Zen, Cats, Deer, the Outdoors and Meditation

Animal Zen Masters

It’s true and if you are a careful observer, you will know this for certain.  Watch any animal in nature while being in nature yourself (without your cell phone or other tech distractions) and you will see their Zen-ness.  We can find our own animal zen nature when out in the woods or even outside our back door (woods are better!).  Here’s what I mean.  Animals in nature are still and alert — this is exactly what we humans who seek to meditate and to be more Zen-like and peaceful aim for — stillness while remaining alert!  And to be beyond our ego-personality daily stressful thinking.  Just going outside achieves a disconnect from our own mental residue that bounces off the walls.

I have a one-bedroom apartment surrounded by many lunatic humans — sorry, but you could fact check this and if you lived here, you’d know the truth of that as well.  And I also feed feral cats — kittens born just feet from my back door.  (They are as big as an adult cat now.)  I watch them and think how, in their wild animal nature, they possess what I strive for in my meditation practice:  still alertness.  They perk up at any sound that they’re not accustomed to and yet right afterward they are able to return to their former peaceful stillness again, totally letting it all go and being fully present.

Watch any animal in nature; take deer for example.  They are always alert and attentive yet are able to return to a peaceful state rather quickly after they tense up or perk up due to a perceived threat.  They are alert — not hyper-alert however.

I feel so trapped and smothered living here in this city and in an apartment complex sometimes.  This is because even the outdoors here in this apartment complex can be chaotic with barking dogs and boisterous humans.  Life.  Its what we are, life itself. Rather difficult to merge with you have an aversion to, but it’s my current path here surrounded by human animals.

I am thinking soon to have a nice long hike in the woods.  My trekking poles are always in my car and unfortunately, it’s necessary to drive 20 minutes to get to a state park.  It’s not like when I lived in the mountains. But I can’t mentally “go there” today — makes me too sad.  Anyway . . . I digress.

When we are out in nature (again, without the phones, etc.) it becomes so easy to let the trees, rocks, lakes and all of nature merge with our own energy.  And then we can forget the human self and go once again into the animal self.  We have to be aware when in a natural setting — snakes and the like, you know?  Yet in the state park that I mentioned above, the greatest predators are humans and their dogs, not wild animals.  Either way, one’s tendency in the wood is to be still and alert–or at least it’s that way for me.  And that is very meditative.

Sometimes, I just want to dash out the door and get a bit of exercise when in between writing bursts or watercolor painting.  Lately, I’ve stopped walking loops in this apartment complex (for numerous reasons not to be included here) and have chosen instead to take my walks along the highway on the bike lane.  Now there is a place to be hyper-alert like in the woods!  One must be in the present moment there too!  Traffic is whizzing by 5 feet from my shoulder.  I don’t walk on the highway every day and only for about 30 minutes all together out and back usually.  It surely isn’t a pleasant walk in the woods,  but there are dangers and the necessity to be alert and present.

I find I can be much more present in a group weight lifting class at the gym, but sometimes one just wants to walk out the door, not having the time or inclination to drive off to the gym or take 40 minutes to get to and from the state park.

Well, these are thoughts that crop up today.  Being outside is expansive and meditative states are natural.  Next time you watch a wild animal, see if it isn’t true — they are zen teachers!

 

Writing, Painting, Creativity, Intention and Happiness

Hello, Greetings, Namaste!

Has it been eons since I’ve posted on this blog?  Yes, it is so but here I am today in a mood to write and have set a Pomodoro timer to put out some thoughts and words here for 25 minutes.   I’ve been attending a writing group in the community where I live and we are encouraged with a brief writing prompt to write for a timed period of time and then share what we’ve written.  We are not to correct our grammar or cross any words out but to just keep writing.  In other words, no editing or no editor.  That’s how I’m writing this blog too.  You will probably realize if you haven’t already that there’s been no editing. Writing in a group of others seems to up the anty a bit especially if you know you will be asked, as we round the table if you wish to read what you wrote or to pass.  It’s a jolly good group and we do have fun with our writing prompts.  It’s amazing what comes out of our individual and collective heads.

I’ve had book ideas floating around in my head for years and recently the leader of our group gave us an outline to follow and I’ve just started to use it and found that I’m writing a book that would include survival following a large and fast-moving CME from the Sun which knocks out power and essentially levels the playing field with regard to physical endurance, stamina, and patience.  I’ve not fully worked it all out but its a wee start of something that may completely change or alter dramatically but at least a start.

I think that my artwork helps too in that lately this has been another level of meditation and concentration for me — call it “samadhi” if you know the word’s meaning but you probably get the idea.  I am typing just what flows out of my head and keyboard right at the moment with 15 more minutes of this writing practice.

Another aspect of my life that I’d mention here since I’m sort of free-flowing letting my mind just spew it out happens to involve requisites for happiness and how to take a deeper look at that.  In other words, conditions that we believe we must have first in order to feel happy.  Why must there be conditions for happiness at all?  So this takes me back to the basic core Buddhist teachings that I hold or try to hold near and dear.

Yes, I forget at times just like even highly respected Buddhist teachers and monks admit doing, when getting pulled into the drama of life or the reactionary responses and then not remembering how I intend to live.  I’ve taken to repeating that intention to myself at the start of each day before getting out of bed and believe that this helps.

But back to the conditions for happiness or what conditions that I think I need to remain in this state — I’m looking at that and observing it in others.  Maybe idea this will be something that I work into a book that I want to write woven in with the result of what happens when people do not have any conditions that they are used to do to huge disruptions in their way of life.

Maybe it is going to be a dystopian themed book.  Who knows.  And as I even type here about my writing a book that critical part of my mind is kicking up and laughing at the idea.   Just how many times have you said you were going to write a book anyway?  huh? 

Yeah, I can feel a bit like a fraud if I contemplate that.  When one has a goal or makes the self a promise and then fails to reach the goal or keep the promise it can be . . . let’s just say challenging.

What’s life without a good challenge or two?  Well, there’s only one minute left on the Pomodoro timer and this 25-minute writing in which I’m just letting it flow is about done flowing.

Just a final thought — using creative activities (painting or writing, etc.) and exercise (weight lifting at the gym) can help develop one-pointed concentration (samadhi) like deep meditative states.  Same diff to a great degree.

Time’s up! Have a great day!

The 10-second Attention Rule and Meditation

How long can you hold your focused attention?

Ten seconds.  Think about when we watch T.V. or a movie.  A new action, a new flick of movement in front of our mind/eye happens at least every 10 seconds.  Are we training our minds to only be able to hold attention for that brief interval?  Binge watching (I’m guilty of it too) can create such impatience with having to wait longer or hold attention longer.  I notice that when I’m waiting for a webpage to load or even for my coffee to re-heat in the microwave, there is a level of impatience that arises.  C’mon, c’mon, let’s go!  And I don’t notice this impatient behavior sometimes.  Other times, I do and have to speak to myself to slow down, take a few breaths and focus attention within the breath/body.

Crazy, isn’t it?  These expectations we have that can go unnoticed.  Having to sit at a traffic light is sometimes the same way.  Yet, go to a doctor’s office for an appointment and the expectation is that we will have to wait and we may bring a book.

I’ve just been considering the automatic pilot or unconscious tendencies that occur and how binge-watching programs can train our mind to be impatient or less able to fully focus our attention for a longer period of time.  I now notice how 10 and 15-second meditation apps are popular.  Maybe that’s where we’ve gotten to as a general populace?  Who knows?  I am only speculating on all this.  If one does make a practice of binge-watching programs, one probably should spend an equal amount of practice holding focus and attention for longer periods in meditation.