Posts in the “zen” category

Stake out your inner experience, like a wildlife photographer in an exotic location

I like this description of the proper mindfulness technique:

“Not judging what you see, not considering it good or bad, just seeing what you see, with interest and curiosity. Staking out your inner experience, like a wildlife photographer in an exotic location, waiting for the moment to snap.”

It comes from the “Base” recording under the “Waiting Around” category of the Buddhify app. (Sorry, I don’t know the name of the speaker.)

This Life, Which is Wonderful and Evanescent, by Blanche Hartman

If you think about it, it’s awesomely, amazingly wonderful just to be alive! It’s a wonderful gift, and especially on a beautiful spring day like today.

But it took me several years of meditation practice and a heart attack before I really got it that just to be alive is awesome. As I was walking out of the hospital I thought, “Wow! I could be dead. The rest of my life is just a gift.” And then I thought, “Well, it always has been a gift from the very beginning, and I never noticed it until it was almost gone.”

The Zen teacher Kobun Chino once said in a sesshin talk that when you realize how precious your life is, and that it is completely your responsibility how you manifest it and how you live it, that is such a big responsibility that “such a person sits down for a while.”

~ a few paragraphs from this story by Zen teacher Blanche Hartman, who was impermanently here on Earth from 1926 to 2016.

Seeing everything as moving subatomic particles

“Having a direct experience of seeing everything one looks at (including one’s own body) as moving subatomic particles alters the perception of ‘me’ and of the substantiality of what we regard as ‘normal’ reality.”

(I can’t remember where I saw this quote, but I think it had to do with some sort of computer system with monitors that allowed you to walk into this device, and see your body as moving subatomic particles.)

Linji ~ If you want to be free, get to know your real self

If you want to be free,
Get to know your real self.

It has no form, no appearance,
No root, no basis, no abode,
But is lively and buoyant.

It responds with versatile facility,
But its function cannot be located.

Therefore when you look for it,
You become further from it;
When you seek it,
You turn away from it all the more.

~ Linji

Zen and Work: Mindfulness and compassion don’t mean “be a wimp”

When I first started studying Zen and the Tao, I interpreted many of the quotes I read as “let things be just as they are.” For a while that led to me act as a doormat, letting other people do as they wished, in some cases even treating me poorly. I did that consciously, so even though I was acting like a wimp I didn’t feel like a wimp; I was just trying to practice what I was learning.

After a while I realized that was a wrong approach. Because I wasn’t demanding excellence at work, some employees weren’t performing up to their capabilities. Other people in my personal life were “using” me because they knew they could get away with it.

Albert Einstein, Zen Master?

Knowing of my interest in Zen, a friend of mine sent me this photo of a letter from Albert Einstein to a parent grieving after the loss of a child:

Albert Einstein, Zen Master

If you know something about Zen, you know that Einstein is writing about the “oneness” of the universe. Zen tries to teach us about this through techniques like Zen Meditation (zazen), and the concept of all things being interdependent.

Alanis Morissette: “How about them transparent dangling carrots?”

In the third line of Alanis Morissette’s song, Thank You, she sings, “How about them transparent dangling carrots?” In this article I’ll take a little look at what that line means.

A song about enlightenment

Ms. Morissette’s entire song is about gaining enlightenment, and from that perspective, a transparent dangling carrot is anything that leads you to take a path of pursuing or gaining enlightenment. In the song she mentions things like terror, disillusionment, frailty, consequence (karma), and silence; each of these can be considered motivational “carrots” that are capable of pulling a person down a path where they want to seek enlightenment.

A story about attachment, from Ram Dass

I can’t find the exact story or specific details, but it goes something like this ... after his initial work with Maharaji in India, Ram Dass came back to the U.S. and lectured on spirituality. As he says it, “I was supposed to be a spiritual teacher with no attachments, but the reality is that wherever I went, I had these nine boxes of things that were of sentimental value to me.” So he’d go from city to city lecturing about how to have no attachments, and all the time he was lugging these nine boxes around behind him.

One day he realized that he really needed to give up his attachments to those things, so he did his best to give everything away, but at the end he still had three boxes remaining. “I’m sorry, Maharaji,” he said, “that’s all I can do for now, this is killing me.”

“That was a few years ago,” Ram Dass said. “Now I have thirteen boxes.”


The day becomes something that happens within your meditation

“You can meditate while talking to someone, while washing the dishes, while driving. As your experience grows, you eventually come to a point where you are so present that there is a kind of merging of inside and outside. When that happens, ‘focus’ becomes more than an extremely interesting and pleasant experience; it becomes a transformative experience.”

“Eventually a delicious figure-ground reversal takes place. In the beginning, meditation is something that happens within your day. Eventually, the day becomes something that happens within your meditation.”

~ From “The Science of Enlightenment: How Meditation Works

The same cosmic forces that mold galaxies, stars, and atoms ...

“The same cosmic forces that mold galaxies, stars, and atoms also mold each moment of self and world. The inner self and outer self are born in the cleft between expansion and contraction. By giving yourself to those forces, you become those forces, and through that you experience a kind of immortality — you live in the breath and pulse of every animal, in the polarization of electrons and protons, in the interplay of the thermal expansion and self-gravity that molds stars, in the interplay of dark matter that holds galaxies together and dark energy that stretches space apart.”

~ Part of a quote from The Science of Enlightenment, How Meditation Works, by Shinzen Young

Make a game of active mindfulness meditation

The best advice I’ve gotten for practicing mindfulness meditation while not sitting in meditation – i.e., in active meditation – is to make something of a game of it. When I wash the dishes it’s like, “How deep can I get while I wash these dishes?” Or when talking to another person, you both put down the cellphones and think, “Okay, we’re both here right now, how much can we focus only on each other and be here in this moment while we talk? How deep can we go?”

I was reminded of this when I read this line recently: “Finally, I got it! The menial tasks I had been assigned to around the temple were meant to be an exercise in meditation. Whatever I was doing, my job was to try to stay in samadhi.

(That quote comes from the book, The Science of Meditation.)