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#315 My Learning with meditation …so far by Gaurav May 24 -20

                                 My Learning with Meditation so far

When Arnaud mentioned that it takes him under 10 seconds to know if someone will quit meditation, I felt for people who find this idea of focusing their mind so daunting. I am sharing my learnings to motivate all of us to not give up and try a little harder.

1. It is what it is – as cliché as it sounds this really is the crux. I realize now that it is neither half-full nor half-empty – it is just half-a-glass-of-water. I have understood (not realized) the definition of enlightenment – it is to see everything for what it is without being analytical or judgmental…to take life as it is. Each time I tried to control the outcomes or people it caused me and those around me tremendous pain. Meditation has allowed me to focus on what I can control.

2. Religion is a coping mechanism and perhaps a theory – there is a difference between being religious and spiritual. I grew up as a Hindu, but I was always confused about the idea of religion. Because I was so physically, emotionally and mentally fragile I needed something to hold on to. Over time I began to identify myself with this notion of religion and became one with it. I now understand that meditation elevates us spiritually while religion enslaves us with dogmas and false beliefs.

3. Identifying myself with my thoughts or senses seriously messed me up – I understand now that the main reason of epidemics is that we don’t do a good job with washing our hands…why? Because we are busy watching ourselves in the mirror not focusing on washing our hands! I let my senses feed my mind uncontrollably and I was reacting to every random thought that popped up in my head. As I started meditating, I have become more aware of my thoughts. I can predict and better control my reactions. It feels as though Meditation is putting me in touch with my consciousness. Although Science hasn’t been able to determine how mind generates consciousness…I am just going with the belief.

4. While I cannot erase memories or experiences from my mind, I must find a way to deal with them – The feeling of guilt is probably the worst feeling that I have had to deal with but Meditation has given me the ability to become aware of what my mind is up to and learn to forgive myself.

5. ‘I’ is an interesting but unreal concept – what this entity called ‘I’ really means I have no idea. I continue to struggle with the question that which one of the trillions of cells that make up my physical existence constitutes me? As Nisargadatta Maharaj says you need to rule out what you are not to get to what you really are. This practically takes out everything I see or experience.

Learning and Realization are fundamentally different so I truly believe meditation will eventually help me realize who I really am.

#314 From anger to forgiveness by Gentiana 17-05-20

                                               From Anger to forgiveness

Hello everyone, my name is Gentiana. I started meditating for several years now and followed an inner discipline that feels right for me. Thanks to our Zen Master, that gave me a Dharma talk, I got to discover different aspects about events in my life. Dharma talk facilitated my thinking to go on a path that I thought was closed 30 years ago. The subject of Dharma talk is “From Anger to Forgiveness in Zen”.  My initial response was: “I don’t usually get angry and it seems natural and fairly easy for me to forgive, therefore realistically speaking there is no Dharma talk for me”

But as we all know, our minds love to keep digging, inquiring and making good use of our attention. I kept looking for a time in my life when I was angry, not sad or hurt, but angry.  My mind located the event 30 years ago.

Here is a short context of the event I am referring to: I was lucky to be born in a beautiful, established family with values, in the central part of Romania (Transylvania); even with the communism regime where the electricity and gas was cut off and thus was doing homework at the candle light, we still led a good and decent life, thanks to my parents.  In 1989 I was in high-school, and for those that love history, know that in December Romania took place a revolution where blood was poured and wasted. The students started the revolution and in few hours the revolution extended throughout the entire country because Romanians wanted democracy. People were shot and bodies were buried. The president was executed on Christmas Day and a new president came to power. I am alive because although I was taking part in the revolution no bullets came my way and I made it home. In the next 2 weeks, I hoped, and I dreamed, I was breathing in the new change and I believed in a good future and then…ANGER. To me, anger is a way of responding to unmet needs or wishes; I realized that people died for nothing; nothing had changed: the mentality, the regime stayed the same. I had so much anger. Anger for what happened; I had anger towards the injustice, anger towards the unfairness, compassion for the families of those that died, and I had anger towards myself because I believed in a new world. I saw myself as not smart enough because I did not see the larger picture. Looking back I now understand that the anger was EGO driven.

I realized though that nothing is permanent and that I don’t have enough life to live to see the changes I wanted to see and I accepted the situation but I had decided to leave the country. The stars aligned only when I forgave myself, when my anger was replaced by forgiveness. It took time; the anger dissipated in time and it only happened because forgiveness took its place. I got the visa and came to Canada 6 and a half years later.

Thank you for listening.

#313 The Buddha story about the 2 arrows by Erin May 15th 20

        The story of the 2 arrows                         

A few years ago, my first meditation teacher spoke of the Parable of the Second Arrow, and it was the first time I saw how the skills I was developing during meditation practice could translate into everyday life. 

The parable of the Second Arrow goes like this:

The Buddha once asked a student, “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?” The student replied, “It is.” The Buddha then asked, “If the person is struck by a second arrow, is that even more painful?” The student replied again, “It is.” The Buddha then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. And with this second arrow comes the possibility of choice.”

So while we can’t always control the situations life throws at us, this parable helps us understand how emotional reactions can make matters worse.

When I first heard this story I was taking an MBSR class to help me cope with chronic pain. Hearing this parable helped me to connect the dots between how the physical pain I experienced was being impacted my thoughts. I noticed that when the pain was bad, I would get emotional and have anxious and fearful thoughts about the pain, which then made the pain worse, which then caused more fear and anxiety. And I would end up in a cycle of where the pain would get worse and worse and I would get more and more freaked out and anxious. Once I heard the parable, it dawned on me that I was in fact continuously shooting myself with the second arrow. Now, this realization didn’t magically solve the pain, but once I was aware of the second arrow, I started to understand how my reactive thoughts affected me. 

Life will always throw first arrows our way: a major life event happens, or someone says something upsetting to you, or you get a parking ticket. First arrows can also be more mundane like waiting in a grocery store line up that just isn’t moving, or coming home to a sink full of dirty dishes.  Often our reactions to first arrows play a large role in how we interpret and experience the event. We like to point the finger, lay blame, complain, condemn ourselves and over analyze. 

What if, instead of shooting ourselves with the second arrow, we recognize that those thoughts, feelings and emotions are there, but they aren’t inherently a part of us and don’t necessarily define us. We can stand back from our thoughts and emotions, observe them, but not get carried away in them. And if we no longer identify with our reactive thoughts and feelings we can start to see that life events are what they are, and our reactions to these events are just experiences that are passing through. 

So next time that first arrow hits you, watch out for the second arrow right around the corner, don’t just react but instead respond to the situation. Going from reacting to responding is not easy to do, but once we start to recognize our own patterns of reactive thoughts and emotions, we can try to start to change them.

The “Two Arrows” is not about denying our initial reaction to pain. It is about being self-aware enough to realize that we have a choice, and we don’t necessarily have to turn our pain into suffering. 

#312 Anxiety has a bad reputation May 9 -20

                                      Anxiety has a bad reputation

Worries, anxiety and fear are, at different degrees, the mind-mad anticipation of a negative or positive future scenario. They can be imminent or anytime after.

Everyday anxiety is a fact of life and can actually be helpful “How we use it makes all the difference,”

As the world gets faster and more uncertain, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by anxiety.

We are hijacked by anxiety coming from our reptilian brain, source of fear and excitement.

Denying or running away from anxiety make it worse.”

We view anxiety through a negative lens, something to fear and avoid. That thinking is self-defeating.  We need to accept it as a natural part of our emotional spectrum.

Another cause of anxiety is our faulty thinking around change.

For centuries, change was viewed as dangerous.. But stability and permanence are total illusion, and uncertainty of life is reality. It makes us anxious and vulnerable, and leads us  to worry or run away because we realize that we are not in control of life. This is anxiogenic.

People often move back and forth between too much, just enough, and too little anxiety.

Anxiety is contagious. We communicate our level of anxiety to others because we’re far more connected to each other than we think.

Anxiety is energy, and we must strike the right balance if you know what to look for:

Too Much Anxiety:

The most frequent form. It is a burden but it is also an advantage: by doing so, they are not badly surprised when a negative scenario happens.

Too much anxiety is created when we are telling yourself about a positive or negative outcome which does not exist. For example, “If I don’t do a good job I’ll get fired.” It is not the current scenario that causes anxiety, it is its potential outcome that we creating in our mind.

Severe forms of anxiety require medical treatment.

Too Little Anxiety:

Too little anxiety isn’t good either. Those people value status quo and live in a rosy bubble.

It is nice to be optimistic but it is also a curse when we are badly surprised when negative scenarios happen.

Good Anxiety:

Living with the right amount of anxiety provides  enough tension to drive us forward without causing we to resist, give up, or try to control what happens. “It’s a productive energy,”

The first step is to accept being uncomfortable. A lot of people think the goal of life is to be happy, but the goal is to experience life with its good and bad moments.

Listen to your body; it is the proxy of your mental state. We talked already about the physical symptoms of anxiety.

Ask yourself why you’re anxious. Is it because you’re excited or fearful?

Is your anxiety: good or bad. If you’re about to give a speech, anxiety is good. If you’re not anxious, you’re probably not going to give a great speech. And if you’re too anxious, that won’t be a great speech, either.”

All change happens in the gap that the mind is creating between current reality and desired or fearful future scenarios. We create a problem we want to solve or have a goal we want to accomplish.

In this gap sits our motivation, our engagement, and our anxiety. Anxiety becomes a positive energy needed to cross the gap. No other way. Meditation brings body and mind together, the first step to analyze both of them and reduce this gap between reality and future scenarios.

#311 The problem of being on autopilot May 2 20

                                 The problem of living in autopilot                                 “A wandering mind is an bored and unhappy mind.”  Z.M. Suzuki

 When we are on autopilot- doing things automatically- the mind takes over and escapes.

The routine of the day triggers the autopilot mode —making unconscious, automatic actions and decisions . At this point, our mind is in full control.

A study from UCLA on 5000 people shows that over 85% of them admitted living on autopilot.

In autopilot there is a split between body acting like a robot and mind being a monkey

We make about 100,000 though and gestures each day. Our brain can’t possibly take the time to consider every single thing we do. Imagine if you had to remember everything you do and think in the day.

So, whenever it can, your brain will kick into an automatic decision-making gear to save energy, freeing up your conscious mind to escape and wander in different spaces/times. Our ability to think about what’s not happening at the routine present moment makes life easier. It is a gateway.

However, This automatic mode creates all kind of thoughts and emotions not necessarily useful.

They can be also detrimental.

A study done by two Harvard University psychologists revealed that the average person spends about 85% of their waking hours doing what they call “mind wandering.”

Mind wandering is when you do something somewhere while the mind is elsewhere doing something else.  When people let their minds wander, whether it’s thinking about events from the past, present or future, it makes them unhappy.

The problem with living on autopilot is that it can leave us

“day sleepwalking “as Zen says making it difficult to make intentional and rational decisions.

So what exactly does living on autopilot look like  I can describe it with the following examples:

You’ve just driven home and stepped out of your car, you don’t remember stopping at any lights, switching any lanes, making that right-hand turn or even our thoughts. The drive was a blur, yet you arrived home safe.

As you wake up, we are bored already of the day ahead because your daily routine is predictable.

Your decisions and actions have become so automatic that they take little if not no thought at all.

You are holding your cell phone with 2 hands most of the day checking useless stuff.

You’re not fully present in the moment we don’t remember details of our routine activities

If most of these signs resonate with you, there’s a probability that you are, most of the time, living on autopilot like most of us.

What Zen is telling us?

You just have to turn off the cruise control and bring back your mind back with your body’s current activities.

Paying attention to what you are doing results in better conscious decision-making.

Interestingly enough, psychometric research has shown that we are happier when our thoughts and activities are synchronized and not in dualistic mode.

Zen found this evidence more than 2,000 years ago while teaching to bring the mind where the body is and what it is doing, hat is a mindfulness moment and this is what meditation is based on and teaching us.

#310 SYMPTOMS of AWARENESS

                       Symptoms of Awakening

There are few symptoms of Awakening/Enlightenment, indicating that a transformation is taking place within you towards the highest level of consciousness helping you to experience your true self and concrete reality of life. You are starting to control your mind-made illusions and negative emotions. Here are few cues in a not specific order. You may be familiar with some of them.

   You become less worried about things, people and events.

   You encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life .

   Your mind is not travelling all the time in the past stuck with nostalgia, and regret or in the future   full of unknown events which do not exist.

   You are more mindful to the present moment where your body is and what he is doing.

   That means that your mind and body are one entity rather then having the mind somewhere else

   In other words, you are no any more on autopilot doing things automatically while your mind

   is running around here and there. When you eat, put your mind with your month and taste the food.

   You pay more attention to your thoughts, negative emotions, judgments when they  come up.  Then you accept them and let go.   They are just mind noise.

   You realize that everything is transient that you like it or not.

   You look at things, people ad events as they are and not as you want them to be.

   You are conscious that you have no control of them.. It give you peace and

   serenity.

Forgiveness and controlling anger become easier.

   You appreciate interacting with Nature such as talking with trees.

   You feel deeper empathy and compassion toward yourself as key to do the same to others.

   You meditate daily and use mindfulness to freeze your boiling mind as often as possible.

  You pay attention to your desires, aversions and illusions. They are attachments, main source   of our unhappiness ,suffering and restless mind.

   Loneliness and silence do not bother you, yet, you appreciate solitude once a while.

   Once a while doing nothing is OK.

   You are watching watch the rat race and appreciate that you are not one of them anymore.

  Your ego is your friend but also your worse enemy. Let go what he wants, what he is grasping and what he does not want.

  You are not multitasking as much as before.

#309 ” 3M Exercise”

                                   “3M Exercises” Multi mini mindfulness

This week talk is practical. How to practice mindfulness at any moment, any time, anywhere on anything.

Remember that the beneficial impacts of mindfulness are cumulative with practice even if it is not formal sitting /walking meditation.

Focusing actively on anything is mindfulness practice in its spiritual sense as long as you stay away from any analytic process, judgment or decision. Otherwise, we are just thinking for the purpose of achieving a goal. Spiritual mindfulness has no practical objective but to observe.

When we pay attention for few sec. or min. on x, y, z and as described, we are creating a short in our bioelectrical circuits of our brain/mind. The torrential flow of thoughts (~100,000/day) is stopped because the mind/brain cannot deal with 2 thoughts at the same time and must focus on x, or y or z.

Mind and brain are one unit observing reality.

All 100 billions of neurons and trillions of connections are all focusing on a single object whatever it is.

After the theory, the practice.

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 inputs, which will take priority if you decide touse one of them.

You may pick seeing, hearing, touching, tasting or smelling for few seconds, one or two minutes several times during the day, anywhere.

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

 Paying attention in a mindfulness way to:

      Feeling the ground or counting the steps while walking in the house or outside.

     Listening to any sound at home such as the water in the shower,  in your cars or even noises  at work

     Eating in a mindful way by moving or arms slowly, smelling, tasting, chewing and swallowing. 

     Watching something around you such as color, sky, moving clouds, trees,

      Feeling the wind, the temperature.

     Touching something such as your skin by joining your hands your hands, touching your desk, the wheel of your car, your presto card, what you are wearing,etc.

      Smelling the air, the food, the grass, the train, your car,

      Tasting your coffee or any drinks.

     Using your non-dominant hand for short and easy tasks. You are rewiring your brain by enhancing   your prefrontal concentration circuits

      Feeling the fresh air entering through your nose.

When practicing, remember this key factor. You are bringing your usual wandering and restless mind where your body and what he is doing.

Mind and body become one unit experiencing the concrete reality of the moment, the only existing one. No more dissociation between what you are doing automatically and what your mind is thinking in  its continuous and various  fictional space-times.

This is called awakening. You are making the miracle of just being, that is pure consciousness in the present moment.


#307 MEDITATION during difficult times

                 Meditation during difficult times

Even during “normal times”, practicing solo daily meditation is not easy if not, sometimes, impossible.

It requires commitment, time, discipline and a non-judgmental approach to your practice. 

Trying to sit still and being mindful to our breathing as an anchor to tame our restless mind is challenging all the time and for everyone.

Struggling during meditation is an integral part of meditation.

Only by controlling our struggling against our monkey mind jumping from one thought to the next we progress in the practice of meditation and in the quality of how we perceive our feelings and life in general.

When we are in the middle of difficult times such as presently with the covid 19, daily solo practice

Our mind is continuously worried about job, money, social interactions, confinement at home,risk of contamination, shopping, paying bills, when it will be over, etc….and the media are virus addicted.

The lack of group meditation has also a significant negative impact not only on the practice ofmindfulness meditation but also the social interaction before and after session.

So: what to do?

It is during these challenging times, when the mind is running around non-stop that meditation will help you greatly as long as you have the will to start.

The first few minutes is the most challenging time because the mind in on fire and focusing on ourbreathing will last only few seconds.

Don’t give-up. If you do, start again later in the house or outside.

We still have meditation Wed. 7pm and Sat.10:15am .

If you commit yourself to this schedule, you will appreciate how “collective consciousness” can be effective in helping you focusing better and longer.

You can contact me anytime.

See you all sometime. Everything is transient.    J

#306 The MEANING of SERENITY by Angeline March 14th 20

                                                   The Meaning of Serenity

Serenity is defined as a state of being:

Calm, peaceful, untroubled, restful

Gentle, easy-going, quiet 

Free from disturbance or nearby state of agitation, unpleasant change, or violence. 

Having:

Little motion or activity

A disposition that is morally, mentally and ethically elevated.

 The word serenity refers to environments as much as people. 

A serene sky is free of storms.

A serene moon is shining bright and steady.

A serene expanse of sky, sea or light is unclouded.

 The sky and sea are continually changing.  Weather or violent explosions may agitate them into action for a time, but serenity will inevitably return.  It takes time and a steady current to wash away the debris.

Being human is like that.  We can get clouded by different life events, trauma, attachment and fear.  Time taken for loving self-awareness puts us in a cleansing current moment.

Serenity is transferable.  If I observe a calm stream, a bright moon, a clear sky, or a happy person, I’m likely to feel serene.  After a long walk in a natural environment that inspires reverence for life, I can easily extend that love to people I encounter. 

However, if while walking I hear aggressive honking, or a person cursing at another, I may feel reactive fear, anger or worry.  Even if nothing on my walk is shocking, I may carry with me suffocating sadness over loss I have or will likely soon encounter.  I can let stress blind me to the beautiful space I’m in entirely.  My mind is too cluttered with possible outcomes to see magnificent blooms pointed out to me.

With mindfulness, I can be objectively aware of my emotions, and the actions they ask me to take, knowing that it will all pass.  My response may be a little less impulsive or frozen than it would be otherwise. 

We train the mind with self-love in moments of meditation, therapy, exercise, nature, art appreciation, creative expression, and philosophical study.  Awareness weaves into our identity.  The ego aligns less with circling thoughts, and more with seeking balance.  Instead of reacting to what others are doing and thinking, we seek to observe and respond with mental calm.

If I walk along the lake on a sunny day, I can see many tiny sparkles on waves and nearby rocks.  The water surface isn’t still, but the depths are so calm, that I can see light shining clear to the bottom.

Serenity is like that.  Serenity isn’t a permanent state or place in time.  It’s not just freedom from agitation.  It’s the ability to be deeply clear when your life is unstable on the surface. 

#305: IS PERFECTION(S) ACHIEVABLE? Feb: 8th 20

                          Is perfection achievable?

Despite being a Zen Master I strongly believe that perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order and yet every religion talks about perfections.

What are they? How to achieve and maintain them?

What will happen if you are unable to achieve them during your life?

Zen Buddhism is on the same bandwagon than other religions / philosophy when it is talking about achieving  perfections” called paramitas a Pali word. Paramitas also means spiritual completeness and accumulation of virtues.

In every Buddhist Temple around the world one of the evening chanting is dedicated to the 6 perfections and the vow is to achieve them during our present life or if not … during the next life.

Our True Self is perfect but our ego-centered “little self” is not… far from it. This is why

every Zen Buddhist practitioner vows to achieve and practice  perfection to others and for self.

Here is the list in non-specific order.

1- Ethical conduct / morality / discipline:

This is not only toward others and toward our environment but also toward self. This means having aproper life style, respecting our body in maintaining it healthy (diet, exercise, health maintenance,etc.).

2- Generosity:

Generosity toward others implies also love, compassion, forgiveness, respect, altruism, and kindness to all living beings.

Generosity toward self implies respect, tolerance and self-development.

3- Patience:

Includes resilience, acceptance, endurance, self-control and equanimity.

4- Perseverance:

Includes diligence, energy and effort.

5- Concentration:

Includes being mindful (to focus, to be “awake” in a non-cognitive way) to our body, to our mind, to what we do and to our surroundings (people, events, etc.).

 It Includes daily practice of meditation.

Contemplation is added here since to contemplate is an act of middle concentration with some analytic mind.

6- Wisdom/ insight:

     Being able to differentiate realities from illusions. Please click on the link for more information.

     Accepting that life and its components are what they are and not what we want them to be.

     Realizing that our ego mind so useful is also the main cause of our dissatisfactions.

    Recognizing that only the present moment NOW exists.

Now the obvious questions are:

 How many persons are able to achieve all of them”   “How often can anyone achieve any of them?”

I personally don’t know this person…yet.

The key here is to be mindful to these perfections inside self and to try our best to reach some of them for a week. If you cannot succeed, have compassion for yourself.