Archives for posts with tag: zen

How you feel is a choice. If you can see how feelings are just like thoughts you can see how you choose them moment by moment. You can then begin to choose different thoughts and feelings. This can lead to big changes after a period of practice. The first step is in observing your thoughts, getting in the habit of stepping back and watching yourself. This takes time to cultivate and isn’t the focus of this article.

If you have trouble with your feelings getting the best of you, take a cue from my cat Georgette. She is now 17 years old and she is rocking being present and being in her bliss. She is happy right were she is.

If you feel like you have lost your bliss let me know what’s not working, maybe our mechanic can help fix what ails you during this pandemic.

I have found that many people are confronting hard emotional material during this idle period. We are so used to going all the time. May I suggest that you use this time to quietly reflect. Learning how to silence the mind could happen at this time. Learning how you can use breath to assist you in shifting how you feel is of great benefit. You wont be changing the world until you change yourself….

Breath work is a singular technique incredibly useful in changing how you feel. It shuts down your busy mind and helps bring you to silence, calm, and if you are able to slow down enough, enter into something called Presence.

You want a breath that is deliberate, slow, with pauses at the top and bottom of each breath. The rate of your breathing should be about three seconds in, holding your breath for about two seconds, with an exhale at that same rate, with a one to two second pause at the end of the exhale. You can play around with this rate to find a rate that makes you feel most relaxed.

You will want to do this type of breathing for about 3-5 minutes at first, just enough to see how it is done and you begin seeing results.

If you don’t see any results at all, I reccomend placing all of your attention on your breathing and nothing else. Listen to your breathing. Take your mind off of whatever is normally occupying it. You may also need to do something that will relax you beforehand, like sleep or taking a warm bath or shower. You want to shift your mind away from the busy mind that you have become so accustomed to having. This will take some practice. It will take time. Once or twice is not enough. Trying this at the same time of the day can be helpful in establishing a habitual trigger that helps you to relax and quiet down.

Another version of this type of breathing is alternating nostril breathing. It is done the same way as our earlier breath except you close one nostril at a time to breath in and breathe out through one nostril only before alternating to the other nostril. I have done four breaths in one nostril before doing four in the other, as well as simply one breath per nostril. The point is in keeping the number of breaths balanced between each nostril.

You can also use imagery with your breathing. I often feel a shot of energy all through my body when I breathe like this, so I will think about my breathing and how it will stimulate my root chakra, sending a shot of energy through all of my other energy centers.

I might think about the energy ending up in a center I am thinking about only to find that the energy goes there, dutifully following thought. I then feel how that energy feels moving through my body, and I can learn a lot about the state of my own energy body, for instance by how the energy feels as it moves like this.

If a part of me feels tight or tense, I imagine directing breath to that location. It might take some practice, but it is feeling the energy generated through breath being sent to that location that does it for me The more vividly you can imagine it, the better it will work. Prana will go where thought goes.

If you slow down, focus on listening to your breath, and breathing nice and slow, you can find breathing rates that can bring calm and even bliss (if you keep going deeper). The clue that it is working is you will feel like you are out of your mind or body a little. You might feel weak-kneed and you might have a hard time focusing or remembering what you were thinking. This is the very state that you want. This is the threshold of the zen state, the practice called zazen, a cultivation of quiet single-mindedness. It helps bring peace. Be patient and feel free to ask questions.

I hope that this finds you well and my hope is that you will use this to help take the edge off of how you feel. Let me know how it goes.




We can get so serious sometimes.  We say the spiritual is such important work.  We make statues of this process and put things high up on pedestals. So for today, I offer you a JOKE!

A Zen monk, who is visiting New Your City, walks up to a hotdog stand.  He looks at the owner of the cart and says, cracking a faint smile,  “Make me one with everything.”

The vendor gives him his hotdog and the monk gives him a twenty dollar bill.  The vendor slips the bill into his pocket.  The monk pauses and then asks, “But where is my change?”  The vendor gives him a quick glance and replies, “Change comes from within.”


Be well and don’t forget to smile!


There is a saying that goes, “What would Jesus do?” When you think of that little dittie, consider what Jesus did one day while at the Jewish Temple. He fashioned a whip with many pieces and went into the arena where the money changers were and began whipping and turning over the tables, explaining that these people should immediately leave.

It was that moment where Jesus lost his zen. Most of us are taught or told that Jesus was ticked off that the temple had been turned into a place of business. Certainly what he was said to have said would suggest this. Dig deeper, and you might just get a little more depth on this story. And it is interesting and it might well provide a little more insight into Jesus the dude who lost his zen. But before you begin thinking Jesus would just whip out his whip whenever he got upset (he did reportedly cause a fig to wither because it was not bearing any fruit—Jesus must have really liked his figs!).

The Jews did not use pagan money in their temple. They would not use any money with the figure of a roman or roman god-dess struck on its face for their tribute payments. Instead, they had something called a half-shekel minted for their use. The money changers, it turns out, were hoarding these shekels, which caused the cost of them to go up. It was an artificial rarity that was being created, effectively, market manipulation. What this did, though, was it made all trade for tribute payment more expensive for the common people. If it cost a farmer a bag of grain for a half shekel, it now would cost him and his family more, say, a bag and a half. This was a tax on the people and who was getting the tax? You got it; the temple moneychangers.

And this ticked Jesus off. A lot. So much, in fact, he went in and turned over tables and ordered these folks out. And of course, he very likely got on the wrong side of the Pharisees and Sadducees. I like this story for the very fact that it puts a human face on the man we so often wish to deify and make less than human and more unearthly. He was, after all, human.

We are not all so different.  “What I do, so shall you….and do even greater things…”  It is all a matter of focus, care, concern, interest.  I once believed I was just…ordinary….but I liked to read about the extraordinary.  I found that life had  some surprises.

As I look back, awakening was trailing me all along.  There were messages, signposts, some which were utterly incomprehensible to me at the time.

In 1991 as I drove back on the very last half hour of my trip from the desert southwest, at two in the morning I turned a corner in the darkness and suddenly felt a presence right in front of my face.  Face to face, this image was clear in my inner eyes.  It was a face of a man who was looking straight at me, no words, no thoughts, even.  He looked straight at me and I shared his space, his mirror.  As I did this, I was able to observe how he didn’t have a single thought in his mind.  What he had was pure presence.  I wondered how on earth anyone could do that.  A still mind.  No thought.  He kept looking at me, a very slight smile on his face, a knowing sense of “yes, I am doing this…..I am showing YOU how this no-thought is done!”  But without a word, without even a thought…..hardly.  I was stumped how anyone could have a mind that was still like this. That was in July of 1991.

Then in February of 1992, I was in a bookstore and saw that face again.  I was breezing through the Asian section.  I had bought a book on kundalini there when I was a young teen.  I pulled a thin book off the shelf and saw the face that was looking back at me some seven months ago.  I bought the book along with a CD (Talking Heads) tucked the receipt in the book and took it home.  I read through some of it and found the material just went over my head.  I didn’t get it, not all of it.  I understood it, yes, but I did not get that deep down sense of recognition.  But that face.  It was the same face.  He was a Zen master who had died in 1982. Taishen Deshimuru was his name.

Fast forward to last night.  I revisited this thin slip of a book again after having read some of it a year or two ago.  Nothing could have been more different from when I first read it and tucked it under my car seat where it stayed for almost a year before going on my book shelf.  I often picked it up and leafed through it, unable to really understand everything he was getting at.  For me, Zen always sounded like a bleak kind of world.  It spoke about letting go of everything.  All attachment.  Me, I am an artist.  I enjoy beauty.  I like things.  Sometimes it the smell of money, the taste of bacon, the smell of gas, a roaring fire, the smooth slip of water clay under my hands, the drape of molten glass onto itself, the smell of cumin, the taste of curry, the taste of dew on honeysuckle.  The dawn of day, the setting of the sun, the roar of a waterfall.  I just love nature.  But zen seemed to just strip itself bare of all things.  So I set the book aside.  It had odd phrases….devil under the mountain….the half turn….let go of everything to achieve everything.  I was not sure what it all meant, honestly.

The book, though, is saying it right.  it has said it as I have said it so many times.  The letting go of all attachment is not about emptying ones self so one is empty, but so that one may empty ones self of all competing or error-ridden things that get in the way of pure aligned seeing.  One gives up the small ego in order to take on the cosmic ego, the big Kahuna, and in the process, inherits the All. And his students put it all together after his death as a gesture of remembering him, this thin little thing that says all the essential things.  It isn’t that I am a zen guy, it is that my zen guy has been coming to me for a reason all these years.  He showed up way back in the early 90’s and then I had an interaction during a time that was leading up to what some would mistakenly call “ego-death” (but whatever, folks…). His was like that of seeking to remind me that I need only look into his mirror.  And as  I do, I read his words about mirrors….how teachers can be mirrors sometimes, and how it is important to understand how the mirror works.  Some take it for something literal, when one should step back and see what it can offer.  It is like claiming the reflection as a real thing when all you need to do is simply see the reflection.  it is life offering you an answer in that moment. We want to canonize that moment, the reflection, and take it home.  He jokes, “why didn’t the thief steal the reflection of the moon in the water, too?”  You maybe get what I am getting at, yes?

I read through the book and phrase by phrase the words sprang to new life.  Before, they fell on deaf ears.  Now, they spring to new life.  How is that?  And how can such a book teach anyone anything who does not already know? I mean, when Jesus said, “Let those with ears hear” he meant that those who already knew what he was talking about…..knew the gist of his meaning.  So only certain people would get it, right?  Or do some get parts of it deeply, perhaps not completely, but do just those side-ward partial glimpses do it?  I ask because I am enough along where sometimes it is hard for me to remember what it was like pre-awakening.  Sometimes I would get things, but they were often like currents that only went so deep.

This encounter prefigured awakening by 14 years.  The seeds of all of this were there then.  The empty mind was there, waiting for me.  And now, empty of mind, I am filled.  Satori, zazen, all things that I inherited without needing to spend day, years, in lotus position.  Had I spent all that time in other places putting in my time, then? Or is this awakening an inexplicable thing?  Or is it an aggregation of countless moments in my past all spelling a sum in the present now? I wonder.  I wonder because it springs fresh like flower from the ground.  It seem the most natural thing even as it struck me as strange and foreign.  A return to original mind.  Losing it in order to gain it.  This man has been following my tracks for some time.  When I read his words, it is now like reading straight from my own, but with a different vocabulary.

In a sense it seems improbable, but this is not the only event like this.  These odd strands have been extending outward from other lifetimes, earlier in life, before this birth here……so many pointing to one inevitable conclusion.  Is it that the soul of all point in the same kind of direction, to that bright hill, that peak of self, that moment when the clouds part….a time when life reaches a place of balance where all old and new things are brought into a unity…redeemed and a new cycle begun?  or simply the end of needing to come back to this place?  I suspect that in similar fashion, though, you too have these same events buried in your past like messages in bottles, waiting, offering, moments made of pure potentiality.  Something clicks and everything resolves into imperishability.  Thunder rolls down the mountain.  Make the half turn in your awareness and bring the light of your own consciousness to bear and burn within your own inner vessel. This lights a fire within. No more looking outside.  The world turns ’round this and all mystery resolves back into its origin.  We are all a part of this.

665e5-firebuddhafaceIf you know  what I write about, you know a lot of it has been centered on how to escape the maze of karma.  Before my awakening, karma was one of those heady concepts that seemed over my head and out of my control.  The cycle of reincarnation, destiny, journey of the soul, those kinds of things.  And yet, when awakening took hold in me the force which some want to call kundalini had the very effect of removing the karma by removing not just the blocks that kept the energy from flowing, but the conceptual biases, the beliefs, which had kept those knots and blocks and  the karmas in place.

We are all littered with little programs that run in our awareness which are the result of different beliefs or biases we have taken on in one form or another and these in the aggregate serve to form what our karma is all about.  Yes, karma is defined as “action” in its most simplest form, and while this is a very good way to explain it, my experience has been that this action is the result of certain positions, ideas or beliefs about HOW we think things work….and for the negative karmas, that means that we feel the world works against us not for us (and then this notion serves to guide our actions henceforth) for example.  Beneath all of this is a sense which is in all people that has served to remove us from our own divine natures, a kind of deeper notion or bias about how we feel things are that isn’t really true but becomes true because of how the law of attraction works; you create your reality and then the character of that reality can serve to attract others with similar qualities of energy and consciousness and feeling.

Instead of just feeling our divinity, we have allowed this clutter of  programs to proliferate that get in the way of our own purer awareness of what we are in our root, primordial, or authentic selves. The Zen teachers who tell the story of the student staring into a pond that has a lot of pond scum obscuring its depths is THE image of what I am talking about.  We can’t see the depths because we have too much in the way to even see it.  Remove that, and the view begins to clarify.  The curious thing is that when you do this, you also wind up seeing into the rest of creation from the inside out.  For people so used to using just their physical senses, this is nothing short of an epiphany.  And for most people who do awaken, all of this is a bit of a process so that one day one layer is removed while on another day another layer is removed.  Slowly, or perhaps quickly depending on how you define “slowly” and “quick,” your view begins to change.  You still see the same view, but your awareness has changed.  What has changed is that you no longer have these beliefs and ideas that serve to keep you from seeing the real deal.  the other thing that you might know about me is that I do little about creating systems and methods and more about speaking into the essence of a given thing since that is where I think I am best able to reach the problem or issue in its origins, its essence.  But for this entry, I am going to make an exception.

So let’s talk about seeing what is there instead of seeing what we think we see (or what we feel we see).

I have known many people who have each helped me to understand how this works in the world.  At the time, the experiences with these people were all hard and this was learned at great cost because it meant that I experienced how their schisms affected me, but that also meant that I got to see some things up close, which has its benefits. What I had was a front row seat watching how people were interpreting what it was I was doing (which was effectively reading into my actions their own interpretation of what was going on inside of me).  If I worked long hours, this meant I was actually wanting to escape my family in order to work in my business.  I didn’t care about my family and preferred my work instead.  Now I know how I feel.  This is not a big mystery.  I could hear all of these sorts of things being said and I know just how far off the mark they are.  This was really more about HOW someone felt things were instead of how they actually WERE.  Truth was, had this person actually KNOWN how I felt, she would have used that as her guiding principle instead of making all kinds of assumptions that were incidentally factual, but in reality not true.

To add more depth to this picture I will say that I was all along expressing how I felt.  When we have our illusions wrapped around us, we literally become blinded by these things that we are so invested in that they seem to make up the whole of our reality.  It is easy to say this is the result of the false self at work, and while in a way this rings true, in other ways I find such words or terms to be distortive.  This is NOT a false self, it is an illusion, a pure creation of ourselves which we then most often project in perfect Jungian style onto the world.  We use people and how they seem to us as we look at their behavior through our lenses of illusion.  It is just as true that my life as an artist meant many long hours.  I was the maker, the packager, the webmaster, the accountant, promoter, and salesperson, shipper, and receiver.  I was the finisher of the work, and I designed the displays that helped sell the work.  I developed new work, I supported the work that was more mature.  I had to hustle and the day did not fit into a neat 9-5 regimen like most people’s lives.  None of this was a mystery, none of it was any surprise.  It wasn’t like what I did was a big mystery to anyone.  THIS is how deeply we can hold our illusions about what we think or feel is true.

What kinds of illusions do you live under?  What colors your world and life?  What keeps YOU from seeing the clear light of day?

The path through awakening is most often one that leads to a place of neutrality in a sense, a removal of the lenses and thus the ability to see all sides and to see how the sides are or are not distorted by these self made lenses.  Now, having said all of this, the reality remains that I attracted a person like this into my life who was like this, so in all honesty, it is easy to point out the mote in my neighbors eye whilst ignoring the mote in my own.  Continually pointing out the problems in the world or in others is actually a waste of time because the most productive thing you can do is to take care of your own stuff.  If you find yourself continually focused on others’ ideas of you or feelings, then you simply are not focused on your own inner garden.  In this way, yes, there is a certain importance to taking care of YOU first.  It is madness to assume that by being a servant to everyone else is going to naturally lead you to a life of spiritual abundance when your bucket needs to be repaired.  You just wont really ever receive any lasting satisfaction from trying to fill others’ buckets with your own leaking like a sieve.  So you heal your own fractures first and then suddenly the light and life begins to fill you.  You no longer point out the problems of the world simply because you feel so full.  When you feel so full like this, you do not feel lack or loss.  You only feel……full.  Imagine a world full of people working from this side of the equation, of inner abundance instead of running around pointing out the problems in others, which is only pointing out your own short comings in a rather backward manner (via projection).  The curious thing is that if you have a leaky bucket, you will find yourself surrounded by others just like you.  Fix your own and you will find others around you doing the same.  It is a scheme that works very well all the way around.  You can heal the world by healing yourself.  Heal your own fracture and you often find the same happening around you.  This sounds like magic, but it is a common feature of how this kind of work goes.

Not to belabor the point, I will give you a quick example of what I mean.  I read somewhere someone who was quoting something from Ram Das’s Be Here Now.  His teacher and Das were talking about how his old teacher’s students were not catching on to a certain teaching that the teacher had espoused.  Das was one of these people.  He wondered aloud to his teacher why it was he was unable to embody this important teaching.  I forget exactly what this teaching was, but the specifics of this wasn’t the point.  What was the point was that his teacher observed that the teacher had not himself fully embodied the teaching.  The teacher probably heard that something was a good idea and thus he passed on the good teaching. But the teaching was not really part of who or what the man was, so he quite naturally attracted people who could not embody the teaching either.  This is what I mean, and if you think this is magical thinking, this happens ALL THE TIME and is most obvious when you have a way to observe what someone says and what they do.  Eventually you will, if given enough time, be able to observe if the teaching has sunk in and is part of who the person is.  Without that, the Law of Attraction works perfectly.  On the other side of the coin, having a teacher who then is able to embody a given teaching can result in freeing up all of the people s/he taught this teaching to to also embody it.  When we heal ourselves, we offer an opportunity to the world we have created to also heal.  So in this way, healing yourself is actually very huge. Its just not as immediately apparent to most people, but it is nonetheless how things work.

Being caught in our illusions is a bit like how someone makes the assumption that fire trucks cause fires.  Now we all know that is preposterous, and yet, it IS true that fire trucks ARE at an amazingly large number of fires, so it does make a kind of sense that they could be construed to be involved in creating them.  But in using this example, I am trying to underscore what we all tend to do at one time or another about the events in our lives.  In the words of the writer Anais Nin, we see the world as we are instead of as it is, and it is this tendency that leads not only to misunderstandings, but it also leads to suffering because, well, its so far off the mark of what is REAL.  I would later meet someone with the same kind of karmic issues as my (now ex) spouse who would make even more difficult statements that had to do with how I abused my students, how I manipulated people with my new-found powers.  It was all pretty crazy to me, and yet it all had a basis in something that existed before I even came along.  I had stepped into a karmic merry-go-round and was experiencing something I had not yet cleared from my consciousness.  When I saw and heard these things being said, it was hurtful, yes, but it also showed me so clearly how people describe a world that they FEEL is happening rather than what is really there.  We have this habit of not stopping and actually looking at things from a dispassionate perspective without bias and belief playing into the moment, and this is how a distorted world view emerges.

All of this is the result, I contend, of just what Buddha was so famously known for espousing, which is how expectation plays into our own suffering.  Instead of expecting something that is realistic from people or events, we choose to expect what we feel we desire.  This is actually based on something NOT realistic at all, but actually forms our own karma, the thing that serves to cloak our own divine selves.  Some desires are  soaked in karmic issues and so will not adhere to what is real but will speak instead of something deeper inside of us that also happens to be unresolved and most often, volatile, hurt, and broken feeling.  All of this material is brought to bear in the moment, at least potentially, so that our desire governs our actions and feelings instead of our being able to see what is there.  So instead of accepting what happens, we kind of fight with outcomes so they serve to make us feel bad or hurt because we feel we did not get what we wanted.  But what we wanted was itself based on these memes, the beliefs that we have floating around inside of us, and this all traces back into our karma.  There is a reason for all of this and you CAN release all of this in time if you want to go that deep, but for now, a more modest approach to keep things simple.

When you enter an experience, stay open to what is happening.  Try not to put too much investment in an outcome.  Try to simply go with the flow and make your mind up in the moment about what you want to do for that time.  This will keep you from leaving THE MOMENT.  A curious thing happens when we leave the MOMENT.  We begin to imagine and our imaginations naturally form based on our beliefs and inner Karmas.  Try to shorten that and keep yourself in the here and now. I know how hard it is to keep imagination out of it, I am myself highly imaginative, so it’s not easy.  But try it.  You might feel like this is just too passive an activity.  I am not suggesting that you not voice your opinion or just go along for the ride, but rather to observe the moment more and give yourself some time to really feel into that moment and into what it is you feel that you want.  Before you make your decision,  ask yourself if this is really what you want. This is not something you have to agonize over.  But over time, by doing this, you may find that your choices may change first in a small way and then in larger ways.  Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of doing what you think others would have you do; do what YOU want to do.

Observe your thoughts and watch how your own thinking naturally may turn back to a sense of expectation about something.  When you find yourself doing this, stop for a moment and allow yourself to suspend this tendency, first for a moment, and then the next time, for a longer time.  As you go through each moment in life, you will find you have an endless series of opportunities to do this careful self observation.  It might not be easy at first.  In fact, it might be downright cumbersome to you.  But I ask you, if you are interested in overcoming the things that lead to your suffering, isn’t something like this worth it?

When you meet someone for example, resist the desire to pigeon-hole them.  Keep your mind open about them.  I knew someone once who identified me with her father due to one important but really incidental trait that we both shared.  The result was that I found myself being compared to her father about a whole list of things that actually had nothing to do with me, but were actually things that she had not yet reached peace with her father.  It was interesting and also painful to watch and experience, but it sure was educational for me.  Here a person had become blind to the real me and was no longer really dealing with me but someone from her past.  This is a very hard thing not to do, so it means you need to practice what is called mindfulness.  This is simply being aware of what you think and feel at any moment.  You do this through a practice of observation.  You simply allow yourself to be more in an observation role and for some, it takes some practice, but after a while it can actually lead to a nice little space inside of you that is both quiet, calm, and even happy.  It is a place of peace inside of you if you let it.

This method can work a variety of ways and you can actually adapt it to your own use, but the core of the idea here is that you stop yourself from forming opinions about things based on your first impression.  Rather, allow yourself to register those thoughts and impressions, but just don’t make up your mind about them, because once you do and ego gets a hold of it, the next step is in placing those impressions into a belief about something.  Once something is a belief, however small, it takes on a life all its own.  It is actually something that has a life of its own.  You let it drop into your subconscious self and the rest becomes more or less automatic and hard to change once set in motion unless you have a supple ego who can give up the good readily.

This is a modest approach, but is one that you can use to help change your own level of suffering in your life by being aware of the process AS IT HAPPENS that results in unrealistic expectations or expectations that simply do not fit reality.  This can also lead to a simpler life and calmer self.

Now one path through this is to actually release karma, which will result in a lessening of these expectations, but for some doing this type of karmic release may be too much to take on right now.  Besides, it is also possible to come at this from another direction without such heady  issues at hand.  Goodnight and good luck!

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