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    Sitting with Chaos | Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

    Focusing on love as a practice of being present and open to the world can lead to greater happiness and fulfillment.

    enOctober 11, 2021

    About this Episode

    Very few of us relish chaos and disruption, but they are facts of life, given the nonnegotiable nature of change. In this episode with Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, we’re going to talk about how to tune into the value of disruption, and learn how to sit with the chaos. 


    Zenju Earthlyn Manuel is an ordained Zen priest, holds a Ph.D., and worked for decades as a social science researcher and development director for non-profit organizations. She is also a prolific author.


    In this conversation we’ll explore: what to do with the unknown and not having any answers; the power of a “sip of silence” (her term); what she means by the phrase “death as a doorway to tenderness;” how she defines tenderness - a word that can easily get bogged down in sloppy sentimentality; and what she meant when she wrote “I'm not advocating love as an answer to all of the ills of the world. Then again, it is just that simple to be love.”


    Content Warning: There are brief mentions of assault; spiritual, sexual, and substance abuse; and racism, including a recent incident Zenju experienced herself. 



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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Embrace chaos and disruption to find growth and valuable insights, and remember the power of love in simplicity.
    • Disruptions, whether personal or societal, offer opportunities for change and improvement. Utilize convenient services to simplify tasks and focus on growth, while remembering that new challenges will always arise.
    • Disruptions can lead to personal growth and transformation, allowing us to change from within and bring about positive change in the world.
    • A few minutes of daily meditation can increase presence and engagement in life, acknowledging emotions instead of suppressing them, and responding to the world from a place of awareness
    • Life's chaos and uncertainty offer opportunities for continuous discovery, rather than escape or answers
    • Embrace the unknown with curiosity and openness, find joy in essentials, discover relief through innovative footwear, and cultivate tenderness and compassion in the face of life's challenges.
    • Tenderness is a powerful human quality associated with softness and vulnerability, but it's not a sign of weakness. It's a source of strength and liberation that can be found in deep emotions and in caring for ourselves and others.
    • Despite progress towards eliminating discrimination, it still exists in various forms and can leave a lasting emotional impact. Staying present and responding calmly can help process the experience and continue the fight for equality.
    • Embrace vulnerability and delicacy to live a full and liberated life, influenced by personal experiences and spiritual practices.
    • Cultivate tenderness to engage with emotions like rage and anger in a compassionate way, use platforms like Indeed for hiring, and prioritize time for self-care through activities like therapy.
    • Focusing on love as a practice of being present and open to the world can lead to greater happiness and fulfillment.
    • Zenju Earthlyn Manuel's books delve into various aspects of Buddhism, emphasizing the importance of personal experiences, spiritual rituals, and the impact of colonialism on Buddhist practices.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Navigating the unknown with Zenju Earthland Manuel

    Zenju Earthland Manuel, a Zen priest, researcher, and author, shares her wisdom on how to navigate the unknown, find peace in silence, and understand the power of tenderness. She also discusses her personal experiences and the importance of love as a simple yet profound solution to the world's challenges. Listeners can explore more of Zenju's teachings through the 10% Happier app, where she has recorded a teacher talk called "It's Okay to Be Afraid." Additionally, the episode is sponsored by Whole Foods Market, which offers high-quality eggs, catering options, and a wide selection of audio books on Audible for a perfect Easter brunch and entertainment experience. Throughout the episode, Zenju shares insights on dealing with the unknown, the importance of silence, and her unique perspective on tenderness. She also discusses her experiences and the role of love as a powerful force. If you're interested in learning more about these topics, be sure to tune in to the full conversation with Zenju Earthland Manuel. In the meantime, remember that embracing chaos and disruption can lead to growth and valuable insights. As Zenju says, "It's just that simple to be love."

    Embrace disruptions for growth and transformation

    Disruption, whether in the form of personal challenges or larger societal issues, can be a valuable opportunity for growth and transformation. As Audible member and author Manuel Scott shared, his experiences have shown him that it's during the messy and difficult times that true change often occurs. Meanwhile, convenient services like Audible and DoorDash can help make everyday tasks easier, allowing us to focus on the more important things in life. So whether it's listening to inspiring audiobooks or getting your Easter shopping done without leaving home, embrace the disruptions and take advantage of the resources available to make the most of life's ups and downs. And remember, as Manuel wisely noted, if we eliminate one problem, something else will take its place, so the journey towards a better world is ongoing.

    Embrace disruptions for personal growth

    Disruptions and challenges in life are not something to be feared or avoided, but rather opportunities for personal growth and transformation. The speaker suggests that we should embrace these disruptions, allowing them to change us from within and bring about positive change in the world. This perspective can be difficult to accept during times of turmoil and suffering, but the speaker encourages us to approach these moments with a beginner's mind, letting go of preconceived notions and conditioning. The challenges we face are like the mud that nourishes the lotus flower, providing the necessary nutrients for growth and transformation. While this process may involve casualties and difficult moments, ultimately, it leads to personal and collective evolution.

    Start small with mindfulness meditation

    Practicing mindfulness meditation, even for just a few minutes a day, can help us become more present and engaged in our daily lives. The speaker, who has decades of experience with meditation, emphasizes the importance of starting small and gradually increasing the duration of practice. Even a minute or two of stillness and focused breathing can make a significant difference in how we approach conversations and daily tasks. The practice also involves acknowledging and sitting with difficult emotions, rather than trying to suppress or analyze them. The ultimate goal is not to be constantly calm, but to become more aware of our inner experiences and respond to the world from a place of presence and clarity.

    Embrace the moment and discover new things

    Life is full of chaos and uncertainty, and instead of trying to escape or find answers, we should embrace the moment and engage with the pain and suffering. This doesn't mean we have to engage in external movements or practices, but rather be present and discover new things continuously. Meditation and medication may not be for everyone, and there's no definitive answer to life's big questions. Instead, we should appreciate the unknown and the continuous discovery that comes with it. Even if we've known someone for a long time, there's always something new to discover about them and ourselves. And though we may feel like we know something well, there's always room for new insights and perspectives. Ultimately, we're all on a journey of discovery, and the beauty lies in the unknown.

    Finding wonder and growth in the face of the unknown

    Even in the face of the unknown, such as death, there is the potential for discovery and growth. Steve Jobs' last words, "wow," exemplify this idea of finding wonder and amazement in every moment, including the very end of life. This mindset can help us approach challenges and uncertainty with a sense of curiosity and openness. Additionally, investing in quality essentials, like the affordable and stylish offerings from Quince, can bring joy and comfort to our daily lives. And for those dealing with knee and back pain, discovering footwear like GEDIFY's shoes, with their custom orthotics and shock-absorbing technology, can provide much-needed relief and support. Furthermore, the concept of tenderness in relation to death is a powerful and poignant one. Zenju Earthland Manuel describes it as a reminder of our interconnectedness and vulnerability, and an opportunity to cultivate compassion and empathy for ourselves and others. This tender approach to life's challenges can bring a sense of peace and meaning to our experiences.

    Embracing Tenderness: A Source of Strength and Liberation

    Tenderness, a quality often associated with softness and vulnerability, is a powerful and essential aspect of being human. Witnessing the softness and openness in the face of death inspired Zenju to embrace tenderness as a way of engaging with the world and her own life. Tenderness is not a sign of weakness, but rather a source of strength and liberation. It can be found in moments of deep emotion, as well as in the way we care for others and ourselves. Our names, given to us in spiritual traditions, can reflect our essence and guide us towards embracing our true nature. Embracing tenderness means allowing ourselves to feel and be present with our emotions, rather than trying to escape from them. It is a way of opening our hearts and engaging with the world from a place of compassion and love.

    Personal experiences of racial and gender discrimination in unexpected places

    Discrimination based on race and gender still exists, even in seemingly unlikely places like wineries. The speaker shared her personal experience of being denied service because of her appearance, while others were treated with warmth and attention. She chose to respond with a quiet protest by writing a letter and sending a picture, rather than escalating the situation. The incident left her feeling tender emotionally but also reminded her of the importance of staying present in her body and not letting such experiences consume her. Over time, she learned to breathe with the sensations and not let them paralyze her. Despite progress towards eliminating racism, there is still work to be done to ensure equal treatment for all.

    Exploring the Power of Tenderness

    Tenderness, a quality of being delicate and vulnerable, can be a powerful and liberating force in one's life. The speaker shares her personal journey towards embracing tenderness, which involved facing her own inner fears and suppressions, and allowing herself to be vulnerable. She also emphasizes that tenderness is not for everyone and requires a particular path and development. The speaker's experiences with tenderness were influenced by her Zen Buddhism practice, but she also acknowledges her Christian background and the role of near-death experiences in shaping her perspective on life and death. Ultimately, she encourages readers to explore the possibility of tenderness as a path to a full and liberated life, regardless of their religious or spiritual background.

    Exploring the Power of Tenderness

    Tenderness, a vulnerable and engaging state of being in the moment with one's heart, is an essential medicine for dealing with emotions like rage and anger. The speaker, who has experienced both tenderness and rage in her life, defines tenderness as a state of heart consciousness and works on cultivating it through various practices. She also emphasizes that tenderness is not the absence of other emotions but rather a way to engage with them in a more compassionate and engaged way. The speaker's recent book, which she wrote to evoke tenderness, reflects her belief in the importance of this quality, especially during times when people may be feeling intense rage or opposition to the idea of peace. When it comes to practical matters, such as hiring, the speaker recommends using Indeed, a matching and hiring platform that can help businesses find quality candidates efficiently. Finally, the speaker encourages listeners to consider how they would spend an extra hour in their day, suggesting that therapy could help them prioritize their time and focus on what truly matters to them.

    Exploring Love: A Practice of Being Present

    Focusing on what matters most to us, whether it's through therapy or personal exploration, can lead to greater happiness and fulfillment. The speaker emphasized the importance of love, not as an answer to all the world's ills but as a deep desire and essential part of our being. Love is not something we can capture or give as an object, but rather a practice of being present and open to the world around us, without judgment. The speaker shared his experiences with love, from observing babies to watching people die, and encouraged listeners to practice being in the moment and experiencing love in its many forms. Some of the speaker's books include "Be Love," "The Tenderness Journal," and "The Tenderness Project." These resources offer insights and practices for exploring love and living in the present moment.

    Exploring the depths of Buddhism through personal experiences and diverse perspectives

    Zenju Earthlyn Manuel writes books on various aspects of spirituality, drawing from her personal experiences and diverse background. Her book "Tell Me Something About Buddhism" is a Q&A style book with illustrations, focusing on awakening through individual gateways such as race, sexuality, and gender. She also emphasizes the importance of spiritual rituals and ceremonies in Buddhism and the impact of colonialism on its practices. Upcoming books include "The Shimonic Bones of Zen," focusing on the ancestral spirit and sacred traditions of Zen, and "The Waters of Lespois," a spiritual, magical, historical fiction novel set in Haiti. Manuel's goal is to bring attention back to the sacred rituals and ceremonies often overlooked in modern Buddhism.

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