Insights from Alan Watt’s book, What Is Zen?

I was pulled into Alan Watt’s What Is Zen? book this week. Like really pulled into it. Into the present moment, as Zen does.

This book reminded me to take life one step at a time rather than multitask as I sometimes try to do. The multitasking usually only leads to unfocused thinking and un-productivity. Can you relate?

Anyway, the term Zen translates to “meditation”. And although I don’t always practice meditation, I find that when I do, my life improves.

Maybe it is for you, and maybe it’s not. If you’re interested in learning about Zen, I highly recommend Watt’s What Is Zen? Here are only a handful of insights from the book.

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“Zen cannot really be taught, but it can be transmitted through sessions of contemplation or meditation, called zazen, and through dialogues between student and teacher, called sanzen. In the dialogues between the student and Zen master the student comes squarely up against the obstacles to his or her understanding and, without making the answer obvious, the master points a finger toward the way.”

“Many hold Zen to be at one with the root of all religions, for it is a way of liberation that centers around the things that are basic to all mysticism: awakening to the unity or oneness of life, and the inward — as opposed to outward — existence of God. In this context the word God can be misleading because, as will be seen, the idea of a deity in the Western religious sense is foreign to Zen.”

“When Buddhism first came to China it was most natural for the Chinese to speak about it in terms of Taoist philosophy, because they both share a view of life as a flowing process in which the mind and consciousness of man is inextricably involved.”

“It is not as if there is a fixed screen of consciousness over which our experience flows and leaves a record. It is that the field of consciousness itself is part of the flowing process, and therefore the mind of man is not a separate entity observing the process from outside, but is integrally involved with it.”

“The practice of Zen is to experience the overall pattern directly, and to know one’s self as the essence of the pattern.”

“Zen is really extraordinarily simple as long as one doesn’t try to be cute about it or beat around the bush! Zen is simply the sensation and the clear understanding that, to put it in Zen terms, there are “ten thousand formations;  one suchness.” Or you might say, “The ten thousand things that are everything are of one suchness.” That is to say that there is behind the multiplicity of events and creatures in this universe simply one energy — and it appears as you, and everything is it.”

“The practice of Zen is to understand that one energy so as to ‘feel it in your bones.’ Yet Zen has nothing to say about what that energy is, and of course this gives the impression in the minds of Westerners that it is a kind of “blind energy.” We assume this because the only other alternative that we can imagine in terms of our traditions is that it must be something like God — some sort of cosmic ego, an almost personal intelligent being. But in the Buddhist view, that would be as far off the mark as thinking of it as blind energy. The reason they use the word “suchness” is to leave the whole question open, and absolutely free from definition. It is “such.” It is what it is.”

“That is why Zen has been called the “religion of no religion.” You don’t need, as it were, to cling to yourself. Faith in yourself is not “holding on” to your-self, but letting go.”

“Then what follows from that is the question, “How does a person who feels that way live in this world? What do you do about other people who don’t see that that’s so? What do you do about conducting yourself in this world?” This is the difficult part of Zen training. There is at first the breakthrough — which involves certain difficulties — but thereafter follows the whole process of learning compassion and tact and skill. As Jesus put it, it is “to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves” — and that is really what takes most of the time.”

“In each culture, it is quite definitely the same experience (the “spiritual experience”), and it is characterized by the transcendence of individuality and by a sensation of being one with the total energy of the universe.”

“I remember a dinner once with Hasegawa, when somebody asked him, ‘How long does it take to obtain our understanding of Zen?’ He said, ‘It may take you three minutes; it may take you thirty years.’ And, he said, ‘I mean that.’”

“There are two sides to this question, and it strikes me in this way: It’s not a matter of time at all. The people who think it ought to take a long time are of one school of thought, and the people who want it quickly are of another, and they are both wrong. The transformation of consciousness is not a question of how much time you put into it, as if it were all added up on some sort of quantitative scale, and you got rewarded according to the amount of effort you put into it. Nor is there a way of avoiding the effort just because you happen to be lazy, or because you say, “I want it now!” The point is, rather, something like this: If you try to get it either by an instant method because you are lazy or by a long-term method because you are rigorous, you’ll discover that you can’t get it either way. The only thing that your effort — or absence of effort — can teach you is that your effort doesn’t work.”

“And so, one of the essentials of Zen training is, to quote a certain parrot from Huxley’s Island, “Here and now, boys!” Be here. And in order to be here, you can’t be looking for a result!”

“To sit in zazen in order to perfect a technique for attaining enlightenment, however, is fundamentally a mistaken approach. Sit just to sit. And why not sit? You have to sit sometime, and so you may as well really sit, and be altogether here. Otherwise the mind wanders away from the matter at hand, and away from the present.”

“People have difficulties with these simple forms of meditation. Thoughts and feelings come up: ‘Is it only this? Is this all there is? Nothing seems to be happening. What’s going on? I feel a little frustrated, and I don’t particularly feel enlightened. There’s just nothing ‘special’ about this at all. Do I have to do this longer in order for something to happen?’
But nothing special is supposed to happen. 
It’s just this. This is it, right here.”

27 Empowering Quotes from Don Jose Ruiz’s Wisdom of the Shamans

1) Are there any areas of your life where you want to inflict your own beliefs on others? Do you try and control others? For instance, do you think the path of the shaman is the way for everyone? It isn’t. Other people are on their own paths and moving through life in their own time and at their own pace. 

2) One of the hallmarks of a shaman is that rather than adopting the beliefs of others, the shaman looks inside herself for the answers that are already there.

3) The shaman follows her own path, not one that was laid out by others. 

4) The story of our initiation also demonstrates how some shamans can commune with nature in a way that cannot be explained.

5) Despite the great interest in these miraculous occurrences, my father has never let these phenomena distract from the primary message of shamanism and his teachings: find your own personal freedom, heal yourself from the addiction to suffering, be of service to others. 

6) A power object, or what could also be called a totem, is a sacred object or symbol that a shaman forms a relationship with, which enables her to call upon the power of whatever the object represents. 

7) Animals live in complete awareness of the present moment without mitote or the parasite, and therefore they have direct access to silent wisdom. 

8) As I have been driving home throughout this book, the path of the shaman is about following your own truth, and yours will be different from mine. 

9) Am I honoring my own personal truth, or am I trying to live up to someone else’s ideals? 

10) For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, self-domestication occurs when you take the beliefs of others and punish or otherwise coerce yourself into following them, even when they go against your own personal truth. With self-domestication, you no longer need the domesticator to be in your life, as you have taken over that role. 

11) Finally, when he looked deep within himself and admitted his own personal truth, a massive weight lifted from his shoulders. All the internal struggle of trying to be something that he wasn’t disappeared. 

12) I don’t know if my grandmother knew any of these similar stories, but I do know that she was clear about one thing, and that is that God, the Great Spirit, the nagual, or whatever word you use to describe the Divine, resides in all of us.

13) While we can’t do anything to change the dream of others, our own dream is entirely within our power.

14) For instance, how do you treat people who don’t share your political or spiritual beliefs or other viewpoints you consider important? Do you try and subjugate them to your own perspective? Do you try to domesticate them to your way of thinking? By attempting to domesticate others, we feed our own addiction to suffering. 

15) One practice to reverse this within yourself is to consciously focus on the divinity in the human sitting in front of you, respecting their choices and point of view, and acting toward them from a place of love. 

16) If you want to have a sacred interaction with another, the first step is to really listen to them.

17) Listen without judging; listen without thinking about what you will say next. Just listen. By doing so, you will find out what this person’s message is for you and experience the sacredness of that connection in the process. 

18) …After many years, on the anniversary of his death, the woman began to make her customary pilgrimage, but this time, when she reached the top there was a great shaman sitting next to the waterfall. The shaman said to her, “It is wonderful to honor the dead, but who is it that you are honoring?” 
The young woman was confused. 
The shaman continued, “If you want to honor the dead, you honor the wrong person. Look in the mirror. It is you who are dead. You aren’t allowing yourself to go on with your life. Anyone who lives chained to the past lives in fear and grief. Regret isn’t living; it is dying.” 

19) During the Day of the Dead, we imagine a loved one coming from beyond the grave. They see how you are suffering, and they tell you, “Hey, you are alive! You are not dead, you are alive! C’mon, wake up and celebrate life! Stop being dead.” 

20) So often we search for our own personal freedom with such diligence and seriousness that we forget that the shamanic path is also about having fun.We can get so devoted to our inner and outer work that we forget that a strong belly laugh is one of the best cures for the mind’s addiction to suffering. 

21) Enjoying life and doing things for no other reason than to have fun is a part of maintaining balance.

22) In shamanism, celebrating life means having an open and grateful heart for all that life brings us. This open heart is what allows you to see beyond what the mind typically labels as “good” or “evil,” enough or not enough, even happy and sad. When you reside in the nagual that exists in all things, you find that you are able to keep your heart open even in the face of terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or any other nightmare in the Dream of the Planet.

23) The alternative is to let these situations draw you back into the addiction of suffering, and that’s how the cycle of negativity continues. 

24) Celebrating life doesn’t mean you won’t experience the normal human emotions of sadness and grief. One of the beautiful things about being human is that we can have multiple emotions, positive and negative, at the same time. It means you feel those emotions without fighting them, without turning them into the emotional poisons of anger, a desire for revenge, or hatred. Embracing tragedies with an open heart is one of the most difficult practices to undertake. It takes great courage even to attempt to live in this way. 

25) So often we hold on to those old ideas of vice and virtue, enough or not enough. This is one of the things that cause us to live as though we were dead. In order to celebrate our perfection, we must give up the idea that we are a project waiting to be fixed or a goal that needs to be obtained. You are not damaged goods. You are perfect just as you are. 

26) There is nothing wrong with you, and this includes when you are in suffering or creating suffering. Suffering does not mean that you are in any way deficient or not enough or incapable.

27) Here is what is important to remember, a message directly from my heart to yours, truth to truth: You are perfect, my friend, exactly as you are. Celebrate it! 

Tony Robbins Free Resources

Tony Robbins knows how to bring out the best in people.

He’s been a huge source of motivation throughout my life and continues to inspire.

Two of my favorite books come from Tony — Awaken The Giant Within and Unlimited Power. He also inspired me to share his message on six human needs and why we all do what we do, here.

Tony offers a range of free resources to awaken the giant within you, inspiring action toward a more self-empowered life, as they have done for me. Find them on his site here.

“We can change our lives.
We can do, have, and be exactly what we wish.”
– Tony Robbins

A Herd of Cows Parable

A man had a herd of 250 cows and took great care looking after their welfare.

One day, however, a tiger ate one of them—and when the man noticed this, he thought, “I’ve lost one of my cows, and my herd is incomplete. What’s the point of having all these other cows?” And with that, the man drove all the cows off a cliff and to their death.

He is like a person who, after breaking just one precept of righteousness, thinks, “I’ve broken one, so I might as well abandon them all.”

5 20th Century Books That Can Transform Your Mind

1–T.N.T. IT ROCKS THE EARTH by Claude Bristol

“Compare yourself to the gears of your automobile. In reverse place all fears, worries, troubles, aches, and pains. And when things goes wrong simply put on the brakes. Idle your engine until you can clearly see the road ahead.”

2–As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

“All that a man achieves, and all that he fails to achieve, is the direct result of his own thoughts.”

3–Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

“Set your mind on a definite goal and observe how quickly the world stands aside to let you pass.” 

4–The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

“The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.” 

5–The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz

“Look at things not as they are, but as they can be. Visualization adds value to everything. A big thinker always visualizes what can be done in the future. He isn’t stuck with the present.” 

Change Your Life By Changing Your Thoughts

You have the power to change your life by changing your thinking.

Is it easy? 

No, here’s Goethe:

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

It may be one of the most difficult things to do, but it can be done. 

Da Vinci, Einstein, Buddha, Jesus, Shakespeare, Bruce Lee, and countless others have spoken on this truth.

You have the power, but it requires responsibility: 

“You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think.”
― Marianne Williamson

You may have heard “with great power comes great responsibility” but looking at the state of the world we can all see this isn’t true. 

What’s true is that great responsibility leads to great power, which begins with taking responsibility for your thoughts. Da Vinci defined this truth as “Science”.

Your world won’t change until you change your thinking.

How?

Begin by thinking about your ideal life.
What does it look like?
What’s your financial situation?
How are your relationships?
What’s your living situation like?
How is your health?

Visualizing your ideal life plants seeds into your subconscious mind, which when repeated begins to manifest in the physical world.

When a thought arises that doesn’t have to do with your ideal life, change it. This is humankind’s superpower, “giving birth to evolution” Einstein said.

Disciplining your thoughts is a practice. The more you work on it, the stronger your mind becomes, the more in control of your life you become.

The path of your best life awaits you, what are you waiting for?

Get to it.

29 Power of Your Subconscious Mind Quotes from Joseph Murphy

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1— Identify yourself with your aim in life, and do not permit any person, place, or thing to deflect you from your inner sense of peace, tranquility, and radiant health.” 

2— “Do not let others do your thinking for you. Choose your own thoughts and make your own decisions.”

3—“Your mental attitude, i.e., the way you think, feel, and believe determines your destiny.”

4— “Every cell, nerve, tissue, and muscle of my lungs are now being made whole, pure, and perfect. My whole body is being restored to health and harmony.”

5— “The suggestions of others in themselves have absolutely no power whatever over you except the power that you give them through your own thoughts. You have to give your mental consent; you have to entertain the thought. Then, it becomes your thought, and you do the thinking. Remember, you have the capacity to choose. Choose life! Choose love! Choose health!”

6— “Once you understand that you do not have to accept them, choices open up for you.”

7—“Choose to believe that something good can happen and is happening now. Your greatest power is your capacity to choose. Choose happiness and abundance.”

8—“Busy your mind with the concepts of harmony, health, peace, and good will, and wonders will happen in your life.”

9—“Never finish a negative statement; reverse it immediately, and wonders will happen in your life.”

10—“The way to get rid of darkness is with light; the way to overcome cold is with heat; the way to overcome the negative thought is to substitute the good thought. Affirm the good, and the bad will vanish.”

11—“As you sow in your subconscious mind, so shall you reap in your body and environment.”

He brings up Bible verses: 

12—“Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. MARK 11:23.”

13—“Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. MATT. 21:22”

14—“You must choose happiness. Happiness is a habit. It is a good habit to ponder often on Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report..”

15— “All of us have our own inner fears, beliefs, opinions. These inner assumptions rule and govern our lives. A suggestion has no power in and of itself. Its power arises from the fact that you accept it mentally.”

16— “Every thought is a cause, and every condition is an effect.”

17— “You grow old when you lose interest in life, when you cease to dream, to hunger after new truths, and to search for new worlds to conquer. When your mind is open to new ideas, new interests, and when you raise the curtain and let in the sunshine and inspiration of new truths of life and the universe, you will be young and vital.”

18— “The American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, said, ‘Man is what he thinks all day long.’”

19— “As a man thinks, feels, and believes, so is the condition of his mind, body, and circumstances.”

20— “The process of all healing is a definite, positive, mental attitude, an inner attitude, or a way of thinking, called faith. Healing is due to a confident expectancy, which acts as a powerful suggestion to the subconscious mind releasing its healing potency.”

21—“Though invisible, its forces are mighty. Within your subconscious mind you will find the solution for every problem, and the cause.”

22—“Remember, you are spiritually recharged during sleep, and adequate sleep is essential to produce joy and vitality in life.”

23—“Know that in your deeper mind are Infinite Intelligence and Infinite Power.”

24—“Your mental attitude, i.e., the way you think, feel, and believe determines your destiny.”

25— “Over ninety percent of your mental life is subconscious. If you fail to make use of this marvelous power, you condemn yourself to live within very narrow limits.”

26—“Look at your fears; hold them up to the light of reason. Learn to laugh at your fears. That is the best medicine. Nothing can disturb you but your own thought.” 

27— “If you have indulged in fear, worry, and other destructive forms of thinking, the remedy is to recognize the omnipotence of your subconscious mind and decree freedom, happiness, and perfect health. Your subconscious mind, being creative and one with your divine source, will proceed to create the freedom and happiness, which you have earnestly decreed.”

28— “Remember, it is the world within, namely, your thoughts, feelings, and imagery that makes your world without.”

29—“Just keep your conscious mind busy with expectation of the best.”

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Use Imagination to Create Your Life

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
— Einstein


Einstein said imagination is the preview of life’s coming attractions, and imagination comes from within.


Our minds generate imagination, but are we doing the generating?

We are.
Our thoughts are shaping our future. 

“Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.”
— Buddha

So how do you begin training your thoughts?

Begin by thinking about the life you want.

Check out this 3-Step Process to learn more! 

Sending Thoughts&Love Your Way.

Intro to A Panda’s Journey

The word “panda” originates from the Sanskrit word paṇḍita meaning ‘learned, wise’.

A Panda’s Journey incorporates Spirit & Mind with Quantum Physics to reveal the power within you. 

The power within us all.

The power of realizing you are in control of your destiny.

Join our email community to learn more.

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