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                  Zen

      We take breathing for granted.   We never notice breath until we are choking or drowning.   But breath means life.   It is directly connected with the mind.   When one is excited, one breathes faster.   When the mind becomes calm, one breathes softly.   One should have one's breath as the subject for one's meditation.   Breathing is the only bodily function which is self-regulating AND is subject to one's intention.


      One of our human absurdities is the fact that we're always thinking about either the future or the past.   Young people think of the future because they have more of it.   Old people think of the past because they have more if IT.   But in order to experience life, we have to live each moment.   Life is not happening in the past; that's REMINISCING.   Life is not happening in the future; that's PLANNING.   The only time that we CAN live is NOW.


      The mind is the master and the body is the servant.   The servant (the body) may be young, strong and vigorous, but if the master (the mind) is weak and dissolute, the household will be a mess.


      We take our minds for granted, but nobody takes his own body for granted.   When the body gets sick, we quickly run to the doctor.   When the body gets hungry, we feed it.   When the body gets tired, we rest it.   But what about the mind?


      Could our lack of theoretical insight into some of the most basic questions in biology in general, and consciousness in particular, be related to us having missed a third aspect of reality, which upon discovery will be seen to have always been there, as ordinary as space and time, but so far somehow overlooked in scientific descriptions?


      We need to wash the mind, clean it up, on a regular basis.   And we have to learn how to do that.   With the body, it's simple: soap and water.   But mind can be cleansed only by mind.   What the mind has put in there, it can take out.   One minute of meditation is one minute of cleansing.


Chinese pictogram for Tao (or Dao), which means PATH       Your mind is a fine tool, and it's the only one you have.   A fine tool needs to be looked after.   You polish it, and remove any rust.   You sharpen it, you oil it, and you rest it from time to time.   It's up to you to look after your mind; it won't function properly otherwise.


      It is an immense relief when one can think, even for a few seconds, what one truly WANTS to think, because then one has become master of the mind instead of the mind being the master of oneself.   Being taken prisoner by whatever random thoughts arise, happy or unhappy, is what we learn to drop when we manage to meditate.


      The thoughts that pop up in your mind   —   did you invite them in?   No.


      Strength of mind comes only from exercising the mind.   Strength can come only from exercising the mind to do what you want it to do, to stand still whenever you want it to stand still.


The Seven Powers:

1.   The power to know.
2.   The power to love.
3.   The power to give.
4.   The power to take what is mine.
5.   The power to rejoice.
6.   The power to grow.
7.   The power to join in the Dance of Creation.
      The spiritual path is all about letting go.   There is nothing to achieve or gain.   A spiritual path is one of renunciation, letting go, dropping what we are carrying.   Life keeps on happening, and doesn't need us to think about it.   It is constantly arising and ceasing, every single moment.

      The body's strength makes it possible to accomplish what we set out to do with the body.   The mind's strength makes it possible to do things with the mind.   A strong mind does not suffer from frustration, boredom, or depression   -   it has learned to drop what it doesn't want.   Meditation practice gives the mind extraordinary muscles.


      The only time the mind can have a real rest is when it stops THINKING and starts EXPERIENCING.


      Meditation is a quiet, peaceful place for your mind.   Your mind has at last found a home.   It can go home and relax.   It doesn't have to think.   Thinking is suffering; there is movement in thinking, and movement is friction.   Everything that moves creates friction.   Letting go   -   renunciation   -   brings insight, namely the understanding that the ego is constantly wanting and therefore also wanting to think.   When the ego stops wanting, all suffering vanishes.   This is why we should meditate.


      The body does not HAVE suffering; the body CONSISTS OF suffering.   The feeling has arisen without your invitation; so why call it "yours?"


      The desire for comfort and the aversion to discomfort are two sides of the same coin.   Work with your feelings and thoughts as they arise.   They arise and disappear.   Did you ask them to come?   Surely not.   You only want to meditate.   Yet here are all these distracting thoughts.   Do they belong to you?   No.


      The psychological accumulation of obstructions and blockages has been deposited by our emotional responses.   Mind has put them there, so mind can also remove them.   In meditation, this means "knowing the feeling, not reacting, and then letting go of it."   Meditation incorporates non-reaction.   Inner vision is obstructed by reactions   -   our emotional responses.   When we observe feelings and sensations during meditation, there's no need, and usually no inclination, to react.   It IS possible to abstain from reacting.   And we can take that non-reaction with us into our daily lives.   Whatever emotion turns up, we can see it as just a feeling which has arisen and which will pass away.   If we learn this from our meditation practice, we're learing one of the most valuable lessons on how to handle ourselves.


      We must experience impermanence.   You attend to your breath during meditation; this breath went in and then it went out.   It's not the same breath anymore.   The feeling arose, and it's already gone.   Then there's a feeling in another spot; such an assortment of feelings and sensations, and then there are none left.   A pain in your leg; it's moved; and then it's gone.   Feelings come and feelings go.


      Any thinking person knows that his own body is impermanent, only a temporary house.   Yet we all live as if we WERE permanent, and grieve about those bodies (our friends who have died) that have already submitted to the law of nature, as if it were something unexpected.   This is because we close our vision to reality.   We try to look only at things that are pleasant.   Yet we are constantly confronted with what is unpleasant, and we try to blame someone else (perhaps the devil?).   The reality of life is total impermanence, and we have to accept and experience it in order to live accordingly.   When we meditate, we become aware that there is constant movement in every cell of our bodies.   We become aware of the movement of the skin, and movement under the skin.   We learn, by direct knowledge, that there is nothing solid or stable, least of all this body.   If everything is constantly moving ... where is the "I?"


      The whole of Buddha's teaching is directed toward losing self.   He said, "There is only one thing I teach/ And that is suffering, and its end to reach."   But that doesn't mean that suffering in the world will stop.   It means that if there is nobody here to react to suffering, then there is no suffering.   SELF will stop.   If there's nobody here to have a problem, how can there be a problem?


      Each thought is a teacher.   First, it teaches us about the unruliness of our mind, that our mind is not reliable and dependable.   It thinks thoughts that we don't even want to think, when we would much rather be totally calm.   It is an unruly, unreliable mind, not doing what we want it to do.   Second, we learn that we don't have to believe our mind.   We don't have to believe all the thoughts that come up.   They have come in without your invitation, and they'll go away again by themselves.   They have little purpose, especially during meditation.


      In meditation, we have the opportunity to get to know our own mind   —   the THINKING that's going on   —   and learn not to get involved in it.   When we're NOT meditating, why should we believe and get involved in all the thoughts that wander into our mind?   The first time you really grasp this, you'll actually be able to change a thought that's in your mind.   You stop believing what your mind says; you are now merely observing its thought processes.   It's the same with the air around us.   We don't grab hold of the air and say, "This is mine."   It's just there.   Thoughts are like that.   The thinking process is natural to the mind, and the process goes on and on, but it's neither reliable nor believable.


A tree does not THINK it is a tree.   It IS a tree.

... from Being Nobody, Going Nowhere: Meditations on the Buddhist Path by Ayya Khema (Wisdom Publications, Somerville, MA 02144), 1987.


     

      There had been an unusually high tide, and the beach was littered with starfish that had been washed up.   They were stranded.   There were thousands and thousands of them.   They were helpless.   They were going to die.

      A little girl was on the beach, carefully picking up one starfish at a time, brushing off the sand, and carrying it back to the water, wading in a few feet and bending over to place it back into the ocean.

      A man who was taking a morning walk noticed her.   He said, "What are you doing?"

      "I'm putting the starfishes back into the water," she said.

      He smiled.   "But there are thousands of them!   You'll only be able to rescue a few.   It won't make a difference."

      She looked down at the starfish in her hand.   "It makes a difference to this one."


      "Peace is with us every single moment of our life, but we do not recognize it.   This is because we are ignorant about peace   —   most of the time we are too preoccupied with the external world and our own running thoughts and emotions to be aware of it.   We have lost touch with our inner selves, and what is the best in us.   We frantically try to find the answer outside when all the time peace is sitting there, silently waiting until we come home to it."

Living Meditation, Living Insight (Dr. Thynn Thynn, 1995)


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