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The simplest way that I can express my spirituality... my Zen practice... my ministry as a priest and monk is be present, open, alert, embodied, and available to what we're experiencing right here and right now. That's 80% of the practice.

When I'm sitting on my meditation seat, I'm not just physically on the seat. I'm present mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I recall my teacher once saying, "Don't come to Zen, bringing all the odds and ends that you'd like to bring with you to sit there and contemplate. Leave it outside the Zendo. Use the time on the seat as a temporary vacation. Trust me, when zazen is over, and before you stand up, all your trials and tribulations will come rushing back to you, not missing a single beat." Indeed.

Put another way; meditation is the rest between two notes of a song. Though no-thing is happening, no-thing is a direct, decisive, and clear action necessary to the flow of the song, that's still an expression of doing. Without the true silence between the notes, the song would not be the song.

When I go to recovery meetings, whether it's Narcotics Anonymous, Refuge Recovery, or Al-Anon... I either leave my phone in the car or turn it off and set it on the floor. I do carry a journal, piece of paper, and pen to make notes... but that's it, because there could be some life-saving information that I need to remember or reflect on later, because my brain can't retain all the amazing things that I get to learn through the experience of others.

I'm not there to simply get my body to the room of recovery... healing... I treat it like a sauna of sacred experience, influenced by the suffering that got our asses in the seat, in the first place. I don't what to simply hear it with my head, I need to hear what people are saying with my heart, and my values or sense of spirituality. It's a 60 or 90-minute vacation from distraction and calling myself into presence because my particular disease is one of self-obsession. It's thinking mind that's wrapped around the axis of self, that can handcuff and shackle me to the minds narratives, stories, and inner crazy that can screw up my ability to appreciate what I have, limit the range of my ability to feel and distort my perspective and vision, and sometimes even trip other people up with unreasonable expectations.

As a result when people are sharing where they are or aren't at, I usually close my eyes. I do that so I can receive them with what I call "Both hands," and take them in more closely to my intuitive heart and nature, opening myself on all frequencies, making the effort to hold every person in the room with unconditional positive regard, if for nothing else the length of the meeting. We deserve that grace. In that way, there's no distance, gap, space or time.

I'm not in the meeting attending to my phone, texting over their experience with a minimum of concern for their well-being. I'm present and accounted for. I can pick up my phone and all the distractions afterward, having honored the sacred nature of the meeting and the meaning of sitting within the circle of healing. For me, that's supporting and caring for the atmosphere of recovery that we speak of in our guiding principles and traditions.

The above said, the meditation practice of being physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually available to myself, others, and the moment in real-time helps me to notice the seamless connection that we share. It influences my mouth and my actions. My present moments aren't disrupted by being lost in thought, planning, etc... which are oftentimes the brain fear-spiraling, like a turd in a toilet bowl stubbornly refusing to go down into the septic system.

When the clappers are struck, and the bell rings in the zendo... when we close the meeting sharing announcements, and closing prayer or dedication of merit... a positive sharing forward of healthy vibes and actions... that we've cultivated within ourselves... exiting the spaces and places of healing... it's easier to do what my al-non sponsor Ruth used to invite me to do. She said, "Instead of going out trying to collect happiness, how about bringing yourself happiness everywhere you go?" That wasn't advice. That was Ruth's lived experience; though her body has laid down into death, I still carry her encouragement with me every day.

一Appreciation and Respect

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