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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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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Zen Talk: The Teaching of the Enlightened

“Not to do any evils, to accomplish good, to purify one’s own mind – this is the teaching of the enlightened.”

This quote by Buddha is a nice one, but probably one of the more difficult to accomplish.

Don’t do evil. Okay, I might be able to handle that. Of course, establishing where the line for evil is is important. A devout Catholic might tell you that contraception is evil. But is it really? Setting aside that complicated line, I think I could manage to avoid evil.

Do good. Alright, similar problem, but I even think I can manage that … if I concentrate really hard, become a total bore and really think about everything. Eventually, I think doing good would become rote and possible, and then I could start introducing excitement again.

And now the tough part: Purify my mind. Uh, okay. How do I do this? Well, a lifetime of practicing and implementing the teachings of Buddhism, no doubt, but for many of us that’s easier said than done. Fortunately, there are a number of great techniques, starting with Mindfulness, that can help us begin purifying our minds.

Whether you start implementing the first, second or third directives of this quote, best of luck!

What did you think of the quote? What do you do in your life to make sure that you are abiding by these words? Is it hard?

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