Thursday, 2 August 2012


“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” - Jim Rohn, Motivational Speaker.
"Researchers have found that just one hour of meditation training can reduce immediate pain by nearly half and have a long lasting effect. The technique appears to work as it calms down pain experiencing areas of the brain while at the same time boosting coping areas". - Meditation stronger than drugs for pain relief
" human beings, we persist in trying to do that which cannot be done: avoiding all pain. “I will plan. I will find the best way. I’ll find out what to do so I can survive and be safe.” We try to transform reality with our thinking so that it can’t get near us, not ever." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special - Living Zen (1995), p228.
It seems the core practice for a healthier, more stress-free life is that of accepting necessary painful experiences. It appears one can easily get lost in anger or desire as a result of not accepting the present moment. The stress of a delayed bus or interacting with a grumpy colleague can cause one to indulge in an inflated ego, numbing intoxication, or fantasising about a rewarding future event. These indulgences can easily open nagging appetites and produce bad habits, which in turn can often bring unhealthy consequences.

Some of the necessary pain humans must experience during life - childbirth, death of loved ones, sickness.
Accepting necessary pain can be difficult because it means we must be OK with it - experience it as a normal part of life, and yet there has not been any traditional way to do this in the West in recent times beyond drowning our sorrows, 'keeping a stiff upper lip', or trying to control the things which bring necessary painful experiences. All of these approaches seem to cause problems for our bodies, relatives, or for broader society in general.

A common traditional Western method of escaping pain.
Mindfulness meditation - placing a continued, relaxed yet aware focus on the reflexive breathing process seems to help one accept the inevitable and unavoidable painful experiences life brings - whether boredom, disappointment or injury. A focus on the breath allows negative psychological propaganda to drift away, calms the nervous system, and brings attention to what is happening right now.

The more one practices, the more accepting one can become. I believe I have felt this in my own life as my own personal mindfulness meditation practice has waxed and waned over the years - the muddy waters clearing the more I practice, and clouding up again when I become distracted and undisciplined.

Lillypads photographed from beneath the water.
The next key factor for me to work on has become the discipline - the discipline of practicing remaining in mindful, awake stillness for at least 45 minutes every day - practicing accepting every moment. Daily discipline, I find, is now the most difficult part of this path, and yet at times, and as time goes on, it becomes effortless when I consider alternative scenarios.

The Chinese seem to have a cultural perspective on daily discipline - deeply integrating contemplative  practices into their lives, so I am often encouraged by those I meet and discuss my activities with. This is because I presently make a living as a teacher, and spend time as a student of various traditional Chinese arts, here in the city of Beijing, China.

All the arts I am studying and practicing have a deep, often very ancient, root in mindful, meditative activity, and so I hope to share my experiences exploring these various disciplines on this blog, as well as sharing and reflecting upon my personal seated 'zen' secular meditation practice along the way and how it integrates into a modern Western lifestyle.

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