Saturday, 28 September 2013

Skill in Mindfulness

"Isn’t it strange how princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people like you and me,
Are builders for eternity?

Each is given a bag of tools:
A shapeless mass and a book of rules.
And each must fashion, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block, or a stepping stone."  -
R Lee Sharpe,
A Bag Of Tools.
"...ultimately the winds of life and of the mind will blow, do what we may. Meditation is about knowing something about this and how to work with it. The spirit of mindfulness practice was nicely captured in a poster of a seventyish yogi, Swami Satchitananda, in full white beard and flowing robes atop a surfboard riding the waves off a Hawaiian beach. The caption read: "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf." - Mindfulness meditation teacher Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (2004), p31-32.
"A yogi is like a surfer who knows how to balance on his board. He welcomes even a big rolling wave because he knows how to enjoy it without getting caught in it."- Swami Satchitananda.
"One of the marks of skillful practice is to be present without participating in harmful actions." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special - Living Zen (1995), p105.



Humans have been endowed with innate survival skills embedded within our DNA through evolution. Some of these survival skills can work against us in our modern, civilised societies, however. As Professor Mark Williams of Oxford Universty Mindfulness Centre states in Mindfulness: A practical guide to peace in a frantic world (2011), p9:
"...if you feel threatened, the mind instantly digs up memories of when you felt endangered in the past, so that you can spot similarities and find a way of escaping. It happens in an instant, before you’re even aware of it. It’s a basic survival skill honed by millions of years of evolution. It’s incredibly powerful and almost impossible to stop. The same is true with unhappiness, anxiety and stress. It is normal to feel a little unhappy from time to time, but sometimes a few sad thoughts can end up triggering a cascade of unhappy memories, negative emotions and harsh judgments."
Asian traditions have often used animal-based representations of the destructive human ego, such as  'monkey mind', and the idea of a wild bull has also been used extensively. The Chinese Chán (Zen) master Kuòān Shīyuǎn (廓庵師遠) of the 12th century, drew a series of 10 pictures illustrating the interactions between a young man and a bull. The young man goes from searching for the bull to catching and struggling with it, to riding it, and then returning to society.




video

Remaining skilfully balanced above, and in control of, the 'wild' instincts of animals has become a symbolic practice representing the heights of human achievement in some social domains - like bull-riding and bull vaulting in the Americas and in Spain. To remain safe and healthy we similarly need to hone skills which can counter our own 'wild' instinctive reactions left over from our biological evolution.

A useful way of viewing our 'wild' nature manifesting in our being, is considering it as chaotic waves of water threatening to engulf us, as mindfulness meditation teacher Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn states in his book Full Catastrophe Living (2005), pp342-343:
"As you practice, focusing on whatever you are paying primary attention to in your meditation practice, you are likely to come to see your thoughts and feelings as discrete, short-lived events, as individual waves on the ocean. These waves rise up in the ocean of your awareness for a moment and then fall back. [...] Thoughts with a high emotional charge have a way of recurring again and again. When they come up, they grab hold of your attention like a powerful magnet, carrying your mind away from your breathing or from awareness of your body."
In this context, the skill of mindfulness can be considered like the skill of a surfer remaining balanced and 'free' beyond the turbulence - remaining in accepting awareness and not flying off into reactive thought. In the book One Taste of Truth - Zen Tea (2012), the author illustrates a similar principle related in an old Japanese story from the feudal era, using the metaphor of a gourd floating down a stream, p65:
"In his letter to the sword master Yagyu Munenori, the zen priest Takuan remarked that the mind should move like a gourd thrown into a moving stream, bobbing here, flowing there, never stopping along the way. If pushed down in one place, the gourd will freely pop up in another and continue on."
This skill of avoiding becoming overwhelmed by the dynamic nature of impermanence lies at the core of mindfulness, as Kabat-Zinn writes in Full Catastrophe Living, p247:
"The ultimate effect on our health of the total psychological stress we experience depends in large measure on how we come to perceive change itself, in all its various forms, and how skillful we are in adapting to continual change while maintaining our own inner balance and sense of coherence. This in turn depends on the meaning we attribute to events, on our beliefs about life and ourselves, and particularly on how much awareness we can bring to our usually mindless and automatic reactions when our "buttons" are pushed."
American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck supports this statement in her book Nothing Special - Living Zen (1995) when she writes, p106:
"As we become clearer with our own practice, we tend to find more skillful means to deal with whatever comes up."
She is realistic about the amount of work it takes to reach this level of skill, however, p141:
"The longer we practice, the more quickly we move through this process each time it arises. The work is slow and discouraging at first, but as our understanding and skill increase, it moves faster, and we come to see that there is no problem. We may develop ill health, we may lose what little money we have; yet there is no problem."
The skill begins with learning how to manage one's attention, as Professor Mark Williams of Oxford Universty Mindfulness Centre states in Mindfulness: A practical guide to peace in a frantic world (2011), by distracting one's primary attention from becoming automatically sucked into negative thought patterns, p72:
"...the first step in learning to deal with life more skilfully... involves training yourself to notice when your autopilot is taking over, so that you can then make a choice about what you want your mind to be focusing upon. You need to learn to close down some of the ‘programs’ that have been left running in the background of your mind. The first stage of regaining your innate mindfulness involves returning to basics. You need to relearn how to focus your awareness on one thing at a time."
He states that focusing on the body's internal state is the most effective anchor for mindfulness practice, p170:
"It’s more skilful to work with the body because the mind can become too goal-orientated when directly facing a difficulty. It will want to help by suppressing negativity or by trying desperately to analyse and solve whatever is troubling you. Working with the mind in this context is just too difficult. Focusing on the body, by contrast, puts a tiny sliver of space between you and the problem, so that you don’t immediately become entangled within it. In a sense, you are using the body to turn towards negativity rather than using the analysing mind. You are processing the same raw material, but it is held within a different mode of mind, letting the deepest, wisest part of the mind–body do its own work."
Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh illustrates how this body skill is trained by including a section of the ancient Buddhist Satipatthana Sutta in his book The Miracle of Mindfulness (1987), describing in great detail the kind of attention needed, p112-113:
"Just as a skillful turner or turner's apprentice, making a long turn, knows "I am making a long turn," or making a short turn, knows, "I am making a short turn," just so the monk, breathing in a long breath, knows "I am breathing in a long breath"; breathing out a long breath, knows "I am breathing out a long breath"; breathing in a short breath, knows "I am breathing in a short breath"; breathing out a short breath, knows "I am breathing out a short breath." "Experiencing the whole (breath-) body, I shall breathe in," thus he trains himself. "Experiencing the whole (breath-) body, I shall breathe out," thus he trains himself. "Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe in," thus he trains himself. "Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe out," thus he trains himself. Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body, internally and externally."
One's body can automatically integrate the skill of riding a bicycle or balancing on a surfboard into it's subconscious structure, and in the same way it can also integrate the sense of balancing above one's reactive potential. In this way the skill of mindfulness becomes innate and 'second nature' the more one practices.

Unfortunately such skill involving balance, like surfing or cycling, can never be simply passed on from one individual to another through words in the way some other activities can be - the territory of balance needs to be explored physically and individually over time by every person, as Charlotte Joko Beck writes in Nothing Special - Living Zen, p181:
"Fundamentally, practice is different from improving a skill such as tennis or golf; much of such learning can be described in words. But we can’t explain our zazen practice in words."

Monday, 23 September 2013

Mindfulness and Traditional Western Philosophy Part 5: Existentialism and Contemporary Philosophy

This is the last post in a five part series illustrating how dominant Western Philosophical ideas are reflected in ancient mindfulness teachings and their legacy in modern secular 'Western' mindfulness. The previous posts are as follows:

Part 1 - The Pre-Socratics
Part 2 - The Socratics
Part 3 - The Renaissance and The Enlightenment
Part 4 - Romantics and Idealists

Part 5 concerns the Existentialists and Contemporary Philosophy. As before, a single quote closest to each philosopher's most radical and meaningful ideas has been used to represent their core value to history.


"We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death." - Bertrand Russell (1872-1970).
  • "When ordinary humans become Buddhas, they take up their humanity to harmonize their humanity and become a Buddha." - Japanese 'Soto Zen' Founder Master Eihei Dogen, Shobogenzo (Translated by Hubert Nearman, 2007), p785.
  • "...termed Bodhisattva Functioning (bosatsu-gyō), in which the actor is no ordinary ego but a “transcendent Person or transcendent humanity,” operating on the basis of “the whole of mankind as width and such transcendent humanity as depth.” And as indicated by the “Vow of Humankind,” Hisamatsu argues that humans must transcend their differences and work together to solve not only the fundamental religious problems of sin and death, value and existence, but also the various other forms of suffering in the world." - Zen Masters (2010, Oxford University Press), p229-229.
  • "...all human beings are friends, we should help them even if it means violating a Buddhist precept." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness (1999), p102.
  • "We have to continue to practice mindfulness and reconciliation until we can see a child’s body of skin and bones in Uganda or Ethiopia as our own, until the hunger and pain in the bodies of all species are our own. Then we will have realized nondiscrimination, real love. Then we can look at all beings with the eyes of compassion, and we can do the real work to help alleviate suffering." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step (1991), p121.
  • "As human beings we see life by means of a certain sensory apparatus and because people and objects seem external to us, we experience much misery. Our misery stems from the misconception that we are separate. Certainly it looks as though I am separate from other people and from all else in the phenomenal world. This misconception that we’re separate creates all the difficulties of human life." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck writes in Nothing Special - Living Zen (1995), p75.
  • "If we include in our own pursuit of happiness an understanding of the need for others’ happiness, we will practice “wise self-interest” and ultimately act according to the mutual interest of all humanity." - The Mindfulness Revolution (2011), p.xvii.
  • "The world itself is weeping and begs for us to bring an entirely different level of attention and resolve to its suffering, based on our inherent beauty, goodness, and creative imagination as human beings. Perhaps mindfulness can play a significant role in the healing not only of ourselves but also of our world in ways little and big, and yet to be imagined." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p.XXXII.

"Philosophical troubles are caused by not using language practically but by extending it on looking at it. We form sentences and then wonder what they can mean." - Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951).
  • "...the nature of all things is like illusion, like a magical incarnation. So you should not fear them. Why? All words also have that nature, and thus the wise are not attached to words, nor do they fear them. Why? All language does not ultimately exist, except as liberation. The nature of all things is liberation.'" - The Buddha, Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra (Translated by Robert A. F. Thurman, 1976), Chapter 9.
  • "Understanding comes in midsentence. What good are doctrines? The ultimate Truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words. They’re not the Way. The Way is wordless. Words are illusions. They’re no different from things that appear in your dreams at night, be they palaces or carriages, forested parks or lakeside ‘lions. Don’t conceive any delight for such things." - The First Zen Patriarch Bodhidharma (early 5th century AD), Bloodstream Sermon.
  • "When we say something, our subjective intention or situation is always involved. So there is no perfect word; some distortion is always present in a statement." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1995), p87.
  • "Talks like these are not words to ponder; we get something from them and then throw them away and return to simple, direct practice." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck writes in Nothing Special - Living Zen (1995), p231.
  • "During the hour-long discussion there are frequent stretches of silence in the group, as if we have collectively gone into a state beyond the need for talk. It feels as if the silence is communicating something deeper than what we are able to express with words. It binds us together. We feel peaceful in it, comfortable." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p128.
  • "We do not just think about things, we are also aware that we are thinking. And we don’t need language to stand as an intermediary between us and the world; we can also experience it directly through our senses." - Professor Mark Williams, Mindfulness: A practical guide to peace in a frantic world (2011), p11.


"We do not “have” a body; rather, we “are” bodily." - Martin Heidegger (1889-1976).
  • "...this real body is your mind. And this mind, through endless kalpas without beginning, has never varied. [..] You can’t possess it and you can’t lose it." - The First Zen Patriarch Bodhidharma (early 5th century AD), Bloodstream Sermon.
  • "When we meditate on our body, we are our body; we limit our observations to our body, even though we realize that our body is not separate from the rest of the universe." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun My Heart (1988), p43.
  • "When we give up this spinning mind, even for a few minutes, and just sit with what is, then this presence that we are is like a mirror. We see everything. We see what we are: our efforts to look good, to be first, or to be last. We see our anger, our anxiety, our pomposity, our so-called spirituality. Real spirituality is just being with all that." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen (1997), p13.
  • "Learning how to stop all your doing and shift over to a "being" mode, learning how to make time for yourself, how to slow down and nurture calmness and self-acceptance in yourself, learning to observe what your own mind is up to from moment to moment, how to watch your thoughts and how to let go of them without getting so caught up and driven by them, how to make room for new ways of seeing old problems and for perceiving the interconnectedness
    of things, these are some of the lessons of mindfulness. This kind of learning involves settling into moments of being and cultivating awareness." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p20.
  • "The ways we use language tell us a lot about the automatic way we personalize our symptoms and illnesses. For instance, we say "I have a headache" or "I have a cold" or "I have a fever," when it would be more accurate to say something like "the body is headaching" or "colding" or "fevering." [...]. By seeing the headache or the cold as a process, we are acknowledging that it is dynamic and not static, that is not "ours" but is rather an unfolding process that we are experiencing." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p282.
  • "Doing mode needs to think. It analyses, recalls, plans and compares. That’s its role and many of us find we’re very good at it. We spend a great deal of time ‘inside our heads’ without noticing what’s going on around us. The headlong rush of the world can absorb us so much that it erodes our sense of presence in the body, forcing us to live inside our thoughts, rather than experience the world directly.[...] The Doing mode involves judging and comparing the ‘real’ world with the world as we’d like it to be in our thoughts and dreams. It narrows attention down to the gap between the two, so that you can end up with a toxic variety of tunnel vision in which only perfection will do. Being mode, on the other hand, invites you temporarily to suspend judgment. It means briefly standing aside and watching the world as it unfolds, while allowing it to be just as it is for a moment." - Professor Mark Williams, Mindfulness: A practical guide to peace in a frantic world (2011), p38-39.

"The first effect of existentialism is that it puts every man in possession of himself as he is, and places the entire responsibility for his existence squarely upon his own shoulders. And, when we say that man is responsible for himself, we do not mean that he is responsible only for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men." - Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980).
  • "Seeking happiness, afraid of pain, loss and death, man walks the delicate balance between good and evil, purity and defilement, progress and decline. His actions are strung out between these moral antipodes, and because he cannot evade the necessity to choose, he must bear the full responsibility for his decisions. Man's moral freedom is a reason for both dread and jubilation, for by means of his choices he determines his own individual destiny, not only through one life, but through the numerous lives to be turned up by the rolling wheel of samsara. If he chooses wrongly he can sink to the lowest depths of degradation, if he chooses rightly he can make himself worthy even of the homage of the gods. The paths to all destinations branch out from the present, from the ineluctable immediate occasion of conscious choice and action." - Bikkhu Bodhi,  Dhammapada: Introduction, p19-20.
  • "...in totally owning the pain, the joy, the responsibility of my life—if I see this point clearly—then I’m free. I have no hope, I have no need for anything else." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen (1997), p68.
  • "...our responsibility is always right here, right now, to experience the reality of our life as it is. And eventually to blame no one. If we blame anyone we know we’re caught; we can be sure of that." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen (1997), p142.
  • "If we can submit to an authority, have it tell us what to do, then we can give someone else the responsibility for our lives and we don’t have to carry it anymore. We don’t have to feel the anxiety of making a decision." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck writes in Nothing Special - Living Zen (1995), p11.
  • "...when all is said and done, the responsibility to preserve our humanity sits squarely on each one of us, no matter what our rank or status in society." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming To Our Senses (2006), p105.
  • "The whole point of mindfulness based stress reduction — and for that matter health promotion in its largest sense — is to challenge and encourage people to become their own authorities, to take more responsibility for their own lives, their own bodies, their own health. I like to emphasize that each person is already the world authority on him - or herself, or at least could be if they started attending to things mindfully. A great deal of the information each of us needs to learn more about ourselves and our health — information we desperately need in order to grow and to heal and to make effective life choices — is already right at our fingertips, at the tips of, or rather, right beneath, our noses." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (1994), p191-192.

"Classificatory thought gives itself an essential space, which it proceeds to efface at each moment." - Michel Foucault (1926-1984).
  • "The way that becomes a way is not the Immortal Way, the name that becomes a name is not the Immortal Name" - Daoist Sage LaoZi (~6th Century BC), DaoDeJing (Red Pine translation, 1996), 1.1.
  • "Zen master Panshan [720–814] addressed the congregation, saying, “When there are no affairs in the mind, the myriad things are not born. In the inconceivable mysterious function, where would a speck of dust alight? The Way itself is formless, but because of form, names are established. The Way itself is nameless, but because of names, there is classification. “If you say, ‘Mind is Buddha,’ then you still haven’t entered the mystery. If you say, ‘No mind, no Buddha,’ then you’re just pointing at the traces of the ultimate. Even a thousand saints can’t transmit the higher road to others. You students are tormented by form. You’re like apes grabbing at shadows.”" - Zen's Chinese Heritage - The masters and their teachings (2000), p114.
  • "Who we are is beyond words—just that open power of life, manifesting constantly in all sorts of interesting things, even in our own misery and struggles." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck writes in Nothing Special - Living Zen (1995), p116.
  • "We use words to point to something — an object or a concept — but they may or may not correspond to the “truth” of that thing, which can only be known through a direct perception of its reality. In our daily life we rarely have a direct perception. We invent, imagine, and create perceptions based on the seeds of the images that we have in our store consciousness." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Understanding Our Mind (2001), p12-13.
  • "If you observe this process of Selfing with sustained attention and inquiry, you will see that what we call "the self is really a construct of our own mind, and hardly a permanent one, either. If you look deeply for a stable, indivisible self, for the core "you" that underlies "your" experience, you are not likely to find it other than in more thinking. You might say you are your name, but that is not quite accurate. Your name is just a label. The same is true of your age, your gender, your opinions, and so on. None are fundamental to who you are." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (1994), p237.
  • "Every time the word “sit” appears in a poem by Han Shan or Shih Te, it means to sit, cross-legged on the ground or on a simple straw mat, in meditation. For the Taoist, it is the “sitting forgetting” that is intended to free him of the memory of words, the memory which separates him from the Tao, which, according to Lao Tzu, cannot be described in words." - Cold Mountain Poems (2009), Introduction, p8.


For me it's useless to attempt to artificially perpetuate a system, because culture became a system of values, it's no more an organic, symbolic organization of sociality, now it's a system of market values, but of aesthetic values, not so much economic values. As a system of aesthetic values it is a very antinomic proposition, because culture perishes from this mixture of the symbolic and of values. - Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007).
  • "Bestowing no honours keeps people from fighting, prizing no treasures keeps people from stealing, displaying no attractions keeps people from making trouble, thus the rule of the sage empties the mind but fills the stomach, weakens the will but strengthens the bones, by keeping the people from knowing or wanting, and those who know from daring to act, he thus governs them all" - Daoist Sage LaoZi (~6th Century BC), DaoDeJing (Red Pine translation, 1996), 3. 
  • "...the tradition attributed to Bodhidharma of not relying on scripture but instead on “turning the light inward.” ...this approach naturally led to a de-emphasis or outright rejection of religious symbolism and to iconoclastic tendencies..." - Zen's Chinese Heritage - The masters and their teachings (2000), p85.
  • "Because mortals have shallow minds and don’t understand anything deep, the Buddha used the tangible to represent the sublime. People who seek blessings by concentrating on external works instead of internal cultivation are attempting the impossible. [...] The people I meet nowadays are superficial. They think of merit as something that has form. They squander their wealth and butcher creatures of land and sea. They foolishly concern themselves with erecting statues and stupas, telling people to pile up lumber and bricks, to paint this blue and that green. They strain body and mind, injure themselves and mislead others. And they don’t know enough to be ashamed. How will they ever become enlightened? They see something tangible and instantly become attached. If you talk to them about formlessness, they sit there dumb and confused." - The First Zen Patriarch Bodhidharma (early 5th century AD), Breakthrough Sermon
  • "...the absolute, where there is no exchange value or materialistic value or even spiritual value — the world that our words and thinking mind cannot reach. Living in the realm of duality, we must have a good understanding of the absolute... " - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness (1999), p111.
  • "We try not to consume things that nurture our anger, frustration, and fear. To consume more mindfully, we need to regularly discuss what we eat, how we eat, how to buy less, and how to have higher-quality food, both edible and the food we consume through our senses." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Anger - Wisdom for Cooling the Flames (2001), p22.
  • "It is amazing to me that we can be simultaneously completely preoccupied with the appearance of our own body and at the same time completely out of touch with it as well. This goes for our relationship to other people's bodies too. As a society we seem to be overwhelmingly preoccupied with appearances in general and appearance of bodies in particular. Bodies are used in advertisements to sell everything from cigarettes to cars. Why? Because the advertisers are capitalizing on people's strong identification with particular body images." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p75.



"You record it, but then you'll re-write it, re-frame it, build a new context, and perhaps, my sentence will sound different. So, I trust you but I know that it is impossible to control the publication of everything I say." - Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)
  • "A translation cannot be perfect. It is difficult, almost impossible, to translate because there are no exact equivalents." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness (1999), p116.
  • "Understanding, in humans, is translated into concepts, thoughts, and words. Understanding is not an aggregate of bits of knowledge. It is a direct and immediate penetration. In the realm of sentiment, it is feeling. In the realm of intellect, it is perception. It is an intuition rather than the culmination of reasoning. Every now and again it is fully present in us, and we find we cannot express it in words, thoughts, or concepts. "Unable to describe it," that is our situation at such moments. Insights like this are spoken of in Buddhism as "impossible to reason about, to discuss, or to incorporate into doctrines or systems of thought." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun My Heart (1988), p51.
  • "All thoughts occur in a specific context. That’s the whole point: to see the specific context, not just the general thought. Our reaction to a person or thought will be different today than next week, depending on each situation. If you had a million dollars in the bank, you probably wouldn’t care whether you got that job or not. You’d sail in calmly and just enjoy the interview. All reality is specific, immediate. We can meet the same people and have one thought about them today, yet next week (depending on the changing personal situation) they’ll look different to us." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck writes in Nothing Special - Living Zen (1995), p178.
  • "Awareness means seeing the whole, perceiving the entire content and context of each moment. We can never grasp this entirely through thinking. But we can perceive it in its essence if we get beyond our thinking, to direct seeing, direct hearing, direct feeling." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p438.

Friday, 20 September 2013

CNBC News: Ommmm! How Silicon Valley values meditation

CNBC News online published an article and video interview in their technology section on 20th September 2013 titled: Ommmm! How Silicon Valley values meditation.

Here are some key quotes:
"Silicon Valley is well known for its lucrative employee perks, but now companies are offering meditation and mindfulness courses to employees and there's a long waiting list to attend. Google's "Search Inside Yourself" course has been taken by more than 1,000 employees and currently has more than 400 on the waiting list. It's designed to teach people to manage their emotions, which could ultimately make them more productive and creative thinkers.

The program was created by Chade-Meng Tan, who was employee #107 at Google. His official job title is "Jolly Good Fellow," which is a drastic change since his days at Google starting out as a software engineer.

He's also come out with a book, "Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (And World Peace)" which has been ranked a New York Times Best Seller.

[...]

"There are people who came to me that say they got promotions because they came to my class, people who say they feel a lot better physically mentally and emotionally and people whose marriage lives are improved." "

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Mindfulness and Traditional Western Philosophy Part 4: Romantics and Idealists

"The spirit of inquiry is fundamental to living mindfully. Inquiry is not just a way to solve problems. It is a way to make sure you are staying in touch with the basic mystery of life itself and of our presence here. Who am I? Where am I going? What does it mean to be? What does it mean to be a ... man, woman, child, parent; a student, a worker, a boss, an inmate; a homeless person? What is my karma? Where am I now? What is my way? What is my job on the planet with a capital J? Inquiry doesn't mean looking for answers, especially quick answers which come out of superficial thinking. It means asking without expecting answers, just pondering the question, carrying the wondering with you, letting it percolate, bubble, cook, ripen, come in and out of awareness, just as everything else comes in and out of awareness." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (1994), p.
Part 1 of this blog post series dealt with the most famous Pre-Socratic Western philosophers, Part 2 looked into the Socratic philosophers' main themes, and Part 3 concerned The Renaissance and The Enlightenment. This post will deal with the most prominent thinkers of the Romantic and Idealist movements.

A single quote closest to each philosopher's most radical and meaningful ideas has been used to represent their core value to history.


Men are devoured by our towns. In a few generations the race dies out or becomes degenerate; it needs renewal, and it is always renewed from the country. Send your children to renew themselves, so to speak, send them to regain in the open fields the strength lost in the foul air of our crowded cities. - Jean-Jacque Rousseau (1712-1778).
  • "Forests are delightful where other people do not because the one who is free from passion rejoices therein seeking no sensual pleasure." - The Buddha, Dharmapada Sutra (Narada Translation, 1959), Chapter 7, Verse 99.
  • "Bird-song drowns me in feeling.
    Back to my shack of straw to sleep.
    Cherry-branches burn with crimson flower,
    Willow-boughs delicately trail.
    Morning sun flares between blue peaks,
    Bright clouds soak in green ponds.
    Who guessed I’'d leave that dusty world,
    Climbing the south slope of Cold Mountain?" - Zen Hermit Hanshan (9th Century AD), Words From Cold Mountain: Twenty-Seven Poems by Han-Shan (Translated by A. S. Kline, 2006).
  • "Prince Siddhartha retired to the forest to sit beside a stream for many years before returning to the world of people. Today we live in noisy and polluted societies, filled with injustice, but we can take refuge in a public park or along a river bank for a moment." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun, My Heart (1988), p38-39.
  • "...when we seek calmness so many of us find it in nature. The natural world has no artifice. The tree outside the window, and the birds in it, stand only in the now, remnants of what was once pristine wilderness, which was and is, where it is still protected, timeless on the scale of the human. The natural world always defines now." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming To Our Senses (2006), p146.
  • "Our psychological well-being may depend on being able to find someplace in nature where we can go and just hear the sounds of the world itself, without the sounds of human activity, of airplanes, cars, and machines." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p413.


I have no knowledge of myself as I am, but merely as I appear to myself.- Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).
  • "If you seek direct understanding, don’t hold on to any appearance whatsoever, and you’ll succeed. I have no other advice. The sutras say, "All appearances are illusions." They have no fixed existence, o constant form. They’re impermanent. Don’t cling to appearances and you’ll be of one mind with the Buddha. The sutras say, "’That which is free of all form is the Buddha."" - The First Zen Patriarch Bodhidharma (early 5th century AD), Bloodstream Sermon.
  • Shakyamuni Buddha, in addressing His great assembly, once said, “When you see all material forms, which are provisional, as being part of That which goes beyond such appearances, you will then be seeing the Tathagata.” To see the forms of things and to see That which goes beyond such appearances is a realization experienced bodily, one which will free you from delusion. As a consequence, you will meet the Tathagata." - Japanese 'Soto Zen' Founder Master Eihei Dogen, Shobogenzo (Translated by Hubert Nearman, 2007), p703.
  • "If you see a flower only as a flower and don’t see the sunshine, clouds, earth, time, and space in it, you are caught in the sign of the flower. But when you have touched the nature of interbeing of the flower, you truly see the flower. If you see a person and don’t also see his society, education, ancestors, culture, and environment, you have not really seen that person. Instead, you have been taken in by the sign of that person, the outward appearance of a separate self. When you can see that person deeply, you touch the whole cosmos and you will not be fooled by appearances." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Understanding Our Mind (2001), p397.
  • "...language itself forces us to speak of a separate 'I' who has a body. We wind up sounding hopelessly dualistic. And yet, in a way there certainly is a separate I who "has" a body, or at least, there is a very strong appearance of that being the case and we have spoken of this as being the level of conventional reality, the relative, the level of appearances. In the domain of relative reality, there is the body and its sensations (object), and there is the perceiver of the sensations (subject). These appear separate and different." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming To Our Senses (2006), p383.


"The Absolute is Mind (Spirit) - this is the supreme definition of the Absolute." - Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831).
  • "Zen master Xiqian entered the hall and addressed the monks, saying, “[...] You should each recognize your miraculous mind. Its essence is apart from temporary or everlasting. Its nature is without pollution or purity. It is clear and perfect. Common people and sages are the same. [This mind] reaches everywhere without limit. It is not constrained by the limits of consciousness." - Zen's Chinese Heritage - The masters and their teachings (2000), p81.
  • "...the manifestation of the Spiritual Body is one’s giving voice to Buddha Nature, for It is unbounded radiance and It is absolute." - Japanese 'Soto Zen' Founder Master Eihei Dōgen (1200-1253),  Shobogenzo (Translated by Hubert Nearman, 2007), p262.
  • "Even though you observe just one flower, that one flower includes everything. It is not just a flower. It is the absolute, it is Buddha himself. We see it in that way. But at the same time, that which exists is just a flower, and there is no one to see it and nothing to be seen. That is the feeling we should have in our practice and in our everyday activity." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness (1999), p88-89.
  • "This is the absolute: call it God, Buddha-nature, whatever you wish. This experience, filtered through my particular human mechanism, makes my world. We cannot point to anything in the world, seemingly inside or outside ourselves, which is not experiencing. But we couldn’t have what we call a human life unless that experiencing were transformed into behavior." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen (1997), p90.
  • "When you have an experience of rotating in consciousness so that your world does all of a sudden feel bigger and more real, you are catching a glimpse of what Buddhists refer to as absolute or ultimate reality, a dimensionality that is beyond conditioning but that is capable of recognizing conditioning as it arises. It is awareness itself, the knowing capacity of mind itself, beyond a knower and what is known, just knowing." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming To Our Senses (2006), p350-351.

"Satisfaction is the positive element of life, which is freedom from pain." - Arthur Schopenhauer (1770-1831).
  • "When a man tastes the flavor of seclusion and the flavor of quietness, he is then free from anguish and stain, enjoying the taste of the Dharma." - The Buddha, Dharmapada Sutra (Narada Translation, 1959), Chapter 15, Verse 205.
  •  "Your real body has no sensation, no hunger or thirst’, no warmth or cold, no sickness, no love or attachment, no pleasure or pain, no good or bad, no shortness or length, no weakness or strength. Actually, there’s nothing here. It’s only because you cling to this material body that things like hunger and thirst, warmth and cold, sickness appear. Once you stop clinging and let things be, you’ll- be free, even of birth and death. You’ll transform everything. You’ll possess Spiritual powers " that cant be obstructed. And you’ll be at peace wherever you are." - The First Zen Patriarch Bodhidharma (early 5th century AD), Bloodstream Sermon.
  • "We learn in our guts, not just in our brain, that a life of joy is not in seeking happiness, but in experiencing and simply being the circumstances of our life as they are; not in fulfilling personal wants, but in fulfilling the needs of life; not in avoiding pain, but in being pain when it is necessary to do so." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen (1997), p44-45.
  • "Freedom is closely connected with our relationship to pain and suffering. I’d like to draw a distinction between pain and suffering. Pain comes from experiencing life just as it is, with no trimmings. We can even call this direct experiencing joy. But when we try to run away and escape from our experience of pain, we suffer. Because of the fear of pain we all build up an ego structure to shield us, and so we suffer. Freedom is the willingness to risk being vulnerable to life; it is the experience of whatever arises in each moment, painful or pleasant. This requires total commitment to our lives. When we are able to give ourselves totally, with nothing held back and no thought of escaping the experience of the present moment, there is no suffering. When we completely experience our pain, it is joy." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen (1997), p191.
  • "...it is not always the pain per se but the way we see it and react to it that determines the degree of suffering we will experience. And it is the suffering that we fear most, not the pain." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p285-286.

"Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced."  - Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855).
  • "Examination, in the sense of awareness, does not mean analysis. It only means continuous recognition. Thinking requires strenuous mental work, and makes us tired. This is not the case while resting in awareness or "recognizing." We have a tendency to think that meditation demands a great mobilization of "gray matter," but that is really not the case. A meditator is
    not a thinker; a meditator does not do mental labor. On the contrary, meditation rests the mind." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun My Heart (1988), p27.
  • "Most people live in delusion, involved in their problem, trying to solve their problem. But just to live is actually to live in problems. And to solve the problem is to be a part of it, to be one with it." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1995), p82.
  • "I keep returning to the direct experience in my body of the truth of this matter. I just sit with the tension and contraction, breathing through it. And in doing this I get more in touch with who I am and the decision begins to be clear. If I feel completely muddled it isn’t that there’s a problem that I have to find some way to solve; I just don’t know who I am in connection with that problem." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen (1997), p182.
  • "...you do not have to solve any of your problems in order to get started. All that you really need to do is to start practicing and start paying more careful attention from moment to moment during your day. With time, movement toward self-regulation happens naturally." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p313.
  • "Mindfulness does not negate the brain’s natural desire to solve problems. It simply gives us the time and space to choose the best ways of solving them. Some problems are best dealt with emotionally – we select the solution that ‘feels’ best. Others need to be slogged through logically. Many are best dealt with intuitively, creatively. Some are best left alone for now."
    - Professor Mark Williams, Mindfulness: A practical guide to peace in a frantic world (2011), p12.


"Religion is the opium of the masses." - Karl Marx (1818-1883).
  • "I do not call him a holy man because of his lineage or his high-born mother. If he is full of impeding attachments, he is just a supercilious man. But who is free from impediments and clinging - him do I call a holy man." - The Buddha (~ 5th Century BC), Dhammapada (Translated by Acharya Buddharakkhita, 1985), Chapter 26, Verse 396.
  • "It has been said that, according to the understanding of non-Buddhists, the self that has not yet sprouted up [the soul] is taken to be what is fundamental. According to the Buddha’s Teaching, it will not be like this. [...] If you are confused about what thoughts and things are, you will become confused as to what the true appearance of thoughts and things are. If you are confused about their true appearance, you will be confused about what the saying ‘each Buddha on His own, together with all Buddhas’ is pointing to." - Japanese 'Soto Zen' Founder Master Eihei Dogen, Shobogenzo (Translated by Hubert Nearman, 2007), p788.
  • "Because you believe in a self, you compare that self with other selves. Out of it come the superiority complex, the inferiority complex, the equality complex. If you touch the truth of non-self in you, you are free." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, MindfulnessBell.org: Question and Answer Session with Thich Nhat Hanh and Monastic Brothers and Sisters, European Institute of Applied Buddhism Waldbrol, Germany, May 20, 2011.
  • "Through practice we wear out the fantasies we have about running out the door to something somewhere else. We put most of our effort into maintaining and protecting the ego structure created out of the ignorant view that “I” exists separately from the rest of life. We have to become aware of this structure and see how it works because — even though it is artificial and not our true nature — unless we understand it, we will continue to act out of fear and arrogance. By arrogance I mean the feeling of being special, of not being ordinary." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen (1997), p191.
  • "..the great delusion of separateness that we indulge in, coupled with our deeply conditioned habits of mind, the scars we carry, and our general level of unawareness, can result in particularly toxic and disregulating consequences for both our body and our mind." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p231.
  • "...there will come a time when our bodies will grow old and die, whether we’re ready for it or not. This can mean we end up ignoring or mistreating our bodies. We might not treat them as enemies, but we certainly don’t care for them as we would a friend. The body becomes something of a stranger. We tune out the messages it sends to us, creating more distress than we could ever imagine. For if mind and body are one, then to treat the body as somehow separate from us is to perpetuate a profound sense of dislocation, right at the heart of our being. If there is one thing that we need to learn in order to bring peace and ‘ease of being’ into our lives in the midst of a frantic world, it is how to ‘come home’ to this part of ourselves that we have ignored for too long." - Professor Mark Williams, Mindfulness: A practical guide to peace in a frantic world (2011), p93.

"That which does not kill us makes us stronger." - Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900).
  • "When we take hold of our afflictions and use them as compost, the flowers of joy, peace, liberation, and happiness will grow. We must accept what is here and now, including our suffering and our delusion. Accepting our suffering and delusion already brings us some peace and joy. This is the beginning of practice." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Understanding Our Mind (2001), p331-332.
  • "We say, "Pulling out the weeds we give nourishment to the plant." We pull the weeds and bury them near the plant to give it nourishment. So even though you have some difficulty in your practice, even though you have some waves while you are sitting, those waves themselves will help you. So you should not be bothered by your mind. You should rather be grateful for the weeds, because eventually they will enrich your practice." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1995), p36.
  • "...what really is, at a Zen sesshin, is often fatigue, boredom, and pain in our legs. What we learn from having to sit quietly with that discomfort is so valuable that if it didn’t exist, it should. When you’re in pain, you can’t spin off. You have to stay with it. There’s no place to go. So pain is really valuable." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen (1997), p11.
  • "...the mindfulness approach ...involves, above all, a willingness to open up to pain and learn from it instead of closing off from it and trying to make it go away." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p290-291.
  • "...paradoxically, even though mindfulness practices are very effective at alleviating suffering, they require that we be willing to experience pain more vividly. It’s the same way that it hurts to clean out an infected wound, even though this allows the wound to heal and ultimately leaves us feeling better. In both situations, we need faith and courage to move forward, trusting that our overall well-being is worth enduring short-term discomfort." -  Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, Ronald D. Siegel, The Mindfulness Solution (2010), p98

Monday, 9 September 2013

Mindfulness and Traditional Western Philosophy Part 3: Renaissance and The Enlightenment

Part 1 looked at the relationship between mindfulness teachings and some of the main themes in the philosophies of some of the most prominent ancient Pre-Socratic Greek philosophers. Part 2 looked at the main themes of the Socratic philosophers of the Ancient Greek period, and this post moves on 1500 years to the Renaissance and The Enlightenment. It appears a lot of Western philosophical exploration was stifled by the dominance of state religions until that period.

Presented here are eight key quotes from the most famous philosophers of the Renaissance and Enlighenment period with accompanying quotes from the Eastern and secular Western mindfulness traditions to illustrate that the same ideas or phenomena were investigated and recognised.


"The simplest answer is the best answer." - William of Ockham (1288-1348).
  • "The most important thing is to express your true nature in the simplest, most adequate way and to appreciate it in the smallest existence." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1995), p48.
  • "Our practice is simple: mindfulness in our daily life. We practice the meditation techniques of stopping and looking deeply. We do this to keep from being pulled along in many directions." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Understanding Our Mind (2001), p383.
  • "Awareness is completely simple; we don’t have to add anything to it or change it. It is unassuming or unpretentious; it can’t help but be that way. Awareness is not a thing, to be affected by this or that. When we live from pure awareness, we are not affected by our past, our present, or our future. Because awareness has nothing it can pretend to, it’s humble. It is lowly. Simple. Practice is about developing or uncovering a simple mind." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck writes in Nothing Special - Living Zen (1995), p255. 
  • "The knowing is skylike, airlike. Like space, it is everywhere, boundless. It is nothing other than  awareness itself. Pure. Utterly simple. It is also utterly mysterious for it is not something that I am creating but rather a quality not separate from being..." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming To Our Senses (2006), p207.

Man... can do and understand so much and so much only as he has observed in fact or in thought of the course of nature. Beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything. - Francis Bacon (1561-1626).
  • "Our faith is always based on empirical evidence. We do not believe it just because it has been repeated many times by others." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Fidelity: How to Create a Loving Relationship That Lasts (2011), p98.
  • "...the fundamental attitude of Buddhism is intensely empirical and antiauthoritarian. Gotama the Buddha was a highly unorthodox individual and a real antitraditionalist. He did not offer his teaching as a set of dogmas, but rather as a set of propositions for each individual to investigate for him- or herself." - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulnessin Plain English (2011), p28.
  • "...what must be increased is the ability to observe. What we observe is always secondary. [...]  As the ability grows first to observe, and second to experience, two factors simultaneously increase: wisdom, the ability to see life as it is (not the way I want it to be) and compassion, the natural action which comes from seeing life as it is." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen (1997), p51-52.
  • "In some ways it is appropriate to characterize dharma as resembling scientific knowledge, ever growing, ever changing, yet with a core body of methods, observations, and natural laws distilled from thousands of years of inner exploration through highly disciplined self-observation and self-inquiry, a careful and precise recording and mapping of experiences encountered in investigating the nature of the mind, and direct empirical testing and confirming of the results." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming To Our Senses (2006), p136.

“I think, therefore I am.” - René Descartes (1596-1650).
  • "...the Buddha showed that this “I” does not exist: you cannot find it anywhere. This “I” appears only through thinking. Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am.” When you completely cut off all thinking, where is this “I”? [...] ...every thought that appears in our mind is conditioned or formed by other thoughts. What we believe is “I” is just the coming together of various habit energies. There is no concrete, unmoving “I” behind it all. Thoughts are always appearing and disappearing through the constant interplay of the five skandhas. What we think is our self is just a collection of thoughts, feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousnesses that are constantly revolving around and around and around." - Korean Zen teacher Seung Sahn (1927-2004), The Compass of Zen (1997), p47.
  • "As long as mind and body are not together, we get lost and we cannot really say that we are here. [...] Thinking has two parts — initial thought (vitarka) and developing thought (vichara). [...] In the first stage of meditative concentration (dhyana), both kinds of thinking are present. In the second stage, neither is there. We are in deeper contact with reality, free of words and concepts." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Buddha's Teaching (2008), p59.
  • "As far as thoughts themselves are concerned, through mindfulness we can cultivate a new and very different relationship to them, allowing thoughts simply to be here instead of analyzing them, trying to work out where they came from, or trying to get rid of them in any way. In awareness, we see them immediately for what they actually are: constructions, mysterious creations of the mind, mental events that may or may not accurately reflect reality. We come to realize that our thoughts are not facts. Nor are they really "mine" or "me."" - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, The Mindful Way Through Depression (2007), p164.
  • "You will gradually come to learn that your thoughts are not you – you do not have to take them so personally. You can simply watch these states of mind as they arise, stay a while, and then dissolve. It’s tremendously liberating to realise that your thoughts are not ‘real’ or ‘reality’. They are simply mental events. They are not ‘you’." - Professor Mark Williams, Mindfulness: A practical guide to peace in a frantic world (2011), p64.


"Nothing comes to pass in nature, which can be set down to a flaw therein; for nature is always the same, and everywhere one and the same in her efficacy and power of action...." - Baruch Spinoza (1632 - 1677).
  • "Zen master Xiqian entered the hall and addressed the monks, saying, “[...] You should each recognize your miraculous mind. Its essence is apart from temporary or everlasting. Its nature is without pollution or purity. It is clear and perfect. Common people and sages are the same. [This mind] reaches everywhere without limit. It is not constrained by the limits of consciousness."- Zen's Chinese Heritage - The masters and their teachings (2000), p81.
  •  "When your whole being exists, your whole being has no impediments: it is perfect in its completeness and is everturning, like the rumbling on of cart wheels." - Japanese 'Soto Zen' Founder Master Eihei Dogen, Shobogenzo (Translated by Hubert Nearman, 2007), p40.
  • "When reality is experienced in its nature of ultimate perfection, an almond tree that may be in your front yard reveals its nature in perfect wholeness. The almond tree is itself truth, reality, your own self." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness (1987), p58. 
  • "We aren't practicing to make things perfect or to do things perfectly. Rather, we practice to grasp and realize (make real for ourselves) the fact that things already are perfect, perfectly what they are. This has everything to do with holding the present moment in its fullness without imposing anything extra on it, perceiving its purity and the freshness of its potential to give rise to the next moment." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (1994), p45.

"...being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions..." - John Locke (1632-1704).
  • "Being compassionate is a gate to what the Dharma illumines, for thereby we do not kill or harm any living being. Being morally good is a gate to what the Dharma illumines, for thereby we rid ourselves of all that is not morally good." - Gomyō Bodhisattva, Scriptural Collection of the Past Deeds of the Buddha, after Japanese 'Soto Zen' Founder Master Eihei Dōgen (1200-1253), Shobogenzo (Translated by Hubert Nearman, 2007), p40.
  • "If men and women are the same, then the distinctions between men and women have no value. Because men and women are different, men are valuable as men and women are valuable as women. To be different is to have value. In this sense all things have equal, absolute value. Each thing has absolute value and thus is equal to everything else." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness (1999), p41.
  • "The two hands work together effortlessly to accomplish many wonderful things and they never harm each other. Could this become true for any two human beings?" - Jan Chozan Bays, How to Train A Wild Elephant: And Other Adventures in Mindfulnes (2011), p32.
  • "Why not try to live so as to cause as little damage and suffering as possible? If we lived that way, we wouldn't have the insane levels of violence that dominate our lives and our thinking today. [...] The willingness to harm or hurt comes ultimately out of fear. Non-harming requires that you see your own fears and that you understand them and own them. Owning them means taking responsibility for them. Taking responsibility means not letting fear completely dictate your vision or your view. Only mindfulness of our own clinging and rejecting, and a willingness to grapple with these mind states, however painful the encounter, can free us from this circle of suffering. Without a daily embodiment in practice, lofty ideals tend to succumb to self-interest." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (2004), p217.


"...besides the principle of the change, there must be a particular series of changes, which constitutes, so to speak, the specific nature and variety of the simple substances." - Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716).
  • "The Buddha once said in verse:
    Merely of various elements is this body of Mine composed.
    The time of its arising is merely an arising of elements;
    The time of its vanishing is merely a vanishing of elements.
    As these elements arise, I do not speak of the arising of an ‘I’,
    And as these elements vanish, I do not speak of the vanishing of an ‘I’.
    Previous instants and succeeding instants are not a series of instants that depend on each other;
    Previous elements and succeeding elements are not a series of elements that stand against each other.
    To give all of this a name, I call it ‘the meditative state that bears the seal of the Ocean’.

    We need to make a diligent effort to fully explore these words of the Buddha." - Japanese 'Soto Zen' Founder Master Eihei Dōgen (1200-1253),  Shobogenzo (Translated by Hubert Nearman, 2007), p436.
  • "Meditate on the sun in every cell of your body. Meditate to see the sun in plants, in each nourishing morsel of the vegetables you eat. Gradually you will see "the body of ultimate reality" (Dharmakaya) and recognize your own "true nature."" - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun My Heart (1988), p99.
  • "The cosmos is beginningless, and in its movement from phase to phase it is governed only by the impersonal, implacable law of arising, change, and passing away." - Bikkhu Bodhi,  Dhammapada: Introduction, p19.
  • "Everything is related to everything else and, in a way, simultaneously contains everything else and is contained by everything else. What is more, everything is in flux. Stars are born, go through stages, and die. Planets also have a rhythm of formation and ultimate demise. New cars are already on their way to the junk heap even before they leave the factory. This awareness might truly enhance our appreciation of impermanence..." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (2004), p214.


"...whether you wear green robes, turbans, black robes or surplices, cloaks and neckbands, never seek to use authority where there is question only of reason." - Voltaire (1694-1778).
  • "Even though you try to put people under some control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in its wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good; that is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1995), p32.
  • "Free from attachment to wrong views and prejudices, you are filled with tolerance. The door of your compassion is wide open, and you also suffer the sufferings of all living beings. As a result, you do whatever you can to relieve these sufferings." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun My Heart (1988), p121.
  • "Cambodians, Bosnians, Palestinians, Israelis, Tibetans, all of us suffer from injustice and intolerance. Instead of being brothers and sisters to each other, we aim guns at each other. When we are overtaken by anger, we think that the only response is to punish the other person. The fire of anger continues to burn in us, and it continues to burn our brothers and sisters. This is the situation of the world, and it is why deep looking is needed to help us understand that all of us are victims." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Buddha's Teaching (2008).
  • "When we feel that our interests or our social status is threatened, we are capable of reacting unconsciously to protect or defend our position before we know what we are doing. Usually this behavior compounds our problems by increasing the level of conflict. [...] But since we also have the ability to reflect, think, and be aware, we have a range of other options available to us that go well beyond our most unconscious and deeply ingrained instincts. But we need purposefully to cultivate these options. They don't just magically surface, especially if our mode of interpersonal relating has been dominated by automatically defensive or aggressive behavior that we have not really bothered to look at. Again, it is a matter of choosing a response rather than being carried away by a reaction."  - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p369.


"For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception. When my perceptions are remov’d for any time, as by sound sleep; so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist." - David Hume (1711-1776).
  • "The reality of your own self-nature the absence of cause and effect, is what’s meant by mind. Your mind is nirvana. You might think you can find a Buddha or enlightenment somewhere beyond the mind, but such a place doesn’t exist." - The First Zen Patriarch Bodhidharma (early 5th century AD), Bloodstream Sermon.
  • "If you are impermanent, you do not exist. What you are composed of is always changing and moving, nonstop—there is no thing that permanently “exists.”" - Korean Zen teacher Seung Sahn (1927-2004), The Compass of Zen (1996), p125.
  • "I am here because you are there. If anyone of us does not exist, no one else can exist either. Reality cannot be confined by concepts of being, non-being, birth, and death. The term "true emptiness" can be used to describe reality and to destroy all ideas which imprison and divide us and which artificially create a reality. Without a mind free from preconceived ideas, we cannot penetrate reality." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun My Heart (1988), p94.
  • "The list of complex cellular processes and their seamless integration into a society we call the living organism is a long one... [...] ... and that process, when you look deeply into it, is also somehow empty of any fixed, enduring selfhood. There is no "us," no "somebody" in it that can be identified, no matter how hard we look. [...] It is a mystery, as is every other phenomenon that emerges through our senses, including our mind and our sense of being a separate existing self. Our senses build a world for us and situate us within it. This constructed world usually has a high degree of coherence and a strong sense of there being a perceiver and whatever is being perceived, a thinker and whatever is being thought, a feeler and whatever is being felt. It is all impersonal process, and if there can be said to be a product, it is nowhere to be found in the parts themselves." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming To Our Senses (2006), p177-178.