Archive for November, 2013

Harmony of the six flavors – Instructions to the cook

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

“If the tenzo offers a meal without a harmony of the six flavors and the three qualities, it cannot be said that he serves the community.”

“The first course involves spirituality; the second course is composed of study and learning; the third course deals with livelihood; the fourth course is made out of social action and change, the last course consists of relationship and community.”

In “Time of Your LIfe”, Robbins says that in our life we have “categories of continuous improvement” – areas of our life that we need to focus on to keep our life in balance – and a balanced life is one that can go faster. In my life then the personal categories would be family, physical, emotional, spiritual, community (which for me includes social action and change), physical, physical space and language. And because I’m a consultant/contractor my work categories would include financial, networking, etc.

Robbins goes on to talk about each category having roles. These are identities that we have in each area. For example, in community I might have healer and activist, in family I might have father and husband, in spiritual I might have zen buddhist, in physical taijiquanist, runner, energist and cook, and in physical space maybe just designer.

What’s interesting about identities from a zen point of view is that in a way this is just a bunch of sticks. In meditation we put the sticks down. And in life we pick them up. The freedom is that we can put them down and pick them up at will. There is a zen story about a nun who, decided to go up a mountain to make a final push to achieve enlightenment. On the way up she met Maitreya coming down the mountain, carrying a bunch of sticks on his back. She asked him what was enlightenment. He took the sticks off his back and put them on the ground. Then she said “then what?”. He picked the sticks up and continued walking down the mountain.

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Getting in the flow – Instructions to the cook

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

“Pay full attention to your work in preparing the meal; attend to every aspect yourself so that it will naturally turn out well.”

In Buddhism we learn about obstacles to meditation. These are the things that get in the way of meditation, but as our meditation develops we realise that these are things that stop us being in the flow. Anxiety/stress. Laziness/escapism. Ill will. Doubt/lack of trust. Sensory desire.

“If you’re stressed, you are making things more important than they really are.” Actually, the most important thing is mindfulness. That’s your wealth. If something is getting in the way of your mindfulness, i.e. you’re stressed, then you’re mind is upside down. Nothing is more important than you’re own state of mind. The obstacles to meditation are in fact obstacles to our peace of mind, and obstacles to making decisions from the centre of our being.

The first technique AR uses to analyse time is based on important vs urgent. His ideal to do what’s important but not urgent at least 50% of your time. He calls that being “in the zone.” So, I’m going to spend the next week working out just where I’m spending my time.

The second technique is to look at what you’re up to in terms of:- control, influence, no control; and to stay in the spaces where you have control and not bother with no control. There’s no point in stressing yourself about that. When I think about my relationship with wider life, it is clear than I can control where I spend my dollar and my vote. I have very little influence over what the big brands do, or what our prime minister does during his term, but I can exercise a small influence. Community groups give people tools. They influence.

So, getting rid of the things that I can’t control and focusing on important but not urgent, where do I want to spend more time. I’ve decided to build a tool that helps people decide what their day to day purchases will be, for the good of the planet. What brands are doing what. That means I’m going to have to watch a bit less TV, not that I watch a lot anyway, but there is some that can go. And a bit less time on Facebook.

All of this boils down to mindfulness, really.

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What do I want – instructions to the cook

Monday, November 11th, 2013

In “Instructions to the Cook”, Fields and Glassman observe that “Zen masters call a life that is lived fully and completely, with nothing held back, ‘the supreme meal.’ And a person who lives such a life – a person who knows how plan, cook, appreciate, serve and offer the supreme meal of life, is called a Zen cook.” I love cooking, I love Zen and I have spent years using various things to help me take control of my life.

The latest thing I’m up to is 30 day challenges. Although I’m using the time frame a bit loosely. I’ve just come off a juice fast which really was a 10 day challenge. And this post is the beginning of a 40 day challenge – to complete the 10 day Time of your Life, and the 30 Day Personal Power courses; to re-interpret them within a zen context; and to hopefully create some new cooking techniques for Zennists. My fourth 30 day challenge.

I have had a lot to get done today:- write a spray calculator in PhoneGap (don’t ask); Spanish Grammar and Vocab (I’m currently sitting at about 1,800 words of Spanish); Fix a newsletter in a website; Listen to “Time of Your Life” – Day 1; Try and finish an objective-C app for a client (don’t ask); write this blog.

The first and most important paradox is that “Time of Your Life” is focused on getting what you want. Buddhism on the other hand is about removing suffering by eliminating wants. Zen itself is a paradox. While sitting and meditating is an important part of Zen, so is focusing on how you’re living your life. It’s attention to the detail of your life, where you put the umbrella, have you cleaned your bowl, did you completely burned up the self in an activity. “It’s not reading the Tenzo Kyökun that takes a you’ve got!” And yet at the same time, there is an old saying “Spring comes and the grass grows by itself.”

One commonality is that in this first day of Time of your Life, Anthony Robbins says “If you don’t maintain focus’ you will pay a price.” What a great saying, but maybe if we replace focus with mindfulness, there is a spiritual truth. Focus here is about getting what you want, mindfulness is about putting the habits of self aside to be fully present. Another is around the relationship to pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain. In Buddhism through the meditative practice we begin to disidentify from them and use mindfulness and ethics. For Robbins it’s about maintaining focus. The third thing that drives us, he says is other people’s demands. This is not such an issue for me.

“Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear,” because to borrow from Dune “Fear is the mind killer.”

But the unanswered question is want. We don’t have to focus on what we want, we can focus on what is needed, and that is service, compassion. I’ve been thinking about a new field of service for sometime. I’m going to use this next 40 days to gestate this, maybe it will be still born because it’s not appropriate. Right now, I don’t think so, but let’s see. But you’re going to have to wait to find out what the project is as I’m not ready to tell yet. But here’s the question: how do I help humanity heal the planet?

So this is a 40 day challenge. And part of how I will stay motivated is by keeping you in the loop.

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