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#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.

#300 SAYS YES Jan 20th 20

Saying YES

Introduction:

When you notice the impulse to disagree, to object or to judge negatively, consider whether it is really necessary. In this mind practice we learn to say yes to everyone and for everything that happens within the limits of feasibility.

Could we just nod, or even remain silent and pleasant? Whenever it is appropriate and not dangerous to you or to others, try to agree with others and with what is happening in your life.

This mind practice helps us to see how often we take a stance that is meaningless, negative or oppositional.

If we are able to watch our mind when someone is talking to us, particularly if they are asking us to do something, we can see our thoughts moving back and forth from agreement or counterarguments.

Can you resist the desire to disagree verbally when the issue is, in fact, not a big deal?

Not expressing opposition will help us to learn to let go our powerful and predominant self-centered views.

In fact, you will realize that our personal opinion is usually not so important after all, meaningless or is just wrong or upsetting.

It is surprising how often our disagreement with another person is actually totally unimportant to that person especially when your opinion is not requested. Beside, the subject of the argument can be totally meaningless. Don’t bother.

This behavior is ego-driven and only serves to increase our stress, upsetting or even suffering of those around us.

Saying YES or simply nodding can be energizing, since habitual resistance is a persistent drain on our life energy.

A point of caution:

The point of this talk is not to become hypocritical, aloof , antisocial or to be a  “yes man/woman”.

The point is simply not to waste too much energy arguing too often with whoever about whatever.

If you feel the urge to argue, just say something like : “I will think about it” or ”Yes, maybe”.

Neither the person or your ego will be hurt.

Just weight the pros and cons before reacting.

In Zen we say:” Swallow your words before spiting them out”. How many disasters did you ignite by doing the opposite?

Like anything in Zen practice, finding the Middle way can be tricky even when talking.

#299: Being on autopilot mode Jan. 12th 2020

         Being on auto pilot all the time

Airplanes have an autopilot mode allowing pilots to consciously not control the plane. Plane flies by itself. Wonderful for the pilots since they can do other things more exiting.

We, humans, have also an autopilot mode. In fact, we are, most of the day, on autopilot mode as soon as we wake up and til we fall asleep.

Being on autopilot means to do things automatically, without thinking too much about what we are doing.

The problem is that when our mind is not focusing on what we do, he is free to do whatever he wants a a different space-time.

Because what we are doing during the day is mostly routine stuff and therefore been perceived as boring, being on autopilot mode is an escape from being focused on these dull and tedious stuff. This is the only good news about being on autopilot. Imagine to be forced to be conscious, to pay attention all the time to everything you are doing every minute or to your incessant moving body or ongoing thoughts.

Zen has another view regarding being on autopilot and it is not a positive one.

It is called  “Sleeping zombie” or “Day sleep walking”.

The word “sleep” has 2 meanings:  

    Not paying attention to the current space-time, present moment, its environment and what we are doing.

    Having our mind in a different space-time (past or mostly future) and doing something else.

Therefore, not paying too much attention to what we are doing NOW means being totally under the control of our wandering mind. The problem of being on autopilot is to be trapped into 2 ways:

  1-  We spend most of our life in “doing mode” rather than “being mode”, missing what the current moment

         may bring to us such as the present, concrete reality and its content.

  2- We are prisoner all day long in our unstoppable 100,000 thoughts and feelings created by our  restless mind and most of the time useless.

 In fact, we become schizophrenic with a double personality: one being is what our body is currently doing and  the other being is where our mind is and what he is doing.

Thoughts, especially negative ones, have tremendous impacts on our emotions, especially when we believe that our thoughts are true and we do. All you notice is that suddenly, you become angry, upset, anxious, fearful, etc.

A subconscious thought gave birth to an emotion.

When we are on autopilot  — not too much conscious of what we are doing–, the mind has free will to do and go whatever he wants. We are trapped in this inner movie theater. This is our usual day-by-day scenario.

On the opposite, when we are not in autopilot— being mindful / paying attention to the current moment and what we are doing —the mind has no choice but to follow your body. We are not trapped anymore inside our self-generated movie.

This is the basic behind these weird and spooky Zen sayings:

 “ When you eat,  just eat”, “ When you walk,  just walk”

By bringing our mind in the current space-time, present moment and environment and on what our body is doing,  we become authentic “beings” rather than “automatic doers’.

Always pull your monkey mind out from his dream world to the present reality the current moment.

This is what “awakening” or “enlightenment” mean.

Is it fun to pay attention to your teeth being brushed?

No it is not, but that’s not the point. Your mind is telling you it is not fun because he does not want to be told what to do and prefers to fly away in different more exiting space-times.

#298 Why doing nothing is the one of the best thing to do Dec. 22 -19

                   Why Doing Nothing is one of the Best Things You Can Do

In a world filled with stressors and to-do lists, it is difficult finding time to just do absolutely nothing. When was the last time you did nothing?  

By nothing, I mean absolutely nothing — no meditation, no scrolling social media, no reading books or articles, no listening to podcasts, no watching movies, TV, or YouTube videos, no cell phone, , etc…

Stop your current rat race, doing x,y,z . Then just seat or lie down and look around like babies do. No thinking, no focusing. Just contemplate the surrounding and become a mirror with the feeling of having a pause

Even when we’re not working, many of us feel obliged to do something productive: going to the gym, running errands, going to a yoga class, or taking care of bills and other duties. We feel obliged to produce out of every nanosecond from our daily lives, feeling how important we are.

 And if we’re not busy running around like a hamster in its wheel, we feel stuck with guilt of being lazy, useless and selfish.  It’s sad.

Our Western equates busyness with being important, smart, useful and indispensable.

Without talking on the phone, texting, checking emails, or consuming books, podcasts, or articles, signals to the world that you are not important.

But buying into these myths can eat away at our sense of self and our overall quality of life.

And it certainly can destroy our health, both mental and physical.

It’s not surprising that rates of depression, anxiety, and stress are increasing, as the addiction to doingness in life seems to have no counterbalance,

Science shows the value of spending time in silence, in nature, and in not engaging in constant external stimulation. We need time doing ‘nothing’ to be our best selves and creative human beings.

The ‘doingness’ side of our nature needs a ‘doing less’ side to be in balance.

One of the reasons meditation in all forms, including mindfulness, has become so hot is because we are so stressed out and are under so much pressure.  So if you’re someone overwhelmed with doing things non-stop, the last thing you need is to add “doing nothing” to your to-do list, thereby piling on more pressure.  When you’re forcing yourself to do nothing, what I like to call ‘forced resting’, you put pressure on it and you miss the whole point.

Example: if I’m trying to get myself to fall asleep, it’s much harder to fall asleep. It’s the same thing if you force yourself in doing nothing.

Don’t try too hard at doing nothing because it is very difficult for our ego to accept. So go easy on yourself

That it’s not wrong to turn off your to-do list for a day, or even 2. You’re not a horrible person if you do it, even if it means putting all your obligations on hold whatever they areas long as they’re not urgent matters. If you cool down for a bit, the whole world won’t come crumbling down.

Remember this : we always have things we could be doing so and if you wait to turn-off your to-do list, you’ll never find a moment to do nothing.

People feel guilty of doing nothing or not being productive, they might think it’s selfish, but taking care of ourselves gives us the capacity to take care of other people.

To summarize here is recent discovery from neuro imaging:

It has been shown that when the brain is not focusing on something it switches to Default Neuronal Network (DNN)

All areas are active but in slow mode using less energy. It looks like, in some way, the brain is “rebooting” itself when there is no specific task to do.

Doing nothing is simply click on pause for 1 or 2 min., stay still, be in the moment and contemplate. 

#296 Testimony of Angeline

Embracing Distractions with Oakville Zen

In September, after Cathy spoke about her time with this Zen meditation group, Arnaud asked that more members consider submitting a talk about their experience with meditation.  When I first attended this group in March, I thought it was a silent group except for Arnaud’s insightful talks because we arrived and left quietly.  The group was comfortable but is even more so since others have talked about their experience. 

I began meditating in 2003, at the beginning and end of yoga classes.  Yoga itself is a moving meditation.  I was taught that yoga prepared the mind and body for the healing stillness of seated meditation, and that a compassionate mindset would make for a healthier, more beneficial practice.  Many teachers and writers in different mind/body practices seem to teach this common theme – Accepting what is now, with reverence.  

Mindfulness distractions vary.  Mental, physical or energetic.  Sometimes my mind whips along the surface of whirlpools thought.  A physical pain and an overwhelming emotion may erupt at the same time.  A noise may jump into my awareness accompanied by thoughts of who or what caused the sound and why.  A dog barking outside makes me wonder if there is a coyote nearby.  A father arguing in the hallway with a toddler makes me imagine what they feel and what family history is motivating their behaviours.  My mind spins off into stories.  If I try to silence or control all these messages from my mind, they multiply.

Like the baby Jack Jack from The Incredibles movie, duplicating himself every time he is caught.

The word control can be positive, implying discipline and organization.  For me, “control” has a restrictive, abusive association.

When I instead gently observe, name, and accept each distraction, it’s like diving deep into the calm below the current.  Patience, appreciation and care swing me back into gentle awareness of this breath.

Arnaud has talked before about self-love and embracing all aspects of self.

Through mindful study, I’ve learned to recognize the true nature of my mind. 

My vivid imagination and strong empathy used to create more frequent stories and emotions when I sat to meditate.  Every sound and sensation meant something symbolic and begged for attention.  Rather than fight to control or silence these instincts, I befriended them, and now see them as cooperative aspects of my ego. They help me round up and tame all other distractions through close inspection.  For example, when my back hurts I listen actively.

I use my natural tendencies to feel deeply and think creatively.

I imagine the pain is an impermanent object like a sandcastle, and each breath gently softens it like a wave would.  I don’t try to change what I feel.  I just use imagery to feel more deeply and breathe more consciously.  By three cycles of breath, most distractions fall quite in love with just breathing. 

When our group breaks to walk or stretch, the second meditation is often deeper and easier.  Tension falls away when I move.  My body is more comfortable. My mind is even more at rest than if I sat alone the whole time. 

Shared meditation seems to magnify the peaceful effect. 

Side by side and breath by breath, we’re working in unique ways to be fully present.

I dive deeper every time we meditate together. 

Thank you for welcoming me into this group and sharing this practice. 

Now I’m curious to hear from you.  What distraction did you find difficult at first, but has since helped you to be more mindful?

#295 3M Multi mini mindfulness exercises

                                    3M  Multi mini mindfulness exercises

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 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 for the fun of it:

 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, etc.

      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.

No point to list more examples.

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.