zen e-course // day 7 – beliefs

Written by arnokroner on . Posted in studies, zen

Lesson: Zazen enables you to see that all thoughts that arise in your mind, without exception and regardless of content, are like clouds in the sky. All thoughts are empty comings and goings without any real or fixed substance and disappear momentarily. Thoughts are a natural function of the brain. Sawaki Roshi loved to say that thoughts are farts of the brain. Just as your heart beats, or your lungs breathe, so your brain produces thoughts. Thoughts are forms of Dharma, regardless of their content. They are natural phenomena.

Practice for today: Notice what beliefs you may be holding regarding thoughts. Identify one or two beliefs you have towards your thoughts. For example, do you believe that thoughts should not arise during zazen and you are, therefore, trying to suppress them? Are you unconsciously seeking thought-free zazen?


Thank you again for the teachings and the practice booster!

From this cushion, thoughts are as diverse as the universe itself and the same as well.

Not grasping the thoughts and turning them into projects, discourse, slicing or dicing or rumination allow for a better awareness of the thoughts themselves. I like thoughts.

I joke to myself sometimes that I give them ratings (well not so literally), there’s a filtration system at work although I’m not quite sure what it is. I know for sure that thoughts can also pass in the light of the precepts sometimes which can show their true colors and bring wisdom. Some of those I blow away because I don’t want them around too much… Creative thoughts (images, ideas, etc) are always treasured and contemplated (not engaged with until later if I remember and I usually don’t), held there for I don’t know how long. Zazen-time puzzles me.

Sitting is a safe place to hold thoughts and be with them. it’s hard concentration work or hard non-concentration at work.

There’s no thought-free anything! The world is all thought. At least what we get of it is all thought and then there’s the essence. The essence isn’t thought because it has no form (thought has form for me, only thought has form, the essence or what is non-thought has no form for me). The essence between the thoughts.

Also the longer the sitting the sparser the thoughts. Leaving more essence or just essence. Occasionally this ‘essence’ has been a lapse of ‘immensity’. Immensity is not even the word, I don’t have a word because ‘immensity’ is usually external this seems to have briefly included me. It has come and gone. It happened while running long distance too. It generated a type of vertigo or small panic then I was back on the breath and the ‘routine’. What is it? Should I really know? Really not-know?

Time. When thoughts become sparser is it really in time that it happens? I don’t know. Why does zazen go by so fast? The bell always too early, plugging the whole experience out of this waking non-dream (essence of dream without the form and happenings and internal logic of dreams).

Fear. That this becomes a spectacle of thought. Fortunately this practice is not just zazen.

Didn’t the Daila Lama say one day “Why go to the movies? you have the mind!” ?

And that brings a picture of an installation I saw at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam:

(1974 – Nam June Paik)



zen e-course // day 6 – from shifting to fishing

Written by arnokroner on . Posted in studies, zen

Lesson: This week we will examine thought. In the Fukanzazengi, Dogen Zenji instructs: “Once you have adjusted your posture, take a deep breath, inhale and exhale, rock your body right and left and settle into a steady, unmovable sitting position. Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not-thinking? Non-thinking. This in itself is the essential art of zazen.” In plain English, this means not grasping on to thoughts. Zazen is not a time for thinking. How do you shift away from or cut through the pervasiveness of thinking mind?

Practice for today: Practice recognizing a thought form arising, living out its very brief life, and vanishing. What arises for you when you recognize thought as just a thought? Throughout your day, pause and rest in the space around or between thoughts.

gone fishing

I’m a fish
in a stream.
Thoughts are hooks
with ‘food’ on it.

In the sun’s glare,
through the surface,
shimmering flies
dance, wink
and vanish.
Others come back.

I can watch,
contemplate sometimes.
And kiss the thoughts
goodbye –
with tiny fish lips.

Let’s swim!
Through the rocks!
And go home, where
a wholesome meal

They can’t see ‘me’

In our school of fish,
no one gets caught!


zen e-course // day 5 – shifting again

Written by arnokroner on . Posted in studies, zen

Lesson: A shift is a small movement from one position to another. In Zen practice, we say that you shift from a position to no-position, or you shift from no-position to a position, or you shift from a position to another position. All “positions” are reality; one is not more important than another. Each has its place. The shift to no-position is at the heart of zazen. We often speak of this movement as opening or as awakening. Siddharta’s shifting, your shifting, is a moment of awakening.

Practice for today: Throughout your day, consciously and intentionally shift to openness. Whatever your circumstance, shift to a larger view, a more expanded spaciousness than is comfortable for you. Throughout your weekend, keep shifting to a larger view and then, even larger than that and beyond! Enjoy!

Hello e-sangha

This assignment placed focus on something I was already noticing. The extra practice was that I had to take mental notes, like putting the mind on record… now reporting from the world of little mind, big mind, miserable mind, happy mind and just mind…

On saturday an unusual shift was noticing a jug of lactose-free milk at the grocery store. This inspired me to buy a bottle of “Non-Ultra Joy” (ignorant of the environmental impact of the detergent I will just keep the bottle to look at). Mini-shifts. Funny shifts.

In general bigger and more abundant shifts occur in being in/with the world: personal relationships, technology and everything else.

In personal relationships, shifts happen constantly (hopefully!). Still using quite often the old fashioned way of interacting with others using a conditioned ego-self (until we’re all telepathic) there are many shifts happening depending on the circumstance and the beings involved. The shifts all point to the same mind (again, hopefully!), this natural mind the one that is the constant. It is the higher power, the superintendent, not in an authoritarian way. Very open, very trusted, very kind, like a doctor or a teacher. Sometimes the ego mind is on autopilot because it’s routine interaction or because it’s off, the constant mind being all.

Other times it’s the ER, complete chaos and hurt and screams but the constant mind can be the medicine, the skilled genius surgeon who never sleeps and saves lives by the barrel. Other times it’s kindergarten, the base mind is an adult (who can sometimes get crushed and torched by a kicking and screaming preschool ego-mind). Then there’s action or speech but the shift has occurred already. Because the ego stream is often necessary for interaction the shift occurs when it needs to be recentered or checked or ignored (constant mind taking over). Coming back to the breath is still the best way to voluntarily start a shift when the awareness arises that it needs to happen. I always think that it’s because we are primarily connected to the world through our lungs. Don’t you notice how breathing gets irregular or blocked when the ego-mind runs the show?

Practical example: 5 year old son gets frustrated to tears and anger playing a game. Ego-mind (frowning): “can’t he understand it’s just a game!?” – Self-less mind (smiling): “poor little guy. he needs a hug and a new game at his level”. Action: have a hug and let’s play another game!

Zazen is the source, the original shift. A space where breathing is all its own and quite perfect. The life that spins around it hosts myriads of shifts big and small. I can see how they are modeled after what occurs during sitting.

I guess I’ll take care of the reflections about shifts and technology and everything else some other time. Way too many shifts today. I’m getting shift sick.

Thank you for the opportunity for extra practice. I look forward to reading more of your insightful posts and teachings.



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