Archive for the ‘mindfulness’ Category

“The world is like a ride at an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored , and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question – is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us. They say, ‘Hey! Dont worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride…’…It’s just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love.”

Bill Hicks

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The bell tolls at four in the morning.
I stand by the window,
barefoot on the cool floor.
The garden is still dark.
I wait for the mountains and rivers to reclaim their shapes.
There is no light in the deepest hours of the night.
Yet, I know you are there
in the depth of the night,
the immeasurable world of the mind.
You, the known, have been there
ever since the knower has been.
The dawn will come soon,
and you will see
that you and the rosy horizon
are within my two eyes.It is for me that the horizon is rosy
and the sky blue.
Looking at your image in the clear stream,
you answer the question by your very presence.
Life is humming the song of the non-dual marvel.
I suddenly find myself smiling
in the presence of this immaculate night.
I know because I am here that you are there,
and your being has returned to show itself
in the wonder of tonight’s smile.
In the quiet stream,I swim gently.
The murmur of the water lulls my heart.
A wave serves as a pillow
I look up and see
a white cloud against the blue sky,
the sound of Autumn leaves,
the fragrance of hay-
each one a sign of eternity.
A bright star helps me find my way back to myself.
I know because you are there that I am here.
The stretching arm of cognition
in a lightning flash,
joining together a million eons of distance,
joining together birth and death,
joining together the known and the knower.
In the depth of the night,
as in the immeasurable realm of consciousness,
the garden of life and I
remain each other’s objects.
The flower of being is singing the song of emptiness.
The night is still immaculate,
but sounds and images from you
have returned and fill the pure night.
I feel their presence.
By the window, with my bare feet on the cool floor,
I know I am here
for you to be.
“Call Me By My True Names” 

The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh.

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How easy it is to see your brother’s faults,
How hard to face your own.
You winnow his in the wind like chaff,
But yours you hide,
Like a cheat covering up an unlucky throw.

Dwelling on your brother’s faults
Multiplies your own.
You are far from the end of your journey.

The way is not in the sky.
The way is in the heart.

See how you love
Whatever keeps you from your journey.

But the tathagathas,
“They who have gone beyond,”
Have conquered the world.
They are free.

The way is not in the sky.
The way is in the heart.

All things arise and pass away.
But the awakened awake forever.


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Essential Teachings of the Stone Lion

Kusan Sunim (1909-1983)

Instructions for Meditation

In Zen meditation, the key factor is to maintain a constant sense of questioning. So, having taken hold of the hwadu (koan) “What is this?,” try to always sustain the questioning: “What is seeing?” “What is hearing” “What is moving these hands and feet?” and so on. Before the initial sense of questioning fades, it is important to give rise to the question again. In this way, the process of questioning can continue uninterrupted with each new question overlapping the previous one. In addition you should try to make this overlapping smooth and regular. But this does not mean that you should just mechanically repeat the question as though it were a mantra. It is useless to just say to yourself day and night, “What is this?” “What is this?”

The key is to sustain the sense of questioning, not the repetition of words. Once this inquiry gets underway, there will be no room for boredom. If the mind remains quiet, the hwadu will not be forgotten, and the sense of questioning will continue unbroken. In this way, awakening will be easy/

While meditating, both wisdom and concentration need to be cultivated in unison. If there is wisdom without concentration, then mistaken views will increase. And if there is concentration without wisdom, then ignorance will grow. When inquiring single-pointedly into the hwadu “What is this?” the vividness of the hwadu becomes wisdom, and the cessation of distracted thoughts becomes concentration.

Meditation can be compared to a battle between wandering thoughts and dullness of mind on the one side and the hwadu on the other. The stronger the hwadu becomes, the weaker will become wandering thoughts and dullness.

You are not the first and you will not be the last to tread this path. So do not become discouraged if you find the practice difficult at times. All the previous patriarchs of old as well as the contemporary masters have experienced hardships along the way. Moreover, it is not always the most virtuous or intelligent person who makes the swiftest progress. Sometimes the opposite is true. There are many cases of troublesome and ill-behaved people who, upon turning their attention inward to the practice of meditation, have quickly experienced a breakthrough. So do not feel defeated even before you have really begun.

An ancient master once said that with the passing of days you will see your thoughts becoming identical with the hwadu, and the hwadu becoming identical with your thoughts. This is quite true. In the final analysis, the practice of Zen can be said to be both the easiest as well as the most difficult thing to do. However, do not thereby deceive yourself into thinking that it will be either very simple or extremely hard. Every morning just resolve to be awakened before evening. Strengthen this commitment daily until it is as inexhaustible as the sands along the Ganges.

There is no one who can undertake this task for you. The student’s hunger can never be satisfied by his teacher’s eating a meal for him. It is like competing in a marathon. The winner will only be the person who is either the fittest or the most determined. It is solely up to the individual to win the race. Likewise, to achieve the aim of your practice, do not be distracted by things that are not related to this task. For the time being, just let everything else remain as it is and put it out of your mind. Only when you are awakened will you be able to truly benefit others.

Be careful never to disregard the moral precepts that act as the basis for your practice of meditation. Furthermore, do not try and look deliberately withdrawn or abstracted. It is quite possible to pursue your practice of Zen without others being aware of what you are doing. However, when your absorption in the hwadu becomes particularly intense, your attention to external matters may diminish. This might result in your looking rather out of touch with everyday concerns. At this time the hwadu is said to be ripening and the mind starts to become sharper and more single pointed, like a fine sword. It is vital at this point to pursue your practice with the intensity of an attacking soldier. You must become totally involved with the hwadu to the exclusion of everything else.

If you can make your body and mind become identical with the hwadu, then in the end ignorance will naturally shatter. You will fall into a state of complete unknowing, perplexity, and questioning. Those who have done much study will even come to forget what they had previously learned. But this is not a final or lasting state. When you have reached this point you must still proceed further to the state where although you have ears, you do not know how to hear; although you have eyes, you do not know how to see; and although you have a tongue, you do not know how to speak. To reach the place where mountains are not mountains and rivers are not rivers may entail several years of hard practice. Therefore, it is necessary to cast aside all other concerns and train yourself to focus the entirety of your attention on the tasteless hwadu alone.

By practicing diligently in this manner, you will finally awaken. Then you can seize the Buddhas and patriarchs themselves and defeat them. At that time, mountains will again be mountains, rivers will again be rivers, the earth will be the earth and the sky will be the sky.

Kusan Sunim (1909-1983)

Excerpted from The Way of Korean Zen by Kusan Sunim


In Zen there are many styles of meditation taught through the various schools; each person has to find the approach that strikes a chord within them, one they can spend enough time to realize the fruits of their efforts. In some schools students are given traditional Zen koans that have been studied for generations of students. In this school of Korean Zen “What is this?” is the koan given to students; it can be traced back to the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng who asked the young monk Huai-jung: “What is this thing and how did it get here?”

As with any practice whether moving or sitting meditation, the challenge is to keep the efforts fresh. The tendency to become mechanical is almost wired into us; the effort to stay awake and present in the moment requires a kind of authenticity that is the antidote for the sleeping sickness of daily life.

“There is no one who can undertake this task for you.”

With Care,


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“Of the two witnesses, hold the principal one,” is saying that one witness is everybody else giving you their feedback and opinions (which is worth listening to, there’s some truth in what people say) but the principal witness is yourself. You’re the only one who knows when you’re using things to protect yourself and keep your ego together and when you’re opening and letting things fall apart, letting the world come as it is – working with it rather than struggling against it. You’re the only one who knows.”
Pema Chödrön

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“There’s a space at the bottom of an exhale, a little hitch between taking in and letting out that’s a perfect zero you can go into. There’s a rest point between the heart’s muscle’s close and open – an instant of keenest living when you’re momentarily dead. You can rest there.”

Mary Karr

“The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit’s one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself like a once-blind man unbound. The gaps are the clefts in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God; they are the fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through, the icy narrowing fords splitting the cliffs of mystery. Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock – more than a maple – a universe.”

Annie Dillard

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The temple bell stops
but the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers.


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Four questions

Whenever you’re troubled by a particularly bothersome train of thought or feeling, or when you’re tempted to say or do something that you’re not sure about, put yourself through these four questions, or “gates,” which will help make you a real team player:

1. Is it truthful?
2. Is it helpful?
3. Is it kind?
4. What is my motivation and genuine intention here?

If you can say yes to each question – if you can pass through each gate – then go ahead. If not, stop and go no further. You do have the ability to control whether you stop or go, even in the deepest recesses of your mind.

Please don’t think you are powerless to do whatever is good for yourself as well as whatever is good for others. Remember: the two acts are one and the same.

– Buddha Is As Buddha Does by Lama Surya Das

A few thoughts on Stop Signs with its eight sides

1. Slow down
2. Pay attention
3. Look around
4. Pause
5. Look within
6. Breathe deeply
7. Appreciate
8. Move consciously

And so… the next time you see a Stop Sign, you may want to remember that you are in the act of receiving a very sacred message.

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By Ross Bolleter Roshi


” When Michal, my composer friend from Slovakia, was driving me out from Bratislava to show me the eastern regions of this country, especially his birthplace Lengow, in the foothills of the High Tatras, he asked me a lot of questions about Zen and how to live it. I found his questions challenging – such questions always are – but their radical simplicity was far more confronting because I spoke no Slovak and he spoke just enough English for us to deal with practical matters and in a vague way to feel out the contours of each other’s lives.

Once he asked me, ‘What is Zen?’ and I replied that ‘the countryside looked splendid now that the sun had come up.’ As always after my responses to his questions he would remain thoughtfully silent, however, as we neared his home village he said, ‘I like the jokes in your religion, but I don’t think I would do the meditation.’ Sensing my disappointment, he went on, ‘But I would do Great Aunt Meditation’. ‘Well, what would that be?’ I asked doubtfully. ‘Great Aunt Meditation is chicken meditation. My great Aunt spends all afternoon in front of her fire. For hour after hour there she is in her chair, looking like she is asleep. But she knows where very chicken is and which way the wind is blowing and what loaf of rye bread the pantry mouse is munching.’ When we meditate we let the world be as it is; we let our heart just be. Then what is there can be, as W.A. Mathieu describes sounds as nourishment, holy food, and best friend. The plane roars through opening up your heart; you hum that old love song as you move from paying bills, to shopping to writing a difficult letter and the humming confirms it.

There is an old Taoist saying, ‘The hen can hatch her eggs because her heart is always listening.’ When we listen to hear another’s pain in their critical words, when we listen to our own pain when we are criticized, the depth of and warmth of our attending opens up the way for life to appear.

Later, in Lengow, I met Michal’s Great Aunt. She was frail, almost totally blind. Michal talked family with her in Slovak. She responded in rivers of Ruthenian. I listened in English. She plied me with Polish vodka. If you can’t understand at least you can drink! Michal asked me to explain Zen to her. I said, ‘Ask her if the birds are singing in her heart!’ Maybe he did, but she just poured me another vodka. As she laboured to get another log on the fire, Michal told me that it took her an-hour-and- a- half to get to church. ‘How far is the church?’ I asked for the village was tiny. ‘Oh about a hundred metres’, he said. ‘Is that because she is blind, because she can barely walk?’ ‘Yes. But mostly because she keeps stopping to enjoy what she can make out of the shadow and light. She picks up rocks and pebbles so she can feel them, talks to the dogs and cats, and to anyone she meet. It’s a long journey.

Ross Bolleter

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If you can practice even when distracted, you are well trained.

If you are a good horseback rider, your mind can wander but you don’t fall off your horse. In the same way, whatever circumstances you encounter, if you are well trained in meditation, you don’t get swept away by emotions. Instead, they perk you up and your awareness increases.

Abandon any hope of fruition.

The key instruction is to stay in the present. Don’t get caught up in hopes of what you’ll achieve and how good your situation will be some day in the future. What you do right now is what matters.

Two activities: one at the beginning, one at the end.

In the morning when you wake up, you reflect on the day ahead and aspire to use it to keep a wide-open heart and mind. At the end of the day, before going to sleep, you think over what you have done. If you fulfilled your aspiration, even once, rejoice in that. If you went against your aspiration, rejoice that you are able to see what you did and are no longer living in ignorance. This way you will be inspired to go forward with increasing clarity, confidence, and compassion in the days that follow.

Pema Chodron, Bite-Sized Buddhism, Tricycle Magazine

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