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#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.

#304 Key words & short expressions in Zen philosophy 2-2-20

Key words and short expressions of Zen philosophy

In non specific order.

Suffering is part of life that we like it or not. It cannot be prevented but should be accepted.

     Acceptance to what we don’t want to accept is a big step towards serenity.

      Suffering is caused by attachments.

      Attachments are ego-driven and made of desire, hatred and mind-made “ignorance.”

      Being in control of our attachments is Nirvana.

Ignorance means being unable to differentiate concrete reality of the moment from mind-made fiction.

Being in control of our attachments & ego-driven mind is Nirvana

Nothing lasts including self.

Good & bad stuff are transient.

Almost nothing can be controlled including self (body/mind). Believing otherwise is an illusion.

Only now (present time)exists. Past and future are very useful inventions but remain illusions.

Life, people, events, things and environment are what they are and not what our ego mind wants them to be. Believing otherwise is an illusion.

No living being has a permanent, independent, unique, self- sustained separate self-entity. This is what Zen Buddhist calls “emptiness” or empty of self entity. We are all interconnected & interrelated, dependent of Nature & the Universe to survive.

Global consciousness is made of all living beings and each individual one has an incorporated  component of the collective one. Believing otherwise is an illusion. Some call this global consciousness God. Consider individual consciousness –you- as a wave and the global one as the ocean.

Our ego-centered mind is the main source of our illusions, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, suffering causing attachments, desire, fear, anger, resentment and negative emotions, etc. Meditation will help us to control this beast. Believing otherwise is an illusion.

To be mindful is tp ay attention moment-to-moment to what is real , like a mirror & reflecting things as they are and not as we want them to be.

To be mindful to our body, mind and environment is a non-cognitive skill. No judgment, no decision. 

We should not believe everything all our thoughts despite the fact that we are creating them.

Karma is the consequence of our actions and intentions. It is individual and collective.

Meditation is:

    Living in the moment & paying attention to our mind anchor and wandering mind.

   “Strait back = strait mind”,  “Still back = still mind”  as Zen says.

Life is endless in multi ongoing space-times. Its biological form – our body-mind-  is only one of them in a transient form.  

#303 ACCEPTANCE: KEY to SERENITY Feb.10th 20

                                 Acceptance:  accepting bad stuff.  Key to serenity.

In our pro-positive culture, the pressure to suppress our negative feelings is daily.

However, psychological studies have shown that acceptance of negative events and emotions is the most reliable route to regaining and maintaining peace of mind. This was already shown by Zen 2,500 years ago.

Acceptance of our dark emotions is now backed by scientific evidence to improve emotional resilience to the diminution of symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Acceptance does not mean failure, resignation nor fighting our negative emotions, but simply taking them for what they are. Fighting negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, fear, grief will make you in an even worst state.

 How can it be that accepting negative emotions is paradoxically linked to long-term psychological thriving and more serenity?

According to recent analyses, the magic of acceptance is to minimize the effects of our  emotional reactions from stressful events. These mechanisms, over time, lead to positive psychological and mental health, including higher levels of life satisfaction and serenity.

This is not about living in the world with a detached attitude.

Acceptance also works for a wide range of people and it is not bound to socioeconomic or racial group.

It also appears to be effective whatever the degree of negativity.

Finally, accepting situations is context-dependent. We need to accept death, but we don’t need to endure unfair treatment from someone.

Non-judging acceptance is connected under the general umbrella of mindfulness, that is paying attention in a non-reactive way, simply observing. You need to pay attention to your internal experience, but acceptance, non-judging acceptance, seems to be one of the key ingredient to mindfulness.”

Resist the Urge to Strive for Happiness: 

Zen teachers often underline that “acceptance” doesn’t mean having the feeling of failure, being resigned,

or giving-up to a personal stressful, negative situation.

Negative emotions are unavoidable. Life is wonderful from time to time, but it’s also sometimes tragic.

Tragic events happen all the time and, if we only have positive thoughts, these unwanted realities can strike us even more intensely when they happen—and they will happen.

The other problem with trying to think positively and constantly pursuing happiness puts people in a striving state of mind for constant positive expectations. This constant positive mental behavior is always detrimental in a long term because it will fail sooner or later.

That said, acceptance remains mysterious in some ways. Psychologists don’t know which factors influence some people to accept negativity despite cultural pressures to stay positive.

In the West, happiness and positivity are seen as a must to have. “ Be happy”.

Many companies want their customers and employees to be delighted all the time. That’s unreasonable, and when we’re faced with unreasonable expectations, it’s natural for us to have strong negative emotions if these expectations are not met.

Like other cognitive habits, acceptance is a skill that can be learned especially thru mindfulness meditation.

“You are not angry, you have anger” says Zen. This is a very important distinction.

Finally, older adults use acceptance more than younger adults.

Like wisdom, the trait grows with age, so most of us will get there eventually.

#302 INFORMATION OVERLOAD. Consequences and role of meditation Feb 2 20

                    Information overload, its effects and role of meditation

Definition:

Excessive data input than the brain/mind is processing during the day.

Brain/mind can be compared to a quantum computer where the brain is the hardware and the mind/thoughts being the software.

The hardware is made of 100 billions neurons interconnected by 100 trillions connections.

The software is the electromagnetic waves transporting the constant incoming data thru the connections or synapses all over the brain.

We are producing between 70,000 and 100,000 thoughts daily excluding our subconscious thinking.

Information overloaded is also called:  infobesity, infoanxiety and IT addiction.

Japan was the first one to open 2 hospitals especially dedicated to this new addiction.

In 2018 a North American spends an average of 11 hours absorbing all kind of data from any screen (TV, cell, ipad, working computers, videogames, text, voicemail, print media, radio…… to name a few) .

It was 8.7 hours.in 2016 and the current rend is exponential.

There is a direct correlation between amount of absorbed data and its addictive impacts.                  

Sources of data input:

For simplification I will divide the sources of information as internal i.e. from our own body and external from the environment.

Internal:

Our brain/mind is processing continuously billion of peripheral data providing from every part of the body in order to function properly.

Rational and emotional thinking are forms of data generation.

External:

External info is absorbed by our 5 senses: viewing, listening, etc.

As mentioned before the sources of sensorial information overload is almost infinite especially with IT.

Portable devices such as cell phone are providing an endless data information 24/7.

Multi-media info is at least 80% negative content since market research shows that viewers are attracted to drama.

Negative impacts of Info overload:

We are just starting to analyze these impacts. Among the most frequent are:

Anxiety, irritability, lack of sleep, lack of concentration, poor social interaction, chronic fatigue  

Less productivity: it takes an average of 20min. to return to a specific task after receiving an email.

Stress, procrastination, feeling of hopelessness, even depression.

Intel Corporation has calculated that Information overload syndrome on its staff costs around 1 $ Billion of productivity and health issues.

This continuous information overload must be processed by the brain/mind at a potential cost of energy deficit since continuous mental data processing is using significant amount of energy that the brain/mind must generate

What  about meditation you may ask?

Since we are becoming more addicted to info of all sources pertinent or not, learning to reduce data input can be difficult if not impossible.

This is where Zen practice becomes very effective. During mindfulness meditation, the amount of data input is limiting just to one that is by focusing on x or, y . This is a form of temporally mental relaxation.

So…..once a while just unplug to unload your brain/mind.

#301 KARMA Individual & collective Jan 26th 20

                 Karma: individual and collective

Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning “action”. The law of karma refers to the sequence: cause (intention) produces action, which induces positive or negative effects.

Every good/bad volitional thought or action will bring a certain good/bad result in the short or long term.

If my thoughts or behaviors are motivated by greed, hatred or delusion, I am planting the seed of suffering for others and myself.

On the opposite, when our acts or thoughts are motivated by positive intentions, they are creating positive karmic conditions for abundance and serenity for self and others.

The concept of karma or action is based on basic moral and ethical principles and it is found in every religion.

“We reap what you sow “says the Judaic/ Christian and Islamic scriptures.

 I will address the individual karma as well as the collective one specific to Zen and  as individual we cannot prevent .

In Zen Buddhist, karma specifically refers to volition that is the primary intention and motive with or without its action.  Our motivation behind our action determines and controls the consequences or effects.

Therefore, we can see the enormous responsibility we have to become conscious and paying attention to the motivation and intention that precede our actions.

If we are unaware of our motives or don’t assess them properly, we may act on them and create the conditions of future suffering.

When does the law of karma apply?

As far timing, the law of karma can be understood in many levels, which indicate the vast scope of its implications in our life.

Karma law is affecting all living beings any time not only during our “current” material life but also our previous and future ones. If one believes that our life’s duration is timeless and endless with an infinite number of cycles of material/body entities between birth and death, as Tibetan Buddhists believe, bad volitional thoughts during previous lives may affect our current lives or, even, our future ones if the effects did not occur already.

Many see this as pretty gloomy stuff, resignation and hopelessness.

Importance of paying attention to our mind intentions.

It is critical to always read our mind regarding the intention of our thoughts and before any action.

When we experience a mind state of comprehension, generosity, compassion and love not only the future effects will be positive. At the same time, feeling of serenity appears.

On the contrary, when we experience a negative state of mind of greed, hatred, in addition to negative future results, we will experience the painful negative energy and a restless mind.

Beside affecting me, can my intentional thoughts and actions influence others?

Yes. It is called collective or general karma. A good/bad action of one may affect all of us since we are all interconnected and interdependent.

There are many examples of this around us and there is nothing we can do about it.

Conclusion:

Our direct understanding of how the karmic law is working positively or negatively in each moment of our life is a strong motivation in developing skillful and permanent awareness of our motivations behind thoughts and actions. However, all negative impacts such as diseases, accidents are not necessary caused by the so-called “bad karma”.

This is why the practice of mindfulness meditation is important by learning to pay attention to our thoughts.

If we are able to assess efficiently our hidden ego-driven motivations that is to control our negative

and detrimental ones, we will experience a better sense of wholeness, peace and serenity.

If we live away from moral and ethical ground, we, then, will experience dissonance, confusion and suffering at different degrees not only for self, but also on others.