I’m writing this from a beach town in Costa Rica where I’m decompressing after a wonderful week at our retreat center in the mountains. All week, I’ve been teaching my heart out to the next generation of qigong instructors. It was an incredible week.
For those who are curious, I created this video redux, which gives you a glimpse of our week in the mountains. (Turn your sound on!)
(Click here if you want to get notified about the 2019 Costa Rica Retreat.)
Now I’m at the beach, and things are different. Here, I’m all alone. I don’t get to share delicious meals — lovingly prepared by the world’s happiest staff — with my students.
Nor do I get to practice in refreshing, 55-degree mountain air with a million-dollar view.
Here at the beach, it’s 80 degrees and humid at dawn. Okay, fine. I still have a million-dollar view. You caught me.
But many people would use the heat, or just traveling in general, as an excuse to not practice qigong.
Not me. I no longer struggle to practice, not even while traveling, not even in 80-degree heat.
I just practice.
If you think this is going to be a holier-than-thou post, read on. It’s definitely not.
I still struggle — just not with qigong.
The Struggle is Real
For example, I’m supposed to be working on my book this week. Technically, I’m on a writing retreat, not a vacation. I’m no good at taking vacations. I don’t think I’ve taken a full week off since I began teaching in 2005.
I’m not proud of this. I don’t think that my workaholism makes me a better person. But then, I love my work, so it always feels strange to stop completely.
And yet, even though I love my work, I still struggle, especially with writing.
If you’re a writer, then you know what I’m going through, just like I know what beginning qigong students are going through.
Writers are notorious for avoiding their work. Most of us never feel so good as while writing (except perhaps while qigonging), and yet we still struggle.
We resist the focus that is necessary to produce good, creative work.
I’m resisting writing my book right now by writing a blog post instead. It satisfies my inner critic because he counts this as “work”. And yet, it’s not the work that I should be doing right now.
I’m not focusing the way I should be focusing.
For those keeping score, I’ve been working on my book for nearly 2 years. I’ve faced some big life challenges during that time, but all writers face challenges. It’s no excuse.
In my defense, I have written 85,000 words, so progress is being made despite the snail’s pace. The first draft is almost finished, and then I’ll move on to the editing process. But first, I need to write about 8,000 more words.
I could do that this week — if I focused.
Focus, Focus, Focus
(Note: The links below are Amazon Affiliate links, which means that I receive a tiny commission if you use them, at no cost to you. I would highly recommend the book though, with or without the commission. You won’t be disappointed.)
In the book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport describes the ability to concentrate deeply on your work without distraction as a modern superpower. I like that description a lot.
Being able to focus, to go deeply into our creative work — this is a skill that requires superhuman inner strength.
For example, my teaching in the art of qigong emphasizes the importance of entering into a meditative state BEFORE doing any qigong exercises. We call this Entering Zen, and it requires focus.
Entering Zen is a form of focus, a form of deep work. It’s also a superpower.
This morning, as I felt myself resisting my work on my book, it occurred to me that the same thing happens with my qigong students. And although it has been years, it used to happen to me.
We resist the “work”, the focus, the Zen — even though we know that once we’re in it, we will feel wonderful.
Am I Worthy?
People are quick to blame smartphones and devices, and I think there’s some truth to that. But I also think there are some worthiness issues at work here.
Maybe we don’t feel worthy of being healthy and happy. Or maybe we don’t feel like we deserve to be pain-free.
I often feel that way about my writing. I don’t feel worthy of publishing a book. I’ve read so many great books over the years, and who the hell do I think I am to try to follow in those authors’ footsteps?
Same phenomenon, different art. I’m betting that literally thousands of you reading this can relate to this phenomenon.
You KNOW that qigong will make you feel better, that it is good and important work, and yet you resist.
I know this because I’ve seen you struggle, and also because I struggled myself.
4000 Days of Focus
If you know my story, then you know that I struggled not only with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) but also with my daily qigong practice. I struggled to focus, even for just 2 minutes a day.
So when I see my students struggling to make qigong a daily habit, I empathize. I’ve been there. I totally get it.
But I killed that dragon. My record is 4000 days of qigong practice in a row. And even after I broke my streak, I only missed a day or two.
I suspect that there are published writers reading this who empathize with my book struggle. I’m betting that they’ve mostly solved the resistance issue and found a way to write consistently, just like I’ve found a way to practice qigong consistently.
Many of you, despite your ability to do deep work in one area of your life, still struggle to focus when it comes to qigong.
And the reverse is true for me. I no longer struggle with my qigong practice, but I do with my writing practice.
Why We Resist
All of us — and I mean every single one of you reading this article, and also myself — struggle to do things that are good for us.
- We don’t eat the things we should;
- We keep eating crap that we shouldn’t;
- We don’t exercise enough;
- We don’t meditate enough;
- We don’t sleep enough;
- We spend too much time staring at screens;
- We don’t spend nearly enough time staring at the wonder of nature.
Publishing my first book will be good for me, and also for thousands of people. And yet I resist. I’m resisting right now!
This morning, as I practiced my qigong on the beach, I had an “aha” moment, a micro-awakening. And this petite awakening is what I really want to share with you today.
The “Spiritual” Dimension
Here’s what I realized:
An inability to focus is not just a mental issue, nor is it just a willpower issue; it’s also a spiritual issue.
Okay, maybe this is not earthshattering news, but awakenings rarely are. People who are Enlightened often end up saying, in so many words, that “it’s all love.” Nothing is more hackneyed than that phrase, and yet, it’s probably still true.
And anyway, mine was a micro-awakening, not Enlightenment with a capital E!
Stay with me here.
I don’t use the word “spiritual” very often because it’s tricky. It means different things to different people. To some, it is a beautiful and profound word. To others, it just means a bunch of woo woo nonsense.
I’ve built my teaching career mainly on Medical Qigong and Martial Qigong, not Spiritual Qigong. And that was entirely on purpose.
The world is full of people making premature claims to enlightenment, and I don’t want to be viewed as one of them.
You know, like this guy:
I am not that guy. I am not Enlightened. Of course, neither is he. The difference is that I’m not bullshitting you.
However, I see now that I need NOT be Enlightened in order to talk about spirituality.
In fact, I now believe that I MUST start talking about spirituality if I want to continue helping my students grow. And I definitely want to help my students to grow. That’s all I ever want.
The War of Art
For over a decade, I’ve tried to help my students build willpower and create healthy habits. I have a zillion blog posts on the subject and even an online course. And I’ve helped a lot of people with these efforts.
In The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield talks about the resistance that all artists face.
The book begins as a helpful and entertaining work for artists and entrepreneurs, but about halfway through, it takes a turn down a more metaphysical, dare I say “spiritual” path.
I’m also taking a turn down a more spiritual path.
Don’t worry. I promise not to get all woo woo on you. My approach to spirituality will be as no-nonsense as my approach to qigong.
But What is Spirituality?
It’s not religion. That’s something altogether different, and it’s none of my business.
But spirituality is my business, and it’s your business too, whether you’re religious or not.
There are many ways to define spirituality. Most definitions include a sense of being connected to something bigger than ourselves, and also being connected to each other.
To me, spirituality is simpler.
To be spiritual means to train your mind so that your consciousness can expand out of the mundane and begin to perceive the profound.
Artists tap into different states of consciousness and give us glimpses of true reality. In this sense, we could call art spiritual.
Mindfulness is a buzzword, and it’s definitely part of this. In my opinion, if you practice mindfulness deeply, then you will start to perceive more.
Slaying the Internal Dragon
For example, I need to train my mind in order to overcome my resistance to finishing my book. I need to escape the mundane and gain perspective so that I can glimpse the profound.
This is not just a mental process, but a spiritual one. It’s not just a matter of me using a mental trick or simply forcing myself to write.
To tackle this issue once and for all, I need to go within. I need to alter my perspective on writing, and on life. I need to master my fears and doubts, overcome my sense of unworthiness, and slay a huge, internal dragon.
And that’s EXACTLY what you need to do to overcome your resistance to practicing qigong.
Go within. Alter your perspective. Master your fears and your doubts. Overcome your sense of unworthiness. And slay that internal dragon.
This is spiritual. It is the path of the spiritual warrior. It is the hero’s journey, and it ain’t easy.
If you were hoping for a simple self-help trick to help you do this, I’m sorry. That’s not how the Cosmos works. If there were a simple trick, then billions of people wouldn’t be struggling to focus!
But here’s what I can offer you instead. I can offer to help you, with my teaching and my writing, along this path. Together, we can work on slaying our internal dragons.
Let me be clear that we travel this path together, not as Master and Disciple, but as a tribe of likeminded humans, hand in hand, helping each other as best as we can.
If you liked this post, the please scroll down and click the Facebook or Twitter buttons below my bio. And if you have a comment or question for me, I’d love to hear from you in the section below! Best regards, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong (pronounced "chee gung") to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. Today, I'm the director of Flowing Zen, an international organization with students in 48 counties. I've been teaching qigong since 2005, I've served on the board for the National Qigong Association, and I’ve helped thousands of people to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. If you're ready to get started with qigong, there's no better way than my best selling book, which comes with free videos and meditations. The sooner you read my book, the sooner you can start healing! Click here to see my book on Amazon.
Mindy Gilmore says
Dear Sifu Anthony,
Thank you for taking the time to share your deep insights. As I reenter my “normal”daily life after being immersed in the Qigong training with you in Costa Rica I can without a doubt say that one of the many gems that happened for me there was that I did come away loving myself more and actually feeling worthy of that feeling.
THAT IS PRICELESS!!! Thank you for facilitating that for me by being a real genuine human being and a excellent teacher. There is a whole lot more that I could say and I will save it for another time and format.
Enjoy your vacation and thank you again.
Riva West says
I don’t usually leave comments on blogs, but felt the impulse to write in response to this one. Firstly, I appreciate all that you offer. I love to be connected with people who are learning and growing. Secondly, I want to offer another perspective on focus that is not very popular, but I have found it to be helpful. That is astrology and your astrological chart. When you look at your chart and the elements that make up the areas of ‘focus’, perhaps the third house of communication, or the 9th house of greater learning as well as the planets and signs that are there, you can learn a lot about how you learn. I have come across people who are so unfocused and scattered. I have learned that they have Pisces energy in those areas and Pisces energy is one of the most unfocused places to be, ruled by the planet, Neptune – so watery.
I know there are many aspects to focusing. And working with resistance is important. And there are so many hidden, seemingly unknowable reasons why we do things or not, it has helped me be in touch with this perspective.
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
Interesting perspective. However, it seems to me that there are simply too many people struggling to focus today (millions, possibly billions of them) for the astrological explanation to ring true. I think we’re looking at a broader human phenomenon that affects people of all ages.
Joseph Schubert says
Sifu Anthony. It’s been nearly 8 months since I withdrew from your class because of financial troubles. In fact it sent into a spiraling depression that took me months to come out of. I can you are a sincere man who wants to do the best he can. You are genuine man with integrity. You are like us. We struggle with so many things. During my time spiraling I discovered many things. Awakenings if you will. It seems the cosmos was guiding me towards my true identity. It was taking things and people out of my life to make me focus on myself. I can’t describe in words what it was feeling like. But I can say that I was seeing myself and gaining new found strength. This spiritual strength comes from looking deep within myself and finding the answers. I feel like you are daoist much like myself. Finding the path. Finding the way. I agree spiritual is not religious. I hate religion. Only because of what it has done to me and people. But I won’t discuss that. Things just need to be simple. The way we look at things and ourselves and the cosmos.
It really is hard to describe. You just know. When you grow that way it just comes to you. It’s not gained from people or books. Books and teachers cannot impart spiritual growth. You just are lucky if someone can show you the path. But you have to walk through that door yourself. We are often scared of what’s unknown to us and we don’t want to see what it is. So we stay where we are. I just hope that we can all share our experiences together and help one another to find our way. In many ways Anthony have had spiritual awakenings from the things you have told us about your life and what you overcome. I can this. That suffering seems to be a key to obtaining that growth. It’s quite simple. Just to accept that when these things do happen. We have to be open and embrace. It’s not easy. But simple.
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
Welcome back, Joe!
Joseph Schubert says
It’s good to be back.
Yes! I’m so ready for you to speak to more spiritual matters!!!
That’s why I’m here, ya know. 🙂
Amen to the writing struggles, and the qigong struggles, and the problem being a spiritual one. Amen to all of it! True story!
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
That’s why you’re here in the land of Flowing Zen, or that’s why you’re here on this planet?
In the land of Flowing Zen, I mean. 🙂
Annemarie van Hemmen says
Great blog; so true for long-term goals. Thanks for reminder. I am already impressed you are blogging… while at the beach. I always think I’ll get a list of projects done away in Costa Rica while working “in my construction bubble” in the Central Valley… without reliable internet service interference. Indeed not just everyday life that gets in the way. My doubts too. However, sometimes… Maybe you should take a beach time-out after the successful but intense retreat? Give yourself permission. I know that isn’t easy either when you have unfinished projects and target dates. I used to get so irritated with the standard “Si Dios quiere” (God willing) answer. But my Costarrican friends taught my to be more laissez-faire… at times at least. How? Simply because having a rigid attitude not only meets resistance (from others or yourself) but in the end things do indeed often seem to work out for the best. Like Qigong time, down-time can be just as important or even inspirational. All about finding and maintaining a delicate balance? So maybe a retreat-book carpe diem interlude? Enjoy that gorgeous beach while you can. You certainly deserve it.
peter levine (Ishan das) says
Very interesting article. But just when I was expecting that you were going to reveal the secret, the article stopped. But you gave hints of where you are coming from. That’s your style, and gradually I’m getting used to it.
You did mention (in the article) that before we do the qigong techniques we enter Zen. Entering Zen is entering a level in which consciousness is not merely projected through the mental-conceptual platform, but from the spiritual platform. On the mental-conceptual platform there is a lack of a sense of fulfillment, and an on-going sense of groping for “what’s next? What’s next?” Endless seeking for that elusive feeling of resolution. Whereas, the spiritual platform is characterized by an on-going, self-inherent sense of fulfillment. The mental platform is characterized by a sense of contraction, whereas the spiritual platform is a platform of softening, expanding, a place in which “smiling from the heart” happens naturally, and which can be accessed by “smiling from the heart”. Although not everyone knows it, everyone and anyone can access their spiritual center of being. Many people touch into it sporadically during the course of a day, but don’t recognize it, and let is slip away. Others recognize it, and do daily practices for bringing it into focus. Also, anyone who tunes into their spiritual center knows that effortless feelings of self-worth are an inherent aspect of the spiritual vibration. And that’s part of what keeps us coming back for more.
Some people, like Joseph (above comment) say they hate religion. And Sifu has said more than once that he has nothing to do with it within the scope of his teachings (and perhaps otherwise). I have an advantage in that respect. I was raised in a totally atheistic family environment. No one ever used religion to control me, or make me feel guilt or shame, or make me afraid of going to hell. So in looking at religion, I didn’t do it as a reaction to a terribly inappropriate up-bringing, but simply with curiosity. I am convinced that most religions, as they are presented today are out of touch with the actual teachings of the founders of those religions. But we have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath-water.
Sifu tells us that he takes a different approach from many of the standard teachers of Qigong, both historically and today. He draws a distinction between techniques and skills. The skills take place on the softening platform, the smile-from-the-heart platform, the spiritual platform. On that platform, once reached, the techniques require no will-power, no determination, but we find that we have to reluctantly stop ourselves in order to meet other commitments. Therefore the skill of softening in this way is a spiritual skill. Sifu tells us that he has met people who have practiced qigong for years, or even decades without having begun to sense the Qi. This is because their teachers taught the mechanics of the techniques without focusing on the spiritual aspect of Qigong, the internal skill of Qigong.
It may be a new idea for some people, but it is just common sense that religion without entering zen, is just like doing Qigong techniques without invoking the skill of zen-softening of the heart. After all, both systems talk of an intangible, invisible “something” that we have to cultivate the ability to sense. But the teachers of religion today are like the teachers of Qigong techniques who don’t teach these spiritual skills to their students. And this is because those so-called teachers don’t have those skills. Nor do they sense what they are talking about. Therefore who would want to listen to that? But that doesn’t mean that what they are talking about doesn’t exist. It just means they don’t have the skill for bringing it into focus, and shouldn’t be posing as teachers.
So, we were talking about the ability to focus. And we were talking about being spiritual. Some of the concomitant aspect of the spiritual vibration is the sense of inner fulfillment, of inner peace, of inner self-acceptance, that comes into focus without trying, without needing to earn or deserve it. And when we are situated in that way, anything we are doing, be it art, or music, or washing a dish, or walking, or chewing our food……..it all becomes saturated with that sense of inner fulfillment. The only reason we can’t focus, is because we are not in touch with that sense of inner fulfillment that springs from the spiritual dimension within us. But when we are in touch with it, whatever we focus on becomes a channel through which that inner fulfillment can express itself. And in that way, whatever we are doing becomes a nice subject to focus on. In the movie “The Bridge on the River Quai”, the Japanese commander of the prisoner of war camp instructed the British prisoners, “Be happy in your work.” This is the art of work, the art of play, the art of Qigong, the art of life – the spiritual platform of entering Zen, smile-from-the-heart, softening, in which we begin to sense the eternal fountain of ever-expanding self-satisfaction, which enables us to find that same satisfaction in the activity of the moment. At point, focus is effortless and sublime.
Tom Judge says
Thank you Sifu! I think your persistent emails are my handrails to focus and bring out interesting thoughts like the one from Peter Levine (above). After having 2 stents put into my heart at age 85 the battle to regain strength has been challenging and I doubt I’d have recovered without your consistent emails. I’m back to about an hour of daily Qigong.
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
Glad to hear it, Tom. An hour a day is fantastic!
In regards to what Peter Livine may or may have not implied of my stance on religion. I feel I must clarify myself. Or I could leave it as is and you are more than welcome to continue your interpretation of my stance. Let me say this. I do not hate anyone that are participatants of other religions. I am very open to all of them. I have nothing against anyone. I guess hate is a strong word. Maybe I didn’t think it through. As I am writing this, I can’t help but hit a brick wall. It’s too much of a complicated subject and their just too many variables and an infinite amount of outcomes with religion. I don’t think I have to tell anyone that. Im sure everyone has an idea of what I mean. If anyone has ever had a feeling or nudging that this isn’t for them. I would think that you should listen to what your heart is telling you. My road led here. Well to Daoism and Qigong. But to flowing Zen also. Have you ever had a feeling you were heading in the right track. Like discovering what your identity is. Or what was missing. Like a weight lifted off. Or the layers peeling off? These are just my experiences or insight on how I look at things or why I do. I mean genuinely through my journey. The spiritual is looking beyond the box and seeing the whole big picture. Where you and everyone fits in this world and the universe. Seeing just how the tiny ripples in a pond effects the world around it.
Nicholas Lynam says
Finish that book man! You can do it. It will feel great when it is finished, but also, remember to enjoy it while you are doing it! Looking forward to reading it.
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
Thanks for the pep talk!
Dear Sifu Anthony,
touched by your words – until reading the conclusion, which (while really honouring all your insights) hurts inside.
Please! Free the dragon, do not slay it!
He is part of you, do not separate from yourself, do not hurt yourself.
Yes, I am still struggeling with many things as well. I have been through this, slaying a lot of “demons” inside of me – it does not lead anywhere, except that you feel like having had a good fight – a warrior: feels good – helps a while.
That dragon will die for a while, because he loves you. He will be there again, waiting patiently, until you realize he wants to work for you, work with you.
Spiritual? Go and take a ride with your dragon 😉
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
To “slay a dragon” is an idiom in English. It is a metaphor for overcoming a huge obstacle.
As I said in the article, I overcame the obstacle blocking me from practicing qigong. I slew that dragon, and I have been happily practicing qigong for years.
If you don’t like the analogy, that’s fine. Words are tricky. They will always fall short of the true meaning.
vera stern says
I have been watching “Mozart in the Jungle”, season two , episode 6: coming to the scene with maestro Rivera the orchestra plays Arturo Marquez’s Danza No 2 and I realize I don’t have new or better words to describe it, but the experience I have is new! If I think about the words( notes) I may lose the flow.. words , notes, moves, exercise, techniques etc, may help on the way to Zen. But ultimately it might be the journey of discovery, the path I need to walk on searching for the muse….. A discovery pathway trodden for millennia still new for each person, We tend to forget the passion so beautifully told in falk legends and are surprised when we arrived at a place other than the one we had in mind….Elizabeth Gilbert ( “Big Magic” Creative living beyond Fear) says ‘ The Muse is watching us!
Are we true, really true in our love for it, in our intention to accept and reconcile with our limitations…
It is that which makes us laugh, cry, scream,and hurt during 5 Animal Play….
On the Path, finding what resonates from the heart in that magic moment in which the muse finally takes pity on us and reveals herself in her full glory… ( to paraphrase Gilbert’s beautiful words on the struggle to write/ create)
It is the flow, being in Zen….
Thank you for your blog , inspiring and stirring. Your talent is great and your music is strong!
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
Thank you, Vera!
Thank you for writing this blog. I find your words clear, no nonsense and inspirational. Blessing on your day Sifu Anthony.
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
Glad it was helpful, Helen!
Bill Grocott says
While reading this blog I had an “Aha” moment of sorts and I just wondered if perhaps my problem isn’t a bit like yours in a way.
My resistance is this: I have been wanting to sell my house and move to some other place for quite a while now. Where I don’t really know, though it would probably be in one of the southern states where the climate is milder. This house has been my home for 30 years and even though I have raised my family here I no longer feel any emotional attachment to it. I think that began to fade after my wife passed away 9 years ago. Now it’s just a big old 2 story house (I guess the finished attic makes it 3 stories and perhaps the basement makes it 4). It’s certainly bigger than what I need. So every day I make a plan to start downsizing and upgrading so the For Sale sign can go up, but I just have a hard time making any headway.
Now here is what I think. Perhaps the problem is not the lack of focus on the job at hand but rather the lack of focus on what is to become when the job is complete. Without a plan and a positive, clear cut goal for the next phase could I be afraid to put an end to this one. Could this be what’s holding you back? What do you have planned to do once the book is done? I’m sure you won’t let the grass grow under your feet, so to speak, but perhaps you need something specific to set your sights on to give you that push to finish the book so you can get started on the next project. Besides we are all waiting patiently for a publish date!
I just read this as I have been on vacation. Not exactly vacation we bought a tiny beach condo. So it was a lot of challenges. Wonderful challenges as it has been a dream for a long time
The thing is, I started doing this practice three years ago and I believe that is why I have my place in St Augustine. I have been slowly shedding fears and focusing on living in the present. I don’t know exactly how it changes us. I only know it does.
Lisa Billing says
Hi Sifu! I feel like an odd woman out, as I have never struggled with qigong practice. When I first learned it from a book with a similar style to yours – 15 minutes, with the same steps like relaxing the mind, smiling from the heart, letting qi flow etc – I simply started doing it twice a day. And it’s been AMAZING. Doubly so since I started your course in January. But I feel like I struggle to focus on LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE. Work, exercise, food/diet, grocery shopping, just daily life. So I found this article truly inspirational. Why can’t I bring my simple focus/willpower to do qigong to other parts of my life? Now I can!!! Well, I can begin. And for that, thank you!
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
I would guess that about 5-10% of my students are like you. They just hit the ground running. Awesome!
At some point down the road, you may struggle though. It might be 5 years from now, or 15. If/when that happens, don’t beat yourself up. Just work through it.
Students like you often end up being fantastic long-term practitioners! Yay!
peter levine (Ishan das) says
Before I begin, I want to salute Tom Judge, who is 10 years my senior, and may I, like Tom, be Qigong when I’m 85. Thank you Tom.
Also, I want to say hi to Joseph, hope that nothing I have said is a disturbance to you Joe. We’d have to sit down and talk to tease apart all the various threads that go through this one. In the meantime, I offer you heartfelt respect and reach out for your blessings as well.
Seems like you pushed a lot of buttons with this one, Sifu. You’ve mentioned the practice of entering Zen. Someone else talked about living in the present moment. Conversely someone else mentioned fears of what will have to be dealt with when the book (or anything else) is done. My class mates all have their own styles of discussing the subject at hand.
I feel that we can actually discuss this analytically. Like, what is this thing, called the mind, that hesitates, procrastinates, avoids, and is seduced by distractions? And what is Zen mind, and how is it that it enables everything to become simple and straight-forward?
We all know it. We all have it. The monkey mind. As opposed to living in the present moment, the surface mind is endlessly comparing, accepting and rejecting, living in the past and the future, lamenting our losses, and hankering for gains, experiences attractions and repulsions, etc., etc……unending. I don’t have the stats, but probably 99%+ of the planet lives their lives on this platform. And those that know how to enter Zen, only go there to visit for a while from day to day.
So what is the monkey mind doing, jumping about like this? It’s looking for satisfaction, resolution, a resting place, a sense of fulfillment. And usually it wants to find it in things outside of ourselves. But the revelation is that satisfaction is an inside job. Therefore every billionaire thinks he only needs a few more billion.
And the “Zen mind”, or “awareness”, or “mindfulness”, or whatever we want to call it, puts us in touch with a deeper faculty within us, a faculty that has an inherent sense of well-being, an inherent sense of peace, and inherent sense of fulfillment, an inherent sense of positive self-worth………without separate endeavor. It just is. And that’s why the Zen mind enables us to live in “present time”, in “the moment”, because our need to look to the past or the future, that need evaporates as soon as we tune-in. The monkey mind can express a full exhalation, “Haaaw……”, and let go.
From that point, one is not pushed by fear, or grasping for something that is out of reach. But we still have activities. We can just be still for a moment and inquire within ourselves, “What’s the right thing to do in the “now” that’s before me.” and the answer is right there. It could be “qigong”. Or it could be “dishes”, or it could be “Write that book!” But when the answer comes, we can trust it, and go with it.
There is Qi in our body-mind complex. But there’s also Qi that pervades the cosmos and fills the earth beneath our feet. Advanced Qigong masters talk of making a connection with the greater ocean of Qi. So in the same way, this self-satisfied spiritual center of our being exists within us. But there’s also an infinite ocean of spiritual energy that pervades the cosmos, and everything in it. So maybe there were some few who could sense that. And they could understand that there were “skillful means” for getting in touch with that sense of connection. So they made a few rules, do’s and don’ts. And some of them felt that relationship was personal. And others felt that that great ocean of spiritual energy was impersonal. In either case, they started giving classes. So there were different schools for basically the same thing. Schools with different names. And as time went on, people became members of these different schools. The art of establishing the sense of connection got lost along the way. But people got very caught up in the names of the different schools, asserting that their particular school was the best. And we call these schools “religion”. But just as Qi can be felt by entering Zen, as the first step, so also, connection with the ocean of spiritual energy can be felt by entering Zen, as the first step – because entering Zen puts us in touch with our spiritual nature – which in turn enables us to resonate with the ocean of spiritual energy (if we feel inclined). Many historical figures really “got off” on this kind of experience.
Thank you Peter Levine. You also have my respect. I know sometimes comments and messages are difficult to grasp the context and meaning behind the words spoken. I think you and I and everyone on this same road will appreciate the collective insights of our spiritual journey. You Peter and everyone I hope that we can bless each other with discovery of ways to perceive our existence and being.