Posts in the “zen” category

Interesting use of fonts and alignment on a book cover design

This book cover (nothing holy about it) has an interesting use of fonts and colors. I think I would have gone for a wee bit of transparency on the white font, and lined up the blue with the white, but it’s interesting, and essentially fits two subtitles on the cover.

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?”, and 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

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.” (This is also stated in other ways, like “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.

Before getting into my notes, 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.

Addiction, meditation, and enlightenment/awakening

If you struggle with any form of addiction AND are also interested in mindfulness and meditation — to the point of being interested in enlightenment/awakening — this quote from Daniel Ingram may be a helpful motivator:

“Stagnation is guaranteed if you cling to pleasant sensations.”

In other words, you won’t make any progress on the enlightenment path until you get past the clinging to pleasant sensations — i.e., the pleasant sensations that you are addicted to.

(A friend of mine was an addict, and I know she was also looking for any motivation to quit, so I try to share anything I learn that might be helpful.)

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.

Enlightenment Descriptions from Nisargadatta Maharaj

After finishing the book, I Am That, by Nisargadatta Maharaj, I have collected many of this quotes related to enlightenment. Note that he never uses the word “enlightenment,” but instead at least occasionally uses the word “gnani,” which is defined in the glossary as “the knower,” or one who understands “the realization of the unity of all things.”

Nisargadatta Maharaj enlightenment quotes

To get the ball rolling, here are some descriptions of enlightenment from Nisargadatta Maharaj:

“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” refers to Nisargadatta Maharaj, and “Q” refers to a common person asking questions:

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.)

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 meals, and go for quiet walks.

Because I have lived in (a) some sketchy places and (b) 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 even in those environments, but on vacation, no thanks.

ZMSS: If you want Satori, Satori is far, far away

A great Zen quote from Zen Master Seung Sahn: “If you want Satori, Satori is far, far away.”

(Satori is a Japanese Buddhist term that means enlightenment, awakening, liberation, or self-realization.)

Mindfulness: 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 a 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

Ram Dass on remembering things like Maya, Dukkha, illusion, and consciousness

Maybe because of my Back To Now app, I really like this quote about remembering from Ram Dass:

“I think that remembering is the strategy that most religions are designed to do. It’s remembering there are other planes of consciousness, it’s remembering the illusory nature. It’s remembering Maya, it’s remembering Dukkha. It’s remembering the karma, the sangha, the Buddha, it’s remembering that you’re not caught on one plane of consciousness. It’s reminding you to wake up. The device is to wake you up.”

That quote comes from this page.

Mindfulness: The 80/20 rule for mindfulness meditation when talking with other people

I haven’t decided yet if I like the book, Demystifying Awakening: A Buddhist Path of Realization, Embodiment, and Freedom, by Stephen Snyder, but one thing I do like is the concept of an “80/20 rule” that he learned about for when we are interacting with other people.

The idea is that even when you’re talking and interacting with other people, 80% of your concentration should still be on yourself and your inner processes, and 20% should be on who you are interacting with.

This is consistent with my own thoughts on the subject, and what Ram Dass said about Maharaji, that Maharaji could always be seen mouthing “Ram ... Ram ... Ram,” even when he was listening to others. Ram Dass himself also spoke of this in his own practice, and is almost always seen working a mala in public speeches.