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.”

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.”

“If” Inspirational Poem by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;  
 

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

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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25 Law of Mind Quotes from Geniuses

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
— Einstein

“Those who fall in love with practice without science are like a sailor who enters a ship without a helm or a compass, and who never can be certain whither he is going.”
— Da Vinci

“It has long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
— Da Vinci

“The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.”
— Stephen Hawking

“I have noticed that even those who assert that everything is predestined and that we can change nothing about it still look both ways before they cross the street.”
— Stephen Hawking

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
— Einstein

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

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”
—Einstein

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^^Let all these quotes sink in⌄⌄

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“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
— Buddha

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

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

“As you think, so shall you become.”
— Bruce Lee

“The mind is the root from which all things grow if you can understand the mind, everything else is included. It’s like the root of a tree. All a tree’s fruit and flowers, branches and leaves depend on its root. If you nourish its root, a tree multiplies. If you cut its root, it dies. Those who understand the mind reach enlightenment with minimal effort.”
― Bodhidharma

“The human mind is our fundamental resource.”
— John F. Kennedy

“Thoughts are but dreams till their effects be tried.”
— William Shakespeare

“Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt

“No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”
Voltaire

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Steve Jobs

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
— Henry Ford

“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”
— John Locke

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
— Romans 12:2

“17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
— Ephesians 4:17—24

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
― James 5:16

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
―2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

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How to Work with a Leader in Your Industry

First, what’s your industry?

I know, you’d think I wouldn’t have to ask that, but a lot of people don’t know what kind of work they’re in, or they hate what they do.

This post is geared toward you who are pursuing your dream work, but it’s a recipe that will work in any industry.

I have used this technique to meet famous people on movie and tv sets as an extra, and I now teach acting classes.

Another “coincidence” happened a couple years ago when I was deep into writing – I had been blogging for years before that, but I was definitely feeling more confident in my writing around this time(although looking back at it, it wasn’t that great). But I was confident in it! And it was pretty good.

Anyway! Ryan Holiday was and still is…

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The Blind Men and Elephant Parable

Many years ago six blind men lived near each other in a village in India.

The other villagers supported and helped the old men their whole lives. The men would hear stories of the worlds wonders and could only imagine what it looked like.

What piqued the men’s interest most was what an elephant looked like. They were told elephants could trample forests, carry huge burdens, and frighten all people with loud trumpet calls.

The men began arguing all the time about elephants. 

“An elephant must be a powerful giant,” said one of the them.

“My brother you are mistaken,” said the second, “An elephant is graceful and gentle if princesses are able to ride on their backs.”

“Both of you are wrong,” the third man said, “I’ve heard elephants can pierce a man’s heart with its horn.”

“How blind you all are!” Proclaimed the fourth man. “An elephant is just like a large cow.”

“An elephant must be a magical being,” said the fifth man. “The Princess is able to travel safely throughout the kingdom on it.”

“You fools!” Declared the sixth man. “Elephants don’t exist at all. We are victims of a cruel joke.”

They quarreled and each had different ideas of what an elephant is. The other villagers grew tired of them arguing so they arranged a time for them to meet the Princesse’s elephant. They put their hands on each others backs and were led by a young village boy.

When they reached the palace they were greeted by an old village friend who now worked as a gardener at the palace. Their friend led them to the courtyard where an elephant stood. The blind men were led to the elephant, each touching it to find out what it is.

The first blind man to speak had reached out and touched the side of the elephant. “An elephant is smooth like a wall!”

The second put his hand out touching the elephant’s trunk. “An elephant is like a big snake.”

The third touched the elephant’s tusk. “I knew it!” He said. “This beast is sharp and smooth like a spear.”

The fourth reached out and touched the elephant’s legs. “This is simply a giant cow.”

The fifth touched the elephant’s ear. “An elephant is a large fan or a magic carpet that can fly.”

The sixth reached out and touched the elephant’s tail. “You all have lost your senses! Even a blind man can sense that this is nothing more than a piece of rope.”

After they each felt part of the elephant they began to argue again, until they were shouting at each other saying their description of the elephant was the truth.

“Stop shouting!” Yelled the angry Princess approaching them. “How can you all be so certain you’re right?”

The blind men knew the Princess to be very wise, so they said nothing at all.

“The elephant is a large animal,” she said kindly. “You each only touched one part. Maybe if you put the parts together you will see the truth. I must now finish my meditation,” she said before walking away.

“She is right,” one of the blind men said, “We must put all the parts together to truly learn the truth. Let’s discuss this on our way home.”

The boy led the men home, one man put his hand on the boy’s shoulder, then each blind man succeeded in putting their hand on the man in front of them, walking home together.

Where are you really? By Dan Millman

“…He asked, “Where are you today, right now?”

Eagerly, I started talking about myself. However, I noticed that I was still being sidetracked from getting answers to my questions. Still, I told him about my distant and recent past and about my inexplicable depressions. He listened patiently and intently, as if he had all the time in the world, until I finished several hours later.

“Very well,” he said. “But you still have not answered my question about where you are.”

“Yes I did, remember? I told you how I got to where I am today: by hard work.”

“Where are you?”

“What do you mean, where am I?”

“Where Are you?” he repeated softly.

“I’m here.”

“Where is here?”

“In this office, in this gas station!” I was getting impatient with this game.

“Where is this gas station?”

“In Berkeley?”

“Where is Berkeley?”

“In California?”

“Where is California?”

“In the United States?”

“On a landmass, one of the continents in the Western Hemisphere. Socrates, I…”

“Where are the continents?

I sighed. “On the earth. Are we done yet?”

“Where is the earth?”

“In the solar system, third planet from the sun. The sun is a small star in the Milky Way galaxy, all right?”

“Where is the Milky Way?”

“Oh, brother,” I sighed impatiently, rolling my eyes. “In the universe.” I sat back and crossed my arms with finality.

“And where,” Socrates smiled, “is the universe?”

“The universe is well, there are theories about how it’s shaped…”

“That’s not what I asked. Where is it?”

“I don’t know – how can I answer that?”

“That is the point. You cannot answer it, and you never will. There is no knowing about it. You are ignorant of where the universe is, and thus, where you are. In fact, you have no knowledge of where anything is or of what anything is or how is came to be. Life is a mystery. My ignorance is based on this understanding. Your understanding is based on ignorance. This is why I am a humorous fool, and you are a serious jackass.”