Dieting the Zen way

Homemade Cornish Pasty!! Yum!

Homemade Cornish Pasty!! Yum!

Spiritual practice sometimes can be approached like a diet. You have a set goal ‘I want to lose 20 pounds’ or  ‘I want to obtain inner peace’…

The goal is useful in that it provides direction, it can help define the path we take to get there.

However, this approach has a major flaw. If we use the goal as the basis of actions, then even if we meet the goal, what do we do afterwards? Say we wanted to lose 20 pounds. We focus on that and we decide that to achieve this, we will track how much we eat every day and make sure it doesn’t exceed a certain amount. After a couple of months, let’s say, we reach our goal… we are 20 pounds lighter! Awesome. So what now? Do we revert back to how we ate before the diet? If so, then we will gain those 20 pounds back. Do we continue to track what we eat? Do we set a new goal of maintaining the new weight? It can never end with this approach. We will always feel incomplete, if you will.

Now, the same is true with spiritual practice. This is why in Zen, it is said that seeking Enlightenment is already a mistake. Now, without seeking it, we would never find it though! So what do we do? lol!

We must understand that we are already Enlightened, so there is nothing to seek. Understanding this truth will help us live in such a way that one day we may realize this truth, not simply understand it. So, there is a process of sorts, yes. People do not randomly obtain Enlightenment. Equally, people do not obtain Enlightenment through desiring it, seeking it or working towards it. That is the frustrating part! Lol. ‘I didn’t meditate for 30 years for nothing!’

So, like dieting, the best way forward is to change, in an instant, our understanding, our approach. A fundamental change must occur. Wanting to lose 20 lbs is not enough! Losing 20 lbs is not even enough! (and I don’t mean we need to lose 30 or 40 lbs either! lol) We must change something for a real change to blossom.

So, the person who loses 20lbs… they lost those 20lbs before even the first lb was shed… because the change happened already, and it was simply the effect of time passing that allowed it to blossom. So, when we make these fundamental changes, the effects may take weeks, months, years or lifetimes to blossom, but they will blossom… the wheels are in motion.

So it is with Enlightenment. We are already there, but to allow it to blossom, we must change something, and in a flash, we become Enlightened. Then when we brush our teeth, walk the dog, and sweep the floor… .These actions.. they help blossom our Enlightened nature … but without that flash of insight, of change, these actions are like poison, not nourishment and we may detest sweeping the floor!

So, sweeping the floor has the power to poison us or to enlighten us!

Let’s change our approach to things and let’s make our actions be nourishment and not poison.

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MEAT!

What is going on here?!

What is going on here?!

It is interesting how we react to certain things… how we pull with us our preconceptions, our past views, the trenches of thought our minds made long ago….

When I saw the above product, I was annoyed. It is NOT turkey and it is NOT steak! The ex-meat eater in me was offended! Lol. The comic in me found it humorous!

Meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan – we should all take the time to think about where the food we eat has come from.

Now, these ‘turkey steaks’… they are pretty tasty! I gobbled them up! HAHAHA.

The Infinite Universe?

Sun on the tops of leaves, Sun on the tops of our heads.... seeping into our brains and bodies, loving each without difference.

Sun on the tops of leaves, Sun on the tops of our heads…. seeping into our brains and bodies, loving each without difference.

Infinite is big. I mean, really big… HUGE in fact… It is infinitely big! Lol.

I often think about whether or not the Universe is infinite. I have written about this before and will probably write about it again, and again..perhaps an infinite amount of times! Haha.

So, the Universe might be infinite. If it is, then that opens up a huge can of worms! It means that every situation that is unfolding, a ‘duplicate’ situation is unfolding somewhere else in the Universe… an infinite amount of times. So, this instant you are reading this, has happened, in a sense, hundreds of times already in the past, hundreds of times right now and hundreds of times in the future… and not merely hundreds of times, but thousands, no, millions, no billions.. no… an infinite amount of times!

You would have thought we would ace all our exams in school if we studied all those billions of times! Haha.

But if the Universe is infinite, then not only are all ‘duplicate’ situations unfolding, but they are also unfolding with slight variations, and also major variations. Perhaps in another situation, your cat is black not white.. perhaps your car is red not blue…. Perhaps you’re grumpy and not happy! Lol.

So, if, and it is a HUGE if (an infinitely huge if!)… if the Universe is infinite, then all our experiences are spreading the whole of all experiences. We won that lottery, we got that job,  we got a 100% on the exam, etc…. but just as true, we also went bankrupt, we got fired and we failed that exam! Lol. That sucks!

So, where does that leave us? What does it matter? Is the Universe actually infinite or just really freakin huge?

Understanding to our core that we simply do not know, that honesty, is something special, something powerful. Now, that is not to say we give up trying to understand! Trying to understand the Universe while realizing it is impossible to understand seems, well, rather stupid.

Is there a way to understand without using understanding? Without getting into semantics, yes, yes we can understand without understanding. The goal-less goal.

If the Universe is infinite, ‘you’ have figured this out already, billions of times, and you will figure it out again, billions of more times, forever, without end.  When will you make it ‘your’ turn?

Let go of what binds us and feel what remains.

Ignorance is Bliss!

How much DDT contamination exists in this tree? What does that knowledge do to us?

How much DDT contamination exists in this tree? What does that knowledge do to us?

“Ignorance is bliss” is a common phrase in Western culture.

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention” is a phrase I once saw on a bumper sticker. I could google its origin, but .. meh. Lol. (I will remain ignorant about it! haha)

Now, I think the two phrases are linked….

Stating that ignorance is bliss implies that being knowledgeable is painful.

Stating you are not paying attention if you are not outraged implies that, well, being knowledgeable is, well, painful or outrageous.

When I studied for my Bachelor’s degree, and to a lesser extent for my Master’s, I really resonated with the outrage statement. When a person pays careful attention to what humans do, to each other, to the earth, to animals….there is lots of joy, yes, but also lots of horror, lots of outrage.  That outrage is hard to let go of. When I was more ignorant of the horrors of the world, it was a more blissful place, in my little bubble, lol.

Now, I think it is obvious that ignorance isn’t the answer, lol. (It makes me think of Sam Malone from the TV show Cheers when he gave advice to Woody: ‘Ignore the problem. It will go away’)

So what do we do? It is easy to fall into a pit of hopelessness, despair and apathy.

Well, one thing is to never discount the joys, the triumphs, that occur in the world. The miracles, the sacrifices, the love… It is easy to overlook that when horrors are occurring. That is natural. If a person helps bring an animal back to life versus when a person kills an animal out of ‘fun’, it is natural to focus on the disturbing, the horror… the problem. We should focus on the problems. But the problems can become overwhelming. So we need to ensure we focus enough on the good, the positive, the love in the world.

What next?

Well, a Buddhist vows to save all beings from suffering.  How can we do that?! We must take good care of ourselves, save our own selves, then bring that freedom into the world.

It is said that when the Buddha realized his Enlightened nature, the whole world became Enlightened. Now, since the Buddha’s time, there have been great horrors…surely not all beings are enlightened, are they?!

Yes and no. We are all already Buddhas, and enlightenment is never separate from us. Where could it go?! Lol.

Ignorance is not bliss and paying attention is not outrageous. Let us meditate on that. By that, I simply mean, let’s just think about that.

Transformation

Who is in the driver's seat?

Who is in the driver’s seat?

Transformation.

When most people think of water, they usually think of liquid water. Of course, water can be solid – as ice, or gaseous – as water vapour.

Water can transform itself from one state of matter to another. It does so without effort….when the conditions are a particular way, water will become either loose or rigid….

A Zamboni is a great machine..it makes ice smooth again! It shaves off the top rough layer of ice, melts it and pours it back out as a thin uniform layer to refreeze. If you love ice hockey, you love Zambonis! lol.

Our minds are like the ice and our hearts are like the Zamboni. Our minds can become rough and filled with bumps to trip us up on our journey through life. Our hearts can melt away those rough ridges and bumps and smooth them out.

Now, these are just words, of course, but they are meant to serve the purpose that transformation of ourselves is possible. I use the dualistic function of the mind and the heart a lot in my writing, as I personally find it a useful tool. However, as it is dualistic, it separates each from the other and from all other things too. That is ultimately not correct.  We must pay attention to this.

Now, water transforms without effort (unless you are using a Zamboni! Ha)… how about our minds? I said we can use our hearts…. Now, our hearts, I feel, operate without effort, they do what they do and they do not lie…. So, looking deep within our own hearts, feel the love it has for our minds, how it loves us, and protects us… let it guide us, without effort, to calming the chaos in our minds.

Dinosaur desire-mind!

I want to eat you!

I want to eat you!

Desire mind- When we desire something, we can be said to have ‘desire-mind’. In Buddhism, this is a dangerous mind, as it will not help to end our suffering, and in fact, it only leads to promoting our suffering.

Now, what is ‘desire’? We may really crave mint chocolate-chip ice cream, hold a real desire to eat some! Now, this desiring can be fairly easy to be seen as potentially a losing venture. When we are dreaming of the ice cream, we destroy the present moment, we are thinking of a future which may or may not occur. We also reinforce our attachment to ice cream. In Buddhism, attachment leads to suffering, so being so attached to deliciously awesome ice cream is not the Way.

Now, what if we are dehydrated, stuck without water for days and days…. Our minds may be somewhat single-minded in obtaining water… desiring water, attached to getting water…. Now, is that a bad thing? lol. No way!

It can be seen how the evolution of our ‘desire-mind’ was a great tool in survival. The Universe knows what it is doing! lol. So, having desires is natural, and, when we do not attach ourselves to our desires, we can be free of their potential suffering. Now, even our attached mind focused on only getting water… That is fine, so long as we do not attach ourselves to our attachment! hahahaha. Sounds like escape-clause logic to me! But it is true….

Desires are natural, normal, yet we must think deeply about the origin of our desires and when the true origins reveal themselves to us, we can become unattached to them. So, even though you may always have a soft-spot for mint chocolate-chip ice cream, it doesn’t mean you need to be attached by it, to be governed by it.

Who is the master? Our desires or ourselves?

First one may take back control over their desires, then one may give back control over themselves to the Universe.