Monthly Archives: July 2012


Karma is an interesting concept, or perhaps, it is the law of the universe.  The law of karma tells you that everything that happens to you is a result of something that you did in a past life.  Past life means in your past.  You don’t have to believe in reincarnation to believe in past lives.  You just have to believe in yesterday.

Accepting the idea of karma helps you accept the idea that you are responsible for everything that happens to you.  This concept is quite at odds with the blame culture of modern day North America. Karma says, “My fault”.  It can save you a lot of trouble, figuring out who to blame or credit for your current situation.

Karma also helps to encourage you to watch your actions by creating an understanding that your actions have far reaching consequences.  If you are currently suffering, it doesn’t help you to see what other people are doing.  It helps you to see what you are doing that contributes to suffering.  Are you speaking to people in a kind tone of voice? Are you talking about people who are not there with you?  Are you being nice to others? Are your actions creating harmony? These are important considerations, considering you spend your days thinking and acting.

Karma, in this life, can help you take responsibility for your actions.  If you are acting in a way that is causing you to suffer, noticing what you are doing may be the first step in major life improvements.

From Smell the Coffee and Wake Up: A Zen Guide to Mindfulness and Self-Discovery



Imagine that you were made of jellybeans.  Imagine that dogs, cats, llamas, plants, the ocean, the sky, the moon and the stars were all made of jellybeans. Imagine that these jellybeans were the source of pure happiness.

Imagine that because everything was made of these jellybeans, that you didn’t even know that you were made of jellybeans. Because you didn’t know that you and the stars were made of jellybeans, you thought you were totally separate from the stars.  You still found the stars beautiful, but they seemed totally separate. Imagine that the feeling of separateness made you sad. Even though you were made of jellybeans, the source of pure happiness, you were sad.

Discover happiness, discover your true jellybean nature.


Here and Now

This is it. Everything you need is right here in this moment. You have all the conditions of happiness available to you now. From where you are sitting, you can look around you and see beauty. If you listen, you can hear beauty.

It’s all right here.

It’s all right now.

You’re alright now.



Think, think, think, think, think. Think think think think.  Think, thought, thought, think think think. Insight. Thought, thought, thought, think think.

That is our life. Our regular thoughts tend to have a bit more variety, but our thoughts dominate our days. We have so many, and such a variety of thoughts, that we usually don’t even see an insight when it sneaks into our thoughts. Of course an insight is also a thought, but an insight is a thought that can help us grow. Insights are fairly common, and they look just like false insights, which are equally as common. The difference between an insight and a false insight is that the insight is true.

There is no way to tell a false insight from a genuine insight amidst a busy mind. There is however and easy way to sort your insights so that you don’t build a life based on false insights.  If your insight is negative and hurtful to yourself or others, it is likely false.  If you have an insight that your are wonderful and that you can manage anything, that is true. If you have an insight that you are fat and ugly, false. If you have an insight that you may be eating unhealthy food, probably true.

Thinking is overrated. If you practice meditation, your thinking will slow down and you will be able to notice the false insights as they bubble up in your mind.  You will also be able to act on your real insights. You need to turn down the noise if you want to hear the music.




If you look at me you’ll see,

I’m as happy as can be.

If you look inside my mind,

Something else, I’m sure you’ll find.

Superficial happiness,

Covers up a nasty mess.

I’ve been damaged, hurt, you see.

The pain I’ve lived, is part of me.

I live with myself every day.

I wish there were another way.

Beneath the hurt and pain, I know,

Are seeds that just may help me grow.

There’s a loveliness I see,

In the world and in me,

but the loveliness I know,

Is not the happy me I show.


The Monkey Is Reaching

The monkey is reaching

For the moon in the water.

Until death overtakes him

He’ll never give up.

If he’d let go of the branch and

Disappear in the deep pool,

The whole world would shine

With dazzling pureness.

-Hakuin Ekaku

My wife, daughter and I were sitting by our neighbor’s pool. I was reading a copy of the Shambala Sun.  My daughter was lying in the sun on the pool deck. I started reading the above poem to my wife, as I found it a brilliant illustration of our inability to let go and experience awakening.

As I read, Until death overtakes him/he’ll never let go, my daughter, who I didn’t imagine was paying any attention, but who absolutely loves monkeys, chimed in, “No he won’t”.

She saw the truth in those words. The monkey wouldn’t let go. She was totally present as I read the poem.  Likely more present than my wife or I. Her interjection demonstrated just how I was thinking of enlightenment and holding tight to my branch.  Until death overtakes me I may never let go.


The Judgment Gauntlet

Welcome to life. We live in a universe that watches us. Each one of us, with our eyes, ears, noses, fingers, mouths and minds uses these senses to watch the others.  We don’t just watch, we judge.

As children we don’t judge so much. We explore. We ask. We try.

“What is this?”

“Get that out of your mouth.”

And so we learn to judge.

From our limited perspective, judgement works two ways.  We judge others and others judge us. The secondary layer to this two way judgment is us imagining other’s judging us and others imagining us judging them. That’s where it starts to get tricky.

This imagined judgement is the judgment gauntlet.  As we wander through life, total strangers look at us and we imagine how they are judging us. This causes us worry.  At work or school, people look at us and we imagine how they are judging us. This can cause serious anxiety.  At home, and in the company of our friends, we continue to imagine how people our judging us. If we imagine negative judgments from this group, it rocks our core. When we are alone, we replay all of these judgments in our heads and they become our idea of reality.

As we are judged, so we judge.  We watch people and think things about them all the time. We have a standard to which we hold humanity and when they miss the mark, we make note of it.  The more intimate the setting, the more likely we will let our judgements slip out of our mouths.  Regardless of what we say, we tend to broadcast our judgements with our expressions. This is how we create the gauntlet though which we run.

In order to leave this gauntlet, we have to stop creating it.  We have to recognize that our judgements are not based on truth so much as our moods.  If we are feeling good, we will judge those around us kindly.  If we are feeling scared or cranky, we will take it out on the world.  Also, if we are feeling off, we will imagine everybody is judging us harshly. It is important to be able to recognize your own mood, then you can see how it impacts your judgments and your perception of others.

As you learn to recognize how much and how harshly you judge others, you will see that how you imagine others are judging you reflect your judgments of them. As you notice this, you can change your habit.  If you train yourself to judge people positively, you will start to imagine people judging you positively.  Eventually you will stop judging at all.  You will look past people’s judgments and feel only compassion for them, and for yourself. You will have left the gauntlet.



Heartbreak is a special kind of suffering. It can be physically painful and emotionally devastating. Your exquisitely imagined path to happiness has hit a dead end. What are you supposed to do?

I liked how Jason Segal’s character dealt with it in the movie Forgetting Sarhah Marshall. He just cried and cried and cried, and then miserably accepted invitations to do things, until he was able to imagine a new world without her.

Falling in love has such high expectations and high stakes. The intimacy that love brings also makes it terrifying.  People are expected to be wide open with all of their quirks, fears and insecurities and are expected to be comfortable with each other’s.  This is extremely difficult. The end of a relationship is most often about negotiating this intimacy.

Heartbreak sadness can be endured. It’s good to feel it. Be kind to yourself in your thoughts and actions. Be sad for as long as you need to, then accept invitations back to life. Let your heartbreak leave when it is time.


The Idea of Ego.

People think about Ego as a greedy, hungry force, that compels us to outdo each other, causing pain and misery.  Ego wasn’t always so sinister. Freud talked about the ego as a middle man of the mind, who was trying to make peace, between our base urges (id) and our conscience, or the internalized voice of our parents (superego).  In that model, Ego was a peace maker. Our ego was a part of our psyche, like our thumb is part of our hand.

Now, Ego has taken on a lot of the blame for our baser instincts. It’s taken over the role of the id and superego.  The unconscious, which used to contain id, is now the promised land.  It is the source of wonder and inspiration, interconnectedness.  Somewhere in our subconscious, we can expect to encounter our true nature. It has moved from a fearful seat of bubbling urges to the seat of wisdom. A major upgrade.  Ego has taken over the responsibility for our psychological problems and delusions.

Good for Ego. We need a scapegoat.  We wouldn’t want to have to admit that we are  ignorant. We are wise, Ego is ignorant. This perspective gives us a handle on ourselves.  By imagining Ego, we can imagine Self as separate from Ego.  Ego becomes the clouds obscuring the sun.  It is helpful for us to learn to see clouds and to know that something is obscured.

Although Ego causes us to feel pain and misery, we actually love Ego. It is us. It is what we have known as us for most of our lives. We fear losing Ego. What we want is enlightenment and Ego.  We want to be free from our desires, by getting everything we want.  Unfortunately we cannot get everything we want until we want nothing. Ego, that which we are now, will fade away when we become enlightened. We will miss Ego. Fortunately, when we lose Ego, we have lost nothing. Ego never really existed.


Three Poisons

The roots of our suffering are the three poisons, desire, anger and ignorance.  Desire and anger seem manageable, ignorance seems huge. Ignorance, in this case, is ignorance of our true nature, our Buddha nature.  Realizing our buddha nature is basically attaining enlightenment.  It is feeling, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we are Buddha. It seems that if we were to realize our true nature, and rid ourselves of ignorance, that desire and anger may just fall by the wayside.

Recognizing our true nature can take an entire lifetime, or many lifetimes some believe.  Zen is good that way.  Zen practice aims at helping you find your true nature in this lifetime. Eckhart Tolle seems to think you can recognize this right now. Alan Watts also believes that awakening is available in any given moment, if you give yourself to the moment. Who you choose to believe may have something to do with how patient you are. Regardless of how long it takes to dispel this ignorance, it seems a large task.

Anger and desire are certainly more accessible, but they may not be easier to dispel. They could well be the keys to tackling ignorance.  The first step in addressing anger is taking ownership of it.  If you want to end your suffering, you can no longer afford to let other things make you angry. You may still get angry, but you have to see your anger as a choice you make, an emotional option. Then, pay close attention to your anger and see how it affects you and those around you. Anger is likely the easiest of the three poisons to manage.

Desire is a good poison to work with because it is almost always present.  The only time desire is not present is in those fleeting moments when you are content. As soon as restlessness resumes, desire is driving it. If you were able to pay attention to your desire whenever it arises, you would live a mindful life.

If you suffer, you suffer from these three poisons. No matter how far out your mental health may be, these poisons are affecting you.  I just thought you should know.