#324 Sensorial practice against distraction July 26 20

             Sensorial practice against distraction

Staying focused can be hard, especially in an age when there are tons of distractions around you such cell phone and emails being the main culprits.

Obliged to pay attention to something can be perceived being routine, dull or even boring.

 It can be challenging for our mind and body and both become restless.

These challenges are constant and everywhere such as at home, at work or even with friends.

When we become unfocused, boredom, impatience, frustration and feeling of wasting our time are taking over.

At this point our mind starts to wander because he hates boredom or we initiate multitasking.   

Slowly, distraction is taking over despite the fact that the initial focusing point should remain a priority.  Then, attention span is dropping and distractibility is rising.

Shorten attention span can be addictive and its incidence among all segments of the population is increasing thanks to IT.

Remember that our capitalistic economy is based on consumption and the best way to consume is to be distracted by commercials and going surfing for the next stuff that we don’t need.

How is it possible to improve your attention span and reduce distractibility?

To get better at focusing on duration and intensity, we should start by teaching our mind new tricks requiring its attention on targets that he is not used to focusing on.

Learning new stuff is exciting for everyone including our mind.

We are doing exactly that while practicing mindfulness meditation by focusing on breathing.

To pay attention on breathing is not something that the mind is doing because breathing is subconscious. Focusing on breathing is forcing our mind to do something that he is not familiar with.

I hope you have probably noticed improvement in your concentration skill since practicing meditation with Oakville Zen, even after just few months.

Practicing another focusing technique should be added to our formal mindfulness meditation.

I call it “sensorial practice”

We connect to the external world thru our 5 senses and sometime thru our extra sensorial perception.

The practice is the following:

Pick one of your 5 senses: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting.

For example :

If I am picking hearing, I am going to pay attention, in a mindful way, on one sound, noise, or even better silence around me. No analysis, no decision, just as they are. I will do that for a few seconds or better for a couple of minutes. I can repeat the same exercise several times during the day with the same sensorial input or picking another one such as:

   Seeing: pay attention to the colors, the sky, the ground.

   Tasting: pay attention to your food, the drink.

   Smelling to the odours around you.

   Touching: feeling the ground while walking, your skin by rubbing your hands or touching your face, etc..

Depending of your activities and time, you may vary sensorial practice in term of which sensor to use, how long and are often. A variant of sensorial practice is to learn body scanning that is feeling one part of your body which our mind never do consciously.

After your short sensorial practice, you go back to your initial task, more focused and relax.

Sensorial practice, like meditation is an excellent tools to

1) Improve our concentration that we need it for x, y, z, and  2) Reduce distractibility,3) Enhance relaxation.

Remember this:

Practice of mindfulness in its various modalities is always cumulative as far the results are concerned.

Thank you.

#323 Core desires July 19th

                         Core human drives

Humans differ from other animals in one very important respect: we are subjects to core desires which are infinite and will never be fully gratified. These preconscious and conscious core drives could keep us in a state of restlessness and other kind of negative physical and mental thirst.

I will not elaborate on the 4 core instinctive desires such as:

   To be healthy as long as possible for self, loved ones and closed friends.

   To have material security i.e. food, lodging and job.

   To search sentimental and social stability.

   To defend ourselves while facing danger.

   To be happy.  

The next 5 core desires are more subtle and more interesting:

    The drive to control.

     This is the most powerful one for most of us.

     By using wealth, intellectual, mental, emotional, political, religious tools, and others many more, many of us are trying, even subconsciously, to influence others including the loved ones.

    The drive to acquire.

    The desire to obtain or collect wealth, physical objects, as well as immaterial acquisitions

    like social-professional status, emotional relationships is also very frequent.

    The drive to compete for success.

    Thru rivalry, being competitive is a must in our modern society.

     It may create jealousy, aggressivity, and disappointment within the human rat race.

    Competition can be within our professional or sport environment but also simply socio-familial.

    The drive to “Look at me”

    I mean by that the drive to feel valued, lovable, recognized even admired physically and intellectually.

    At max, the search for active attachment and love from others becomes predominant. When this drive becomes obsessive it becomes pathological narcissism.

    The Drive to feel.

    It includes desires from sensory stimulus, intense mental, physical and emotional experiences.

    It is generated from work, entertainment, sport, sex, intoxicants, drugs, anticipation.

    All of them will induce pleasure, excitement, or the opposite such as dissatisfaction, resentment anger, and suffering. At max, addiction is around the corner from the overstimulation of our brain reward circuits.

So, …….as far Zen is concerned, the approach is always the same:

When one of these driving desires is taking place and it will, don’t resist, don’t fight.

  1. Be mindful of it that is paying a non-emotional non-cognitive attention w/o judgment and decision.

   2- Accept it as it is whatever good or bad.

   3- And, finally, let it go.

This is how serenity can be built, one step at a time.

Remember this:

Core desires are always there, hidden or disclosed because genetically encoded and shaped by our culture, education, and religion.

Learn to discover and meditate on them rather than be trapped in their nets.

Thank you all for listening.

#322 Is your head twisted backward? July 12th 20

Is your head twisted backward?   July 5 20

Our calendar year of 365 days & 24 hours was created by the Egyptians around 4200 BC.

Without a calendar planning will be impossible and life chaotic.

Zen Masters love to ask if their students if their head is twisted to make them conscious of their addiction to their past and its detrimental consequences.

Psychometric studies show that the #1 activity of an adult mind is to be in a space-time called the past. It is our mental default mode.

The second most frequent activity of the mind is to wander into the future.

The third and least frequent space-time is the present moment.

When you are listening to or reading these words, you are in the present moment – at least for a very short period of time before your mind begins to travel to the past or the future.

Our mind will focus on the present moment only as a necessity when we have to learn, listen, judge and make decisions.

The prevalence of each space-time varies with age: the older you are the more in the past you navigate. Being in the future is, obviously, more frequent for the younger generations.

Being very often in the past is a puzzle for Zen teachers, including myself because:

  1)   The past (but also the future) does not exist per-se since the only existing space-time is the present moment and this present moment is the only one in which we exist and are alive.

        Looking at pictures, watching a video or using visualization from memory does not mean that the past exists since, again, we cannot live in 2 space-times at once having my body is in the Now and my mind is in the Past.

  2)  When we are in the past,  we end-up most often with negative feelings at various degrees.


         a) Wonderful memories will bring regrets, nostalgia, sadness, and even depression.

       During these moments the current present seems to be dull and boring.

         b) At the opposite spectrum, negative memories will also bring regrets, however these will be quickly followed guilt, resentment, bitterness, anger, frustration, jealousy, rumination, pain, depression and even addiction.

Positive and negative memories cannot bring serenity, on the contrary.

 “What are we gaining  by having our mind in the past so often”?

 Being in the fictional past is a self-made, no-win mental entertainment, an emotional trap, and an escape away from the present moment that is too often perceived as routine, dull, and boring.

 You may say: “ Ok but I cannot delete my memories like I delete stuff on my computer”!

 Very true, we cannot erase the past because our memories are chemically encoded in our brains both consciously and unconsciously.

 However, we can learn

1) to become mindful to our memories meaning:

2) observing and accepting them as they are w/o analytic process and

3) Finally to let them go avoiding falling in the trap.

 In computer terms: you copy /paste( being mindful & observing then delete ( letting it go )

 “Past, present and future are pure mathematical inventions created from necessity thousands of years ago. They are pure illusion as far I am concerned since there is not such things in the Universe ” Albert Einstein March 21 1955

Thank you all for being in the moment.

#321 “Why me!…I shall not suffer” July 5th 20

                                        “ Why me ! I shall not suffer.”

Of course we never say “I shall not suffer” but silently we say “Why me” .

This emotional defense mechanism is a fundamental part of our mind-based ego.

It is so deep in our subconscious and so powerful from our Western education and philosophy that, even the possibility and expectation of some sort of suffering is perceived like a nightmare.

“ Why me, it is unfair, life is terrible”

The presence and recognition of suffering in life is the absolute center of Zen-Buddhism teaching.

The Buddha talked about it every day during 50 years 2500 years ago.

In fact, Zen-Buddhism has been seen as a very pessimistic if not masochistic philosophy of life until very late in our current century.

The word suffering came from a poor translation. We should use softer words such as dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and all other negative emotions like grief, nostalgia, anger, frustration, jealousy, fear envy, and so on.

Our Western culture is telling us to “be happy” all the time. It is even written in the American Constitution.!

Avoiding and denying unhappiness at all costs is an integral obligation in our daily way of life.

In fact, consumption-based capitalistic economy is the main tool in our quest for happiness:

New car, more money, bigger house, zillion of friends, travelling non-stop, more and more etc., etc….

All of the above are just mirage, deception and illusions since they are transient and never provide steady happiness. In fact, they create the opposite because they are inducing an ongoing thirst for happiness which will be never satisfied.

This avoidance and denial of “suffering” is viewed by our Oriental counter-parts as very weird because:

   1)  Avoidance  of suffering is simply impossible and

   2)  Denial of suffering, when its strikes, is added more suffering to the existing one.

Wen suffering strikes and it will always strikes, our ego is reacting violently:

“ I don’t want to suffer, I want to be pain-free”

Again, this ongoing subconscious sound track is making us suffering more because we are twisting the knife in our own wound. This is craziness at its max.

Blaming life and its events as a person does not make too much sense either since “life” is not a person who has something against you. Life is a genetic material, which has no enemies.

This mind gap between avoidance/ denial of pain and actual experience of pain is one of the main cause of second degree suffering beside desire, hatred, illusion and deception of reality. 

The wider the gap the deeper the suffering.

This gap “ being pain-free vs. presence of pain ” will always be present, so, what can we do?

We have to say YES to suffering which does not mean to become masochistic which, by the way, means pathological active search for pain.

Without this acceptance of an obvious reality of Life, we cannot fill this gap.

If we cannot fill this gap, we cannot transcend it.

If we cannot transcend it, we will remain inmates in our illusion-made prison and be part of zillion of greyhounds racing around a ring to catch a dummy rabbit called happiness and without being able to grab it permanently.

All of them will widening our mind-made gap. Try to narrow it thru meditation.

Thanks you all