Paul Gamache and I have developed a 6 session series called Mindfulness - The Art of Living based on Thich Nhat Hanh's book, The Art of Living. It starts on January the 11th and runs for 6 consecutive Friday evenings from 7-9:00 pm at his Acupuncture clinic in the village of La Jolla. It is free and everyone is welcome. It is limited to 25 people. The book is the fruit of 70+ years of teaching by the greatest teacher I have ever known. Mindfulness practice has been summed up by 5 words: Stop; Calm; Rest; Heal; and Transform. We will use the practice to accomplish all of these. The goal of mindfulness practice is the deepest insight into the nature of ourselves and our world of which human beings are capable. It is insight that resides in our whole being. It is deeper than words, thoughts and ideas. This book contains the crème de la crème of mindfulness teachings. They are powerful and skillful tools and we we use to transform ourselves, individually and collectively. I intend this to be a seed destined to grow into a community that is part of a movement to heal and transform us individually, as a practice community, as citizens, as humanity, and ultimately, as the whole earth community. I think we need a community to practice with for our own sake, and the world needs the power that only a community, and communities of communities, can generate.
For more information Paul's clinic's Facebook post is:
To get more information and sign up go to:
We intend to video the sessions and if you want to be notified about the postings and other opportunities for learning and practicing join my mailing list using the link at the bottom of this page.
Meanwhile, smile, relax, enjoy the wonder of your breath, your body, your feelings, your imagination, thoughts, memories, dreams, and your amazing consciousness, which is capable of knowing the wholeness of reality in the present moment, and taking in the exquisite detail emerging into your consciousness every moment.
18 November 2018
I was just reading Ray Kurzweil’s book, How to Create a Mind. He was talking about how the two hemispheres of our brain are actually two brains, with their own perceptions of the world. He said, to some extent, they independently govern the two sides of our bodies, as well as certain specialized tasks like language and spatial orientation. It brings up the question for me, is there one mind, even if there are two brains, or perhaps many brains inside of us? I think the fundamental idea of spiritual practices, mindfulness practices, is that there is one mind which can be strengthened, like a muscle, with practice. We can cultivate this one mind with mindfulness practices which deepen to concentration and generate insight. The insight can then get stored in the brain as habit patterns. But what I want to keep coming back to is this idea, and this experience, of one mind. When mindfulness deepens into concentration we act as one concentrated being, with 100% of ourselves applied to whatever we are doing and experiencing in the present moment, whether it’s remembering a past event, threading a needle, writing a sentence, breathing or smiling.
One mind is the ultimate accomplishment. It means it is clear to us that we are not a mess, that we are not scattered about, half lost, and largely forgotten. All the ways we seem to be distracted and divided can suddenly vanish as we become one concentrated mind. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about leaking. We are like a vessel that is leaking, our energy dissipating from the container which is our mind. The goal of practice is to cease leaking and to allow our energy to be one energy, one whole being, one unified experience. I think of Paul McCartney singing, “I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in, and stops my mind from wandering, where it will go.”
The great goal of spiritual practice is radical concentration and radical openness. It’s not hard to do but it takes giving oneself to the task of being fully present. I activate this capacity for concentration, for being here now, for beaming into the present moment, and by focusing inwards I end up projecting outwards a deep attention that takes in the world in a deep and rich way. This is a great and surprising result of the practice of giving attention to myself. By turning my attention to myself, to the center of my experience, I end up being acutely aware of the world. It feels as if the vail between myself and the world is lifted and we are intimately one. I feel suddenly transparent. There is no barrier between me and the world, between anything and anything else, and between anything and the whole. I think to evoke and maintain this state of being is what spiritual practice, also called mindfulness, is all about.
It is relatively easy for me to evoke this mode of consciousness while sitting in meditation or sitting here writing and thinking about nothing else. And I know that to do this, however I can, and to sustain this mode of experience as long as possible, reshapes my brain so that this mode of being becomes a new habit. Modern neuroscience has discovered this and has a phrase for it, “neurons that fire together wire together.” Our brains actually form new connections which make permanent patterns out of our mental activities and these patterns become new habits. A new normal is created. I know from my experience that the quality of my whole day is improved by my morning meditation. I also know that it is very easy to fall back into stressful patterns during the activities I am engaged in during the day. This brings up the question, how do we maintain this mode of living during all of our activities?
One way is to keep reminding ourselves to breathe mindfully during all activities. Even in the midst of a conversation we can remember to breathe mindfully, and it changes everything. No one but ourselves would notice but suddenly we are not tense about the conversation or when it will end and we can bet back to what we have been interrupted in the middle of. Suddenly we are savoring the present moment and the conversation we are engaged with. We relax and settle into the moment and the interesting activity of conversation.
Another way is reminding ourselves to do whatever we are doing for the sake of doing it, not trying to get it done as fast as possible but with our whole selves committed to making the most of it. At Deer Park Monastery, where I have spent a lot of time over the last decade, we are invited to participate in working meditation. We are reminded that working, or any activity, is a meditation, if we attend to it with deep attention and a relaxed, engaged mode of being.
The goal and the practice are one and the same. The practice is to live our lives mindfully, every moment of every day, to thereby have the richest possible experience and evoke our best self.
Good Morning Dear F.riends,
I just heard what I think is an amazing Ted talk about stress that I thought you might benefit from. I hope I do.
I just returned from a weeklong retreat at Deer Park Monastery for people ordained as Members of the Order of Interbeing in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and for people aspiring to ordination. One of the highlights of the week was a class taught by the resident Zen Master, the Venerable Thich Phuoc Tinh. He spoke on Faith. Faith is not a common topic in the Zen traditions I have practiced with. It makes me think of belief, which is not the point of Buddhism. The point in Zen is to use teachings to guide mindfulness and concentration to allow us to generate our own insight. The goal is for us to discover for ourselves new levels of reality and experience, to enhance our wellbeing and our consciousness. The proof is in the pudding, as we say, and the pudding is our experience. So, Faith was an interesting topic.
Phuoc Tinh pointed out that without faith in ourselves, in our capacity for transformation, in a practice or a path available to us to use for healing and transforming ourselves, in humanity, in the earth community, in the world, we may simply despair. There seems to be a lot of despair in the world. Many young people commit suicide.
Transformation is the heart of spiritual practice and is widely considered our only way forward toward a thriving, healthy future. In my practice transformation is what it's all about, and it starts with ourselves. Phuoc Tinh said if you don't want to change, but you want other people to change, that's ridiculous. The goal of mindfulness practice, which is what we call our practice in Thich Nhat Hanh's tradition, is to wake up, to see clearly and through insight into ourselves to transform our unwholesome habits of thought, speech and action, which create suffering for ourselves and those we interact with, into wholesome ways that generate wellbeing, joy, happiness, and peace. Phuoc Tinh's point is that without faith that this is possible, why would you even try.
I think it starts with a fundamental openheartsanghasd.blogspot.comfaith in ourselves. I know that for myself I easily get caught up in my projects and concerns and in my busyness I can drift into unmindful thinking such as worrying, or regretting. My imagination can easily go negative. I can find myself unhappy without even knowing how I got there. If I don't have a trust that recovery is possible, that I could do something to regenerate my sense of wellbeing, I could simply be depressed. But I know from experience that if I stop what I'm doing, bring my attention back to my breathing and my body and the present moment I can radically transform my mode of being in short order. I have faith that I have better potential than I am currently manifesting, and I have faith in the practice of mindfulness which has been designed and honed over 2,600 years for that purpose. It is not blind faith. I have experimented with the practice and achieved wonderful results, so I know it is possible. I have faith in myself, that I fundamentally desire what is best for me and for the world, and that I am capable of taking the actions necessary to transform, and I have faith in the practice I have learned and that there is much more for me to learn. I have faith that human potential is great and that as a human being I have that potential. I have faith that I can do this and that there is a community which supports me in doing this. The Open Heart Sangha is a primary community I trust in this way.
Phuoc Tinh also talked about how to practice using the metaphor of a clear, pure river from which we can drink. He talked about drinking from the river without muddying the water. He talked about how we can stir up the mud and end up drinking mud, or we can drink the pristine, clear, clean water and receive wonderful nourishment. If I take a mindful breath, enjoying the in-breath fully without any mental activity which muddies up my consciousness, I can experience what he is talking about. If I am mindful of my mind and appreciate the beauty of the world around me, savoring the blue sky, the green and growing world, the hills and valleys, the blessedness of being alive and able to sit undisturbed and quiet, I can, in those moments, receive the nourishment of all that is wonderful around me. It feels like drinking crystal clear water to breath mindfully without flailing around and stirring up the mud.
If you enjoy thinking about these things, please leave a comment below.
Thich Nhat Hanh said "Mindfulness is our inner sunshine." I absolutely love that. If you let yourself feel that, you will know at a deep, intuitive level what mindfulness and the practice of mindfulness are. Mindfulness is settling down into this aspect of ourselves which we could consider to be the essence of ourselves. Mindfulness is attention but attention is not bland or value free. Mindfulness could be thought of as one side of a coin and the other side is loving kindness. This inner sunshine, this radiance, is our true nature, the very best of ourselves. It both receives, sees and understands other beings deeply, and radiates light and warmth. Mindfulness is looking deeply and feeling deeply. It comes from relaxing into ourselves and the world in the present moment. It is a knowing that comes from direct experience. It is bigger and more inclusive than thinking. Thinking is just one of the patterns in the world that mindfulness beholds. Mindfulness takes in and radiates light and warmth to the whole. My aspiration is to be more mindful more of the time and to grow toward the time when I go through my day with a deep experience of spacious presence. My aspiration is also to share the ways I have learned to practice this and to cultivate a community in which we do this together to heal and transform ourselves and to heal and transform our world. I look forward to our doing this together.
Welcome to my blog. I am a lifelong spiritual seeker and practitioner. I offer mindfulness training both online and in person. I am ordained in the Zen Buddhist lineage of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and have conducted classes in San Diego for over 20 years. When not teaching or meditating I work as a socially responsible investment
advisor, play music, and enjoy traveling with my wife and friends.