#271 The GREATEST ILLUSIONIST is our MIND 26 May 19

                                   The Greatest illusionist is …our mind

Great illusionists are very skillful to mislead or falsely persuade us that what they are doing is real.

Remember Uri Geller bending spoons few meters away or someone cutting a person in half while in a coffin. These shows are very entertaining but we know they are just wonderful illusions performed by masters so we do not believe in them.

Yet, the greatest illusionist of all time is the human mind. The difference between human magicians and our mind is that we believe what our mind is telling us because we are producing the show. We are at the same time the producer, the object and the spectator. A recipe for potential suffering.    

Of course thinking is critical in our day-to-day life but most of the time, our thoughts, opinions, judgments and our addictions to be in past/future are just ongoing inner audiovisual illusions. Those thoughts are too often self-centered, useless and trapping us in a virtual prison.

Remember that around 100,000 immaterial thoughts are produced every day. How many are real or fiction?

Learning to be aware of our thoughts / emotions and to assess whether or not they are real, useful or illusions is a critical step towards our serenity. There is no other way.

What is fooling us all the time? The outside world or our inside mind-created world?

This is an important question to ask yourself all the time. If you find the answer and deal with it, how you see your life  will change for the better and forever.

Here is a short list, in a non-specific order, of 8 mind-generated illusions/delusions that Zen Buddhism has identified over the last 2500 years. Each illusion listed below can be a great mindfulness-based focusing point during your meditation practice.

1) Because they are coming from our mind, we trust our thoughts. They exist but they are not real and not necessary truthful. Most of them are just ego-centered wishful thinking or acquired values, opinions and judgments. Don’t believe in all your thoughts. Observe them before trusting them.

2) Our mind loves to travel nonstop, wandering back and forth in the future or in the past, doing something else instead of being in the present moment where our body is. It happens mostly when we are on routine and automatic behavior. The mind loves excitement not routine, repetitive  or boring stuff of the moment .

We exist only in the present moment. ”Past-you and future-you” are pure illusion, sort of mind-made holograms since we cannot exist in two different space-times. These space-times dissociations between the “present-you and the past or future you” are a great source of nostalgia, guilt, anxiety, worries and other negative feelings.

3) Mostly subconsciously, we believe and expect that things, situations and living beings will remain permanent because, based on our 200,000 years evaluative experience, we resist against change and love our comfort zones. Good and bad stuff are transient and life cannot exist w/o impermanence.

4) We believe that we are a permanent, independent, unique, separate self-entity with a self-intrinsic life.

Indeed, we are physically, mentally & emotionally unique only at our DNA level. In fact all living beings are interconnected and interdependent to each other’s. We cannot survive w/o trees, water, sun and so on.

5) We have this illusion that we are in control of our life. Think twice: do we control our family members, boss, health, weather, relationship, the content of next week, traffic, etc.?

6) We have this illusion that happiness comes from outside and accumulation of goods will do the trick.

Our list of needs can be endless and therefore happiness from outside will never be achieved.

Commercials are brainwashing us with “the more the better”. This is mega illusion.

7) Very often we have this illusion that “Life is not fair”. Is life a living being? Does it care about us?

8) Subconsciously, we are perceiving and judging people (and events) mostly thru an emotional process w/o being in their shoes. Is it reality or illusion?

All of the above are mind-generated and, too often,  source of delusions. As long we are aware of their origin we should be able to differentiate genuine  thoughts from fictional ones and meditation can be of great help. The human mind is a fantastic instrument but also our worse deceiver. Don’t be attached too much to this magnificent illusionist.

#270 ONLY ONGOING CHANGE is PERMANENT 19 May 19

Only ongoing change is permanent. Part 1

We like comfort and stability but resist and even fear the ongoing changes. It is probably liked to our 200,000 years evolution where search for stability is a default mode.

The last words of the Buddha before dying from mushroom poison were:

“Everything is transient. Understand, accept and behave accordingly to this fundamental reality of life”

Impermanence means that everything changes and nothing remains the same in any consecutive moment even if we have the strong perception that nothing changes too much day by day.

The practice and understanding of impermanence is not just another description of absolute reality, it is a practical tool helping us in our adaptation, transformation, acceptance of this and that . It will help in healing and, eventually achieving serenity.

Impermanence makes everything, including life, possible.

We are often sad and suffer a lot when good and positive things change, but change and impermanence have a positive side. Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible. Bad moments don’t last and Life itself is possible.

If a grain of corn is not impermanent, it can never be transformed into corn.

If our kids are not impermanent, they cannot grow up to become adults.

So instead of resisting and complaining about impermanence, we should accept it as a fact of life  and behave accordingly.

When we can see the miracle of impermanence our sadness and suffering about disasters, losses, anger, fear, nostalgia, jealousy will pass.

Impermanence should also be understood in the light of  our interconnection and interdependence between living beings.

Because all living beings are interconnected and interdependent, they are constantly influencing each other. It is said a butterfly’s wings flapping on one side of the planet can affect the weather on the other side.

Nothing stays the same because everything is influenced by zillion of independent and unrelated factors totally out of our control.

Practicing Impermanence

All of us can understand impermanence with our intellect, but this is not yet true understanding, just a cognitive stage. Our intellect alone will not lead us to acceptance, freedom or enlightenment.  

When we look deeply and see the nature of impermanence everywhere, we can then be concentrated on its deep meaning and meditation on impermanence will help greatly.

This is how our insight of impermanence becomes part of our being and our daily experience.

Continually, we have to maintain our insight of impermanence in order to accept life, people and events as they are and and not as we want them to be. No resistance, no fight, no frustration.Life becomes more manageable and solutions to problems must be considered eventually.

Using impermanence as a focusing object of our meditation, we will become familiar with it and it will be inside us every day.

With this practice, impermanence becomes a key part of our life and we discover that it is an integral part of fundamental reality.

Most of the time we behave –subconsciously- as if people, events, feelings will stay as they are now. The list is infinite: kids, relationship, job, health, house, goods, environment, peace, Earth and so on will remained as they are. This list also includes our positive and negative feelings. Love, anger, fear, worries, nostalgia, hatred, beliefs, etc..all change all the time.

Our mind activity is changing non-stop 24/7  with around 90 to 100 thousands thoughts/day.

Therefore we do not value 100% each moment because we have this illusion of permanency.

Knowing that impermanence is permanent or everything is transient is helping us to appreciate good things, events and people right now.

You may ask: what about bad moments and negative emotions? Despite being painful, should we accept them too? Of course yes, but focusing on their transient features will help you to accept them and be patient rather than being mad or sad.

Nothing can escape from being transient: from the sub-particles in quantum physic to clouds, weather, and health good and bad stuff, the universe, you and me. Again, impermanence is a very good reality to focus on while meditating.

At this very moment, this talk is finished that is transient and all of us are already different entities from few min. ago at the beginning of the talk.

Thank you all. Sunim

#269 Meditation: material & immaterial focus points May 4 – 19

                 Meditation on material & immaterial focus points

The opposite of meditation is mental distraction since, apart from few moments of concentration

during the day, we are distracted by around 90,000 thoughts on a daily basis. In other words,we are not just talking to ourselves all the time but we are also our own  faithful listeners. Very weird.

Focus points during meditation, also called anchors, can be either material or immaterial.

Material & immaterial anchors are infinite. We use them one at a time to slow down our train of thoughts.

Meditation using a material focus point or anchor.

Material anchors can be- breathing-candle-mantra-sound- doors, trees, blue sky, a brook, etc.

As we begin mindfulness meditation practice, the discipline is to bring our relentless mind to slow down by enhancing its awareness on an material object usually breathing. By doing so, we expect our mind to stay there. If we become distracted, which is always the case, we simply force our mind to go back to the focus target. Give our monkey mind the job of remaining focused, in a mindful way, on the subject and stopping jumping around endlessly is the prime goal of meditation. By doing so, we experience, consciously the reality of the moment, the only existing time and the only moment when and where we are alive. No matter what and how our mind is jumping around, we can always return its attention to the material object of the meditation. This is anchoring. As said, our breath is the #1 focusing point and material object for meditation because it is here all the time, because breathing is the only vital function of our body that we can control consciously and because breathing out produces a powerful calming effect.

Other material focus points can be anything. Using one of our 5 senses is the only way to go.

Sight for colors, hearing for music/sounds/noises, tasting, touching, smelling.Whatever the material anchor used, it is critical to pay attention in a mindful way. I will come back  at the end to this important skill.

Meditation  using  an immaterial focus point or anchor:

Anchoring our mind on thoughts and feelings is far more challenging that using  material anchor.

The main reasons are: 1) the object is virtual and 2) because it is very difficult to remain a non-analytic and non-emotional while focusing, in a mindful way, on a nostalgic event, a mistake of the past, or a worry of the future.

It is even more challenging to focus on a specific feeling w/o looking for the “why-what-when-how and why”! . For example, meditating on anger, fear, grief, anxiety, jealousy, desires, hatred, death w/o becoming ……emotional is very tricky but feasible with practice. In fact, mindfulness is a wonderful mental tool to learn to accept these feelings rather than ignoring, resisting or fighting against.

Mindfulness-based acceptance of what we are emotionally stuck with is some sort of “mental desensitization” similar to the one used in medicine  against allergies.

Final words:

Computers can do only 1 task at once ,as well our mind/brain cannot compute 2 thoughts at the same time. In other words he cannot focus on x and wanders at the same time on something else usually in the past or future. This is the key of meditation-based mind control.

Whatever the focus point you are using during meditation the following 3 fundamentals purposes should be repeated over and over:

      Focusing i.e. paying attention to x or y or z impose to our mind to slow down that is to become glued to one thought that is the anchor rather than producing zillions of thoughts in many space-time.

     To focus in a mindful way, that is passively w/o a discriminating mind, w/o analysis, judgment and decision regarding the object. Example: “I am worry about this…..and that’s okay” . This is acceptance.

      To experience the concrete reality of the moment that is the only existing space-time and the only time where we are alive. Being aware of this fact is being enlightened.