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: 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.

Mindfulness

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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Topical Tuesday: My Literary Agent Dreams – History and Sci-Fi for Past and Future

I find the past endlessly fascinating and the future filled with wonderful posibilities. That said, I live every moment in the present – it’s the only place to live – but if I could be any kind of literary agent, I would be one who specialized in history (nonfiction though historical fiction is cool too) and science fiction.

Both of my degrees are in history and comparative religion and they are the subjects that truly capture my heart. Therefore, even if I were to handle fiction, I would have to include historical works as well. Oftentimes, academic and scholarly work is handled by university presses, and professors and academics who write such material do not seek out agents, but only their contacts at the appropriate presses who are already familiar with their scholarly accomplishments. So I suppose it would be a little hard for me to become an agent of such things.

However, I do love quality historical fiction (though it’s quite hard to come by, I think – or at least very difficult to do well), and in fact, most of the television shows that I watch and enjoy are historical fiction. Mad Men, for instance, or the Tudors. I love the elements that a show or book can give you about characters and life that my knowledge of historical facts just doesn’t fill in.

Also, sci-fi. I love good sci-fi and would be honored to represent it. Dune, The Foundation Series, LOTR, etc. The reason I think it would be cool being an agent for such things is because I feel like I can read good sci-fi and know whether or not I would want it on shelves. Other genres I couldn’t do that with. For instance, women’s romance literature. Hell if I know what’s good and what’s crap. Sci-fi, however, seems to be something that I could pick up and know about its quality, a very important attribute of a literary agent. Plus, you’d get to read all sorts of crazy crap that gets in people’s heads and once in a while be truly inspired – though perhaps that’s true for all genres.

I could also do smut. I would like to be a literary agent for total, degrading smut. Though that probably wouldn’t be a healthy habit to develop – reading smutty lit all day.

What about you? If you could be a literary agent for any genre, what would it be?

For yesterday’s Fun with the Bible post, click HERE or for last week’s Topical Tuesday – what book I would have written if I could have – click HERE.

And don’t forget to check out Chandler’s Fumbling with Fiction for her thoughts on the literary agent type of her dreams.