#277 The Impossible task June 29th 19

   The impossible task

How often you are doing nothing or feel like it?

The answer is simple: almost never because, as far the go is concerned, doing nothing will be unacceptable, detrimental to our  social and self image. Our ego believes that we are important and indispensible then, “Doing nothing” is impossible, sort of personal and social failure. We base our identification with what we are doing, what we are thinking.

Look at your average day: From the time we wake up to the time we fall asleep we are running around like a hamster in its wheel. We have to achieve whatever.

Even when we have a rare free moment we are rushing to do something, somewhere : surfing the net, texting, emailing, reading a book, cooking, gardening, shopping, travelling, going to the movie, watching TV, etc.

We are “alcoholic doers” and if we do not do something we feel like being on standstill, frozen in a huge vacuum, sort of emptiness, usefulness or failure.

“I am, therefore I must do x ,y,  z, non stop in total automatic behavior.”  Zen calls that: “ Day sleep walking”

Our body and mind are restless and busy non-stop, wandering continuously: thoughts, worries, anger, planning, expectations, god and bad memories, analysis, judgment, etc.

We are complaining that we don’t have time but we automatically accumulate or create things to do all day long making the time shrinking.

Not only we are busy at doing one thing but, more and more, we must be “multi-taskers”.

We have to do zillion of things at the same time because we believe that we do not have enough time before the end of the day.

This is a vicious circle: More stuff to do = less time to do = less stuff done=more stress and anxiety.

Why are we resisting so much  against “doing nothing”?

To keep ourselves busy, to feel busy or to project being busy is part our ego self-image and socio-professional profile.

      We don’t want to be perceived by others and ourselves of perceiving being useless, inactive, lazy or failing. We want to be and to look productive. Doing nothing is simply not acceptable and ill perceived by self and by the society. Beside, we don’t want to be bored.

We don’t have the mental skills nor the courage for doing nothing because doing nothing goes against our ego  which perceives “doing nothing” as “I am not existing, I am lazy, I am useless”

Subconsciously we feel guilty of doing nothing with the fear of boredom.

Doing nothing is in fact doing something that is perceived by our ego-mind as meaningless, empty, useless and a waste of time.

The feeling of “doing nothing” is just an ego-generated perception, a pure reaction of a defense mechanism. This perception is crazy and detrimental for our emotional balance because of its negative image

What  “doing nothing” really means?

Doing nothing does not mean anything and should not carry any negative meaning. This is a mindset.

Doing noting is a weird concept, a contradiction of terms since doing nothing is, in fact, doing something called “nothing” whatever its means in your mind.

So, “doing nothing” is a delusive perception created by an ego-driven mind. It does not exist.

“I am,  therefore I do or should do this and that non stop.” 

Also, what you perceive as “nothing” can be “something” for someone else.

Doing nothing and doing something are identical, only the way our ego perceives and understands the words create this artificial difference.

It is up to us to choose the proper meaning.

Maybe doing nothing is doing something outside our mandatory daily duties and outside the routine, without any specific purposes, goals or achievements.  Does just breathing is doing nothing?

Does sitting still during meditation is doing nothing? Our ego wants to do “something, to be active and for many, sitting still is doing nothing. On the contrary, sitting still and focusing on breathing is doing a lot.

Next time if some is asking you “ How are you doing?” , reply “I am doing nothing”.

You will trigger surprise and concerns since you are supposing to be busy.

#275: The HIDDEN SOURCE of SUFFERING June 23th 19

  Hidden source of suffering

The Sanskrit word “Dukkha” was poorly translated as “suffering”. “Dukkha” encompasses any negativity coming from life (I call it external negativity) and from our body-mind, that I call internal negativity)

A small proportion of negativity is external such as accidents, disaster, lose of a loved one, separation, being fired, illness, etc; but, by far, most of our negativity is internal or self-induced thinking.

Self induced suffering is generated by the so-called 3 roots: “I want” (this is desire) – “I don’t want” (this is hatred) – and “I believe” (so called ignorance or not knowing genuine reality).

Desires, hatred and beliefs come from our incessant thinking made of education judgments, expectation about us, others, events and life in general.

      Positive feelings, for example pleasure and joy are not very frequent and don’t not linger too long.

On the contrary, negative feelings such anger, worries, nostalgia are more frequent and last longer.

 Probably based on 3.4 billion years of evolution, our brain-mind is magnetizing more to the negative stuff such as danger, and because the job of our ego is fight against it and to protect us.  

        Therefore, as we struggle with our ongoing emotional roller coaster, we progressively develop mental habits to feed our pain and be trapped with it.

Negative thinking is our default mode and was already discussed by the Buddha 2,500 years ago. Nothing new under the sky.

So, what can we do?

As far “external negativity” Zen says: “ Things are what they are and not what we want them to be”.

It does not mean to give up on everything.

Frustration, anger against external suffering ? Maybe but they do not help, instead they do the opposite.

Accept, adapt and let go because external events, as oppose to the internal ones are transients.

Regarding the internal suffering, what we can do, first, is to be mindful to our mind-made inner noise by paying attention, in a nonanalytic way, to each positive and negative emotion (desire & hatred), our illusion, beliefs, expectation and judgment.  

       Judging more consciously and less automatically is important. Judge only when required and don’t use it as part of a social small talk.

      Anger, guilt, fear, pride, blame and shame are very powerful instruments of our ego. They, also, need to be observed then accepted otherwise we become slaves of them.

      Creating a quieter mind-space starts with taking contact with genuine reality. For example, by focusing on the inputs of our 5 senses or on few breaths.

When you bring your attention to your breath, you become present and aware. As you notice your breath, also try to remember what is good in you and your thoughts are just thoughts and not reality.

Self-compassion and self-forgiveness are totally alien in our Western culture.

Remember that we do not control too much around us, therefore there is nothing too much we can do about external sources of suffering: not on their timing, intensity and duration. Just accept them the best you can and be mindful to their transient traits. They never last forever unless you are stuck with them.

As far our internal hidden sources, by accepting them rather than resisting or fighting will cool down our emotional energy, helping your rational prefrontal mind against our reptilian centre.

It will greatly help  in dealing  with our internal pains in a more constructive way rather been prisoner of them.

Thanks, you    Zen: an oasis of serenity inside a restless mind

#274 WALKING: a detoxing step against burnout Sun. June 9th 19

                       Walking:  a detoxing step against burnout

“Have a walk” is a good advice to someone who needs to cool down somewhat.

Burnout has become the # 1buzzword over the last 10 years. Modern life doesn’t seem to be relaxing us or even care. Media are increasingly talking about anxiety, anger, fatigue, depression, etc. Self-help books, relaxation apps and wellness gurus are widely available to many and yet emotions such as anxiety, anger, burnout,depression, nostalgia are the #1 causes of medical consultation in our Western civilization.

Some of our daily struggles include Internet overload, feeling of loneliness despite social media, competitive working world, lack of time and multi tasking and so on.

In our frantic pace and time contraction we are unable to keep our focus more than few min. on one single target. The reason? Our mind is in constant boiling state.

Ask yourself this bizarre question: “ How often do I think that I am walking?”  Of course Never.

Walking is a basic reflex starting between 9 and 12 months old.

Subconsciously we average 7,000 steps/day.

That is around 180,000 Km during a 80 years lifespan. This is lot of steps to think about. And yet, when we put one foot in front of the other our mind is running around non-stop but certainly not on paying attention on our subconscious automatic walking.

Walking is used to move our body from A to B. It is a basic mechanical activity during which our mind is not walking but running non-stop about this and that.

For must of us, we never use walking as a tool to quiet our mind.

Greek and Roman philosophers wrote about the benefits of walking. There is a Latin sentence saying

“It is solved by walking,” and, by “it” I mean almost anything.

 For zillions of years back, walking is one of the keys to health, well-being, and creativity. Not only its physical part is important even if the number of calories burned is minimal, but its mental and emotional impacts one are also critical.

 Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest, “A turn or two I’ll walk, to still my beating mind”

How to walk in a mindful way?

Not easy but you don’t need to be a genius to walk in a mindful way if you are looking to achieve a quieter mind. In fact, the only tool we need is to pay attention to your our steps. Here are the recipes:

Slow down the pace, keep a straight back, breath normally and focus on each step one by one by feeling the ground. Looking few meters away but don’t be distracted by what you see.

Do this for few min during which your cell phone is off. (An impossibility for many already addicted to it)

Over time, we will be able to repeat this “moving mindfulness meditation” exercise every time we walk. 

Like its sitting meditation sister, walking meditation is also a practical act with spiritual ramifications. 

In Walking Meditation the great Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh explains that walking and paying attention to our steps are acts of enlightenment. He points out that by cultivating this habit of walking attentively, we can start to see the world around us more clearly.

In many retreat centres walking meditation is as important than the sitting one because more challenging.

Walking forces the mind to focus on each of our steps. Therefore, the mind has no options but to slowdown the flow of thoughts the same way that breathing does during sitting meditation.

Breathing and steps are powerful mind anchors. They are twins as far the effects.

We become more present to the moment and its surrounding reality.

In the long term it will ease anxiety, spark creativity, increase productivity, and detox us from digital overload (that is, if you don’t walk with your thumbs pressing frenetically the keyboard of your cell phone ).

#273 IT IS NOT WHAT WE THINK Sun. June 2 19

                                                 It’s Not What We Think   

One of the strangest mysteries of life is that people, events and things are, usually, not what we think they are.  Taking an analogy with a computer, each of our individual perception is triggered by zillion of gigabits  coming nonstop from the outside world. This is the data input.  

Then, we think and think and think and all of that thinking shapes our values, beliefs, decisions, behavior and life in general. That is information output.

Between the input and the output is our mind filtrating everything for the good and the bad.

This output is made of thoughts very often distorted from the inputs: reality is not what we think.

Our mind-made world is shaped and reshaped non-stop by our 5 senses, previous education, learning experience, judgment, beliefs, people and events.  

Many of of our and judgment and beliefs are important and help us survive others are useless and even dangerous. What we think is sometimes based on true external reality but , more often, it is coming from mind-made fictional world. Whatever our thoughts are true or false, right or wrong, useful or not,  all of them affect our behavior, how we see things and how we rethink again .

Our thoughts about people, events, things are our personal mental output on how we perceive our outside world.

Whether based on reality or pure fiction, wise or deluded, our thoughts carry, most the time, an emotional dimension that affects our lives 24/7 non-stop. This is why, genuine reality is not what we think.

If we spend our days thinking about things that make us nostalgic, angry, anxious, jealous , worried or craving, we will live in an nostalgic, angry, anxious ,worried lives and craving for this and that.

If we spend our time thinking about sadness, we have sad lives. If we spend our time thinking about how grateful we are, we have lives marked by gratitude.  If we spend our lives thinking about harmony, we learn to live in harmony. If you learn to be compassionate with self, you will learn to be compassionate with others…and so on.

To live in harmony with our world, we have to be, first, in harmony with ourselves that is our body and our mind.

It means to accept not only our physical self as it is but also our emotional self-made of positive and negative feelings such as desires, hatred, sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, illusions.

These emotional weather will always be there not only because we are creating them but also because there are also created by our surrounding world such as injustice making us angry, tragedies to make us sad, dangers to bring us fear. However, there will always be love, compassion and understanding to hold us together.

Reminding ourselves all the time, that people, events and things are not always what we think they are or should be can help us to keep a more serene and quieter mind and how to interact with our surrounding world.

When we are at peace, we think better than when we are angry, when we are afraid or even, when we are super excited.

Even with an imperfect past and unknown future, you can find peace in the present. If you are suffering in the present moment, you pay attention to its impermanence or you can evoke compassion coming from us or from others and

Whenever you have an opportunity to consider compassion, practice compassion, or receive compassion, you are inviting peace and harmony into your life.

In a more peaceful present you gain better perspective and think better thoughts.

No matter how wonderful or dreadful your thoughts get, they are still transient immaterial entities.

Good or bad, what we think about x,y,z . are just thoughts. Even coming from your mind, that are not necessary truth and reality. The world is what it is and not what we think it is or want it to be.

Thank you.