Spiritual Distraction

There have been more than a few occasions where someone will have an issue and after consulting with a monastic or a minister, that person has prescribed to do a certain number of recitations and meditate for x times per day at whatever minutes per session.  After performing all those actions, the problem never seemed to go away in the first place, if not ferment into something worse.

I’ll give an example with fictional characters:

Mike has been out of work for over a year now.  He has been able to do some side jobs and some cash jobs to keep him afloat, but he knows that continuing to do that will not be sufficient in the long term.  He went to his nearest temple and talked to the resident monk about it and this is what he got:

Mike:  Sensei, I’ve been out of work for a while and I’m not sure where I can go.

Monk: How are you maintaining yourself?

Mike:  I have some side jobs that can barely make ends meet.

Monk:  I see, you should do some wealth-increasing recitations to help you along.

Mike:  I have.

Monk:  Oh! Then you probably have too much bad karma, you’ll need to repent all of that first.

Mike:  But I don’t have money to host repentance rituals.

Monk:  You do them at home, focus on repenting and nothing else, day in, day out, you’ll get good news sooner or later.  Trust me.

Mike: But…

Monk:  If you don’t get rid of that yucky karma you won’t be able to go anywhere.

Mike: Okay…

So the point is, some of these monastics don’t completely realize that not everything can be remedied with ritual alone.  I’m not arguing that it hasn’t worked in the past, but life has become much more complicated now and we all can’t wear a one-size fit all shirt.

During my chaplaincy program, I learned the hard way about not going that route, and later in the program, I completely understood why.  Let’s see what happens if Mike talked to another monk:

Mike:  Sensei, I’ve been out of work for a while and I’m not sure where I can go.

Monk: How are you maintaining yourself?

Mike:  I have some side jobs that can barely make ends meet.

Monk:  I see you’re trying real hard to keep yourself afloat during this transition period.

Mike:  Yes!  It’s stressful and I feel it’s getting in the way of my practice.

Monk:  Well, it’s still important that we have to take care of ourselves externally before working internally.  Could I suggest you maybe consult with an agency to maybe link you to some better-paying jobs?

Mike:  But I don’t have money to do that.

Monk:  I think you can do a little bit of research into that.  Most of them are free until you get hired I think.

Mike: Wow, I never knew that.

Monk:  I have faith you will find a job that will be of the best benefit to you.

Mike: But how about my practice?

Monk:  Well, of course, don’t lose faith and hope.  If you want to talk you can always come over, don’t be a stranger.

Mike:  Thanks Sensei.  I really appreciate it.

Monk:  Have lunch before you go?

Mike: Can I?

Monk:  Sure, it’ll take off one less worry, right?

Mike:  Thank you so much Sensei!

See?  Well, it may not be the most perfect form of spiritual care, but the second monk didn’t immediately impose the need to do ritual or address concerns too far away from the more pressing issue.  These are the kind of things I do on a daily basis, and it sort of gets me when I hear about too many encounters like Mike and the first monk.

What do you think?


Watercress Soup

img_2083One of my favorite soups next to lotus root soup, especially when I start seeing bunches of this stuff stacked up in the produce area, it’s something I can’t resist.  I made a pot a while back and wanted to share with you all since this vegetable is coming into season.

You can easily feed a family with this soup, but it’s also good to keep in the fridge for a while as long as you only heat what you need.  You will need some simple ingredients, but can be easily modified.

1 bunch of watercress, washed and drained.
1.5 to 2 cups of carrot, chopped into big chunks
1 cup of vege meat, I used a mix of vege lamb and a veggie soup meat since it already has oils and seasonings that I don’t need to add later.
1/2 gallon of water in a soup pot.
Pinch of salt to taste

You want to get the water boiling first before anything since that can take some time.  Once the water boils, the vege meat and carrots go in, let it boil again.  Add the watercress a little bit at a time so that the final product doesn’t clump together, or you can choose to chop up the watercress if you so prefer.

Let the whole thing boil again and turn to medium-low heat and let simmer for about an hour.  Season with salt to taste and it’s ready to serve.

An alternative would be to add a dried sugar date for taste (about the size of a quarter) and a tablespoon each of the Chinese Northern and Southern Almonds along with the carrots.  This product would need to cook longer, about 1.5 to 2 hours in order for all the flavors to come out.

A cooler alternative would be to make watercress tea, where you just boil watercress, a sugar date, and water, then strain, cool, bottle, and fridge.  It’s a great way to cool down when it really gets hot in the summer months.

This was a recipe I learned since I was a kid and I stood by it ever since.  Give it a try, and I’ll see you next post.