Posts in the “zen” category

Types of silence you’ll find in meditation

When I’m not writing about Scala and functional programming, I’m often meditating and/or practicing yoga. The following content is something I wrote about silence in meditation back in 2018.

Fake Absolute Silence

These days in meditation I spend a lot of time in a place I call “Fake Absolute Silence.” In this state you might be fooled into thinking that you’re in the real state of Absolute Silence, but that’s part of the problem — you’re still thinking. Things are definitely quiet in this state; there aren’t many thoughts, and your concentration is focused on your breathing without distraction. However, I find that I’m still very aware of my body and outside noises. But despite that, it’s generally a mentally quiet place.

Two tips on understanding Zen koans

A couple of stray Zen thoughts this morning:

If you’re interested in Zen koans, sometimes you need to know the back story of a koan to even have a chance at understanding it. For instance, there’s a koan about a cat that died, and when a monk hears about it, without saying anything, he puts his sandals on his head and walks away. I never understood that (intellectually) until I read that it was a custom at that time to walk with your sandals on your head during a funeral procession.

Another thing to know about koans is that when they say someone was enlightened, there are different forms of enlightenment. For example, one form of enlightenment is an initial enlightenment, and another is the big kahuna.

Notes on several Shinzen Young videos

I’m a big fan of Shinzen Young and his teaching. At this point in this video, he talks about how we might think we’re going closer to The Source, but you may really be on a detour.

And then in this video he talks about three key moments related to his becoming enlightened. I love that he is willing to speak the truth of his experience, like this: “Suddenly, for no reason, I dropped in Equanimity, big time.” He mentions that his pain level was exactly the same, but the suffering dramatically reduces.

He then said, “A few years later he was asking, ‘Who am I’, and I looked at my boundaries, and they vanished. And they never came back, and I was never the same. (later) It never went away, ever. ”

Finally, I wrote about Shinzen Young’s description of enlightenment.

The great way is not difficult ...

“The great way is not difficult if you just don’t pick and choose.”
~ Zen Saying

“Everything is suffering for those who discriminate.”
~ Patanjali (in the Yoga Sutras)

“Many paths lead to the same garden.”
~ Me

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. There are maybe five great books I have read about meditation, and this 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...

A meditation/mantra to bring you back to the present moment

A favorite mindfulness meditation that helps bring me back to the present moment:

In just this moment, what do you feel?
What do you smell?

(Or, more generally, “What do you sense?”)

That isn’t a mantra per se, but more of what I call a “mindfulness reminder” to help bring you back to the present moment.

The realized yogi is utterly disinterested but full of compassion

The realized yogi continues to function and act in the world, but in a way that is free. She is free from the desires of motivation and free from the desires of the rewards of action.

The yogi is utterly disinterested but paradoxically full of the engagement of compassion. She is in the world but not of it. The yogi is beyond cause and effect, action and reaction.

Later we shall see the role that Time plays in this — how there is freedom because the Illusion of Time no longer exists to bind us to the past and future.

~ from Light on Life, by B.K.S. Iyengar

I love you. I love everyone. That’s what’s killing me.

Possibly my favorite part of the movie Spanglish is when Cloris Leachman’s character says, “I love you. I love everyone. That’s what’s killing me.”

From a Zen/Buddhist perspective, that’s the emotion of a Bodhisattva (an enlightened being who chooses to stay here out of compassion, to save all beings). You love everyone, and there are consequences of that.

Well, at least I was right

I think I managed to alienate all of my “Facebook friends” by writing about things like Zen, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and all the experiences that come from studying and practicing these things. And I also understand that alienation, because there are many “spiritual” things I’m not interested in from certain other spiritual/religious perspectives. (I’m more open than that sounds, but I have a hard time when people don’t practice what they preach, or cherry-pick a few things Jesus taught while ignoring the teachings they don‘t like.)

That being said, the things that Shinzen Young — a modern day meditation master in the U.S. — speaks about here and in this two-minute video echo everything I’ve discovered on my own and wrote about. So while, yes, I feel bad about oversharing about this sort of thing with people who don’t have similar interests on my now-defunct Facebook account, well, at least I was right. :)

Some of Shinzen Young’s sayings in the first core lessons of the Brightmind app

As a “note to self,” I like some of Shinzen Young’s sayings/analogies/metaphors in the first core lessons of the Brightmind app. The ones that come to mind are:

  • Try to listen to your mental talk in your head just like it’s a sound in nature, like listening to a bird. In this way, “you” can observe the thoughts in your head as the fly by, without getting attached to them.
  • In regards to your awareness, you can think of it in two different ways: (a) aiming your attention at a spot/area, or (b) hugging a friend.

For more details, check out the Brightmind app.

The Zen way of calligraphy ...

“The Zen way of calligraphy is to write in the most straightforward, simple way, as if you were a beginner. Not trying to make something skillful or beautiful, but simply writing with full attention, as if you were discovering what you were writing for the first time; then your full nature will be in your writing. This is the way of practice, moment after moment.”

~ from the book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Zen quotes on non-attachment and duality

I don’t have much time to write today, so very quickly, here are two Zen quotes on non-attachment and duality.


“The Great Way is not difficult for those who don’t make good and bad. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.”

A Zen koan: Leave this room

Some Zen koans are entirely dependent on you being aware of some long-ago foreign culture, like the one about putting sandals on your head (which apparently was an Asian ritual after a funeral ~2,000 years ago). Other ones, like those from Zen Master Seung Sahn, can be dependent on you knowing his style of teaching.

For this one you need to know almost nothing:

Just as a student sits down for his private face-to-face meeting with a Zen Master in the interview room, the Master yells, “Leave this room!”

So the confused student gets up to leave through the door he came in.

“Not through the door,” the Master yells.

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