#328 Taking your suffering for a walk 23-08 20

                                       Taking your suffering for a walk

Few years ago, my Zen Master Yangil Sunim (Sunim means teacher) asked me:

“Ji Gong, how often do you practice suffering”.

This is a classical Zen question and, like a Koan, it sounds incomprehensible, paradoxal, illogical and even stupid. The purpose of this kind of questions is to create a short in our pre-frontal cognitive circuit. The mind is in the dark, trying to reconnect the light for finding an logical answer.

I replied: “ No, Sunim, on the contrary, I am trying to look for pleasure and try to avoid pain.

I am not a masochistic person ”

He said: “This is not what I mean. I mean the opposite since a masochist is looking for pain to induce pleasure. JiGong, in life, pain is unavoidable but suffering is optional because this negative feeling can be controlled thru mindfulness meditation. There is quest for pleasure is this practice.”

Suffering is the poor translation of the Sanskrit word Dukkha. Dukkha is the umbrella word for all of our negative feelings induced by past /current events, people, and more frequently created by our ego-mind. Negative feelings go from simple dissatisfaction to dreadful despair including suicidal contemplation. They happen all the time that we like it or not.

Suffering is optional if you decide to practice it, that is to be friend with it rather than resisting, fighting with, or trying to analyze its causes and solutions. If you play the therapist you will fail and even make the suffering more painful.

So, take your suffering for a walk, hand to hand and eyes to eyes like two lovers even try a kiss.

Practice wakefulness to your pain in a mindful way that is w/o any analytic process.

Practice awareness, observation, acceptance and self-compassion of your suffering with whatever type of mental pain you are experiencing: bad event, anger, fear, heartbreak, grief, regrets, loneliness, sadness, hopelessness, failed desires, hatred, and so on. Awareness, observation, acceptance and self-compassion are the first 4 steps before being able  to forgive yourself.

Self compassion and self forgiveness will de-sensitize your pain the same way that vaccination works. It creates tolerance and acceptance of the enemy. Suffering becomes optional.

This doesn’t mean that you resign yourself to a life of suffering. It means that you acknowledge your current negative experiences and treat it with respect and courtesy rather than fighting an enemy. By the way, we cannot express compassion forgiveness to others w/o starting with self.

Oriental approach to deal friendly with pain is perceived as counterintuitive and incompatible by most Western therapists.

This Oriental approach to suffering is the exact mirror image of the Western one. For the former, suffering is accepted whereas, for the latter, it must be rejected.

Oriental teaching implies the creation of a positive feeling i.e. compassion against a negative feeling that is pain. This is neutralization. 

The Western approach to suffering is to see it as an enemy.

Such antagonistic therapy could induce and perpetuate an ongoing and repetitive suffering with no winners except for the therapist.

Thank you

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Thank you

#327 Awareness Breathing Compassion: the A,B,C, of mindfulness meditation Aug 16t 20


                                             The A,B,C of mindfulness meditation

In practicing mindfulness, always start as a new beginning every time, that is start without knowing anything. When you take away everything that you know, you are left with pure awareness, breathing and compassion. Apply the same approach regarding your life: each day is a new beginning where emotional past and expected future are ignored at least temporally. The reason why it is important to practice mindfulness is that it helps you to control better our emotional and fictional mind.  Most people begin a mindfulness practice because they are suffering from whatever reasons. Attending to your mind will help you to work with and through your suffering.

1- The first step is awareness:

If suffering brings you to a mindfulness meditation practice, then you begin by being mindful awareness of your suffering as it is, w/o judgment. Suffering can be complicated. If we try to analyse all its components that contribute to its genesis, you embark in a very painful journey, aggravating the intensity of the suffering.  

To cut right through, go back by bringing your mind back to the beginning that is, in Zen, the present moment, the Now and the easiest way to do this is to be mindful to your breathing.

When you become aware of your awareness- such as awareness of your breathing w/o any analytic or decisional process, you are 100% “awake” that is awareness at the second degree.

The natural reaction to suffering is to try to eliminate it. With mindfulness practice, you don’t try to get away from your suffering, you acknowledge it, pay attention and accept it in full awareness.

When you notice suffering, recognize your awareness of your suffering and again accept it.

2- The next step is breathing:

Already mentioned, to remain with your awareness, breathe consciously. Breathing allows you to be in the present moment, grounded in your body and able to observe the changing negative thoughts of your wandering mind. Accept them and let them go with compassion as opposed to hatred them.

3) The final step is compassion:

It is the attitude you adopt toward yourself as you breathe into your suffering. Recognize that you do not enjoy this feeling, and that you would be feeling differently if you could be compassionate about yourself. Acting on compassion involves applying a positive feeling i.e. compassion against a negative one i.e. suffering. Being aware of your feeling and your breathing as you activate compassion will quiet your mind.

Meditation and mindfulness go together because meditation is the practice of awareness, breathing and compassion. You practice meditation when you are not acutely suffering. Practice when you have time to sit and rehearse the skill of focusing your awareness on the present moment. By practicing meditation, you strengthen the habit of attending to your experience, whatever it may be. When you regularly practice meditation you are more likely to turn to mindfulness in a moment of need, rather than turning toward usual reflexes of anger, resistance and fight.

The ABC’s of mindfulness, Awareness, Breathing and Compassion, are simple and always available to you when you need them. If you practice often, returning to the present, cutting through the complications of life and our emotional mind you will recognize the power of this practice. You will be able to grow through suffering and expand your compassion to every ones.

Thank you.

#326 Interpersonal relationships: a Zen perspective by Harish 9 Aug 20

Interpersonal Relationships – A Zen Perspective

Interpersonal relationships are relationships between you and the people that you contact during your daily lives; your spouse, your children, your siblings, your colleagues and the people outside your own sphere.

Let us examine how the relationships are born, are developed, and how they may impact your daily lives. Upon birth, a human being is all alone, helpless, unaware of what is in store for him or her in this vast world. The parents nurture the child physically. Slowly, he or she starts to develop thoughts about the people around him, his parents, brothers and sisters. (For the sake of simplicity I am using the term “He”. It could also be used for “She”.) He learns to respond to their interaction with him. Sometimes he gets praise, other times he gets scolded. And then through the school years this interaction continues with other children, other relatives, teachers, neighbors. This interaction continues with work colleagues, superiors and those under him. Eventually, a vast web of inter personal relationships is built up.  Some of these relationship are very encouraging and supportive – conducive relationships others not so – non conducive relationships. How does one handles these relationships? Our natural instinct is to hold on to conducive relationships and to stay away from the non-conducive relationships.

Furthermore, these relationships are of different kinds with different people. Also, these relationships evolve with time. You have positive emotions of love, compassion, respect, encouragement and pride etc. Then there are the negative emotions of fear, hatred, jealousy, anger, attachment etc. The key to handling the interpersonal relationships lies in how well one can handle these emotions. We need to integrate emotions of the mind with the rationality of the intellect. Our mind is fed by the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The mind reacts differently to different situations. Take for example the death of a child. If that child happens to be your own child, your mind will experience tremendous grief and anguish. If, however that child is someone distant to you, it does not create the emotion of anguish to the same extent. The phenomenon that happened in the outer world is “a child died”, but the mind reacts to it differently in different situations.  There are countless examples how the same event creates different emotions in different individuals or even in the same individual at different times. So how we view our interpersonal relationships depends on how our mind operates.

Zen tells us to accept what is happening with the person that you are in contact with. You can handle these relationships by being non-judgmental. The key to controlling the behavior of the mind is mindfulness. Regular meditation helps us to delve into the workings of the mind. The more you practice meditation, the more you become aware of the mechanics of how the mind operates. The greatest benefit of meditation is single-pointed ability. Once you can do it, it becomes easy to handle interpersonal relationships.

#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.


         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