#288 My experience with Oakville Zen by Cathy 28/Sept 19


In the autumn of 2012, I took a MBSR course with a local psychiatrist, where I was taught meditation.

I started practicing diligently, as though my life depended on it…which in many ways, it did.

I followed the advice I was given very precisely, and nurtured this new practice with care and did not waste energy advertising meditation and its benefits , not even to my adult children.

After that course, I searched for almost 2 years for some support as meditating alone gets pretty lonesome at times.

As luck would have it, a friend mentioned   Arnaud’s classes.  Relieved, I immediately joined  Oakville Zen Meditation  in November 2014.

In those early days, Arnaud and Catherine very generously opened their home and their hearts to struggling souls, like myself, 5-6 times a week….even providing hot tea at the end of the sessions as per Zen tradition,.

There was always a short walking meditation between the 2 sittings, in the huge basement where the classes were held.

There were also silent mini retreats with breaks walking outdoors in the lush, peaceful garden that Catherine and Arnaud tended so lovingly.,through all these times, the energy in the group was palpable.

In the past 5 years, many newbies, have come and gone…..artists, musicians, people covered in tattoos, and other body decorations….want to be meditators come from all walks of life, after all.

As members of Oakville Zen we certainly have had our share of “Full Catastrophe Living”, as Jon Kabat Zinn , the founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center calls it:

Illnesses of every description including cancer, heart attacks, bypass surgery, depression , anxiety

Change of employment

Loss of home

A wedding

3 years ago, the first Zen baby – Enzo

Death of elderly parents

Death of a brother, too young

And marriage break-ups..

Loss of much loved pets

Last December, Lorna,

 one of the oldest members of our group died from ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease,  after much intense suffering.     Full Catastrophe Living indeed!

Why do I keep coming back?


Maybe because, I, like everyone on earth, have a basic emotional need to belong to a group, a class, a club, ……a desire to be an important part of something greater than myself.

Maybe because Arnaud helped me in my darkest struggles during my family’s health crisis.

Maybe because group meditation is SO SO very powerful!

Maybe because I need to learn

-more optimism

-more gratitude

-more perspective taking

-more kindness for myself and others

Why do I meditate?

The real reasons I meditate is that life is hard, and I need tools to help me navigate what life throws my way…

everything is impermanent, so I need to remind myself that when things are bad, it will not last, when things are good, that, too, will not last.

I meditate to remind myself that the ordinary is really EXTRA ORDINARY, and that it can be taken from me in an instant.

I meditate so I can sometimes catch myself, when I mindlessly criticize a family member and see hurt feelings cross his or her face.

I meditate to improve my relationships—with myself and my loved ones.

In conclusion, meditation is an ongoing practice that I choose to stay committed to and use to gain some serenity ,some clarity and some , peace of mind in this everchanging world.

#287 Eat, Pray, Love…..Meditate by Roque Sept 22 -19

                                                Eat, Pray, Love …….. Meditate?

Every major religion in the world includes a ritual of prayer. A resolute way of communication with the Divine, Supreme being or God. Whatever the religious flavor and structure, these conversations take the form of praise for the Divine, often giving thanks and followed by some sort of plea for a desired outcome. These rituals of prayer are typically held in public places, community gatherings, but often are a private way of contacting the divine on one’s own terms.

But the essence of these interactions is to engage the practitioner in an intimate mental telepathic link with God. Prayers seem to be the official conduit to be heard by the Devine and perhaps to ask for help from God. Prayer seems vital to be on God’s good side.  Many of these rituals take the form of a set of repeating verses, either from the Koran, the Torah, the Bible, or some other text with roots or association with the Divine.

Now, …. what do these chants or mantras have to do with meditation? Buddhists recite the name of Buddha, Hindus worship as an act of religious devotion – usually directed to one or more Hindu deities. Muslims praise Allah in their five daily prayers, Jews want to build a relationship with God by praying three times daily. Christian prayers are much more broad, they all involve Jesus as the intermediary, and they move onto a progressively more structured form in terms of meditation, reaching multiple layers of contemplation or intercession.

The main point being that all these prayers, mantras or chants involve a complete submission of the daily thought to a focused awareness of the moment. A special trance-like state where the “monkey” mind surrenders to a channeled meditation of which the Divine is the main focus.

 Although not specifically meant to tame the mind and force the practitioner into an appreciation of the moment, it is still an attempt at letting go of the busy thoughts of the day and a focused inward look or connection with the spiritual.

In fact, these rituals appear very similar in nature and intention to Zen meditation. The repeating of verses, chanting of mantras, praying to the rosary, reciting of passages from the Torah or Koran can be thought to have the same purpose and a similar goal. In the end, the purpose of these rituals is to guide the practitioner to a better life, one that eventually leads to strikingly similar spiritual goals: a life of love, without pain and suffering …… Nirvana, Heaven, Paradise, the Kingdom of God.

The paths are very different ……. but are these ways so different after all????

#286 Few tricks to tame our ego Sept. 15 19

          Few motherhood tricks to tame our ego

Ego is critical to survive but it should not be also the main cause of our emotional roller coaster.

Our ego takes everything personally whether the causes are right or wrong.

Like an iceberg, our ego is submerged deep into our preconscious mind but its power is such that our day-to-day mental & physical behavior is almost totally under its control.

Like a coin, the ego has 2 sides. The good and bad sides are entangled and, like a coin,  one cannot exist w/o the other one.

To enumerate all beneficial values of our good ego is not the purpose of this talk.

However being over protective and a relentless fighter, our ego is also our worse enemy.

How to overcome our “bad ego”? We cannot because, like for the coin, it is impossible to remove one side w/o removing the other one.

Here are few motherhood tricks to tame the hidden face of our ego.

Ask yourself the following questions:

      “Is it my ego thinking or doing this and why?  

       Are x, y, z objective reality or ego-made fiction?

    I maybe useful but Am I indispensable?

Practice letting go from acceptance & forgiveness

“Forgiveness and letting go are the attributes of the strong.” said Mahatma Gandhi

Let go the following:

1) Trying to control things we cannot, 2) Believing that we are always right. 3) Having a mind set and judgments for everything, 4) Having more and more of this and that, 5) Identifying ourselves with your achievements, 6) Accepting that events, people and things  are what they are and not what you want them to be.

The most powerful tool to learn to let go is to practice acceptance and forgiveness.

We have to learn to forgive the people who hurt us and most importantly we have to learn to forgive ourselves too. Without the later, the former is impossible

Do not resist, fight and suppress your emotions.

Battling them make our fighting ego happier…but makes you worse. Counter intuitive

Learn to say no to the things that don’t add value in your life.

 “Too many people spend money they don’t have, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.”

Surrender your need for ongoing ego-based self-identification.

We are not our jobs, our material possessions, our achievements, our thoughts/emotions.

Once you let your ego controlling your identification you you will never be serene because as soon as you lose one of the things that you identify with, the rest will fall like dominos and you will lose your happiness. Beside, you will look to more stuff to have and to control.

Consider a selfless act such as giving without the expectation to receive.

Practice empathy & gratitude.

“It’s not happy people who are thankful; it’s thankful people who are happy.”

Grateful people feel more empathy and compassion and feel more alive than those who don’t.


Learning to let go of your negative ego is very easy in theory, however can be very difficult to execute in the moment. When I am facing negative events I always tune to my thoughts to check if my ego is online. If so, click on pause. Nothing to lose here, but a whole to win.”

Thank you

#285: TRIGGERS of our EMOTIONAL PAIN Sept 8 19

                                                         The triggers of our emotional pain                                                                               A Zen perspective

In a non-specific order, here is a very short list of our painful triggers.

The most powerful are stress, regrets, anger, guilt, grieving, shame, anxiety (fear, worries), sadness, desire, (craving), hatred, hopelessness, illusion and chronic fatigue.

Maybe less dramatic are: frustration, loneliness, boredom, impatience and jealousy. …And so on.

How often do we feel them on regular basis? 

Probably all the time, at various degrees and frequency.

In fact, according to the Buddhist philosophy the 3 main causes of suffering are desire, hatred and ignorance better called illusion of Reality.

I call them triggers because they initiate our emotional turmoil but do not feed it.

They are not the ones which fuel and enhance the duration and severity of this pain.

” The trigger does not kill, only the person pulling it does” says the N.R.A. This very smart quote can also be applied to the genesis of our painful emotional roller coaster.

Most of our emotional triggers causing pain are external but for 100% of them the resulting pain is mind-made generated.

How we perceive and react to x, y, z, are the oil or the water that we pour on the fire.

How to deal when facing a trigger?

The goal is to control duration, intensity and frequency of these painful episodes since triggers will always be there that we like it or not until our physical death.

The common attitude is to resist and to fight against our struggles in order to overcome, fix or eliminate them.

Our reflex behavior is automatic because generated by our pre-conscious ego which always lays the role of a fighter and defender.

The energy that we are generating to resist and fight against our struggles can be phenomenal and only adds more fuel to our suffering, making life more miserable.

Is it possible to transform this suffering into healing?

Mindfulness is paying attention / being aware to our experience moment to moment, w/o analysis, w/o judgment and w/o decision making. It offers an effective antidote to suffering.

By focusing in a mindful way on your current struggle and its origin you will learn, progressively, to accept it rather than to resist against it.

By doing so, we create habituation and tolerance rather than ongoing battle and misery.

It is important to stress the fact that acceptance of suffering does not mean to surrender or to be weak.  It does not mean either to be masochistic. The point is not to enjoy pain but to control it.

Control of any negative event cannot be achieved w/o acceptance unless one can fix immediately and efficiently the trigger……which is very rare.

Accepting is saying: “ Okay I am angry.” No question, no fight just acceptance and self-compassion.


It is OK to fight for something which is legitimate and that you may win but fighting continuously against our negative feelings is totally counter productive and, in fact, pretty detrimental.

 It is like “squeezing a burning coal sitting in your hand” as the Buddha used to repeat.

These is also this  advice given by our little dog:

 “ Dad, you will never control your tail while spinning after it. Do the same with your emotions.”

Thanks you

#284 Sky gazing: a wonderful meditation practice Sept 1 19

   Meditation: sky gazing

There is a Tibetan meditation practice called Sky Gazing that the Dalai Lama is practicing daily regardless of the weather.

It is considered as one of the highest forms of mindfulness meditation because it is helping us to discover our state of pure consciousness or awareness liberated from our conceptual, judgmental thinking, emotional turmoil and the illusion of being just a material entity.

Research done in psychology has also shown that when we are using our 5 senses in communicating with nature, we improve our serenity by reducing stress, removing conceptual thinking and making us more aware of our interconnectedness with everything in the universe.

For example, being one with a clear blue sky, even for few seconds or minutes is the closest experience of what is this natural state of pure awareness or non analytical consciousness looks like.

How to do it?

Sky gazing can be done during the day or night, when the sky is blue or even over casted.

Practice only for few minutes.

Assume a comfortable meditative posture outside either sitting or lying down.

Look outward at the sky w/o staring specifically at something.

Observe it as it is w/o any analytic thinking, w/o judgment, w/o decision. Just let go thoughts and feelings.

To rest your eyes, close them once a while and visualize what you are watching. The effect is the same.

What will be your experience?

You will discover the stillness, quietness, emptiness, limitless and everlasting of the sky.

You will experience the interconnection between the sky as proxy of the universe and you.

This “spiritual experience” will unlock the door in the discovery of your True Self because both – universe and you – are identical forming a single entity.

No more boundaries. No more conceptual mind. Your material self is fading away at least temporally.

How can it be?

 As Zen said, you realize that your mind-body is part of the universe and the universe is part of your

mind-body. You are not anymore a perceived transient material self-entity, unique, independent and separate.

Some technical points.

Blue sky during the day and sky full of stars at night are obviously the optimal scrivener but….

…even when the sky is cloudy or even over casted, sky gazing will always be beneficial despite being more challenging.

Clouds are also to good metaphor. They move and change shape all the time. 

Everything is transient.

Thank you