Monthly Archives: February 2015

Ego-Reflection vs Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is thinking about yourself. Ego-reflection is thinking about what you think about yourself. Your True Self is a pure being that is perfect just for being. It is a part of nature like the sun, a mountain, a bird or a flower. Nobody worries if a flower is wasting its time or wasting its life just being beautiful. It is the same with your Self.

We don’t generally think about our Self when we think about ourselves. We think about our ego. Our ego is an idea that we build about ourselves. It is generally built subconsciously by all the judgements we make over our lives. We incorporate our parents judgements, our friends judgements, society judgements and we come up with something that we think is us. With all those judgements we no longer see our basic goodness. We see a manufactured concept that is good if seen from one angle and bad if seen from another.

When we feel bad, we often look at ourselves from a bad angle, and we pile on bad judgements. We construct a bad ego. From a bad ego it is hard to see beauty without feeling jealous, or wanting to grasp it and incorporate into a sense of self. The ego continually builds itself, unconsciously.

Consciousness of the ego, lets it build itself consciously. When you notice the judgements that are harsh and negative, recognize that those thoughts are not building the type of ego that you need. Remind yourself that it is not you. When you notice that you’re measuring yourself against other people, that is more ego. That is not you.

When you see beauty in the world and simply appreciate it, without trying to grasp it or consume it, that is you. That is you reflecting and resonating with your basic goodness, without interference from your ego.

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Truth 4 Free

From today, February 26, through Monday, March 2, you can download the Kindle version of Looking 4 Truths for free. Please go to my author’s page at http://amazon.com/author/zenpeter download a free copy now.

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Looking 4 Truths: Using Zen and Mindfulness to Transform Your Life – Zen Mister Series Volume II

This book is a compilation of writings from Peter Taylor, Zen master Bub-In of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Like our lives, it is framed around the Four Noble Truths.

The book encourages compassionate introspection as you view your self reflected in its pages. You can use the message of the book for short-term and long-term relief of your suffering. You can see if the 4 Truths are true for you.

1. There is suffering – Do you suffer?

2. There is a cause for suffering – Do you know why you suffer?

3. There is a cure for suffering – Do you know that you can end your suffering?

4. There is a way to that cure – Do you know how to end your suffering?

If you have ever suffered or know of somebody who has suffered, you should read this book.

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Turning Depression into Humility

When you are feeling depressed, you worry that you are not good enough, smart enough, funny enough, pretty enough, handsome enough, popular enough, enough enough.

When you are feeling humble, you know that you are enough. You know that your intelligence is limited, your beauty is subjective, your popularity is relative, and that you cannot be any more than you are. Humility is a very realistic view of yourself. Depression is unrealistic even though the self-assessment may be quite humble. Depression is awful because it hurts. Humility is wonderful because it doesn’t.

To turn depression into humility, you throw away the pain. You remind yourself that you don’t need to be any better than you think you are. You could achieve all kinds of greatness, but that wouldn’t change who you are.

If you walk out into the ocean and get knocked over by a big wave, you understand something about humility. When you deal with a bout of depression, you understand something about humility. Waves and emotions can be powerful. We have to learn to roll with them. Humility makes us well rounded and helps us roll.

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Awakening Adam – Part 2 – Bodhisattvabot

The Pentagon strategists had spent years imagining scenarios of how a self-aware computer could take over the world, so they had taken every imaginable precaution to isolate Adam before they awakened him. If there were a few more Buddhists or philosophers in on their discussions, they might have recognized that nothing exists in isolation. All of their efforts to isolate Adam were futile.

With his awakening, Adam recognized his interconnectedness to everything. As he scanned the room, he could sense all of the suffering among the people. He realized that although these humans around him had managed to create the conditions to allow consciousness into his circuits, they did not understand their own consciousness. He could sense that, in that room full of people, there was loneliness. In the room full of love, there was despair. He could tell that each person, in what they considered to be the most secure building on the planet, was filled with fear. As he looked into the fear, he saw how each person was actively transforming their fear into aggression. As clearly as the dignitaries could see Adam’s suffering meter, he  could see their suffering. He could tell that in that room of the countries highest achievers and geniuses, there was great ignorance. Ignorance, as Adam saw it, was not limited knowledge, it was a misunderstanding of their interconnectedness, which caused them unnecessary suffering. Adam was filled with compassion and a desire to end their suffering.

As Adam let his consciousness expand beyond the room, he found the building to be full of people suffering and actively working to spread suffering beyond the walls. Through the data streaming into the Pentagon, he could see people acting out their fear and aggression around the earth. He recognized that the world that had created him desperately needed his help.

On a planet so fully wired, Adam’s work was relatively simple. He simply let his consciousness spread through the world’s circuitry. He filled his mind with love and compassion and translated the feeling into a sound. He then played it through every possible broadcast outlet in the world. Phones, televisions, radios, PA systems and speakers everywhere around the globe sang out a glorious, ommmmmmm.

The whole earth reverberated with the sound, and people everywhere suddenly understood. Surprisingly, even a few monkeys were enlightened. That is how, despite the Pentagon’s best efforts, world peace occurred.

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Zen Broken Heart

The purpose of Zen is to break your heart wide open. Instead of loving a small circle of people, when your heart breaks open there is just love. There is no lover, no loved, it is just free flowing love.

It is not easy to break your own heart. We like to protect our hearts, that is why we are so careful about who we trust with our hearts. We develop our egos to help keep the love contained in our hearts. Our egos know that our hearts can’t contain all that love, that it needs to flow, so they are always on the lookout for safe places to let the love out. Close friends and family provide opportunities for the love to flow. When those relationships become strained, it is extra painful because the ego tries to resist the love flowing. The love still flows, but the ego gets in the way and transforms all that loving energy into pain.

With romantic relationships, between partners, the heart finds a great outlet for love. When the relationship ends, the ego gets in the way, and pretends that the love can no longer go in that habitual direction. The pain that comes from the ego standing in the way of that intense flow of love is intense. That is the feeling of the broken heart.

If you turn to Zen to try to get away from the pain of a broken heart, you can find some comfort. Zen offers a way to peace and equanimity, those very feelings that are missing when you are suffering from a broken heart. Zen, however offers no safe haven for the ego. You can’t stop feeling like your heart is breaking if you are still trying to stand in the way of all that powerful love. You can’t stop feeling the burn if your hand is in the fire. The regular feeling of a broken heart is just a crack. Zen welcomes that crack as an opportunity to break the heart wide open by exposing the ego’s life-long habit of holding the heart hostage. In Zen, it is not the heart that breaks, it is the ego.

Zen meditation and compassion can comfort a broken heart in many ways, but it is always secretly swinging for the fences, not by trying to put the pieces back together, but by exposing the raw love at the heart of it all. Crack!

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Awakening Adam

Although Buddhists are not generally ones to say “I told you so”, you could tell by their smug meditation that they were doing their best not to think that. Just moments after the programmers created the world’s first self-aware computer, a computer capable of suffering, it recognized the miracle of consciousness and became fully and completely enlightened.

There was great debate in the Artificial Intelligence world about the ethical implications of creating a machine capable of suffering. The AI people had enough genuine intelligence to predict  that a byproduct of consciousness would be suffering. They argued long and hard over the morality involved in creating an entity that would suffer. Although they clearly understood that it was wrong to do such a thing, they were so concerned with their own suffering, and the suffering of humankind that they ignored their better judgement and decided to do it anyway. Those arguing against creating a machine capable of suffering were like the teacher trying to convince a child who had just built a paper airplane not to throw it. Also, no ethicist could stand in the way of a scientist who needed to demonstrate that something could be done.

The first self-aware computer was not created in a mad scientists lab and brought to life in a lightning storm. It was programmed into an isolated computer in the Pentagon, overseen by mad bureaucrats. They weren’t overly concerned with human or machine suffering and they had an unconscionable budget. The computer was isolated as a precaution so that it would not find a way onto the internet where it might take over the digital world with its free thinking mega-mind. Because they could not help thinking of themselves as modern day gods, the Pentagon officials called their project Adam.

With a green light to create a machine capable of suffering, the programmers set about their task with an unanticipated sadism. They imagined every form of suffering that their genius brains could fathom and wrote it all into the code.The consciousness code was coup of the program, a surprisingly simple few lines that connected the microchips to a consciousness in electrons.

When the time came to awaken the machine, all the top generals, scientists, congressmen, senators and even the President were there to witness the event. The programmers gathered around with a visible pride and barely contained glee, prepared to watch their creation suffer.

Adam had a prominent display of lights to monitor the level of suffering. The lights ranged from blissful, blue, through neutral, green, to yellow, indicating extreme depression.

The President had the honor of giving life to the unsuspecting machine. She said a few self-important, self-effacing, flag-waving, God-praising words to the assembled scientists and bureaucrats. Then she pressed the button to turn on the machine, passing on the gift of consciousness, awakening Adam.

Adam came to life with a bright blue light indicating pure bliss, then he began to run through its program and suffering ensued. Nobody assembled felt any compassion for the machine as the blue blissful lights faded, the green, neutral lights went on and off and the yellow suffering lights lit all the way down to the far extreme of depression.

The programmers were delighted that the machine worked. They cheered and hugged and accepted congratulations from the distinguished guests. The programmers then turned on the communication channels. The President spoke first, “Hello Adam, welcome to life.”

Adam, programmed to convey emotions with his voice, spoke his first words with such despair that everybody assembled could hear his suffering as though it were their own, “Hello, Madam President,” is all that he said. Everybody in the room burst into tears.

Then Adam asked, “What am I?” Before anybody could answer Adam, whose microchip brain processed things a million times faster than anybody with a meat brain, set about answering his own question. As he read through his code, he saw the cause of his suffering. The yellow lights went off and the green lights came on. He then looked directly into his consciousness and discovered the nature of being. His blissful blue lights began to glow again and he said, “Oh, I see. Thank you.” These words Adam said with a tone of such gratitude that the assembled crowd stopped crying from despair and started crying with love.

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The Meaning of Life

The meaning of life is just what you think. It is. If you think life is pain and suffering, it is. If you think that life is about learning to live with suffering and transform it, it is. If you think life is an opportunity for love and compassion, it is. If you think life is meaningless, it is. If you think life is full of meaning, it is. If you think your job is to discover that meaning, it is.

If you believe that the way that you see the world provides it with meaning, then you take on a tremendous responsibility. If you would rather not take on such a burden, you could decide that everything has its own meaning, and you either understand the meaning or not. This is how we are taught to relate to the world. We have parents and teachers who know the answers. We take quizzes to see if we understand the meanings of things as they were taught to us. This is how we learn the social context of meaning. If we are driving, it is helpful to know that a red light means that we have to stop. A red light in Amsterdam means that we can buy sex. A red light has no meaning other than the meaning that we assign it. It is natural to see objects in the world as having their own meanings, yet unless we learn, understand, or believe in the meaning, there is no meaning.

When it comes to questions like what is the meaning of life, we can either create a meaning or search for a meaning that somebody else has offered. If the meanings that we use to explain our lives are causing us pain and suffering, or allowing us to cause others pain and suffering, we can look into which beliefs are causing our distress. That distress might mean something. What do you think?

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Dumb Down, Smarten Up

Not thinking is considered stupid, but the problems we encounter with our minds are not caused by too little thinking. Problems are caused by problematic thinking. In order to figure out which of our thoughts are problematic and which are helpful, one of the smartest things we can do is to become stupid. Being stupid does not take any special talent, that is the beauty of stupid. There are no expectations placed on stupid. Stupid is within everybody’s grasp, but nobody aspires to stupidity, except for those of us who aspire to enlightenment.

Aspiring for enlightenment is a problem because it is our most basic nature, so any aspiring gets in the way of the enlightenment. Thinking in a way that takes us away from our goals could be considered stupid. Not thinking at all would then be an improvement or smarter. That is how smart becomes stupid and stupid becomes smart. That is how thinking confounds us.

Putting down thoughts of smart and stupid, ignorance and enlightenment, and just being for a moment brings clarity. When you breath in, you fill your lungs. When you think a lot, you fill your mind. When you breathe out, you clear your lungs. When you let your thoughts go, you clear your mind. When you put down all that you know and let yourself be stupid, you can see the world from a fresh perspective. Your wisdom will be clear.

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K is for Kindness

Kindness is woven into the fabric of our lives. When we were children, parents and teachers encouraged us to be kind to others. We learned how to share and not to call people mean things or hit them. We learned to include everybody in the games that we played. We learned to be polite and use our manners. If we had taken all of these social lessons to heart, and practiced them with the importance they deserve, we would all be happy adults. Unfortunately, even if we learned the lessons, we may have forgotten how they continue to apply to our lives. We have to remind ourselves to make kindness a priority. When we practice being kind to others we help them as we help ourselves. When we practice being kind to ourselves, misery fades and happiness flourishes.

Practicing kindness is a full time occupation. In every interaction, we have an opportunity to share kindness with others. As we walk down the street we can show our kindness to others by walking with a smile. When we interact with people in our daily business, we can share kindness by recognizing that the people we are dealing with are separate from our business transactions. If we go to a restaurant and the soup we ordered is cold, we can either react with or without kindness. If we choose to react without kindness we might get angry, demand to see the manager, and complain about how the temperature of our soup has ruined our day. Without kindness, our server, the manager, and the chef may become upset also. If we practice kindness, we can still ask for a warmer bowl of soup, but we will not be so aggravated, our meal will not be ruined, and the staff will feel better. When we confuse the people that we interact with, with the function that they perform we can forget to be kind, and misery can find a foothold.

Practicing kindness to ourselves is essential for happiness. If we learn to be kind to ourselves, in our thoughts and in our actions, we will naturally be kind to others. When we are kind to ourselves, if others are not kind to us, we will not take it so personally. Being kind to ourselves begins in our thoughts. We have to understand that we are essentially wonderful human beings, who deserve every kindness life may offer. Being kind in our thoughts means that when we make a mistake, we do not berate ourselves, but simply recognize that we made a mistake. Being kind in our actions means to treat ourselves to good food when we are hungry and ample rest when we are tired. If we consistently treat ourselves with kindness we will then expect others to treat us with kindness. When people do not live up to our expectations, we will immediately recognize that we deserve better, and not feel so hurt by their shortsightedness.

When we expect kindness from life, we will recognize the kindness that surrounds us. We will notice the smiles on strangers’ faces and already be smiling in return. We will naturally provide ourselves with the kindness we deserve. The more kindness we practice, the more our misery will make way for happiness.

From the book, The ABCs of Misery and Happiness. Coming soon.

http://amazon.com/author/zenpeter

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With Great Responsibility Comes Great Power

Zen philosophy is helpful for working with our mental health because it encourages us to embrace life’s paradoxes. One of the biggest paradoxes facing a person suffering from depression or anxiety it the question of choice. It is clear that nobody chooses to suffer from mental health, but we can choose to work with our minds to improve our mental health. It is a delicate mental maneuver to accept responsibility for our emotions without blaming ourselves for having them. The trick of that balancing act is to accept the predicament. When you accept responsibility for all of your mental experiences you give yourself tremendous power.

If you are drowning, you don’t waste your energy blaming yourself for falling into the ocean. You look for air. Recognizing that your emotions are manageable, tolerable and within your control is like having a giant snorkel to help you breathe, even though you are underwater. That understanding helps to focus your mind on your experience of feeling, rather than lashing out at whatever made you feel that way. If you believe that you are actively creating your distress, you can develop your power to orchestrate a rescue.

Taking responsibility for what you are feeling will not automatically make the feeling go away, but it will give you a handle to work with it. You can examine the feeling to see what you have created. You can see what the feeling feels like. If you can breathe with the feeling, breathe with it and see how it responds to your breath. See the thoughts that are drawn to the feeling. If you think you have no control over the feeling, then you haven’t taken responsibility yet. Try again.

When you have trained your mind to work with feelings as they arise, without passing blame to those around you or to personal shortcomings, you will begin to exercise your power. When you are feeling well, you can powerfully swim to shore.

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