#333 The mind watcher Sept 27th 20

    The mind watcher

In this talk, brain and mind form a single entity. Using a computer as analogy the brain is the hardware and the mind the software until science will prove otherwise.

Brain-mind is a biocomputer in which the electrical current is made of ions.

In the following, I will use only the word mind.

From functional neuroimaging, it is estimated that our mind produces non-stop between 40,000 to 100,000 thoughts/ day while awake, maybe more. (Dept. of Neurophysiology Queens Univ. Dr. Jordan Popperk)

It is also estimated that a very small fraction of this huge output is useful that is producing cognitive analysis including judgment and decision-making.

Beside this cognitive function, our thoughts are an ongoing background audiotape that we are not actively aware of, simply because it is impossible to be aware of 5 to 6 thoughts every min. of the day It is like having the radio on without listening. 

When we do something, somewhere, our mind is wandering elsewhere, doing something else.

This is more obvious when we do routine stuff in an automatic behavior.

Zen calls that “day sleepwalker” during which our mind is 100% in control w/o you being conscious of it.

The main purpose of mindfulness practice is to be in control of our mind rather than the opposite.

How does it work?

More than 6,000 years ago, some very smart people realized that we cannot have 2 thoughts at the same time despite the fact that, now, we know to have around 100 billions neurons.

Besides controlling our material body our mental activity is 1 thought at a time like the computer 1-0 processing but we can have many on the row.

To be mindful is to focus w/o cognitive process, judgment nor decision-making.

In this type of attention we are simply observing a single object X as it is.

This is pure awareness. By focusing consciously on X such as breathing, we force our mind to do only one task that is focusing on one target X. Mindfulness becomes a circuit breaker or a pause button.

Our mind has no choice but to obey by slowing down its flow of thoughts allowing us to watch it.

Also, because mindfulness practice is devoted to any cognitive process, it allows us to watch when our mind decides to take over and wander again, away from its focusing point.

Being a mind watcher, you are in control of this back and forth mental activity made of a focusing point such as breathing and wandering.

It is a cat-and-mouse mental game: you against your mind and your mind against you.

Finally:

You can also watch your mind outside formal meditation.

For example by being mindful and experiencing one of your 5 senses: seeing, hearing, etc….

In fact, any routine activity such as walking, eating, showering can be a pretext to use mindfulness as a tool to watch your mind. The more you practice, the better the watcher becomes.

Learning to watch thoughts and emotions is the first step to control our mind, at least temporally.

Thanks you.

#332 Toward Awakening part 1 Sept 20th 20

Are you “awake” or close to “awakening”?

Please note:

This is a very rough, non-scientific and limited “awakening inventory” that may help you or not to assess your journey. . Each sentence may be seen as a marker as where you stand.

 This is art 1 of 2.

Score the following statements as:

Strongly disagree=1     Disagree=2     Neutral/? =3      Agree=4    Strongly agree=5  

The highest score the closest to “Awakening / Enlightenment ”.

Be very honest with yourself.     

                                                                                                                                                     

I have an ongoing sense of contentment, ease, equanimity & open mind ……………… ( 1 to 5 )

I have pleasure for doing routine stuff / nonexciting stuff………………

Life and things are what they are and not what I want them to be………………..

I am trying to stay more in the present moment than being in the past or the future……………..

I am not controlling my life, events, and most people & it is OK………………….

I feel intensely alive in my 5 sensorial experiences………………..

I am engaging in helping anyone besides, obviously, my loved ones……………….

I am pretty good at being aware and controlling my desires, aversions & delusions………………

From meditation, I am paying attention to my thoughts and feelings as often as possible……………

When I am eating, I am just eating, for example tasting the food & nothing else………………

I am trying to keep my mind where my body is……………..

I am judging only when I need to make a decision or when requested………………

How I look does not have any bearing on my self-worth or sense of identity…………………

I experience regular periods of mental and emotional serenity…………….

I am incapable of causing intentional harm to anyone/anything………………..

I am OK to belong to a group, community, or society but I can live without it. ……………………

I have little sense of needing to do/produce anything; I am content just to be as I am………………..

I feel equally connected towards all human beings regardless of who they are and where they are coming from……………………..

While making decisions I trust my intuition and feelings to take me in the right direction………………..

My sense of self-worth is not affected by how much I have/achieve nor by success/failure……………………..

I notice my emotions more rapidly before being immersed by them………………………

Using meditation, I know how to pay attention and to use my mind to control its behavior………………..

I practice awareness of my body, 5 senses, and mind as much as I can……………………

I am fully aware that nothing lasts…………………..

I try to keep an open mind even when I am not in my comfort zone…………………

I don’t want my attachments being too because they may create potential suffering………………….

My score is: ……………../ 130.  

The closer to 130, the closer you are to “Awakening/ Enlightenment”……………

……………..Maybe????

Have you been totally honest in your answers?

#331 Zen 3 “seals”

                                                         The Zen 3 seals

1) Impermanence:

         While dying the Buddha was asked by his head monk Ananda:

          “ What is the most important message from your 50 years of teaching?”

        He replied“ Everything is transient. Live your life accordingly”

        Indeed, nothing lasts, everything is changing non-stop.

        In fact, an oak will not exist if the acorn remains an acorn.

        We exist because the eggs of our mothers and sperms of our fathers were transient.

The bottom line:

      1 The good stuff never lasts and too much attachment to it is a potential source of suffering.

      2 There a positive aspect of change: bad times are also transient.

      3 Only impermanence never changes.

 2) No-Self:

          A very difficult tenet to apply.

          It does not mean at all the passing or dissolution of “I, me, and myself ”  

         We perceive, consciously or not, our  “I, me and myself” as an independent, indispensable, unique, self-sustained mental and physical entity and separate from all other living beings.

         This perception is pure delusion and a significant source of suffering.

         In fact, this restrictive view of  “ I, me and myself” described our

“ego-self”.

         Obviously, our ego-self should not be rejected because so critical to function in our lives. Finding the right balance also called the Middle Way is key as in any other Zen teaching.

         No-self instead referred to our True Self minus this ego-self reduced to its basic functions.

         Describing our True-Self with words is impossible because such a description with words will be too restrictive and misleading. It can only be experienced thru meditation practice.

         True-Self is immaterial, universal and w/o a soul in its religious meaning. Some equate True-Self to Universal consciousness shared by all living beings. Others call it God.

 3) The third seal is Nirvana:

         Literally: blowing the flame of the candle.

         It does not mean blissful state, ecstasy or ongoing happiness from a painless life.

         The candle flame is a metaphor for self-induced suffering including our negative emotions.

         Nirvana is the total liberation from this suffering, allowing to achieve equanimity.

         Rarely achievable.

         The sources of suffering will be discussed next week but, very briefly, here is a short list:

               Uncontrolled ego:“ I want this, I don’t want that, I know, I am in control ”

               Ignorance that is misconception/ illusion of genuine reality.

               Entertaining or being stuck with wrong ideas, beliefs and judgments such as:

                    1 Things will stay as they are.

                    2 Believing in all our thoughts.

                    3 Not having our wandering mind with where our body is and what it is doing.

                    4 The nostalgia of the past and worries about the future. They don’t exist.

The teachings of Zen is not absolute truth nor dogma. The Buddha said, “My teachings are a finger pointing to the moon. Do not get caught in thinking that the finger is the moon. It is only because of the finger that you can see the moon”. I will add:  “I am the instrument, up to you to use it properly”

Thank you

#330 the 4 Jewels of Zen Sept 7 20

                                         The four jewels or “divine states”

The Buddha called the 4 jewels “divine states”.

It’s important to understand that they are not emotions but rather daily attitude towards self and others. It takes practice and dedication to establish these 4 states of mind.

One cannot simply make up in her/his mind that we will be kind, empathic, compassionate, and contempt or serene at the flick of a switch. These four states requires intentional dwelling and altering how you experience and perceive yourself and all our surroundings including others.

Becoming aware of and loosening the tight bonds of our ego are especially important in this practice.

If these 4 mental attitudes are somewhat achievable for our loved ones, the task regarding those that we dislike is a huge challenge. Maybe this is why they are called “divine”

1 Genuine kindness:

This attitude is directed toward all living beings, without discrimination or selfish attachment.

For some it is compared to the unconditional love that a mother would have for her children. 

This kindness does not discriminate between good people and malicious people.

It is an attitude in which ”I” and “you” disappear, and where there is no possessor and nothing to possess. By practicing genuine kindness one can overcome all negative feelings such as anger, hatred, aversion, negative judgment, etc. 

2 Sympathetic Joy or empathy:

Means taking sympathetic or altruistic joy in observance of the happiness of others.

Empathy is the ability to take active delight in others’ good fortune or good deeds as a way to develop and maintain calmness of our own mind. The antithesis of empathy is jealousy and envy. By being happy when good things happen to others, your opportunities for a peaceful mind are greatly increased.

3 Compassion:

 “Sharing the sufferings or misfortunes of others and feel compelled to reduce their suffering.

Put simply, compassion is a concern to improve the welfare and well-being of others.

4 Equanimity:

Psychology defines equanimity as a stable mental state.

Zen describes the word equanimity as “Neither a thought nor an emotion but rather a steady conscious experience of the current reality of the moment, as it is w/o attachement, judgment, discrimination and utopic expectations.”

Things, events and people are what they are and not what we want them to be.

It is the practice of letting go, allowing the mind to be undisturbed.

It includes mindful observation, acceptance, and resilience to negativity from things, events, and people. Serenity or contentment are the consequences of equanimity.

Equanimity does not mean indifference to the suffering or the joy of others

Final 53 words:

These 4 jewels are called jewels probably because, not only we express kindness, empathy and compassion to others but also we are creating mental equanimity for ourselves, a powerful antidote against the mind-made ego self. Remember that kindness, empathy and compassion should be applied first to ourselves, otherwise they cannot be expended to others.

Thank you all