Posts by Arnaud Painvin:

#283 Becoming a mind watcher August 18th 19

                                    Becoming a Mind watcher

Beside controlling our body and using its cognitive skills, our mind is a fantastic movie maker, producing around 90,000 films every days made of thoughts and emotions in different space-times, various scenarios and actor. We are inside the screen, trapped in this mind-made ongoing fictional worlds. Enough to become almost insane for many. 

However we can get rid of almost all this mental insanity hidden in your preconscious mind where past and future are the dominant playgrounds.

Just by being a simple witness of your ongoing thought & emotions should do the trick.
How to do it? It requires practice.
Simply sit silently, watch and witness your thoughts/emotions passing before you. Just witnessing, not interfering that is not analyzing and not judging, because the moment you enter in a cognitive element, you have lost your status of being the pure witness. Like in Court, the witness does not judge.

The moment your inner voice says “this is good, this is bad, why, how, when, where, whom”, I want, I don’t want you have already jumped onto the cognitive and emotional slippery slope, like being a hamster in its wheel.

It takes daily practice to create a gap between the thinker i.e. the victim of the mind tricks instead of being  the witness of the tricks.

Once the gap is there, you are in for a great surprise: you are not driven anymore by your mind, you are the witness, a watcher of it.

And this process of watching your usual ruler (mind) becomes is the magic of real spirituality.

As you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start to shrink, even evaporate, at least temporarily.

At this point your mind becomes still and silent. This is one of the characteristics of an

“Empty mind” as Zen calls it.

In fact, learning to watch the stampede of our thoughts while focusing on our breathing or on any other focusing targets is the primary goal of mindfulness meditation.

At this moment and, unfortunately, for a short duration, you are experiencing enlightenment or better said awakening.

This is the moment we become, for the first time, a free human being, liberated from

our inner prison called mind.

Thank you

August

#282 ZEN CHAT with a WAVE August 3 -19

             Zen chat with a wave

It was Monday July the 8th 2018. Fully awake at ~3 am and with a fantastic weather outside, I decided to dress-up and walk to the lake 10min. away.

Seating on a bench and in a mindful way, I used my 5 senses to experience the serenity and beauty of the surrounding nature. Reality at its best. No wandering mind, no dream, no past, no future, just in the moment.

The lake was quiet . A little breeze was creating small waves finishing gently on the shore.

I decided to focus intensively on these little waves and, after a while, I was chatting with them.

Hello little waves, how are you?

One of them, just born, replied: we are okay she said.

You must be sad I said.

Why replied the little wave.

For one your life is so short: you come to life, do a quick rolling and then die on the shore.

Humans go thru the same cycle she replied. Yes, your life span is longer than ours, but so what!

Look at the quality of human life. It is full of unhappiness, dissatisfaction and other negative feelings. All are driven by ongoing desire, hatred, illusion and mind-set. Waves are just waves, living in the moment. We are not driven by mind-made traps like humans because our mind is clear like water.

Okay, I said, but you are very tiny.

Yes. Right now we are small but sometimes we are bigger. You call us tsunami when we are gigantic or ripple when we are very small.

Do you have any purpose on this planet, I asked curiously.

Just being a nice wave she replied. Sometimes we make humans happy when they surf on us and when seagulls rest on the top. Beside, we clean the shores all around the world when we are big and during tides.

Humans are always dreaming about doing this and that. You want, don’t want. When we cannot, they suffer. Very sad.

By the way, we never understood why you live in 3 space-times such as past, present and future.

Waves live in the present because it is the only one when we are alive. The others ones are man-made concepts. Past and future are only NOW in your mind when you think about.

Little wave, it looks like you are expressing some serenity. Can you elaborate? I asked

She replied: Maybe the best answers are:

I am never alone and I will never die because, even if I am a tiny wave for few min, I am also always part of the infinite lake or ocean, which never die. I will become a new wave soon. This is very comforting emotionally.  Sort of immortality.

Beside, we accept impermanence as part of the life cycle whereas humans don’t realize that everything is transient.

What do you mean? I asked:

You think that each of you is a permanent, unique, independent, separate self-entity, quite the opposite of us. This is in your preconscious mind where fear of dying is alive if I may say.

So, what can we do to achieve your serenity? 

Be like me. Your idea of happiness is the main reason of your unhappiness and….. Before she finished her sentence, the little wave past away, becoming the lake again. She was serene my little wave.

#281 Daily practice of quantum Zen July 27th 19

Daily practice of “quantum Zen”

Quantum physic studies the very very tiny physical particles.

In the same way “quantum Zen” physic looks at the tiny tiny components of on-the-go Zen practice as opposed to its mega components such as formal sitting, walking meditations, koans and monthly one-on one interview between student and teacher.

Tiny components of daily Zen practice pop-up as soon as we wake up and as soon as we fall asleep.

Here is a non-inclusive list of 10 on-the- go quantum Zen practice.

1) Do one thing at a time, slowly, completely and in a mindful way. Its means:

Bring your mind where your body is and what you do, even during routine or boring stuff that our mind hates. It prefers wandering in the past and future with its cohorts of dreams and good and bad feelings

Examples of this short mindful practice are infinite: peeling potatoes, eating, walking, being under the shower, peeing, listening, talking, touching, etc…

2) Do less stuff rather than trying to do too many things.

3) Designate protected time for certain exercises such as:

Use your 5 senses, one at a time, to pay attention & experience surrounding reality of the moment. The rest is pure mind-made fiction. This is a great skill to learn to put your mind in stand-by.     

Do short breathing meditation in any positions and anywhere.

Shut off your cell phone for at least 10 sec….hopefully more, unless special circumstances.

4) Stop judging all the time about anything …unless requested. Nobody cares anyway.

5) Once a while forgive yourself about what you did, do or think.

If you cannot do it for yourself, how can you forgive others? This part of compassion.

6) Once a while check your thoughts.

You don’t have to believe all of them.

So, just say hello to the useless / irrelevant ones and drop them in the recycling bin.

You will avoid mental pollution.

7) Stay in the present moment, good or bad, the only moment when you are alive

 This is the only one when concrete reality exists.

“Past you” is dead. “Future you” is not born.

We cannot be alive in 3 different space-times.

8) Do not be entertained by your mind as your second self-made Netflix. Enough addiction.

9) When you are victim of a strong negative emotion, just pay attention, acknowledge and accept it.This is a very difficult skill but it is the only way. Fighting it will make it worse.

10) Do not read too many smart books to achieve serenity.  

A donkey carrying smart books is still a donkey.

#279 How to use our 5 senses to practice on-the-go-mindfulness exercises. July 14th

             How to use our 5 senses to practice on-the-go mindfulness exercises

The practice of mindfulness meditation, regardless its quality, is cumulative as far its beneficial effects tat is how we perceive life and its content, how to experience the reality of the moment and how we are able to control our mind. Hoe often is more important than how.

The more we practice the better, regardless the quality and duration of our meditation are.

This is difficult to accept since we have learned, thru our Western education, that the more we practice on something the better we become at it.

The quality of our sitting is and will never be perfect even among the Masters simply because the mindis very powerful to escape from the focusing object that we are imposing on him.

Judging the quality of our mediation means quitting sooner or later.  

Beside weekly formal sitting and walking meditation, what can we do to increase the frequency of our mindfulness-based meditation practice?

Before going thru few examples, I would like to remind you of the 3 main functions of our mind/brain.

     1) Acting as a receiver of our immediate environment.

           Using its 5 senses acting as “radars”, our mind/brain is acting as a vey sensitive and powerful            receiver of the external world. He is collecting instantly, consciously or nor, zillions of data.

          Then he will t transform them into electric-chemical signals which will be computerized so            we an see, hear, smell, touch and taste. Based on the process, we are able to analyze, act and   experience reality of the moment. As far neuro research is concerned, we still have no clue why we can see colors whereas it is black inside, nor sounds when it is silence.

     2) Acting as the maker, manager and monitor of our 100 trillions cells in 78 organs 24/7

     3) Acting as a mental factory with 2 main functions:

             Cognitive: producing around 90,000 thoughts /day for analysis, deduction, judgment,  decision, memory, expectation, etc…

             Emotional:  contrary to our rational mind/brain, our emotional one always reacts immediately, around 100 times faster, in milliseconds.

Using one of our 5 senses is an excellent practical tool to practice mindfulness during the day because our mind/brain is extremely sensitive to its sensorial outputs, which will take priority if you decide to use one of them

You may pick seeing, hearing, touching, tasting or smelling.

Depending of the circumstances you can also:

      Keep the same “receptor” or alternate with others during the same day.

      Duration may vary from less than 1 min. to several.

 These sensorial focus points are infinite. Here are few examples:

      Seeing: paying attention to one color i.e.  sky, clouds, the green of trees, the motion of the wind, etc

      Hearing: silence, birds, cars, wind, rain, your steps, music, your tooth brush  etc…

      Touching: the ground when walking, touching your skin, a page of a book, etc…

      Smelling: the air, the food, grass, etc.

      Tasting: drink, food, etc.

It is important to practice in a mindful way that is just paying attention to your chosen focus w/o being trapped in some sort of analytic process of your target.

Remember this:

Despite its enormous power of zillions bits, the mind/brain cannot deal with 2 thoughts at the same time. We don’t know why.

When you focus, for example, on the sound of the train on the tracks or on the taste of an apple, or the sound of the wind or the orange color of the sky at sun set, just do that andyour mind/brain cannot do other thing but to obey you that is to focus on what we are asking him to do. This is key to achieve awakening, one thought at a time on concrete reality.

#278 : Stop being miserable in advance July 6th 19

                  Stop being miserable in advance

Another way to say it would be:

 “We should not try to be our own news maker with a mind-made 24h news channel, full of negativity”.

It is well known among guru in media marketing that news content from the major broadcasting networks must be at least 75% to 80% bad news or drama to attract viewers.

The highest Nielsen audience, the more expensive commercials are.

Drama/bad news are the rules for high audience with the exception live sport networks.

The way we, consciously and nervously worry about zillions of bad news from the media or nor existing yet is strange if you think about it.  To the extreme it might even be considered masochistic.

By definition, this voluntary anxious feeling about something that hasn’t not yet happened is a powerful mental trap and pure delusion since the future and its concrete content do not yet exist.  How our mind is controlling us by generating positive and negative emotions involving the virtual reality of the future is fascinating

Unfortunately, this is what we are doing spontaneously most of the time without looking too much at its rationality. This is called, in Zen,  “day dream walking”

Why are we our own mind-made 24h bad news channel and why we are, too often, attracted to negativity and “feel bad” stuff?

Modern research in psychology has not yet been able to find clear answers.

Maybe our 3.4 billion years of evolution with fear of danger, fight for survival and unpredictability has affected our genes responsible of this mental behavior.

Pragmatist people including Zen practitioners cannot be and should not be worried about every possible outcome in advance. Think about it:

Best scenario— If the news turns out to be better than expected, all this previous time of been worried was wasted with needless permanent anxiety and fear.

The present moment is contaminated by this hypothetical doom and gloom.

Worst scenario— If the bad news turned out to be true, we have been also  miserable in advance, sort of bad extra time before reality. Crazy.

Bad stuff is  bad enough when they arrived. Don’t give them more mental space.

Surely, there are better way to use the current moment even if this moment is perceived boring and dull.

A day that should not be spent in worrying about the days we may not exist.

Let the news come when it comes and don’t be anxious and worried in advance.

Instead, try to keep the mind to pay attention to the now, the only reality even if your mind is bordered. Being in Past and future are  mental entertainment.

#277 The Impossible task June 29th 19

   The impossible task

How often you are doing nothing or feel like it?

The answer is simple: almost never because, as far the go is concerned, doing nothing will be unacceptable, detrimental to our  social and self image. Our ego believes that we are important and indispensible then, “Doing nothing” is impossible, sort of personal and social failure. We base our identification with what we are doing, what we are thinking.

Look at your average day: From the time we wake up to the time we fall asleep we are running around like a hamster in its wheel. We have to achieve whatever.

Even when we have a rare free moment we are rushing to do something, somewhere : surfing the net, texting, emailing, reading a book, cooking, gardening, shopping, travelling, going to the movie, watching TV, etc.

We are “alcoholic doers” and if we do not do something we feel like being on standstill, frozen in a huge vacuum, sort of emptiness, usefulness or failure.

“I am, therefore I must do x ,y,  z, non stop in total automatic behavior.”  Zen calls that: “ Day sleep walking”

Our body and mind are restless and busy non-stop, wandering continuously: thoughts, worries, anger, planning, expectations, god and bad memories, analysis, judgment, etc.

We are complaining that we don’t have time but we automatically accumulate or create things to do all day long making the time shrinking.

Not only we are busy at doing one thing but, more and more, we must be “multi-taskers”.

We have to do zillion of things at the same time because we believe that we do not have enough time before the end of the day.

This is a vicious circle: More stuff to do = less time to do = less stuff done=more stress and anxiety.

Why are we resisting so much  against “doing nothing”?

To keep ourselves busy, to feel busy or to project being busy is part our ego self-image and socio-professional profile.

      We don’t want to be perceived by others and ourselves of perceiving being useless, inactive, lazy or failing. We want to be and to look productive. Doing nothing is simply not acceptable and ill perceived by self and by the society. Beside, we don’t want to be bored.

We don’t have the mental skills nor the courage for doing nothing because doing nothing goes against our ego  which perceives “doing nothing” as “I am not existing, I am lazy, I am useless”

Subconsciously we feel guilty of doing nothing with the fear of boredom.

Doing nothing is in fact doing something that is perceived by our ego-mind as meaningless, empty, useless and a waste of time.

The feeling of “doing nothing” is just an ego-generated perception, a pure reaction of a defense mechanism. This perception is crazy and detrimental for our emotional balance because of its negative image

What  “doing nothing” really means?

Doing nothing does not mean anything and should not carry any negative meaning. This is a mindset.

Doing noting is a weird concept, a contradiction of terms since doing nothing is, in fact, doing something called “nothing” whatever its means in your mind.

So, “doing nothing” is a delusive perception created by an ego-driven mind. It does not exist.

“I am,  therefore I do or should do this and that non stop.” 

Also, what you perceive as “nothing” can be “something” for someone else.

Doing nothing and doing something are identical, only the way our ego perceives and understands the words create this artificial difference.

It is up to us to choose the proper meaning.

Maybe doing nothing is doing something outside our mandatory daily duties and outside the routine, without any specific purposes, goals or achievements.  Does just breathing is doing nothing?

Does sitting still during meditation is doing nothing? Our ego wants to do “something, to be active and for many, sitting still is doing nothing. On the contrary, sitting still and focusing on breathing is doing a lot.

Next time if some is asking you “ How are you doing?” , reply “I am doing nothing”.

You will trigger surprise and concerns since you are supposing to be busy.

#275: The HIDDEN SOURCE of SUFFERING June 23th 19

  Hidden source of suffering

The Sanskrit word “Dukkha” was poorly translated as “suffering”. “Dukkha” encompasses any negativity coming from life (I call it external negativity) and from our body-mind, that I call internal negativity)

A small proportion of negativity is external such as accidents, disaster, lose of a loved one, separation, being fired, illness, etc; but, by far, most of our negativity is internal or self-induced thinking.

Self induced suffering is generated by the so-called 3 roots: “I want” (this is desire) – “I don’t want” (this is hatred) – and “I believe” (so called ignorance or not knowing genuine reality).

Desires, hatred and beliefs come from our incessant thinking made of education judgments, expectation about us, others, events and life in general.

      Positive feelings, for example pleasure and joy are not very frequent and don’t not linger too long.

On the contrary, negative feelings such anger, worries, nostalgia are more frequent and last longer.

 Probably based on 3.4 billion years of evolution, our brain-mind is magnetizing more to the negative stuff such as danger, and because the job of our ego is fight against it and to protect us.  

        Therefore, as we struggle with our ongoing emotional roller coaster, we progressively develop mental habits to feed our pain and be trapped with it.

Negative thinking is our default mode and was already discussed by the Buddha 2,500 years ago. Nothing new under the sky.

So, what can we do?

As far “external negativity” Zen says: “ Things are what they are and not what we want them to be”.

It does not mean to give up on everything.

Frustration, anger against external suffering ? Maybe but they do not help, instead they do the opposite.

Accept, adapt and let go because external events, as oppose to the internal ones are transients.

Regarding the internal suffering, what we can do, first, is to be mindful to our mind-made inner noise by paying attention, in a nonanalytic way, to each positive and negative emotion (desire & hatred), our illusion, beliefs, expectation and judgment.  

       Judging more consciously and less automatically is important. Judge only when required and don’t use it as part of a social small talk.

      Anger, guilt, fear, pride, blame and shame are very powerful instruments of our ego. They, also, need to be observed then accepted otherwise we become slaves of them.

      Creating a quieter mind-space starts with taking contact with genuine reality. For example, by focusing on the inputs of our 5 senses or on few breaths.

When you bring your attention to your breath, you become present and aware. As you notice your breath, also try to remember what is good in you and your thoughts are just thoughts and not reality.

Self-compassion and self-forgiveness are totally alien in our Western culture.

Remember that we do not control too much around us, therefore there is nothing too much we can do about external sources of suffering: not on their timing, intensity and duration. Just accept them the best you can and be mindful to their transient traits. They never last forever unless you are stuck with them.

As far our internal hidden sources, by accepting them rather than resisting or fighting will cool down our emotional energy, helping your rational prefrontal mind against our reptilian centre.

It will greatly help  in dealing  with our internal pains in a more constructive way rather been prisoner of them.

Thanks, you    Zen: an oasis of serenity inside a restless mind

#274 WALKING: a detoxing step against burnout Sun. June 9th 19

                       Walking:  a detoxing step against burnout

“Have a walk” is a good advice to someone who needs to cool down somewhat.

Burnout has become the # 1buzzword over the last 10 years. Modern life doesn’t seem to be relaxing us or even care. Media are increasingly talking about anxiety, anger, fatigue, depression, etc. Self-help books, relaxation apps and wellness gurus are widely available to many and yet emotions such as anxiety, anger, burnout,depression, nostalgia are the #1 causes of medical consultation in our Western civilization.

Some of our daily struggles include Internet overload, feeling of loneliness despite social media, competitive working world, lack of time and multi tasking and so on.

In our frantic pace and time contraction we are unable to keep our focus more than few min. on one single target. The reason? Our mind is in constant boiling state.

Ask yourself this bizarre question: “ How often do I think that I am walking?”  Of course Never.

Walking is a basic reflex starting between 9 and 12 months old.

Subconsciously we average 7,000 steps/day.

That is around 180,000 Km during a 80 years lifespan. This is lot of steps to think about. And yet, when we put one foot in front of the other our mind is running around non-stop but certainly not on paying attention on our subconscious automatic walking.

Walking is used to move our body from A to B. It is a basic mechanical activity during which our mind is not walking but running non-stop about this and that.

For must of us, we never use walking as a tool to quiet our mind.

Greek and Roman philosophers wrote about the benefits of walking. There is a Latin sentence saying

“It is solved by walking,” and, by “it” I mean almost anything.

 For zillions of years back, walking is one of the keys to health, well-being, and creativity. Not only its physical part is important even if the number of calories burned is minimal, but its mental and emotional impacts one are also critical.

 Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest, “A turn or two I’ll walk, to still my beating mind”

How to walk in a mindful way?

Not easy but you don’t need to be a genius to walk in a mindful way if you are looking to achieve a quieter mind. In fact, the only tool we need is to pay attention to your our steps. Here are the recipes:

Slow down the pace, keep a straight back, breath normally and focus on each step one by one by feeling the ground. Looking few meters away but don’t be distracted by what you see.

Do this for few min during which your cell phone is off. (An impossibility for many already addicted to it)

Over time, we will be able to repeat this “moving mindfulness meditation” exercise every time we walk. 

Like its sitting meditation sister, walking meditation is also a practical act with spiritual ramifications. 

In Walking Meditation the great Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh explains that walking and paying attention to our steps are acts of enlightenment. He points out that by cultivating this habit of walking attentively, we can start to see the world around us more clearly.

In many retreat centres walking meditation is as important than the sitting one because more challenging.

Walking forces the mind to focus on each of our steps. Therefore, the mind has no options but to slowdown the flow of thoughts the same way that breathing does during sitting meditation.

Breathing and steps are powerful mind anchors. They are twins as far the effects.

We become more present to the moment and its surrounding reality.

In the long term it will ease anxiety, spark creativity, increase productivity, and detox us from digital overload (that is, if you don’t walk with your thumbs pressing frenetically the keyboard of your cell phone ).

#273 IT IS NOT WHAT WE THINK Sun. June 2 19

                                                 It’s Not What We Think   

One of the strangest mysteries of life is that people, events and things are, usually, not what we think they are.  Taking an analogy with a computer, each of our individual perception is triggered by zillion of gigabits  coming nonstop from the outside world. This is the data input.  

Then, we think and think and think and all of that thinking shapes our values, beliefs, decisions, behavior and life in general. That is information output.

Between the input and the output is our mind filtrating everything for the good and the bad.

This output is made of thoughts very often distorted from the inputs: reality is not what we think.

Our mind-made world is shaped and reshaped non-stop by our 5 senses, previous education, learning experience, judgment, beliefs, people and events.  

Many of of our and judgment and beliefs are important and help us survive others are useless and even dangerous. What we think is sometimes based on true external reality but , more often, it is coming from mind-made fictional world. Whatever our thoughts are true or false, right or wrong, useful or not,  all of them affect our behavior, how we see things and how we rethink again .

Our thoughts about people, events, things are our personal mental output on how we perceive our outside world.

Whether based on reality or pure fiction, wise or deluded, our thoughts carry, most the time, an emotional dimension that affects our lives 24/7 non-stop. This is why, genuine reality is not what we think.

If we spend our days thinking about things that make us nostalgic, angry, anxious, jealous , worried or craving, we will live in an nostalgic, angry, anxious ,worried lives and craving for this and that.

If we spend our time thinking about sadness, we have sad lives. If we spend our time thinking about how grateful we are, we have lives marked by gratitude.  If we spend our lives thinking about harmony, we learn to live in harmony. If you learn to be compassionate with self, you will learn to be compassionate with others…and so on.

To live in harmony with our world, we have to be, first, in harmony with ourselves that is our body and our mind.

It means to accept not only our physical self as it is but also our emotional self-made of positive and negative feelings such as desires, hatred, sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, illusions.

These emotional weather will always be there not only because we are creating them but also because there are also created by our surrounding world such as injustice making us angry, tragedies to make us sad, dangers to bring us fear. However, there will always be love, compassion and understanding to hold us together.

Reminding ourselves all the time, that people, events and things are not always what we think they are or should be can help us to keep a more serene and quieter mind and how to interact with our surrounding world.

When we are at peace, we think better than when we are angry, when we are afraid or even, when we are super excited.

Even with an imperfect past and unknown future, you can find peace in the present. If you are suffering in the present moment, you pay attention to its impermanence or you can evoke compassion coming from us or from others and

Whenever you have an opportunity to consider compassion, practice compassion, or receive compassion, you are inviting peace and harmony into your life.

In a more peaceful present you gain better perspective and think better thoughts.

No matter how wonderful or dreadful your thoughts get, they are still transient immaterial entities.

Good or bad, what we think about x,y,z . are just thoughts. Even coming from your mind, that are not necessary truth and reality. The world is what it is and not what we think it is or want it to be.

Thank you.