Friday, October 18, 2013

A List a Day Keeps the Craving Away.

Each weekday, choose one list to focus on, if you like, or not, whatever:

Sunday: Three Conceits
Monday: Four Bodhisattva Vows
Tuesday:  Four Noble Truths / Eightfold Path
Wednesday: Four Seals
Thursday: Five Hindrances
Friday: Eight Worldly Concerns
Saturday: Ten Fetters

Five Hindrances:


Four Seals

all composite phenomena are impermanent
all contaminated things and events are unsatisfactory
all phenomena are empty and selfless
nirvana is true peace

The Eightfold Path

right Understanding
right Purpose
right Speech
right Conduct
right Vocation
right Effort
right Alertness
right Concentration

4 Bodhisattva Vows

There are four Bodhisattva Vows:

beings are numberless, I vow to save them.
desires are inexhaustible, I vow to end them.
dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.
buddha's way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it.

Eight Worldly Concerns

There are Eight Worldly Concerns. Start examining them and see if you can see that they are illusions:

Gain / Loss
Pleasure / Pain
Praise / Blame
Fame / Disgrace

Monday, October 7, 2013

Free Kindle Download, Two Days Only.

My first Zen book, Get Your Zen On, is a free Kindle download Wednesday and Thursday, this week only.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


For a while, I used the alarm function in my cell phone to time my meditation. About twenty minutes. Then I switched to a stick of incense, which was between twenty to forty minutes, depending on the type of incense stick. Now, I just count 200 breaths. That's about twenty minutes. So no setup, no incense to buy, no clocks or alarms to set: Just count silently 200 breaths.

Just don't lose count. Concentrate. This is a simple form of meditation, since counting breaths is one way, this just combines counting breaths with timing the meditation itself. I'm pretty sure I'm not the first person to think of this, but I thought I'd post this anyway. I'll probably go back to burning incense again, once I get to the store.

Do it any way you want, as briefly or as long as you like, just meditate every day.

I wrote a couple of books on Zen: Get Your Zen On and Zen Happens. (amazon links)

No matter what you read, meditate every day. Be kind to others. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Chillin' Ain't Easy

It is easy to get caught up in worldly concerns. You must fill that stomach, and in order to do that, you must hold your place in this dumb modern world.

Worry, one of the Five Hindrances, is easy. That slight unease . . . it is difficult to see it as empty, transient phenomena, just like the "problems" that trigger the unease in the first place. To see that Life Is Suffering means there will always be problems. Having problems is the default condition.

To focus on the Present Moment is difficult. To see one's life as constant change, encapsulated in a Moment, takes concentration. To simply observe the collection of details and circumstances that make up a human lifespan, and to observe without grasping for results is difficult. Equanimity is difficult. It takes practice.

Practice every day. Meditate every day. Focus on your breathing.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Meatless Thursdays

"Oh, no thank you, I don't eat meat on Thursdays. It's against my religion."

"What religion is that?"

"This new one I'm making up as I go along. It changes day to day, but today I don't eat meat on Thursdays."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On This Planet

We are simply here, on this dumb planet, stuck to it by gravity; breathing in each other's sighs, screams, and farts. We simply suffer through, from cradle to grave. There is an explanation of compassion: knowing that every single person out there is basically you.

Every single person sees the universe from his or her particular perspective. Every single person out there is doing the best they can: even those who do harm to others.

Every single person starts out as a blank slate, a baby. What makes them what they are?

The universe makes them what they are. Stalin, Gandhi, the person working the check stand, your neighbors, dogs, terrorists, popes, presidents, beggars and prostitutes . . . they are all the center of the Universe.   We are all temporary phenomena, breathing fumes, digesting food, crapping, shedding skin cells, aging, and dying. We are billions of little creatures on the face of a planet.

Why be kind to these creatures, these humans that have you surrounded? Because they are just like you, and you don't want to piss them off; they're dangerous when they are angry; you need to get along with them in order to eat. But more important: Everyone suffers. Everyone struggles. Everyone is doing the best they can, with whatever wit and means they can muster.

Meditate to see these things. Maybe not the way I see them, Gentle Reader. Your view of the world must certainly be different from mine. Our brains are different. Our backgrounds are different. Which one of us is correct?  Neither. Both.  "Right" and "wrong" are concepts. That duality is nonsense.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Take a "Vow of Mostly Silence."

With Zen practice, you observe activity with more awareness. You speak less, because you have the presence of mind to see your mouth about to open and say something stupid. You are kinder to others; you will be more forgiving of their weaknesses because by observing your own thoughts, you learn about your own weaknesses. Empathy is surprisingly soothing.

You relinquish craving and aversion, but you still catch the Self as it tries to follow old habits, and you realize that habits like these exist in everyone else.

Although you change your mind and its habits, your responsibilities don't suddenly change. Don't act a fool because you've been meditating. Don't preach it, either, unless it makes sense.

Don't talk about it.
He who speaks does not know; he who knows does not speak.
—Lao Tzu 
Take a "Vow of Mostly Silence." In this modern world, you can't (usually) take a vow of complete silence, but you can take a vow of "mostly silence." Try it, even for an hour.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It can't hurt to be focused and aware

With Zen, if you have money problems, you're still going to have money problems. No one will pay you to be "enlightened."  But you'll look at it differently. You'll see it for what it is: the transient results. You'll let go of the results.

This doesn't mean you give up and stop trying. You still gotta eat. Everybody's gotta eat. But you'll see the ridiculous nature of human existence. The dumb way things are set up. And you will laugh. Eventually, with enough practice, it is possible that you will laugh at your own dumb circumstances.

Maybe not at first. Maybe not at all. Depending on your situation, you might be in desperate straights. But
it can't hurt to be focused and aware. Let go of results, stop grasping for nonsense goals, and realize you don't need as much as you thought.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A little at a time

After Zen practice, you see the mind as it tries to re-construct that "self" illusion, and you put a stop to it a little at a time. Not constantly, and not always successfully, but that's why it is called practice.

With Zen practice, when you observe your thoughts, you see that a human mind is frequently a disorganized mess. An unreflecting mind doesn't realize it is a mess. It puts up one illusion after another to prop up and defend this illusionary "self," and that's what makes humans do so many stupid, harmful things.

You are a human, and as you meditate, you tear down this illusionary self.  You'll see the true nature and contents of that illusion. You might see your imperfect "past," all the nonsense traditions, patriotic jingoism, and myths your culture and background has created. It's all there. It can be pretty messy. It's like tearing apart an engine, or seeing how they make sausage.

Monday, July 15, 2013

New Book!

My new Zen book, Zen Happens, is available on Please feel free to order a copy.

Monday, July 8, 2013

New Zen Book

My latest (and probably last) book about Zen is coming out later this month. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

You have to see it.

The advice don't worry about it usually doesn't work.

The "trick" is to actually see that the thing you were worrying about is an illusion. When you see the illusory, transient nature of the stuff you were worrying about, you automatically don't worry about them.

Convincing yourself it is an illusion doesn't work. Rationalization doesn't work. You have to see it.

That takes a lot of Zen practice.

There are Eight Worldly Concerns. Start examining them and see if you can see that they are illusions:

Gain / Loss
Pleasure / Pain
Praise / Blame
Fame / Disgrace

See these 8 things for what they are, and you'll have a lot less to fret about. If you can see it.  Meditate every day.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

No, Yammering Mind

No, Yammering Mind,
you can't drive.
You are bat-shit crazy.
You'll just put us into a ditch
and cry about it afterward.
Let awareness drive.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Quick update

I'm working hard on my second Zen book.  I'm on the 3rd draft right now. Peace.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cradle to Grave

Cradle to grave,
Cradle to grave,
Everyone hurries from
Cradle to grave.

Cut them some slack,
That's how they behave,
As everyone hurries
From cradle to grave.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

You don't "choose" anything

Because of the plasticity of the mind, and because of the influence all previous circumstances have in putting that malleable mind in a particular state at any point in time, the universe "decides" what humans "choose."  And even the universe is just doing that at random, like a gabazillion billiard balls clattering around on a massive billiard table, on a ship being tossed by a raging sea.

The most you can do is observe brain activity without clinging to results. Because the brain is going to do whatever it is going to do. Your upbringing, level of discipline and maturity, culture, personal history and biologic tendencies are completely random, and out of your "control."

You don't "choose" anything.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shifting Sand.

A one-day old baby doesn't have control over its random movements and brain activity. It cannot be blamed, nor can it be praised. It certainly can't take "credit" for its actions. Nor does a two day old, or a three-day old . . . nor does a 16,986 day old baby (my age, 46 years old). At what particular day do you think we stop being random expressions of the universe? Like clouds of stardust or shifting sand?

One's work can seem better or worse, but that's work, which you have to do. But one person thinking they are better than another is like one bacteria in my intestines thinking it is better than another. One might break things down better than another, but one is not better than another. Your WORK might be better, you might be better at this or that, but one human is never "better" or "worse" than another.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Static Cling

The static of words, concepts, ideas and notions about morals, purpose, and spirituality blind us to the silent, still (and sometimes windy and thundering) reality of the wordless and the thoughtless universe.   The Present Moment, this Great Circumstance, needs no introduction.  The Present Moment needs no additional "well, this is nice" or "so majestic" or any other kibitzes or comments from you (or me).

A "trick" to look at things in a new light is to imagine you are seeing something, and that there is no word for that something.

"What is this chair isn't called a chair?"

Who am I if I am not labeled ______________ ? (your name here).

"If that isn't a computer, what is it really?"

Words break reality.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Let Stuff Slide

Life is suffering not only for you but for the next poor sap as well. Cut him or her some slack. Be nice. Lower your voice. Smile.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Yammering Mind

Yammering Mind,
Yammering Mind,
Can you control
This Yammering Mind?

It complains about this,
It complains about that,
Does is every shut up,
And just see where it's at?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Shrug Off

Shrug off the unshruggable.

to cling to being

Who disagrees with who? If there is a disagreement, think thus:

What are these two humans fighting about, really?

What does this one think?
What does that one think?
Is this one angry?
What about that one?
Do they both think they are right?

If you see anger I one of the humans, and you just happen to be that human, then you must apologize.

Life is far too short to cling to being "right." Life is far too short to cling to anything.

Friday, February 15, 2013

You're already there.

The idea is this: you are already perfect.  You just can't see it.  You could be comfortable in your skin, but you are very likely hypnotized by society and your own Yammering Mind into thinking you should be doing something other than what you are doing. Your brain is trained by others not to see it.  In our "normal state," we are not paying attention to the Present Moment; instead, we worry about a slew of pointless things.  We are told, "you should be this, and you should be that! You should do this! You should do that!" That is the story we are told, and we internalize this story, and that story becomes our "self."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Ten Fetters (Fetter #10)

There are Ten Fetters that keep us from getting our Zen on.  This is #10:


Ignorance of what?

We don't have to memorize a bunch of Sutras and learn a bunch of Pali words and sit through a bunch of lectures.

There should be some studying.  But don't knock yourself out.  Slide into it all easy like.  You could meditate on the very first line of the Dhammapada for a week:
1. All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.
That alone is some rock-solid wisdom. There is some knowledge.  More knowledge, less ignorance.  There are 400+ verses like that, and the Dhammapada is just one of many, many lists.

Knowing that this kind of stuff exists, and basic knowledge of them, is enough.  There isn't going to be a quiz.  Even knowing a basic few names of a basic few lists and verses and teachings, the names of a few great teachers is enough.

Just get hold of a tiny piece of Dharma and contemplate it.  Hold it in your mind and examine it.  See if it makes sense. (It may very well not). At least:

Read Lao Tzu
Read the Dhammapada
Read the Bhagavad Gita

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Ten Fetters (Fetter #9)

There are Ten Fetters that keep us from getting our Zen on.


Tranquility does not pace the floor.  It does not check its email every five minutes.  It does not watch the clock, check the Internet constantly, or tap its fingers impatiently.  Tranquility does not get bored.  It does not sigh impatiently.

Tranquility can sit with a long moment. It can be happy listening to itself breath.

It can focus on one thing without rushing off to start another.  Tranquility does not multi-task.  It can listen patiently to the most boring people, and be pleasant about it.

Restlessness isn't the opposite of tranquility, but it is damned close.  Fidgety thinking that one should be doing something else is a product of the mind, and if you are paying attention, meditating on what the mind is up to, this thinking can be observed and counteracted.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Ten Fetters (Fetter #8)

There are Ten Fetters that keep us from getting our Zen on.

This is #8: CONCEIT

Of course you still have self-esteem to some measure. You have worth; you are useful in some way or another. You have empathy and love toward yourself in the same way you have empathy and love toward others. In fact, if you have empathy and love toward the universe in general, you include yourself.

So in the absence of conceit, you can still have, for all practical purposes, a sense of self worth.

An absence of conceit is an absence of comparing, either good, worse, or equal, yourself to anyone else or anything else, because comparing ANY two parts of the universe (any two beings or things) doesn't make any sense. What is more important or better? Your heart or your lungs?  Which is better? Pizza or dandelion?  Which is better in a car? Steering wheel or tires?

The idea that you are better, worse, or equal to another person doesn't make sense.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Ten Fetters (Fetter #7)

There are Ten Fetters that keep us from getting our Zen on.


The desire for an afterlife, or a more spiritual life, or "enlightenment," is still a desire.  This fetter is also described as the desire for "formlessness."

Wanting to be more "enlightened" than one already is creates a duality.  There is "you" and there is the "you" you imagine.  Imagining a more perfect version of you somewhere in an imagined future removes the mind from the Present Moment, which is where it needs to be in order to get the Zen on.

You are already perfect.  All circumstances have led up to you being exactly as you are.  Throughout all space and time, you are the sum total of all existence of the universe.  Pretty special huh?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Paying Attention by Paying Attention to Breathing (book excerpt)

If we can remind ourselves to get into the Moment, we can stay there, at least for a little while.  Focusing on the breath (counting or not) can snap us into the Moment almost instantaneously.  It can help us focus on what is at hand, right now.  It seems like a little thing.  It seems so simple, but it is the most difficult thing to do in the world.  The brain reacts to certain stimuli in certain ways.  There are neural pathways that result in reactionary habits over which we have almost no control.  These preconditioned responses get us into all kinds of mental trouble.  Bad habits, even harmful habits are cooked into our brain noodles so we can get that sweet dopamine fix.  We need a way to catch ourselves and give ourselves new habits.  Better habits.  But we can only get new habits to replace the old habits.  Trying not to do something is almost impossible.  We have to remind ourselves to do something else.

That something else is paying attention.  And the reminder is our breathing.

(This is a excerpt from the book I'm working on to follow up Get Your Zen On)

Get the books!