Learning to love yourself

This is an alien advice not learned in our Western education.

I am not saying to become narcissist and super self-centered.

The word “love” in Zen Buddhist literature means all together tolerance, acceptance, forgiveness, self-compassion and kindness of what you are or, better said, how you are perceiving yourself.

We are at the opposite of what  our Western education is teaching us :

“ Always be super critical to yourself in order to be perfect and be the best”.

This is why the majority of Westerners have a poor self-image, blaming themselves for all kind of things, creating emotional and behavioral dysfunctions such as anxiety, depression and being difficult with others.

This practice of tolerance and self-compassion does not mean either to be complaisant with self since there are always opportunities to for improvement in all components that define us such as:

Personality, physical, mental, emotional and societal skills,
Our perceived our self-image goes from the good, the bad and the ugly even if we don’t notice it immediately because our self-image is deeply hidden in our subconscious.

Mindfulness skills will give us the capacity to bring it up and to embrace all our attributes and behavior with acute awareness in order to bring self-compassion.

In other words learning to be friendly with yourself as you are with your best friends.

What to do? 4 things to consider:

1) Start the day by wishing yourself well and good luck as “ Good morning Anna or John; Have a great day”. like you do to others all the time.

Do it mentally if you are in front of others, otherwise they will look at you as a coo coo.

If, at the beginning, it feels strange to send blessings to yourself, thing of those who love you dearly and imagine that they are sending their best wishes to you.

2) Pay attention how you talk to yourself. When you notice that you are judging, blaming or reprimand yourself, take few deep in and out breathing and realize that you are, by blaming yourself, enforcing your negative self-image.

3) Once a while during the day  talk to yourself as you would to a good friend such as encouragement.

You may say: “It’s OK, I am what I am, accept it” when negative traits are popping out.

4) Set the intention to treat yourself with acceptance, forgiveness, compassion and kindness especially when you go wrong or feel bad. Punishing, blaming for flaws/failures/mistakes and over criticizing yourself will never help you in finding corrections. On the contrary since these negative emotions on the top of others will block any attempt for improvement and will impede your social relationship.

Remember that:

– Acceptance, tolerance and self-compassion do not mean self-complacency or being egocentric.  –

Looking to be and do better should also be in our mind but controlling your self-negativity thru, first, acceptance is a must before looking for solutions.

– Finally, acceptance, forgiveness, compassion, tolerance and kindness to others can never be achieved   w/o applying them first to yourself . This is key in Zen Buddhist teaching.

#288 My experience with Oakville Zen by Cathy 28/Sept 19


In the autumn of 2012, I took a MBSR course with a local psychiatrist, where I was taught meditation.

I started practicing diligently, as though my life depended on it…which in many ways, it did.

I followed the advice I was given very precisely, and nurtured this new practice with care and did not waste energy advertising meditation and its benefits , not even to my adult children.

After that course, I searched for almost 2 years for some support as meditating alone gets pretty lonesome at times.

As luck would have it, a friend mentioned   Arnaud’s classes.  Relieved, I immediately joined  Oakville Zen Meditation  in November 2014.

In those early days, Arnaud and Catherine very generously opened their home and their hearts to struggling souls, like myself, 5-6 times a week….even providing hot tea at the end of the sessions as per Zen tradition,.

There was always a short walking meditation between the 2 sittings, in the huge basement where the classes were held.

There were also silent mini retreats with breaks walking outdoors in the lush, peaceful garden that Catherine and Arnaud tended so lovingly.,through all these times, the energy in the group was palpable.

In the past 5 years, many newbies, have come and gone…..artists, musicians, people covered in tattoos, and other body decorations….want to be meditators come from all walks of life, after all.

As members of Oakville Zen we certainly have had our share of “Full Catastrophe Living”, as Jon Kabat Zinn , the founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center calls it:

Illnesses of every description including cancer, heart attacks, bypass surgery, depression , anxiety

Change of employment

Loss of home

A wedding

3 years ago, the first Zen baby – Enzo

Death of elderly parents

Death of a brother, too young

And marriage break-ups..

Loss of much loved pets

Last December, Lorna,

 one of the oldest members of our group died from ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease,  after much intense suffering.     Full Catastrophe Living indeed!

Why do I keep coming back?


Maybe because, I, like everyone on earth, have a basic emotional need to belong to a group, a class, a club, ……a desire to be an important part of something greater than myself.

Maybe because Arnaud helped me in my darkest struggles during my family’s health crisis.

Maybe because group meditation is SO SO very powerful!

Maybe because I need to learn

-more optimism

-more gratitude

-more perspective taking

-more kindness for myself and others

Why do I meditate?

The real reasons I meditate is that life is hard, and I need tools to help me navigate what life throws my way…

everything is impermanent, so I need to remind myself that when things are bad, it will not last, when things are good, that, too, will not last.

I meditate to remind myself that the ordinary is really EXTRA ORDINARY, and that it can be taken from me in an instant.

I meditate so I can sometimes catch myself, when I mindlessly criticize a family member and see hurt feelings cross his or her face.

I meditate to improve my relationships—with myself and my loved ones.

In conclusion, meditation is an ongoing practice that I choose to stay committed to and use to gain some serenity ,some clarity and some , peace of mind in this everchanging world.

#287 Eat, Pray, Love…..Meditate by Roque Sept 22 -19

                                                Eat, Pray, Love …….. Meditate?

Every major religion in the world includes a ritual of prayer. A resolute way of communication with the Divine, Supreme being or God. Whatever the religious flavor and structure, these conversations take the form of praise for the Divine, often giving thanks and followed by some sort of plea for a desired outcome. These rituals of prayer are typically held in public places, community gatherings, but often are a private way of contacting the divine on one’s own terms.

But the essence of these interactions is to engage the practitioner in an intimate mental telepathic link with God. Prayers seem to be the official conduit to be heard by the Devine and perhaps to ask for help from God. Prayer seems vital to be on God’s good side.  Many of these rituals take the form of a set of repeating verses, either from the Koran, the Torah, the Bible, or some other text with roots or association with the Divine.

Now, …. what do these chants or mantras have to do with meditation? Buddhists recite the name of Buddha, Hindus worship as an act of religious devotion – usually directed to one or more Hindu deities. Muslims praise Allah in their five daily prayers, Jews want to build a relationship with God by praying three times daily. Christian prayers are much more broad, they all involve Jesus as the intermediary, and they move onto a progressively more structured form in terms of meditation, reaching multiple layers of contemplation or intercession.

The main point being that all these prayers, mantras or chants involve a complete submission of the daily thought to a focused awareness of the moment. A special trance-like state where the “monkey” mind surrenders to a channeled meditation of which the Divine is the main focus.

 Although not specifically meant to tame the mind and force the practitioner into an appreciation of the moment, it is still an attempt at letting go of the busy thoughts of the day and a focused inward look or connection with the spiritual.

In fact, these rituals appear very similar in nature and intention to Zen meditation. The repeating of verses, chanting of mantras, praying to the rosary, reciting of passages from the Torah or Koran can be thought to have the same purpose and a similar goal. In the end, the purpose of these rituals is to guide the practitioner to a better life, one that eventually leads to strikingly similar spiritual goals: a life of love, without pain and suffering …… Nirvana, Heaven, Paradise, the Kingdom of God.

The paths are very different ……. but are these ways so different after all????

#286 Few tricks to tame our ego Sept. 15 19

          Few motherhood tricks to tame our ego

Ego is critical to survive but it should not be also the main cause of our emotional roller coaster.

Our ego takes everything personally whether the causes are right or wrong.

Like an iceberg, our ego is submerged deep into our preconscious mind but its power is such that our day-to-day mental & physical behavior is almost totally under its control.

Like a coin, the ego has 2 sides. The good and bad sides are entangled and, like a coin,  one cannot exist w/o the other one.

To enumerate all beneficial values of our good ego is not the purpose of this talk.

However being over protective and a relentless fighter, our ego is also our worse enemy.

How to overcome our “bad ego”? We cannot because, like for the coin, it is impossible to remove one side w/o removing the other one.

Here are few motherhood tricks to tame the hidden face of our ego.

Ask yourself the following questions:

      “Is it my ego thinking or doing this and why?  

       Are x, y, z objective reality or ego-made fiction?

    I maybe useful but Am I indispensable?

Practice letting go from acceptance & forgiveness

“Forgiveness and letting go are the attributes of the strong.” said Mahatma Gandhi

Let go the following:

1) Trying to control things we cannot, 2) Believing that we are always right. 3) Having a mind set and judgments for everything, 4) Having more and more of this and that, 5) Identifying ourselves with your achievements, 6) Accepting that events, people and things  are what they are and not what you want them to be.

The most powerful tool to learn to let go is to practice acceptance and forgiveness.

We have to learn to forgive the people who hurt us and most importantly we have to learn to forgive ourselves too. Without the later, the former is impossible

Do not resist, fight and suppress your emotions.

Battling them make our fighting ego happier…but makes you worse. Counter intuitive

Learn to say no to the things that don’t add value in your life.

 “Too many people spend money they don’t have, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.”

Surrender your need for ongoing ego-based self-identification.

We are not our jobs, our material possessions, our achievements, our thoughts/emotions.

Once you let your ego controlling your identification you you will never be serene because as soon as you lose one of the things that you identify with, the rest will fall like dominos and you will lose your happiness. Beside, you will look to more stuff to have and to control.

Consider a selfless act such as giving without the expectation to receive.

Practice empathy & gratitude.

“It’s not happy people who are thankful; it’s thankful people who are happy.”

Grateful people feel more empathy and compassion and feel more alive than those who don’t.


Learning to let go of your negative ego is very easy in theory, however can be very difficult to execute in the moment. When I am facing negative events I always tune to my thoughts to check if my ego is online. If so, click on pause. Nothing to lose here, but a whole to win.”

Thank you

#285: TRIGGERS of our EMOTIONAL PAIN Sept 8 19

                                                         The triggers of our emotional pain                                                                               A Zen perspective

In a non-specific order, here is a very short list of our painful triggers.

The most powerful are stress, regrets, anger, guilt, grieving, shame, anxiety (fear, worries), sadness, desire, (craving), hatred, hopelessness, illusion and chronic fatigue.

Maybe less dramatic are: frustration, loneliness, boredom, impatience and jealousy. …And so on.

How often do we feel them on regular basis? 

Probably all the time, at various degrees and frequency.

In fact, according to the Buddhist philosophy the 3 main causes of suffering are desire, hatred and ignorance better called illusion of Reality.

I call them triggers because they initiate our emotional turmoil but do not feed it.

They are not the ones which fuel and enhance the duration and severity of this pain.

” The trigger does not kill, only the person pulling it does” says the N.R.A. This very smart quote can also be applied to the genesis of our painful emotional roller coaster.

Most of our emotional triggers causing pain are external but for 100% of them the resulting pain is mind-made generated.

How we perceive and react to x, y, z, are the oil or the water that we pour on the fire.

How to deal when facing a trigger?

The goal is to control duration, intensity and frequency of these painful episodes since triggers will always be there that we like it or not until our physical death.

The common attitude is to resist and to fight against our struggles in order to overcome, fix or eliminate them.

Our reflex behavior is automatic because generated by our pre-conscious ego which always lays the role of a fighter and defender.

The energy that we are generating to resist and fight against our struggles can be phenomenal and only adds more fuel to our suffering, making life more miserable.

Is it possible to transform this suffering into healing?

Mindfulness is paying attention / being aware to our experience moment to moment, w/o analysis, w/o judgment and w/o decision making. It offers an effective antidote to suffering.

By focusing in a mindful way on your current struggle and its origin you will learn, progressively, to accept it rather than to resist against it.

By doing so, we create habituation and tolerance rather than ongoing battle and misery.

It is important to stress the fact that acceptance of suffering does not mean to surrender or to be weak.  It does not mean either to be masochistic. The point is not to enjoy pain but to control it.

Control of any negative event cannot be achieved w/o acceptance unless one can fix immediately and efficiently the trigger……which is very rare.

Accepting is saying: “ Okay I am angry.” No question, no fight just acceptance and self-compassion.


It is OK to fight for something which is legitimate and that you may win but fighting continuously against our negative feelings is totally counter productive and, in fact, pretty detrimental.

 It is like “squeezing a burning coal sitting in your hand” as the Buddha used to repeat.

These is also this  advice given by our little dog:

 “ Dad, you will never control your tail while spinning after it. Do the same with your emotions.”

Thanks you

#284 Sky gazing: a wonderful meditation practice Sept 1 19

   Meditation: sky gazing

There is a Tibetan meditation practice called Sky Gazing that the Dalai Lama is practicing daily regardless of the weather.

It is considered as one of the highest forms of mindfulness meditation because it is helping us to discover our state of pure consciousness or awareness liberated from our conceptual, judgmental thinking, emotional turmoil and the illusion of being just a material entity.

Research done in psychology has also shown that when we are using our 5 senses in communicating with nature, we improve our serenity by reducing stress, removing conceptual thinking and making us more aware of our interconnectedness with everything in the universe.

For example, being one with a clear blue sky, even for few seconds or minutes is the closest experience of what is this natural state of pure awareness or non analytical consciousness looks like.

How to do it?

Sky gazing can be done during the day or night, when the sky is blue or even over casted.

Practice only for few minutes.

Assume a comfortable meditative posture outside either sitting or lying down.

Look outward at the sky w/o staring specifically at something.

Observe it as it is w/o any analytic thinking, w/o judgment, w/o decision. Just let go thoughts and feelings.

To rest your eyes, close them once a while and visualize what you are watching. The effect is the same.

What will be your experience?

You will discover the stillness, quietness, emptiness, limitless and everlasting of the sky.

You will experience the interconnection between the sky as proxy of the universe and you.

This “spiritual experience” will unlock the door in the discovery of your True Self because both – universe and you – are identical forming a single entity.

No more boundaries. No more conceptual mind. Your material self is fading away at least temporally.

How can it be?

 As Zen said, you realize that your mind-body is part of the universe and the universe is part of your

mind-body. You are not anymore a perceived transient material self-entity, unique, independent and separate.

Some technical points.

Blue sky during the day and sky full of stars at night are obviously the optimal scrivener but….

…even when the sky is cloudy or even over casted, sky gazing will always be beneficial despite being more challenging.

Clouds are also to good metaphor. They move and change shape all the time. 

Everything is transient.

Thank you

#283 Becoming a mind watcher August 18th 19

                                    Becoming a Mind watcher

Beside controlling our body and using its cognitive skills, our mind is a fantastic movie maker, producing around 90,000 films every days made of thoughts and emotions in different space-times, various scenarios and actor. We are inside the screen, trapped in this mind-made ongoing fictional worlds. Enough to become almost insane for many. 

However we can get rid of almost all this mental insanity hidden in your preconscious mind where past and future are the dominant playgrounds.

Just by being a simple witness of your ongoing thought & emotions should do the trick.
How to do it? It requires practice.
Simply sit silently, watch and witness your thoughts/emotions passing before you. Just witnessing, not interfering that is not analyzing and not judging, because the moment you enter in a cognitive element, you have lost your status of being the pure witness. Like in Court, the witness does not judge.

The moment your inner voice says “this is good, this is bad, why, how, when, where, whom”, I want, I don’t want you have already jumped onto the cognitive and emotional slippery slope, like being a hamster in its wheel.

It takes daily practice to create a gap between the thinker i.e. the victim of the mind tricks instead of being  the witness of the tricks.

Once the gap is there, you are in for a great surprise: you are not driven anymore by your mind, you are the witness, a watcher of it.

And this process of watching your usual ruler (mind) becomes is the magic of real spirituality.

As you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start to shrink, even evaporate, at least temporarily.

At this point your mind becomes still and silent. This is one of the characteristics of an

“Empty mind” as Zen calls it.

In fact, learning to watch the stampede of our thoughts while focusing on our breathing or on any other focusing targets is the primary goal of mindfulness meditation.

At this moment and, unfortunately, for a short duration, you are experiencing enlightenment or better said awakening.

This is the moment we become, for the first time, a free human being, liberated from

our inner prison called mind.

Thank you


#282 ZEN CHAT with a WAVE August 3 -19

             Zen chat with a wave

It was Monday July the 8th 2018. Fully awake at ~3 am and with a fantastic weather outside, I decided to dress-up and walk to the lake 10min. away.

Seating on a bench and in a mindful way, I used my 5 senses to experience the serenity and beauty of the surrounding nature. Reality at its best. No wandering mind, no dream, no past, no future, just in the moment.

The lake was quiet . A little breeze was creating small waves finishing gently on the shore.

I decided to focus intensively on these little waves and, after a while, I was chatting with them.

Hello little waves, how are you?

One of them, just born, replied: we are okay she said.

You must be sad I said.

Why replied the little wave.

For one your life is so short: you come to life, do a quick rolling and then die on the shore.

Humans go thru the same cycle she replied. Yes, your life span is longer than ours, but so what!

Look at the quality of human life. It is full of unhappiness, dissatisfaction and other negative feelings. All are driven by ongoing desire, hatred, illusion and mind-set. Waves are just waves, living in the moment. We are not driven by mind-made traps like humans because our mind is clear like water.

Okay, I said, but you are very tiny.

Yes. Right now we are small but sometimes we are bigger. You call us tsunami when we are gigantic or ripple when we are very small.

Do you have any purpose on this planet, I asked curiously.

Just being a nice wave she replied. Sometimes we make humans happy when they surf on us and when seagulls rest on the top. Beside, we clean the shores all around the world when we are big and during tides.

Humans are always dreaming about doing this and that. You want, don’t want. When we cannot, they suffer. Very sad.

By the way, we never understood why you live in 3 space-times such as past, present and future.

Waves live in the present because it is the only one when we are alive. The others ones are man-made concepts. Past and future are only NOW in your mind when you think about.

Little wave, it looks like you are expressing some serenity. Can you elaborate? I asked

She replied: Maybe the best answers are:

I am never alone and I will never die because, even if I am a tiny wave for few min, I am also always part of the infinite lake or ocean, which never die. I will become a new wave soon. This is very comforting emotionally.  Sort of immortality.

Beside, we accept impermanence as part of the life cycle whereas humans don’t realize that everything is transient.

What do you mean? I asked:

You think that each of you is a permanent, unique, independent, separate self-entity, quite the opposite of us. This is in your preconscious mind where fear of dying is alive if I may say.

So, what can we do to achieve your serenity? 

Be like me. Your idea of happiness is the main reason of your unhappiness and….. Before she finished her sentence, the little wave past away, becoming the lake again. She was serene my little wave.

#281 Daily practice of quantum Zen July 27th 19

Daily practice of “quantum Zen”

Quantum physic studies the very very tiny physical particles.

In the same way “quantum Zen” physic looks at the tiny tiny components of on-the-go Zen practice as opposed to its mega components such as formal sitting, walking meditations, koans and monthly one-on one interview between student and teacher.

Tiny components of daily Zen practice pop-up as soon as we wake up and as soon as we fall asleep.

Here is a non-inclusive list of 10 on-the- go quantum Zen practice.

1) Do one thing at a time, slowly, completely and in a mindful way. Its means:

Bring your mind where your body is and what you do, even during routine or boring stuff that our mind hates. It prefers wandering in the past and future with its cohorts of dreams and good and bad feelings

Examples of this short mindful practice are infinite: peeling potatoes, eating, walking, being under the shower, peeing, listening, talking, touching, etc…

2) Do less stuff rather than trying to do too many things.

3) Designate protected time for certain exercises such as:

Use your 5 senses, one at a time, to pay attention & experience surrounding reality of the moment. The rest is pure mind-made fiction. This is a great skill to learn to put your mind in stand-by.     

Do short breathing meditation in any positions and anywhere.

Shut off your cell phone for at least 10 sec….hopefully more, unless special circumstances.

4) Stop judging all the time about anything …unless requested. Nobody cares anyway.

5) Once a while forgive yourself about what you did, do or think.

If you cannot do it for yourself, how can you forgive others? This part of compassion.

6) Once a while check your thoughts.

You don’t have to believe all of them.

So, just say hello to the useless / irrelevant ones and drop them in the recycling bin.

You will avoid mental pollution.

7) Stay in the present moment, good or bad, the only moment when you are alive

 This is the only one when concrete reality exists.

“Past you” is dead. “Future you” is not born.

We cannot be alive in 3 different space-times.

8) Do not be entertained by your mind as your second self-made Netflix. Enough addiction.

9) When you are victim of a strong negative emotion, just pay attention, acknowledge and accept it.This is a very difficult skill but it is the only way. Fighting it will make it worse.

10) Do not read too many smart books to achieve serenity.  

A donkey carrying smart books is still a donkey.

#279 How to use our 5 senses to practice on-the-go-mindfulness exercises. July 14th

             How to use our 5 senses to practice on-the-go mindfulness exercises

The practice of mindfulness meditation, regardless its quality, is cumulative as far its beneficial effects tat is how we perceive life and its content, how to experience the reality of the moment and how we are able to control our mind. Hoe often is more important than how.

The more we practice the better, regardless the quality and duration of our meditation are.

This is difficult to accept since we have learned, thru our Western education, that the more we practice on something the better we become at it.

The quality of our sitting is and will never be perfect even among the Masters simply because the mindis very powerful to escape from the focusing object that we are imposing on him.

Judging the quality of our mediation means quitting sooner or later.  

Beside weekly formal sitting and walking meditation, what can we do to increase the frequency of our mindfulness-based meditation practice?

Before going thru few examples, I would like to remind you of the 3 main functions of our mind/brain.

     1) Acting as a receiver of our immediate environment.

           Using its 5 senses acting as “radars”, our mind/brain is acting as a vey sensitive and powerful            receiver of the external world. He is collecting instantly, consciously or nor, zillions of data.

          Then he will t transform them into electric-chemical signals which will be computerized so            we an see, hear, smell, touch and taste. Based on the process, we are able to analyze, act and   experience reality of the moment. As far neuro research is concerned, we still have no clue why we can see colors whereas it is black inside, nor sounds when it is silence.

     2) Acting as the maker, manager and monitor of our 100 trillions cells in 78 organs 24/7

     3) Acting as a mental factory with 2 main functions:

             Cognitive: producing around 90,000 thoughts /day for analysis, deduction, judgment,  decision, memory, expectation, etc…

             Emotional:  contrary to our rational mind/brain, our emotional one always reacts immediately, around 100 times faster, in milliseconds.

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 outputs, which will take priority if you decide to use one of them

You may pick seeing, hearing, touching, tasting or smelling.

Depending of the circumstances you can also:

      Keep the same “receptor” or alternate with others during the same day.

      Duration may vary from less than 1 min. to several.

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

      Seeing: paying attention to one color i.e.  sky, clouds, the green of trees, the motion of the wind, etc

      Hearing: silence, birds, cars, wind, rain, your steps, music, your tooth brush  etc…

      Touching: the ground when walking, touching your skin, a page of a book, etc…

      Smelling: the air, the food, grass, etc.

      Tasting: drink, food, etc.

It is important to practice in a mindful way that is just paying attention to your chosen focus w/o being trapped in some sort of analytic process of your target.

Remember this:

Despite its enormous power of zillions bits, the mind/brain cannot deal with 2 thoughts at the same time. We don’t know why.

When you focus, for example, on the sound of the train on the tracks or on the taste of an apple, or the sound of the wind or the orange color of the sky at sun set, just do that andyour mind/brain cannot do other thing but to obey you that is to focus on what we are asking him to do. This is key to achieve awakening, one thought at a time on concrete reality.