Tuesday, December 29, 2015

LET GO OF THE OLD—WELCOME IN THE NEW!

This post first appeared on December 29, 2013, as ‘A Powerful
Transformative Ritual for the New Year: The Burning Bowl Ceremony’

The late American Protestant minister and author Dr Norman Vincent Peale once wrote, ‘There is a spiritual giant within you, which is always struggling to burst its way out of the prison you have made for it.’ That spiritual giant is a power---a potentiality---of which perhaps you are not even aware. This power can, however, remake you in every way. Call it God or the spirit of life, or Being itself, there is an almighty power and presence that lives and moves and has its being in and as you, which is capable of making all things new. (Note, I said all things.) That power and presence can indeed recreate each one of us in both mind and body, and fill us with new life. It can even transform our whole world.


Life is, or at least ought to be, a continual process of ‘letting go and letting be’. There is a certain ‘rhythm’ to life and Nature, and that rhythm is one of … letting go ... and letting be. Yes, letting go---so that the ‘new’ may manifest. The ‘old’ must go. As we approach the New Year, I ask you (and myself) this, ‘How willing are you---and I---to let go of all that is holding us back?’ I am thinking especially of bad habits, addictions, negative thoughts and emotions, and unhealthy relationships. 

You see, most of us resist change, largely because we fear it, but also because change---real, meaningful change in our lives---is never easy. We make so many excuses for giving up what is bad for us. We even say, ‘I can’t change. That's just the way I am’ Rubbish! That is nonsense. The way you are now may well be the way you have been for quite some time but in truth it is not the real person that you are. Actually, each of us is changing all the time. The problem is that as soon as we see we have changed (shock, horror!) we tend to revert quickly to our old selves, because that feels safer and more secure. But is it really good for us? You know the answer to that.

Now, there is a transformative ritual known as the ‘Burning Bowl Ceremony.’ It is a ritual that I have often performed both individually and in various fellowships. The performance of this ritual helps us to let go of old hurts, grudges, resentments, regrets and suffering, indeed, to relinquish anything that is holding us back and which we wish to relinquish. The ritual is commonly performed on New Year’s Eve, but it can be performed on any day of the year.


In most religions fire is a symbol of purification and transformation--and power! In the Burning Bowl Ceremony you write down on a small piece of paper whatever it is---it may be more than one thing---that you want to be free of. The act of committing to writing what you want gone from your life is a very important part of the letting go process. Indeed, there is great power in so doing. Then gently fold (or, if you like, roll) the piece of paper. Now, before placing the piece of paper in the ‘burning bowl,’ the latter being a fairly large, safe and unburnable bowl containing one or more lit candles to enable safe and quick burning, spend a moment or two in quiet prayer or meditation by way of personal commitment and surrender. If there is anything else holding you back---there almost always will be, you know---become aware of what it is, and let that go as well. Now set alight your piece of paper, and quickly drop the paper into the burning bowl ... before you burn yourself in the process. (I don't recommend or endorse the latter.)

Please perform this transformative ritual, either alone or with others. If you do so in a sincere, meaningful way, the ritual will help you to effect real, deep change in your life---and we all need that. And if you and I change, then others, after seeing the change in us, may decide to change as well. That is the only way to change the consciousness of our world. So please take all that I've said in this post very seriously indeed.


Saint Paul wrote ‘be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Rom 12: 2). That is what the Burning Bowl Ceremony is all about---transformation and renewal. It all begins in the mind, and takes place in the mind, before it manifests elsewhere.

May the fast approaching New Year be a great one for you and your loved ones---and may it be a time of real, meaningful spiritual growth as well.



Note. In the Burning Bowl Ceremony some people and fellowships use what is known as ‘flash paper’---available from magic supply stores---which burns in a flash and leaves no ash or residue. Flash paper is, however, ordinarily quite expensive to buy, although you can make it yourself but I don’t recommend that. I prefer to use regular but extremely thin and easily combustible paper---not tissue paper but something similar (eg crêpe paper). Then, having placed the lit paper in the bowl, I watch the flame and smoke as I ‘let go’ of whatever it is I want ‘out’ of my life forever. IEJ.




Friday, December 25, 2015

NEW STUDY FINDS MINDFULNESS HELPS LOW-INCOME MINORITY YOUTHS

A school-based mindfulness program led to improved psychological functioning and lower levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms in low-income, minority youths, according to a recent randomized, controlled study.

The study analysed the effect of mindfulness instruction in fifth- through eighth-graders at two Baltimore City Public Schools. More than 99 per cent were both African-American and eligible for free lunch.


Researchers randomly assigned students to receive mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) instruction adapted from an adult program or general education on health topics (HT). Self-report survey data collected at baseline and post-program from 300 students were analysed in the report.

At baseline, the two groups had similar scores on measures of psychological functioning, mindfulness and trauma symptoms. At the end of the 12-week program, MBSR students reported significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms, somatization, negative affect, negative coping, rumination, self-hostility and post-traumatic symptom severity than HT students.

Study: Sibinga E M S, Webb L, Ghazarian S R, and Ellen J M. ‘School-based mindfulness instruction: an RCT.’ Pediatrics. December 18, 2015.



Addenda.

Here are two recent news items from Australia on the subject of mindfulness and school children:

1. Mindfulness relaxation undertaken by a Canberra ACT school has seen overwhelming benefits for its young students, teachers say. Thomas Neilson, from the University of Canberra, says schools nationwide need to look at implementing similar models to defuse rising stress levels in their students.

2. Following the successful Canberra trial, Clarence Valley NSW mindfulness coach John Shearer wants the NSW State Government to introduce mindfulness into the school curriculum.


IEJ. 10 January 2016.


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Monday, December 21, 2015

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER ENLIGHTENMENT?

'If you can't find the truth [that is, enlightenment] right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?' 

They are the words of Dōgen (1200-1254) [pictured right], the founder of the Sōtō school of Zen in Japan and the original establisher in Japan of traditional sitting zen.

You don’t need to go to some remote place, or travel to Nepal or Tibet, or wear saffron robes, or meditate to for intolerably long periods of time, in order to achieve enlightenment. It can happen right where you are now, even in the middle of a busy street.

Actually, enlightenment is not something you ‘achieve’ or ‘gain,’ whatever those words mean. Enlightenment happens freely, and more-or-less instantaneously and of its own accord, when you remove the obstacles to its manifestation. 

First and foremost among those obstacles is self-will---indeed, the very notion of ‘self’ itself. The ‘self’ that wants to be enlightened is the very same ‘self’ that prevents it from happening. All your ‘selves’ are mental constructs. They wax and wane with more-or-less continuous regularity, although some are more persistent than others. The latter are the ones that tend to cause us so much suffering and misery—for example, the ‘insecure self’, the ‘frightened self’ and the ‘angry self’. You are on the path to enlightenment when you come to understand that all your mind-generated ‘selves’ --- there are literally hundreds and thousands of them --- are illusory in the sense that they have no separate, independent or permanent existence in and of themselves. None of them are the real person that in truth you are.

Temple on Mount Takao (Takaosan), in the city of Hachiōji, Tokyo, Japan.
Photo taken by the author.

What, then, does it mean to become, and to be, enlightened?

Being enlightened means doing away with self-delusion---indeed, doing away with all illusions, beliefs, opinions and dogmas. All of those things prevent you from living fully in the now. I like these words of the third Chán (Zen) patriarch Seng-T'san (529-606 CE) [pictured left]: 

'Do not seek the truth, cease to cherish opinions.' 

Are you prepared to give up all of your illusions, beliefs, opinions and dogmas? It’s not easy but it is possible. By the way, giving up beliefs, opinions and dogmas will not prevent you from affirming the truth of convictions in the nature of self-evident truths or what may be called axiomatic eternal verities. We all need values, but they must be objectively based and not a matter of subjective belief.

Only an enlightened person is truly free---free from self-bondage, free from self-will run riot, free from beliefs, dogma and superstition, and free from the past and all conditioning. The Buddha said, ‘Once a person is caught by belief in a doctrine, they lose all their freedom.’ Yes, they're in bondage -- self-bondage -- to the 'believing self'. 

One more thing. If you---like millions of so-called religious people---are seeking some supposed 'reality,' whether in this life or in some supposed life to come, ‘promised’ or preached by others, then you are definitely not in an enlightened state of consciousness. Enlightenment, in two words, means this---'Wake up!' And it helps to stay awake, too. From moment to moment. 

A pupil said to his Zen master, ‘Master, what happens after enlightenment?’ The master replied:

'Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment chop wood, carry water … but no longer trip over things at night.'

In other words, you do the same things that you did before but you ‘no longer trip over things at night’. Of course, that is metaphorical language, but I think you understand what is being said. The things that worried you before no longer do. You don’t become perfect. You may still get angry from time to time, but your anger will be controlled and directed at things about which we should be angry -- things such as the ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor, religious extremists and climate change skeptics.

There’s a saying in twelve-step programs, ‘It’s not the really big things that trip us up, it’s the broken shoe laces.’ That’s so very true. Enlightenment means that the broken shoe laces of life---again, that’s metaphorical language---don’t trip us up as often.



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Friday, December 18, 2015

MAY YOU HAVE A VERY MINDFUL CHRISTMAS

Once again, Christmas is almost upon us. (OMG, I hear some of you say.)

The Nativity Story is so much more than a supposedly literal (ugh) account of the birth of Jesus -- Jesus, the man who was born of a surrogate mother, and of a Middle Eastern refugee family. (Does the latter sound familiar?) The story of the birth of the Christ child is a myth in the truest and most sublime sense of that word. It speaks of the reality of a spiritual -- that is, non-physical -- event that we all can experience, Christian and non-Christian alike.


What event? Well, it’s this---the birth of the Christ child within our ‘hearts’ (that is, minds). Now, when I use those two words ‘Christ child’ I am not referring to the man known as Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, as represented in the Gospel accounts in the New Testament, is portrayed as the prototypical human being living fully, powerfully and ... mindfully! He was fully alive from one moment to the next, always focused on what he was doing and on what was happening around him. That, my friends, is what living mindfully is all about.

Oh, yes, there’s one more thing---a very important thing. The Jesus of the Gospels was very much concerned about the needs of the sick, the marginalised, the dispossessed, and the disadvantaged in the society of his day. It seems that he went about doing good, wherever he went. That, my friends, is another sort of mindfulness that is of supreme value, namely, attention to the needs of others, in particular, suffering humanity. 

You know, Jesus never asked people to worship him. Never! He spoke of what has been called the ‘Anonymous Christ’? In Matthew 25:34-40 Jesus made it clear that everyone we meet, everyone we serve, is a personification of the divine. He told us that the kingdom of God was within each of us (cf Lk 17:21). The difference between Jesus, at least as portrayed in the Gospels, and us is simply one of degree and not kind. Like Dr Martin Luther King, Jr [pictured right], Dr Leslie D WeatherheadDr Samuel Angus and many other ministers and theologians whom I admire, I dismiss the notion of there having been any inherent divinity in Jesus. His so-called divinity---fully revealed in the grandeur of his humanity---was achieved and not bestowed.

In Biblical terms, Jesus’ incarnation continues all the time, in us and in other people. We read about the Anonymous Christ in the context of the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

How many so-called Christians serve the Anonymous Christ? Not the majority, that’s for sure.


Now, the Christ child of which I speak is our ‘real [true] self’ in contradistinction to that illusory ‘false self’—actually, false selves (the hundreds of I’s and me’s in our mind)---which we mistakenly think is us. One’s real self is the same ‘Self’---capitalised to emphasise its paramount importance---in all persons and things. That Self is not a thing of time or circumstance. It is the only presence and power active in the universe and in our lives now. It is the omnipresence of life itself---the very livingness, be-ing-ness, and Self-expression of life---manifesting itself everywhere as ... the eternal now.

Expressed slightly differently, the Christ child is the potentiality that exists within each of us to be the very best person we can be. In the language of mindfulness, the Christ child is the person who has come to sees things-as-they-really-are and who knows how to live mindfully from one moment to the next. The birth of the Christ child refers to the awakening within us of the conscious but choiceless awareness of the indwelling presence within us of life, truth and love. 

In short, the Christ child is born when you or I ... wake up! Each one of us must surrender, let go, and die to self, indeed die to the very idea that there is a separate, independent, permanent self at the core of our being, in order that a new sense of being---metaphorically and symbolically, a new-born baby---may be ‘born’ in our psyche. And remember this -- the Christ child is born in a stable, and not an inn, that is, in abject humility and no-thing-ness.

The bad news? Well, despite what some would have you believe, only you can wake up and be born anew. No one---not Jesus, not Buddha, not Muhammad, not Krishna, nor anyone else for that matter---can wake you up or otherwise effect this new birth of which I write. Way-showers, world teachers and so-called saviours can but point the way.

May we all wake up this Christmas---and may you have the spirit of Christmas which is peace, the gladness of Christmas which is hope, and the heart of Christmas which is love



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Thursday, December 10, 2015

MINDFULNESS IMPROVES CANCER-RELATED COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT

A new study from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine shows that participation in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program yields robust and sustained improvement in cancer-related cognitive impairment.

Cancer-related cognitive impairment -- also known as chemo brain and post-cancer cognitive fuzziness -- is a common and often debilitating condition that affects attention, memory and executive function in survivors, thus disrupting social relationships, work ability, self-confidence, and quality of life.


The Regenstrief-IU study is the first randomized clinical trial to evaluate the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on fatigued breast and colorectal cancer survivors, the majority of whom had been treated with chemotherapy. In the study, MBSR participants reported significantly greater improvement in the ability to pay attention, and also made fewer mistakes on difficult cognitive tasks than those in the control group, which received patient education materials and supportive counseling. Both groups attended eight weeks of two-hour classes led by skilled facilitators.

Retention rates in the trial exceeded 95 per cent, strongly suggesting that participants found the program to be worthwhile. Previous studies by the Regenstrief-IU research group have found MBSR to have a positive impact on post-cancer fatigue, depression and sleep disturbance.

Those who participated in the MBSR arm of the Regenstrief-IU study reported significant engagement with high rates of self-reported home practice of mindfulness techniques during the study. The majority continued to practise mindfulness throughout the six-month period following conclusion of the program.

‘More people than ever are surviving cancer due to the development of targeted and effective treatments,’ said Dr Shelley A Johns [pictured left], the clinical health psychologist and health services researcher who led the study. ‘Yet many cancer survivors are living with difficult and persistent side effects of these treatments, which can be incapacitating.’

‘Mindfulness meditation practices enable cancer survivors to better manage cancer-related cognitive impairment, reported by approximately 35 per cent of cancer survivors who have completed treatment,’ said Dr Johns, who is Assistant Professor of Medicine in IU School of Medicine's Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics and a board-certified clinical health psychologist.


Story source
. The above post is based on materials provided by Indiana University. All rights reserved.
Journal reference. Johns S A, Von Ah D, Brown L F, Beck-Coon K, Talib T L, Alyea J M, Monahan P O, Tong Y, Wilhelm L, and Giesler R B. ‘Randomized controlled pilot trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for breast and colorectal cancer survivors: effects on cancer-related cognitive impairment.’ Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s11764-015-0494-3


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IMPORTANT NOTICE: Please read the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on or linked to this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blog or elsewhere. For immediate advice or support call (in Australia) Lifeline on 13 1 1 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For information, advice and referral on mental illness contact (in Australia) the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) go online via sane.org. In other countries call the relevant mental health care emergency hotline or simply dial your emergency assistance telephone number and ask for help.



Thursday, December 3, 2015

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION MAY IMPROVE TEEN MEMORY

This much is true and well-documented. Changes in the mind associated with the regular practice of mindfulness meditation include but are not limited to increased cortical thickness in the grey matter of the brain, delayed ageing of the brain, enhanced cognitive functioning and performance, improved concentration and attention to detail, faster sensory processing, increased learning and consciousness, increased verbal creativity, and increased capacity for focus and memory. 

Now, new research suggests that adolescents assigned to a mindfulness meditation program experience improvements in their working memory. The latter is involved in many aspects of learning, like reasoning ability, mathematical problem solving and reading comprehension.

‘These results are consistent with a growing body of research in adults that has found mindfulness meditation to be a helpful tool for enhancing working memory capacity,’ said Assistant Professor Kristen E Jastrowski Mano [pictured] of the Psychology Department at the University of Cincinnati, who co-authored the new study.

The researchers randomly divided 198 public middle school students into three groups: mindfulness meditation, hatha yoga or a waitlist. Most students were female, ages 12 to 15, and from low-income households that qualified for reduced-cost lunch. Before the study began and after it ended, the students completed computer-based memory assessments and reported their stress and anxiety levels via questionnaires. The meditation and yoga groups met for 45 minutes twice a week, for four weeks. In addition, students logged their home practice in journals that were collected each week.

Two trained mindfulness instructors led the meditation group in breathing techniques, formal meditation and discussion using written scripts with instructions on sitting posture, breathing and wandering thoughts.

SourceMindSparke. All rights reserved.

Students were encouraged to take CDs with meditation audio recordings and use them for 15 to 30 minutes daily at home. The yoga sessions were structured similarly, with trained instructors focusing on breathing, yoga poses and discussion. The kids in this group were also encouraged to practice at home daily using a DVD with yoga lessons.

Memory scores increased in the mindfulness meditation group by the end of the study, while they did not change in the yoga or waitlist groups, the authors reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Perceived stress and anxiety decreased in all three groups over time.

‘Theoretical and experimental research suggests that mindfulness meditation is associated with changes in neural pathways and may be particularly effective in promoting executive functioning,’ Dr Jastrowski Mano said. ‘The practice of meditation---which requires sustained attention while simultaneously redirecting attention back to the current experience---is closely related to the function of working memory.’


SourceQuach D, Jastrowski Mano K E, and Alexander K. ‘A Randomized Controlled Trial Examining the Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on Working Memory Capacity in Adolescents.’ The Journal of Adolescent Health, online November 11, 2015. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.09.024


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IMPORTANT NOTICE: Please read the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on or linked to this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blog or elsewhere. For immediate advice or support call (in Australia) Lifeline on 13 1 1 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For information, advice and referral on mental illness contact (in Australia) the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) go online via sane.org. In other countries call the relevant mental health care emergency hotline or simply dial your emergency assistance telephone number and ask for help.




Friday, November 27, 2015

WHAT IS THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING -- MINDFULLY?

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Shinjuku and Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.
Photo taken by the author.

As a lawyer I was trained to think logically and rationally. Part of ‘thinking like a lawyer’ is being able to draw appropriate conclusions and inferences from objective facts. Later, when I taught law for many years--I still do—I tried to instil in my students the importance of fact-finding, logic and reason.

Yet, after many setbacks and failures in my life, I am compelled to say this --- real, lasting happiness and peace of mind require the exercise of an altogether different type of mindset. Indeed, the logical and rational mind, and education itself, can be a real stumbling block on the path to satori (‘waking up’, ‘awakening’). The real problems in my life have never been solved by the application of logic and reason alone, and in some instances I am convinced that the problems were made worse by their application.

One real problem with applying logic and reason alone is that one is still working on the same level of the problem itself. As Albert Einstein pointed out, ‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.’ What is needed, at least at times, is something supra-rational-- not irrational, but supra-rational. The ‘key’ to solving many problems in our lives transcends ordinary reason and logic. Many advocate the use of intuition, but uninformed intuition can be a real stumbling block as well. What are the characteristics of the supra-rational mind? Please read on.

Now, most of you would have heard of the Zen kōan, ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping?’ The full version of the kōan goes something like this. The much-respected master of the major Kyoto temple of Kennin-ji was Mokurai (1854-1930) [pictured left]. He had a young protégé named Toyo who was only 12 years old. Toyo saw the older disciples visit Mokurai’s room each morning and evening to receive instruction in sanzen (personal guidance with a Zen master) in which they were given kōans to stop mind-wandering. Toyo wished to do sanzen also.

‘Wait a while,’ said Mokurai. ‘You are too young.’ However, Toyo insisted, so the teacher finally consented. So, in the evening little Toyo went at the proper time to the threshold of Mokurai's sanzen room. He struck the gong to announce his presence, bowed respectfully three times outside the door, and went to sit before the master in respectful silence.

‘You can hear the sound of two hands when they clap together,’ said Mokurai. ‘Now show me the sound of one hand.’ Toyo bowed and went to his room to consider this problem. From his window he could hear the music of the geishas. ‘Ah, I have it!’ he proclaimed. The next evening, when his teacher asked him to illustrate the sound of one hand, Toyo began to play the music of the geishas. ‘No, no,’ said Mokurai. ‘That will never do. That is not the sound of one hand. You've not got it at all.’

Thinking that such music might interrupt, Toyo moved his abode to a quiet place. He meditated again. ‘What can the sound of one hand be?’ He happened to hear some water dripping. ‘I have it,’ imagined Toyo. So, when he next appeared before his teacher, Toyo imitated dripping water. ‘What is that?’ asked Mokurai. ‘That is the sound of dripping water, but not the sound of one hand. Try again.’ In vain Toyo meditated to hear the sound of one hand. He heard the sighing of the wind, but the sound was rejected. He heard the cry of an owl. That also was refused.  The sound of one hand was not the locusts. And so it went on.


For more than ten times Toyo visited Mokurai with different sounds. All were wrong. For almost a year Toyo pondered what the sound of one hand might be. At last Toyo entered true meditation and transcended all sounds. ‘I could collect no more,’ he explained later, ‘so I reached the soundless sound.’ Finally, Toyo had realized the sound of one hand clapping.

So, what is the sound of one hand clapping? If you say, ‘There can be no clapping with only one hand. It takes two hands to clap. Thus, there is no sound of one hand clapping,’ you are using your rational and logical mind. Yes, you are right in a sense, but you are ‘dead’ right as well … with the emphasis on that word ‘dead’. The purpose of kōans---if 'purpose' be the right word, which it probably isn’t---is to still the active, rational, intellectual, analytical mind. The mind then finds itself (note those words, ‘finds itself,’ for that is the way it happens) in an existential cul-de-sac of sorts where there is no way out but enlightenment. That is the only way we will ever be able to experience a direct, immediate and unmediated apprehension or realization of truth.

As I’ve said before on this blog, a kōan is not a method or technique. It is the complete absence of any method or technique. It is the absence of any meaning or purpose as those terms are ordinarily understood. It is seeing and experiencing things-as-they-really-are---without any filters, beliefs or conditioned thinking of any kind. It is waking up to what really is, and that can be an earth-shattering experience.

There is a ‘sound’ that is not even a ‘no-sound’. It is not merely the absence of sound, it is the active presence of stillness, quietness and tranquillity. You can ‘hear’ this ‘no-sound’ when the active, rational and logical mind is stilled. In such a state of heightened awareness there is no analysis, comparison, judgment or interpretation. The kōan has done its work. Remember, there is never a logical, rational answer to any kōan. However, a kōan can be solved, but never from the same level of consciousness that created the kōan in the first place.


When you know and ‘hear’ the sound of one hand clapping---mindfully---you have come to experience a veritable awakening. There is a peace that passes understanding, and a power that makes all things new. It lives and moves in the one who ‘hears’ not just with their ears but with their whole be-ing-ness … and also their whole no-thing-ness, that is, pure, unadulterated, unconditioned consciousness.

Yes, when we come to know the no-thing-ness underlying and interpenetrating all reality, we can truly say that we have experienced an awakening, for the latter is not a ‘thing-in-itself’. Indeed, it is a ‘no-thing’, that is, the complete absence of thought, conditioning, materialism and all other limitations of time and space. It is living with choiceless, unadorned awareness.

I am reminded of what Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, had to say about mindfulness. He said, ‘Mindfulness is about falling awake rather than asleep.’ Falling awake. Yes, and also staying awake. That is mindfulness. And that is enlightenment. It is also the ‘sound of one hand clapping’ ... mindfully.


Calligraphy: Ensō by Mokurai. The ensō or Zen circle symbolises absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe and mu (the void, no-thing-ness). 



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