#341 “Circuit breaker” Nov 29th -20

          Circuit breaker

A circuit breaker is an electrical switch designed to protect an entire circuit from damage caused by a sudden overload or from a short appearing somewhere in the circuit.

By interrupting the current, the circuit breaker is protecting the entire system.

Our brain-mind is also a giant electrical system made of 100 billion cells called neurons.

All of them are interconnected and the total number of neural connections within our skull is phenomenal, around 10^15, that is more that the number of starts in our galaxy.

Brain cells are also connected to our peripheral 40trillion cells composing our body.

Few more numbers to swallow here:

Human brain mass represents 2% of our body mass but 20% of our total energy consumption.

It means that, per unit of mass, our brain-mind consumes 20x more energy that any other organs.

In order to keep alive our body, sensors and thinking, this bioelectrical machine works continuously 24/7 and between 70,000 and 120,000 thoughts are produce daily not stop.

Despite its complexity, our brain-mind works only in “one or nothing” as far thinking is concerned.

Using the physical electrical system as an analogy, our brain-mind system can also be the victim of sudden /chronic overload. These overloading processes are biochemical and bioelectrical and I will not go in the detail of them.

There are 3 main differences between an electrical system and its brain-mind biological equivalent:

 1) Brain has the capacity to create and erase connections in order to fulfill the needs.

     This is neuroplasticity and a basic computer cannot create hardware spontaneously.

 2) Brain uses a very tiny amount of energy (12 watts and around 400 cals during 4 hours of thinking).

 3) Finally, an electrical circuit is built with automatic protective circuit breakers, our brain does not have any.

Sudden or chronic overload of our brain-mind activities are frequent such as powerful emotional stress, chronic or acute negative feelings such as anger, fear, nostalgia, depression, acute excitements, physical pain, etc…. Our brain-mind, like an electrical circuit, can “overheat”,

and be the source of serious mental and psychological problems.

During these restless episodes, the brain-mind cannot expect the protecting effect of an automatic circuit breaker because, as already mentioned, there is none.

So, what to do to cool down our restless overheated mind and minimize further damage?

There is, indeed, a built-in, hidden circuit breaker in our brain-mind that we can use all the time.

It is called mindfulness. or mental focusing w/o using any analytic or decisional process.

Neural circuit-breaker was discover more than 10,000 years ago!

By paying sustained attention to something such as breathing, sound, odor, visualization, or whatever, we are forcing our mind to shut down in order to focus on what you are asking him to do. To be mindful is telling your mind: “Shut up and focus please”

Mono-thinking such as mindfulness practice is a wonderful circuit breaker to use as much as we can. The more you practice, the better and more efficient the circuit-breaker becomes.

Instead of being the victim of your ongoing thoughts and the risk of creating overheating, you become the ruler, at least for a few min. depending on your level of practice.

Thank you.

Zen Master Ji Gong Korean lineage.

#340 My journey in meditation by Rob. Sun. 22 20

I started meditating many years ago. I meditated primarily as a way to help me deal with stress and insomnia, both of which are related.

My meditation wasn’t a routine practice and I did it only when I felt I needed to. As a result, I didn’t progress beyond a basic level. That level typically involved focussing on my breath until a degree of relaxation set in. Nothing more.

I recall one evening several years ago. I focussed on my breath as usual, but something more happened. The typical stream of random thoughts slowed to a trickle and became almost non-existent. I then remember feeling a profound sense of peace and calmness like I had never felt before. That was the only time I would experience that for a long time.

Several years later, I joined Oakville Zen. With a more routine and disciplined practice I was sometimes able to reach that place I had been before. That profound sense of peace and calmness. Or serenity as it is called. But as I progressed down the path to that place more often, I noticed something else happening. I became more mindful of that stream of random thoughts and gained some insight about it.

From being mindful I discovered that a large number of the thoughts that aimlessly pop into my mind involve attachments. By attachments I mean thoughts about the past, the future, situations that don’t exist, thoughts about the way we think people or things should be, thoughts about material objects and other things we have or want to have, and so on. I’m not talking those parts of the day when we have thoughts for a purpose, such as making a decision, solving a problem or learning something. I’m talking about that stream of thoughts that clouds our minds most of the other parts of the day. That random chatter or “monkey mind” as it is called. That chatter that distracts us from the here and now, the reality of things as they are and that original serene state of being.

The more I became aware of my thoughts about attachments, the more I also began to understand the burdens that accompany them. By burdens I mean the forms of suffering that often come with such thoughts, such as stress, anxiety, fear, grief, anger, regret and so on. Even positive emotions and feelings about attachments have their associated burdens, albeit more indirectly, as they often ignore of the reality of impermanence.  That is, everything that gives us happiness today changes, irrespective of what we want or desire. Clinging on to, or trying to control, a present source of happiness often leads to disappointment tomorrow.

I started meditating years ago to deal with stress, but I ended up with something else. I ended up discovering something about the path to serenity. It involves being mindful of my thoughts, recognizing and accepting them for what they are without judgment, and letting them go. The attachments and burdens of the ego are let go in the process. In letting go, that profound sense of peace and calmness flows.

#339 Did you compliment latetly? Nov.15 20give

               Did you give compliments lately?

XIII century Japanese Zen Master Dogen, also a Samurai, used to teach the following. I am editing :

“As often as you can, think about someone close to you: family member, friend or even coworker and give them a simple genuine compliment….. w/o expecting something back. The closer the person to you, the better. Also, the more specific the compliment is, the better the impact. “

This is a strange advice and yet it is an integral part of Zen teaching.

Over the last 17 years I was asked, many time, if I was giving compliments once a while.

When I was asked for the first time, I even did not understand the purpose and meaning of the question considering the question…..to be , as usual, an enigmatic  Zen question.

Think about this:

” When was the last time you did you compliment someone, why? and how?

 How often you are expressing good words to someone”?

You will be surprised of your findings, even among your loved ones and best friends.

We do compliment our pets but almost never our human contacts.

We are not educated to give compliments and many of us are reluctant to do so because they fear their compliments would not be genuine.

Our Western society is not helping us to compliment someone especially if that person is not the same gender than you.  You may be sued for harassment.

In most companies now, giving non-work related compliments is prohibited by HR.

If I say to one of our Oakville Zen ladies: “ Wow, you are very well dressed”. she maybe offended and, subconsciously, questions my motivation behind the compliment. 

“What Arnaud has in mind; this is not appropriate for a Zen Master?”

In fact, we are groomed to behave the opposite side: that is judgmental, remarking problems and flaws of others.

In Zen teaching, giving compliment is not limited to others but also includes self.

This is very important in respect to achieve equanimity.

We talked already at length about self-compassion and self-forgiveness without falling into narcissism.

Finally, become mindful of any compliments other people are giving you and assess their positive effects on you.

Being mindful to the practice of giving compliments here and there will help you greatly in the control of your negative state of mind.

It will promote good feelings to others and to self, free of charge.

To finalize this short talk:

Dogen wrote the following:

 “Kind words bring kind and compassionate minds and kind minds bring kind words.”

This is a great catch 22 scenario.

We should become familiar to the practice of kind speech to others and to self.

It is not praising the merit nor kissing their bums, it is free recognition.

Also, it has the power to turn restless minds into more peaceful ones to the giver and to the receiver.

Thank you.

#338 Conquest of death: an Eastern perspective by Kris Nov7


Once when Buddha was passing through a village, a hysterically crying young woman accosted him. She stated that her young child had just died and she had heard that Buddha could save the child. Buddha tried to console the woman but she insisted that Buddha should come with her to revive the dead child.

Buddha stated that he would come to her house on one condition that if she could get one grain of mustard seed from a house that had not had a death. The woman thinking that this would be easy, went house to house looking for that mustard seed. Alas, she found that where ever she went, every house had indeed experienced death and hence proving that death was part of life.

Unfortunately most of us identify ourselves with our  body, mind and intellect as “me”. However, our  body, mind and intellect are forever in flux and hence we experience mental turbulence depending our experience.

We fear death because we love our body too much and by extension our physical life.  We cling to a fantasized life, seeing it with colors brighter than it has.  Life and death are the two sides of the same coin. What is born must die. However, we erroneously insist on seeing life in its incomplete form without death, its inalienable flip side.

We also fear death because we are too attached to our comforts of wealth, family, friends and other worldly pleasures. We see death as something that would separate us from the objects to which we cling and crave. In addition, we fear death because of our uncertainty about what follows it. A sense of being not in control, but at the mercy of circumstance, also contributes to this fear. It is important to note that fear of death is not the same as knowledge or awareness of death.

Buddha soon after his Awakening stated the following: Everything in this world is transient and changing; our 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.”

Several paths to overcome this fear of death  are suggested by great spiritual Masters. One of the key messages is to Practice our meditation regularly and from this regular practice, mental detachment would develop.

What does that mean? It means that one would indeed experience whatever was meant to be, but one would develop an inner peace and equanimity that would help over-ride the turbulence. One would develop wisdom to understand the big picture of the journey of the soul/consciousness and death is a natural part of that.

In conclusion, as we regularly practice our meditation, our spiritual knowledge matures, we evolve upwards and give up our transient worldly attachments. This is akin to walking up the stairs where we give up the lower worldly rungs.

What is born must die. This is why monks before they sleep every night, contemplate their own death to accept it as a natural part of life.

A well-known Sanskrit prayer reinforces this message:

Lead us from unreal to Real;

Lead us from darkness to Light;

Lead us from death to Immortality

#337 Practicing “Don’t know mind” Nov. 1 – 20

       Practice the “don’t know mind”

      also called an open mind and opposite of “mindset”

How often do we say: “ I know or I don’t believe in that, or I believe in this”

We are making these statements very often even if we have no clue or understanding.

I don’t believe that climate change is human-based”.

“ On what ground are you so sure?…Did you study climatology?….You don’t believe some 24,000experts?

“ I don’t believe all of their conclusions. They are fabricated”.

Also It takes only few seconds to have an opinion on someone w/o knowing at all this person.

There are zillions of examples in which belief, opinion including non-requested judgment are based on pure assumption, intuition or faith but not on strict evidence-based fact and yet……this mind-set, that we all have very soon, is impossible to off-set.

Mind set controls our mental activity and therefore our daily decisions and behaviors.

The question therefore is the following:

1)“ Why our supposedly rational and intelligence brain-mind” is acting that way ” w/o any objective knowledge”?

No one has the answer, but I think that our ego is behind those day-dreaming assumptions.

We need to have an opinion on everything so we can pretend, at least to ourselves, that we know.

Opinions, ideas, beliefs, judgments are parts of our self-identity and way of behaving.

However having an opinion, idea, belief and judgment are expecting when we are chatting during a social event because we cannot keep saying “ I don’t know” or remain silent.

The great Korean Zen Master named Seung Sahn wrote a wonderful book called “ Only don’t know” Being a good friend of my teacher and invited in Canada, Seung came to pay visit and give us agreat Dharma talk entitled: “How to attain nothing-mind”.

“Nothing mind” also called “Don’t know mind” was his main teaching during more than 45 years.

By saying so, he did not mean to be ignorant or being stupid.

Here are his words from his teaching. I am editing it for clarity.

“ Don’t know mind cuts thru thinking, judging, from opinion and belief.

 A don’t know mind is before thinking, before words.

Of course, we need thinking for action or when required but, apart from them, keep “don’t know mind. A don’t know mind does not mean stupidity or having an empty mind; it means no  I-me-mine, no hindrance to our opinions, beliefs, and judgments

It also means not being trap in the past and future.

Practicing “Don’t know mind” is having a mind like a mirror reflecting things, people    e and events as they are. The mind becomes free of ideas, opinions, judgments and fictional dream-states.

A don’t know mind is acting like a baby mind open to everything.

There are time when” don’t know mind” becomes  “knowing-mind” especially when your opinion is requested or when you have to make a decision. That’s OK.

Beside these moments, keep an open and clear mind by unloading what is not necessary or not based on facts. You will free yourself from your own mental trap

Thank you”

Seung Sahn message is clear but practicing the “Don’t know mind” is a very difficult challenge because, again, we identify ourselves with our thoughts, ideas and opinions which become

static as we are aging.

One step towards serenity is 1) To realize that mindset such as opinions, ideas and judgments, 2) To let go of most of this useless mental noise in order to achieve equanimity.