Posts in the “zen” category

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.

First:

“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.

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.