Secrets of a Zen Master
I got a letter from a reader once asking me why everyone refers to Zen Masters all the time. "Weíre just ordinary people with ordinary lives and ordinary families. We donít have time to meditate and chant twelve hours a day. And when was the last time a Zen Master had to come up with two thousand dollars for car payments, house payments, and medical bills? Why doesnít someone give us information we can use instead of this pie in the sky stuff?"
It took me a long time to answer her. I didnít want to offend and yet I didnít want to simply pass over her concerns. I knew I wanted to tell her that Zen Masters didnít have medical bills because they rarely get sick. But that wasnít the answer to give her, not by itself. So, I thought and thought and thoughtÖand the rest of this article is what I came up with. I hope it makes sense to you, brings you peace, and allows you to learn to live in the present.
Iíve never met a Zen Master. The closest Iíve come, I suppose, is my dog. She eats when sheís hungry, sleeps when sheís tired, never worries about tomorrow nor regrets the past, and chases squirrels for pleasure and exercise. But all that is still not a Zen Master.
Why would anyone want to be a Zen Master? In the first place, as Iíve already mentioned, a Zen Master rarely gets sick. For you Christians, Jesus was a Zen Master. He never got sick. He held his temper pretty well, considering. Yes, I can recall two incidents where he got pretty angry. And despite his trepidation the night before his arrest, he submitted and coasted on through the arrest, trial, and execution in a manner unequalled.
I guess the most important aspect to the life of a Zen Master is peace of mind. When it comes right down to it, peace of mind is what we all want. Instead, we run out and get a new car, a new TV, a new boat, a new house, a new relationship, new clothes and in the end, weíre still not at peace. Weíre still not happy. We want it, but we look outside of ourselves for it.
Happiness and peace of mind cannot come from something outside of ourselves. Everything new becomes old. You canít even depend on your good looks since we all age and lose our looks. No matter how hard you diet and what creams you rub on your face, looks fade. Nothing remains, except whatís on the inside. That remains. How old are you? Physically we age every second. But as Elizabeth Taylor was once quoted as saying, "Weíre always the same age inside."
What a magnificent truth!
We are always the same age inside. There is something about that "person" inside that is constant, unchanging, fixed. And that, my friend, is where the Zen Master in all of us lives.
Itís been said that by the age of three, we know 80 to 90% of everything we will need to know to get along in this world for the rest of our lives. Our prejudices are already firming up by three, and fully formed by the age of seven, but at three, our self esteem, our sense of self, how we respond to problems, and how we respond to stimulus is already there and set. The average three-year-old has heard the word "NO" how many thousand times? The average three-year-old knows what is good and what is bad. And how many times has this child been told not to be bad? How many times has this child been labeled in a harsh scolding as "bad?"
We wanted to be good. We wanted to be so good that when we were bad, we lied. As Debbie Ford writes in The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, "My dream was to be perfect in order to be loved. So when I didnít brush my teeth, I lied, and when I ate more than my share of cookies, I lied, and when I bit my sister, I lied, and by the time I was three or four I did not even realize I was lying because I had already started to lie to myself." [p 14]
This is one hell of a start for anyone. No wonder weíre all so screwed up. By our teenage years, when our hormones kick in, weíre just a mess of contradictory impulses due to the opposing messages from our parents, the church, the school, and then the media (TV, Internet, radio, etc). And all along the way, this three-year-old inside of us is making all the decisions.
That three-year-old is still making all the decisions.
We have nearly 200,000 thoughts per day and 98% of those thoughts are the same ones we had the day before (and the day before that and the day before that and Ö all the way back to that three-year-old). One big problem is that the mind is a fascinating device, serving up all these thoughts as if they were brand new.
Ariel and Shya Kane, in their book Working on Yourself Doesnít Work, compare the mind to a writable CD ROM: Write Once Read Many, or W.O.R.M.
We have tons of W.O.R.M.s swimming around in our minds that we think weíve created recently, but nope, they were there already at the age of three:
Iím not pretty. Iím not loved. Iím not creative. I canít trust men. I canít trust women. Iíll never be successful. Iím always broke. Iíll never have money. Iím not musical. Iím not lovable. Iím stupid. Iíll never let that happen again.
These are just some of the myriad of W.O.R.M.s programmed into our unconscious/subconscious.
Now, letís see where they came from.
The ones I like the best are "I canít trust men" or "I canít trust women." There are many variations of these: "All men are dogs," is just one. We think these are new, that weíve picked them up in our adult lives, but no, weíve just associated them with our adult lives. Actually they came from something way way back before we were three years old. Nearly every child learns early on in life: Anyone who loves me hurts me. Think about that.
How many times on this planet has a parent said, "I love you" and then turned around and punished the object of her/his love? Now letís not go blaming our parents. All we want to do here is understand where our "programming" began. We are all victims of victims of victimsÖand so on. Letís not toss around blame. Letís get to the root of our existence and learn how to stop this cycle.
"Iíll never let that happen again," is another favorite of mine. Itís a decision made long before weíre three. We said it way back there, weíre still saying it, and by saying it now in our adult lives, weíve tossed out all spontaneity with one hand and kept the "that" (whatever it is weíre not going to let happen again) right there in our face with the other.
Before we can change, we have to first accept the insanity of this situation. So, ask yourself: Would you ask a three-year-old child for advice? on your finances? relationships? career moves?
No, we would not. But we do. Every day we allow that three-year-old inside to handle all our issues, problems, and life events.
There are ways to stop this insanity. One method is to do some "inner-child healing." Iíve heard this can be quite rewarding. Iím going to show you something else, though. Just pay attention and if you get stuck, go back and read it again. Or simply accept and move on. But first we must lay down some rules:
These are four cardinal rules governing our actions, our lives. Within these rules is the secret to attaining peace of mind. Letís examine them one by one.
What we resist persists.
Debbie Ford writes, " . . . the best way to be accepted was to hide these undesirable parts of myself." In trying to hide those parts, she became those parts. Trying not to be bad made her bad by lying. When we think of being happy, we compare "happiness" to everything that is not happy, and we attempt to hide from those things that are not happy. This has never ever worked. You can look at it this way: whatever is "bad" you hold at armís length. Does it go away? Nope. Itís always thereóat armís length. The child who decides never ever to be like his parents and becomes a rebel never truly succeeds. Heís constantly battling all those things his parents were and represented. The battle never ends because everything he hates about his parents (and himself) are all sitting just a "stiff-armís" length away.
To be happy does not mean pushing away all that is unhappy. You canít do it for one thing. The secret is acceptance. Accepting all that is "bad" about you will allow you to live through it. Accepting all that is sad in the world will allow it to disperse. So youíre not musical. Accept it and you can sit and listen to music at any time, any place, only without the inner chatter interrupting.
If this is difficult to comprehend (or accept), letís just go on to the next.
We canít drop it if we donít own it.
If you ask a Christian, "Are you a sinner?" s/he will respond, "Yes." However, ask that same person, "Could you have been a Nazi?" and s/he will probably answer "No."
Christians have learned that everyone is a sinner. Psychologists have learned that the human being is capable, at any time, of performing both the highest and lowest acts known. They've learned this having coerced humans into performing the lowest, most perfidious acts known through experimentation. Our humanity is a thin, tissuous veil. It can be dropped at any moment. The gentlest mother can become the most vicious animal when her offspring is threatened.
The world wants us to believe that successful types are all good, but this is a myth. While we might wish to hide from our dark side, it is only by accepting it, by owning it, that we will be able to drop it.
Edgar Cayce used to say, "There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that it doesnít behoove any of us to talk about the rest of us."
You cannot hide from it. You cannot deny its existence. You cannot run from it, especially if you want to conquer it. You must accept it. You cannot drop it if you donít own it. Own your dark side. Donít dwell on it. Just accept. It will soon fade. Just watch.
Problems are either in the past or the future.
I like to tell people that Iím richer than Bill Gates. Why? Because I have enough. Tomorrow morning Bill will wake up and go out to conquer more worlds. He doesnít have enough yet. He probably never will. Heíll die having amassed more money than some nations in the world. And heíll have never had enough.
I have bills. Iíve had troubles. But the bills are in the future and the troubles are in the past. No matter what problem you have or think you have, right now, this very minute you are reading this, that problem is not here. It might be in the future. It might be in the past. But is certainly is not here, now, in the present.
One night a friend told me that she was going to lose her house. She was all upset and couldnít sleep. I asked her if they were at her door, that very minute. She said, "No." I said, then donít worry. But she had to worry. They were going to take her house. But were they there that minute? "No." Were they going to be there in the morning? "No." Still, she worried. And today sheís still worrying. Our conversation was in July. Itís now November. Sheís wasted nearly five months of her life worrying about "them" taking her house. They have yet to show up.
I think there must be at least 2000 quotations concerning worrying about things that never happen.
Yes, I have bills to pay. Yes, I will have many bills to pay and probably many troubles to face. Iíll lose a loved one. A relationship will blow up. Iíll have to get a new car. But if I live in the present, the powerful, absolute, wonderful, NOW, there are no problems to take care of. And if I can learn to stay present, stay conscious in all my actions, my problems will handle themselves, because people who are present make better decisions. Zen Masters make better decisions.
Staying present has one more wonderful consequence: we avoid the dramas in our lives. We avoid them because we avoid creating them. This is what it means to stay present. Only when we slip into our unconscious patters do we create these dramas. Staying present, staying conscious, stops the dramas.
Submission: Win by giving in/giving up.
There are many many stories about two people with the same affliction and one has a terrible time while the other breezes through it. In the books Iíve recommended (end of this article) will be many more examples.
My favorite story in this vein contains the words: Stone walls do not a prison make.
Iíve met people who are supposedly as free as birds, but who are tied down to their problems. They can go home at night, but they bring their work home with them. They can go to the office in the morning, but they bring their marital problems to work with them.
And then Iíve worked with prisoners who are at peace. Theyíve accepted their fate. They read, meditate, write, relax, create, compose music. Within walls of stone and bars, these people are freer than those people outside running around tied down by their problems. They are free and full of inner peace.
Happiness is not outside of you. If you resist all that makes you unhappy, you keep it right there, always in front of you. If you accept your limitations, those things that make you unhappy, those things that make you imperfect, they begin to fade and they lose their power over you.
Every Zen Master submits to the moment. If it is a moment of sheer terror, yes, it will make anyone jump at first, but the Zen Master will settle back into submission.
If something is wrong you have three choices:
If you cannot do one of these three, then you are living within your own self-made prison.
In running away, you can still accept the moment, and submit to the present. You leave and accept the leaving. You donít take the problem with you.
If you are going to change it, you must first accept it. Accepting/submitting to the moment will allow you a clear head to change it. Sometimes, simply accepting it will change it. And that, acceptance, is your third option.
Besides, it is only a thought. What ever attacks you from the inside is only a thought. That you are not this or not that is only a thought. That you will fail is only a thought. That you will lose or gain love is only a thought. Let it pass. Itís only a thought.
Blessings to all. Below are a list of books that will fill in the gaps.
References and Links:
Mysterious Light: A Scientist's Odyssey: The personal story of a scientist as he discovers spirit.
The Spindrift Experiments: Prayer is taken into the laboratory and using our Western style science "proving" its existence and power.
The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford. An interesting book on transformation through acceptance of your dark side.
Conversations With God (Volumes 1, 2, and 3) These are life changing books, translated into 28 languages and on the NY Times best selling list for over 3 years.
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, by Eckhart Tolle. One healer once told me, "We live our lives 60% in the past, 30% in the future, and 10% in the present. Do you have any doubts as to why we get sick when so little of our energy is focused on healing which can only take place in the present?" This book, if you follow its advice, take time to absorb its content, can not only heal your life, but it will bring you boundless joy that no disappointment can ever erase. I've not only read the book, but I often listen to Eckhart Tolle read his book with The Power of NOW on 7 CDs.
Working on Yourself Doesn't Work: A Book About Instantaneous Transformation. This is one amazing book. Along with The Power of Now, you can change and heal your life, today. Simply written, simply understood, there is magic in these pages.
Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Approach by Dr Larry Dossey. This book will open your eyes to things undreamt of. Just avoid the introduction; it is unreadable.
Staying Well With Guided Imagery by Belleruth Naparstek. This is a great introduction to how to use guided imagery to do some very deep healing or to simply stay well while all around you are dropping.
Health Journeys: A Meditation to Help You Fight Cancer by Belleruth Naparstek. This tape will amaze you. It is a very hypnotic tape, just sit back and allow Naparstek's wonderful, healing voice to flow through you. If there are two tapes every person should own, every person who wants to take back their health, it is this tape and Louise Hay's tape Cancer: Discovering Your Healing Power. Warning: do not listen to these tapes while driving!
Love, Medicine and Miracles: Lessons Learned about Self-Healing from a Surgeon's Experience with Exceptional Patients by Dr Bernie Siegel. This is the audio tape version. We live in a fast paced world and if you find yourself spending more time in your car than in your home, then this is the perfect companion.
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