#356 The practice of Awareness July 25th

The practice of awareness

One of the first Zen practices I learned from my teachers was the practice of awareness.
I am not talking about cognitive-based awareness such as “Yes I am aware of this or that meaning I know “. In this example, awareness is just an automatic recall process from our data-based knowledge. One may call it passive awareness.
In Zen, practicing awareness is bringing our consciousness to focus on something x or y in the current moment and in a mindful way w/o analytic and decisional goal.
No recall, just observation, likes a mirror reflecting things, objects, events and people as they are and not as we perceive them. Awareness is consciousness in action.
These objects or targets of our active awareness can be anything such as our body, its motions, our 5 senses, our thoughts, feelings or on what our immediate surrounding is made of.
Active awareness is the only tool allowing us to observe and experience our mental and emotional activities. Without this tool, we are the victims of our emotions instead of being the observer.
Everything is constantly changing during the day but we do not practice awareness as just described because we are too busy doing things non-stop automatically like an hamster in its wheel.
And yet, awareness is always present and always available but we don’t know to be aware of our awareness and to use it.
Who is listening these words right know? Who is reading these same words right now?
It is our awareness, genuine and complete. This awareness is defining who we are right now, in this very moment.
It’s always here and it can accommodate anything. We can talk, we can move, you can even listening as you are right now. All of this is happening by and within awareness.
Put in different words:
We don’t know what is consciousness, how to be conscious of our consciousness, and how to apply it.
Yet, it is critical to practice active awareness or being conscious because consciousness reveals our True self that is the one free from our mind-made self.
To be conscious is to be, it is who you are, who I am. Nothing more. Trying to describe it further or to explain it or to improve it is impossible.
Consciousness is the same for all living beings and, according to many, it will survive the death of our body or material self.
Since awareness is always there, the only thing we need to do is recognize and apply it.
But the biggest challenge with awareness is that it is so close, we don’t see it in the same way we cannot see our own eyes.

How to recognize and practice awareness:?
Meditation and more specifically mindfulness meditation plays a crucial role
as a tool to practice active awareness and put our consciousness in action.
In fact, mindfulness meditation is practicing pure awareness such as focusing on breathing, being aware of our body, ongoing thoughts/feelings and so on.
Learning to be mindfully aware of our thoughts and feelings is the only way to observe then to accept them as they are w/o resistance. Otherwise, we remain their victims.
Awareness or active consciousness is not some sort of ill-defined entity.
It defines the word “Living Being” in its purest form and can be applied anytime during the day.
It is also the only tool that we have to recognize then deal with the sources of our suffering.
Thank you.

#355 The 4 foundations of mindfulness as taught by the Buddha. Jul. 18-21

The four foundations of Mindfulness as taught by the Buddha
To be mindful is to pay attention / contemplate something w/o further judgmental, analytic, and decisional processes. It can be on a material object, thought, emotion, behavior.
The 4 foundations of mindfulness are the fundamental teachings of the Buddha on meditation as the way to experience Awakening. They are common to all traditions including Zen and represent a systematic guide – sort of 101 – to practice mindfulness toward serenity and Awakening. As we shall see, they are all interconnected.

Mindfulness of the body:
Experiencing full awareness of being in our body, including the sensations of breathing, pain, posture, movement outside and within our body. It includes its weightiness, aging process, diseases, impermanence, and so on.

Mindfulness of feeling:
Feelings, according to the Buddha, do not mean emotions but sensations coming from the 6 senses. He listed 6 senses are: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin(body), and mind.
He classified them as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral/indifferent.
Pleasant sensation may bring craving, unpleasant may bring hate, and neutral/indifferent may lead to delusion or ignorance.

Mindfulness of mind:
Experiencing full and non-judgmental awareness of our thoughts and emotions as they arise, dwell, and pass away. This allows us to see the transient and insubstantial quality of the
thinking and emotional processes that guide our positively and negatively our actions.

Mindfulness of – as he called- “Mental objects”:
The fourth foundation is tricky to describe properly and simply.
The Buddha defines mental objects in 4 groups to meditate mindfully on their components:

1 The 4 Noble Truths:
1 Life is suffering, 2 causes of suffering, 3 extinction of suffering (Nirvana) and
4 The 8 paths/tools to achieve reduction and cessation of suffering.

2 The 5 hindrances that slow down our progress toward serenity:
Desires, improper will, laziness, doubt, and restlessness of body and mind.

3 The 5 aggregates:
– Form (our body)
-Feeling better translated as sensations/perceptions that the Buddha
describes as pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral/indifferent.
– Sensorial perception from our peripheral 5 senses.
– Mental activities (thoughts, emotions, etc.)
– Consciousness.

4 The 7 factors or practice aiming to Enlightenment:
Mindfulness, Concentration, Determination, Quest toward the nature and understanding
of reality, Effort (energy), Joy (rapture), Equanimity (accepting reality as it is).
The point of the Buddha is not to practice full awareness to all “Mental Objects” at the same time because it is impossible, but to pay attention to them one by one and put them into our daily practice. This 4th level of mindfulness meditation practice opens the door to Awakening.
As we can see, the 4 foundations are all entangled and one cannot exist on its own.

#354 Mindfulness in motion Jul 12 21

      Mindfulness in motion

The first time I met my second Zen teacher was in his kitchen,14 years ago.

He was peeling potatoes. Being absorbed with what he was doing, he did not notice me.

I watched him for almost 1 min. and was puzzled how slow his movements were.

It was like watching a movie in slow motion.

As physician, my first impression, was a medical one. I said to myself:

Sunim (which means teacher in Korean) is suffering of Parkinson or some other neuro-degenerative diseases.

Soddenly he looked at me and asked: Who are you?

I replied: “ I am Arnaud…….. I talked with you on the phone to become one of your students.

Come to peel potatoes he replied. No hi, no welcome. No social manners.

So I started peeling these veggies.

Silence for ………a long 5 min. Then he said:

Why are you peeling potatoes so fast!. Are you so hungry?

No Sunim.

He said: Where is your mind? …….Timidly I replied: Well.. I am here.

No!….Only your body in here.

You are peeling potatoes thoughtlessly like an automate on auto-pilot.

You are not focusing on what your hands and arms are doing because your mind is elsewhere. You are like a decapitated chicken (and he laughed ). Where is your mind?

He was right. My mind was elsewhere, still trapped in the field of neurological diseases!

Then he said: Peel the potatoes at my pace and you will see what is happening next.

So I did….trying to focus on peeling …..slower. It was very challenging and almost boring because I realize that I was forcing my mind to focus on the slow motions of my arms, hands and fingers, and the mind does like boring stuff, preferring to escape in a different and more exiting space-times as he always does.

It was the first time in my life that I realize that my body and mind were one meaning that body and mind were in the same space-time and doing the same thing.

It was my first Zen teaching with him and a great one because Sunim did not even mention the practice of mindfulness per-se on what we are doing, and yet, I was a graduate from Jon Kabat Zinn 2 years training at T.G.H and already a Zen student for 2 years.

Moving back to the Zendo, Sunim served the tea to the students before meditation. 10 cups.

He was pouring tea  s..l..o..w..l..y, in full awareness of what he was doing.

It took forever! or seems like it. Again, Sunim was teaching mindfulness in motion.

Then his teaching became more formal. He said:

From the time you wake up to the time you fall asleep, you are doing thousand on movements

automatically, without thinking because of routine. At the same time your the mind is elsewhere doing something else.

Zen calls that: “ day sleep walking” or “headless chicken running around”  ( big laugh )

The message from this experience is the following:

Practicing mindfulness is to pay attention, to be aware, to focus on something in order

to anchor our monkey mind to wonder from one branch to the next. There is no analysis,

judgment or decision. Anchoring the mind is the first step to control our thoughts and emotions.

Beside static sitting mindfulness-based meditation, the practice of mindfulness in motion

is a great way to process faster in the quest of mind control.

Being mindful to your steps called walking meditation is important but you can add mindfulness in motion to any of your movements during the day. How to do it?

By slowing them down your moves, you also slow down your mind because you become automatically aware of them. Body and mind are together. Do this mindfulness in motion exercise at regular intervals during the day by picking any automatic movements that you are doing subconsciously. You will experience reality of the moment.  Thanks you.