Who Are You? Why Are You Here?

What Is Your Real Purpose in Life?

Looking Inward

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As a writer and student of Zen, I’ve struggled for twenty-two years to find the simplest worS'tatue2ds to describe the Zen experience. That little “chore” was handed to me early one morning in 1996 in a flash of knowledge. So I wrote and I wrote, trying to compose the language that might help other people coming along the same path to understand exactly what Zen is. Along the way, I learned that language is woefully inadequate to describe some things.

However, the Zen state is a remarkably simple state to be in. Simply stated, it is being in a relaxed body and having no thoughts. I’ve said that and written that a hundred times. And for some, it’s a lot easier to say than it is to do.

I’ve searched for simpler and more accurate ways to describe Zen over the years. Just recently, a short, simple sentence came to mind that might resonate. Here it is:

Zen is looking inward and saying nothing.

Yes, actually that is entirely accurate from my experience. Does it make sense to you? Does it make the concept easier to grasp? Of course, your next question might be: Okay, but why should I do it?

Let me think about that…

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

August 28, 2018 at 4:26 pm

Does Meditation Really Help?

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Will meditation help me live longer? And will meditation help you live longer?

Almost everybody with a brain knows the answer to that question. But let’s be honest, most people don’t pay much attention to what they know or intuit about meditation. They think, “Oh yeah, meditation is great, yada yada. But I’m too busy right now.”

This morning I had an ideal opportunity to test the theory on myself. I had been annoyed by somebody. Well wait a minute. Taking responsibility for my feelings, it’s more correct to say that I annoyed myself about somebody.

I had just finished Sunday brunch, and I was sitting there at the table by myself, just thinking about that self-centered, inconsiderate, unthinking person who I’d annoyed myself about. I thought okay, since it’s time to take my daily blood pressure (which my doctor has been nagging me about), let’s see what’s going on in my body. (And mind.)

My BP meter is right beside my eating place. I relaxed a bit and took my blood pressure. It was high. Since I was alone, I relaxed for 15 minutes, meditated some of that time, and took it again. It was better. I relaxed a third time, had a nice meditation of maybe 10 minutes, and took my BP a third time. For each observation I recorded the Time, BP, and Pulse Rate in my doctor-ordered BP journal. Here’s what I got:

12:30 188/100 75
12:45 170/90   74
13:15 150/80   90

Frankly, I’m amazed. I never thought it would be such a radical change. I wasn’t even on my cushion or in a good place for meditation. But I dropped my blood pressure 38 points just sitting in a chair, watching birds eating in the feeder, and not thinking (well, not much). I guess that proves my point.

Haha, I’m laughing at myself. Here I’m a meditation teacher (or coach, actually) but obviously I don’t coach myself enough. I haven’t had any doubts for decades about the effectiveness of meditation. Isn’t this like the shoemaker who doesn’t have any shoes? Or doctors who who have more heart attacks than their patients? We gotta learn to practice what we preach.

I promise to do better.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

January 14, 2018 at 4:20 pm

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

Why I Love Sunday

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Sunday is a great day for several reasons. It’s especially nice because most of the true believers are in their churches and we non-believers have the world to ourselves. Well, mostly.

What’s wrong with that you ask? Nothing, actually. Most of us are doing what we want to do. As for myself, I make a point of sleeping late on Sunday. I hardly ever wake up on Sunday without having at least a fleeting thought about the people kneeling and praying in their churches. And appreciating my own freedom to roll over and take an extra snooze.

I can’t imagine living in a country where the government is a religion, and a religion is the government. That is true enslavement, and it is a genuine justification for revolt.

One thing I’ve noticed about religions is they all have stories to tell. When you pick a religion (or if you were indoctrinated when you were young), you are taught that religion’s stories. Each religion’s stories are a little different.

They have books of stories. And they sing songs that tell their stories. And for emphasis, their preachers will shout and rant about their stories. Whether or not their stories are actually true doesn’t really matter. They encourage you to believe them. Because Belief is how you create Faith. And Faith is what gets you into Paradise later. That is, if you choose to believe all that.

In truth, Belief is the easy way out. Show up for church now and then, put some money in the offering plate, and you’re covered. Oh, and quit reading sacrilegious stuff written by heathens like me.

When you step way back and take a hard look at all the possible stories offered to you, you might discover one very crucial fact:

All of the stories in all the religions of the world are merely what other people believe about God. Bottom line: Every religion wants you to accept and believe what other people believe. None of them encourages or helps you take a path of learning for yourself. None of them encourages spiritual self-development.

Compared to just signing on to an organized religion, Zen might be a harder path. You actually have to do something: Practice meditation. Open yourself to your own inner knowledge. But there are no belief systems in Zen. It is a path of seeking the truth. That makes it a very rewarding path. If you stick to it.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

October 8, 2017 at 12:38 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