#329 The Mirage of ongoing happiness Aug. 30 20

                                             The mirage of ongoing happiness

You will never find the word happiness in Zen literature. It is a Western dream even included in the US Constitution.

It is a positive emotion and, like any positive or negative emotions it comes and goes.

I identify 2 types of happiness based on their origins external or internal.

Coming from the outside world, external happiness is almost infinite as far its source is concerned. A new car, new job, new house, jack pop, vacation, new sex, food, traveling, addiction, more of this, of that, etc. We are the objects of our own source-generated emotion.

Since external happiness is always a transient emotion:

 1) Attachment to it may trigger suffering when the source is phasing off.

 2) We are always looking for new sources to make us happy again or happier when the previous source is fading out as it always does.

So, we are then chasing a mirage and it becomes an ongoing source of frustration, disappointment, and suffering.

 On the other hand, internal non-material “happiness” comes from self. It appears from self-discovery and we nurture it from practice.

How to transform superficial & transient happiness into something deeper and durable?

External happiness is almost impossible to achieve continuously.

Another important point to remember: as said before, external happiness is, by definition dependant on its external agents whereas the internal one is only dependent on yourself: discovery, practice, and control.

The solution is to discover, learn and apply equanimity. It is a state of mind.

It is not a thought nor emotion; you are creating a new state of mind.

Zen describes the word equanimity as: “Neither a thought nor an emotion but rather a steady conscious experience of reality as it is,  including acceptance, resilience to its negative content”

Equanimity brings serenity and contentment.

Zen practice and teaching thru mindfulness meditation should transcend external and transient emotional happiness in order to switch and practice equanimity, serenity and contentment.

Serenity, contentment via equanimity can/ is achieved during awakening when:

1) We realize the sources of suffering such as persistent attachment, ongoing desires, hatred and not being able to differentiate genuine reality from mind-made fiction.

   2) That we have almost not controlled life, events, people, and our own thoughts and emotions.

   3) That things, events, and people are what they are and not what you want them to be.

   4) That our thoughts are just that and do not represent the truth even coming from our own mind.

   5) That past and future are virtual even if you watch pictures of the past and plan for the future.

   6) That we are alive only in the present moment, not yesterday and not tomorrow.

   7) That we are practicing mindfulness on the go including bringing your mind where your body is and what its is doing rather than daydreaming in another space-time.

   8) When we are able to observe and accept negativity rather then fighting it.

 This is again equanimity.

Thank you.

#328 Taking your suffering for a walk 23-08 20

                                       Taking your suffering for a walk

Few years ago, my Zen Master Yangil Sunim (Sunim means teacher) asked me:

“Ji Gong, how often do you practice suffering”.

This is a classical Zen question and, like a Koan, it sounds incomprehensible, paradoxal, illogical and even stupid. The purpose of this kind of questions is to create a short in our pre-frontal cognitive circuit. The mind is in the dark, trying to reconnect the light for finding an logical answer.

I replied: “ No, Sunim, on the contrary, I am trying to look for pleasure and try to avoid pain.

I am not a masochistic person ”

He said: “This is not what I mean. I mean the opposite since a masochist is looking for pain to induce pleasure. JiGong, in life, pain is unavoidable but suffering is optional because this negative feeling can be controlled thru mindfulness meditation. There is quest for pleasure is this practice.”

Suffering is the poor translation of the Sanskrit word Dukkha. Dukkha is the umbrella word for all of our negative feelings induced by past /current events, people, and more frequently created by our ego-mind. Negative feelings go from simple dissatisfaction to dreadful despair including suicidal contemplation. They happen all the time that we like it or not.

Suffering is optional if you decide to practice it, that is to be friend with it rather than resisting, fighting with, or trying to analyze its causes and solutions. If you play the therapist you will fail and even make the suffering more painful.

So, take your suffering for a walk, hand to hand and eyes to eyes like two lovers even try a kiss.

Practice wakefulness to your pain in a mindful way that is w/o any analytic process.

Practice awareness, observation, acceptance and self-compassion of your suffering with whatever type of mental pain you are experiencing: bad event, anger, fear, heartbreak, grief, regrets, loneliness, sadness, hopelessness, failed desires, hatred, and so on. Awareness, observation, acceptance and self-compassion are the first 4 steps before being able  to forgive yourself.

Self compassion and self forgiveness will de-sensitize your pain the same way that vaccination works. It creates tolerance and acceptance of the enemy. Suffering becomes optional.

This doesn’t mean that you resign yourself to a life of suffering. It means that you acknowledge your current negative experiences and treat it with respect and courtesy rather than fighting an enemy. By the way, we cannot express compassion forgiveness to others w/o starting with self.

Oriental approach to deal friendly with pain is perceived as counterintuitive and incompatible by most Western therapists.

This Oriental approach to suffering is the exact mirror image of the Western one. For the former, suffering is accepted whereas, for the latter, it must be rejected.

Oriental teaching implies the creation of a positive feeling i.e. compassion against a negative feeling that is pain. This is neutralization. 

The Western approach to suffering is to see it as an enemy.

Such antagonistic therapy could induce and perpetuate an ongoing and repetitive suffering with no winners except for the therapist.

Thank you

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Thank you

#327 Awareness Breathing Compassion: the A,B,C, of mindfulness meditation Aug 16t 20


                                             The A,B,C of mindfulness meditation

In practicing mindfulness, always start as a new beginning every time, that is start without knowing anything. When you take away everything that you know, you are left with pure awareness, breathing and compassion. Apply the same approach regarding your life: each day is a new beginning where emotional past and expected future are ignored at least temporally. The reason why it is important to practice mindfulness is that it helps you to control better our emotional and fictional mind.  Most people begin a mindfulness practice because they are suffering from whatever reasons. Attending to your mind will help you to work with and through your suffering.

1- The first step is awareness:

If suffering brings you to a mindfulness meditation practice, then you begin by being mindful awareness of your suffering as it is, w/o judgment. Suffering can be complicated. If we try to analyse all its components that contribute to its genesis, you embark in a very painful journey, aggravating the intensity of the suffering.  

To cut right through, go back by bringing your mind back to the beginning that is, in Zen, the present moment, the Now and the easiest way to do this is to be mindful to your breathing.

When you become aware of your awareness- such as awareness of your breathing w/o any analytic or decisional process, you are 100% “awake” that is awareness at the second degree.

The natural reaction to suffering is to try to eliminate it. With mindfulness practice, you don’t try to get away from your suffering, you acknowledge it, pay attention and accept it in full awareness.

When you notice suffering, recognize your awareness of your suffering and again accept it.

2- The next step is breathing:

Already mentioned, to remain with your awareness, breathe consciously. Breathing allows you to be in the present moment, grounded in your body and able to observe the changing negative thoughts of your wandering mind. Accept them and let them go with compassion as opposed to hatred them.

3) The final step is compassion:

It is the attitude you adopt toward yourself as you breathe into your suffering. Recognize that you do not enjoy this feeling, and that you would be feeling differently if you could be compassionate about yourself. Acting on compassion involves applying a positive feeling i.e. compassion against a negative one i.e. suffering. Being aware of your feeling and your breathing as you activate compassion will quiet your mind.

Meditation and mindfulness go together because meditation is the practice of awareness, breathing and compassion. You practice meditation when you are not acutely suffering. Practice when you have time to sit and rehearse the skill of focusing your awareness on the present moment. By practicing meditation, you strengthen the habit of attending to your experience, whatever it may be. When you regularly practice meditation you are more likely to turn to mindfulness in a moment of need, rather than turning toward usual reflexes of anger, resistance and fight.

The ABC’s of mindfulness, Awareness, Breathing and Compassion, are simple and always available to you when you need them. If you practice often, returning to the present, cutting through the complications of life and our emotional mind you will recognize the power of this practice. You will be able to grow through suffering and expand your compassion to every ones.

Thank you.

#326 Interpersonal relationships: a Zen perspective by Harish 9 Aug 20

Interpersonal Relationships – A Zen Perspective

Interpersonal relationships are relationships between you and the people that you contact during your daily lives; your spouse, your children, your siblings, your colleagues and the people outside your own sphere.

Let us examine how the relationships are born, are developed, and how they may impact your daily lives. Upon birth, a human being is all alone, helpless, unaware of what is in store for him or her in this vast world. The parents nurture the child physically. Slowly, he or she starts to develop thoughts about the people around him, his parents, brothers and sisters. (For the sake of simplicity I am using the term “He”. It could also be used for “She”.) He learns to respond to their interaction with him. Sometimes he gets praise, other times he gets scolded. And then through the school years this interaction continues with other children, other relatives, teachers, neighbors. This interaction continues with work colleagues, superiors and those under him. Eventually, a vast web of inter personal relationships is built up.  Some of these relationship are very encouraging and supportive – conducive relationships others not so – non conducive relationships. How does one handles these relationships? Our natural instinct is to hold on to conducive relationships and to stay away from the non-conducive relationships.

Furthermore, these relationships are of different kinds with different people. Also, these relationships evolve with time. You have positive emotions of love, compassion, respect, encouragement and pride etc. Then there are the negative emotions of fear, hatred, jealousy, anger, attachment etc. The key to handling the interpersonal relationships lies in how well one can handle these emotions. We need to integrate emotions of the mind with the rationality of the intellect. Our mind is fed by the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The mind reacts differently to different situations. Take for example the death of a child. If that child happens to be your own child, your mind will experience tremendous grief and anguish. If, however that child is someone distant to you, it does not create the emotion of anguish to the same extent. The phenomenon that happened in the outer world is “a child died”, but the mind reacts to it differently in different situations.  There are countless examples how the same event creates different emotions in different individuals or even in the same individual at different times. So how we view our interpersonal relationships depends on how our mind operates.

Zen tells us to accept what is happening with the person that you are in contact with. You can handle these relationships by being non-judgmental. The key to controlling the behavior of the mind is mindfulness. Regular meditation helps us to delve into the workings of the mind. The more you practice meditation, the more you become aware of the mechanics of how the mind operates. The greatest benefit of meditation is single-pointed ability. Once you can do it, it becomes easy to handle interpersonal relationships.

#325 From Foe to Friends. A Zen perspective Aug 2nd 20

From foe to friend A Zen perspective
As we struggle with our emotional ego, we are developing mental habits that feed our pain.
When we find ourselves suffering, we can notice the familiar negative feelings of guilt, shame blame, and anger.
These are types of judgments that we pass on others and that others impose on us. As we become aware of our habits, we can develop new responses that redirect and reduce these painful thoughts.
What causes our suffering is our own judgments. It is very hard for us to stop judging ourselves and others, and it is even harder for us to help others stop judging. What we can do is notice our
judgments and then change our own habits. Judging should be required only when requested and when we have to make a decision; otherwise, it is a wasted mental /emotional energy.
Guilt and blame are alike because when we feel guilty we blame ourselves, and when we cast blame to others, we assign guilt to them. Whether we accept or assign blame, we fuel negative feelings either about ourselves or another person. In either way, we are the ones who suffer the most from these powerful feelings.
So, we need to create mental desensitization to balance this negativity by being more compassionate and forgiving with ourselves thru awareness & acceptance.
At the opposite of guilt/blame comes righteousness. Believing that we are right most of the time is also a recipe form a painful reality that we missed initially.
Pride and shame are the polar ends of the ego spectrum. The spectrum represents our basic perception of ourselves. We are better or worse depending on the situation. In the absolute world we are all wonderful beings. In the relative world, we use pride and shame to rank ourselves among each other. We even compare who we think we are to who we want to be. That ranking system, which is mostly unconscious and fluctuates widely with our moods, may cause a lot of anguish and feeds into all kinds of judgments, leading to more guilt, shame, pride, and blame.
How to desensitize this emotional roller coaster starts with taking a deep breath.

When you bring your attention to your breath, suddenly you become actively aware and present. Ego & Emotion fall. When you feel bad, your self-judgments will be negatively biased and harsh. Remembering that you are basically goodwill counteracts those shame-filled self-assessments.
Connecting with your breath and the present moment may not make our negative feelings going away totally, but breathing slows them down rather than controlling you.
It gives you the opportunity to 1) Accept them and 2) To consider a compassionate response, to forgive yourself and others. Whatever compassionate action you choose, you have an opportunity to delete your negative judgment.

Guilt, shame, pride, blame, anger, fear, and many more are very strong daily mental habits.
They will always find new and creative ways to penetrate our psyches.
As we practice, in a mindful way, acceptance and compassion to them each time they arise
we get new habits that protect us and those around us from the negative biases.
Taking time to breathe, to be present, and inviting acceptance and compassion is like adding breaks to runaway trains of negative thought.
When we can appreciate our absolute goodness, we can better negotiate the relative world of ego. When we can put down our own judgments, we feel compassion for ourselves and for others who suffer from the same negative judging habits.
Negative feelings from judgment are here to pop-up anytime and forever. We do not have any control of their occurrence but, when we learn to observe and accept rather than fighting them,
we are able to find serenity progressively over time.

Thank you