Buddhism, Buddhist Practice, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

The Practice of Meditation

I started doing sitting meditation, or zazen, at an early age.  I wasn’t a boy.  I was a young man.  I have done it virtually every day since.  Why do I sit every morning and evening?  If it wasn’t providing me something, I would not have continued all these years.

I must say that I was blessed with inherent discipline.  I might not have a lot more going for me, but discipline and perseverance are my strengths.  Sitting gives me the stillness and silence to watch my mind.  Thoughts come and thoughts go.  Scary dark thoughts (memories, recollections) arise.  I face them.  I do not turn away and I do not hold on.  I sit right in the middle of them.  I let them be.  They do their thing.  I feel the physical sensations of my emotions and let go.  I don’t dwell and I don’t identify with my thoughts.  In other words, I don’t find my identity by holding on to beliefs, opinions, judgments, or conclusions about anything that arises.  The thoughts, pleasant and terrifying, arise and evaporate, over and over.  With practice, (for me, lots of practice) I sit quietly, in silence, allowing anything and everything to present itself.

Through the step of Right Concentration on his Eightfold Path, Buddha described the development of four stages of dhyana.  Dhyana translates from Sanskrit as mental discipline, or meditation.  The Chinese called it Chan.  The Japanese called it Zen.  We call it Zen.  In our arduous practice of meditating, we move from letting go of unwholesome thoughts, desires, and doubts, rooted in anger, greed, and ignorance.  At the same time, we maintain feelings of happiness and joy.  In the second stage, we cut out intellectual activity as our reality, developing peace and one-pointed mind.  Feelings of happiness and joy remain.  In the third stage of development, said Buddha, seen through his own practice, feelings of happiness and joy dissolve as experience with the disposition of happiness and equanimity remaining.  In the fourth stage of meditation practice, we relinquish all sensation, happiness and sorrow.  We are left with awareness and equanimity.

As mentioned, Buddha described this process of Right Concentration through the discovery of his own meditation practice.  We discover the stages of mental discipline through our own meditation practice.  Buddha provided guideposts, a finger pointing at the moon.  We realize the true nature of the moon.  We realize our own true nature through meditation practice.

Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

Flames of Truth

After the new bullish President portended profits, I decided to invest in the stock market. I withdrew savings and researched hot stocks.  A massive defense contractor was on the list. The new President also promised to grow the military.  I logged into my brokerage house and made the buy. 

I had pangs of conscience.  As a peacemaker, how could I invest in the war machine?  I practice Buddha’s Eightfold Path.  Complete and harmonious livelihood revolves around not engaging in, or supporting, the killing of living beings. 

I rationalized my actions by thinking that it was for my family.  Not everything the company marketed supported military action.  I am small potatoes:  what difference could I make in the large scheme of things?  I let the deal unfold, despite my misgivings.

Within a week, I got word from my broker that I inadvertently had failed to transfer funds from my bank account to the brokerage account.  The buy fell through. 

A wise man once said that when we take the path of truth, everything in our life that is false and inauthentic bursts into flames in front of our eyes.  That happened to me, when I took a crooked step on the path

Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

The Revealing Path

I walked from the house in Halawa toward the cliffs overlooking the ocean, near the Kauhola Lighthouse.  I followed the main trail for about five hundred yards until I came to a crossroads.  I had been there with the group, so I knew to turn left.  At the next T, I turned right.  I walked on and came to another T.  I didn’t know which way to go.  I was out for a hike, so it didn’t matter.  I turned right.  I followed the path as it passed through shrubs and thickets of trees, and crossed other paths.  I felt nervous that I would not be able to find my way back, so I turned around.  There was not another human being in sight.  I headed back down the path, looking for familiar intersections so I could tell where to turn to get back to the house.  Every path looked the same and none looked familiar.  I walked one way, turned and walk the other way, looking for any landmark that might tell me which way to go.  I was completely lost.  Everything looked the same.  I felt panic rising.  I thought that if I didn’t come back by dark, someone in the group would miss me and come looking.  I could not imagine being out there after dark.  I heard a noise and saw a woman walking toward me on the path.  I asked her how to get back.  She walked with me a long way to an intersection and told me to go straight from there.  When I got back to the house, I felt relieved, embarrassed, and humbled.  I mentioned to the group that hiking on the paths out on the bluffs was not something to take lightly.  The paths revealed nothing.

When we find our way on our spiritual journey, we look for a path that reveals the truth, as one teacher put it, “a path with a heart.”  We seek a path that is more about where we are than where we have been and are going. We need a path that liberates us. 

After Buddha realized nirvana, he gave his first talk to his small group of fellow seekers.  He described the Four Noble Truths. (Noble comes from the Sanskrit word, arya, meaning enlightened or noble person.  Noble is more about those who follow the path than it is about the path itself.)  The Fourth and final truth, the very way, Buddha said, to end dissatisfaction, alienation and anxiety in our lives is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.  That’s the answer.  The key.  The revealing path.

Buddha said that he taught two things:  suffering (the essence of the first two Noble Truths) and the end of suffering (the essence of the last two Noble Truths).  It is said that in every one of the thousands of talks that he gave over a forty-year period, Buddha described some aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path.















Buddhism, Zen, Zen practice

Eat a Dog!

I love Costco hot dogs!  They are delicious.  Sometimes, when I walk by the snack bar window at the store, I smell them, and I want to eat one.  There is nothing much worse for my health than to eat a Costco hot dog (processed meat, fat, calories, sodium–heart disease and diabetes).

Sometimes when I walk by the window, I smell and eat one. Sometimes, I smell and walk away.

I know that when I walk by the Costco snack bar and smell the hot dogs, I become conscious of them and either I feel the desire to eat one or I don’t.  I notice that happening. I know that the desire to eat a hot dog comes from my mind, through my nose and my sense of smell. The sensation through my mind creates the desire, the craving.

Because I am aware of how desire comes up or does not come up, I can be mindful of the present moment without these desires, and other hindrances, such as anger, aggression and aversion, restlessness and anxiety, laziness and lethargy, and doubt, taking me out of the moment.

The more time I spend uninhibited, present in the moment, the freer I am and the happier I feel.

Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen practice

Podcast: Inner Journey


Above is the link to the podcast of my live radio interview on KX 93.5 with Greg Friedman on his program, Inner Journey. Greg and I had a great conversation. #livinginblueskymind #innerjourneywithgregfriedman

Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

Case of the Startled Stallion

I felt Molly Poodle tug on her leash. I looked and saw her rear like a startled stallion. There’s a dog around, I thought.  Molly gets aggressive toward other dogs when she is on the leash. I looked across the street at a man standing with a seated Golden Retriever beside him.  Molly leaped and barked. You might think every poodle has a soft, petite bark.  Molly’s bark is thunderous.  As I pulled her along, I was aware of my thoughts and feelings.  They clicked by as if on a screen.

I watched the man to see if he was moving away.  He stood, looking side to side.  Why don’t you move? I thoughtI called to him, “She just wants to play.”  The man ignored me, swiveling his head as if he didn’t know which direction to go. You’re ignoring me?  I watched my feelings rise. I felt slighted and offended.  I’m trying to be friendly and lighten the situation and he acts like I’m not here.  I pulled Molly by her leash, past the man and his dog.  She barked and lunged.  Cars passed along the busy road.  “Leave it. Leave it,” I told Molly.  I didn’t feel anger or embarrassment.  I was calm and in control. When I first took Molly on walks and she got loud and aggressive at other dogs, I felt humiliated, and my anger rose with her boisterous, conspicuous display.

As we moved away from the man and his dog, Molly calmed.  She stopped looking over her shoulder and forgot the distraction.  We continued along the road on our morning walk.

Our awareness of our thoughts and feelings, as they pass by, is a foundation of mindfulness.  We realize that our mind is not permanent; it is not set in concrete.  We notice a fleeting sequence of mind states with elements of form, sensation, perception, mental construct, and consciousness in each state.

In the beginning of our mindfulness practice with feelings and thoughts, we pay particular attention to the arising and falling away of the three poisons that lead to dissatisfaction-greed, aversion, and delusion.

I noticed in my experience with Molly that my mind contained aversion in the moments that the man ignored my predicament and my attempt at conciliation.  My mind filled with delusion when I thought that the man could have helped by moving his dog away.  My mind also contained aversion when I returned home with Molly and remembered her behavior.  I was cool with her for a while.

As we practice mindfulness, we notice more feelings and thoughts in our passing mental states. We see our mind filled with, or empty of, sloth and torpor, distraction, agitation, the ethereal or sensual, quiet or unquiet, and whether our mind is freed from, or filled with, defilements (every mental state that arises from aversion and attraction).

Witness your sequence of mind states in an experience or circumstance, be mindful of the content, and cling to nothing in the world.

Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

Pleasant? Unpleasant? Neutral?

I feel that the smell of a gardenia is pleasant.

I feel that the looks of a maggot are unpleasant.

I feel that the taste of water is neutral.

When practicing mindfulness, we become aware of our feelings.  We notice or take a look at our feelings.  We think about what is happening outside and inside of us, in our mind and our body, and around us.   These feelings that we notice are simple and basic.  We look to see if something that we experience through our senses (what we see, hear, smell, taste, or touch) is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.  We just notice.  We don’t judge and say that is good or bad.  We don’t slip into a story.  We ask ourselves, “Is this pleasant?  Is this unpleasant?  Is this neutral, neither pleasant nor unpleasant?

When I hear a bird singing, I notice in the moment that I feel that the noise is pleasant.  That is all.  I just notice that I find it pleasant.  When I walk on the street and a loud motorcycle goes by me, I feel that the noise is unpleasant.  When I hear a noise that I feel is not pleasant and is not unpleasant, I notice that it is neutral.

That is the practice of mindfulness with feelings.