#373 The practice of “Don’t know mind” Nov. 27 21

The practice of Don’t know mind

“Cultivate a – don’t know mind . It opens the door to serenity and tolerance. It is the foundation of Zen practice
Zen loves to challenge us with these enigmatic and counterintuitive teachings.
“Don’t know mind “ goes totally against our Western education and culture for the following 4 reasons:
1-Since our young age accumulating more and more knowledge is expected.
2-This “I don’t know” attitude is less acceptable because of the endless source of information made available on the Internet.
3-We don’t want to look stupid, ignorant, or disinterested.
4-Our ego loves to accumulate ideas, opinions, beliefs, concepts, and judgments about something or someone so it can analyze, understand, compare, and be able to maintain a social conversation.

What is a “Don’t know mind”?
First of all, let us look at its opposite: “ The know it all mind”
Imagine a soaked sponge. Being full, it cannot accept more water. Our mind works the same way.
The “Know it all mind” is like the soaked sponge, full of ideas, opinions, beliefs, concepts, and judgments about everybody including self, and about everything. It is frozen, paralyzed, and almost hermetic to everything new that is with little room for progress, insight, tolerance, and, eventually, serenity and awakening.
Teaching Zen philosophy and practice to students with minds full of frozen preconceived stuff is impossible.
As Zen says: “When the cup of tea is full of water, there is no room to add tea.”

The “Don’t know mind”:
It does not mean stupidity, laziness, confusion, rudeness, or false modesty.
It simply means an open and receptive mind; a mind not paralyzed by too many preconceived opinions, ideas, beliefs, and judgments about self, about others, and about anything else.
Your mind is like the empty cup ready to get tea or the sponge to be soaked.
Having an open mind is a constant battle against our ego since we have to accept that what we know and
believe in is not necessarily truth or reality. Our ego loves to have opinions on everything and everybody.

How to practice a “Don’t know mind?”
Besides obvious decisional settings where opinion and judgments are mandatory or requested, stop having automatic preconceived opinions or judgments on everything including people and yourself.
Consider your most cherished opinions about yourself, life, death, love, God, no God, maybe God, friendship, intelligence, lover, spouse, boss, Zen, consciousness, mind, big bang, freedom, etc.
Are you sure that your opinions and judgments are absolutely true?
Maybe, maybe not. Contemplate them and reassess.
Keep your mind open all the time. This is not easy.
The moment we become aware of the ego acting behind our idea, opinion, and judgment it is , strictly speaking, no longer the ego, but just an old, conditioned mind- pattern of self-identification.
Ego implies unawareness and the practice of awareness is a great tool because awareness and ego cannot
co-exist.
Through the process of “unknowing” or “de-knowing” that is what we don’t know, that we cannot control, that we cannot get, we enter in a state of inner serenity and clarity . You discover the real you that is your genuine self different from what your thoughts and feelings will ever bring.
If you cannot “unload”, you will stay trapped in your ego-driven frozen mind and the possibility of spiritual progress will be impossible.
Try this:
Delete, at least temporally, a few of your most cherished opinion and judgment about whatever and whoever.
You will feel this spaciousness of your mind and this feeling is priceless. This is serenity. Thanks all

#372 Breathing properly during meditation: the Why and How

Breathing properly to anchor our mind: the why and the How

Understanding the “WHY” will help you to maximize the “How”
The basic purpose of Zen is to achieve and maintain serenity that is a steady emotional balance.
It can be achieved only in taming, and better in controlling our non-stop cognitive and emotional mind.
From neuro-imaging, it is estimated that our brain-mind produces between 90,000 and 140,000 thoughts /feelings every day, most of them subconsciously.
Our restless mind moves continuously from one thought to the next one, from one space-time to another one. It is an on-going time machine under which we are controlled.
Zen is using the words “monkey mind ”as metaphor to describe our wandering human mind:
a monkey moving repeatedly from one branch to the next where branches being thoughts & feelings.
Zen also describes us “Day sleep walkers” that is doing zillion of things during the day in automatic behavior while having our mind elsewhere and doing something else at the same time.
Cognitive thinking is obviously necessary but most of our mind noise is just a sound tract creating
restlessness and emotional yo-yo. Can we tame our monkey?
The answer is yes, and, with practice we can even control our restless little beast. Why a yes answer?
Despite its enormous computerized power made of 100 Billions neurons and Trillions of connections,
our mind cannot deal with 2 thoughts at the same time. It is like 0 or 1 in our computers.
For example: if you have a series of successive thoughts A, B, C, ..etc and you decide to focus actively on X, your mind has no choice but to comply because it cannot have 2 thoughts at the same time.
By keeping focusing on X, your mind is anchored. This is the equivalent of the pause button and the basis of mindfulness meditation discovered zillions of years ago in our Eastern countries.
What focusing point did they choose to anchor the mind while meditating?
Our breathing because it is physical, convenient, permanent and easy to concentrate on. Bedside it is the only vital function of the body that we are able to modify.

2- HOW to breathe: The magic moment:
First, your posture: straight back, chin horizontal, eyes closed or semi open and staying still.
Allow 1 or 2min. to let your body “phase in” to let your breathing settles to reach its normal rhythm.
Concentrate on your in and out breathing by becoming aware of your breathing sensations in a mindful way w/o trying to modify it nor to analyze it or to make any decision.
1- During your inhale, feel the coolness of the air entering your nose.
2- During your exhale, feel the motion and relaxation of your chest and abdomen.
Focusing on you exhale is the best way in focusing and relaxing further.
Breathing should be a restful practice. You don’t need to change its rhythm nor “to do it right”.
Many distractions will arise all the time:
Thoughts, images, emotions, aches, pains, wandering in the past or future.
Don’t resist, just be aware and accept them one by one, then let them go by going back to your mind anchor that is your breathing.
You may experience hundred of such roadblocks against your breathing re-focusing but they are just the opportunity in controlling your mind the same number, hundred of times. The moment you realize you’ve been distracted by a thought and you are going back to your exhale breathing is a magic moment because you are experiencing factual reality in the moment w/o any cognitive activity and against your wandering fictional restless mind. Put in another words: It is Awakening.
Finally: If you are struggling with your concentration, counting your breath is an excellent adjuvant.
Count 1 at the end of your expiration, up to 10 then count down to 0 and repeat the circle.
Never hesitate to use it. I dam using very often.
Remember this: the beneficial impacts of the practice of mindfulness meditation is cumulative whatever its frequency or duration. A daily 20 min. sitting is recommended.
Thank you all

#371 Non-acceptance Nov.7th 2

Non-acceptance

Last week we talk about attachment as a potential source of suffering.
This week, we are swinging to the opposite side of attachment that is non-acceptance, which also may induce suffering. Suffering and non-acceptance are the opposite sides of the same coin called the emotional mind. Attachment is desire whereas non-acceptance is disliked.
Try to catch yourself complaining in either thought, talk, or action about 1- A situation you find yourself
in, 2- What people think, do or say, 3- Your surroundings, 4- Your life such as family, work, friends and foes, 5- Your health, ….even the weather during small talk.
There is another hidden source of complaining against called the Self. Complaining about self is very common because our education, culture, work, society, and social circle are telling us to be flawless which, of course, is impossible. Complaining about self, usually in a subconscious way is a great source of suffering and leading production of negative energy. This is why part of Zen teaching includes
self-compassion that we talked about before.
If complaining is a minor form of non-acceptance, there are many more intense forms of such as
intolerance, active resistance, fight, and even hatred. All of them will produce suffering.
They are sources of loss of jobs and even wars.
Non-acceptance of whatever is an integral trait of our ego and self-image since, quite often, we identify ourselves with our defensive attitude that is against x, y, z, the same way we identify ourselves with
our attachments that are towards x, y, z, .

When we do not accept either actively or passively, we make ourselves a victim without knowing it.
This image of the self-imposed victim is a cause of chronic stress enhancing the latent suffering.

What should we do then you may ask?

If the source of your complaint can be fixed, jump on it alone or with others.
If the source is out of your control, which is the most frequent case, we have 3 options:
Keep resisting and this is pure insanity.
Leave it if it is possible. If it is not possible:
Take it that is:
1- Be mindful of your non-acceptance whatever its degree and w/o analysis nor decision, then
2- Transform your energy-consuming non-acceptance into accepting the fact as it is.
Life, things, and people are what they are and not what you want them to be. Too bad!
3- Also, remember that everything is transient, the source of non-acceptance and the one who does not accept.

Okay…..By accepting rather than resisting, your ego will be wounded somewhat but
you will not die from it.
On the contrary, you will survive in a better emotional shape, experiencing, maybe,
the beginning of serenity.

#370 Examples of questions from students about Zen Nov. 4 21

Example of questions about Zen from students
Here are a few core questions asked by students that I dealt with over the years.
This list is not exhaustive and is not in any specific order.
Pick a few of them or have your own ones then write them down.
Remember:
There is no stupid question, just a dumb answer. Don’t be shy to ask
A question is, like its answer, an integral part of the teaching.

Who was the Buddha and what does the name “Buddha” mean?
Did the Buddha create a religion?
Did the Buddha believe in God?
What are the Sutras and when they were written?
What is Zen?
Who founded Zen and when?
Is Zen very different from genuine Buddhism?
Are they different Zen schools?
Is Zen a religion?
What are the pillars of Zen teaching?
What is the main source(s) of suffering?
Tell me what Zen is not.
Does Zen Buddhism believe in God or Gods?
Who was Buddha?
What is the core teaching of the Buddha?
What is the #1 teaching of the Buddha that he gave just before dying?
What is the main function of my Zen teacher?
What is the origin of the Koans?
What is a Koan given to a student and for what purpose it is given?
If the Koan you gave me cannot be answered by my thinking, how can I find the solution?
What is the proper way to answer a Koan?
How many Koans are in the Zen literature?
How do I know that my answer you the Koan you gave me is right?
Besides breathing, can I focus on something else during my meditation?
Can I count my breathing and why and how?
What is the difference between serenity and happiness?
Why is being “in the moment” is important?
Do past and future are realities?
What does “suffering” means?
What is Awakening?
Why knowing that everything is transient is important in Zen teaching?
Is there a difference between Awakening and Enlightenment?
What exactly Nirvana means?
How can I reach Nirvana and when?
How long does it take to reach Awakening?
What is happening when I am experiencing Awakening?
How often and how long should I meditate?
What is the minimum duration to meditate daily?
What is the best time to meditate during the day?
Why group meditation is important?
Why do many quit meditation?
What is meditation on the go?
Why am I using breathing as a focus point during meditation?
What type of breathing should I use for meditation?
Many use “guided meditation”. Is it okay?
Is meditation practice cumulative as far as its beneficial effects?
What exactly does being mindful mean?
How to get rid of my thoughts and feelings?
Is Karma part of Zen philosophy?
Does Zen believe in reincarnation?
Why my mind is in the past or future most of the time?
Why I cannot focus on my breathing for more than 30sec. during meditation?
I am using music to meditate: Is it okay?
What does practicing the Middle Way mean?
Can I meditate lying down?
What should I do when I am getting restless during meditation?
Is Zen too much self-centered compared with other religions?
Is my ego the main source of my suffering?
Should I keep my eyes open during meditation?
What are the main obstacles to proper meditation?
How do I know I am progressing?
Am I going to lose what I gained if I quit meditation for a few weeks?
Do Dharma talks teach absolute truth?
Can you describe walking meditation?
What is a meditation on the go?
Does a cushion meditation better than a chair and why?
Am I the major source of my sufferings?
Can I avoid suffering in my life by practicing daily meditation?
Is self-compassion a form of narcissism?
What does “ Just be” means?
What is the difference between brain and mind?
Can you explain what a “Don’t know mind” means and how to practice it?
To be mindful is to pay attention w/o any analytic nor decisional purpose: How can I do that?
Do the beneficial effects of meditation have been proven scientifically?
Why the ego is perceived so negatively in Zen teaching?
What exactly serenity means in Zen philosophy as opposed to happiness?
You said that everything is transient; what is permanent?
What are the most important points regarding my meditation posture?
Is there an after-life after my death?
Why the 4 Noble Truths are called that way?
What is the Zen position regarding consciousness?
How do I know the difference between factual reality and fictional one?
What is neuroplasticity?
What are the effects of meditation on my brain?
Does the practice of meditation cumulative?
Am I going to be happier after a few months of meditation?
Are there any tricks to watch my thoughts and emotions?
I could not set it today. What should I do?
How can I observe my thoughts and feelings?
How can the past bring suffering if the past is “dead” according to your teaching?
How can the future bring suffering if the future is “not born” according to your teaching?
Zen is teaching that our genuine self is not the one who thinks. Can you explain?
You said that we are alive only in the Now: can you explain that?
What is “Transmission”
Can anyone be able to become a Zen Master?
Does being “Awakened” bring happiness?
Why do our minds is spending so much time in the past and future?
Can I get rid off of my attachments?
What does “non-acceptance “mean?
Can I get rid off of my non-acceptance of whatever?
Is my ego friend or foe?
Does “Acceptance” sort of giving-up?
Do we have a balance between positive and negative energy?
Does my ego the main responsible for my self-centered behavior?
Why learning to focus mindfully on my breathing will help me to tame and control
my mind?
Does my ego the main source of my suffering?
What are the best books about Zen practice and mindfulness meditation?
Is consciousness the product of my mind or is it something else?
Can I be a Christian or Muslim or Jew or Indus and also practice Zen?
Zen says: “ When you eat, just eat; when you walk, just walk” What do they mean?
What does ” Day sleep walker” mean?
How do I know Iam progressing?