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When no discriminating thoughts arise,
the old mind ceases to exist.

When thought objects vanish,
the thinking subject vanishes,
and when the mind vanishes, objects vanish.
Things are objects because of the subject;
the mind is such because of things.
Understand the relativity of these two
the basic and the reality: the unity of emptiness.
In this emptiness the two are indistinguishable
and each contains in itself the whole world.
If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.[1]

Until we are dead we will all have discriminating thoughts, it is part of being human. However, when we practice the principles of Zen Buddhism we can learn to do what Williams and Penman suggest in their wonderful book Mindfulness an Eight-week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World (2011):

You can watch as they appear and disappear, like a soap bubble bursting. You come to the profound understanding that thoughts and feelings (including negative ones) are transient. They come and they go, and ultimately, you have a choice about whether to act on them or not (page5).[2]

And when you do this as it says in the Faith in Mind sutra above “the old mind ceases to exist.” I don’t know about you but my old mind is filled with memories of good times and bad times, happy times and sad times and they can bubble up at the most annoying time. A happy thought may appear in my mind about the person and I can see him or her in my mind’s eye in the middle of the funeral and the joy is so overwhelming I burst out in laughter. Others, of course, are looking at me with disdain, and yet I am unable to control myself.

Or I might see someone at a high school reunion that bullied me or caused others to make fun of me and my mind and body will be filled with anger and rage. If I am able to live the truth of the Faith in Mind sutra I do not have to identify with either the subject or the object. I can remember that emptiness is all there is and that the two—joy and anger—are indistinguishable and each contains in itself the whole world.

Yet if we hold on to things and thoughts, especially the fear and anger things, and the things that are harmful to us like drugs, alcohol, and binging, they take control of our lives and can cause physical, mental, and emotional harm. Williams and Penman suggest a way to deal with this.

Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself. When unhappiness or stress hovers overhead, rather than taking it all personally, you learn to treat them as if they were black clouds in the sky, and to observe them with friendly curiosity as they drift past. In essence, mindfulness allows you to catch negative thought patterns before they tip you into a downward spiral. It begins the process of putting you back in control of your life (page 5).

The basic idea is to follow this process: thought ——-> awareness ——–> response. Instead of what we usually do which is thought ——> response! Learning how to do this will help you decide whether you want to act on the thoughts or not. The choice is up to you only if the “awareness” divides the thought from the response. If the process is thwarted the black cloud will soon be more than an image it will be your life filled with darkness and pain.

Faith in Mind asks us not to “discriminate between coarse and fine” and that will help us to avoid the prejudice and opinion and the darkness and the pain and simply live in the now dealing with what “is” right at this moment—happiness, sadness—Just This. A life of balance. To realize this life take time to meditate each day and to quiet the mind and you will discover “the unity of emptiness.”  And watch what happens in your life.

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

[1] Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

[2] Williams, M Penman, D (2011) Mindfulness an Eight-week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Rodale: NY, NY.

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I am getting ready to present a workshop for Career Source Broward the audience will be people that are working with them to find employment. The title of my workshop is “Reduce Stress…Increase Success with Mindfulness.” My desire is to share with each one of them the principles of mindfulness and breath work that can help them decrease their stress in mind, body, and spirit even in these trying times.

It is easy to be relaxed and joyous when your life is moving forward with a good job, personal health, and family members doing well, and when you have time for recreation, hobbies and the like. But for the unemployed or underemployed that is not always possible. Many times they are filled with emotions of fear, anxiety, depression, and panic–some in a small way and for others in a big way where they are probably going to need the help of the medical community. But for many some simple mindfulness, stress reduction, and time management techniques integrated into their daily lives on a regular basis can help them immensely.

One of my colleagues recommended a book to me, Mindfulness an Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World (2011) by Mark Williams and Danny Penman so I ordered it online and was highly impressed by the content and the information and tips shared in it.

In Chapter 2 “Why Do We Attack Ourselves?” they shared with the reader an illustration they titled “What makes an emotion?” I thought this would be great information for the participants in my stress and mindfulness training since I was sure they were having the gamut of every emotion on the planet during this trying time in their lives.

They define emotions this way”

Emotions are “bundles” of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and impulses to act. Next time you experience pleasant or unpleasant emotions, you might check in with what’s going on, and notice the interplay of the different aspects of the bundle (page 20).[1]

These ideas: Thoughts (I’m getting nowhere with this.”), feelings (tense, upset), impulses (Escaping; crawling into bed; pulling the covers over your head) and bodily sensations (Tense shoulders, churning stomach) (page 20)[2] can come in any order and move round and round leaving you sick in mind, body, and spirit. You are probably relating to this idea and wondering what the heck you can do about it.

The authors recommend some simple things that anyone can do at any time to turn the switch from one negative thought, feeling, impulse, or sensation to a better one. Here is one simple thing they recommend that you can do at any time and in any place to bring “peace” back into your life.

Something as subtle as frowning, smiling or altering posture can have a dramatic impact on mood and the types of thoughts flickering across the mind.

. . .the act of smiling can itself make you happy. It’s a perfect illustration of just how close the links are between mind and body. Smiling is infectious too. When you see someone grin, you almost invariably smile back. You can’t help it (pages 20-23).[3]

So if you want to make peace with yourself to see more peace in your life—even in the most difficult times and situations—observe your facial expressions and body language and make a simple adjustment. Put a smile on your face and stand up tall with your shoulders back and head held high and watch what happens to your “feelings” and your “attitude” you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Plus, you’ll feel more peaceful and your mind will feel sharper and ready to handle anything that anyone throws at you! Try it today and let me know what happens!

[1] Williams, M. and Penman, D. (2011) Mindfulness An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Rodale: NY, NY

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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