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#325 From Foe to Friends. A Zen perspective Aug 2nd 20

From foe to friend A Zen perspective
As we struggle with our emotional ego, we are developing mental habits that feed our pain.
When we find ourselves suffering, we can notice the familiar negative feelings of guilt, shame blame, and anger.
These are types of judgments that we pass on others and that others impose on us. As we become aware of our habits, we can develop new responses that redirect and reduce these painful thoughts.
What causes our suffering is our own judgments. It is very hard for us to stop judging ourselves and others, and it is even harder for us to help others stop judging. What we can do is notice our
judgments and then change our own habits. Judging should be required only when requested and when we have to make a decision; otherwise, it is a wasted mental /emotional energy.
Guilt and blame are alike because when we feel guilty we blame ourselves, and when we cast blame to others, we assign guilt to them. Whether we accept or assign blame, we fuel negative feelings either about ourselves or another person. In either way, we are the ones who suffer the most from these powerful feelings.
So, we need to create mental desensitization to balance this negativity by being more compassionate and forgiving with ourselves thru awareness & acceptance.
At the opposite of guilt/blame comes righteousness. Believing that we are right most of the time is also a recipe form a painful reality that we missed initially.
Pride and shame are the polar ends of the ego spectrum. The spectrum represents our basic perception of ourselves. We are better or worse depending on the situation. In the absolute world we are all wonderful beings. In the relative world, we use pride and shame to rank ourselves among each other. We even compare who we think we are to who we want to be. That ranking system, which is mostly unconscious and fluctuates widely with our moods, may cause a lot of anguish and feeds into all kinds of judgments, leading to more guilt, shame, pride, and blame.
How to desensitize this emotional roller coaster starts with taking a deep breath.

When you bring your attention to your breath, suddenly you become actively aware and present. Ego & Emotion fall. When you feel bad, your self-judgments will be negatively biased and harsh. Remembering that you are basically goodwill counteracts those shame-filled self-assessments.
Connecting with your breath and the present moment may not make our negative feelings going away totally, but breathing slows them down rather than controlling you.
It gives you the opportunity to 1) Accept them and 2) To consider a compassionate response, to forgive yourself and others. Whatever compassionate action you choose, you have an opportunity to delete your negative judgment.

Guilt, shame, pride, blame, anger, fear, and many more are very strong daily mental habits.
They will always find new and creative ways to penetrate our psyches.
As we practice, in a mindful way, acceptance and compassion to them each time they arise
we get new habits that protect us and those around us from the negative biases.
Taking time to breathe, to be present, and inviting acceptance and compassion is like adding breaks to runaway trains of negative thought.
When we can appreciate our absolute goodness, we can better negotiate the relative world of ego. When we can put down our own judgments, we feel compassion for ourselves and for others who suffer from the same negative judging habits.
Negative feelings from judgment are here to pop-up anytime and forever. We do not have any control of their occurrence but, when we learn to observe and accept rather than fighting them,
we are able to find serenity progressively over time.

Thank you

#324 Sensorial practice against distraction July 26 20

             Sensorial practice against distraction

Staying focused can be hard, especially in an age when there are tons of distractions around you such cell phone and emails being the main culprits.

Obliged to pay attention to something can be perceived being routine, dull or even boring.

 It can be challenging for our mind and body and both become restless.

These challenges are constant and everywhere such as at home, at work or even with friends.

When we become unfocused, boredom, impatience, frustration and feeling of wasting our time are taking over.

At this point our mind starts to wander because he hates boredom or we initiate multitasking.   

Slowly, distraction is taking over despite the fact that the initial focusing point should remain a priority.  Then, attention span is dropping and distractibility is rising.

Shorten attention span can be addictive and its incidence among all segments of the population is increasing thanks to IT.

Remember that our capitalistic economy is based on consumption and the best way to consume is to be distracted by commercials and going surfing for the next stuff that we don’t need.

How is it possible to improve your attention span and reduce distractibility?

To get better at focusing on duration and intensity, we should start by teaching our mind new tricks requiring its attention on targets that he is not used to focusing on.

Learning new stuff is exciting for everyone including our mind.

We are doing exactly that while practicing mindfulness meditation by focusing on breathing.

To pay attention on breathing is not something that the mind is doing because breathing is subconscious. Focusing on breathing is forcing our mind to do something that he is not familiar with.

I hope you have probably noticed improvement in your concentration skill since practicing meditation with Oakville Zen, even after just few months.

Practicing another focusing technique should be added to our formal mindfulness meditation.

I call it “sensorial practice”

We connect to the external world thru our 5 senses and sometime thru our extra sensorial perception.

The practice is the following:

Pick one of your 5 senses: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting.

For example :

If I am picking hearing, I am going to pay attention, in a mindful way, on one sound, noise, or even better silence around me. No analysis, no decision, just as they are. I will do that for a few seconds or better for a couple of minutes. I can repeat the same exercise several times during the day with the same sensorial input or picking another one such as:

   Seeing: pay attention to the colors, the sky, the ground.

   Tasting: pay attention to your food, the drink.

   Smelling to the odours around you.

   Touching: feeling the ground while walking, your skin by rubbing your hands or touching your face, etc..

Depending of your activities and time, you may vary sensorial practice in term of which sensor to use, how long and are often. A variant of sensorial practice is to learn body scanning that is feeling one part of your body which our mind never do consciously.

After your short sensorial practice, you go back to your initial task, more focused and relax.

Sensorial practice, like meditation is an excellent tools to

1) Improve our concentration that we need it for x, y, z, and  2) Reduce distractibility,3) Enhance relaxation.

Remember this:

Practice of mindfulness in its various modalities is always cumulative as far the results are concerned.

Thank you.

#323 Core desires July 19th

                         Core human drives

Humans differ from other animals in one very important respect: we are subjects to core desires which are infinite and will never be fully gratified. These preconscious and conscious core drives could keep us in a state of restlessness and other kind of negative physical and mental thirst.

I will not elaborate on the 4 core instinctive desires such as:

   To be healthy as long as possible for self, loved ones and closed friends.

   To have material security i.e. food, lodging and job.

   To search sentimental and social stability.

   To defend ourselves while facing danger.

   To be happy.  

The next 5 core desires are more subtle and more interesting:

    The drive to control.

     This is the most powerful one for most of us.

     By using wealth, intellectual, mental, emotional, political, religious tools, and others many more, many of us are trying, even subconsciously, to influence others including the loved ones.

    The drive to acquire.

    The desire to obtain or collect wealth, physical objects, as well as immaterial acquisitions

    like social-professional status, emotional relationships is also very frequent.

    The drive to compete for success.

    Thru rivalry, being competitive is a must in our modern society.

     It may create jealousy, aggressivity, and disappointment within the human rat race.

    Competition can be within our professional or sport environment but also simply socio-familial.

    The drive to “Look at me”

    I mean by that the drive to feel valued, lovable, recognized even admired physically and intellectually.

    At max, the search for active attachment and love from others becomes predominant. When this drive becomes obsessive it becomes pathological narcissism.

    The Drive to feel.

    It includes desires from sensory stimulus, intense mental, physical and emotional experiences.

    It is generated from work, entertainment, sport, sex, intoxicants, drugs, anticipation.

    All of them will induce pleasure, excitement, or the opposite such as dissatisfaction, resentment anger, and suffering. At max, addiction is around the corner from the overstimulation of our brain reward circuits.

So, …….as far Zen is concerned, the approach is always the same:

When one of these driving desires is taking place and it will, don’t resist, don’t fight.

  1. Be mindful of it that is paying a non-emotional non-cognitive attention w/o judgment and decision.

   2- Accept it as it is whatever good or bad.

   3- And, finally, let it go.

This is how serenity can be built, one step at a time.

Remember this:

Core desires are always there, hidden or disclosed because genetically encoded and shaped by our culture, education, and religion.

Learn to discover and meditate on them rather than be trapped in their nets.

Thank you all for listening.

#322 Is your head twisted backward? July 12th 20

Is your head twisted backward?   July 5 20

Our calendar year of 365 days & 24 hours was created by the Egyptians around 4200 BC.

Without a calendar planning will be impossible and life chaotic.

Zen Masters love to ask if their students if their head is twisted to make them conscious of their addiction to their past and its detrimental consequences.

Psychometric studies show that the #1 activity of an adult mind is to be in a space-time called the past. It is our mental default mode.

The second most frequent activity of the mind is to wander into the future.

The third and least frequent space-time is the present moment.

When you are listening to or reading these words, you are in the present moment – at least for a very short period of time before your mind begins to travel to the past or the future.

Our mind will focus on the present moment only as a necessity when we have to learn, listen, judge and make decisions.

The prevalence of each space-time varies with age: the older you are the more in the past you navigate. Being in the future is, obviously, more frequent for the younger generations.

Being very often in the past is a puzzle for Zen teachers, including myself because:

  1)   The past (but also the future) does not exist per-se since the only existing space-time is the present moment and this present moment is the only one in which we exist and are alive.

        Looking at pictures, watching a video or using visualization from memory does not mean that the past exists since, again, we cannot live in 2 space-times at once having my body is in the Now and my mind is in the Past.

  2)  When we are in the past,  we end-up most often with negative feelings at various degrees.

         Examples:

         a) Wonderful memories will bring regrets, nostalgia, sadness, and even depression.

       During these moments the current present seems to be dull and boring.

         b) At the opposite spectrum, negative memories will also bring regrets, however these will be quickly followed guilt, resentment, bitterness, anger, frustration, jealousy, rumination, pain, depression and even addiction.

Positive and negative memories cannot bring serenity, on the contrary.

 “What are we gaining  by having our mind in the past so often”?

 Being in the fictional past is a self-made, no-win mental entertainment, an emotional trap, and an escape away from the present moment that is too often perceived as routine, dull, and boring.

 You may say: “ Ok but I cannot delete my memories like I delete stuff on my computer”!

 Very true, we cannot erase the past because our memories are chemically encoded in our brains both consciously and unconsciously.

 However, we can learn

1) to become mindful to our memories meaning:

2) observing and accepting them as they are w/o analytic process and

3) Finally to let them go avoiding falling in the trap.

 In computer terms: you copy /paste( being mindful & observing then delete ( letting it go )

 “Past, present and future are pure mathematical inventions created from necessity thousands of years ago. They are pure illusion as far I am concerned since there is not such things in the Universe ” Albert Einstein March 21 1955

Thank you all for being in the moment.

#321 “Why me!…I shall not suffer” July 5th 20

                                        “ Why me ! I shall not suffer.”

Of course we never say “I shall not suffer” but silently we say “Why me” .

This emotional defense mechanism is a fundamental part of our mind-based ego.

It is so deep in our subconscious and so powerful from our Western education and philosophy that, even the possibility and expectation of some sort of suffering is perceived like a nightmare.

“ Why me, it is unfair, life is terrible”

The presence and recognition of suffering in life is the absolute center of Zen-Buddhism teaching.

The Buddha talked about it every day during 50 years 2500 years ago.

In fact, Zen-Buddhism has been seen as a very pessimistic if not masochistic philosophy of life until very late in our current century.

The word suffering came from a poor translation. We should use softer words such as dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and all other negative emotions like grief, nostalgia, anger, frustration, jealousy, fear envy, and so on.

Our Western culture is telling us to “be happy” all the time. It is even written in the American Constitution.!

Avoiding and denying unhappiness at all costs is an integral obligation in our daily way of life.

In fact, consumption-based capitalistic economy is the main tool in our quest for happiness:

New car, more money, bigger house, zillion of friends, travelling non-stop, more and more etc., etc….

All of the above are just mirage, deception and illusions since they are transient and never provide steady happiness. In fact, they create the opposite because they are inducing an ongoing thirst for happiness which will be never satisfied.

This avoidance and denial of “suffering” is viewed by our Oriental counter-parts as very weird because:

   1)  Avoidance  of suffering is simply impossible and

   2)  Denial of suffering, when its strikes, is added more suffering to the existing one.

Wen suffering strikes and it will always strikes, our ego is reacting violently:

“ I don’t want to suffer, I want to be pain-free”

Again, this ongoing subconscious sound track is making us suffering more because we are twisting the knife in our own wound. This is craziness at its max.

Blaming life and its events as a person does not make too much sense either since “life” is not a person who has something against you. Life is a genetic material, which has no enemies.

This mind gap between avoidance/ denial of pain and actual experience of pain is one of the main cause of second degree suffering beside desire, hatred, illusion and deception of reality. 

The wider the gap the deeper the suffering.

This gap “ being pain-free vs. presence of pain ” will always be present, so, what can we do?

We have to say YES to suffering which does not mean to become masochistic which, by the way, means pathological active search for pain.

Without this acceptance of an obvious reality of Life, we cannot fill this gap.

If we cannot fill this gap, we cannot transcend it.

If we cannot transcend it, we will remain inmates in our illusion-made prison and be part of zillion of greyhounds racing around a ring to catch a dummy rabbit called happiness and without being able to grab it permanently.

All of them will widening our mind-made gap. Try to narrow it thru meditation.

Thanks you all

#320 Attributes of our ego Sun June 28 -20

        Attributes of our ego:

Our subconscious ego has zillion of way to express itself non-stop.

The following attributes vary in frequency, prevalence and degree for each of us.

Severe narcissism, paranoid, sociopath and even psychopathic behaviors are among the extreme forms requesting therapy.

Here is the list in non-specific order. Few of them will sound familiar.

   Having poor insight

   Judging, accusing, gossiping and complaining.

   Needing to be right, to appear important, wanted and indispensible.

   Taking things, statements, and events personally.

   Need have “enemies”.

   Applying negative labels to people & situations

   Making yourself right and the others wrong through futile mental or verbal complaints.

   Expecting recognition for something you did and getting angry or upset if you don’t get it.

   Trying to get attention in whatever situations.

   Creating and maintaining a self-image made of: guilt, resentment, anger, blame and complain.

    Feeling being the victim of this and that.

   Giving your opinion when nobody is asking for.

    Being always concerned with how people judge you.

  Trying to always make a positive impression on others through various tools such as education,

     possessions, good look, socio-professional status, achievements, etc…

  Referring to “important people”  for ego booster.

   Triggering an ego storm through anger, jealousy, and threat against someone or something.

What to do?

Not much since our “ I, me, myself and mine” are vital to survive.

The key is to prevent its detrimental impacts.

The moment you become aware of your hidden ego and what he is doing negatively it is, strictly speaking, no longer the ego, but just an old, conditioned mind-pattern and mind-set that you are observing in a mindful way.

Observing implies awareness and ego implies unawareness because hidden.  

Therefore, awareness and ego cannot coexist.

Print this list and score each trait from N/A, 0 to 5. 

The highest score, the bigger the ego is.

Thank you all. arnaud

#319: Zen mindfulness: an antidote to A.D.H.D. June 21 20

                         Zen mindfulness: the antidote to A.D.H.D.

/Canadian Here are the latest ADHD stats from the CDC & American Psychological Association.

1) Attention span:

        Young: around 5 to 7min. (because, most of the time they are under guided supervision).

        Adult:   around 3 to 4 min.

        Adult dog :45 sec. (adult)

        Goldfish: 7 sec.

        Over the last 15 years, attention span has dropped by around 30%, especially among adults.

        Reasons?: multitasking, distractions, overthinking and search for instant results.

        Talking produces around 120 words/min. A 3min. speech has around 360 words.

        After 3 min., the attention span of the audience drops by around 30% /min.

        Therefore, you will probably talk to yourself if your speech is more than 6min.

2) Hyperactivity:

        Means doing many things at the same time or changing activity very quickly w/o significant outcome. Multitasking, a form of ASDHD is a growing cause of anxiety and burnout.


As far Zen is concerned, learning to pay attention in a mindful way is a vital skill to practice in order to achieve serenity.  

The word attention, in Zen teaching, has nothing to do with concentration or straining that we are trying to do during our various activities at home or at work.

Attention, in its Zen meaning, means having the mental openness of a young child that is an open but still concentrated mind.

An open mind is paying attention with non-analytic, non-judgmental, non-decisional and without tension. This is mindfulness at its best.

Zen Master Suzuki calls it “Beginner mind” in his book with the same title.

A young child mind is not yet dominated by beliefs, ideas, opinion, expectations, judgment, analysis and decisions.

a Her/his mental openness is like a mirror reflecting things as they are, sort of simple pure concentrated awareness without a wandering mind. It is the opposite to the conceptual, dualistic, and gateway mind of an adult, trapping us in a constant fictional world full of ongoing thoughts.

Practicing mental openness is freeing us from this mental cage that our education, beliefs, and experiences are creating.

How to practice it?

We talk about it zillions of time.

.Stop the schizophrenic space/times between body and mind

Bring your wandering mind to the present moment, where your body is and what it is doing.

Is it boring? Probably yes for most of the time, but just do it.

Your attention becomes 100% and you are not anymore hyperactive nor multitasking.

Thank you

#318 About “Self Hypnosis” June 14 -20

        “Self-hypnosis”

Hypnosis:

Mental state associating relaxation focused attention, reduced peripheral sensorial awareness, and an enhanced capacity to respond to verbal suggestions or commands.

During hypnotherapy, the patient remains fully conscious, awake, cooperative, and cooperative.

Therefore, hypnosis is neither a mind control nor a brainwashing tool.

Around 20% of the population is resistant to hypnosis.

Used for centuries, it is a recognized and accepted therapy by the Canadian & American Medical Association as long as it is under the control of a certified health professional.

Hypnotherapy is frequently recommended for anxiety, phobias, addictions, sexual dysfunctions, guilt prolonged grieving, procrastination, depression and poor self-image.

Zen perspective:

Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung ( student of Freud) knew Zen philosophy very well, was practicing meditation, and recommended it to his patients.

He realized very quickly the similitude between zazen that is Zen meditation and hypnosis. Indeed, mindfulness meditation is an induced mental state associating relaxation, focusing attention on breathing, and reduced peripheral sensorial awareness therefore very similar to hypnosis.

However, the only difference is the absence of external from a therapist.

We estimate that our brain/mind produces around 100,000 thoughts every day.

A very tiny proportion of them is decisional, meaning useful in our day-to-day life.

But the immense majority of them are just a constant background sound, sort of inner voice that I call self-talk.

We are spending a huge amount of time chatting to ourselves rather than talking to others.

This self-talk is, in fact, a form of self-hypnosis focusing on past events, future expectations, self-analysis, judgment, emotions, etc.

However and contrary to hypnotherapy, our self-talk that is self-hypnosis has no therapeutic value what so ever.

On the contrary, it is often detrimental, inducing more negative feelings more than positives ones.

Finally:

To awaken or enlightenment is to be free from this self-talk or self-hypnosis because its content, coming from our mind is, by definition, fictional and not necessarily true.

Thank you

#317 The detachment conundrum by Roque June 7 20

                                                The Detachment conundrum

Of all the Zen teachings and ideas, detachment is one of the hardest ones for me to grasp.

Our daughter was born 3 weeks premature, came home weighing a little over 5lbs. As she could not get enough to eat, she cried constantly for the first three months of her life. We watched her grow, and become an independent woman with a keen talent for storytelling which serves her very well as a budding journalist. You are probably wondering where this is going. Well …. she called us on Friday in tears after breaking up with her boyfriend of two years, her heartbreaking in pieces, wanting someone to just listen and offer some reassurance. Reassurance – that someday, she would find someone who really loves her and treats her as she wants to be treated. ….A very reasonable expectation we thought.

Is it truly possible to be detached at these events? To be an observer, a mirror, …. and listen to her words, be a witness to pain without judgment or emotion? To be more detached, to be emotionally aloof?

Now……. is this what Detachment really means?

Eastern philosophies look at detachment from slightly different angles, often calling it non-attachment (which I prefer), but they all agree that it is a condition in which a person overcomes their attachment to desire for things, people or concepts of the world and thus attains a heightened perspective. Concepts of the world: such as money, power, status, feelings of control, feelings of permanence, “the pursuit of constant happiness” (or better – aversion to pain and sadness), a desire to see things as we want them to be and not as they are.

Attachment to desire and things feeds the ego, many of us become attached to our work, and our sense of value is linked to our social status, to the clothing we wear, to having the latest i-phone and, let’s not forget about driving the latest ……. German-engineered SUV.

Attachment also feeds the illusion we are in control, that if we stay on top of these things – nothing bad will happen to us, instead of recognizing that we are in fact a lot more fragile than we might want to believe. Some of these attachments can lead to addictions of many types; we become workaholics, narcissistic egomaniacs, controlling freaks, dependent on alcohol and drugs, even totally self-absorbed and unaware of our impact on others and our planet.

I think this is the type of attachment that Zen philosophy refers to. The unhealthy type. The type that sooner or later leads to a lot more suffering, to an empty, meaningless and lonely state.

In Hinduism, attachment is viewed as the main obstacle towards a serene and fulfilled life, leading to continuous worries and restlessness produced by desire and personal ambitions. The retired president of Uruguay was recently asked, what would you be doing if you had the billions that Bill Gates has, he replied: “I would be worried about who is trying to steal it from me”. The accumulation and value assigned to material things inevitably lead to perpetual worrying about losing them.

Another translation for detachment is “renunciation”, in this sense the meaning is directed to a sense of “giving up the world and leading a holy life” or “freedom from lust, craving, and desires”. In Zen detachment is also linked to the concept of no-thought, meaning that one must be separated (detached) from one’s own thoughts and opinions in detail as to not be harmed mentally and emotionally by them.

A Buddhist writing states: “One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by muddy water.”

The Zen symbol of detachment is the lotus flower rising above the muddy waters.

I think it is impossible not to be attached to your children or your aging mother or your Zen Master, but be mindful of why you are doing it, question whether the act is selfless or if you are trying to control or escape some aspect of your life. Moreover, one must accept the realities of life and to recognize that, with attachment, always comes some level of suffering, and this is not necessarily a bad thing.

How do we let go of attachment? We cannot. Don’t even try.

Attachment to things may drop away by itself when we no longer seek to find ourselves in them.

#316 An incomprehensible statement June 3 2020

A cynical said that, by far, the first cause of death is Life since Life has, by definition, an100% mortality rate in which unexpected events such as accidents+ illnesses+ war+ disasters represent only a very, very tiny proportion.

​#1 ​So:​

Maybe ​finding ​the secret of Life is to die** before death in order to realize that there is, in fact, no death per se since no one can die twice.

​#2​​ Then:​

If there is no death, then life is eternal.

​#3 But:

If Life is eternal, how ​can one find its secret by dying?