A personal approach to Zen

Monat: Juli 2021

Public. Private. Secret.

Everyone combines different lives in him or herself.

There is the public life with our job, our responsibilities, our identity, defined by others who see us in action, there are the skills learned and executed.

There is the private life with our relations to loved ones, friends, children, we behave in another way and this life and the relations within it are often chosen or they were chosen by fate. Regarding our parents, we had no choice. And actually, also our children don’t have it and neither we have about them.

And there is this secret life which no one knows about and which everyone has. Nothing or very seldom there is something shared with the outer world. It can be dreams, hopes, wishes, many sexual desires never talked about maybe.

A whole universe exists in every one of us and everyone is a universe on its own.

Those ‚roles‘ do interfere with each other and though there is inevitable dissonance in it, it can feel ok.

The highest priority for each person I guess is to feel safe. If something goes wrong or forces are demanding actions from these roles we can not cope with anymore, we start to feel uncomfortable.

Many times we go into a direction at a certain age, maybe with a job or a marriage and the consequences do have a broader impact than we could ever have imagined or something evolves in us and the need can’t be ignored.

If that happens we know we have to change something and oftentimes it seems not possible. Instead of becoming angry and trying to destroy or self-sabotage your job or career or family life, I think it’s best to just watch closely and be aware of what really makes us uncomfortable.

Then after analyzing and accepting, what might be hard, we can slightly change. This change starts in our mind and if the mind decided to go in a direction, everything else will follow.

I do strongly believe this, not as this esoteric wish to the universe, but as our mind is a force that can lead us to something else. Something new if we are open to it.

I always feel strongly about the movie „The Curious Case of Benjamin Button“ and especially the scene where Julia Ormond sits on her mother’s deathbed and realizes who her father was.

As though there’s not much told about her in the movie, you see that she is not happy. And as she reads the postcards her dad wrote to her over the years, there follows this moving sequence where Benjamin tells her:

‚Whenever you feel in life you got to something where you’re not happy with, or proud about, you always have the chance to start over. Do it. And I wish you the courage to do it.‘

That’s not a correct quote but how I memorize it. You can watch the scene above.

Because there are so many astonishing things out there to be seen, and the beauty of life lies in that option to simply start over and pursue what makes you happy.

For what it’s worth, it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be.

I hope you make the best of it.

Everything must change

Music plays a powerful role in our lives. Though it’s the most irrational thing I can think of, all cultures do relate to music. Making it or consuming it.

The consumption of music changed a lot over the last two decades and it seems it is everywhere and anytime available in an endless sense.

So, it feels to me that music is oftentimes just background noise, many times not really enjoyed anymore and the act of active listening to music diminished or got heavily reduced.

Ok, many people don’t have such a strong relationship to music and they couldn’t care less but it must be sad for musicians to see their work not appreciated that much.

In meditation music also plays a strong role.

Many do meditate to music, often loops becoming mantras or endless nature sounds or sounds that play on a certain frequency where it is said it resonates with the body and has certain effects like calming the mind, giving you an uplift. Some say it also changes the structure of cells in the body.

I’ve tried many of those tracks and the initial idea of this domain was to provide such kind of music. But it never really worked for me, I found all those Zen music tracks out there always annoying after some time and it irritates me more than it gives me focus.

I know many people who do use music to concentrate and oftentimes I was told they build up playlists of songs that then play in the background and they forget totally about it. It’s like a sound carpet that helps them concentrate. They do get in a flow, a state of mind where they are allowed to work and not be disturbed from the outer world.

The work is flowing out of them, pouring like water. Sometimes, they say it feels like they even leave their body. And oftentimes they are surprised about their results and they can’t believe the results are really created by them. I think that’s what some mystically relate to as kissed by the muse.

I also had those experiences. In painting, in sport, in conceptual work, in writing.

And I do still have my favorite music. One song which was a companion over the years is ‚Everything must change‘ and though most artists interpreted the tune as sad ballads e.g. Oleta Adams or Barbara Streisand or others I was always impressed by Cecilia Stalin’s arrangement.

It has a positive and uplifting mood and worships the fact that everything is changing constantly. This is a fact and we should appreciate it more and also simply accept it. It gives us the chance to thrive and evolve. Every new day in our lives holds this chance and if we are aware and lucky we are able to make the best of it.

I wish you to have a lot of music in life no matter what kind of music you like.

Fear. Anger. Hate. Suffering.

Fear becomes anger and anger becomes hate and hate becomes suffering; I know this is a Star Wars quote but actually, I found some passages in Star Wars the most practical advice in Zen I ever received. Because you get what they mean and somehow it is philosophy in a fictional format.

I learned it for myself, I loved, I got rejected or disappointed by lovers, friends, employers, or even parents.

The most traumatizing experience was definitely the divorce of my parents and everything that followed this event in my life. I still struggle with the effect of how it shattered my worldview. It took away my basic trust in everything. It took away my feeling to be secure in the world.

Also, losing loved ones and handling loss and death and mourning is a traumatizing event in which the western culture is bad at processing.

And it is true, the fear, the mistrust, and the angst of losing someone; or not being loved, lead to anger.

This anger can appear in the most subtle ways. It can also come out directly and affect all other personal and lesser personal relations to surrounding people.

These actions on the other hand will lead to more anger and eventually become hate.

Indifferent hate at the world and everything that’s connected to it and your own life. The hate can be subtle and you feel like you’re or were a lovable person once, but now you don’t know where life had led you.

And then begins the suffering. It is terrible and it all becomes a circle, a circle where you don’t find an easy way out because it all got created by you, and also it became a habit to act or react wildly, in anger, in pain, in agony.

So, how to overcome this painful downward spiral of negative feelings that are not only making you miserable and others too but in the end will make you physically ill?

I found the proclaimed meditation method of loving/kindness meditation very helpful. It’s described and adverted from Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield and others and it is very, very simple.

You sit and think of others or you even sit and observe others, maybe even strangers and you wish them a loving life and you wish for them to be happy.

Here! Listen; I think; I wish you a good and happy life, health, wealth, well being. I wish you loved ones who make you feel loved. I wish you security and the feeling to be safe in the world.

Do this, simple to your wife and your kids and everyone you love and wish to be loved and do it unconditionally. Most importantly, do it for others that mistreated you. People from who you think of that they got you wrong. Even for people that you don’t like. Even for people that you hate.

You will experience some change in your life and you will receive immediately a gift from yourself, from your body, and what we might call soul. It will feel like a cleansing. It will feel like there is a chance to let go of all negativity. It will give you hope for the day.

It will improve your day.

So, do it in the morning.

About purpose in life

Why does purpose diminish over the years or was it ever there?

In the early years of life, you try to get an idea of what’s this all about.

You try to learn from the elder ones and try to get some insights out of them.

Later you learn they had no idea and just said something that you at worst misinterpreted on top.

Then you try to make it better.

After some years, being an adult for myself and having kids I’m still looking for a purpose in life and I’m afraid I might not find it.

Where is a purpose to be found?

Some search for it in business and try to reach materialistic goals, some are looking for spiritual meaning in life others do care much about family. Some mix it up and others do sport.

Why is it even important for me to define it or why do I think I have to find out what’s my role here, why the hell am I on earth, and are allowed to spend the resources?

Over the years, after studying a lot and trying very different jobs. I was literally a mechanic, an actor, a painter, a student of comparative literature, a marketer, a father, a husband, a sportsman, and a drinker, a friend and an enemy for some I guess.

But I still didn’t find a ‚calling‘. And if there is one, I didn’t go down this path.
Now, in the midst of my forties, I have to arrange myself with the conclusion that I might never find it and what to do with that feeling. Is it a loss? Should I let go of this search?

Maybe. Some seem to be so grounded and know what they are doing and where they belong.

Others are geniuses and innovators and help mankind with their findings. This will certainly never happen to me in this life, that I was ever clear about.

But still, I want my life not to be wasted, still, I want to give it some meaning. Ok, trying to be a good father and leading my kids into a reasonable life is a great challenge. But how can I do that when I still have more questions on life than answers.

Trying to be a good person and love the ones around me sounds also not false. But it isn’t always the case that I love everybody, many times I’m angry and I can’t hide it. The anger arises and plops out and people around me definitely don’t feel loved and I’m not a loving person in such moments.

Sometimes I feel after calming down it’s just about getting to the point that I enjoy those years living on earth and there’s nothing more to do. And if being honest to myself I didn’t do a good job here. I often lived on autopilot, missing the moments that could fill up my heart with joy.

Instead of thinking about the past or future or dreaming myself away to some parallel universes instead of just being in that moments.
Certainly, finding a purpose is a first-world problem and I’m aware that I might be just happy about the fact that I never felt hungry before.

Still, there is this envy in me to those who seem to have found something and the longing to find it for myself.

About starting to meditate

The hardest thing to me is the thing about meditation. What’s it for and what do I get from it? Will there be a state of mind where I glide away from reality and find myself in another dimension where I feel the energy and everything is connected? Or will there be the peace of mind? Happiness? Many promises are given when you start to meditate. There even shall be even medical advantages be seen in those who meditate.

How shall I meditate? There are so many options. There is this vipassana thing, there is the transcendental meditation method. There are a thousand variants. When I read the books from the monks who are teaching meditation they are always talking about endless meditations. I don’t have time for that. I also don’t want to get a meditation class or a teacher as I don’t live in a region where some good ones or those who I read about are available.

So, I start out to make my own experiences. First, trying to just sit still for a few minutes, without expectations and trying to not actively think about something.

Woah, this appears to be a hard task and I realize my mind is not stoppable.

I always knew, or better, learned over the last decades that the monkey mind can be a pain in the ass. Especially at night. You lie in bed and it goes round and round, variants of your youth memories, mixed emotions about forgotten friends, e-mails written in my mind, books written in my mind, philosophical questions answered and raised. Personal issues argued with close ones, dreams about a better future, dreams about a worse future, fear of the future, be afraid for my kids. All in one night. The dreams themselves while you’re asleep are something else.

How eliminate the monkey mind? It simply doesn’t work for me. So, I accept its existence and I try to ignore it from time to time. This is my mediation now.
Trying to sit in silence; doesn’t have to be completely silent around me, but I’ve to be silent. Trying to hear the silence of the universe. For at least two minutes.
What happens? I feel slightly better afterward.

That’s a start.

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