Posts in the “zen” category

If you’re truly living in the present moment, some questions don’t make sense

Datline March 22, 2014: A little personal enlightenment:

After going unconscious several times during the last few weeks, I've had conversations with doctors, nurses, friends, and even a shaman about life, death, quality of life, goals, and desires.

I had a hard time answering some of their questions, and yesterday I realized why that was:

If you're truly living in the present moment, those questions don’t make any sense! You can't think about life, death, the past, or the future if you’re fully absorbed in the present moment.

“Are you afraid of dying?” / “I’m sorry, your fear has to do with the future, you’re not talking about the present moment.”

When planning for the future, live fully in that moment of planning for the future. When eating, just eat; and when writing text like this, just write. That’s all.

(In computer parlance, become single-threaded, where that one thread is only focused on HereNow.)

A glossary of terms related to Ram Dass, Maharaj-ji, yoga, Zen, Buddhism, and more

In my post on Ram Dass’s best books — and in other articles on this website — I use words and phrases related to the work of Ram Dass, including terms on yoga, Hinduism, Maharaj-ji, Buddhism, meditation, mindfulness, mantras, and the different names of the man he called Maharaj-ji (aka, Maharaji, Neem Karoli Baba, Neeb Karori Baba). To help understand that article, as well as his speeches, books, and other writings, I have put together the following “Ram Dass Glossary of Terms” (and I hope it’s helpful to others).

The purposes of mindfulness (or, why bother being mindful, and motivation)

Mindfulness/meditation FAQ: What are the reasons, purposes, or motivations to practice mindfulness and meditation?

The motivations to meditate

I just took a little time to share some old notes from my meditation practice about “The purpose of mindfulness.” Or, stated another way, instead of asking about the purposes of being mindful you might ask, “Why bother being mindful?”, or “What are the motivations for practicing mindfulness and meditation?”

In the following sections I describe the purposes and motivations for practicing both mindfulness and meditation.

I don’t know how many people know Ram Dass or have read his writings, but I updated the first motivation here based on his work, because if you really get into mindfulness and meditation, what he states is the end goal.

Dive Deeper, Faster: 12 Techniques to Quicken and Deepen Your Meditation Practice

When I first started meditating in the 1990s, I often had a hard time getting into the proper meditative state when I sat down on the meditation cushion. My “monkey mind” would be jumping all over the place, and it would take me a long time to get it to settle down. Many times I couldn’t even get it to settle down before my 30-minute timer went off.

Because of that, and because I really wanted to become better at meditating, I began experimenting with different ways to get into the meditative state faster.

As a result, this page is a summary of the best ways I know to help you get into a good meditation state when you take time to sit on the meditation cushion (or wherever else you sit). If you’re interested in getting into a deep state fast, these are the “best practices” I know, especially when you’re short on time.

Thich Nhat Hanh fake oil painting

Here’s another “fake oil painting” I created with Gimp recently. This one is of Thich Nhat Hanh meditating. I don’t remember the original source of this image (before I converted the original photo to an oil painting), but I’m pretty sure I found it on Facebook. On this one I manipulated the colors quite a bit, and also did a Gaussian Blur on the background.

Quotes from Daniel Ingram (mainly Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha)

This is a page of quotes from Daniel Ingram, mostly from two versions of his book, Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha.

On a personal note, there are maybe five great books I have read about meditation, and this book is one of the Top 5, maybe #1.

All of the following quotes come from Mr. Ingram.

The quotes from Daniel Ingram

Until you gain access concentration, you ain’t got squat.

... if we can simply know our sensate experience clearly enough, we will arrive at fundamental wisdom.

Insight practice is all about ... grounding attention in our six sense doors and their true nature.

There are six sense doors. Sensations arise and vanish. Notice this for every sensation.

The gold standard for training in concentration is how quickly we can enter into specific, skillful, altered states of consciousness...

The gold standard for training in wisdom ... is that we can quickly and consistently perceive the true nature of the countless quick sensations that make up our whole reality...

How wonderful is enlightenment? (Shinzen Young)

“People tend to overestimate or underestimate how wonderful the experience (enlightenment) is. How wonderful is it? Well, I would say that anyone who has entered into the world of no-self, emptiness, and wisdom mind, who abides in that world, if you gave them a choice to live one day knowing what they know, or live an entire lifetime but not be allowed to know that, I think — I can’t speak for everyone — but I would say most people who live in that world would say, ‘I’d rather have one day knowing what I know than a lifetime of not being able to know this.’ So that’s how wonderful it is.”

~ Shinzen Young, in this video

Meditation: Getting to a point where there is no you

A big part of meditating for me has been getting to a point of completely dropping the self-conscious B.S., as I call it. (Which is why I may never be a meditation teacher, lol.) You just have to get to a point where there is no “you.”

(To expand on that, you get rid of your self-consciousness. There are no thoughts like, “I’m meditating,” “I’m too fat,” “I’m too skinny,” “My name is Alvin,” or even, “What was that sound?” If you’re interested in what I’m talking about, it’s described more in this article on the three nen actions.)

Zen Training: The three nen actions

Here’s a look at the three nen actions, as described in the excellent book, Zen Training. My summary of the three nens goes like this:

  • 1st Nen: Pure sensation/cognition; your bare attention.
  • 2nd Nen: Reflecting upon watch you sense.
  • 3rd Nen: Self-conscious thought of what you have sensed; integrates the impressions of the 1st and 2nd nens into a perception.

Note that the third nen involves referencing “some knowledge that you have already stored up as conceptions (your memories). Then the sound is recognized as that of the noon whistle.”

A dream vacation for the meditator in your life

I know that the idea of a “dream vacation” for most people is time at the beach or a beautiful place like Alaska, but once you get to a certain point in meditation, there’s nothing a person would rather do than meditate. So the dream vacation for a meditator is a peaceful, quiet place — both quiet surroundings, and not having to talk to anyone else — where they can meditate, practice yoga, make simple non-meat meals, and go for quiet walks.

Because I have lived in some sketchy places, and other places where people are constantly cutting the grass and running farm machinery, I’ll add that the location should be secure, and again quiet (or at least a place where you know that loud grass-cutting and outdoor activities happen at a certain time). At some point you need to learn to meditate with those issues, but on vacation, no thanks.

Shinzen Young on meditating in his daily life: arising, disappearing, and The Source, and love

In this interview, the interviewer (Steph) asks Shinzen Young about his daily life, and whether he applies any sort of techniques during his normal day. That eventually leads to him saying:

The biggest change is that I don’t have a preference between enlightenment and non-enlightenment. (Note: This is a big change from when he was younger.)

Then, if I’m intending to meditate — in action, in life, like I’m talking to you now ... now I just started to intentionally meditate as we’re talking.

And I typically meditate in the external visual field, and I’m typically meditating on the process of simultaneous expansion and contraction, causing the world in front of me to arise and then disappear. So I’m now applying a formal technique (as we talk).

Interviewer: So I’m arising and disappearing right now.

(Yes) You’re arising and disappearing from the source, moment by moment. Therefore, you appear to me to be the Source. And therefore, very effortlessly, loveable.

Interviewer: I’ll take it.

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 — also known as awakening — 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.

The “carrot” reference

Gampopa: Liberation is merely the end of error

In a Buddha there has never been
Anything that could be said to be there.
Just as a magician
Does not get caught up in his illusions
And therefore by his knowledge
Is not attached to magic forms,
So also the wise in Perfect Enlightenment
Know the three worlds to be like a magic show.
Liberation is merely the end of error.

~ Gampopa

(I saw this quote in the book Be Love Now by Ram Dass.)

“I Am That” talk about the person, watcher/witness, obstacles, reality, enlightenment, and awakening

If you’re interested in meditation and enlightenment/awakening, the book, I Am That, by Nisargadatta Maharaj, has this terrific conversation, which I have shortened slightly:

M: The Guru is concerned little with the person. His attention is on the inner watcher. It is the task of the watcher to understand and thereby eliminate the person.

Q: But the person does not want to be eliminated.

M: The person is merely the result of a misunderstanding. In reality, there is no such thing.


Q: When will this happen for me?

M: When you remove the obstacles.

Q: Which obstacles?

M: Desire for the false and fear of the true. You, the person, imagine that the Guru is interested in you as a person. Not at all. (He then clarifies what this means.)

Let it go (meditate)

In general I try to avoid swearing these days, but sometimes you just need to get your point across. Meditate, let it go ... forgiveness is good for your heart, and good for your soul.*

* Forgiveness doesn’t mean you should be a carpet for others to walk on.

Accepting the “just this” of a situation

When I first started learning Zen I didn’t understand the quote shown in this image, and I truly was a carpet to walk on. Then I woke up and thought, “You need to run your business. You need to find the middle way between accepting ‘just this’ and what you need to do to be successful at work.”

It would have been helpful if I had seen this quote then, but the book, Making Zen Your Own, wasn’t available then.