The Zen Guide to Transforming Your Writing - Even if You Are Not a Writer or a Zen Master

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If you know how to sit like that, sitting is very pleasant. Drop the craving for self, for permanence, for particular circumstances, and go straight ahead with the movement of life. With no set idea of how something is supposed to be, it is hard to get stuck on things not happening in the time frame you desired. Instead, you are just being there, open to the possibilities of your life.

See through everything and be free, complete, luminous, at home — at ease. The true purpose is to see things as they are, to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes. Our way is not to sit to acquire something; it is to express our true nature. That is our practice. Do not be trapped by the need to achieve anything. This way, you achieve everything. He who loves with purity considers not the gift of the lover, but the love of the giver. Balance is the perfect state of still water. Let that be our model. It remains quiet within and is not disturbed on the surface.

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security. It is a wretched thing that the young men of today are so contriving and so proud of their material possessions. Men with contriving hearts are lacking in duty. Lacking in duty, they will have no self-respect. Have good trust in yourself, not in the One that you think you should be, but in the One that you are.

Being attached to someone is not about the other person. It is about your own sense of inadequacy. The more we value things, the less we value ourselves. Bruce Lee Click to tweet. Since we desire the true happiness that is brought about by a calm mind, and such peace of mind arises only from having a compassionate attitude, we need to make a concerted effort to develop compassion.

I am the infinite, the vastness that is the substance of all things. I am no one and everyone, nothing and everything — just as you are. When we have our body and mind in order, everything else will exist in the right place, in the right way. More important than any stage which you will attain is your sincerity, your right effort. Keep it simple and focus on what matters.

Top 3 Zen Quotes With Images

Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think. Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions. As you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start disappearing. You are, but the mind is utterly empty. You must only concentrate on the next step, the next breath, the next stroke of the broom, and the next, and the next.

Keep your heart clear and transparent, and you will never be bound. A single disturbed thought creates ten thousand distractions. Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen. The mind is the root from which all things grow.

If you can understand the mind, everything else is included. Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate. The things I carry are my thoughts. They are the only weight. My thoughts determine whether I am free and light or burdened. You are, after all, what you think.

Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions. Distraction is the main problem for us all — what the Buddha called the monkey mind. We need to tame this monkey mind. True depth of understanding is wide and steady. Shallow understanding is lazy and wandering. It is only with total humility, and in absolute stillness of mind that we can know what indeed we are.

If moment by moment you can keep your mind clear then nothing will confuse you. Sheng-yen Click to tweet. A mind that worries about the past is distracted, and a mind that worries about the future is delusional. Technical knowledge is not enough. One must transcend techniques so that the art becomes an artless art, growing out of the unconscious. Buddha means awareness, the awareness of body and mind that prevents evil from arising in either. When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden, for everything is murky and unclear, and the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness.

What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations? Everything that has a beginning has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well. See and realize that this world is not permanent. Neither late nor early flowers will remain. Awareness is the greatest agent for change. Whether we like it or not, change comes, and the greater the resistance, the greater the pain. Mend your garden, and the butterflies will come.

In order to be effective truth must penetrate like an arrow — and that is likely to hurt. Unless it grows out of yourself no knowledge is really yours, it is only borrowed plumage. But opinions, judgments, memories, dreaming about the future—ninety percent of the thoughts spinning around in our heads have no essential reality. Not knowing how near the truth is, we seek it far away. Hakuin Ekaku Click to tweet. The way of Zen is to become independent and strong. Truth is not far away. It is nearer than near. There is no need to attain it, since not one of your steps leads away from it.

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The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart. If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinion for or against.

The farther away you are from the truth, the more the hateful and pleasurable states will arise. The ultimate Truth is beyond words. The more you talk and think about it, the further astray you wander from the truth. Stop talking and thinking and there is nothing you will not be able to know. I feel cut off only because I am split within myself, because I try to be divided from my own feelings and sensations. What I feel and sense therefore seems foreign to me. And on being aware of the unreality of this division, the universe does not seem foreign any more.

A mind full of preconceived ideas, subjective intentions, or habits is not open to things as they are. He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know. Taoism is a way of liberation, which never comes by means of revolution, since it is notorious that most revolutions establish worse tyrannies than they destroy. You should rather be grateful for the weeds, because eventually they will enrich your practice. You must let what happens happen. Everything must be equal in your eyes, good and evil, beautiful and ugly, foolish and wise. Taoism is the profoundest nonconformism that has ever been evolved anywhere in the world, at any time in history; essentially it is rebellion.

Taoism has no rules. Taoism is the way of water. Taoism is simply the complete acceptance of yourself as you are right in this moment. He who is in harmony with the Tao is like a newborn child. Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak, but its grip is powerful. To have some deep feeling about Buddhism is not the point; we just do what we should do, like eating supper and going to bed. Buddhism teaches that joy and happiness arise from letting go. Please sit down and take an inventory of your life.

Find the courage to let them go. Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others. We are not disturbed by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens to us. Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken. Take heed, do not squander your life. Breath by breath, let go of fear, expectation, anger, regret, cravings, frustration, fatigue. Let go of the need for approval.

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Let go of old judgments and opinions. Die to all that, and fly free.

Don't Be a Jerk: And Other Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan's Greatest Zen Master

Soar in the freedom of desirelessness. Guilt, regret, resentment, sadness and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past and not enough presence. Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in disaster. Anger, ego, jealousy are the biggest diseases.

Keep yourself aloof from these three diseases. The saint is a man who disciplines his ego. The sage is a man who rids himself of his ego. The more you suffer the deeper grows your character, and with the deepening of your character you read the more penetratingly into the secrets of life. All great artists, all great religious leaders, and all great social reformers have come out of the intensest struggles which they fought bravely, quite frequently in tears and with bleeding hearts.

The trying to do something is in itself enlightenment. When we are in difficulty or distress, there we have enlightenment. When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. Nirvana means to extinguish the burning fires of the Three Poisons: This can be accomplished by letting go of dissatisfaction. Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor or employee , every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath.

Every moment is the guru. We have to face the pain we have been running from. In fact, we need to learn to rest in it and let its searing power transform us. A sense of encroaching mental chaos was always skulking at the edges of my life. The consequence of this was my first book, a memoir called The Scent of Dried Roses While I was researching it, I read the work of the psychologist Dorothy Rowe, a quiet, almost secret, follower of Buddhist philosophy.

His name evoked the image of a paper goods sales rep on a small regional industrial estate. But through Watts and his writing, I was exposed directly to the ideas of Zen Buddhism. I was suspicious at first, perceiving Zen Buddhism to be a religion rather than a philosophy. They made a significant impact on me.

The Meaning of Happiness and The Wisdom of Insecurity are striking primers to his work, and they underlined what Rowe was already teaching me: Life was, in Zen parlance, yugen — a kind of elevated purposelessness. Watts, like Rowe, showed me how we construct our own meanings about life. That nothing is a given and, since everything is uncertain, we must put together a world view that might fit roughly with the facts, but is never anything other than a guess — a working fiction.

This, too, is a typical Zen understanding — that life cannot be described, only experienced. Trying to see all of life is like trying to explore a vast cave with a box of matches. Impressed though I was, I more or less forgot about Watts after I finished his books, and pursued my career as a fiction writer. I was weary of introspection.

Zen Quotes That Will Make You Feel Peaceful

Then, years later, a bad spell in my life propelled me back into a chasm. In , three close friends died in sudden succession. One died in front of my eyes. A third succumbed to cancer. My depression — and that original sense of meaninglessness — resurfaced. I turned to Watts again. This time, it was as if I was reading for dear life. A lan Watts had been prolific in his 58 years. He died in , after producing not only 27 books but also scores of lectures, all of which were available online.

I stopped writing novels and worked my way through every one of them instead.

I discovered that Van Morrison had written a song about him, and that Johnny Depp was a follower. But he remained largely unknown in Britain, even though he was English, albeit an expatriate. Watts was born in in Chislehurst, Kent. His father had been a sales rep for the Michelin tyre company and his mother was a housewife whose father had been a missionary.

By the age of 16, Watts was the secretary of the London Buddhist Lodge, which was run by the barrister Christmas Humphreys. And, despite his obviously brilliant mind, Watts never achieved a British university degree. This, perhaps, is another of his qualities that chimes with my own spirit — I too left school with only two A-levels, and am, like Watts, an autodidact. As a young man, Watts worked in a printing house and then a bank.

There, he heard the renowned Zen scholar DT Suzuki speak, and was introduced to him. Later that year, Watts published his first book The Spirit of Zen. That same year, he met the American heiress Eleanor Everett, whose mother was involved with a traditional Zen Buddhist circle in New York. He married Eleanor in and they moved to America, where he trained as an Episcopal priest, before leaving the ministry in , thus separating once and for all from his Christian roots. From then on he concentrated on the study and communication of Eastern philosophical ideas to Western audiences.

I felt powerfully attracted to Alan Watts. Not only to his ideas, but to him, personally. Watts was no dry, academic philosopher. Half monk and half racecourse operator.

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But it was his thinking that most excited me. He was, if not the earliest, then certainly the foremost translator of Eastern philosophical ideas to the West. In some ways, his interpretations were radical — for instance, he dismissed the core Zen idea of zazen which meant spending hours seated in contemplative meditation as unnecessary. Watts also rejected the conventional ideas of reincarnation and the popular understanding of karma as a system of rewards and punishments carried out, lifetime after lifetime.

It was this radical approach that made his ideas so fresh — he had no time for received wisdom, even from those who claimed to know Zen inside out. The idea of walking around with a metaphorical stick to whack yourself with is foreign to a Zen master. But before the beatniks and the hippies got hold of it, Zen philosophy, as described by Watts, was hard-edged, practical, logical and, in some ways, oddly English in tone, as it had deep strands of scepticism and humour.

But most of the great sages of Zen have smiles on their faces, as does Buddha. Zen and Taoism are more akin to psychotherapy than to religion, as Watts explained in his book Psychotherapy East and West They are about finding a way to maintain a healthy personality in a culture that tends to tangle you up in a lot of unconscious logical binds. Another example is the instruction that you must be spontaneous. These kinds of snags, or double binds, according to Zen writings, produce inner tension, frustration, and neurosis — what Buddhism calls dukkha.

Watts saw his job, via Zen philosophy, to teach you to think clearly, so that you could see through conventional thinking to a place where your mind could be at peace inside a culture that could have been designed to generate anxiety. But, although he was an entertaining writer who presented his ideas with a brilliant clarity, Watts had a difficult job on his hands — mainly because Zen and Taoism are so fundamentally counter-intuitive to the Western mind.

The riddles, or koans , that Zen thinkers speak in are intended to trip you up and make you realise how inadequate words — either spoken or inner dialogue — are in making sense. Zen emphasises intuition and mushin , that is, an empty mind, over planning and thought. Enlightened by this new awareness, we recognize that our cut-off parts, those aspects of ourselves that we reject, deny, dismiss, or feel shame over, are hidden in a personal shadow that also contains many gifts and treasures.

Among these are our sacred wounds, those losses and fractures that give rise to the longing for the Divine, however we define that. We come to see that without the shadow there would be no hunger for light, as there would be no yin without yang. We learn to bless ourselves in this knowledge and open to the fruitful darkness. Freeing ourselves from fear of the shadow, we realize how much of our lives are devoted to running away from ourselves, escaping the anxiety of existence.

Instead of constantly doing, planning, worrying, and struggling, we allow ourselves to stop and simply be. With nothing to prove and no image to defend, we experience the joy of the present moment, and meet ourselves, and our life, as if for the first time. This ability to be present engenders love. With this opening come new opportunities for connection and self-discovery, and exploring the mysteries of love in all its manifestations romantic, platonic, filial, communal, mystic.

We recognize that love is the sine qua non of existence, our underlying reason for being; also, that love in its essence is not personal, although we practice it with and through other people. But what do we mean by sacredness? Does the sacred rely on religious belief or the imprimatur of spiritual authority? Or is sacredness a subjective quality having nothing to do with institutions, and everything to do with what we love?

By identifying what we hold sacred, and why, we deepen the meaning of our lives, affirm the nature of our beliefs, inform our choices with vision and soul, and recognize an unseen world beyond what we perceive through our senses. Sacredness, we come to see, is the bridge between the Divine and ourselves. Wonder and awe are the faculties that enable us to touch the Divine. Awe is the alarm clock installed by nature to wake us up from the trance of so-called ordinary life, and alert us to the miracle of every moment. Rooted in the awareness of our divine identity, we live with less conflict and more creativity, less cynicism and more faith, less self-judgment, aggression, and pain; and more mercy, connection, and joy.

Our relationships flourish, as do our compassion for others, our awareness of what we cannot understand, and our gratitude for this precious human life.

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These bonus sessions complement the course — and take your understanding and practice to an even deeper level. Why do some people blossom through adversity while others fall apart? Seeking advice from well-known survivors such as Joan Didion, Elie Wiesel, and Isabel Allende, as well as philosophical experts like Eckhart Tolle, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Sogyal Rinpoche, he brings 25 years of personal experience to the paradoxical question of how disaster can be used to awaken and transform us.

Mark talks to the Zen abbott about mindfulness in everyday life, and how meditation goes hand in hand with creativity. She received priest ordination from Maezumi Roshi and dharma transmission and inka from Bernie Tetsugen Glassman. Roshi is a founding teacher of the Zen Peacemaker family, a spiritual and social action association. Mark talks to the renowned Jungian analyst about the importance of shadow work in spiritual life and psychological healing.

Connie Zweig , PhD, is a unique counselor in private practice in Los Angeles and also has an extensive telephone counseling service. She can help you to uncover why you behave self-destructively and how you can choose different actions to gain different outcomes. Mark talks to this extraordinary spiritual teacher about transcending the stories in our minds to touch on an essential Self beyond narrative, fear, or expectation. Gangaji was born in Texas in , and grew up in Mississippi.

After graduating from the University of Mississippi in , she married and had a daughter. In , she moved to San Francisco where she took Bodhisattva vows, practiced Zen and Vipassana meditation, helped run a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center, and had a career as an acupuncturist. Yet, despite her successes, she continued to experience a deep and persistent longing for fulfillment. In the wake of her disillusionment, she made a final prayer for true help.

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And in , the answer to that prayer took her to India to the banks of the river Ganga, where she met Sri H. Poonja, also known as Papaji, who helped her to open the floodgates of self-recognition. Today, Gangaji is a teacher and author who travels the world speaking to seekers from all walks of life about her own experience of awakening and affirming that it is really possible to discover the truth of who you are and be true to that discovery. I learned how to shine light in shadow and how to work with what I find in the shadow — gifts as well as wounds.

I learned that simply putting my story in writing is transformative I am wonderfully curious to see how I will now live a whole new life. I am renewed; , here I come! Mark offers a pathway for us to go as deep as we want, with a kind of safety net of lectures, deepening writing practices, and personal feedback I feel a new inner confidence as I make my way along my own personal path..

I feel lighter and brighter about myself and life and am not taking myself or others quite as seriously as before.