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Mindfulness Makes a Better Person

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We all want to become a better person.

Right? Well, perhaps I should say most of us want to be better people. It seems clear to me that people who read my stuff must be motivated by self-improvement. The topic on my mind toMeditatorInTwoPieceday is exactly how Mindfulness can make you a better person.

First, a simple and accurate definition: Mindfulness is learning to become an observer of your own thoughts and feelings. Many people who want to learn meditation, start first by sitting in a meditation position with a pad and pencil by their side. And then stopping now and then to record what is going through their mind.

Most people rarely stop to think about what they’re thinking about. And then, also rarely, to ask themselves why am I thinking about that. This is a very important step in learning to control your mind—instead of letting it control you. Of course, the next step beyond Mindfulness is learning to stop the mind, which is the very definition of the Zen meditative state.

So how does this make you a better person? Easy. By observing your own thoughts (which is accomplished at a “higher” place in your mind), you can actually witness your own beliefs and values in operation. That higher place in your mind is often free from much of the judgment and indoctrination by belief systems that control what you think, say, and do. Mindfulness permits the practitioner to think free–at least for a short while. Mindfulness gives your mind an opportunity like a breath of fresh air.

So many of us are not aware how strongly we were indoctrinated. We were “trained” by parents, teachers, preachers, and mentors. All of them authority figures who instilled our values and beliefs. We didn’t have much of a choice then. And now, you are at the mercy of the beliefs of all those people. But wouldn’t you like the opportunity to step back and examine for yourself the basis of all your values and beliefs? Wouldn’t you like to have a say in what kind of person you are? And don’t you want to become a better person as a result?

Get a cushion to sit on and a writing pad for making notes. Go to a quiet place, sit on the cushion, and watch that mind of yours. Just let it run free, and see what comes out.

 

 

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

December 20, 2017 at 3:05 pm

How I Go To Sleep

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SleepingGirl

So many people have difficulty getting good sleep. I’m astounded at the huge industry of sleeping pills and other aids. I’ve never used sleeping pills in my entire life. You might think I’m just lucky. But there’s a little more to it than that.

Typically, when I go to bed at night or take an afternoon nap, I fall asleep in about ten or fifteen seconds. People have asked me how I do that. So for the last few nights, I “watched” myself during the process just so I could describe it.

Oh by the way, a short answer to that question is: Many decades of regular meditation practice and training my mind. But a thorough answer takes a few more words.

When I’m headed for bed, I usually start my mental “falling asleep” process well before I actually hit the sheets. I might be brushing my teeth or taking my clothes off, but I’m winding down the thinking machine. I’m telling myself, “Okay, now is not the time to be worrying about things. Let’s slow the mind down. Just quit thinking.”

That is the first part of my secret: actually preparing the mind for sleep well before bedtime. Maybe it’s the decades of self-training kicking in, but as I slow the mind down, I can sense the heavy feelings of tiredness, fatigue, and low energy flowing downward into my whole body. Thus, with my thinking mind very near to stopping and the body already aching for rest, I’m close to falling asleep by the time I slip into the sheets.

Settling into bed, I’m letting my body find the most comfortable position for sleep. For me, this is already a well-practiced position that minimizes pain and suffering from my old body and a few old injuries. Everybody needs to know his own body and how it can best be positioned to minimize aches and pains. So, unless I’m dealing with  unusual bodily stress, getting myself positioned for dropping off to sleep takes me only a couple of seconds.

And now, it’s time for my “mini-meditation” that I use for going to sleep. Once again, this is where the many years of meditation practice pay off. My mind does a relaxation scan in one or two seconds, and I can feel my body going limp from top to bottom. At this point, the world around me is beginning to disappear. Sleep is near.

Now I focus my remaining consciousness on watching my breath and my heartbeat. The breath is already slow and relaxed, and now it is gradually slowing even more. I can feel my heart beating in my chest, and I also notice it in my fingertips and my temples. The heart rate is also slowing, and I can detect a lower blood pressures. And that is usually the last thing I’m aware of. I am asleep. It is a deep dreamless sleep.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

September 14, 2017 at 11:31 am

Who, Me? Asleep?

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Decades ago, I remember reading books by certain teachers and masters who asserted that I (and most people) are walking through life mostly asleep. That frustrated me, because I envisioned myself as a smart, alert person. What is it about my life that makes me “asleep?”

I recall a time when I once stood in front of a mirror and smacked myself in the face to see if that would have any effect. (It did not.)

Time went on, and I didn’t worry about it. I rarely thought about it. But all during that time I kept on with my meditation practice, which gave me a considerable amount of inner peace, steadiness, and balance—that I noticed most people around me didn’t have.

Years later, during one of my typical quiet early-morning meditations, my world was shaken by an enormous totally unexpected earth-shattering event. It seemed like a massive explosion near my house. Except it wasn’t. It was in my mind. It was an awakening, the likes of which I had never before imagined.

In one moment, I became separated from both my body and my mind—floating free in a dimensionless space. I was able to “see” like I had never imagined possible. I was able to view my body and my puny human mind as separate entities. Suddenly, I had vision and knowledge that is not possible in the ordinary human conscious state. There, for a brief few moments, I was awake.

In the minutes and hours after that meditation, I found that I could not recreate the type of vision I’d had. And I could recall only fragments of the knowledge I had experienced. At first I didn’t know if it had been a dream—or an actual experience. Which is why I began writing about it that same morning. I wanted to capture that experience in writing. And I wanted to prove to myself whether the experience was genuine or if I was losing my mind.

Several more “awakening” experiences happened to me during the next two years, which I faithfully recorded in my journal. One was an event where I discovered my self-nature, which among other things taught me who I am and what I am at the deepest level of my being, without the masks and delusions of my own conscious mind. That was powerful. And that made a big change in the way I live. Now, I’m sure I have a good idea what the masters meant when they wrote about sleepers.

One of my teachers, Osho, taught it this way: Silence is the space in which you can awaken. The noisy mind is the space where you will remain asleep. He’s right.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

August 7, 2017 at 1:10 am

Torment of the Mind

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Almost everybody I know suffers from an overactive mind. They tell me they can’t sleep, can’t concentrate, and never get any real rest from all the stuff they worry about. Yes, I know the problem.

More accurately, I knew the problem all too well–until I learned a certain skill. Decades later, I wrote a book about it. To me, it’s the most important knowledge I’ve gained since I was born. But judging from the apparent popularity, it’s the most boring subject in modern civilization.

If it’s not too boring, read some more about ending your torment: Original Zen.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

July 2, 2017 at 11:59 am

Original Zen Now in Paperback

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It took me a year, but now it’s active and available on amazon. For several years, folks have urged me to put the Original Zen ebook into ink-on-paper. So this was my very first effort at turning an ebook into something that doesn’t require electricity or batteries. Of course, the ebook version is still available.

During this work, I revised and updated the ebook (from its original Sept 2013 version), adding a couple of chapters and some additional words and clarifications about things that weren’t clear enough to some readers. I introduced the notion of using mindfulness meditation as a stepping stone into the Zen state.

The first two paperback copies from amazon just arrived (only two days after ordering), and I’m very pleased with the result. It’s a 6×9 inch quality trade paperback with a full-color cover and 160 pages. At the back is a glossary of terms that might be useful to a new student. Right now the price is only $13, which in the future might have to go up a bit.

Click into Original Zen on amazon and take a look. Your feedback and comments will be greatly appreciated.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

June 10, 2017 at 1:30 pm

The Value of Aloneness

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Being alone can result in one of two states of mind: either loneliness or aloneness. The first is being alone and not happy about it. The second is being alone and liking it.

lonelygirl01I spent many of my younger years trying to avoid loneliness. And hating every minute I was lonely. I did all the typical things people do to avoid being alone. I scheduled my life so I’d be busy all the time. If I found myself alone for some reason, I’d make sure there were several radios and televisions making noise to keep my mind occupied. And during that time, I had no inkling of what aloneness was all about.

Then something happened way back when: I heard a song on the radio that reminded me that we all die alone. I know from stuff I learned in collidge that the human body dies from the outside in. That is, we lose contact with our sensory organs and our physical body while our mind is still functioning. So, that means my whole body will shut down and essentially be “dead” while I’m still alive somewhere deep in my brain. I imagined that could be utterly terrifying.

Then, a few decades ago and with the help of a teacher I know, I began deliberately changing my attitude about being alone. I began to appreciate aloneness. And that was about the same time I began loving myself a bit more than I had earlier in life. Looking back, this worked out very well with Zen meditation, and it really did enhance my practice.

In certain ways, aloneness and meditation are the same things. And in other perspectives, they are complementary and work well together.

Simply put, being alone with yourself and observing your mind is known as Mindfulness meditation. Being alone with yourself and not thinking is Zen meditation. I like to do both, sometimes alternating one with the other.

Now that I’m getting into my senior years, my meditations are sometimes very deep and I lose contact with my body for a while. In case I’ve never told you, that is a great experience. And not terrifying at all. For me, there’s not a shred of fear about the possibility of not “waking up.” I would just go on through the Window and see what happens next.

Let’s get back to the point of this blog. Aloneness is good. Start switching the gears in your mind to be more appreciative of aloneness. Even to the point of seeking it and planning for it. You don’t need the radios and TVs playing all the time. You don’t need somebody there for you all the time. And you don’t have to be “bored” by silence. You can learn to be comfortable and at ease being alone all by yourself. Just being with yourself.

Aloneness is a state that can be comforting and nourishing. It creates an atmosphere conducive to inner growth and self-development. It can also provide an opportunity for healing from the daily slings and arrows.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

February 20, 2017 at 8:20 am

Want to Meditate? But Can’t?

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You’re not alone. Some of the best teachers and coaches have reported that only about 2% of people in Western countries can reach the true meditative state. In other words, they are people who cannot stop the flow of thought in their conscious mind. Are you one of them? Is your mind out of control? If so, what can you do?

Most importantly: Don’t give up. To borrow a tactic from sports, drop back twenty yards and do something different.

Stopping your mind from thinking requires control. But most people don’t have that control. So, instead of trying to control your mind, just become an observer of your thoughts. Use your meditation time to simply watch the stream of thoughts as they pass through your mind. Just relax and notice them.

During that time, you can make mental notes to yourself about what you’re seeing. Later, you can analyze them. As a result, you will learn a lot about the kind of mind you have. And that will let you manage your mind (and your life) a lot better. It’ll soon become obvious to you what you must do to slow down that torrent of thought.

If you sit five or six times per week (which, I’d say, is the minimum for any serious student), you will gradually develop and recognize—within yourself—a separate part of your mind you can call the Observer. You can be “in your Observer” some of the time and “in your Thinker” at other times. Then, any time you’re on your cushion, you can jump out of the Thinker and into your Observer—and back again. Naturally, when you’re sitting, you’ll want to spend most of your time in the Observer.

As time goes on, you may recognize the Thinker and the Observer as two different beings inside you. I chuckle because some of my shrink friends say that creates a split personality. Well, yes it does, but in this case it’s a very good and healthy way to separate what goes on in your mind.

For a few months or more, the Observer may be a bit weak. At times he might even be overcome and pushed to the background by the Thinker. But with consistent practice, the Observer will be available to you any time you need him. Even when you’re not sitting on your cushion. At some later date, your Observer may get strong and agile enough so that you’ll want to rename him—as Boss.

When you find that you can jump into Observer mode at will and at any time, that means you have made enormous progress. Congratulations! You are practicing Mindfulness Meditation.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

June 19, 2016 at 6:29 pm

The Animal Inside You

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A few weeks back, we introduced and discussed the two main “actors” on the stage of your mind: the Boss and the Thinker. If you remember, the Thinker is your good old conscious mind that wants to think non-stop when you’re awake (and even sometimes when you’re half asleep). The Boss is the higher you that tries to gain control of the Thinker whenever you want to get into the meditative state.

EdonVortex

Sitting on a Sedona vortex

With that clearly in mind, it’s time to introduce the third major player on the stage of your mind. I call it the Animal. Indeed, it is the actual animal within you. Physically, the Animal lives in the lower part of your brain known as the Limbic System. Although chiefly concerned with your survival, that part of he brain is also the center of your emotions.

Most of the time you’ll find that in a normal, mentally healthy, well-adjusted person (hah, how many people like that do you know?) the Animal stays mostly in the background. Thus, under most circumstances you don’t have to worry about the Animal during meditation. However, if the Animal is aroused and agitated for any reason, it may render you incapable of getting into the meditative state.

The Animal is so powerful that it can completely paralyze both the Boss and the Thinker—and do so very quickly. It can hijack the entire mind/body and take total and immediate control. That’s not entirely bad; it is an important feature that helped us survive. But it can be very bad if the Animal takes control and keeps control* to the extent that a person’s mind is unable to function as it should. That situation can be identified as one or another variation of mental illness.

For instance, if you have a fight with your lover, your Animal may be out of control for a while. If a loved one dies, the Animal howls with grief and prevents you from thinking or meditating for a while. If I tried to list all the possible situations in which the Animal can create havoc in your mind and keep you from achieving inner peace, this would be a very long (and boring) post.

From my experience teaching meditation, I know that trying to learn it while the Animal is loose and raging, is futile. To meditate, the Animal must be calm and resting comfortably—aware but not fearful about what is going on. Which might mean that, before you find a meditation teacher, you may need to see your therapist first and see what can be done about that snarling, pacing, agitated Animal that sometimes runs your life.

The good news is that, once your meditative practice is well established, oftentimes you’ll be able to use your meditative state to calm the Animal. In my own case, it took me at least ten times as long to learn to control the Animal compared to the Thinker. And even now my control of the Animal is not 100% guaranteed. But at least now I can usually hold the raging Animal on his leash and, after reminding him of his limits, let him loose to snarl a bit.

*Bad experiences in your previous life might have created trauma that left the Animal in you in constant pain and unconsolable suffering. That is called post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which usually requires a special type of body therapy for successful treatment.

What is This Thing Called Wisdom?

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In the last post, we identified two parts in your mind, the Boss and the Thinker. The Boss is the higher you that you would like to have control your mind and body, at least occasionally. The Thinker, of course, is the noisy thinking machine—the conscious thought stream that wants to run your life non-stop.

In a typical modern western mind, the Thinker has taken over complete control, and the Boss is beaten into submission. These are actually like two different people—or two different beings inside you. It’s likely that you hardly know the Boss at all. You live entirely in your Thinker.

But if you’re even modestly successful with your inner development, you have separated and identified both of these inner beings. And you’ve had at least some success being in the Boss state and shutting down the Thinker. At least for a few precious moments now and then.

Shifting between these two states doesn’t mean you’re developing a multiple personality disorder. You’ve just become aware that you can “be” in different areas of your mind at any particular time. That’s actually very healthy, as I’m sure you’ll learn later on.

If you practice Zen meditation, maybe five or six times per week, and if you’re doing it right, over time you’ll learn to slip in and out of the Boss state with relative ease. Then you’ll widen the separation between the two states. You’ll learn how to be in your Boss mode whenever you want, which allows you to be an observer of the Thinker. First, you will learn to do it sitting on your meditation cushion. But later, you’ll be able to do it in a huge variety of other circumstances.

When you get really good, you’ll be able to jump into the Boss mode any time you want and watch the Thinker to see how it is performing. And here’s the real payoff: You (in the Boss mode/Zen state) will be able to coach the Thinker, especially when it’s under pressure, and give it guidance from a higher-level perspective. This is huge. This is an enormous advancement in your inner development.

There are hundreds of examples in everyday life. Here’s one: The lady looked at me with a scowl on her face, and said, “What did you do with all that money?” Uh oh. We’re under attack. My Thinker leaped into action and rapidly began formulating his defense. My Boss pulled on his imaginary reins and gently told the Thinker to relax. Slow down. Keep breathing. Allow the face to have a relaxed smile.

Then Boss gives Thinker some higher-level info it had sensed. Namely, the lady is exhibiting anxiety. She is worried about the new furniture she’s ordered, and she’s worried about how we’re going to pay for it. So relax. Let her speak her piece. But don’t be defensive. That’s not what she wants to hear.

Now the Thinker is more relaxed and having a short break to do its thing (namely, thinking). It responds calmly, “Honey, I used that money to pay off your credit card. The balance is zero, and you can use that card to buy your furniture. Now, would you like another cookie with your tea?”

Okay, that’s a silly example. But I could write a book full of such examples, some not so silly—where the higher level being inside me watches my noisy, short-sighted thinking machine, and coaches it in a variety situations.

Some people call that “wisdom.”

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

March 6, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Who’s The Boss?

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In that noisy jumble of thoughts and feelings we call our mind, who or what is actually in charge? Anybody? Anything?

StatueHere’s a simple way to think about it: When you meditate, one part of your mind is trying to control another part of your mind. The primary goal of Zen meditation is to stop the conscious mind from thinking. So, the part you want to be controlled is the conscious mind. We can call it the “Thinker.” The part trying to exercise control we can call the “Boss.” Thus, meditation is a state where you, the Boss, is trying to make you, the Thinker, stop thinking. At least for a little while. Make sense?

During the thousands of years people have pursued inner development and practiced meditation, what we’re calling the Boss has been given many names. I’m responsible for a couple of those names myself. For example, I used to call it the Higher You. Or the Higher Self. But I found those names were confusing to some people. And translating those terms to other languages was problematic. Since then, I’ve found that calling it the Boss is clear and simple. What’s more, “Boss” is a word understood in many languages.

So, here is what’s most important about this lesson: You must become aware that you can “be” in two places in your mind.* You can be in your Thinker, which means you’re busy thinking at the time. Or, you can be in your Boss, which means that higher level being inside you is in charge at the moment, and it’s not letting the Thinker control you.

When your Boss is in charge of your mind, you are in the Zen state.

*As your meditation practice continues, you’ll discover another one or two “places” you can be in your mind. Or perhaps slightly out of your mind.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

February 26, 2016 at 1:01 pm