My advice:  Don't give unsolicited advice.


#1 Meditation:     Meditation is the most powerful tool for transformation, personally and globally. A daily routine is imperative.

#2 Be Emotionally Aware:     We are emotionally centered beings so awareness and the maturity of our emotions is crucial.

#3 Healing:     Inevitably some blockages are created during childhood, and until healed, they will take us away from joy.

#4 Be in the Moment:     The Now is the only reality, so the more we train ourselves to be in the moment the healthier we will be.

#5 Have a Positive Attitude:     Happiness is a choice, so find the joy in every moment.

To summarize:     Most people spend their lives chasing happy moments (with varying degrees of success), rather than choosing to live in happiness. Life is more about being than doing.

The true measure of success is the degree of self - acceptance

* I read somewhere that it takes 22 days to change a habit (i.e. implement a positive action or stop doing something unhealthy), and I have found this to be true.

* I also read somewhere that your mind experiences the present, or the "now," as 7 seconds; this seems reasonable to me.

a Zen student asks a Zen master, when will i find enlightenment?

The Master answers, I don’t know but when you do it will be Now.

According to tradition, Zen originated when the Buddha held up a flower and Kasyappa (a student) smiled. With this smile he showed that he had understood the wordless essence of the dharma (teachings of the Buddha). This is the essence of Zen, to have an absolute insight into the true nature of the self, or Buddha-self; this is called satori, or enlightenment. The various schools of Zen aren’t really religions, but rather are methods for attaining satori. There are revered Zen Masters whose thoughts and techniques are recorded, but they are not considered sacred in the same sense that most religions consider prophets; they developed techniques, not divinations from God. Zen deems the rational mind to be an impediment to enlightenment, so in its truest sense it has no regard for ideas about God(s), spiritual realms and moral codes. The words of past masters are only of benefit if they can assist one in attaining satori.

Zen demands strict discipline for attaining enlightenment, with awareness and meditation being the primary tools. For awareness one is to focus the mind solely on the whatever activity is being done, and for meditation a student is to contemplate a Koan, or befuddling statement. One well-known koan is, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” By persistently meditating on such statements, the rational mind tires allowing for an insight into one’s true nature (again, the rational mind is an impediment). For the lay person it is difficult to hone these techniques, so retreats were developed to aid the non-monk students. These retreats, called sesshins, intensify the benefits of these practices, making a kensho more likely. A kensho is an insight into one’s true nature but of a lesser degree than a satori. During meditation a student may have an insight while contemplating a koan, but usually they are not even considered kenshos. So when faced with the reality that it takes many, many kenshos to attain enlightenment, Zen may offer a method for obtaining satori but it makes not pretenses that it is quick or easy.

After the 12th century, Zen flourished in Japan and, at times, some variations of it became imposed as the state religion by different ruling authorities. The structure of Zen was consistent with two major influences in Japanese culture, Shinto and Bushido. Shinto it the indigenous religion of Japan but its origins are not recorded, hence it is more of a practical religion than a theoretical one. One does the actions of Shinto but doesn’t necessarily understand the intricacies of how the spiritual realm functions. Bushido's root is the code of conduct for the Samurai, which has been likened to Chivalry of medieval Europe. Both codes emphasize right action and honor, but have different views of both. The absence of theory and the strict discipline required by Zen meshed well with Shinto and Bushido. Only in Japan did Zen become a culturally influential religion, having a dramatic influence on the people's psyche, hence Japan is the heartland of Zen.

N.B.  This information was taken from Wikipedia and an assortment of books I have read, supplemented by some of my own interpretations. I make no claims that the above information is consistent with other explanations of Zen.

A Brief History of Zen

Zen evolved from the teachings of Buddha. As Buddhism spread from India to other parts of Asia, it mingled with various indigenous religions, creating a number of adaptations of Buddhism. In China, around 500 AD, Zen became a recognized religion. From China it migrated to Vietnam and then Korea before reaching Japan. It is thought to have been introduced to Japan in the 8th century, but distinct schools did not appear there until the 12th century. During this time several Japanese students trained in China, and then returned to Japan to establish the main schools of Zen, which are still functioning today. These schools share the same basic philosophy, but their methods for obtaining enlightenment vary somewhat.

More Quotes from Live in the Moment

Chapter 23. What is morality? Morality has to do with doing the right thing, but how is the right thing determined? Personally, I would change the discussion from morality to compassion. Morality suggests right and wrong, and compassion is more about personal responsibility. I am of the mind that there are some universal aspects of compassion and that we can learn to understand these tenets, but not so much from external sources; rather, it must come from going within. If we can cut through all the “garbage and baggage” in our minds, then determining appropriate action is attainable and clear.

Chapter 25. There is a quote I like from a spiritual guru named Osho. He says, “That which cannot remain in awareness is sin, and that which grows in awareness is virtue. Virtue and sin are not social concepts, they are inner realizations.” I’m not sure sex can grow in awareness, but this quote suggests a different means of determining what are sins and virtues. This mirrors my argument that past masters gave us lessons to learn and not ideas to adopt. I think as long as sex provides some comfort and pleasure to the people involved, and they respect each other, then it is OK, even if the two people are not well acquainted. In spite of trying to take an “enlightened” view of sex, I am not convinced that casual sex is healthy, but tonight I am putting my doubts aside.

On a canoe/camping trip with my cat.

Exploring Niijima Island, Japan