Posts by Arnaud Painvin:

#342 Perception vs. Reality. Role of acceptance Ap. 10th

       Perception vs reality: role of acceptance

Probably the hardest challenge in life is accepting how things, events and people are in reality and not how we perceive or want them to be. Perceptions are just that: not necessary based on fact, not necessary right or wrong.

Many brakes are blocking our way to accept life and its content as factual reality.

Let me name the most powerful ones:

Our expectation, culture, beliefs, ideas, education, experience, emotion, and sensorial stimuli.

All of them are very effective on their own because they can be subconscious and controlled by our

dominant ego. They are creating mind-set, labels, hope and surprises.

The results of the combined actions of these multitude brakes is how we see, experience and feel our surrounding world are called perceptions that is impressions or viewpoint.

These automatic perceptions can induce suffering from its 3 main sources: desire, hatred and ignorance. One should add: not getting what we want, getting what we don’t want, regretting the past and worries of the future.

Our perception about almost anything creates strong preferences for how things should be or should not be

When we believe things should be one way and they are not, we tend subconsciously

to bend reality to make them fit within our perception.

At this point perception becomes fictional perception.

Don’t take me wrong:

It is perfectly fine to perceive and have opinion about “a” and “b” or make decision about “c” and “d”. In fact, we have to do these exercises all the time and people are expecting you to do so.

Also, it is perfectly fine as long as our perception is matching reality,…. but how often it does?

The problem rises when our perception of events, people and things does not reflect reality or are wrong. It is like looking at the reflection of an object on a distorted mirror.

During this scenario, Zen practice is advising the following approach:

1)  Be aware of your current perception………which is not easy.

2)  Does your perception reflecting factual reality or just an unproven assumption?

   “ I am currently perceiving this or that: is it reflecting genuine reality of the moment or is it

     reflecting a mind-made fictional thought ?” Ex: a thought does exists but is not real.

3) Being right or wrong, do these realities or fictional thoughts are causing me suffering?

4) If so, acceptance of your suffering is key before dealing efficiently with the situation.

     Negative feelings may/will stay forever in the mind unless we accept them. 

    Practicing acceptance helps us counteract our ability to unconsciously skew our perceptions

    as we try to make the world fit our beliefs and desires.

Final words:

It is important to learn to be aware of our perceptions then to assess them such as:

    Are they based on factual reality or just unproven or just fiction from our mind?

    Are they right or wrong?

If our perceptions are causing suffering, acceptance of our suffering, rather than fight it, is key.

The objects of our perceptions and whether or not to accept or fight them should come only after.

Having an open mind called “don’t know mind” in Zen makes it easier to deal with our perceptions and their effects rather than having a mindset on everything and everybody which often induces

negatives feelings.

Thank y

#341 Breathing: experiencing the reality of the moment Ap.4th 21

Breathing: experiencing reality of the moment

We are breathing around x20,000 every day. This automatic vital function is subconscious and the trigger reflex is controlled by the CO2 in the brain.

Why breathing is considered so important in the practice of meditation in general, mindfulness,  mindfulness-based meditation in particular, and many other techniques of relaxation?

There are many reasons:

1) Practical reasons:

     – 1 We carry our breathing 24/7 making it available anytime.

     -2 Breathing is the only vital function of our body that we can control in amplitude and frequency.

2) As far Zen and other Oriental practices are concerned:

Focusing consciously and in a mindful way on breathing is a paramount skill to achieve as part of our spiritual journey towards better mind control, serenity and Awakening. Why that?

First:

We learn to focus on our body and what it is doing. We never do that unless medical conditions.

How often are you thinking about your hands?….and yet, our body and what it is doing is an obvious example of concrete reality. Isn’t!

Second:

Because being aware of our breathing is a perfect example to experience consciously the concrete reality of the present moment. It is only during this “NOW” that genuine non-fictional reality exists.

Past, future and their related thoughts and feelings do exist but they are the fruits of our mind-made fictional world.

Here is an example of concrete reality vs fictional one:

When you look, touch and smell an orange, you are experiencing the concrete reality of this fruit.

But if you do the same exercise mentally your are in the virtual, fictional, imaginative world of your mind even if your mental process does exist.

The only way to escape from our fictional mind traps, at least temporally, is to reconnect to our present reality of the moment and focusing on breathing is a wonderful tool to achieve it.

When and how to focus to our breathing in a mindful way?

1)During formal sitting meditation.

    By paying attention to your normal breathing as it is w/o controlling it and w/o analytic

    nor decision. This is the definition of mindfulness.

    By doing so, we anchor our restless mind as long as possible.

    Counting each breath after each exhale from 1 to 10 then back to 0 is a useful trick.

    When the mind is taking over- it always does- accept the pop-up thoughts, press the reset button and go back to the anchor. You are experiencing the reality of the moment, that is Awakening.

2)During the day:

    When looking for calmness or break away from being on autopilot, we can click on the pause button called breathing.

    Hold on your activities if you can, sit straight and take 5 to 10 controlled breaths with slower exhale.

    It has been proven scientifically that mindful and slow exhale done properly reduces tension and stress.

    Once-a-while move away from your autopilot behavior and daydreaming and experience

    the reality of the moment by practicing, on the go, mindful breathing.

    It  will not bring you ecstasy or even happiness but, at least, it will force our restless mind

     to be less talkative, at least for a short period of time.

Thank you.

#340 What is Zen ? Mar. 28 21

         What is Zen?

Zen is so simple that any attempt to describe it with words is doomed to confuse people simply because Zen means experiencing the concrete reality of the moment that is in the NOW.

Zen is made of:

What we are:

1) Our relative self is a daydreamer, experiencing fictional reality under the control of our powerful ego-driven mind in which daydreams to trap us continuously.

2) Our True Self/ Nature, experiencing, consciously, the surrounding and ultimate reality of the current moment, the opposite of daydreaming.

It cannot be revealed thru thinking but only by practicing awakening that is not being in a daydreaming state. It is achieved by experiencing current reality as it is, and not as we think it is or should be. Simply put: being conscious w/o thinking. Weird.

What we do:
By practicing mindfulness- based meditation during which we discover our True Nature as described and realize Awakening or Enlightenment.

   Mindfulness: to pay attention w/o analytic nor decisional process.

  Awakening means:

Not being trapped in a constant non-decisional daydreaming state but rather experiencing, in a mindful way, the concrete reality of the current moment that is in the NOW. It is achieved by bringing the mind where the body is and do.

Through a dedicated and consistent meditation practice, we realize that our genuine self has nothing to do with the ego-driven conditioned self, source of suffering from desires, hatred and the impossibility to differentiate reality from mind-made fiction (ignorance).

This path toward Awakening was achieved some 2,500 years ago by the Indian prince Siddhartha Gautama, who came to be known as Buddha meaning “Awakened one.”

His great teaching was that we can all achieve awakening regardless our beliefs.

Out of this realization flows:

   A natural serenity, wisdom, compassion to others and

   A peaceful and intuitively appropriate response toward whatever circumstances may arise.

Stop trying to get an intellectual understanding on Zen. There is nothing cognitive in it because

Zen is simply experiencing our non-dreaming state of the moment.

Meditation is a good example of it:

   Just breathe in with full awareness and appreciate it fully.

   Now breathe out, slowly, with equal appreciation. Anchor your mind to your breathing with or w/o

counting. Breathing with conscious awareness, on a regular basis, is the transformative profound and yet simple practice we call Zen. When we are focusing on our breathing, we are practicing

Awareness.

You discover the genuine reality of the NOW and not the mind-made fictional one of the past and

future which are trapping us continuously in a daydream space-times.

You discover that we are not a permanent, independent, unique, separate self-entity with a self-intrinsic life but rather interconnected and interdependent.

When you take a shower, use your 5 senses to invite your mind to join your body and share

this present and true real experience. You become Awake rather than a daydreamer.

This is Zen:  no brainer.

Thank you

#339 Taking our sadness for a ride Mar. 21 21

                                         Taking our sadness for a ride

Sadness is a frequent emotion to endure. When severe and persistent it may become depression.

Sometimes there is a good reason for being sad but, most often there is no reason at all.

We can wake up sad or happy w/o any obvious reason.  

If somebody near you is sad, there is little you can do to change her/his mood. Trying to help will probably goes nowhere because it could just frustrate you both.

So, what to do when sadness is controlling your mind?

3 options:

    1 You know the cause of your sadness and you can fix it: If so, rush for it.

    2 You know the origin but there is no solution.

    3 You don’t know the cause.

For the last 2 ones there is only one approach and it is the same for any unsolvable negative emotion meaning: “taking it for a ride”.

Recognize, accept and observe that you are sad in a mindful way that is don’t expect anything else such as analyzing your sadness.

It does not mean that you resign yourself to a life of recurrent sadness. This means that you acknowledge your current negative experience of sadness and say: “It is Okay”

Than, Excuse yourself from being unhappy. It means: self-compassion and self-forgiveness.

You are not super-woman or super-man.

Finally: decide to spend quality time with your sadness as long as necessary. It will not getting worse.

Taking your sadness for a ride” means just that: you are horse backing and the horse is sadness. If you are planning to take your sadness for an horse backing ride can give your horse a name: heartbreak, shittylife, loneliness, disease. You can call it John, Mary, boss, friend, weather, etc. When you give it a name, you will see your sadness as a visitor, a guest of your psyche.

You can treat it with respect and courtesy.

When you take sadness out for a walk you see beauty on your walk but don’t expect this beauty to make you happy or getting a break from your sadness. It is just beauty seen with sadness.

Take your sadness to yoga, shopping, meditation, Take it to therapy, exercise with it, feed it when you eat, fall asleep with it.  Horse backing is, in fact, having a date with your horse.

Do the same with your sadness.

When you are spending quality time with your sadness, be careful about how you treat yourself and the people in your life. Sadness often invites anger and anger looks for ways to express itself.

If being with your sadness causes you to hurt people around you then apologize.

If your sadness causes you to hurt yourself, then apologize and forgive yourself.

If you treat your sadness in a mindful way with patience, kindness and compassion, it will leave.  When it leaves, say goodbye. Thank it for the lessons it taught you.

Like most negative feelings sadness will come and go during our all life.

You might as well make a comfortable place for it when it strikes and be ready for the next horse backing.

Thank you all

#338 I don’t know but I know that…..by Harish Mar. 14 21

                          I DON’T KNOW BUT I THINK THAT….

This is a follow up on a recent Dharma Talk by Arnaud on building confidence during insecurity and incertitude.

Zen perspective is based upon trying to understand the mechanics of how the mind operates so that we end up controlling the mind, rather than the mind controlling our thoughts and actions.

There is an inherent weakness in human mind and intellect. One might call it “a manufacturing defect”. When the intellect cannot understand a thing in its right perception, the mind projects. In the Sanskrit it is called Maya. Ma means Not, and Ya means “that”. Thus Maya translates as “that which it is not”.  When one cannot understand a certain thing, you may say that “I don’t know”, but your mind steps in and says “But I think”. For example, if a new neighbour moves in your neighbourhood, and someone asks you what you think of the new neighbour, your reaction might be ”I don’t know, but I think he is a dangerous man because I have seen all kinds of strange people going in and out of his house”. Another example often quoted is that of a rope and a snake. In dim light, without knowing it to be a rope, your mind projects it to be a snake because of its shape. This causes fear in one’s mind. Once it is exposed to light, we see it as a rope. This knowledge brings the mind back to reality and the fear dissipates. Thus this non apprehension of the reality at the intellectual level which creates misapprehension in the mind together is called Maya Power.

Another trick that the mind plays is in how we misunderstand another person’s point of view in relation to the experiences of our own mind in the past. When someone is speaking to us, we may be hearing him, but our mind interprets the words of the speaker in terms of our own mind. For example, when someone talks about a trip he has taken, we are hearing this in relation to the trips we have taken. Misunderstanding can cause arguments between people. Psychologists will tell you that what you experience in your adulthood is a carryover of the unpleasant experiences you had as a child. Your mind sees every new experience in the light of your past experiences.

So how do we deal with this Maya Power? Over the centuries learned people have been saying that the best way is to develop a quiet mind which enables you to see the reality and not be swayed by the projections of the mind. The only true reality is your inner self. The body, mind, and intellect are but projections of the inner self. It is our involvements with the outer coverings or projections that create all our suffering. That essentially was Buddha’s message.

Constant meditation enables you to develop the equanimity and quietness of the mind so essential to our inner happiness.

#337 Is suffering really necessary? March 7th 21

            Is suffering really necessary?

During his 50 years of verbal teaching, the main message of the Buddha was that life is suffering. Suffering been understood in its generic meaning that is negativity. Was the Buddha a masochistic man? Not at all. In fact he was enjoying good times like anyone else.

Suffering comes from many sources but the main culprit is our ego that is our subconscious image of ourselves with its main purposes of survival, self-protection and self-enhancement.

Ego generates desires, hatred and ignorance meaning the impossibility to differentiate reality from fiction.

Is suffering really necessary in life? The answer is yes and no.

NO, suffering is not necessary:

Obviously we will answer NO. Who wants suffering?

Life will be wonderful w/o suffering. Perpetual joy and bliss from birth to death.

Search for happiness will not be necessary all the time nor to blame someone or something for being unhappy.

YES, suffering it is necessary:

“Where my suffering is coming from??”. “Is it causing by an external event that we don’t control or is it coming from inside that we may control?”

Most of us are blaming someone else or any other negative circumstances of life as source of suffering.

But is it so?

YES, suffering is necessary because it will give you the most likely source of it.

The necessity of suffering is not a pessimistic, fatalistic or masochistic view of life.

If we did not suffered as we have or will, there will be no depth to us as humans beings.

No humility, no compassion, no learning about sources of suffering and you will not be listening to this talk now.

So, the answer is yes. “Why it is necessary”? you may ask. Here is the rational behind it:

Suffering cracks open the protective shell of our ego and then, at this precise moment, comes the point where suffering has served its purpose.

When this protective shield of our ego is open during suffering we can see that the main attributes of our ego that is desires, hatred and illusion are the real culprits of our suffering expressed as dissatisfaction, anger, fear, guilt, and many more negatives feelings.

This awareness of the ego and its components causing suffering is a critical first step:

  To understand the ego driven genesis of suffering and.

  To learn to control its attributes causing pain.

Repeating again the above statement:

Suffering is the key to open the door of the ego’s safe inside witch the main causes of suffering are hidden tightly.

So, suffering is necessary until you realize it is unnecessary that is when the safe of the ego is open and we are able to be mindful of our ego-driven sources of suffering, to accept them and to deal with.

When you go through this process, there are no needs for a key anymore ……..at least temporally.

Remember this:

Suffering cannot be controlled without the awareness of its roots, which are desire, hatred, and ignorance of genuine reality, all of them ego generated. When you observe and accept the roots of our suffering you will become detached from them rather than their victim.

#336 Ego on love, love on ego Feb. 28 21

                     Ego on love, love on ego

The #1 goal of Zen Buddhism is to minimize suffering. This is why Zen loves to talk about the ego because it is our main source of suffering……..even and despite when love between 2 persons is involved.

Without our ego, love between 2 people, will be in theory, pain-free, eternal in intensity and duration.

There will be no expectation, no grasping, no trade and no subconscious conditions.

We would likely love everybody. No need to pick and choose based on what our ego is looking for.

The reverse is also true, that is we wouldn’t see any reason a person shouldn’t love us.

In an hypothetic ego-free relationship, flaws and individualities would not be an obstacle nor threat to the other one.

Ego-free unconditional love does not exist because what we are looking for is mostly driven by our inner personality and this inner self is programmed by our ego……. that we like it or not.

We fall in love because we are expecting benefits from the relationship and not harm.

We are giving something that we think we have to offer in exchange for receiving something else that we are expecting from the other one. Pretty tricky trade.

Thanks to our ego, the scope of our love is not unlimited and we pick carefully, consciously or not, whom we will share our love with.  

Our ego maintains a tightly guarded inner circle that we open only to somebody that, we think will be a good match and make us happy.

During loving relationship between 2 human beings our ego, unfortunately, will open the door for potential painful events.

Unfortunately, when we first fall in love, we are, in a figurative way “blind if not insane” thanks to our emotional surge.

Example: you are texting to someone you are crazy about and are expecting a quick reply.

You will, unconsciously, time how long it takes for the reply.

Anything more than a few min. and you may start second guessing the love.

This is painful and this is a game of the ego but has nothing to do with love.

Genuine love is not painful. On the opposite, it brings mutual joy, compassion, assistance, patience, sharing of good/bad times, and many more.

As far Zen teaching is concerned, these are a few ways that our ego turns love into pain and we have to be mindful to the traps such as:

Ongoing demands and high expectations, attachment and grasping, growing self-centered behavior, poor control of negative emotions such as anger and lack of tolerance, etc.  

As we say in Zen:

“When love between 2 people becomes a permanent meeting of 2 egos that cannot be controlled, pain is around the corner.”

Quote from Eckhart Tolle:

“  What is commonly called “falling in love” is, in most cases, an intensification of egoist wanting and needing. We become addicted to the other person, or rather to our image of that person. It has nothing to do with true unconditional love, which contains no wanting and no expectation whatsoever.”

Thank you.

#353 Looking deeply into food Feb. 21th 21

                     Looking deeply into food

During lunch break, we are eating almost like a robot, even still in front of the screen.

Our body is eating whereas our mind is, as always, busy in different space-times doing something else. The body has a lunch break but your mind is running around.

This is, as Zen says:  “Day- sleep walking” at its best.

During serious Zen retreat since meals are taken in absolute silence, sort of spiritual activity.

The mind must eat, in a mindful way with the body, that is being aware of the food such as shape, taste, color, texture, temperature, etc… This is eating almost in slow motion. 

Even more: when you eat, take a short awareness moment to look into the food and drink as if you could see backward, into its history.

Use the power of your imagination to see where the food came from and how many people might have been involved in bringing this food into your month.

Then, thanks those people before your next bite.

When we become mindful into our food, we become acutely aware of our total dependence and interaction with Nature and other providers.

For example, if you pause to contemplate a single raisin in your cereal bowl and try to count the number of events and humans who were involved in the process of creation and delivery.

This number is significant.

If you go back to the seed of this raisin, its geographic origin, the energy needed, etc…this number could reach tens of thousands.

Don’t try because you have to go back to your computer.

How can we, at least for a short instant, acknowledge the fact that meals are not a given but a gift.

Can we, at least, honor Nature and human providers with our awareness and mindful moment of appreciation and even gratitude.

It does not mean that we have to take 4 hours to eat but 1 or 2 min. of genuine mindful eating- habit is enough.

Final words:

The Life energy of Nature and its many living beings flows literally into us as we eat.

How best to repay them?

Simply by being fully mindful as we eat and what we are eating.

It does not mean to analyze and judge every aspects of the meal including its genesis.

It simply means to express intentional awareness and gratitude of our food, the link between Nature and people behind the scene, and ourselves.

Thanks Arnaud

#352: Unfolding the wings of acceptance by James Feb. 14 21

Unfolding the wings of acceptance

We often talk about mindfulness and leave out compassion. In today’s talk I will talk about acceptance and how mindfulness and compassion work together.

We create suffering when we are caught in the trance of life. We often don’t clearly recognize or feel, what is happening inside of us. Our view of who we are, becomes our narrative. This results in our heart becomes hardened and our view of who we are becomes narrow. We turn sharply against ourselves. We thus cause pain.

We begin to become free when we let go of our stories of what is wrong with us. Acceptance from the heart and mind is the essence of the spiritual life.

So, what is acceptance? —— Genuine Acceptance?

Genuine acceptance is seeing clearly, by touching and holding our experiences with compassion, and mindfulness.

In Buddhism, mindfulness is being with what is, moment by moment, seeing it as it is.

Mindfulness is unconditional and open. Even if we wish the pain to go away. We cannot honestly accept an experience, unless we see clearly what we are accepting. It’s seeing and feeling the tingling in our body, the stress, the anxiety and recognizing all there is, without trying to manage the experience.

Compassion on the other hand is genuine acceptance. Compassion is the capacity to relate in a tender and sympathetic way to what we perceive. Instead of being or restricting pain. We embrace the pain with kindness, like a mother, holding a child.

Compassion honors our experience and allows us to be intimate to life as it unfolds. Its honoring acceptance and compassion. Its inseparable and essential in liberating us from the trance. The very nature of our awareness is to know what is happening. The nature of our heart is to care.

Genuine acceptance helps us heal and move on, free from the unconscious habits of self.

The prerequisite to true freedom is to decide that you do not want to suffer anymore, period.

One must decide that you want to enjoy your life, that there’s no reason for stress, inner pain, or fear. We fear that we are not good enough and that we will fail. As a result, we experience insecurity anxiety and self-consciousness. We create pain.

We are either feeling it or we are protecting ourselves from feeling it. When Buddha said that all of life is suffering. This is what he was referring to.

People don’t realize how much they are suffering, like a fish in water, because they have not experienced what it is not to suffer. Compassion helps us cultivate our capacity to hold with kindness, painful or intense experiences that are arising within us.

In summary, we look at compassion, and mindfulness, like the two wings of a great bird. They are interdependent so they can allow the bird to fly. This is when we begin to touch with our hearts what is happening with clear and kind attention. This is where compassion and mindfulness join to create acceptance.

Thanks, James

#351 Quantum physic and Zen by Mark Feb. 7 21

Quantum physic and Zen philosophy.

Physics is the study of nature, matter and the properties of energy. Over the centuries our understanding of physics has become more and more refined. It started out as simply logical deductive reasoning from Aristotle. Amazingly, little more progress was made over the next 2,000 years until Isaac Newton made his monumental discoveries of the laws of motion and gravity. We are all likely familiar with his 3 most famous laws: an object will not change its motion unless a force acts on it; the force on an object is equal to its mass times its acceleration and when two objects interact, they apply forces to each other of equal magnitude and opposite direction.

These laws perfectly describe our macro world, the world that we see around us. They are deterministic. Meaning, we can use the laws to determine the future movements of objects that involve motion and gravity with perfect precision. These laws are so exact that if, in theory, we knew the exact location of every particle in the universe and the forces acting on them, by applying Newton laws we can absolutely determine the future location of those particles. In essence, we could predict the future.

Newton’s laws stood unchallenged as the basis of physics for 200 years. That was until a group of scientists in the 1920’s and 30’s discovered quantum physics. This is a very complicated field but basically what they discovered was that Newton’s laws did not hold when they started to investigate the atom and its components. At this sub-atomic level all matter is essentially light. Newton’s laws of motion and gravity simply did not describe the world they were seeing inside the atom. These young scientists uncovered a new set of laws that were able to describe what they saw. But, there was a big difference between Newton’s laws and the laws of the quantum world. Newton’s laws are able to give us perfect predictions of the future, if we knew the exact location of matter and the forces acting on it. Quantum laws give

us no such certainty. The best description they give us is one based on probability. The location of an electron at any given time can only be predicted with some degree of probability. Another key law of the quantum world is that particles only exist in relation to each other. There is no absolute existence.

So, what does this all have to do with Zen philosophy? We know that a large source of our suffering comes from our tendency to project into the future and especially to strive for some sort of certainty about how our actions will create good outcomes. You can see how this sounds very Newtonian. If I make some good choices then I will have good outcomes. But we now know from the quantum world that these expectations are false. How can we live in the macro world expecting certainty when the most basic components of our matter behave only with probability? The universe is designed to disappoint those who seek certainty. This is a tough lesson to learn for many. Our continued practice of meditation and training the mind to live with uncertainty is properly aligned with how the universe is organized at its most fundamental level.

Thank you