Taste Poison

Anxious Habits

Anxiety comes and goes. When it comes too often and goes to little, it becomes a problem. When it stays around too long, it makes more problems. It can be very creative. It can be very persuasive. It creates things to worry about and persuades us that these things need our urgent attention.  Those things that need our attention will get our attention without the help of anxiety. It can go.

To deal with all the coming and going, it would be helpful if we had only a single door, with a lock, so that when anxiety left, we could just lock the door and be done with it. We have many doors. If we close all the doors, anxiety comes in through the windows. If we close the windows, it comes in through the vents. If we close the vents, we suffocate.

There is no point in trying to close out anxiety, so we need to learn its habits. We need to learn to see where and when it comes and see how and when it leaves. While we’re at it, we see what it does when it’s there and where it goes when it’s gone.

Once we get to know anxiety, we no longer feel the need to lock our doors. We notice when it’s there, we notice when it’s not. We don’t hope for it to leave, we don’t worry it will come back. We do what we need to do. We breathe easy.


It Hurts Now

Because you are hurting now does not mean that you will always hurt. It does not mean that there is something wrong with you. If you are aware of your pain, then you have the tool that you need to get through it. You have your awareness. Your pain comes mostly from your thoughts. With awareness you can change your thoughts and change the quality of your pain.

When you feel yourself suffering from a painful situation, notice the thoughts that are swirling around the pain. Focus your awareness on the thoughts and let them go. Now, see how the pain reacts to the loss of thoughts.

Feeling pain hurts, but when you hold your pain in your gentle awareness it offers an incredible opportunity to grow. Pain does not diminish you. It teaches you. When you learn to learn from pain, you see how the pain comes and goes. You see how you can hold onto it and let it pass. It hurts when it comes, but it leaves you feeling fine. Watch it.


Changing Your Life

If you’ve decided that your life needs a change, but you don’t know how to go about creating that change, then you might try meditation. If your life feels stagnant and unchanging, or if it feels like it is changing too quickly, meditation works for that. Meditation does not transform your world overnight, but it can give you little pockets of peace, everyday, from which positive changes can grow.

Meditation is a lot like watching television or sitting at the computer, only there is no television or computer. You don’t need any special skill, spiritual incline, or religious beliefs. You need to take a few minutes everyday to devote yourself to inviting positive change.

To meditate, find a quiet space where you will not be interrupted. Put a few cushions on a carpeted floor, or sit on a firm chair. Breathe in deeply and breathe out slowly. Do that three of four times, then begin counting your breaths from one to ten.

When your thoughts carry you away from your breaths, return to your breath and start counting again at one.

Keep your eyes open, lightly focused and looking downward to an area about three feet in front of you. Place your hands in your lap. Rest your tongue on the front of the roof of your mouth. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try not to squirm. If the sky opens up in front of you, return to your breath, and start counting again at one. Try meditating twice a day for 15-20 minutes at a time.

If this way doesn’t work for you, try your own way. Your life will change.


The Way (Two Koans)

Joshu asked his Master Nansen, “What is the Way?” Nansen replied, “Ordinary mind is the Way.”

Ordinary mind is Buddha Mind. That is good news for everybody with an ordinary mind, which is all of us.

A monk and Zen Master were walking along a mountain stream. The monk asked “How do I enter the Way?” The Master replied, “Do you hear that bubbling stream? Enter there.”

You don’t need to go to ancient China and find that stream to enter the Way. You don’t need any special mind to enter the Way. You just need to use the mind you have and whatever you happen to be experiencing to enter the Way. You might wonder what is so special about the Way if it is just your ordinary mind and ordinary sensations. The Way is special because it is beyond suffering. The fact that it can be accessed through any ordinary experience with an ordinary mind is extraordinary.

Do you feel that suffering? Enter through there. Suffering is an added layer of experience caused by your thinking, opinions, beliefs and judgements. These thoughts are the bubbling mountain stream. If you ever notice yourself suffering, you can notice what you are thinking. Notice what your ordinary mind is doing and enter. Enter the Way with what you have, where you are. See where the suffering goes.


True to You

Whatever you believe will determine how you experience life. How you determine what is true to you is largely based on who you trust. The most important person to trust is yourself. You are certainly not the only person who you can trust, but you are the most important. If you can’t trust yourself, you cannot trust your ability to trust anybody. You actually have no choice but to trust yourself. Even if you didn’t trust yourself, you would still influence yourself as you acquire and discard beliefs. You either believe or you don’t. You must trust yourself in order to figure out what is true to you.

What is true to you continually changes. The more you practice trusting yourself to find the truth, the easier it is to discard false beliefs and acquire more true beliefs. If you place too much trust in your beliefs, or in other people’s beliefs, then you will try to hold on to those beliefs even when you begin to suspect that they might be wrong. When you trust yourself more than your beliefs, then you are flexible in taking on and shaking off beliefs. Eventually, as you remain true to you, your beliefs will be flexible and you will be confident in them and yourself.

When you remain true to you, you can trust easily and well. Even if others betray your trust, you can remain unshaken with your truth intact. It’s your truth. Wear it wisely.


The Present

Giving and getting presents is a way to happiness. The giving is a great way to be generous. The getting is a great way to be grateful. The exchange is about love. It’s not at all about the present. The present is a token of love, generosity and gratitude. If it were only about the present, we might overlook the love and generosity that went into it. We might miss out on the gratitude, if we become too focused on an object, which might, or might not, bring us happiness.

The gift-wrapped present is a good analogy for our search for our True Nature. We look at ourselves and we see a wrapped gift. We are here because of the generosity and love of others and for that we can feel gratitude. When we look at ourselves as a wrapped present, we can see all the potential of greatness within us. Beneath the wrapping lies the potential for unbounded happiness.

Imagine we are given such a gift and told what is inside. We can’t wait to unwrap it, so we tear into it. Then we find another wrapped box. For a while that is amusing, but as we keep unwrapping layer after layer, we lose sight of the generosity and love that created the present and we become too busy trying to get at that happiness inside to feel gratitude.

We get so caught up in ripping through the layers of wrapping that we miss how carefully and beautifully each layer is wrapped. Getting to the center becomes a tedious chore. Because we know that the gift contains unlimited happiness, we slog on, layer after layer, hoping that the next layer will be the last. Even though we would like to get through all that wrapping, we have other things to do with our lives than unwrap an impossibly concealed treasure.

Fortunately, we got the gift down to a size that we can put it in our pocket and work at it in the few spare moments in our busy schedules and in the middle of the night when we can’t sleep.

Carrying that gift around, however, begins to affect our lives. With unlimited happiness in our pocket, we don’t get so concerned with the ups and downs of our busy lives. Whenever we get overwhelmed and lose touch with love and generosity and gratitude, we can sit down and unwrap a few more layers of our present. That brings us great peace.

Whether or not we ever get to the unlimited happiness at the heart of our gift, depends on how we approach it. When trying to get to the center of the present has filled us to overflowing with gratitude, love and generosity, then naturally, we will give our gift away.



Liberation of Liberation

The idea that we could be liberated is a liberating idea. The concept that we are already liberated is also liberating. Thinking about liberation, may on the other hand make us feel trapped. In that case, may need to be liberated from the idea of liberation. Whether or not we are liberated by these thoughts depends on what we think of ourselves and of liberation. Liberation, here, now, is freedom from suffering.

If we believe that liberation is possible, that gives us hope. Hope eases our suffering and we are instantly liberated. In that way, the idea that we could be liberated liberates us. In a less immediate sense, the idea that it is possible not to suffer can give us the courage we need to engage with our suffering and find a way through it.

That we may already be liberated is difficult to comprehend when we are suffering. That idea challenges what it is in us that suffers. If we are suffering, but liberated, it’s like watching a sad movie. We feel for the characters in the movie and we cry as they go through their movie dramas. We are suffering, but not suffering. Because we went to the movie in order to suffer that way, we feel great as we feel terrible for the movie characters. It is possible that there is a part of us that is completely liberated and moved but unmoved by the suffering in our own lives. That is how we can be free from suffering even as we suffer. That is a way to imagine being free, even as we suffer.

Being liberated from liberation is freely accepting our suffering. That way, when we suffer, we don’t even need to be anywhere else but in the midst of our suffering. There is no separation between suffering and not suffering. We are free from the idea that there may be some other way to be.

Being liberated by liberation is how the entity of liberation, entices us to find it. It is there calling to us, encouraging us, as we move in and out of suffering. Finding liberation causes us to seek it. It’s backwards, but that’s how it works. Liberation liberates us, the liberated, liberating, liberators. Find and ye shall seek. Ha.


All Your Fault

If you feel like everything is your fault, you can find liberation in that feeling. Imagine that everything is actually your fault. You caused the sun to shine and the wind to blow. You created a world full of joy and suffering and you chose to get right down in the mud and suffer along with your creation.

If everything is your fault, you don’t have to waste any more of your energy finding fault or assigning blame. You’ve magnanimously taken that responsibility on yourself. There is no need to get angry at others because they can’t help themselves. They only do as you please. Please.

If you are suffering and think that you somehow deserve to suffer for what others do or did, then you need a way to expel that idea from your mind. One way to get rid of that idea is to look right at it and see it for what it is. You don’t even need forgiveness when there is nothing to forgive. That is freedom.


Healing the Past

If something hurt you ten years ago or ten minutes ago, you have now suffered long enough from that pain. That past suffering was inevitable. You have lived through it and learned from it. It has shaped who you are, but it is no longer essential to who you are becoming. Now is the time to let that hurt heal.

The way to let that hurt heal is not to forget it and move on. That is impossible. We remember everything. The way to let it heal is to immerse yourself in the present, where that particular pain is a memory. You can breathe in a deep healing breath and feel the longstanding, familiar pain for a farewell visit. Then breathe out again. If you are still there, then you have survived. You can try it again if necessary.

Who you are does not rely on the pain of the past. You can live without it, especially if it is difficult to live with it. Who you are in the present is somebody who has survived and now has a completely different set of circumstances in your life. As you continue into the future, you can meet past and present pain with the same resolve and heal it upon first contact. That can save you a lot of carrying. Although you have proven that you are strong enough to carry all that pain, you don’t need to anymore. You can now use those emotional muscles to carry peace. You deserve peace.


Zen Cow

What does a Zen cow say?



In Zen circles, there is a famous koan about mu. Mu is Chinese for Nothingness or no.  When a disciple asked the master Joshu if a dog has a Buddha Nature, Joshu said ‘Mu’. This was a confounding answer, because every Buddhist understands that everything has a Buddha Nature, including dogs. The answer was intended to awaken the disciple to his own Buddha Nature. That story has been used since that time to awaken countless seekers to their own Buddha Natures. Today certain Zen practitioners will sit in meditation and contemplate mu until they awaken. Mu, mu, mu, mu, mu. They try not to think about anything else while they think about nothing. Just like a cow.

The joke of this joke is Zen. There is no such thing as a Zen cow. Cows are just cows. They say moo. People are also just people. As people, we suffer. We suffer from our thoughts. We think we are things that we are not. We think we are good cows, or bad cows, or Christian cows, or Buddhist cows, or Muslim cows, or Hindu cows, or Jewish cows, or atheist cows, or black cows or white cows, or milk cows or beef cows. We’re not even cows. Mu.