MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

Posts Tagged ‘Matt Aguas

The Heart of Meditation

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You are the entire ocean in a drop.

RUMI

The contemporary meditation teacher, Shinzen Young, says that attention is life’s fundamental skill. And such a seemingly basic and simple skill as attention can have a powerful and transformative repercussion in our lives.

When we are fully attentive and absorbed with our meditative practice (whether it’s reciting a mantra, following the breath, sitting with a koan, or simply just sitting), the ego drops. When the ego dissolves, a whole new realm opens up – the world of Nonseparation… Boundlessness… Wholeness… Oneness…

We experience the universe as ourselves! We are no longer separate from the other – we experience the other as ourselves! When we see and experience the other as ourselves, we treat the other as ourselves, which is basically what compassion means.

When the Zen Master, Goto Zuigan Roshi, was asked what Zen is all about, he answered:

What is Zen? Simple, so simple. Infinite gratitude to all things past. Infinite service to all things present. And infinite responsibility to all things future.

That, for me, is the essence of the meditative life…

–Matt

Written by MattAndJojang

January 20, 2021 at 9:34 am

2020 Christmas Letter

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Lord, help me to live this day quietly, peacefully. To lean upon Thy great strength trustfully, restfully. To wait for the unfolding of Thy will patiently, serenely. To meet others peacefully, joyously. To face tomorrow confidently, courageously. Amen.

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

2020 has been a year of unexpected events that none of us has ever asked for.

A lingering pandemic, devastating floods, wild forest fires, volcano eruption, not to mention the economic impact all this has wrought to us and the world.

I guess, none of us can truly understand why all these are happening, but I surmise that Someone is telling us something … I saw an FB post from a friend’s wall:

“I thought 2020 would be the year I get everything I want. Now I know 2020 is the year I appreciate everything I have. “

The year started with a visit from Susan, Martha, and company who came all the way from Canada. Matthew was so happy to see them after a very long time! It was such a joyful reunion.

Time spent with Jun is always a delightful experience. Jun and Matthew, who’ve been friends for almost 43 years, were brought together by their love for Zen and meditation. Hope to see you again soon!

By the end of January, we were overjoyed to see our dear, dear friends – Dave and Wawi – who came all the way from Manila. They had to come up to Baguio to attend a convention, and we appreciate it that they took time out to visit us!

Weng and Babes — Jojang’s friends from Manila – also dropped by our house. Our pleasant exchange of light-hearted conversations, lifted up our spirits.

Jojang had a chance to blow her birthday cake that Tita Teri and Tita Lety brought on their visit to celebrate her 60th birthday! Oh my! What a delightful and enjoyable time we spent together.

Come mid-March the country – and the world – was put on lockdown. It took us all by surprise but  I’m still blessed. Why?  Because I don’t mind being stuck at home with Matthew. #cheesy!

Last July, our dearest Tita Dory passed away. Matthew and I were deeply saddened by this news. We wanted to pay our last respects to her and dropped by for a short visit to the wake.

We are deeply grateful for the love and concern of our doctor and friend, Dr. Chona. She volunteered to give our flu shots at home to spare Matthew the risk of going out during the pandemic…. Thank you so much, Dr. Chona!

With most of us at home, most meet ups are virtual through Zoom or Google Meet. This has proved to be a big blessing especially for Matthew:

What turned to be a global crisis during this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic; turned out, for Matthew, to be a time of grace and blessing as Matthew reconnected with our Zen community – Bahay Dalangin Zen Community.

The weekly Zen meditation meetings, the bi-monthly zazenkais (one-day Zen meditation meetings) and sesshins (Zen retreats) has significantly deepened Matthew’s  spiritual practice.

Matthew is profoundly grateful to our sangha (Zen community), especially to our teachers — Sr. Sonia, Fr. Efren and Lydia…

Finally, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its twelfth year, we have grown to have 384 followers and have surpassed the half a million hits at 531,439 .  As our cyber community continues to grow, we never expected this blog to touch so many people. Thank you for allowing us to share our lives with you.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and may you have abundant blessings for the coming New Year.

— Matthew and Jojang

Written by MattAndJojang

December 9, 2020 at 10:17 am

The Dance of Life

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Photo: Israr Syed/Flickr

At the still point of the turning world…

There the dance is.

T.S. Eliot

When the boundaries between self and other blur,
The ego dissolves.
When I and you interpenetrate each other,
The self disappears.
There is just the dance of life–
Dancing itself!
Where is the self?
Gone!
Where is the other?
Gone!

Gate, Gate, Parasmamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
(Gone, gone, gone all the way over,
everyone gone to the other shore.
Enlightenment!)

–Matt

Written by MattAndJojang

November 17, 2020 at 9:33 am

The Matter of Life and Death

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When you have attained your self-nature, you can free yourself from life-and-death. How will you free yourself from life-and-death when the light of your eyes is falling to the ground?

THE GATELESS GATE

When we start to work and reflect on koans, certain koans stand out and resonate with us more than the others. One such koan for me is this koan from the Gateless Gate, which partly reads, “How will you free yourself from life-and-death when the light of your eyes is falling to the ground?”

At first glance, some of you may wonder why such a koan which deals with death is something that is close to my heart.

As some of you know, the Dalai Lama meditates 5 hours every day. And one of the things he meditates on is death. A journalist once asked him why he meditates on such a morbid subject matter. The Dalai Lama replied, “So that I can be prepared when it comes.”

How I wish I was like the Dalai Lama, who was so proactive about something which most of us wouldn’t even like to think about.

In my case, it was not a deliberate decision. I was forced to confront this reality somewhat early in my life.

Shortly after I was married 18 years ago, I was misdiagnosed. The doctor I consulted with gave me 36 medicines to deal with a heart attack that I supposedly had! I was hospitalized for 3-4 months, and nearly lost my life. I came to the hospital walking. But I was discharged from the hospital on a stretcher.

Later on, when I consulted with another doctor, I found out I never had a heart attack! But the damage has been done. My immune system collapsed and never recovered. My asthma, which I had as a child, came back with a vengeance. So much so that I couldn’t go out of the house anymore, because even a small amount of dust or smoke could trigger a bad asthma attack, which could send me to the hospital. 18 years of chronic asthma plus other medical conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, has definitely weakened and debilitated me.

You might say that for the past 18 years I’ve been on self quarantine.

Dogen Zenji spoke about genjokoans. Genjokoans are koans that arise from the personal circumstances of one’s personal life. My chronic illness has become my personal genjokoan. And it has forced me to confront suffering and death. In other words, the reality of my mortality and the impermanence of life, which is something that is at the heart of the Buddha’s teaching. But, in my case, it was brought home with such force and clarity.

“How will I free myself from life-and-death when the light of my eyes is falling to the ground?”

A few months ago, I had a bad asthma attack. As I was confined to my bed, a koan from Case 43 of the Blue Cliff Record, entitled “Tozan’s ‘Hot and Cold’,” came to my mind. For me, the koan deals with the inevitable suffering and pain that we are all subject to.

Commenting on this koan, I was struck when Yamada Koun Roshi wrote, “It is in the very midst of suffering that we are liberated from suffering.”

In connection with this, let me share an experience I had when I was hospitalized last year:

When I was rushed to the emergency room, one of the things that the doctor requested was for me to have my x-ray taken. Since I was too weak to walk, I was wheeled in my wheelchair by a medical attendant to the x-ray room.

I had to wait for my turn while sitting in my wheelchair in the common reception area for patients who will have their x-ray or ultrasound taken. With nothing to do, I began to look at the faces of the roomful of patients in the reception area.

All of a sudden there was no separation between I and them. Their fears were my fears. Their anxieties were my anxieties. Their pain was my pain. I was them, and they were I.

I realized that it is only when we are one with our suffering, that we find freedom from suffering. And when we are one with our suffering, we learn to be one with the suffering of others.

To paraphrase Yamada Koun Roshi, “If you haven’t wept with those who suffer, there is no enlightenment.”

With the raging pandemic all around us, sometimes I feel frustrated that there is little that I can do about it. I have to remind myself that by sitting in meditation for those who are affected by the coronavirus and for the safety and protection of family, friends and neighbors I am affecting the world. Because we are one, or to borrow the words of Philip Kapleau Roshi, “The world is one interdependent Whole and each separate one of us is that Whole.”

–Matt

Written by MattAndJojang

November 6, 2020 at 9:23 am

What Do I Do With My Pain?

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Photo: Fr. Laurence Freeman, OSB

May I be the medicine and the physician for the sick. May I be their nurse until their illness never recurs.

–Shantideva

Last Easter Sunday, I received a viber message from An [1]. It was an invitation to a virtual dokusan [2] with Sr. Sonia [3]. I was pleasantly surprised and, at the same time, elated by this invitation. Come to think about it, it was probably 20 years ago since I had my last dokusan with Sr. Sonia!

Among other things, An asked me if I’d like to take up a koan [4] with Sr. Sonia during dokusan.

These days I just sit. Overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, I just sit with the uncertainty, fear, isolation, pain and suffering that most people are going through nowadays, myself included.

Somehow this became much more personal to me after I found out, a few hours before I got An’s message, that my 2 sisters, who are nurses in the U.S., got exposed to the coronavirus. And they couldn’t even get themselves tested because there are no testing kits available.

A few days ago, I was reading an article written by Fr. Richard Rohr. He asked the question: “What do we do with our pain?” I don’t know if you can call that a koan. But it clearly articulated to me what I’m sitting with these days.

Faced with so much suffering and pain, I’m left with no words. I can just sit.

Just sit until I calm down.

Just sit until I’m fully in the present moment.

Just sit until the ego drops.

Just sit until the sense of fear and isolation dissolves.

Above all, just sit for those affected by this deadly virus, as well as for the protection and safety of family, friends and neighbors.

As the 8th century Indian Buddhist monk and scholar Shantideva puts it, “May I be the medicine and the physician for the sick. May I be their nurse until their illness never recurs.”

In the movie Zen, which is about the life of Zen Master Dogen [5], there was a scene where a woman brought her sick and dying baby to Dogen, asking him to save her child. Dogen said, “There is only one way to save the child. Visit every home in this area and try to find a home where no relative has died. And have that family give you a single bean.”

Of course, no such home was found.

No one is left untouched by old age, sickness and death. Perhaps this is what the COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us.

During dokusan I was struck when Sr. Sonia said, “It is God who gathers our sadness.”

It is Christ who gathers our every pain. It is Christ who suffers in us. Our tears are Christ’s tears.

“Christ has no body but yours,” St. Teresa of Avila says.

St. Paul cries, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”(Galatians 2:20).

I am every man, woman and child.

I am every sentient being.

I am Kannon [6], the perceiver of all the cries in the universe.

I am Christ, who heals every broken heart in the world.

Yet, as this deadly pandemic rages all around us, it is strange… I feel a deep sense of equanimity and profound connection.

Perhaps the Zen Master Unmon [7] holds the key when he says, “The whole earth is medicine.” Yes, the whole earth is medicine, because the whole earth is my True Self.

And there is just One Body. One Life. One Breath.

As I end this short reflection, let me leave you with these words from Ruben Habito Roshi:

“There is no one and nothing that is not an essential part of myself… Just as the pain in my little finger is felt by my whole body, I cannot but be concerned with all that is going on in this world of ours, with all the pain, the suffering and cries of anguish of so many living beings. They are my pain and suffering.”

–Matt

Notes:

[1] An Mercado Alcantara is a senior member of the Bahay Dalangin Zen Community, a Zen group based in Metro Manila.

[2] Dokusan means private interview with a Zen Teacher.

[3] Sr. Sonia Punzalan is a Catholic nun and Zen Teacher.

[4] A koan is a paradoxical statement taken from the biographies of Chinese Zen Masters, usually from the Tang or Sung Dynasties, and is assigned by a Zen Teacher to a Zen practitioner as an object of meditation.

[5] Dogen is a 13th century Japanese Zen Master.

[6]  Kannon is the bodhisattva of compassion. A bodhisattva is a person who delays enlightenment to help suffering beings.

[7] Unmon is a 10th century Chinese Zen Master.

 

Written by MattAndJojang

April 20, 2020 at 10:33 am

2019 Christmas Letter

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Bamboos

In the garden
The tall bamboos are dancing
The sound of the wind.

ZenRetreat Collage.jpg

The year started with a joyful note for us when we were invited to join a retreat by the Bahay Dalangin Zen Community. There, we met with Sr. Sonia Punzalan, Matthew’s Zen Teacher, Fr. Momoy Borromeo, and the rest of the sangha. Matthew was given the chance to share with the group his Zen journey which was well received. During Mass, Fr. Momoy had a healing session and prayed over us… What a beautiful moment for us! Thank you Bahay Dalangin Zen Community for your warm welcome.

Holy Spirit Sisters-May2019

The next few months were challenging. We are grateful to the Holy Spirit Sisters who offered their place for us to live in. Thank you Sr. Linda, Sr. Marijo, Sr. Mahil and the rest of the community of Sisters and the staff!

Ricky and Corito

We are deeply grateful to our dear, dear friends – Ricky and Corito – who were an answered prayer at the time that we so desperately needed it.

Your home, The Cabana, is so beautiful with a lush garden that makes it conducive for prayer and meditation. By the way, the Haiku posted at the beginning of this letter was composed by Matthew in a moment of inspiration in this marvelous home.

We would also like to thank Ronnie and Jimmy who took the time and effort to help us fix up the place.

NotreDame-Oct2019

Last October, I rushed Matthew to the hospital where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. The sun-less and continuous stormy weather during the months before that, took its toll on his health. Thank God he was brought just in time and recovered quite well. Thank you so much Dra. Chona for always taking care of us.

Manila Trip Collage

Sometime November, I was able to visit Manila to see family and friends. It was a short but hectic trip. My love tank is full ! Thank you everyone for taking time for me.

Visitors Collage 2

During the year, Matthew and I had visitors. Thank you for cheering us up and brightening our lives!

Finally, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its eleventh year, we have grown to have 368 followers and have surpassed the half a million hits at 520,269 views. As our cyber community continues to grow, we never expected this blog to touch so many people. Thank you for allowing us to share our lives with you.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and May you have abundant blessings for the coming New Year.”

— Matthew and Jojang

The Moonlight

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Moon.jpg

The moonlight touches
The calm surface of the pond
On the temple grounds.

–Matt

Written by MattAndJojang

November 28, 2019 at 9:14 am

2018 Christmas Letter

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The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

2018 is a surprisingly busy year for Matthew and myself.

We are grateful to Sr. Sonia, who encourages and inspires us in our spiritual journey. Through her, we met two wonderful people, Ricky and Corito, who have become endeared friends. We are grateful for their love and friendship. In the words of Matthew, “I am always energized by the visits of Ricky and Corito.”

We are also thankful to Sr. Marijo who, in spite of her busy schedule, makes it a point to visit us at least once a month for fellowship, prayer and sharing. Her constant presence in our lives has been always a source of support and joy. We are always happy to see her.

Through the efforts of Sr. Marijo, our parish priest, Fr. Edgar Lumanlang, visited us on Matthew’s birthday when he turned 60! He prayed for us and gave communion to Matthew. The best gift ever is to receive Jesus through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist!

The year began with Matthew’s delightful and unexpected reunion with Jun who came with Sr. Marijo. It has been 40 years since they last saw each other. Sr. Marijo introduced Jun and Matthew and a small group of students to Zen meditation. They had a wonderful time of catching up with each others’ almost a lifetime of spiritual journey.

After Jun left my sister Cristy went up to Baguio. We had fun sharing stories and taking photos of each other. After Cristy’s visit, Luth, who is based in the US and whom I have not seen in decades, went up to Baguio for an overnight trip just to see me. I am deeply touched by her gesture of taking time to be with me. We spent a full day catching up on our lives.

As soon as Luth left, I met up with my dear friend Wawi and her family who also went up to Baguio for a visit. We enjoyed our time together during breakfast at Chocolate de Batirol in Camp John Hay and bought some pasalubongs in Good Shepherd. Not to be missed is Wawi’s favorite, the raisin bread from Palaganas Bakery!

We were happy to see members of the Sacred Heart Community, who dropped by on April 1 to celebrate Bro. Paul Aguas’ – Matthew’s Dad – birthday! This enjoyable bunch of happy brothers and sisters is so much fun to be with.

Still in April, I went down to Manila to be with my best friend, Natalie and her family, because of the passing of her Dad. It was also an opportune time to meet up with my siblings whom I have not seen in a while.

Matthew was delighted to reunite with members of Sacred Heart Community in the 1970’s – Pia, Jean, Flor, and Helen. Everyone had fun reminiscing the good old days! Since then, we have now reconnected through Facebook.

June was a special month for us. Besides celebrating Matthew’s 60th birthday and our 16th year wedding anniversary, we were happy to meet up with Binky’s parents. I have happy memories of them when Binky and I were still office mates and I would go up to Baguio for a visit. They have big hearts and have always made me feel loved and welcome. It was sad though, because that was the last time we were going to see Tita Rose. A month after, she passed on.

September was a stressful month for us because I had to rush Matthew to the hospital where he was confined. He had an allergic reaction to a diabetes medicine that was prescribed to him. But we thank God, he was able to recover albeit slowly. We were happy to see Gie and Mel, who also dropped by the house.

Come October, I had breakfast with Candy and Riley who went up to Baguio for a quick visit. After they left, my cousin from the US, Ate Ely came to the house with Ate Genie and Bobbie Malay (Ate Ely’s good friend). I was excited to spend time with her since I have not seen her in more than 10 years. Her company brought happy memories of my childhood.

Beth was a high school chum whom I have not seen since 1977 when we both graduated from High School. We met up because she was vacationing in Baguio. It was so much fun and it seemed like we didn’t run out of stories. She had to postpone an appointment two times because we could not seem to get enough of each other!

At the same time that Beth and I were together, Matthew was spending time with Leo at home. We always look forward to Leo’s visits because his pleasing personality makes him great company!

Finally, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its tenth year, we have grown to have 350+ followers and have reached an astonishing  497,000+ hits! We are amazed and delighted because people from around the world are visiting our blog, liking our posts and our cyber community continues to grow.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and blessings for the New Year.”

— Matt & Jojang

 

Written by MattAndJojang

December 10, 2018 at 11:01 am

2017 Christmas Letter

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When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.

–Henri  Nouwen

 

It was a delightful year of rekindling friendships  for both Matthew and myself.

I was able to attend our 40th high school reunion to celebrate our 40th Ruby Year Anniversary. With lots of laughter and sometimes sentimental moments, I had a great time reminiscing about our wonderful high school years and meeting my high school chums.

When I got home from my short stint in Manila, it was Matthew’s turn to have his own wonderful reunion experience. Sr. Sonia came to the house for a visit. He was overjoyed to meet her, having not seen her for almost 20 years!  Sr. Sonia is Matthew’s  Zen meditation teacher, who played a major and transformative role in his life. Her guidance and encouragement has opened up new vistas, making him realize that there are possibilities in the spiritual life he never dreamed of.

Sometime middle of the year, we met up with Mel and Gie whom we’ve not seen in almost 10 years! We enjoyed catching up with what was happening in our own lives.

Another happy reunion for me was meeting up with Lolit, whom I have not seen in more than 15 years. After spending hours together having dinner and dessert, we both felt that time was not enough. How we both wish we had more time together!

Matthew had a celebration of sorts when he was again able to sit in meditation  with a group of old friends after more than 15 years — something he loved to do. For many years, he was only able to meditate by himself.  Thanks to the encouragement   of endeared friends – Sr. Marijo, Flor, Nena and John, who made all this possible! Looking forward to more “sits in meditation” with you in 2018!

We capped off the year with an 80th-year birthday celebration of our godfather and dearest Tito Peter in a beautiful resort in Asin.  It’s the first time I ever saw Matthew get sun burned 🙂  Needless, to say we enjoyed ourselves and the food was delish!

Of course, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its ninth year, we have grown to have 333 followers and have reached an exciting  450,800+ hits! We are happy because people are   visiting our blog, liking our posts and our cyber community continues to grow.

May this holiday season sparkle and shine. May all of your wishes and dreams come true. And may you feel God’s presence in your life all year round.

Merry  Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

–Matthew & Jojang

 

 

Written by MattAndJojang

December 10, 2017 at 5:07 pm

2016 Christmas Letter

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christmas-picture

I have only one desire, and that is the desire for solitude—to disappear into God, to be submerged in His peace, to be lost in the secret of His Face.

— Thomas Merton

“Matthew, can I visit you?” Sr. Marijo was on the other end of the line.

“Sure, Sister! I would love that.”

A flood of wonderful memories crossed through Matthew’s mind as he told me that we were going to have a visitor. He remembered this quote from Thomas Merton, who has largely influenced his life:

I have only one desire, and that is the desire for solitude—to disappear into God, to be submerged in His peace, to be lost in the secret of His Face.

Sr. Marijo introduced Zen to Matthew almost 40 years ago. With a small group of friends, they would regularly visit her and sit in meditation together. Needless to say, it was a life changing experience for them. Since then, Matthew shares to me how Zen has helped him deepen his Christian faith and how it has helped him cope with the challenges of life. (see this blog post: A Touch of Enlightenment: A Christian’s Encounter with Zen).

I really enjoyed listening to their animated conversation and as Matthew describes it, “It’s as if the conversation just stopped for a while and we took off from where we left off.”  I guess these are just the stuff that real friendships are made of.

This year, Matthew and I were quite busy.  We became godparents to the highly energetic and lovable  son of Alex and Robe Ann.  We were also able to attend the 50th Golden Anniversary of our godparents, Tito Peter and Tita Dory. It was so much fun to meet and catch up with many people we’ve not seen in a long time.

Also, this year, our endeared godparent Tito Tony passed away. We are saddened by the loss of one of the most generous persons that we have ever known. Thank you, Tito Tony for everything.

Of course, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its eighth year, we have grown to have 319 followers and have reached a whooping 404,265+ hits! We are happy because people are  visiting our blog, liking our posts and our cyber community continues to grow.

May the blessings of Christmas be with you. May the Christ Child light your way. May God’s holy angels guide you, and keep you safe each day.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Matthew and Jojang

Written by MattAndJojang

December 1, 2016 at 9:40 pm