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#270 ONLY ONGOING CHANGE is PERMANENT 19 May 19

Only ongoing change is permanent. Part 1

We like comfort and stability but resist and even fear the ongoing changes. It is probably liked to our 200,000 years evolution where search for stability is a default mode.

The last words of the Buddha before dying from mushroom poison were:

“Everything is transient. Understand, accept and behave accordingly to this fundamental reality of life”

Impermanence means that everything changes and nothing remains the same in any consecutive moment even if we have the strong perception that nothing changes too much day by day.

The practice and understanding of impermanence is not just another description of absolute reality, it is a practical tool helping us in our adaptation, transformation, acceptance of this and that . It will help in healing and, eventually achieving serenity.

Impermanence makes everything, including life, possible.

We are often sad and suffer a lot when good and positive things change, but change and impermanence have a positive side. Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible. Bad moments don’t last and Life itself is possible.

If a grain of corn is not impermanent, it can never be transformed into corn.

If our kids are not impermanent, they cannot grow up to become adults.

So instead of resisting and complaining about impermanence, we should accept it as a fact of life  and behave accordingly.

When we can see the miracle of impermanence our sadness and suffering about disasters, losses, anger, fear, nostalgia, jealousy will pass.

Impermanence should also be understood in the light of  our interconnection and interdependence between living beings.

Because all living beings are interconnected and interdependent, they are constantly influencing each other. It is said a butterfly’s wings flapping on one side of the planet can affect the weather on the other side.

Nothing stays the same because everything is influenced by zillion of independent and unrelated factors totally out of our control.

Practicing Impermanence

All of us can understand impermanence with our intellect, but this is not yet true understanding, just a cognitive stage. Our intellect alone will not lead us to acceptance, freedom or enlightenment.  

When we look deeply and see the nature of impermanence everywhere, we can then be concentrated on its deep meaning and meditation on impermanence will help greatly.

This is how our insight of impermanence becomes part of our being and our daily experience.

Continually, we have to maintain our insight of impermanence in order to accept life, people and events as they are and and not as we want them to be. No resistance, no fight, no frustration.Life becomes more manageable and solutions to problems must be considered eventually.

Using impermanence as a focusing object of our meditation, we will become familiar with it and it will be inside us every day.

With this practice, impermanence becomes a key part of our life and we discover that it is an integral part of fundamental reality.

Most of the time we behave –subconsciously- as if people, events, feelings will stay as they are now. The list is infinite: kids, relationship, job, health, house, goods, environment, peace, Earth and so on will remained as they are. This list also includes our positive and negative feelings. Love, anger, fear, worries, nostalgia, hatred, beliefs, etc..all change all the time.

Our mind activity is changing non-stop 24/7  with around 90 to 100 thousands thoughts/day.

Therefore we do not value 100% each moment because we have this illusion of permanency.

Knowing that impermanence is permanent or everything is transient is helping us to appreciate good things, events and people right now.

You may ask: what about bad moments and negative emotions? Despite being painful, should we accept them too? Of course yes, but focusing on their transient features will help you to accept them and be patient rather than being mad or sad.

Nothing can escape from being transient: from the sub-particles in quantum physic to clouds, weather, and health good and bad stuff, the universe, you and me. Again, impermanence is a very good reality to focus on while meditating.

At this very moment, this talk is finished that is transient and all of us are already different entities from few min. ago at the beginning of the talk.

Thank you all. Sunim

#269 Meditation: material & immaterial focus points May 4 – 19

                 Meditation on material & immaterial focus points

The opposite of meditation is mental distraction since, apart from few moments of concentration

during the day, we are distracted by around 90,000 thoughts on a daily basis. In other words,we are not just talking to ourselves all the time but we are also our own  faithful listeners. Very weird.

Focus points during meditation, also called anchors, can be either material or immaterial.

Material & immaterial anchors are infinite. We use them one at a time to slow down our train of thoughts.

Meditation using a material focus point or anchor.

Material anchors can be- breathing-candle-mantra-sound- doors, trees, blue sky, a brook, etc.

As we begin mindfulness meditation practice, the discipline is to bring our relentless mind to slow down by enhancing its awareness on an material object usually breathing. By doing so, we expect our mind to stay there. If we become distracted, which is always the case, we simply force our mind to go back to the focus target. Give our monkey mind the job of remaining focused, in a mindful way, on the subject and stopping jumping around endlessly is the prime goal of meditation. By doing so, we experience, consciously the reality of the moment, the only existing time and the only moment when and where we are alive. No matter what and how our mind is jumping around, we can always return its attention to the material object of the meditation. This is anchoring. As said, our breath is the #1 focusing point and material object for meditation because it is here all the time, because breathing is the only vital function of our body that we can control consciously and because breathing out produces a powerful calming effect.

Other material focus points can be anything. Using one of our 5 senses is the only way to go.

Sight for colors, hearing for music/sounds/noises, tasting, touching, smelling.Whatever the material anchor used, it is critical to pay attention in a mindful way. I will come back  at the end to this important skill.

Meditation  using  an immaterial focus point or anchor:

Anchoring our mind on thoughts and feelings is far more challenging that using  material anchor.

The main reasons are: 1) the object is virtual and 2) because it is very difficult to remain a non-analytic and non-emotional while focusing, in a mindful way, on a nostalgic event, a mistake of the past, or a worry of the future.

It is even more challenging to focus on a specific feeling w/o looking for the “why-what-when-how and why”! . For example, meditating on anger, fear, grief, anxiety, jealousy, desires, hatred, death w/o becoming ……emotional is very tricky but feasible with practice. In fact, mindfulness is a wonderful mental tool to learn to accept these feelings rather than ignoring, resisting or fighting against.

Mindfulness-based acceptance of what we are emotionally stuck with is some sort of “mental desensitization” similar to the one used in medicine  against allergies.

Final words:

Computers can do only 1 task at once ,as well our mind/brain cannot compute 2 thoughts at the same time. In other words he cannot focus on x and wanders at the same time on something else usually in the past or future. This is the key of meditation-based mind control.

Whatever the focus point you are using during meditation the following 3 fundamentals purposes should be repeated over and over:

      Focusing i.e. paying attention to x or y or z impose to our mind to slow down that is to become glued to one thought that is the anchor rather than producing zillions of thoughts in many space-time.

     To focus in a mindful way, that is passively w/o a discriminating mind, w/o analysis, judgment and decision regarding the object. Example: “I am worry about this…..and that’s okay” . This is acceptance.

      To experience the concrete reality of the moment that is the only existing space-time and the only time where we are alive. Being aware of this fact is being enlightened.

#268 The A,B,C…of Mindfulness meditation Sat. 27 Ap. 19

                        The A,B,C,………. of  mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a challenging  physical and mental skill to grasp.

Here are  the key attributes, in alphabetic order, to consider. This list is not exhaustive.

ATTITUDE:   Attitude is a mental trait. Having an open mind is important to understand, consider and practice meditation. Meditation is still an alien activity for most Westerners.

APTITUDES:   Aptitudes are both mental and physical skills. In respect to meditation, the aptitude to stay still during several minutes is essential as well as trust and patience.

AWARENESS: This is a state of high consciousness.  Without it, meditation is impossible.

ACCEPTANCE: Accepting that the practice of meditation is very challenging and its quality can vary greatly from one session to the next. This is why, being non-judgmental about the quality of your practice is so important.      Many quit, like I did, because of negative judgment on the quality of their meditation. Practice does not affect the quality of meditation but will do on the quality of life.

BREATHING:  Breathing is the usual focus point that is the anchor we use to slow-down if not to control our wandering mind. With experience, the focus point can be anything

BACK: In Zen we say: “ Straight back, straight mind; still back, still mind

You will focus far better when the back is straight and still, even on a chair away  from the back of it.

CONFIDENCE:  Trusting your practice is challenging especially when its lousy and when we have no time because “no time” is always the first excuse

COMPASSION: Don’t judge  yourself if you miss your session or if, one day, you cannot meditate the way you want. Happens all the time. Just let it go.

CUMULATIVE: The practice of meditation is cumulative regardless its quality. You will discover that controlling emotions and vision of life will improve greatly with time.

DAILY: The optimal way (see cumulative) to practice. Few min. will do.

DETERMINATION: Not easy to keep. Up to 90% of new comers quit meditation within 3 months.

DISCIPLINE: Like determination, discipline is a state of mind. W/o it , no meditation is possible.

EFFICIENCY:    See “Cumulative”. Meditation is efficient and effective physically, mentally and emotionally. But it is not a quick fix. Scientific proofs are numerous.

EMPTY MIND:  Does not exist literally & figuratively. Quieter mind is a better expression.

EYES: To stay fully awake, it is advised to keep eyes semi open and looking down 3 to 4 feet away w/o staring or analyzing.

FOCUSING:  …..in a mindful way i.e. No analysis, no judgment, no decision. We call this: Thinking thoughtlessly.

FINDING TIME:  We always find time for priorities, never for what we perceive are not. Finding no time to meditate is a bad sign. Quitting is coming.

GROUNDING:   The closer to the ground, the better. This is why a mat & meditation cushion are recommended. I will advise you where to get them.

GROUP: Group practice is more powerful than the solo one. Weekly is the rule. Retreats are excellent.

NON JUDGEMENTAL: Very important. Just do it bad or good, good or bad, excited or down.

ONCE A WHILE: Meditating when we feel like it is a waste of time. Quite.

ON-THE-GO: Being mindful few min. on something ,several times a day is an excellent exercise.

OBJECTIVES:    Its physical, mental and emotional impacts are achieved via

     1) Experiencing current reality, the only time where you are alive 

     2) Taming the mind.

3) And, eventually, serenity.

PATIENCE: Not a problem if you have the determination.

SILENCE: Silence is a wonderful and powerful anchor to quiet the mind.

SOLO:  Daily solo practice demands organization, dedication and discipline.

WANDERING MIND: The mind will always wander while meditating. Just let go the thought and go back to the anchor.

WALKING:  An excellent way to tame the mind by focusing on each step at slow pace.

#267 LETTING GO Ap. 20 19

                       Letting go

With different wording this is the forth talk over the last 5 years about letting go because it is a difficult but important skill to learn and master.

The most efficient trap to get a monkey is the box with a small round hole in front and a large banana inside.  The monkey grabs the banana but cannot get out while holding the banana.

He cannot let go because he wants, at all cost, keep and eat the banana.

Most monkeys learn quickly and don’t get trapped because they are too smart.

They realize that, releasing the banana will be painful for their ego and hunger but it will make them free.  We, humans, are very close to the trapped monkeys because, we too, don’t want and don’t know how to let go a thought, an emotion or an action x, y, z because of the feeling of backing up, failure or weakness and cowardice.

This is weird because we all know that, in order to find some peace of mind and happiness we just have to let go many things glued in our minds especially if we are right.

Like all simple advises, letting go is very challenging because, as said before, it is part of our identity and self-defense mechanism.

One of the reasons that it is so difficult to let go is that we have to release of something with is perceived to be part of us it is like a lost, even if we realize that this “something” can be detrimental.

If you think about yourself, you will realize that we are holding zillion of things that we don’t want to let go.

     Most of them are stored in our subconscious like a safe in our mind. Often…….

     We have to let go of some of our ego reactions, our neuroses, or mistakes.

     We have to let go of some of our habits, addiction, mind-set and useless judgments.

     We have to let go of our unrealistic desires, anger, anxiety, fear, grief, failures, nostalgia, and on and on .It can be difficult or even impossible to erase these things out of our mind.

So: What to do?

What we need to do, first, is let go of our understanding about letting go. As I said earlier, letting go is not a sign of failure, weakness or cowardice. In fact, it is a sign of being a smart monkey.

To find peace and happiness, we don’t have to actively fight, release or mentally erase things from our mind. This is active elimination and this is not letting go. The effort is too demanding.

Trying to erase a strong attachment will never work because the emotional bond is too powerful.

The closer we are with this attachment, habit, thought or emotion the stronger it becomes.

Compare this with 2 magnets getting closer. The attraction gets stronger when the magnets are closer to each other’s. 

Letting go is allowing the banana trap to leave your mind and not you to leave the trap.

Like for any negative emotions, we have to realize that we are strongly attached, then that we have to accept the fact w/o trying to fight with.

Only after acceptance, things will go on their own and the magnets are moving away from each other. To let go is like acting like a mirror. A mirror reflects everything without passing judgement or getting stuck with the images that appear on its surface. It lets things come and go.

Although we should be mirrors reflecting things as they go, we are also participants interacting with things, people and environment.

Letting things go does not mean that we should withdrawn and not interact with the surrounding world. Our attachments to anger, desire, behavior and ego tricks come all the time and they will go

if we just reflect to them as they are.

There are even situations where we are 100% right and giving up your action, thoughts, position or goal will be inappropriate if not wrong. Letting go them become very hard if not impossible.

Again, when we talk about letting go we are talking about dealing with our emotional reactions in order to act is a more appropriate and constructive way.

Accepting  them w/o trying to fight or be attached is letting go. At this point you will release the banana and become a happy monkey.

Thank you

#266 MATRIX movies & ZEN philosophy Apr. 14th 19

                                             The
Matrix movies: an allegory to Zen Buddhism philosophy

It took 4 years for the brothers Wachoskis to find a studio and cast to produce this very ambitious Trilogy made of theology, religions, philosophy and cyber science. Hollywood found it too intellectual.

Here are 6 allegories related to Zen philosophy

     The name NEO is an anagram.

Neo
Neo is an anagram of the word “ONE. “or the Savior is other religions. In fact, Neo is referred to as The One throughout many parts of the film. How does this relate to Zen Buddhism? Eastern philosophy reflects the notion that all living beings are one entity forming the world. It’s true that Neo doesn’t exactly show his most peaceful side throughout the film, but, being the chosen one to deliver humans from the bondage of their  minds does elevate him to a sort of messianic status and to become the
teacher for a better free world with less suffering.
This is similar to Buddha’s teaching.
Awakening in the real world.
As the founder of Buddhism in 520BC, Siddhartha Gautama known as
the Buddha meaning “the awakened one.” His mean teaching was
“to wake up by escaping our mind-made illusions”. Morpheus also is asking his people to wake up that is to escape the AI-made Matrix virtual reality.
Much of The Matrix involves Neo/Mr. Anderson coming to terms with the fact that the world he lives in is a mind-made illusion created by this super AI and that he must wake up and escape so he can experience the true world or genuine reality as opposed to the computerized cyber virtual reality called the Matrix. This true world does not mean bliss as Agent Smith said.
Our modern world is more and more computer-based virtual reality controlling our behaviors, thinking and emotions. One of the main teachings that Morpheus tells Neo is that the world in which his alter  ego Mr. Anderson – and us-  live in the Matrix, sort of Super AI  cyber-world made of virtual reality supposed to be perfect but it is the  opposite. The Matrix gets its energy from humans body encapsulated  in pods. He tells him that this AI cyber world is an illusion, a pseudo  reality generated by powerful programs affecting or minds. The minds of human trapped in the Matrix simply absorbs external signals generated by the AI thru sight, heating, touch, smell, taste. These minds then computerizes and interpret these external data to finally creates an artificial world on their own as a sort of virtual reality in which they believe.
This is exactly what Zen is Teaching. We are leaving, most of the day, in a mind-made virtual and imaginary world made of desires, hatred, emotions, past and future. Zen calls this state “ Day sleep walking” or “Zombie behavior” . We behave, most of the time, on auto-pilot whereas our mind is elsewhere doing something else. Neo was freed to protect the world, release others from their mind prisons and prevent further suffering (what Buddhism refers to as “Samsara”).
Impermanence: The idea of someone is dying or will in a material sense is common to our beliefs. Biological death is final for most f us. But are we dying in an imaginary world? Is our physical death final? Does our incarnated consciousness comes at birth and leaves at death? During Neo’s training, he is taken to the top of a skyscraper. Failing the first time and plunging to the ground, he is extracted from the matrix world and re-emerges in the real world. Noticing his mouth is bleeding (despite the training occurring in a virtual realm), he questions Morpheus. I thought it wasn’t real,” he states.
 “Your mind makes it real,” replied Morpheus. This, again brings to light the Buddhist ideas of how important the mind is. By training it, resting it and controlling it
 (via mindfulness meditation) we can escape  our self-made matrix and its deceptive illusions.
Rebirth One of the most recognizable beliefs about Zen Buddhism is the belief that a person will reborn after their physical body expires, cycles after cycles.
Indeed, The Matrix features the rebirth of Neo twice.

Final words
Do our 5 senses and brain bio-electrical interpretation is telling us the true i.e. the genuine reality of the moment? Maybe, maybe  not.
Go back to the scene where the little boy is bending a spoon and tells Neo there is no spoon.
 In my opinion, Agent Smith ( a program) is right, saying the same thing than the Buddha: we, humans do create a mind-made world of suffering for ourselves.
But Morpheus is also right: we can exit this world of suffering by controlling it .
Maybe what our brain /mind perceives as reality is only an illusion but we cannot
prove it.       .    

 
 
 
 
 
 

#265 HOW TO BE FRIEND WITH SELF Part 2 March 30 19

 The Path to be friend with self: Knowing, Accepting, Loving. Part 2

 The way our minds works is always by opposites and contrast—good-bad, up-down, in-out, right-wrong black or white etc.—so what we see positively simultaneously provide of the opposite.

That contrast is challenging but it is where the real work of to be friend with yourself begins.

As we practice, we uncover our layers and layers of ideas about ourselves. It is clear that we are accepting some aspects of ourselves and rejecting others. Some parts of us are so well hidden away that we can pretend they are not there at all. Friendship with self is reduced to like and dislike.

The challenge of the path of meditation is to continually expand the bounds of our heart, of our love and friendship. We start with ourselves by simply looking inside like a flash light looking in the dark.

We come up against our fear of opening up to our negative views about ourselves.

We also come up against the opposite that is our arrogance.

By taking a mindful and honest look at the kinds of thoughts and feelings we have about self, we learn about the limits we place on our friendship with self and others.

Why meditation can be useful in our self-discovery?

This meditative path is one of greater acceptance. We are learning to accept and befriend not just the parts we like of course, but also the parts o we dislike /hatred as well. Sometimes we identify with only our acceptable side, with our successes, and at other times we identify with our flaws and failures.

But as our meditation practice progresses, we become the watcher, the observer of our stream of thoughts and opinions. Rather than clinging to one positive or one negative trait, we find we do not need to fixate on either extreme. We are all those things, and our experience is constantly in flux.

Of course, there will always be aspects of ourselves we like and those we dislike, aspects we are proud of and other aspects we are ashamed of. But the more clearly we come to know all these aspects, the more we are able to accept and relax.  Instead of seeing parts of self, we discover the whole self as it is. You don’t fight anymore with yourself because you are signing a peace treaty with yourself. In fact, we may discover that our failures and flaws are more powerful teachers than our successes

With the benefit of sitting practice without overthinking or trying to fix anything right away, we become clearer and less emotional about our strengths, weaknesses, our accomplishments, failures, our obstacles and our breakthroughs.

Coming to appreciate ourselves in this way doesn’t mean we become complacent, egoistic or narcissistic.  Accepting our extremes doesn’t mean that we cannot make decisions about what is beneficial, what is harmful and how to fix ourselves.We should not take it too seriously or even personally, it is just information. Now, when we meditate, we do so from a realistic perspective and from a feeling of warmth and friendship. Meditation practice is almost like a courtship with ourselves.

We become less defensive. We make discoveries and experience breakthroughs. It is hard to cut through our fantasies and take a realistic look at ourselves, but it is also a big relief.

There is something very enjoyable about the whole process. We find that the more aspects of ourselves we welcome the lighter we feel about self. The burden of self-protection is a heavy one, and it feels good to let it go. We are more likeable without this self-protective shield shield.

Final words:

There is no particular end point to the process of making friend with yourself. It can be a life time quest and no rush is required.

But there is a wonderful spill over: each time you accept and open your heart to yourself you become a bit more open to those around you. As you develop a base of friendship with yourself, the quality of your daily social relationship will enhance.

With meditation practice, you are simultaneously taming the mind and opening the heart. It is so simple and natural: from interest comes knowing, from knowing comes acceptance, and from acceptance comes love.

It is impossible to express empathy and compassion to others w/o starting with self. Enjoy the wonderful quest to self-discovery.

#264 HOW TO BE FRIEND WITH SELF March 17-19 Part 1

                                               Being friend with our self. Part 1

“What am I?” is a classic koan given to Zen students to solve.  What do we really know about ourselves.?

We put many different masks depending of the circumstances and goals. There are so many choices. Our participation in this social game of appearances can become so second nature to us that we hardly notice it. Apart from all these appearances, who am I really? Do I actually know? We also might wonder, do I really want to know? We are afraid of what we might find out. Are we friends with ourselves? Are we accepting self as it is, notwithstanding that improvements are always possible. Are we creating a self before even knowing the self?

Because of our Western education & culture, ego-centered mentality to be the best, to win, control and achieve perfection, self-doubt and poor self-image are very frequent and we need constant reassurance thru achievements such as work, money, control, loved ones and friends.

Strangely, although you are your most intimate companion your true self is hidden deep.

So the process of making friend with yourself goes to know yourself at a deeper, almost spiritual level far beyond its mundane profile

To truly make friends with yourself, you need to remove all social masks that you are using since young age. This journey of truly making friend with yourself is a difficult and tricky one since one has to avoid being too self-centered and narcissist.

It goes beyond simply feeling good about you, and it is not based on convincing yourself of anything or being convinced by others.  This journey of deep friendship with self does not rely on credentials or affirmations but on a tender step-by-step process of opening yourself to yourself in the most natural way. It happens on the path of meditation because this intimate quest of self- discovery has nothing to do with better insight or analytic and cognitive thinking such as CBT or psychoanalysis.

Simply just sit with nothing to do and no one to impress. This step is all about being curious, inquisitor and the longing to meet yourself at a deeper level. No mind set. It will end-up that what you will discover be reliable, true, genuine, worthy and that too many of your flaws are a mind-set distorted view.

We are taught how our thoughts capture us, and how we can simply let them come and go like clouds in the sky.

We are encouraged to be steady as our emotional states rise and fall, rather than being jerked up and down by every roller coaster passing moods.

In short, we are encouraged to take a fresh look at our experience. In the context of making friends with yourself, starting fresh means that we drop all our ideas of who you are or who you should be and just look in a mindfully way. (You could also try this approach when you meet a new acquaintance—pause for a moment, instead of instantly sizing them up, and try to see that person with fresh eyes.)

There is a quality of tenderness in meditation practice. It is a mental open window and you catch a glimpse of something trustworthy and good within yourself. That glimpse awakens a longing within you.

You know you have discovered something valuable and you want to figure out how to go further with it.

You realize that you have tapped into an inner dynamism or force for growth.Although you might have many such glimpses, they usually come and go.

They tend to be not only brief but subtle, and because such glimpses are not all that graspable, self-doubt easily creeps back in. You are pretty sure you are onto something good, but maybe it’s too good to be true. At the same time, without your familiar masks and credentials, you feel a bit naked and groundless because what you discover is not what you thought about yourself.

#263 HOW TO HACK SERENITY March 10h 19

How to hack “happiness”? or better said,  how to hack serenity?

How often do you say silently:“I am grateful of…” NEVER. We take everything for granted & we deserve whatever, In this talk I will use the word happiness by convention rather than serenity, which is the real meaning. We all claim we want happiness and yet, many of us are too often, somewhat unhappy.

We complain all the time. We fight with family members. We play dirty office politics with co-workers. We shout and scream at other drivers in traffic. But, the recipe for happiness is not some kind of secret.

How do we hack happiness?

There’s a high probability that you’re currently chasing something.to make you happier all the time.

You want a bigger house, new car ?  A better paid job? A promotion? A new partner?, great friend?, health. Get more followers on social media? Get kids? Travel to a different country?

We also want to erase anxiety, anger, sorrow, meet your dreams, etc… etc…

The list of our desires is endless because the choices are illumined and specific to each of us.

Looking for our external dreams to make us happy or even serene will never do the trick since the list to get whatever is endless and the happiness effects from getting them are all transients like mirages.

 So what is missing? 

As the Dalai Lama used to repeat: “One of our problem is that we are unable to be grateful! It is time to change that.”  There are many ways to achieve inner serenity. We talked about them few times, but here we should look more specifically  at ……..

………Gratitude because it is one the most effective hack if you’re looking for better happiness & serenity.

By trying to be grateful to what we are, what we have, what we do,  you will see that not only we will feel better, but we will also get a better life and better relationships.

No one said it better than Oprah Winfrey:

“Be thankful for what you have. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, and what you want you will never, ever have enough.and you will be unhappy.”

Conversely, when you don’t appreciate what you have or what people do for you, you become bitter and resentful. You then push the positive people away and you will only be surrounded with a bunch of other ungrateful people “What to do if people in my life are ungrateful with me and my loved ones?” you may ask.

Try to share with them why gratitude is important. But don’t convince them because people never listen. We only change when we have a desire to change.

There’s a price you pay for living life & thinking in a certain way. Most people don’t have a philosophy for life because it is dominated by material stuff. That also comes with a price.

Don’t let ungrateful people into your life. Step away from them including, even, family members and friends because of that. You might see them once or twice a year, but have no ties with them. They will only drag you down. Instead, go up.

Life is beautiful but will always contain bad if not dramatic events. Just accept things as they are and not as you want them to be. Treat every meal you eat like the best meal that you’ve ever had. Appreciate the people in your life. Say thank you. No matter how little others do for you, pay them back with big appreciation such as your cashier, neighbours, co-workers, flight attendant, baby sitter, plumber, etc. 

And most importantly, appreciate where you are in life. You’re alive. Thank your parents for being, thank them for turning you into an independent adult.

In all my years of reading and talking about the good life, I’ve never seen anything with a bigger impact on the quality of our lives than gratitude.

Gratitude toward life and its contents, including acceptance of its bad moments is the best hacker to penetrate the realm of long lasting inner serenity and contentment. 

Serenity is contentment, a constant state of mind rather than intermittent and superficial happiness which belongs to our transient emotions. Relentless quest for external material stuff will never achieve what gratitude will offer because this quest is endless and the results always transient.

“ I don’t have what I want & I have what I don’t want” is a recipe from chronic unhappiness and suffering.

This quote to finish:

Do not regret and be grateful of getting older everyday. It is a privilege denied to many .

# 262 Minding our mind …24/7

                                            Minding our  mind 24/7… or almost

As long as our minds are running around non-stop like a dog chasing its tail or unless we are focusing on a specific task requiring our attention, practicing mindfulness on the go is almost impossible, at list for beginners. Why? Because  our body is here doing something almost
automatically whereas our mind is always somewhere else doing something else.
Zen calls this body-mind split “day
sleepwalking
”.

We are “day sleepwalkers” from the time we wake up to the time we fall
asleep.

Practicing short exercises of mindfulness during the day is literally and figuratively like practicing breathing. When you mindfully practice breathing, you may actively regulate how you breathe because you are conscious of it. When we don’t practice mindful breathing, our breathing is automatic and totally subconscious.

In other words, when we practice mindfulness either by formal sitting or on the go, we consciously control and shape our mind. I call this “minding the mind” because we force the mind to slow down by focusing on x, y or z, enabling us to watch the mind being forced to slowdown its flow of thoughts since the mind/brain cannot have two thoughts at the same time i.e. focusing + another thought. However, it will take over very quickly in its wandering escape. Up to you to refocus on x. Minding the mind is a cat and mouse mental game: you against your mind and your mind against you.

When we are conscious, our daily routine, mental activities made of thoughts, feelings, day-dreams of the past, expectations of the future are distract us from any occasion to practice minding such as focusing on our breathing. If, for example, we are feeling anxious or angry, we “breathe” anxiety and anger and they get stronger. If, instead, we practice minding such as being mindful to our breathing, we can, somehow, regulate its pace and, at the same time, observe the anxiety or anger instead of being the target of them. The gift and challenge of mindfulness is that, unless you are deciding to focus on breathing or something else you can’t control your emotions..However, by observing your breath, control becomes possible. If you consciously breathe for a minute, you will naturally settle into deep, steady breathing. In that minute, you relax.

To control more efficiently your breathing circles

Count each exhales from 1 to 10. In a minute of breathing like that, you will take about 6 to 8 breaths.

Although you may not have enough time or patience to sit still for 15 minutes of meditation each day, you can build a strong mindfulness practice by breathing consciously 3-4  times a day at a pace of 6 breaths per minute for 5 minutes at a time. If you do that 365 days per year, you will experience rapidly the benefits of a daily mindfulness practice on the quality of your life and how you are dealing with your emotional roller- coaster.

At first, 3 times a day will be challenging. 5 minutes may feel like an eternity but, as your practice strengthens, you will find yourself checking in on your breath more often than three times per day. You will be able to settle from emotional highs and lows in fewer than five minutes. As you target your mindfulness practice toward moments of elevated stress, boredom, anger or fear, you will get better at easing yourself out of those emotional states.

Because our ego-centered minds are constantly forming around our habits, mind-set, emotions and dreams and expectations, an hour spent in anger today can turn into thousands of hours of anger over the course our lives. Remember that our ego mind is addicted to emotions because they are parts of our personality and self-image.

The same is true of a breathing-based
mindfulness “addiction”. Practicing 3 times per day, 6 breaths per minute, for
5 minutes, 365 days per year, will bring you some relief each time you do it
and immense relief over your lifetime.

If you can do it with breathing, you will be able to expand this with your emotions and  looking for some relief in your life.

Thank you.    

#261 How & when DOES our EGO FEED itself? Feb. 24 19

                           How and when does our ego feed itself?

Ego means “I”. It is the mental symbol of how we see ourselves physically mentally and emotionally.”

It is our immaterial self-entity and self-image hidden deep in our subconscious and emerging during emotional storms..

Our self-entity is crucial to survive and function at all levels.

It is the root of “I want, I don’t want, I am fighting.”

To control, to enjoy, to hate, to analyze, to judge, etc…are all actions & emotions driven, by definition, from our self-centered ego.

Despite being immaterial our ego, like anything else, needs some sort of energy.

Where is this immaterial energy coming from?

Being essentially self-centered, our emotions and feelings are back-feeding our ego.

He (ego) loves to generate feelings/emotions because, not only they boost and provide food to the ego but also because we believe –subconsciously- that our emotions/feelings define our identity as much as our biological and social identity in our day-to-day routine.

Our ego lives and feeds itself from the permanent emotional roller coaster made of “I want”, “I don’t want”, my anger, my fear, my nostalgia, my guilt, my past, my future, my thoughts, my pleasure, my pain, my judgments, my expectation, me vs. the others and many many more “I, me, myself, mine”.

Here are classical day-to-day examples:

“I am angry at you because you did not tell me….”

This anger is, by definition, self-centered – this you and not some body else- and this anger represents also the energy fuelling the ego. It cannot be otherwise. The more angry we are, the more ego-driven self-centered we are. If we did not have an ego, anger would not exist and we would not react with emotion.

“ I am upset because I did not get what I want”

“I am fearful about the future”

“ I regret the past. It was more fun those days”  Etc…..No point to list zillions of examples.

They are all identical: ego triggers + and – emotion, + & – emotion feeds and boosts the ego and self-image.

This is a vicious Catch22. This is why it is so difficult not to fall in this trap. We all do.

In fact, the more angry I am, the better my ego feels. All of this is subconscious.

So, how to get out this vicious circle?

Shunryu Suzuki gave his usual ironic answer to a student asking, “ How much ego do we need?  He replied: “Just enough to cross the street without being hit by a bus”. Typical  Zen irony

Like for anything else, a proper balance between too much and not enough ego is the solution.

It has been showed over and over that huge ego and not enough of it do not bring happiness but rather suffering.

When you are reacting emotionally or when negative feelings are popping out of your mind, try to pause and become the observer rather than being a victim trying to fight back. It means do not react.

It means saying to yourself: “OK, I am accepting”. Accepting does not mean to be weak or coward but to control the emotional hurricane, which will blow you away.  

Easy to say but very hard to master because our emotional brain centers react 20 to 30 times faster than our rational one localized in our prefrontal cortex. Mindfulness is the tool to use. Watch w/o judgment,

w/o decision. Learn to mind the mind. If you can do it for 1 or 2 min. you will notice that the sudden emotional flame is down.

If we react and fight about something, we are adding fuel to your ego. This is, again, the vicious circle.

Our Western culture is brainwashing us about having a strong personality, to fight, to resist and to win all the time. Eastern culture is far less dogmatic, more philosophical, and, probably somewhat wiser.

Like for anything else in Zen philosophy, the ego is like a coin. It has 2 sides and w/o 2 sides the coin or the ego cannot exist.  A proper balance between the good ego and the bad must be achieved.

The good one is giving us joy, the bad one …pain. As long as we accept this balance, we are dong OK.

THANK YOU Oakville Zen Team