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.
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.
If there is no death, then life is eternal.
If Life is eternal, how can one find its secret by dying?
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
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
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.
Realization are fundamentally different so I truly believe meditation will
eventually help me realize who I really am.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
cause of anxiety is our faulty thinking around change.
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.
often move back and forth between too much, just enough, and too little
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:
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.
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.
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.
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,”
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
to your body; it is the proxy of your mental state. We talked already about the
physical symptoms of anxiety.
yourself why you’re anxious. Is it because you’re excited or fearful?
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.”
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.
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.
automatic mode creates all kind of thoughts and emotions not necessarily
They can be also
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.”
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
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
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
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
What Zen is telling
You just have to turn
off the cruise control and bring back your mind back with your body’s current
Paying attention to
what you are doing results in better conscious decision-making.
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.
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.
means that your mind and body are one entity rather then having the mind
other words, you are no any more on autopilot doing things automatically while
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
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
Forgiveness and controlling anger become
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.
are watching watch the rat race and appreciate that you are not one of them
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.
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
All 100 billions of neurons and trillions
of connections are all focusing on a single object whatever it is.
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
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.
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
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.
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
If you commit yourself to this schedule,
you will appreciate how “collective consciousness” can be effective in helping
you focusing better and longer.
from disturbance or nearby state of agitation, unpleasant change, or
motion or activity
disposition that is morally, mentally and ethically elevated.
word serenity refers to environments as much as people.
serene sky is free of storms.
serene moon is shining bright and steady.
serene expanse of sky, sea or light is unclouded.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.