Heartbreak Wisdom Journal – Entry 1: Wounded Heart’s Tender Flesh

Disclaimer: I’ve been working through heartbreak still. It’s a process. Although I’m much better than a couple months ago, I still work through sadness while diligently pursuing a path of compassion and learning. Each day goes by, and each day, I show up and practice a bit more. I recently purchased a book to work through to help me with processing all the challenges and opportunities of a broken heart. It’s called “The Wisdom of a Broken Heart”. The book recommends keeping a “Heartbreak Wisdom Journal” as part of the process, with many included activities to get you to see your situation more clearly and tenderly. I’ve started this journal and thought I would share some of the posts here for anyone else who may benefit from sharing the process of heartbreak.

A book to work and write through…


After starting this yesterday [there was an initial exercise in the book with some basic questions], I had strange dreams in which Lisa told me how little she loved me and for how long that had been the case. It was very upsetting. I think that sitting calmly through my feelings for months and reading many of the same books that inspired Susan Piver’s The Wisdom of a Broken Heart have put me several steps ahead of her initial points. However, I realize now that the feelings continue to drag on because I have not fully walked toward them and invited that pain into my tender heart: fully taking up the warrior’s heart.

These dreams felt like the opening of a wound–the emotional pus oozed out. The tender flesh underneath has much to heal and much to offer.

The point when I knew that The Wisdom of a Broken Heart was perfect for my healing process was when I was reading the introduction and found that the author was inspired in her heartbreak by the same book that touched me and brought some sense back to my shattered world a couple months ago. Furthermore, she quoted a passage from the book that sticks with me more than most any other. I will share it here in greater length than she did:

When you awaken your heart in this way, you find to your surprise, that your heart is empty. You find that you are looking into outer space. What are you, who are you, where is your heart? If you really look, you won’t find anything tangible and solid. Of course, you might find something very solid if you have a grudge against someone or you have fallen possessively in love. But that is not awakened heart. If you search for awakened heart, if you put your hand through your rib cage and feel for it, there is nothing there except for tenderness. You feel sore and soft, and if you open your eyes to the rest of the world, you feel tremendous sadness. This kind of sadness doesn’t come from being mistreated. You don’t feel sad because you feel impoverished. Rather, this experience of sadness is unconditioned. It occurs because your heart is completely exposed. There is no skin or tissue covering it; it is pure raw meat. Even if a tiny mosquito lands on it, you feel so touched. Your experience is raw and tender and so personal.

The genuine heart of sadness comes from feeling that your nonexistent heart is full. You would like to spill your heart’s blood and give your heart to others. For the warrior, this experience of sad and tender heart is what gives birth to fearlessness. Conventionally, being fearless means that you are not afraid or that if someone hits you, you will hit him back. However, we are not talking about that street-fighter level of fearlessness. Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others. –Chögyam Trungpa Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, pp. 31-32

Warriors Rejoice at the Great Eastern Sun!

Months ago, I wrote a poem about a scab over my heart. This was right before I had my heart broken completely. Maybe it’s time to pick at that scab and reveal the tender flesh beneath… Then again, I think I have already started doing just that.


Next Heartbreak Wisdom Journal Entry: Entry 2: Gentleness Toward Your Experience

Tao a Day – Verse 16: Emptiness

A couple weeks ago, I began a practice of reading one verse from the Tao Te Ching everyday. I will continue until I finish the whole book. I’ve read it before and consider it a masterpiece of both metaphysics and spirituality. There are few works as simple, inspiring, and profound. I will try to post a reading on a verse or a passage from a verse from time to time to share the beauty of this work. The following is Verse 16.

Become totally empty
Quiet the restlessness of the mind
Only then will you witness everything
unfolding from emptiness
See all things flourish and dance
in endless variations
And once again merge back into perfect emptiness-
Their true repose
Their true nature
Emerging, flourishing, dissolving back again
This is the eternal process of return

To know this process brings enlightenment
To miss this process brings disaster

Be still
Stillness reveals the secret of eternity
Eternity embraces the all-possible
The all-possible leads to a vision of oneness
A vision of oneness brings about universal love
Universal love supports the great truth of Nature
The great truth of Nature is Tao

Whoever knows this truth lives forever
The body may perish, deeds may be forgotten
But he who has Tao has all eternity
– Trans. Jonathan Star

Emptiness

Recently, I read some of Alan Watts’ book on Taoism (Tao: The Watercourse Way). In his chapter on wu wei, the well-known “doing without doing”, he contrasts Zen Buddhism and Taoism in that both aim at getting a deeper understanding of reality and then acting in accordance with it. He claims that the difference is that Taoism tries to get the student there through an intuitive understanding pulled out through poetic descriptions and paradoxical stories, whereas Zen approaches it through long and thorough meditation. I think this is accurate to an extent, but I think that Watts is a bit disparaging in his treatment of Zen in his discussion. Both approaches try to get us to see the way things are. The Buddhists guide us toward prajna (knowledge) in realization of Dharma (reality, the truth, the way things are, the law), and with the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu tries to get us to grasp the insight of Tao (the Way, the totality of all, the way things are and their source). The approach may differ, but the goal is roughly the same! I think this verse speaks to the parallels between these paths. Meditation is a way of realizing the emptiness and stillness that Lao Tzu emphasizes here–it is a way of getting an intuitive understanding beyond concepts. Both aim at getting past the duality of conceptual thought. The Taoist aim of transcending conceptual thought is stated very clearly in the following passage from Verse 1 as well as the already quoted Verse 16:

A mind free of thought,
     merged within itself,
     beholds the essence of Tao
A mind filled with thought,
     identified with its own perceptions,
     beholds the mere forms of this world.

The emptiness in 16 and “essence of Tao” in 1 are the metaphysical aspect of reality, of Tao, and I find the expression of it here and elsewhere in the Tao Te Ching quite inspirational. Tao is both the origin of the 10,000 things and those 10,000 things as well. In other words, Tao goes beyond the “mere forms of this world”, as their dynamic source of never-ending unfolding and change. Here’s an example in Verse 1:

Tao is both Named and Nameless
     As Nameless, it is the origin of all things
     As Named, it is the mother of all things

Here, we see that our concepts–our thoughts of forms and the words with which we name them–are not the source of the forms which we experience. The things we name are not that which creates those things, yet Tao is both the things named and that which cannot be named–that is, their source. This focus on origin or source and its distinction from the forms of the world leads us to philosophy’s most fundamental question (according to Heidegger’s take): “Why are there beings at all instead of nothing?” Lao Tzu answers without further explanation of why: “There is Tao.” Tao is both this mysterious, ungraspable origin that fluctuates all beings, pulsing with new forms–the ebb and flow of change–as well as those changing forms.

From a very different philosophical background, Wittgenstein delineates the world of forms in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus as all that can be said. That which cannot be said must be passed over in silence: it must be shown; moreover, this inexpressible dimension is the mystical (i.e. the metaphysical). [Please note that these quotes have numbers. It’s just a numbering system in that book. I keep it here for you to look them up on your own] ” 6.522 There is definitely something inexpressible. The inexpressible shows itself. It is the mystical” (Es gibt allerdings Unaussprechliches dies zeigt sich, es ist das Mystische.). Previous to this, Wittgenstein points out that the mystical (i.e. metaphysical) nature of the World is not in the how of it–the facts of it–rather in its existing at all: “6.44 The mystical is not how the world is, rather that it is. ” (Nicht wie die Welt ist, ist das Mystische, sondern dass sie ist.) The world–the set of forms that can be perceived and named, i.e. that which can be spoken–is not the mystical, the metaphysical. The metaphysical must be shown as it is beyond that which can be said; this is done through words, but the words themselves do not represent this aspect of reality–they merely indicate it, pointing towards it. Here, in the first verse of the Tao, the indicated mystical aspect of existence is the Nameless, TaoLao Tzu’s masterpiece tries to show us this metaphysical origin beyond the forms we perceive and can express, and much like the paradoxes of Zen koans, he stretches language’s expression to point the way to that intuitive understanding, showing it as a Sage–inviting us to empty our mind and experience the ever-unfolding emptiness of the eternal process of return.

Keep on Walking

Recently, I’ve questioned whether I should continue this blog. It has never been about me–I don’t care if I have 1 follower or 10,000. However, I’ve written every word of this in the hopes of engaging others, impacting their lives. The intention has always been to help others, calling them to see their lives differently. I’ve poured my heart into this recently, writing post after post–some quite challenging for me to write, as I’ve tried to balance difficult topics with a level of expression I hope will be readable for most everyone. Yet, my numbers in terms of views have been low, and I’ve started to doubt, to question whether these posts really make any difference to anyone out there.

Again, this doesn’t hurt my ego, as such accomplishment and feedback is not my aim. However, it has made me feel like it’s not worth the effort to post here if this is becoming an online journal. It’s precisely because I don’t want this to be a space of my self-aggrandizement that I wonder if I should stop. Luckily, I’ve had a couple friends respond to these feelings of mine, and I’m grateful for what they had to say.

One told me that if my purpose is to inspire others, I should take a long-term view. Perhaps the words I write will take time to find the right readers. I should keep writing for those readers, even if they aren’t reading yet and may not be for some time to come.

The other friend told me to keep posting and not worry about readers. Just write.

Both of these acts of support show true friendship: neither offered simple words about how smart or great I am, a little warming blanket of comfort. Instead, they called out the virtue of my efforts and reinvigorated my intention for this blog.

Finally, these words from one of the books I have read recently act as one more source of inspiration in this choice. They resonate well with my recent post about the way being in the heart. If you would like further understanding of bodhicitta, please see that post:

Rousing bodhicitta is an occasion for continual delight. We can hardly wait to raise it again. If we were the only person in the whole world to be generating love and compassion, we would generate it with fearless joy and delight until the day we die. Our aspiration to help others is so great that we would gladly spend an eternity in hell even to help a child be less afraid to speak in class. – Sakyong Mipham, Turning the Mind into an Ally, p. 207

IMG_1127

I keep offering my words here again and again: keep walking the Way.

May I aspire to such awakened heart myself, and may my words help all who need them.

Gassho.

Reiki: The Five Precepts (Gokai – 五 戒) – Precursor

The Five Precepts

About a year ago, I delved into Reiki out of sincere interest. My point of entry was the five precepts–Gokai 五 戒–given by Usui-sama to his disciples with the introduction included for their use: “The secret of inviting happiness through many blessings, the spiritual medicine for all illness” (Bronwen and Frans Stiene, “The Japanese Art of Reiki”). The curious thing to note about this is that Usui is speaking of the five precepts of his teachings, not “reiki” itself. Most people I have met with an interest in Reiki completely overlook these five lines of meditation, a simple, yet powerful mantra; they are more interested in the seemingly magical powers of energy healing. They do themselves a great disservice, missing the insightful point of focus for a spiritual path with heart. I have been developing a meditation practice for some time now, and I still find my time meditating on Usui’s precepts to have been one of the most powerful yet simple meditations I have done–beautiful, heartfelt, and moving. It truly can be a spiritual medicine for all illness. Energy healing is effective because of such practices of self-focus rather than doing energy healing instead of/without these practices. This should be remembered, and many New Agers would do well to think on such things.

Usui added as an afterward to the precepts: “Do gassho [the hand position of gratitude and blessing in Buddhism–hands held in front of neck/face with palms together] every morning and evening, keep in your mind and recite” (Steine, The Japanese Art of Reiki”). This is how to utilize the precepts as a regular meditation practice in order to realize the “happiness through many blessings”. This is all meant to improve the mind and body. It is basically a Buddhist meditation from Usui’s background in Tendai Buddhism, and Usui’s Reiki, I would argue, is actually just Kiko, the Japanese form of Qi Gong. I’ve studied some Qi Gong as well as read that Usui was a Kiko master. While writing this, I read one Reiki site’s claims that Kiko expends the practitioner’s stored energy; however, from what I have read by Qi Gong masters and experienced myself, that is a limited view of and detrimental form of Qi Gong  practice. There are Qi Gong practices of acting as a healing conduit of energy for the qi (the very word that the ki in reiki comes from) to flow through to the person needing healing. I mention all this not to cast stones but to get readers to think outside their conceptual boxes. You may just learn something new about your practice that you have taken for granted. Western Reiki practitioners have appropriated this beautiful and mysterious practice and run with it in myriad directions; while this is beautiful in a way, I find it sad how little interest is placed in venerating the roots of this practice and understanding them on their own terms, which with the effort of research and engagement, hold their own surprises and beauties.

Gassho

With all of this in mind, I’d like to share a couple translations of the precepts along with my own simplified mantra version. I will discuss the opening line of the precepts here, and in five future posts, I will discuss each of the other lines.

The first translation that really grabbed me was in a free app on my phone of all places (the Reiki Center app on Windows Phone)! I still remember it by heart after reciting it hundreds of times:

Just for today
Don’t hold onto anger
Don’t focus on worry
Honor all those who came before
Work hard on self-improvement
Be kind to all living things

I still think this is great. Two points:
1) The third–“Honor all those…”– is an interesting take on a line that usually states something more like “Be grateful”. This is worth a second thought: gratitude should be held for all, including everything and everyone that has brought this moment. In a sense, we might take that as a further examination of cause and effect, the Buddhist concept of karma.
2) “Work hard on self-improvement” used to be a favorite line for me, but the more I work on a spiritual practice, the less I like it. The reason why is because of the self-improvement. I would prefer something that does not emphasize self, as I feel the point of such a practice (a Buddhist practice, of which Usui was a priest) is seeing that all is one and the self is a storied creation. So, “Practice hard”, “Work diligently”, or “Work hard on improvement” would be better.

Here’s another translation for comparison:

For today only:
Do not anger
Do not worry
Be humble
Be honest in your work
Be compassionate to yourself and others

Notice that the same two lines resonate differently here, showing the difficulty in bringing these ideas across from the original Japanese.

I’ve condensed my own simplified version, which I find to be a bit more focused. Bring this to a meditative practice for a comparison of experience between the traditional and the simplified, or bring it to mind if in a painful mood or stressful situation (this shortened version is easier to pull to mind on the fly):

Now
Peace
Faith
Gratitude
Actualization
Compassion

By Faith, I don’t mean the word in some sense of divine delivery, rather the trust in life/the world that negates worry. This turns the traditional precepts around from pushing to negate worry to cultivating the positive state of trust in all. This is not about salvation but about trust and acceptance of the way things are.

By Actualization, I take some points from Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō and turn them in my own way. Actualization here means practicing in a way to manifest/realize things as they are. I’m evoking what I see as the deepest of spiritual practices and calling for action in accordance with it. You could also think of this as wu wei from Taoism, a beautiful concept that I will have to write another post about. I’ve chosen the term “actualization” to move away from “work” which feels heavy and misleading for this meditation. Although, I have nothing against “working hard” nor do I want to suggest that work is not spiritual, I find “work” feels a bit clunky because of other connotations.

Now to the analysis of the opening line:
I’d like to open the following set of five posts by examining “Just for today”. This invocation of the precepts tells us to focus on the practice of these precepts for today without concern of how we have previously done or how we will proceed for years to come. We only have today to practice. This is always true. We cannot count on tomorrow arriving or for us to be in a healthy state to practice then. We live far too much of our lives in this lazy procrastination. Practice today, right now–as this moment and every return of this moment invites us to practice. My shortened version of the line is “Now”. Every moment is now, and every moment can be used for the practice of the precepts. You need not worry about how you have done before or whether you will fail in the next moment, but you should be aware that now is all you have, and there’s no guarantee that you will be capable of taking up your practice later. There’s no time to lose, but such a statement is not something depressing; rather, it’s the greatest, most uplifting opportunity.

May these words benefit all who read them.

Gassho!

Next Reiki: The Five Precepts Post – 1st Precept: Peace

Next Newer Entries