More Zen Ideas

Essential Zen Lessons — part 2

wake up

Waddya mean wake up! I am awake!

Why don’t you ever believe me?

More Zen Ideas

I was working with a client yesterday, and much of what we talked about, and did in Bodywork, was both fascinating and predictable. Predictable, because she’s doing the same thing she always does to make her life miserable. Fascinating because she’s quite bright and totally “gets” what we were talking about.

Doing it? That’s another story.

At one point, she said, “You make all of this sound so simple!”

Darbella and I talked about that one afterward. Dar made (as usual) a good point. Paying attention to the present moment is both simple and hard, and is neither simple nor hard.

It only gets to “simple” or “hard” when we get involved with thinking about doing, as opposed to doing.

Dar mentioned a reaction she has to one of our Zen teachers, who often talks about how “hard” Zen practice is. He sighs a lot. Dar’s comment was, “It’s not hard, and it’s not easy. It’s just whether, in this moment, you do it or not.”

How Zen of her.

One of the “rules about sitting” is: “WHEN you distract yourself by following a thought, bring your attention back (to the breath, to the moment, to nothing… to whatever is “up” right then and there.)”

Notice the when, as opposed to if.

If losing focus was something we are expected to get past, why the continual reminder to simply pay attention again?

One of the chief distractions is grasping onto a sense of “this is hard.” In relationship counselling, “This is hard” is short-hand for “Why the hell should I have to change when it’s his/her fault?” Hint: because the only thing you have even slight control over is yourself.

4 — Drop Judgement

Yeah. I know. Impossible. None-the-less, let’s hold this one as a part of the discipline, eh?

My opening stories are all about judgement.

Hard, easy, good, bad, right, wrong, at fault, innocent,

all are judgements as opposed to statements of fact.

It is 28 degrees Celsius today is a statement. “Jeez, is it hot today” is a judgement. Dealing with aspects of life — birth, illness, disability, death — is neither hard, nor easy. What it is, is both predictable and necessary.

Being present, using excellent communication, releasing blocks, getting over oneself — again neither easy nor hard.

It’s simple, though.

Once all of the excuses are out of the way, there is this: am I doing it, or am I not? If I am not, I can start, or I can yell at myself.

See? Simple.

5 — Be Aware

Back in the good old days, The Haven promoted the 4 As — Awareness, Acknowledgment, Acceptance, Action.

I just looked, and see they’ve added an A and a B. (Breath & Appreciation.)

Anyway, I suspect that much of what we talk about here can be framed within the context of the original 4 As.



Zazen is the one and only method for Zen practitioners to achieve what might be called ‘simple awareness.’

This is awareness unclouded by judgement.

Mostly, people are spectacularly unaware of anything beyond their stories and judgements.

My principal goal is to get you to devote your life to awareness, which then leads to the other three As.

Now, of course, within awareness is noticing my attempt to go non-present.

I call these NPMs — non-present moments.

Bare, or simple awareness is awareness unclouded by excuses, ego, or blame. Items that come into awareness are ‘as they are,’ and are worthy of simple notice.

6 — Acknowledge

Acknowledgement sort of means to know you know.

The dictionary suggests, “admitting to knowing something” as a definition. Stress on admit.

The Zen practitioner, as she notices the arising of thoughts, judgements, “dual thinking,” freely admits to what is happening in the mind. But the essential acknowledgement is this:

This is me, separating myself for the actual experience of the situation at hand (the moment,) as I turn my thoughts into something more significant than the situation itself.

As I notice, and then acknowledge what I am doing, I find myself able to choose.

Sometimes, I really, really want to blame and judge.

There is nothing wrong (at all!) with any choice, so long as it is a conscious choice, AND I am willing to accept copmplete responsibility for my choice. We’ll get to action in a minute, but at this stopping point, let me be clear: we have almost no control over what we think, and therefore our thoughts are harmless and blameless. What we do with our thoughts is another matter entirely.

7 — Acceptance

Reread the intro, and the “it’s hard” stuff. This is NON-acceptance. This is how we get up into our heads and excuse our stupidity and laziness.

Acceptance is quietly and completely owning who I am and what I do, (i.e. have NPMs) — without judging “hard,” “bad,” whatever. As I accept that I do have NPMs repeatedly, I can have it, notice it, and let it go. As opposed to the relentless search for the “reasons.”

Acceptance is living with yourself as you are, warts and all, without judgement, blaming, or looking for the “reason.” “Why am I in this mess?” is a common counselling question. The answer is, “Because of choices you made, and because, sometimes, shit happens.” Ruminating endlessly is not helpful. Acceptance of the reality of this “now” is essential.


Call me silly, but wouldn’t it be simpler

to just untie the laces?

8 — Action

The first 3 As lead to action. Action, as I mentioned last article, is of the “Chop Wood, Carry Water” variety. Going into your head to make yourself more miserable is not an action. Getting off your butt and doing something meaningful, now, is what action is all about.

This is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. All I can do is what I can do.

My actions need to be clean and pure from, you guessed it, within the container of my belief system.

In other words, my actions match what I say that I believe to be true. My only job is to bring myself under my own discipline.

This week, contemplate your relationship to points 4 to 8. Commit to seeing the truth of you, and from there to being you by living and enacting you. Moment by moment, of course!

Make Contact!

So, how does this week’s article sit with you? What questions do you have? Leave a comment or question!

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

4 thoughts on “More Zen Ideas”

  1. This is some great stuff. I totally agree about having to do things and not thinking about them. When you don’t have that mindset it’s a great challenge to get your mind thinking in a different direction as long as you know it will benefit you.

    • I suspect that, even beyond this, (I’m just thinking about the next article… hmm) it is difficult to predict “benefit,” so perhaps “acting continually out of one’s integrity, while letting one’s mind do what it does?”

  2. Hi Wayne

    Did I ever tell you that you write some great stuff? You do!

    And Dar’s comment — what a classic.

    Have a large helping of ‘feel good’ because you deserve it.

    Have fun too. Regards, Peter

    • Hey Peter,
      Just back from an all-too-brief cottage holiday to your kind words. Thanks! Dar says “thanks” too!
      Life, and we are indeed well.


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