Because Zen makes sense

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

“Are You a Buddhist?”

I from time to time get this question. And although some would call me a buddhist, as I have reflected on here and here, my answer is: I am what I am. Not “who” I am, but “what” I am. I do not fancy -isms, or dogmas. I do not build my life on faith in any system of ideas. I am what I am.

I can answer that I practice Zen, that I try to be mindful, that I try to live in accordance with Tao, that I want to be friendly (my interpretation of “loving kindness”, – I can decide to be friendly, but not to feel “love”). I consider the wisdom of Buddha to be of great importance, like the wisdom of Lao-Tzu, or Jesus Christ, or ….

But I can not identify with “-isms” of any sort. I try to figure out what I am, not who I am. That could be insight i a buddhist sense of the word, an effort to flow into an understanding of what this what is. But that does not make me an “-ist” of any kind. It is method and practice, not religion. And besides: It is also impossible to think of my self as anything diconnected from the rest of my experienced nature, others, or cosmos. In the sense I am, “I” am a basically only concept of my own experience of being.

From neural impulses forming into senses, from senses to perceptions, from perceptions to conscious  thoughts and concepts there are so many possibilities of errors that it would be very little scientific to claim that I know who I am. The best I can claim is that I experience what I am, from moment to moment. I have to be that humble.

We have got 100 billions neurons in our brains, each connected, directly or indirectly, to 100.000 other neurons. If we take into consideration the glia cells, that outnumbers the neurons with at lest ten to one, and know that they also have their distinct function in the information processing, there are more elements involved in this process than there are particles in our known cosmos.

A whole universe in my brain, – I should be humble. The only thing I think I know is that in this moment I am what I am.


Chinese Meditation Prompts Double Positive Punch in Brain White Matter

A Texas Tech University scientist studying the Chinese mindfulness meditation known as integrative body-mind training (IBMT) said he and other researchers have confirmed and expanded on changes in structural efficiency of white matter in the brain that can be related to positive behavioral changes in subjects practicing the technique for a month and a minimum of 11 hours total.

Science Daily

Lao-Tzu and Sidharta Gautama

Zen goes beyond Buddha and beyond Lao Tzu. It is a culmination, a transcendence, both of the Indian genius and of the Chinese genius. The Indian genius reached its highest peak in Gautam the Buddha and the Chinese genius reached its highest peak in Lao Tzu. And the meeting… the essence of Buddha’s teaching and the essence of Lao Tzu’s teaching merged into one stream so deeply that no separation is possible now. Even to make a distinction between what belongs to Buddha and what to Lao Tzu is impossible, the merger has been so total. It is not only a synthesis, it is an integration. Out of this meeting Zen was born. Zen is neither Buddhist nor Taoist and yet both.


Walking the Mind


Strange header. I should have written ‘walking the dog’. But I haven’t got any dog for the moment being. So I stick to my meditation.

I often think of my mindfulness meditation as walking the dog, where I substitute the ‘dog’ with the ‘mind’. When I once used to walk the dog, the dog would drift away as soon as I was not aware. This is also the case when I meditate. If I am not aware, focused, my mind will drift away.

And when I recognize the dog not being by my side, I will call him back, or pull in the leash. That is exactly what my mindfulness training is about. When I recognize that my mind is drifting away, I bring it back. Sometimes the only awareness is enough, sometimes when I am stressed for some reason, I more forcefully pull it back.

And I try to be aware so my mind won’t drift away again, which it ultimately does. Then I have to repeat the procedure, focus back, which means bringing the mind back.

Tich Nath Hahn describes mindfulness as bringing the mind-body back home to the physical body, so they can unite and become one again. I doubt he thinks of walking the dog. But to me training the mind, in a childish way, make me think of training a dog, to the best for both the dog and the owner.

Illustration: dogclipart.com

The Zen of Logging

When I put on my hearing protection and starts the chainsaw, awareness is a necessity. Without focusing, being in the moment, here and now, logging is a potentially lethal activity.

One could imagine that the noise would disturb my focus, but that is no so. I close the world out with my earmuffs, but only to become more focused on the job ahead. Logging is mindfulness training: handling the saw, letting the tree fall in the right direction, not getting trapped under it, cutting and moving, all is a matter of mindful awareness.

Then I have got the breaks, watching the nature, listening to the birds, feeling the breeze, experience the interconnectedness, that is also part of the Zen of logging. Even the chopping is Zen:

There is a Zen saying, “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.” What’s the difference? The tasks are the same. The need is the same. What about the frame of mind? Who is chopping? Who is carrying water?

When you labor, stay awake. Notice the frame of mind you bring to your work. Do you approach your work as if it were a nuisance? Do you remove your consciousness from work so that you are filled with resentment or worry? What would you need to do to be more fully present in your work?

Practice mindfulness in work. It does little good to attain clarity of mind on your meditation cushion if you lose it as soon as you become active. Start with simple activities like brushing your teeth, ironing clothes, or washing dishes. Be fully alert as you move. Notice the position of your body in space. Notice the feelings in your body as you move. Pay attention to the thoughts that enter your mind when you do the task. See if you can let them go and just focus on the work itself.

Chop wood, carry water, about making zen out of our daily activities.

I will not invoke any enlightment on my behalf. But chopping is also a question of focus and awareness. An axe is a dangerous tool when used in a mindless way.

And afterwards?

I must admit I am very aware, – of muscles I seldom use. 🙂

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