Zen Talk: The Mundanity of Zen is the Essence of Its Profundity

“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but merely concentration on our usual everyday routine.” – Shunkyu Suzuki

I think that’s a point that people miss a great deal. Zen is existing in the present by having control over our minds. It’s not some exciting, shining AHHHHHHH that endures at every moment overpowering all that is. Zen is existence in the moment, or as Suzuki puts it, “concentration on our usual everyday routine.” Most of us are thinking of other things as we shower in the morning, brew our coffee and travel to work. We are planning, daydreaming, dwelling on yesterday or lord knows what else.

Zen is not doing all of those things with a feeling of blessed majesty surrounding us. Zen is doing each of those things with complete awareness of what we are doing and total existence in the moment. Zen is taking the shower and feeling the hot water as it courses over our bodies. Zen is smelling the coffee brewing and basking in its aroma. Zen is seeing all that passes us as we make our way to work. Zen is not being distracted by the constant running of our minds but existing in the constant presence of the moment.

Practice mindfulness and being present. Enjoy your life in each moment as it happens. Don’t constantly plan for the future and dwell in the past. Live moment to moment. That is, in essence, living.

What do you think about this quote? What does it make you think?

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Zen Talk: The Power of Quieting Your Mind

“To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” – Chuang-tzu

This is the essence of mindfulness – of becoming aware of our thoughts so much that we can stop them, see beyond them and into what is actually going on in the world because we have ceased to concern ourselves with the overwhelming distraction of the self. Oh, to achieve that.

Our minds are so loud, clambering always. When is your mind not prattling on inside your head? It’s constantly mulling over the days events, questioning our actions, decisions and judgments, planning for the future, calculating and scheming, asking questions and providing answers. And is there anything wrong with that? No, that’s natural.

The problem is when we let our thoughts get the best of us, repeating themselves again and again, rehashing the same issues and conversations to the point that we prevent ourselves from living in the present moment, from seeing the world around us.

And how do we calm our minds, silence and still them? Mindfulness, of course, which I’ve discussed in past Zen Talk posts. We must become aware of each of our thoughts and only with our awareness will we begin to control and calm them. And then, as Chuang-tzu tells us, the rest of what the universe has to offer will be opened to us. The universe, as it were, will surrender itself to us.

What do you think about this quote? How do you practice mindfulness?

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Cartman’s “Trapper Keeper” Will Destroy the Universe in South Park Episode 413

Cartman gets a cool new Dawson’s Creek Trapper Keeper which can merge with any existing technology. When a man calling himself Bill Cosby comes back from the future and claims that the Trapper Keeper eventually takes over the world and that he must destroy it before it’s too late, Cartman thinks Kyle is just jealous and plotting against him.

In the meantime, Mr. Garrison has become the kindergarten teacher and decides to start the class by electing a class president. A tie occurs between Ike Broflovski and another kid and so a run-off ensues, but cannot be decided (remind you of anything?).

Rosie O’Donnell then comes to defend her nephew (Ike’s opponent) and ensure that he is treated fairly. After she behaves like a meddling celebrity, Mr. Garrison screams, “Half the kids in the class didn’t vote for your nephew, so what about them? You don’t give a crap about them because they’re not on your side! People like you preach tolerance and open-mindedness all the time, but when it comes to Middle America, you think we’re all evil and stupid country yokels who need your political enlightenment!! WELL, JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE ON TV DOESN’T MEAN YOU KNOW CRAP ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT!!! NOW GET YOUR ASS BACK ON FIRST CLASS AND RESPECT THIS CLASS’S RIGHT TO MAKE UP THEIR OWN MINDS!!!”

When Cartman’s Trapper Keeper does turn into a massive and scary blob, Kyle goes inside to stop it and is only able to do so because Cartman (who is inside the Trapper Keeper) is weakened after trying to absorb Rosie O’Donnell. Apparently, she’s poisonous.

Do you think that celebrities should interfere in politics as much as they do and voice their opinions so vehemently?

What did you think? What was your favorite part?

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Zen Talk: Truth, Happiness and the Future

“Arise, do not be negligent; practice the principle of good conduct. One who acts on truth is happy in this world and beyond.”

These wise words of the Buddha are gracefully simple and straightforward. Be good! What that means, some of us might be less sure, as words like “truth” tend to get muddled in the confusing world of religious belief and the “truth” that is declared.

If you can manage to operate your life by basing your actions on truth, though, then more power to you.

How would you seek to understand what is truth? How do you practice the principle of good conduct in your daily life?

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Zen Talk: Using Mindfulness the Buddha Starts us on the Path Towards Transcendence

“Be free of the past, be free of the future, be free of the meantime; be transcendent. When your mind is completely liberated, you no longer undergo birth and old age.”

Yes, I’m much agreed. Now…following through – there’s the hard part.


Being free of the past and future is something, at least initially, best done through mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being aware of one’s thoughts and not letting them take over the mind. I do this by identifying the major groupings of thoughts that I have, noting when I have these thoughts, and then allowing that awareness to free my mind of them.

Dwelling, Planning and Judging

For instance, what does my mind do that prevents me from living my life? It dwells on the past; it plans for the future, and it judges people. When I do anything that falls into those three categories (and if you start paying attention you’ll see that 90% of your thoughts are about these three things, too), I say gently and simply, “dwelling,” or “planning,” or “judging.” This calls my attention to these thoughts, and in most cases stops them from continuing (and in most cases they are useless or I already know what happened, what I’m planning to do or that it’s not necessary to judge everyone). If they do continue, I breath deeply and concentrate on thinking the thought so that my mind can have it out to the end and let it go. Then, the next time I think about that same subject it’s easy to say the word and be done with it.

A Lot More to It

Mindfulness, I’m afraid, is not the whole story and if you want to become transcendent and be completely liberated, no longer undergoing birth and death, then you’ll have to seek out advice from someone far wiser than myself. Mindfulness, I believe, is stage one along this path, and stage one is where I live for now.

It’s a challenge to become mindful, but it’s something I challenge you all to do. Become aware of your thoughts. It’s amazing how much more there is to living in the moment and how many better things there are to think about if only we regain control of our wondering minds. I challenge myself to do this too – become more mindful again. We’ll do it together.

Will you join me on this quest of mindfulness? Do you already practice mindfulness? Do you have any tips for us?

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Cartman Ends Atheism in the Future in “Go God Go XII” South Park Episode 1013

I LOVE this episode – it is the spectacular conclusion to episode 1012, “Go God Go II,” which aired last Wednesday and can be read about HERE. Sassy Doc and I had a great conversation following my post so check it out.

This episode is about an atheist future in which Cartman has found himself and where three atheist factions are at war over what atheists should call themselves. They have learned that it’s not enough to believe something but that you have to be a dick to everyone who doesn’t think like you.

The lesson of the episode is that not having God or religion will not necessarily result in a war-free future. What we need is to stop treating people like crap for not believing as we do and then we won’t have war. But even getting rid of all the -isms, as they call them, isn’t necessarily enough. Maybe we’ll still find things to fight about.

One of the greatest lines comes at the end of the episode, when Cartman is about to be sent back to his own time. He is told, “Tell everyone in the past for us, that no one single answer is ever the answer.” Wonderful.

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“Go God Go XII” is South Park episode 1012 and Cartman’s Headed to the Future

This episode and the one after it, “Go God Go XII” (1013), are incredible.

When Mrs. Garrison refuses to teach evolution to her class, Richard Dawkins, renowned public atheist, is hired to explain evolution to the class. He and Mrs. Garrison, despite their differences, fall in love and decide to bully everyone into atheism.

In the meantime, Cartman, unable to wait for the Nintendo Wii, decides to freeze himself and reawaken in three weeks. However, an avalanche prevents his plan from working and he is awakened five-hundred years in the future – an atheist future! – that has been influenced by Dawkins and Garrison and is at war.

Will Cartman ever play the Wii? Will the future be atheist? Does God cause war or is it religious people who insist that they are right?

What did you think of this episode? Do you think that religion is inherently violent or do you think that people will always find something to fight about?

Don’t forget to come back here right after tonight’s new episode for my thoughts on episode 1209, “Breast Cancer Show Ever.”

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