Awakening: The most important attributes & attitudes P2

The nickname “Buddha” means “the awakened” one.  Awakening or Enlightenment is simply the ability to understand and experience genuine and concrete reality of the present moment including all its components. Put in different words:  it is the ability to differentiate what we are and are not, what is reality vs. what is mind-made illusions are such as thoughts, past and future.

It is not a fantasy to fulfill, a destination to reach or a miracle to happen. No special skills, no divine intervention from a third party, no dogma and no miracle are required because we are all already “awakened”.

We call it our True Nature or pure consciousness, which will be never observed and explained scientifically

Because totally immaterial,

Because we need consciousness to explain consciousness meaning that the object cannot be the subject and the same time, i.e. w/o a mirror, we cannot see our own eyes.

In other words: we experience consciousness but we cannot calculate it.

The experience comes by practicing formal mindfulness-based meditation but also from mindfulness on the go.

To be mindful is to actively pay attention to something w/o any analytic nor decisional purpose.

Just being a mirror reflecting yourself, people, things and events as they are. It is like to focus mindlessly.

Here are few examples of mindfulness practice in non-specific order.

The goal is to minimize frequency and intensity of our emotions.

  • Do not think that you are indispensable. Our ego loves it but it creates anxiety.
  • Practicing mental equanimity that is a composed and evenness emotional mind, avoiding the YO-YO

       up and down such as happiness/sadness/happiness/sadness and so on.

  • To realize & be mindful to the fact that we do not control too much regarding our mind, people and events.
  • Realizing that all living beings are interconnected and defendant to each other’s.
  • We are not a permanent, unique, isolated, independent, separate, self-sufficient entity despite what our ego and self- image are telling us. The opposite.
  • Accepting things / events/people as they are and not as you want them to be unless you have some leverage.
  • Accepting self as we are and expressing self-forgiveness and self-compassion in order to do the same to others. Without this acceptance, proper interaction with others is impossible.
  • Being mindful to our emotions such as anger, grief, worries, craving, negative judgments, etc. in order to accept and surrender to them. Never resist or fight them!. This counter-intuitive “miracle” of accepting suffering promotes inner peace.

Without this initial mindfulness step, it is impossible to deal with our emotions in a rational way.

#293 AWAKENING attributes & attitudes Part 1

                     Awakening: The most important attributes & attitudes P1

The nickname “Buddha” means “the awakened” one.  Awakening or Enlightenment is simply to understand and experience genuine and concrete reality of the present moment including all its components. Put in different words:  it is the ability to differentiate what we are and are not,

what reality vs. mind-made illusions are. Awakening brings serenity.

It is not a fantasy to fulfill, a destination to reach or a miracle to happen. No special skills, no divine intervention from a third party, no dogma and no miracle are required because we are all already “awakened”. Being awakened is a personal experience impossible to share with others.

We call this awakened state our True Nature or pure consciousness, which will be never observed explained scientifically or even shared with others because:  

 Totally immaterial,

And because we need consciousness to explain consciousness meaning that the object cannot be    the subject at the same time or, w/o a mirror, we cannot see our own eyes.

As we will see experiencing awakening comes from many ways in our daily life and all of them are linked not only to the practice of formal sitting mindfulness meditation but also  “on the go”.

To be mindful is to actively pay attention to something w/o any analytic nor decisional purpose.

Just being a mirror reflecting yourself, people, things and events as they are. It is like to focus mindlessly.

Here are few examples of mindfulness practice in non-specific order. Few more will follow next week.

  • Practicing formal meditation. It requires effort, discipline, patience, determination and, above all, a non-judgmental assessment of your meditation’s quality. Just bring your mind to your breathing.
  • Learning to be mindful on routine, automatic behavior such as eating, walking, driving,
  • taking a shower, cleaning, dressing, etc.  In other words, bringing together your wandering mind where your body is and does in a single space-time. This is “on-the-go mindfulness”
  • Trying to live in the moment as often as possible, avoiding been carried out in past & future by your restless mind. NOW is the only existing time. The others time-spaces are virtual, despite our pictures / souvenirs of the past and our expectations/calendar of the future. They exist only on paper and in our mind. Our mind loves being a time machine to put us in a fictional daydream state.
  • Being conscious that all living beings, current moment and any events surrounding us are transient and usually out of our control.
  • Realizing that thoughts are just that…thoughts. They exist but they are, by definition, not real.

      We are creating thoughts but it does not mean that we have to trust them.

  • Having an open mind and not a mind-set made of ideas and judgments, which freeze our thinking.

       Such open-mind is called “don’t know mind” and this mental state enhances our curiosity  intelligence, wisdom and serenity.

  • Avoiding multi-tasking.


                Effect of mindfulness on anxiety and how

General Anxiety Disorder ( G.A.D.) It is a cluster of several diseases including PTSDD

Definition: Worries or even fears of possible negative outcomes affecting people or events in the present moment or in the future. Usually anxiety is continuous during lifetime at various degrees. Can be debilitating if chronic.

It is the most common “mental” disease affecting around 15% of the population and growing rapidly especially among youths. Its causes are genetic and environmental.

Beside worry and fear, its manifestations are numerous affecting sleep, concentration, appetite, relationship, blood pressure, work performance, depression and even suicide.

Treatments include psychotherapy, CBT, medication and, over the last few years, mindfulness meditation.

The beneficial effect of mindfulness has been proven scientifically only in the last few years and confirmed by the

N.I.H. Reference enclosed.

In this reference, a randomized, controlled study involving one group of patient treated once a week with MBSR during 10 months vs. one controlled group treated with conventional psychotherapy during 10 months.

Anxiety level was assessed by 3 standardized psychometric anxiety inventory tests before and after treatment.

Statistical analysis showed that the frequency, duration and severity of symptoms of anxiety were statistically

 less in the MBSR vs. psychotherapy.

How it works?

Neuro imaging shows that the activity of our emotional brain is less reactive whereas the activity of our rational analytic brain is more active in patients practicing mindfulness meditation daily and weekly in group. There is an obvious neuroplasticity or brain remodeling in action due to the practice of active awareness which is the job of our analytic frontal brain.

Hypothesis: The key seems to switch from “ I am anxious” to “ I have anxiety”. What does that means?

Being mindful to anxiety is to pay attention, to be actively aware of this negative emotion rather than being carried by. As soon as you force your mind to become aware of your anxiety, he is experiencing two mental conflicting states1) background anxiety itself and 2) active awareness of it. Facing this conflict that we create, our mind is unable to carry 2 thoughts at the same time and has now no choice but to let go one of them. The emotional mind will back off against the awareness mind.

As your awareness mind becomes more and more pervasive, your emotional  anxious mind is losing ground, its intensity and its grip and your awareness mind is growing. In other words, what you do is to put your mind in competition with itself.  It is like a mental tug of war, one area of the mind against another one.

In fact, this is exactly what we are doing while meditating by focusing on one state of mind called breathing in order to compete with another state of  of mind one called wandering thoughts.

This mindfulness-based meditation method of making two states of mind in competition should be used with all afflictive thoughts popping out all the time.

If you get the habit of looking at thoughts and emotions when they arise, that is to be aware of the, they will dissipate before they take you hostage.

With practice, it will become easier and easier to retain mastery of our mind and to deal with negative emotions that pollute our daily life and also affect our body, which is a great “red flag” of what, is going at the upper level.

The effect of moderate “de-sensitization” of anxiety using mindfulness is proven but, by no means, it is the holly grail. 


This is an edited quote from Allan Watts:

“The frequency, duration and intensity of your anxiety will never change the outcome of what/whom you are worried about. “


#291 RELEASING BODY TENSION: the mind-body connection Oct.27th 19

                       Releasing body tension: the mind-body connection

The following talk assumes that no medical condition exists.

Mindfulness meditation is a great exercise to quieter and relax our restless mind.

Mindfulness can also be used in reverse to relax our body.

Why? Because in Zen Buddhist philosophy body and mind is one entity tightly connected.

This is why our body is a great proxy of our mind and vice versa. We should learn to apply this connection.

   When our body is under tension our mind is restless. Relaxing your body will calm your mind.

   In reverse, a restless mind will induce tension in your body. Calming the mind will relax our body.

When you practice awareness of your body in a mindful way, you will notice, quite often, there is some tension, pain or other symptoms somewhere. The most frequent locations of tension are headache, neck, shoulder, chest, back pain. Also you may notice rapid heart rate, superficial breathing.

Our gastro-intestinal tract is frequently affected such as poor digestion, stomach butterflies, bloating, increased appetite especially sweets, abnormal transit, etc.

These symptoms are the physical consequences of a non-physical restless mind struggling with anxiety or many other negative feelings at its preconscious level …….again, .as long as no medical conditions exist.

Therefore it is important to learn to relax the body during any circumstances and in any positions.

It will help to quieter your restless mind at the same time.

We don’t enjoy driving in the traffic because you want to arrive quicker and you may notice tension in your body. When the light is red you are eager for the green one. Waiting on line, being in stressful situations, doing things we don’t like or not doing things you want to do, a negative feeling, all of them may or will increase mind-body tension at 2 levels.

The practice:

Learning to be sensitive to your body  in a mindful way, will also help you to read your mind since our body is just the tip of the iceberg .

Relaxing the body can be done anytime at home, at work, lying down, sitting or standing up.

For example: if you feel tension in your neck w/o obvious reason, try to dig in your emotional brain to see what is going on.

First you have to localize the tension using body scanning.

This is total body scanning which will be described shortly.

Then, relaxing this tension can be achieve simply by few and slow deep breathing during 1 to 2min.

The exhale should be a bit longer than the inhale. This is in-and-out in full concentration.

It has been show that this simple exercise drops the blood pressure somewhat, reduce the heart rate respiratory rate, and lower cortisol our main stress hormone. At the same time the mind is also relaxing.

Body scanning is an excellent practice in helping us to assess both body and mental tension.

It should be done in a systematic way, from toes to head and from the superficial to the inside.

The best way is lying down and takes few deep breaths before starting the step-by-step scanning.

A complete body scanning may takes several min. for novices

With experience, 2 to 3 min. will do the trick.

Finally, if these symptoms persist, consulting may be considered.

Thank you

#290 DETACHMENT: A ZEN PERSPECTIVE by Kris Oct 20th 19


Buddha soon after Enlightenment stated three noble truths. Among them are:

  • Everything in this world is transient and changing;
  • Attachment to worldly things brings only suffering.

Why the suffering? Because we all get attached to things we love and when we lose them, that causes suffering. Hence over 2000 years ago, it was stated, “be in this world but not of this world.”

Thus we need to develop detachment. But does detachment not mean we will be cold and heartless?

On the contrary, as inner peace develops, one develops more compassion,  focus and awareness of what is important and shed what is not. This is the greatest difficulty we all have to discern what is really important in life.

So how do we develop this detachment?

We have all done it. When we were kids, we were all very attached to our favorite toys. But as we grew up, we dropped these toys. If these toys were offered today,  as an adult we would have no interest.

Similarly, as we develop wisdom on the nature of this changing impermanent world, we slowly shed these worldly toys as we grow spiritually. However this needs regular practice.

Several paths are suggested by great spiritual Masters. To summarize their message it is:

  • Practice
  •  From practice comes detachment

What is this practice?  It is a combination of things.

First is the removal of Ignorance. Because we are all ignorant of our true nature, we all run after worldly things for our happiness. However, our true nature according these Masters, is that we are peaceful, balanced and the vicissitudes of life do not impact us.

So to remove the first stage of ignorance, we need to read and hear spiritual messages. However, you may hear this message many times but it may not stay or take root in you. This is because our mind is already filled with selfish worldly things.  This is akin to filling a bottle with fine wine when it is already full of brine. So to “empty” our nature of this negative tendency/brine, volunteering and doing selfless work is suggested.

In parallel, we are to regularly practice meditation. Why? Because our mind is scattered with worldly things and meditation brings focus and balance to our emotions.

As we regularly practice our meditation and our spiritual knowledge, we evolve upwards and give up our worldly toys. This is akin to walking up the stairs where we give up the lower rungs.

Thus to summarize, it is regular practice of meditation, doing selfless actions and studying/hearing spiritual subjects that brings spiritual detachment and inner peace ensues.


                      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