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May 23, 2018


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Thanks for those quotes, Brian.

As always, one only half-understands these Zen ideas, but still, they somehow struck a chord. Call it synchronicity, call it coincidence, call it projection, call it what you will, but some of them answered -- half-answered! :) -- some questions that have been in my mind of late.

Hi Brian:

Interesting quotes. The problem is the author once again is judging the internal state of others. So, let me respond with an alternate view to these comments:

""Meditation can create an oasis or bubble of clarity or calm or concentration that simply excludes all the messiness of our everyday emotional reality. Under the illusion that we are cultivating a higher spiritual self, we merely end up avoiding what is emotionally painful. I have seen this take place at every level of practice from beginning students to what I had imagined were seasoned teachers.""

the author projects their own escapism.

1. Meditation can be used as a form of avoidance but also the opposite. It is also the case that this withdrawal gives us perspective. Just as viewing the events of last year from the cold objectivity of this year gives us better insight into just what was happening, free of the emotion, attachment and ego of last year, so to viewing yesterday from the relaxed and pleasant freedom from these same emotions, attachments and ego in meditation today gives us a higher view, and better judgement. It's been clinically proven to improve cognitive functioning.

And it's a better way to view ourselves, if we use it that way. Over time we learn to use it for just that because.....

2. In meditation we are also confronted with images, thoughts and forces from deep within our own unconscious. Once you put aside most of your stream of thoughts, the other stuff comes up. That can be frightening, and once you learn to view it dissapassionately, enlightening.

""Zen students, especially those who have had some realization, are in grave danger of imagining that they now are somehow 'seeing reality directly,' just as it is -- without acknowledging all the ways that unconscious processes and organizing principles continue to operate, both on a personal and cultural level."

This may be true of students. Again, the author is passing judgement on others. Never a good idea unless you are a mind reader, but I see the appeal to other wanna be mindreaders.

The fact is that mediation provides the opportunity to watch these internal processes and learn all about them. And learning more about our own reactivity, even our own subconscious, even unlocking long forgotten memories, so that we can say "ahh, now I see why I react this way...it started back then," that's all enlightenment. Self realization before God realization.

""Which is the 'true' self? That question, the basis for so many Zen koans, immediately leads us astray. Instead of fully experiencing ourselves in the very act of asking the question, we imagine there's another more real, truer, more essential self hiding somewhere out of sight that we have to go search for. Not surprisingly, we can never find it.""

False. Every time you learn something new about yourself, something within you, something that is part of you, it becomes incorporated into who you are. You are changed. The pieces pull together into a better whole. Pieces you had no awareness of before. Or you learn about stuff that is so deeply conditioned it's not going to change overnight. And learning that, you stop before reacting and more often say "wait a minute...I don't actually need to do / say that." YOU are not your programming. That's the biggest advantage of good meditation, Zazen as one form of that. So, yah, you can find that.

"Zazen [meditation] is not a technique. It is not a means to an end. It's not a way to become calmer, more confident, or even 'enlightened.' Indeed, our whole practice can be said to be about putting an end to self-improvement, an end to our usual compulsive pursuit of happiness -- or its Zen equivalent, the pursuit of enlightenment. Not that we can't be happy (or enlightened), it's just that we'll get there by a very different route than we once imagined -- and it may not look anything like what we expected when we started out.""

You may not "improve" yourself. You may. Or you may simply become someone else.

When an angry man calms down, they become someone else. Same thing.

Whan a rageful parent becomes a calmer parent, a listener instead of a teller, they become someone else. Same thing.

When a taker realizes what's at stake and becomes a giver, yah, entire life turned around. Happens everywhere on earth, just not frequently enough. We need more meditators.

When that comes from within, yah, they are someone else. You can call it "mature". It can take decades. Or meditation can accellerate the process. But your attitude has to be "it's me" not "it's them."

""Zen practice can redeem the ordinariness of our lives and return us to a natural richness, simplicity, and creativity that we have long imagined could only be ours by becoming special, by attaining enlightenment or some other exotic state of consciousness that once and for all will turn us into a wholly different kind of being."

So if you give up those notions of wanting to grow your ego and become special, and learn how fantastic a moment standing in line quietly can be, learn how incredible the earth is as it is, then that's progress. Then all you've done is give up some ego. Yah, that's progress.

""Having lost that original identity of the ordinary and the special, we typically give up on the ordinary and look to new special experiences to compensate for our loss. Although what we've lost is the most ordinary thing in the world, we go looking for something special to replace it. And thus, by pursuing the special, we are, in effect, forever condemning ourselves to be looking in exactly the wrong place for exactly the wrong thing.""

This is the author projecting their ego trip onto others. It may apply. But it may not.

Lots of people are OK with being ordinary. They didn't need meditation for that. They know more than this author.

And when those folks meditate, without expectation, but thankfulness, they have no self to get in the way of experiencing the whole as it is.

""It's a little harder for most people to realize that not only is the mind that I'm trying to escape the only mind I have, but that the mind that I'm seeking is also the mind that I already have. The perfection that we're so busy pursuing is to be found nowhere but right here in the very moment, regardless of its content. This is the most basic spiritual insight that we can have. This moment is it! What we've desperately been seeking is already here."

Yes, we should definitely not make excuses for our shortcomings. That lower mind, we should definitely learn to unravel and let it reincorporate.

My master once said "Higher mind, lower mind, there's a lot of competition up there."

So, let's just unravel those definitions and be open to learning more about ourselves. To claim there is nothing more there, that's the danger. That's ego.

It has become chicken and egg story. Patients goes to the doctor for treatment, doctor prescribes bitter pill, but the patient says he has come for treatment not bitter pill, doctor says treatment is through bitter pill, patients says how can treatment be a bitter pill, treatment is solace not pills.
Doctor says path of solace goes through bitter pills.
Anything that goes against carnal desires of mind is bitter pill for mind. There were Yogis in the west who attained Samadhi / Trance by first becoming athletes and weightlifters.

This moment isn't actually it.
We are actually living in the past.
The idea "let's live in the present" would require a complete disconnection with our past conditioning.

"Just live in the present"?
"Just speak six languages and grow three heads."

Its about the same level of real.

Citing Magid:

"...but right here in the very moment, regardless of its content.
This is the most basic spiritual insight that we can have. This
moment is it! What we've desperately been seeking is already here."

Spence said:

"This moment isn't actually it. We are actually living in
the past. The idea "let's live in the present" would require
a complete disconnection with our past conditioning."

I agree. The mystics say we do live in the past. Shockingly,
in fact, all events have already happened and been choreographed in a single timeless moment. Of course,
it doesn't seem that way.

We have a past, present, and future, right? Everybody
knows that. But, "present" is totally elusive. The moment
we think of it, it's gone, slipped our of our grasp into past.
Future? Thoughts create it. We have only to anticipate,
hope, or fear to get a notional sense that it's coming but
hasn't happened yet. It's our preamble to pretend what's
actually is in the past is in the future. We live totally in the
past. Clear as mud? :)

But Magid's suggestion does resonate with me in a way.
Awareness of the "now" ("this moment") is an important
step on the inner journey. You eavesdrop on your mind's
thoughts. You learn their power and relentlessness. How
they overwhelm, deceive, bully us. You realize we've lost
our way because of mind's ascendancy over us.

If someone says "just live in the present", whether it's a
psychoanalyst, a blogger, or commenter, they almost
haven't done it themselves. Paraphrasing a great mystic:

"Mind cannot be taken away from its routine course in
spite of one's best effort in a day, a month, or a year.
It is a life-long struggle. Those who undergone this
struggle, or who are engaged in it, understand what
it is to conquer the mind... What would a 40 dollar
yoga course do for such a mind?" (or reading dozens
of books, or even a session with a shrink)."

In my opinion, the mystic path offers a better approach.
You take a leap of faith with a teacher who helps you
follow this difficult path. You experience and verify at
every step. Slowly, carefully, usually over many decades,
you regain what was lost to a formidable enemy

From moment to moment...

'Living in the moment—also called mindfulness—is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them.'

Mind is not the first enemy, mind has been mischievously placed in carnal body of lust and worldly pleasures. Carnal body is the first enemy and mind addicted to carnal pleasures is the second enemy.

Yes Jen,that is the beauty of mindfulness..it is more then only ''worldly'' being ,in here and now.
One can be aware of the fact that we are spiritual beings..
Being aware of that fact is truth.
Not believing.

Hi Sita,

I'm so glad Brian posted these quotes because it reminded me about mindfulness which can be practised at any time, in fact all the time, just coming back to focusing on the moment. Its like a meditation without the struggle of sitting still and trying to keep the mind still. Is the mind ever still? Aren't those experiences during meditation also the mind?

Being the observer is a different kind of focus and its so true that when we observe our 'worldly' being just going through our daily routines in life we start to experience a kind of awareness and as you say become "aware of the fact that we are spiritual beings".

Yes..very nice Jen.
Whole life becomes ''different''.

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