Zen Talk: A Reminder to Live in the Moment

“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”

Everyone needs a good ol’ reminder to live in the present, and that is just what this quote is. Be in the moment of what you’re doing.

It’s very hard to pay attention to the things that you’re doing because our lives are inundated with stimuli and distractions, whether from television, work, life planning or what have you. Our own thoughts preclude our ability to live in the moment – rather than pay attention to the meal in front of us, we think about that look Suzy at work was making when we were talking to Joe. But why? Why can’t we take a nice walk and enjoy the sites and smells around us rather than dwell on the past or plan for the future.

Live in the moment and enjoy life.

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Zen Talk: Our Words Don’t Do Reality Justice

“The instant you speak about a thing, you miss the mark.”

There’s little I find as frustrating as writing the same post twice, and though apparently I can’t possibly capture that frustration in words, I’m going to ask your forgiveness on the skimpiness of this post as it pains me to write it again.

I love this quote. It reminds me of the notion of Platonic forms. That is, we try repeatedly to capture the essence of an idea in its earthly manifestations and as close to our designs as we may come, we never truly capture its essence (not that I subscribe to the notion of Platonic forms, but this does make me think of them).

This quote also speaks to the value of experience. When we experience something we truly live it, but when we attempt to tell of that experience to others, we no doubt miss the mark. Though a shame, it reminds us of the importance of living life for ourselves.

What are your thoughts on this quote?

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The School Children All Get Lice in South Park Episode 1103, “Lice Capades”

This is a bizarre episode, that’s for sure. The premise is that Clyde gets lice, but the majority of the story is told from the perspective of a particular lice living on his head – and the hell Clyde’s poison shampoo wreaks on his family and life.

The South Park children get very uppity when they learn that one of their own has lice, but as it turns, Clyde isn’t the only one bringing this vermin around South Park Elementary.

One particularly noteworthy moment is when the lice refers to God’s plan, as if he is somehow part of it. Kind of throws our own obsession with being part of God’s plan into sharp relief.

What did you think of this episode? Favorite part?

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Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size is a Life-Changing Experience about Weight, Food and Life

Anyone who wants to change his or her life for the better and do him/herself a huge favor should read Dr. Linda Bacon’s book, Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight.

This book is counter-culture and earth-shattering in scope and quality. Bacon, a revered researcher of weight and related issues, single-handedly takes on the misguided and erroneous notions that pervade our society about weight loss, dieting and health. This book is well-researched and excellently cited – two huge criteria for me when reading anything of this nature – and actually breaks down and explains why and how America has been made to believe that fat kills and weight is ugly.

Well fat doesn’t kill and big is just as beautiful as anything else. We’ve been lied to by health professionals, researchers, our government and nearly everybody else.

What makes this woman – who apparently few people agree with – right, you ask? That I can hardly tell you in this brief post. I can only beseech you to go on Amazon.com or wherever you prefer to order your books and buy this one. It will change your life.

It you’re fat, it will be the beginning of a whole new life of feeling good without dieting and hating your body. If you’re thin, it will make you understand an oppressed segment of our population and hopefully it will also change your relationship with food and your weight for the better. I’m not a big guy but I will never understand food or weight the same again – and I mean that in a good way.

Click HERE to buy this book now and change your life (those of you familiar with my book reviews will know that I don’t ever attach links for a book to be purchased, but this one is too important not to).

In “Fourth Grade,” South Park Teaches of the Value of Moving Forward in Life

The boys, fearing that fourth grade is going to suck and desperately wanting to return to the third grade, try to make a time machine and travel back. After an episode of attempts to do so, Ms. Choksondick tells them:

“Life isn’t about going back, it’s about going forward. Yes, there are times in our life that we wish we could relive, but, if we already lived them perfectly, why live them again? The adventure of life is that there’s always something new. New challenges, new experiences. A fun game is a game that gets harder as it goes. So it is with life. Do you understand?”

This, I think, is wonderful advice and important for everyone to keep in mind, even if we’re not attempting to make time machines to bring us back to the third grade.

Life is about things getting more challenging and overcoming those challenges and experiencing new things. If life never got harder than multiplication tables and cursive writing then America wouldn’t have won the space race – and what’s more important than the space race if we’re ever going to colonize other planets when the resources of this one no longer sustain us. But let’s not make this geopolitical – let’s keep it personal. Let’s realize the value of adventure and challenge and new experiences and watch episode 412 of South Park.

Did you like this episode? What was your most recent challenge and how did you overcome it?

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Zen Talk: “Great Transcendent Wisdom” Teaches of Emptiness and Impermanence

The classic Buddhist work on Great Transcendent Wisdom teaches:

“All things are subject to causes and conditions, none are independent….All are born from causes and conditions, and because of this they have no intrinsic nature of their own. Because of having no intrinsic nature, they are ultimately empty. Not clinging to them because they are ultimately empty is called transcendent wisdom.”

I really love this concept.

Now, none of us are about to go off in the woods and become ascetics, unattached to our possessions and lives. Is this to say that none of us will achieve transcendent wisdom? Well, yes, probably, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something for us to learn from these words.

They’re about our attachment to material objects and the world around us. We become so attached to our things, to crap, to objects, and cars and houses and trinkets and nonsense and so many things that we don’t need that they prevents us – not only, according to this passage from transcendent wisdom and enlightenment – but from, in the meantime, living life.

People forgo so much for the crap they have. They worry about losing it and worry when it’s lost. They spend time and energy and money protecting crap (not that I blame them – I’ve had my home broken into and I know how much it sucks) and consequently don’t enjoy the finer things in life. People don’t travel and see new things because there’s too much to attend to at home, and they don’t live life because they’d rather sit amongst their crap. Many people don’t experience the fun and excitement of moving to a new city or country because they’ve accumulated too much stuff and wouldn’t know how to get it there and don’t want to lose it. The ability to pick up and go is a wonderful thing.

It’s not that these lifestyles aren’t understandable – liking our crap, that is. After all, I like crap. It’s just that we sometimes need the reminder that it is just stuff and there’s more to life than the stuff. When we see that nothing has intrinsic value we’ll see the value in everything.

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Zen Talk: Dogen’s “The Issue at Hand” Waxes about Being As Is

“Kindling becomes ash, and cannot become kindling again. However, we should not see the ash as after and the kindling as before. Know that kindling abides in the normative state of kindling, and though it has a before and after, the realms of before and after are disconnected. Ash, in the normative state of ash, has before and after. Just as that kindling, after having become ash, does not again become kindling, so after dying a person does not become alive again. This being the case, not saying that life becomes death is an established custom in Buddhism – therefore it is called unborn. That death does not become life is an established teaching of the Buddha; therefore we say imperishable. Life is an individual temporal state, death is an individual temporal state. It is like winter and spring – we don’t think winter becomes spring, we don’t say spring becomes summer.”

These words from Dogen’s Shobogenzo essay, “The Issue at Hand,” reassure me not only about the nature of time but also about the nature of life and death. The notion of individual temporal states removes the usual power that the idea of death has.

I have never been particularly scared of death. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to die and when confronted with the prospect of immediate death I am scared. However, the actual idea of death, which is to say, no longer being a part of this life on earth, doesn’t upset me. I am not scared of death as an unknown. Perhaps it’s this lack of apprehension regarding death that has never made me feel the need to pursue religions that insist on making me feel better about what happens after we die, with notions of Heaven and Hell, salvation, etc.

Those ideas are all meant to fill a need: to comfort people and their fears about the great unknown, death. For instance, Christianity is a very ‘other-worldly’ religion. That is, this life is about guaranteeing salvation and a ticket into Heaven and eventually about being resurrected back into life. These concepts are all central to the purpose of Christianity and are meant to address a very basic and understandable human fear about death. The purpose of Christian ritual and belief, then, is aimed primarily at seeing these things through – in a manner of speaking, at preventing, or beating, death.

On the other hand is the Buddhist approach above. Life and death are both individual temporal states: they are times, or periods, and they each have an equal value as such. We are not meant to prize life and cling to it obsessively, insisting that it is all that matters. Yes, life should be valued, no doubt, but we should also embrace its fleeting nature, seeing existence not as our conscious self in time but as ourselves among everything else as existence.

Did you read this week’s essay? Did you enjoy it? What do you think about when you read the quoted section above? What is your philosophy about life and death?

I have spoken in brief about a fraction of a concept in part of a paragraph in this essay. I recommend you read “The Issue at Hand” in Dogen’s Shobogenzo to begin getting the full effect. Then read it again. I read it three times before anything started to register.

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