Zen Professor

A Path to a More Fulfilling Life

Tag: stress relief (page 1 of 2)

Forgiveness Is Key to Letting Go of Pain

The other day the phrase to error is human, to forgive is divine came to mind. Indeed, everyone makes mistakes. But only those who are ready and able to let go of the pain are able to forgive. Forgiveness is a Divine act. And we must get the ego out of the way in order to truly do it. But we can use the ego itself to be free of it. This is where the phrase fake it till you make it comes in.

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Inner Conflict Is Present at Birth: A Quiet Mind Helps Resolve It

Did you know we are born with inner conflict? It begins in infancy and occurs between the primitive infant and his or her inherited psychological pathways. In the East the general ideology describes this energetic tension as karma.

Many people believe we are born as a blank slate. This is especially true in the West. Although it is true that our psyche is heavily conditioned during infancy and youth, it is not true that our energetic body is bare and unresponsive. All one needs do to see this is observe the vastly different temperaments of infants, before they have a chance to be conditioned by their care takers. In other words, our souls enter this life experience with a pre-established energy pattern. Gary Zukav wrote:

“When you understand…that the experiences of your life are necessary to the balancing of the energy of  your soul, you are free to not react to them personally, to not create more negative karma for your soul.”

The word “soul” is often misunderstood because it is such an esoteric term. It is our inner being, our core self, and we cannot perceive it with the five-sensory personality that experiences the physical plane of existence. But we can “feel” the pulls of our soul. This is where intuition comes in.

The Power of Intuition

I’m sure everyone has experienced intuitive moments at some point in their life. But that is no guarantee they have chosen to follow it. It’s the part of us that somehow “knows” what to do and what not to do. It is our soul attempting to guide our personality to make choices that lead to learning while incarnate here on Earth. This is how the soul evolves.

Our “soul” is the conscious intelligence that attracts energy in the form of atoms and molecules which give shape to our physical body. When we fail to recognize the energy of our inner being the conscious intelligence (or “Light”) is unable to shine through. Then we operate on the earth plane from the limited ego. In turn, we fail to hear the soul speaking to us through intuition. The personality comes from the place of fear because it knows it will die when the body ceases to exist. The inner being comes from a place of love because it knows it will never die. Which place do you choose to come from?

Learn to Quiet the Mind

This is where meditation comes into play. When we take time to quiet the mind and body we can learn to hear the messages of the soul through the intuitive processes. This doesn’t necessarily mean we must sit quietly with our legs crossed and eyes closed, trying to concentrate on the breath. Although this is how meditation is often depicted it is not the only way to quiet the mind. We can also go for a walk in the woods and listen to the sounds of nature. Or we can sit by a lake and become mesmerized by the stillness of the water. Or we can merely take a mindful walk around our neighborhood.

The point is there are as many ways to quiet the mind and body as there are people on earth. This is where our differing personalities come in. The personality of each individual pulls him or her to follow the promptings of the soul. But one can only be guided by intuition by learning how to follow feelings as well as thoughts. However, if one fails to recognize the promptings of the soul out of a belief that the individual personality is all there is, then he or she reacts to life experience from a place of fear. In this case, negative karma is created that the soul must then eventually become free of. 

As we develop our mind and body this inner conflict is either dealt with or buried deep in our subconscious. If it is repressed it will cause us to act in ways that can mystify us. Have you ever heard your mind say something like, what was I thinking!? Or, why did I do that? 

Opportunities to Face Inner Conflict 

Throughout our lives we encounter experiences that offer us the opportunity to face these inner conflicts. For example, we might have an interaction with someone close to us that causes an emotional outburst. If we blame the other person for our inner conflict we will simply reinforce the limited belief system that was instilled during child rearing. However, if we can sit with the emotional reaction without acting on it, and without blaming the other, then we can process the energy that was present at birth and conditioned as we grew up. In turn, we can free ourselves from both the inherited karma and that which was acquired early in life. 

The key to all of this, as with so many other things in life, is presence. It is crucial to learn to be still and present in the moment, especially during tumultuous times. When we practice presence in simple situations, such as waiting in line at the market, or driving or riding in a vehicle, then we will be better prepared to act from that place in times that it is most needed, such as during an intense interaction with another individual. 

To practice presence in simple situations just notice when the mind begins thinking about past or future. For example, when waiting in line you might start thinking about everything that needs to be done after you leave. In that moment, say to yourself “thinking.” Then wait and notice what the mind does next. You will be pointing out to yourself that you are aware your mind is somewhere other than the here and now.

The Power of Presence 

When this practice becomes consistent you will train your mind to give more attention to the silence between the thoughts. As you continue this simple practice you will change the baseline attention from being lost in thought to being present in the now. Being wrapped up with past and future thinking is where suffering occurs. Being in the now is where peace is found. 

One thing I would like to add is that I am not saying that thinking is bad or unhealthy. I am saying that there is a time and place for everything, including thinking. We can set aside a time to plan for the future without taking away from what we are doing in the moment. We can do the same with reflecting on past experience. This is where journaling can help. 

Self Reflection is Crucial 

I recommend setting up a time to write about anything that bothered you during the day. Notice whether you are pushing the blame or owning your inner disturbance. Write about what needs to be done to create the kind of future you would like to experience. Here it is crucial to keep all attention on what is wanted and how it can be achieved, without giving attention to the potential roadblocks. In turn, all your vital life energy will be directed toward what you aspire to, rather than what is not desired. 

In short, give more attention to the feelings in your body than to the thoughts in your head. Find ways, through your own personal exploration, that helps calm your inner being, such as meditation, going on walks, spending time in nature, playing a musical instrument, etc. The more your mind and body is calm the more you will hear the promptings of your soul. We have a choice. We can either take control of our own mind, or allow it to be conditioned by others. I prefer to have control of the wheel that steers my life. How about you?

For more of Jeffry’s writings please the the Zen Professor Book Store.

Self Development Isn’t Always Easy

The process of self development can be a slow, tedious experience. Other times it can happen in leaps and bounds. The most powerful meditation I have ever experienced occurred a little less than a year ago. First, I had a short but nice meditation. Then, I went on an hour long walk. I connected with Father Sun twice while I contemplated my personal sun ray. When I got home I decided to meditate again. I was laying on my back with my hands crossed over my chest, but soon I felt the desire to put my arms out by my side and totally surrender. I thought of Jesus and felt energy in my ajna chakra, or third eye. Then I thought of Paramahansa Yogananda and felt energy in the middle chakras. Finally, I thought of the Buddha and felt energy in the muladhara, or root chakra.

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Give Up the Need to Be in Control to Find Peace

When we let go of the need to be in control we find peace. We can simply surrender and let the Universe be in control. It is anyway, whether we resist it or not. Consider that we are living on a giant rock which is, in it’s core, molten lava, spinning through space at thousands of miles per hour and reliant on the energy from the sun millions of miles away. Still, we believe we are in control. The only thing we control is how we react to life. This doesn’t mean we can’t ask for what we want; it simply means we must be okay with the answer no. It also helps to give up the desire for things to be different than they are.

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Thought Moves Energy, Attracts Friends, and Influences Aging

Thought is more powerful than most people realize. The mind has the ability to stir energy, cause us to attract or repel others, and inspire us to move toward or away from drama. We can even use thought to slow the aging process.

One of the most fundamental scientific laws is energy is neither created nor destroyed, it merely changes form. Energy moves, that is part of universal law. Our thoughts and beliefs affect the movement of energy. If we think negative thoughts, energy in the body is stirred and we begin to experience negative emotions. If we are near others they will feel this energy whether they become consciously aware of it or not. That is why we can walk into a room immediately after an argument and feel the negative energy in that room. If we remain unaware of this effect, the downward spiraling energy can pull the energy in our body down with it.

Why People Are Drawn to Drama

We feel a desire to leave the room when people are arguing because it protects us from getting wrapped up in the negative energy patterns. When our energy does not match it, we feel tension. That tension produces the desire to leave. In contrast, if our energy does match the downward spiraling energy of those who are arguing, we most likely would feel no tension and therefore, have no desire to leave. We may actually derive pleasure from watching others argue in this way because it matches our own energy level. This is why people are drawn to drama and gossip. In order to change the pattern, we must change our environment by choosing to be around people who have upward flowing energy.

It all starts with the self. The way to get the energy to flow upward in the self is to continue to direct the attention to life giving thoughts. Thoughts of love, connection, growth, and development, are all life giving thoughts, creating upward spiraling energy in the body. Thoughts of hate, separation, decay, and destruction are all life taking thoughts, creating downward spiraling energy. It doesn’t take much to determine which feels better.

How We Choose Our Friends

Once we create the habit of thinking only life giving thoughts, and the energy consistently moves upward in the body, we begin desiring to be around only those who think similarly, because they match our energy and it feels better to be around them. This is how we choose our friends. We are drawn to people who think like us because our energy blends harmoniously with theirs, irrespective of whether that energy flows upward or downward. This is where the idea of collective consciousness comes in. If we allow our energy to flow in the same direction as a particular group of individuals, we take on the energy of that group, and along with it, the beliefs and actions that sustain it.

However, if we do not resonate with the energy of the group, we feel a tension that leads to the desire to separate from them. If the group does not allow its members to leave freely, then conflict is the result, and the individual suffers. The group however thrives, because it is maintained by downward flowing energy. It must be, for only downward flowing energy would lead a group of individuals to feel the desire to suppress the wishes of others. If large groups of people wish to leave, the conflict can quickly escalate into war.

How We Age Prematurely

When a person is under a great deal of stress for a long period of time, their body looks like it has aged at a much faster rate than those who remain at peace. And more than look like it, physically, it has aged more. People who are under stress for a long duration of time suffer from many physical ailments, such as less resistance to disease, ulcers, headaches, heart disease, and higher rates of cancer. The list is endless. Downward spiraling thoughts lead to physical degeneration.

On the other hand, those who do not suffer from stress are much healthier physically. Not only do they have a higher resistance to disease, their bodies actually look healthier. Their skin has better color and is more smooth and supple. They have better muscle tone and walk more upright. Everything about them appears to be healthier. Their chronological age might be the same as those who are more sickly, but their biological age is no where near the same.

Movement of Energy Affects Aging

This is where belief comes in. We, as part of the collective human consciousness, believe so profoundly that the human body can only survive about a hundred years that it comes to pass. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. According to the ancient literature, people used to live seven hundred years and more. It may be that the collective consciousness of humanity was much different in those times. Indeed, it was much different in many philosophical and religious beliefs so it must have been with regards to ideas of aging as well. Perhaps they really did live that long because they knew they could. Further, perhaps they only lived that long because there was no desire to live longer.

Importantly, it’s about both thought and belief. If thoughts go in the direction that we have lived a full life and there is nothing more to experience, then our energy will move in that direction, and the desire to continue going on experiencing life will wane. Soon, the body will respond in kind and cease to support the energy that had sustained it up to that point.

It Can Be Observed in Life

This effect can be observed in those who retire from a long career and have no idea what to do with the rest of their lives. They have no desire to continue experiencing life because they believe there is nothing else for them to do. Before long, the body picks up on these cues and begins to break down and soon the person dies. The same phenomenon has been witnessed in those who lose a loved one. They have no desire to live without the individual and the body quickly expires.

I witnessed this happen with my grandparents. My grandfather died of cancer and my grandmother died not long after. She seemed so healthy before he died. But her husband was her life and when he was gone, so was her desire to go on experiencing it. 

I don’t know if this means we could go on living forever if we only desired it to be so, and we always directed our attention to life giving thoughts. But it does mean we can live happier, healthier, longer lives by doing so. And that’s certainly enough for me!

To learn more about the power of thought see my bookstore: Zen-Bookstore

The Direction of Attention Creates Our Inner Reality

There is a Zen story that depicts how the direction of attention creates our inner reality. Once there was a man who had so many children living in his farmhouse he could take it no longer. He finally decided to go see a Zen master and ask for his advice. The man went to the master and said, “Wise one, I am at my wits end. There are so many children living in my house that I can’t find a moment’s peace. What shall I do?”

The master replied, “Invite your mother and father in-law to come live with you.”

The man was surprised by the response, but he believed in the wisdom of the master and he didn’t know what else to do. So, reluctantly, he invited is wife’s parents to come live with them. However, the house became even more crowded and he and his in-laws disagreed on how to raise the children so the man felt more stress, not less. He went back to the master and told him of his dilemma.

When the man asked for advice as to what to do next the master replied, “Invite your children’s aunts and uncles to come live with you as well.”

Again the man could not see the logic but he followed the advice anyway, hoping the wisdom of the master went beyond his own recognition. However, rather than helping the man to find peace, he felt more stress than ever and again he went back to the master for advice. He said, “Master, I have followed your advice and brought in my wife’s relatives and there is less space than ever. I can’t get a moment’s peace. What shall I do?”

After putting his hand to his chin and pondering it for a moment the master replied, “Bring in all the animals from the farm.”

The man thought that sounded crazy but he still believed in the wisdom of the master and followed his advice. A short while later the man returned to the master more exasperated than ever before. He said, “Good Master, I have followed your advice to the letter and things continue to worsen. I have invited my wife’s parents to live with us. I have invited her brothers and sisters and all their children. I have brought in all the animals from the farm. There is no longer any room in the house for anyone or anything else. I am at a loss as to what to do. What do you suggest?”

Without hesitating the master said, “Remove all the animals and ask your in-laws to leave.”

So, the man did as the master had suggested. First he went home and he removed all the animals from the house. He then asked the aunts and uncles to take their children and leave. Then he asked his mother and father in-law to leave. Suddenly, the house seemed so big and spacious that the noise of the children was like music to the man’s ears. He had finally found his peace.

Turn Attention Toward the Space That Unites

The moral of the story is obvious when we look at it from the perspective of perception. Before meeting with the master, the man’s attention was going toward the noise and behaviors of the children. His attention was not on the space but on the objects of the space. However, once he had a different point of reference, he changed the direction of his attention from the objects to the space. Suddenly, there seemed to be much more space than before and peace was to be found there.

The message behind this story appears to be two-fold. First, the direction of attention creates our inner reality. Second, we must focus on both what is and what is not in order to get the entire picture of our current situation. A wonderful poem that illustrates this idea can be found in the Toa Te Ching in which Lao Tzu wrote:

We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel depends. We turn clay to make a vessel, But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends. We pierce doors and windows to make a house, And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends. Therefore, just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not.

See the Entire Picture

Lao Tzu is reminding us of the importance of seeing the entire picture. The moment we get pigeonholed into looking at life in bits and pieces, the more we support, in our subconscious beliefs, the idea that life is full of random chaotic events. However, when we zoom out and see the big picture, it becomes clear that life is far different than this. Everything is intimately connected to everything else. Nothing happens independently. It is merely the mind’s tendency to pull out sections of reality and evaluate its meaning in a reductionalistic fashion. When this is done information is lost. In turn, our understanding of the object of perception becomes limited.

The Bible often refers to this idea when it suggests to “meditate on God” or on “God’s word.” The problem comes when one assumes “God” to be an external source of energy. I don’t think it can be overstated that our interpretation of what “God” is is imperative to our understanding of the concepts being discussed. How good could advice be if we choose to only listen to a portion of it? For example, if we are told to invest our money into real estate, and we choose to invest but we invest in the stock market and lose all our money, did listening to a portion of the advice help us?

For some practical advise in using present moment awareness to find peace, see my book: Peace: The Art of Mindfulness to Eliminate Stress.

Using Thoughts to Get What You Want

One day when I was a teacher, I had a surprise opportunity to practice what I had learned about directing thoughts. As soon as I walked in the door I noticed a red light flashing on my phone, indicating there was a message. At that time in my life I no longer coached basketball, so messages on my phone became almost nonexistent.

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How Do We Become Less Judgmental?

“A thought is just a thought, nothing more.”

A key component to learning how to watch thoughts non-judgmentally is to simply become aware when we are judging them as good or bad. Most of us do this nonconsciously all the time. Some thoughts are “good” and other thoughts are “bad.” It is important to recognize that thoughts are neither good nor bad, they are benign.

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Suppression Is Not Surrender

When we try to avoid an emotional reaction we are likely to exacerbate the problem because we are not dealing directly with it.

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Mindfulness to Eliminate Stress

Mindfulness is not a new topic. The idea has been around for thousands of years. However, it is new to the psychological literature. Still, terms relating to mindfulness have been thrown around for years, such as emotion and attention regulation, cognitive reframing, emotion approach coping, etc. However, many of the psychological terms come with connotations of control, whereas, mindfulness typical connotes acceptance. In short, it is non-judgmental awareness. In other words, being mindful is what allows us to experience the authentic self, rather than come from the place of the psychologically conditioned past, otherwise known as the ego.

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