#291 RELEASING BODY TENSION: the mind-body connection Oct.27th 19

                       Releasing body tension: the mind-body connection

The following talk assumes that no medical condition exists.

Mindfulness meditation is a great exercise to quieter and relax our restless mind.

Mindfulness can also be used in reverse to relax our body.

Why? Because in Zen Buddhist philosophy body and mind is one entity tightly connected.

This is why our body is a great proxy of our mind and vice versa. We should learn to apply this connection.

   When our body is under tension our mind is restless. Relaxing your body will calm your mind.

   In reverse, a restless mind will induce tension in your body. Calming the mind will relax our body.

When you practice awareness of your body in a mindful way, you will notice, quite often, there is some tension, pain or other symptoms somewhere. The most frequent locations of tension are headache, neck, shoulder, chest, back pain. Also you may notice rapid heart rate, superficial breathing.

Our gastro-intestinal tract is frequently affected such as poor digestion, stomach butterflies, bloating, increased appetite especially sweets, abnormal transit, etc.

These symptoms are the physical consequences of a non-physical restless mind struggling with anxiety or many other negative feelings at its preconscious level …….again, .as long as no medical conditions exist.

Therefore it is important to learn to relax the body during any circumstances and in any positions.

It will help to quieter your restless mind at the same time.

We don’t enjoy driving in the traffic because you want to arrive quicker and you may notice tension in your body. When the light is red you are eager for the green one. Waiting on line, being in stressful situations, doing things we don’t like or not doing things you want to do, a negative feeling, all of them may or will increase mind-body tension at 2 levels.

The practice:

Learning to be sensitive to your body  in a mindful way, will also help you to read your mind since our body is just the tip of the iceberg .

Relaxing the body can be done anytime at home, at work, lying down, sitting or standing up.

For example: if you feel tension in your neck w/o obvious reason, try to dig in your emotional brain to see what is going on.

First you have to localize the tension using body scanning.

This is total body scanning which will be described shortly.

Then, relaxing this tension can be achieve simply by few and slow deep breathing during 1 to 2min.

The exhale should be a bit longer than the inhale. This is in-and-out in full concentration.

It has been show that this simple exercise drops the blood pressure somewhat, reduce the heart rate respiratory rate, and lower cortisol our main stress hormone. At the same time the mind is also relaxing.

Body scanning is an excellent practice in helping us to assess both body and mental tension.

It should be done in a systematic way, from toes to head and from the superficial to the inside.

The best way is lying down and takes few deep breaths before starting the step-by-step scanning.

A complete body scanning may takes several min. for novices

With experience, 2 to 3 min. will do the trick.

Finally, if these symptoms persist, consulting may be considered.

Thank you

#290 DETACHMENT: A ZEN PERSPECTIVE by Kris Oct 20th 19

DETACHMENT: A ZEN PERSPECTIVE by Kris

Buddha soon after Enlightenment stated three noble truths. Among them are:

  • Everything in this world is transient and changing;
  • Attachment to worldly things brings only suffering.

Why the suffering? Because we all get attached to things we love and when we lose them, that causes suffering. Hence over 2000 years ago, it was stated, “be in this world but not of this world.”

Thus we need to develop detachment. But does detachment not mean we will be cold and heartless?

On the contrary, as inner peace develops, one develops more compassion,  focus and awareness of what is important and shed what is not. This is the greatest difficulty we all have to discern what is really important in life.

So how do we develop this detachment?

We have all done it. When we were kids, we were all very attached to our favorite toys. But as we grew up, we dropped these toys. If these toys were offered today,  as an adult we would have no interest.

Similarly, as we develop wisdom on the nature of this changing impermanent world, we slowly shed these worldly toys as we grow spiritually. However this needs regular practice.

Several paths are suggested by great spiritual Masters. To summarize their message it is:

  • Practice
  •  From practice comes detachment

What is this practice?  It is a combination of things.

First is the removal of Ignorance. Because we are all ignorant of our true nature, we all run after worldly things for our happiness. However, our true nature according these Masters, is that we are peaceful, balanced and the vicissitudes of life do not impact us.

So to remove the first stage of ignorance, we need to read and hear spiritual messages. However, you may hear this message many times but it may not stay or take root in you. This is because our mind is already filled with selfish worldly things.  This is akin to filling a bottle with fine wine when it is already full of brine. So to “empty” our nature of this negative tendency/brine, volunteering and doing selfless work is suggested.

In parallel, we are to regularly practice meditation. Why? Because our mind is scattered with worldly things and meditation brings focus and balance to our emotions.

As we regularly practice our meditation and our spiritual knowledge, we evolve upwards and give up our worldly toys. This is akin to walking up the stairs where we give up the lower rungs.

Thus to summarize, it is regular practice of meditation, doing selfless actions and studying/hearing spiritual subjects that brings spiritual detachment and inner peace ensues.

#289 LEARNING TO “LOVE” YOURSELF . Oct 5th 19

                      Learning to love yourself

This is an alien advice not learned in our Western education.

I am not saying to become narcissist and super self-centered.

The word “love” in Zen Buddhist literature means all together tolerance, acceptance, forgiveness, self-compassion and kindness of what you are or, better said, how you are perceiving yourself.

We are at the opposite of what  our Western education is teaching us :

“ Always be super critical to yourself in order to be perfect and be the best”.

This is why the majority of Westerners have a poor self-image, blaming themselves for all kind of things, creating emotional and behavioral dysfunctions such as anxiety, depression and being difficult with others.

This practice of tolerance and self-compassion does not mean either to be complaisant with self since there are always opportunities to for improvement in all components that define us such as:

Personality, physical, mental, emotional and societal skills,
Our perceived our self-image goes from the good, the bad and the ugly even if we don’t notice it immediately because our self-image is deeply hidden in our subconscious.

Mindfulness skills will give us the capacity to bring it up and to embrace all our attributes and behavior with acute awareness in order to bring self-compassion.

In other words learning to be friendly with yourself as you are with your best friends.

What to do? 4 things to consider:

1) Start the day by wishing yourself well and good luck as “ Good morning Anna or John; Have a great day”. like you do to others all the time.

Do it mentally if you are in front of others, otherwise they will look at you as a coo coo.

If, at the beginning, it feels strange to send blessings to yourself, thing of those who love you dearly and imagine that they are sending their best wishes to you.

2) Pay attention how you talk to yourself. When you notice that you are judging, blaming or reprimand yourself, take few deep in and out breathing and realize that you are, by blaming yourself, enforcing your negative self-image.

3) Once a while during the day  talk to yourself as you would to a good friend such as encouragement.

You may say: “It’s OK, I am what I am, accept it” when negative traits are popping out.

4) Set the intention to treat yourself with acceptance, forgiveness, compassion and kindness especially when you go wrong or feel bad. Punishing, blaming for flaws/failures/mistakes and over criticizing yourself will never help you in finding corrections. On the contrary since these negative emotions on the top of others will block any attempt for improvement and will impede your social relationship.

Remember that:

– Acceptance, tolerance and self-compassion do not mean self-complacency or being egocentric.  –

Looking to be and do better should also be in our mind but controlling your self-negativity thru, first, acceptance is a must before looking for solutions.

– Finally, acceptance, forgiveness, compassion, tolerance and kindness to others can never be achieved   w/o applying them first to yourself . This is key in Zen Buddhist teaching.