones we are saying thank you in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators remembering wars and the police at the door and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you in the banks we are saying thank you in the faces of the officials and the rich and of all who will never change we go on saying thank you thank you with the animals dying around us our lost feelings we are saying thank you with the forests falling faster than the minutes of our lives we are saying thank you with the words going out like cells of a brain with the cities growing over us we are saying thank you faster and faster with nobody listening we are saying thank you we are saying thank you and waving dark though it is