Shunryu Suzuki On Bowing in Zen

“By bowing we are giving up ourselves. To give up ourselves means to give up our dualistic ideas. So there is no difference between zazen [meditation] practice and bowing.

Usually to bow means to pay our respects to something which is more worthy of respect than ourselves. But when you bow to Buddha you should have no idea of Buddha, you just become one with Buddha, you are already Buddha himself.

When you become one with Buddha, one with everything that exists, you find the true meaning of being. When you forget all your dualistic ideas, everything becomes your teacher, and everything can be the object of worship.

When everything exists within your big mind, all dualistic relationships drop away. There is no distinction between heaven and earth, man and woman, teacher and disciple.

Sometimes a man bows to a woman; sometimes a woman bows to a man. Sometimes the disciple bows to the master; sometimes the master bows to the disciple. Sometimes the master and disciple bow together to Buddha. Sometimes we may bow to cats and dogs.

In your big mind, everything has the same value. Everything is Buddha himself. You see something or hear a sound, and there you have everything just as it is. In your practice you should accept everything as it is, giving to each thing the same respect given to a Buddha. Here there is Buddhahood. Then Buddha bows to Buddha, and you bow to yourself. This is the true bow.”

~ Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Mindfulness Movement in Mental Health

Mindfulness Movement

The principles of mindful movement are the same as any other mindfulness practice. We aim to bring our full attention to the present moment to experience the here and now. We bring our awareness to our movement and focus on our breath or the way our body feels as it moves. When our mind wanders, we bring our attention back to the practice, to our breath, to our body.

4 Types of Mindful Movement

1. Breathing exercises are different from when we observe our breath at rest during seated meditation. Instead, we connect with our body by purposefully elongating our breaths to calm our parasympathetic nervous system, or shorten our breaths for short periods of time to refresh and refocus.

2. A walking meditation can be a simple and effective way to explore mindful movement. The biggest difference between a walking meditation and going for a walk as we usually would is that when we’re practicing meditation, we aren’t aiming to go anywhere. Instead, we walk slowly and try to bring our full awareness to the act of walking. That can look like focusing on our breath, or feeling the ground beneath our feet as one step turns into the next. When our mind wanders, we bring it back to the sensations of the moment.

3. Stretching and yoga can help us release tension, stiffness, and heavy emotions. When our bodies don’t move, they don’t feel good, and neither do our minds. Taking a moment to let go of the day’s distractions, getting away from the desk or couch, and engaging in gentle movement can help us boost our energy, focus, and resilience.

4. If you’re looking to blow off steam, working out is another opportunity for mindfulness. Getting exercise can be a great way to tune in to our body, synchronize our breath, and be in the moment, all while building strength and nourishing our muscles.

The Eight Branches of Chinese Medicine

The Eight Branches of Chinese Medicine

Meditation: As long ago as the fifth century B.C.E., Taoists practiced meditation as a tool for cultivating inner peace. There is always an aspect of the mind that is quiet, calm, and present; however, it can be masked by thoughts, stories, and emotions that pull us out of the present moment. The mind can be like a toddler, running around from place to place, with an attention span of about one minute. It can easily switch from one emotion to the next. Meditation is not simply the practice of stopping all this chaos and quieting the mind; rather, it is the building of awareness about the mind’s habitual nature and the reduction of its distractions.

Exercise: Moving our bodies daily is vital to our overall well-being. Physical activity also moves our blood and cleanses our organs. Tai chi and qigong are both ancient forms of exercise used in Chinese medicine for the cultivation of energy. When visiting east Asian countries, you will see groups of people coming together to practice these movements every day. Even if you don’t know these two ancient practices, walking, running, swimming, dancing, hiking, playing sports, and even stretching are all wonderful forms of exercise.

Nutrition: Food is like medicine. It can nourish us to our very bones, bring us back from illness, and give us a tremendous amount of energy for living.  Many of us are getting sick. Returning to natural, unprocessed, whole foods that match your constitution, align with the season, and support you through any imbalances you may be experiencing is the most direct way to find balance. Through this lens, each meal provides an opportunity to heal from the inside out and to prevent illness rather than be vulnerable to it.

Cosmology: Cosmology refers to the foundation of any spiritual tradition that reveals the core beliefs of how we human beings came to exist and what helps us to thrive. In Taoist cosmology, human beings are not seen as separate from the natural world but rather as a manifestation and integral part of it. Therefore, to cultivate a state of balance, we must look to the natural world around us and mimic the rhythms and cycles we see.

Fang Shui: Just as we can benefit from finding balance inside ourselves by meditating, exercising, and eating a diet that is aligned with nature, we can benefit from creating a similar balance outside ourselves. This is called feng shui, and it encompasses the practice of enhancing health through the environmental balancing of the home, office, garden, and other sacred spaces.

Bodywork: Touch is vital to our overall health. The physical practice of being touched in a therapeutic way allows us to relax deeply and experience the release of tension on all levels. Bodywork gifts us with a number of amazing endorphins (feel-good hormones) most especially, oxytocin.

Herbal Medicine: Chinese herbal medicine has been around for thousands of years as a vital tool for maintaining health throughout the life cycles and seasons. Eating medicinal plants from the earth allows us to be in direct relationship with the earth. In addition to a diet that is in sync with our nature, herbal medicine can target specific health imbalances and enhance the healing benefits of meals.

Acupuncture: The final branch of Chinese medicine is also the newest of the eight (though still more than two thousand years old)—the practice of acupuncture. Acupuncture is the art of inserting very fine, sterile needles just under the skin in strategic places to nourish, calm, or otherwise direct the movement of energy. This ancient art form has been found not only to reduce pain but to influence myriad systems in the body, mind, and spirit. From anxiety to leaky gut syndrome to depression to inflammation, acupuncture treats us on many levels. While this practice can certainly address everyday imbalances, I have found it to be most beneficial when used as a tool for prevention.

Source: Everyday Chinese Medicine.