Posts Tagged ‘thinking’

Emerson: We can only see what we are…(page51)[1]

Zen Gautama Buddha: We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.Zen Eight Fold Path

This may be the best thing you’ve read all year and I hope that it will help you in 2017: What you think is the master of your life.  If you think thoughts of peace, love, health, and prosperity you will attain just that.  If you think thoughts of fear, anger, illness, and hate that is what you will manifest in your life.

It is time that we get over blaming our parents, our upbringing, our teachers, our genes, and life for the situation we are in today.  Yes, they affected us in a myriad of ways but as adults it is our opportunity to forgive and forget.  To create a new life that is filled with goodness and love.  To create the life that we want to live instead of letting others or the past have power over us!

I read an article many years ago in a Unity publication about a woman who had a terrible childhood and so her adult life was filled with lack and limitation in all areas.  Then one day she decided to recreate her life and she began slowly by remembering one good thing that happened to her as a child.  She focused on an aunt who was kind and loving and shared that goodness with her. From there she discovered other memories that had been hidden and blocked by her anger and hatred.  She began focusing on them and little by little her life turned around.  She became a loving and compassionate person with success in all areas of her life.

She began to really be what she was born to be a happy, healthy, loving person regardless of her past circumstances.  She began to succeed in all areas of her life and it was filled with peace, love, prosperity, and happiness.  Life is like the script of a Broadway play.  Some scenes are dramatic and scary others are filled with music, dance, and love.  What is your script reading like today?  Will you create a new script for 2017?  Or will you keep playing the same drama over and over? How about writing a musical filled with fun and laughter and love?

You are what you think the Buddha said. He also said our thoughts make the world.  Let’s create a world, from today forward, that is filled with peace, love, and compassion for self and all others!  Do not be like the blind leading the blind—be like the knowing leading the knowing!  Follow The Eightfold Path above and watch what happens!

See what you truly are—a perfectly divine, loving, healthy, prosperous you!

In gassho,


[1] Dillaway, N. (1949) The Gospel of Emerson. Wakefield, MA:The Montrose Press


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Napoleon Hill the author of Think and Grow Rich (1960) wrote this great poem about the law of autosuggestion: “The subconscious mind will translate into reality a thought driven by fear just as readily as it will translate into reality a thought driven by courage, or faith (pages 56-57).”[1] That is why when we sit in Buddhism we do not hold on to our thoughts be they positive or negative.  Thoughts have weight and measure and that is why in meditation we see them floating like a cloud in the sky weightless and changing in measure every second as it moves round the earth. We simply let them pass through like fast moving clouds on a summer day.

He also wrote this great poem.

If you think you are beaten, you are,napoleon-hill-quote
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will—
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man WHO THINKS HE CAN (pages 56-57)!

And in the Three Pure Precepts we are told that “A disciple of the Buddha vows to actualize good for others.” How do we do that?  By our thoughts of course—which turn into our behaviors of course!  So once you have finished sitting you can go about your life thinking and remember the power of “autosuggestion” because it hears those thoughts as good or bad, positive or negative, or neutral.

So focus your thoughts on actualizing good for others and that guarantees you’ll meet your good today and so will they! Let me know how that works out!

In gassho, Shokai

Footnote: Sorry I have not changed the poem to an inclusive gender it is difficult to do in poetry that was written so long ago.  So please read in the gender that works for you.   Thanks!

[1] Hill, N. (1960) Think and Grow Rich Greenwich, CT: A Fawcett Crest Book

  1. http://www.beardoilandcroissants.com/how-napoleon-hill-think-and-grow-rich-author-has-changed-my-life/

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Look, Look, the year draws to an end!  Calligraphy from, Moon By The Window, The calligraphy and Zen Insights of Shodo Harada.

In gassho, Shokai

Quote Shodo Harada Look LookLook Look calligraphy Shodo Harada

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

To deny the reality of things

is to miss their reality;

to assert the emptiness of things

is to miss their reality.

The more you talk and think about it,

the further astray you wander from the truth.

Stop talking and thinking,

and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

Once again each line is a contradiction of the next line and thus it goes.  Can we deny the reality of something and yet be told that in doing so we end up missing the reality of it and yet to assert the emptiness of things is once again to miss the reality of emptiness!  This is what I love about Buddhism and its ability to make us think about life in such a way that the frustration finally brings us to a place of giving up, a place of stopping, a place of trying NOT to figure things out.

In another translation of this poem they write these words instead:

The more you think about it,

the further you are from the truth.

Cease all thinking,

and there is nothing that will not be revealed to you.[1]

So the trick is to sit and just be still and the truth will be revealed to us in a myriad of ways.  It may come from a simple Ah Ha as we are walking down the street or through the mall.  It may come to us as a hug from a long lost friend or relative or from the words of a teacher during a talk at Zen—but come it will.

Do the right thing and the right things will happen: sit quietly in the silence, quiet the monkey mind, and “there is nothing that will not be revealed to you.”

Just today I was participating in an online book study group and the subject came up about the  genius of people like YoYo Ma and Picasso and my comment to the group was “music and art comes through them not from them.”  While in the midst of the playing or the painting or the day dreaming they wandered into emptiness and all came to them in some unimaginable way. They grabbed on to it and let it come through them with patience, with vim, with vigor, and with determination, or even with not knowing or not trying it just happened.  They did not question it or fight it or hope for something different, they went with the flow.

When was the last time you went with the ‘flow.” When was the last time you gave up the idea of being “right” or “wrong” “better” or “best”  and you simply went with what was—went with the flow.  You stopped talking and thinking and all was revealed to you?

I am sure there have been many times at work or in a personal relationship when you have thought: “I just wish everyone would stop talking!”  Can’t we take a few minutes to just sit quietly and get centered, take a few breaths and open our hearts and minds to what can be?  To sit and just let something grow and blossom on its own.  Let it manifest out of nothingness.  Deepak Chopra would say it arises from “pure potentiality.”

Remember what the Third Patriarch of Zen Seng-ts’an said, “Stop talking and thinking, and there is nothing you will not be able to know.” When you do I hope you’ll let me know what wonders appeared!

In gassho,




This old farm house is where my mother, Iona Louise Bird, was born in 1920 and lived in until the 1940’s in Quinter, Kansas.  This picture was taken in 2013 shortly after my mother’s death by her sister Wyneta. She went there to scatter my mother’s ashes as she had requested—back to emptiness from which she came.

[1] Putkonen, E. Hsin-Hsin Ming Verses on the Perfect mind by Seng-ts’an, third Patriarch of Zen; Awaken to Life with Eric Putkonen, Minneapolis, MN http://www.awaken2life.org

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When we really look at our lives and the ruts that we have created for ourselves we may wonder—how the heck did I get here?  When practicing meditation and/or mindfulness we want to be nonjudgmental and simply observe the “stuckness” and then decide either to stay stuck or get unstuck!  The choice is always up to us!

Does it really matter “how” we got stuck?  Or is it more important to review the situation and decide if it is worth my time and energy to get unstuck.  Will getting unstuck help me in a positive way.  Will it help me get my homework assignments completed for school?  Will it help me get the chores done around the house or the projects completed at work?  Will it help me improve my health or income or relationships?

I love what Russell Simmons wrote in his new book Success through Stillness in his chapter “Getting Unstuck.”  “…no matter where you’re from or what you’ve done, you’re never stuck in anything unless you say you are (page 143).”[1]

Many years ago I learned about the Theory of 21.  This theory purports that it takes 21 days to create a new habit or get unstuck!  So that means once you’ve observed your “stuckness” evaluated its impact on your life and then decided it was something you’d like to see change—getting unstuck will take at least 21 days.  For me it usually takes much longer than that!  When I get stuck I really get stuck!

Whether you’re stuck in a bad relationship, habit, thought pattern, job, school, or work…you can get unstuck.  Below are some simple steps for getting there!

1.  Make up your mind that YOU want to get unstuck, not your mother, father, girlfriend, boyfriend, or boss—You want to do it.

2.  Identify what triggers you about this “stuckness.”  So if you’re stuck on procrastinating on homework, work projects, doing the laundry, or cleaning the house it’s probably because these things are too big and are overwhelming you when you see them or even think about them.

3.  To fix it break this “stuckness” down in to bite size pieces.  How do you eat an elephant—one bite at a time!

4.  Meditate on one of those pieces each day and allow the unconscious mind to bubble up the things that are holding you back from getting unstuck.  As they come to mind take the energy out of them and see them being done with ease, floating away like a hot air balloon.  Take the emotion out of the picture and change the picture from one of fear, anxiety, or pain to one of completion, peace, joy, forgiveness, love, and release.  Do not give it any power. Simply observe and let it go again and again till the energy in it has dissipated!   Remember things are “just this” in Buddhism and it is only our thoughts that give them power over us in both negative and positive ways.

5. Finally, just do it!  Like the Niki commercial says.  Do it every day until you’re unstuck and can move on with your new life—just this!

Just sit each morning in meditation. Then while doing the thing, if the emotions or thoughts begin to take you back to the “stuckness” take a quick moment to breath into it, fill it with air, smile, and let it go.  Remember what Russell Simmons said, “you’re never stuck in anything unless you say you are.” The choice is up to you! Meditation and mindfulness are the simple glue removers!

[1] Simmons, R. (2014) Success through Stillness Meditation made Simple. Penguin Group: NY, NY

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The holidays are a very stressful time for most people.  Holidays are also times when those who suffer from depression, suffer even more acutely.  Patterns of the past brought into the present often harm us more than they help us.  The ideas below are not meant to replace your prescription medication or advice from your doctor– they are simply to be in addition to them.

Williams, Teasdale, Segal, and Kabat-Zinn wrote these wonderful words in their book The Mindful Way through Depression (2007). “What if, like virtually everybody else who suffers repeatedly from depression, you have become a victim of your own very sensible, even heroic, efforts to free yourself—like someone pulled even deeper into quicksand by the struggling intended to get you out?”

This may seem like a very disheartening idea, and you are right—it is.  But there is a way out if you will only take the time to look at this very difficult life’s situation through new eyes, with new thoughts, with new information, and with new light.  You all have heard this funny yet ironic definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different end result.  Today is the day to begin anew, to begin doing something differently and watching and waiting for a fantastic, positive, new end result: peace, prosperity, and happiness!

The authors share with us these two very important ideas:

  • At the very earliest stages in which mood starts to spiral downward, it is not the mood that does the damage, but how we react to it.
  • Our habitual efforts to extricate ourselves, far from freeing us, actually keep us locked in the pain we’re trying to escape (page 2).

They also caution us as well when they write: “Exactly how you will experience the profoundly healthy shift in your relationship to negative moods and what will unfold for you in its aftermath are difficult to predict because they are different for everyone.  The only way anyone can really know what benefits such an approach offers is to suspend judgment temporarily and engage in the process wholeheartedly over an extended period of time—in this case for eight weeks—to see what happens (page 3).”

You may be saying, “Eight weeks! Yikes I can’t do anything for eight weeks are they crazy?”  Maybe, but how about trying it out by starting with one day, and if you feel even one tiny bit better, do it for another day, and if that day goes just a little better why not try it for a third day?  Make no plans or promises longer than 24 hours.  No one wants to get depressed about setting a goal and then not achieving it that’s for sure!  So let’s not set ourselves up for failure once again.

So let’s begin with one simple mindfulness exercise that we can do beginning today.  The authors go on to write, “Mindfulness is not paying more attention but paying attention differently and more wisely—with the whole mind and heart, using the full resources of the body and its senses (page 55).”  So there are several different exercises that you can do to practice mindfulness even when you feel sad or depressed.  You can focus on your breathing, eating, or singing for a start.

One of the ways I get my mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, out of one of her loops is to do what we call “pattern interruption.”  I ask her to sing one of the songs I know she can sing or to recite one of the poems that she has written and memorized.  Within a few short minutes she is able to go onto something different and her breathing slows down, her mind is less confused, and she can think more clearly.

The authors also share some important information with us when they write, “The difficulty occurs when we confuse the thoughts about things with the things themselves.  Thoughts involve interpretations and judgments, which are not in themselves facts; they are merely more thoughts (page 59).”

As a teacher many times my students have shared with me the fears and thoughts that they have about taking tests, writing papers, or giving presentations in class.  For them the thoughts about those things are making them more difficult than they should be, especially if they have prepared well for them beforehand.

For these students I have them use the “Three Breaths Exercise” from Jan Chozen Bays wonderful book How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness (2011).  Dr. Bays says, “As many times a day as you are able, give the mind a short rest.  For the duration of three breaths ask the inner voices to be silent.  It’s like turning off the inner radio or TV for a few minutes.  Then open all your senses and just be aware—of color, sound, touch, and smell (page 76).”   Begin by closing your eyes, and counting one on the in breath, and two on the out breath, just for three full breaths.  Once you have done that observe how your mind and body feel.  If three breaths don’t work, take four, or five.  Then observe how your mind and body feels.

Do this as many times a day as you feel the need to.  When you get stressed, the mind starts to get into that “monkey talk” or “fear talk” or “anger talk.”  This is a perfect time to stop and take the three breaths.  You can even do them right in the middle of a meeting with your eyes open, or you can take a break and go back to your office or desk or to the bathroom and do it—then  observe the results.

For me I find that after only three breaths my blood pressure calms down, my mind calms down, and I feel significantly better than I did before the three breaths.  I am now able to go back to what I was doing with calmness and peacefulness.

If I am eating I take the time to eat mindfully, focusing on each mouthful, the taste, smell, texture, and feel of the food.  Doing this helps me focus on the food instead of my thoughts, and helps me quiet my body, mind, and spirit.  Try it.  I think you’ll like it.

Anyone of these things can help you in a small way during this holiday season to return your focus to the good, the wonderful, and the new opportunities that lie just ahead. Being mindful about simple things can help you be mindful about complex things when they enter your life.  Stop the struggling—start the mindfulness—and watch that depression melt away slowly like caramel in your mouth—with sweetness and light.

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It does seem strange that as human beings we have great fears about death and dying and yet at the same time we spend a significant amount of time “rushing through life.”  Wow, that is an unfathomable dichotomy, isn’t it?  Does it make any sense at all to want to live forever and yet we run away from every encounter in life—even the fun and loving ones?

There is an old joke about the young married couple making love one evening and in the middle of the experience one of them looks up and says, “Don’t you think we ought to paint the ceiling pink?”  I am not sure if that is rushing through life, being mindless through life’s experiences, or simply being bored with the relationship, but it sure is a sad way to spend a few of the precious moments we have been given to spend here on Earth.

Dr. Jan Chozen Bays, in her book, How to Train a Wild Elephant Simple Daily Mindfulness Practices, once again addresses this issue as she shares an exercise she calls “One Bite at a Time (page105).”  She writes, “This is actually a task about becoming aware of impatience (page 106).”  Yes, most of us eat unconsciously and impatiently, and at the end of the meal we have no idea what we ate, what it tasted like, what it felt like in our mouths, and what flavors arose from it—sweet, sour, or salty.

I can picture myself standing at the door tapping my foot impatiently waiting for my former husband to finish getting dressed for some event that we were to be attending.  After many minutes I would yell out, “What are you doing shaving Mt. Everest?”  Or more recently I am sitting in the car waiting to drive my friend someplace and waiting once again for him to appear at the door with key and coffee in hand.  I am “waiting impatiently” when I could be sitting in quiet meditation, helping him to get ready, or finding some time to read a little in one of my favorite Zen books.  But what I am not doing is practicing anything I know about Zen, meditation, or peace.

We do not “taste” the flavors of life like the couple above who missed the sweetness of intimacy between two caring people.  Or the teacher who rushed through each lesson and class to get to the next lesson or class without seeing the students, hearing their joys, sorrows, or frustrations.   Research has shown that we need to change pace every 10 minutes when teaching or training because that is the attention span of most people today.  And even in those 10 minutes we are not actually experiencing those minutes we are either impatiently fretting about the past or worrying about the future and thus ignoring the present.

Dr. Bays’ final words in this exercise about “eating mindfully” are very poignant and fun at the same time: “There can be no party in the mouth if the mind is not invited to attend.”  When was the last time you actually experienced a party in your mouth while eating or drinking something delicious?  When was the last time you had a “party in your mind” when thinking about something?  Or are you living life like the old Calvinists used to—living a life of hell and damnation fearful of going to that fiery pit of hell no matter how good they tried to be in this life.

You may not even know about the Calvinists yet you may be living like one.  I know I am at times!  When I am impatient with myself or others I am wasting “mind time” that could better be used in a positive way.  When I am standing at the door tapping my foot I am wasting “physical energy” which could better be used in a positive way.  When I am impatient with my students because they are not paying attention in class I am wasting “mind time” that could better be used in a positive way.

Have you ever watched those time span pictures on the Discovery Channel or the internet where you can see a flower grow from a seed to a blossom in a matter of seconds?  It sure is beautiful to see the process and the progress, but that is not the way nature intended it.  There is a growth process that takes days or weeks to culminate in the flower or the fruit through its energy.  There is a time of watering and fertilizing, and pulling out the weeds from the garden to give the plant room to grow.  We aerate the soil to help it along.  We tend to the plant with love and care and eventually we have the fruit of our labors.

When was the last time you aerated your “soul.”  When was the last time you overturned the impatience and allowed yourself or others to “attend the party” of life at their speed, in their time, in their way?   When was the last time you fertilized their soul with a loving comment, a little patience, or a helping hand?  When was the last time you basked in the reality that doing something slowly could actually be FUN!

“The faster I go the slower I go” is an old Chinese proverb.  Envision the last time you hurried through a task at work, school, or home and it was poorly done, wrongly done, or not finished at all and you had to start it all over again.  Maybe, just maybe, if you had tried to deliver yourself from “impatience” and taken the task on “slowly” you would have only had to do it once.

I took the time yesterday, while cleaning up my after my class, to pop a piece of candy into my mouth.  It was hard candy from Colombia called “Fruticas Love.”  It is a delicious cherry candy with a center of chocolate cream. Yum! As I enjoyed the candy I heard myself saying to my friend Jeanette, “Oh my God, this candy is so delicious.  It is sweet and sour and now that it has broken into pieces in my mouth I can feel this luscious warm chocolate on my tongue fantastic!”  So she hollered back at me, “Well give me one to taste!”  But, unfortunately, I had only brought one piece with me. But I was truly enjoying every bite, taste, and morsel of this candy!  The experience only lasted a few minutes but it could have been a life time for all I knew!

Our challenge for this week is to see how slowly we can walk through life with patience, love, and compassion for ourselves and others. Let us take this week to experience the morsel of life we are given—and while you are at it “…invite your mind to attend.”


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