Posts in the “zen” category

“Life is like a dream”

When you hear mindfulness people say something like, “Life is like a dream,” one thing they mean is that more than 99.99% of the stuff going on in our minds are thoughts about the past and the future. (Past happiness or regrets, and future hopes and concerns.) Because the only thing that’s real in the present moment is what’s actually happening in *only this moment*, anything that’s outside of this moment is in a strict sense no longer real.

Along this line of thinking I like Eckhart Tolle’s two quotes, “The present moment is all you ever have” — you know that to be true for sure if you’ve ever lost consciousness, not knowing if you’d ever open your eyes again — and my favorite of his:

“The whole essence of Zen
consists in walking along
the razor’s edge of Now.”

Quotes about work and Zen (practicing Zen at work)

For many years I struggled with how to combine two of my main interests, Zen and work. I have read that the Zen mind is the mind before thinking, so it seems like Zen and work must be totally unrelated. Over time I came to understand phrases like, “When working, just work.”

This article contains a collection of quotes that have been helpful to me in understanding the relationship between Zen and work. Please note that I don’t wrap each quote in double quotes, and I also try to attribute each quote to the correct author/speaker. If you’re interested in how to combine Zen and work, I hope you’ll find them helpful.

Do you hear the murmuring sound of the mountain stream?

A monk was anxious to learn Zen and said, “I have been newly initiated into the Brotherhood. Will you be gracious enough to show me the Way?”

The Master said, “Do you hear the murmuring sound of the mountain stream?”

The monk said, “Yes, I do.”

The Master said, “Here is the entrance.”

~~~

“Listening intently” is a simple, fun meditation practice. Just sit, relax, and listen to your environment like a dog, cat — or a squirrel in the wild, where your life depends on your listening. At work I used to have fun by listening to as many conversations as I could simultaneously.

Gratitude helps shut down distractions during meditation

I had to get away from it for a while, so I forgot how good the book Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas is. I tend to be more interested in the science behind mindfulness and meditation (as opposed to specific religions and their rituals), and as a result, from my own practice I can confirm the last sentence in this paragraph from that book. (See the attached image.)

Depending on the day, and especially the time of day, the first 5-10 minutes of any meditation session are the hardest for me, because it takes a while to get my mind to settle down. Since I learned this practice, I do settle down more quickly.

The benefits of mantra in meditation practice

As you progress in your meditation practice, the use of mantra(s) is a powerful way to stay focused all day.

I recall reading that Ram Dass said that even when he is speaking or listening to others, that in the background his mantra is always running in his head: “Ram ... Ram ... Ram.”

In the excellent book, Practicing the Jhanas, I throughout your day that you constantly remember to bring your attention back to the Anapana spot, a spot just under your nose.

Practicing The Jhanas

While Zen people are notorious for saying things like, “Sit there and meditate” — without telling you how to meditate — a book called Practicing The Jhanas is the best book I know on the topic of meditation. It not only walks you through how to meditate, it also gets into the different levels of meditation, and what you can expect at each level.

(If you’re only interested in Zen, the book Zen Training is the best Zen meditation book I know.)

Meditation: From Guilty -> I could do this forever

I’ve been listening to the song Guilty by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb lately, and it reminds me that when you first start meditating there can be a lot of guilt associated with attempting to meditate. Various thoughts include:

  • This is dumb
  • This is a waste of time
  • I’m not getting anywhere
  • I should be doing [fill-in-the-blank]

These thoughts can last a long time, until that one day that your meditation finds your groove, all of the “mind noise” goes away, and you think, “I could do this for the rest of my life.”

So today’s thought is one of persistence: If some part of you finds yourself wanting to meditate, there might just be some voice hidden deep in your mind wanting this. So vow to keep working at it until that one day when you find the sweet spot and then think, “I could do this for the rest of my life.”

You can’t learn to meditate in the middle of a crisis

Wednesday Zen:

One time an employee came into my office, closed my door, and said, “How are you so calm? I’m going nuts!” As I would learn, he had some stress from work, but even more from his personal life. I tried to help him slow down, breathe, and talk, but he was frantic and almost impossible to help.

The thing about meditation and stillness of mind is that you can’t just start it one day in the middle of a crisis, like when you feel a sudden twinge of chest pain or you’re laying in a hospital bed with a virus trying to suffocate your heart. By then it’s too late.

True emptiness is before thinking

I wasn’t able to take any pictures of them, but last week we had some beautiful full Moon sunsets over the Rocky Mountains. Then I just came across this photo of the Moon and some mountains, with this “true emptiness” quote by Zen Master Seung Sahn. (The image comes from this link.)

Morality, the first meditation training

I wrote a long time ago that compassion and forgiveness are important when you get into deep meditation states. As this paragraph from Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha suggests, they’re also helpful for beginning meditation states.

(As an example, a long time ago I went to a Zen center for a meditation retreat, and when I’d start meditating I’d think, “I wish I had done X when I was at home, it really bothers me that I didn’t do that. In fact, it’s driving me nuts.” I was eventually able to meditate, but whenever I lost my concentration, this was always the first thought that came up.

RZA: Ghost Dog: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form

I don't know much about rap/hip-hop, but thanks to Ghost Dog I do know about RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan.

From Ghost Dog:

“Our bodies are given life
from the midst of nothingness.

Existing where there is nothing
is the meaning of the phrase,
Form is emptiness.

That all things are provided for
by nothingness is the meaning of the phrase,
Emptiness is form.

One should not think that
these are two separate things.”

New meditation cushion (zabuton)

Legend has it that Bodhidharma sat facing a wall for nine years. I’m going to sit facing my faux fireplace on my new cushion (known as a zabuton, which was a Christmas gift this year).