Do you drive? I don’t. People who drive had to learn that skill from someone. They didn’t figure it out on their own. You didn’t either. How long it took for you to learn driving ?
If it was quick, you might have a talent for driving, but would you also give some credit to the instructor?
What makes a good instructor? First, he/she has to give you correct instructions, then they have to do the next important thing: give you feedback.
Informative feedback is as important as clear instructions. How quickly you receive feedback is even more important than the feedback itself. The faster the feedback comes, the faster we can adjust our course and master our skill. So, good instructors are those who not only give you informative feedback but give it to you in real time.
That is why in sports, great coaches are videotaping every element of an athlete’s training. Then as soon as possible, show it to the athlete and correct any mistake to refine the next repetition. This is not happening once but over and over again. The main focus is on weaknesses, not on strengths. This principle applies to any learning process.
In Zen training we also need instant feedback. If we want to grow, we need a good instructor, a Zen Teacher who can provide us with clear instructions and instant feedback about our weaknesses but is also very supportive. Like a good parent.
In our tradition we use kong-ans to make our lifes correct. Kong-an interviews are extremely important to speed up the wisdom growth of a practitioner. They provide instant feedback to your Zen training. These days, everyone can get access to any meditation instruction instantly. Just google the word “meditation”. However, without instant feedback provided by a qualified instructor, we can run into trouble.
Sangha, the group of fellow practitioners, is another source of feedback. If you don’t have a Zen Teacher available on daily basis you’ll need a good friend.
Good friend is not a person who give you high five no matter what you do or say. Good friend is a person who is not afraid to point out your hidden faults, which is the most valuable feedback. If you have at least one friend like that you are a rich person. Invest in that relationship.
If you are aiming for mastery, you need feedback. Everyone needs feedback, including instructors. Great coaches and teachers have another specific quality; they don’t consider themselves “Masters”. They constantly improve their skills. Mastery is a process which never ends.
Unfortunately, the higher the position, the less feedback we might get and it’s often given too late. As an old Zen saying goes: “The arrow passed downtown,” points to that. The CEO’s of fallen enterprises, communities and nations repeat the same mantra: “Nobody told me!” The responses they get are usually, “Yeah, but you were always holding a gun!”
If you are looking for effective growth, consider two things: finding a keen eyed instructor, good friend and a community where the leadership promotes an instant feedback culture on every level without “holding a gun”.
Posted by AnJ at 6:39 PM
"There are three extremely hard things: diamond, steel and knowing yourself"- Benjamin Franklin
"Self awareness" is a catchy word these days. Everyone sees the benefit of knowing oneself better. It helps with everything; career, relationships, self improvement, productivity and overall happiness.
A personal coach recently suggested an exercise on how to become more aware of ourselves. He suggested to ask 20 questions about our life and belief system. Here are some of them:
What am I good at?
What am I bad at?
What’s the most important thing in my life?
What stresses me out?
How much sleep do I need?
What’s my definition of success?
What do I think about myself?
Then he suggested to answer each question with the first thing that comes to mind, but not to answer with ‘don’t know’.
In Zen we take the opposite approach. Don't bother with branches. Instead, go for the root.
10,000 small questions return to one big question: What am I?
The more we ask this one question, the more "don't know" becomes the answer.
In the beginning, this doesn’t make any sense, right? Logically. We may doubt that this is not practical, especially if the answer is "don't know". How can "don't know" help me understand myself?
This is in fact the shortest cut to self awareness. When we truly ask ourselves, “What Am I?” what really happens?
Eventually, we return to this state of “don’t know”. When we can keep this true "don't know", our mind transforms. Our mind becomes clear and we don’t hold ideas and opinions. When we are clear we will understand what we are really good at, what makes us tired and what is our dream job. Our answers won't be shallow that "first just pop up". Instead, they are deep and lasting insights that can truly benefit ourselves and others.
Clear meditation practice means understanding our direction, and Just Do It .
Posted by AnJ at 1:29 AM
If not, here is a simple explanation: Millennials are the generation born around year 2000 who probably right now are posting on Snapchat, Instagram or even Facebook.
They are constantly bombarded by their devices with countless choices. What to wear, eat, who to date, what to listen to, and what meditation style is the coolest ?
Having smart phone notifications on all the time additionally contributes to shortening attention span and diminishing focus.
Because of that they can't decide, and whenever facing a choice, become paralyzed.
In an evil twist, Marlboro started an add campaign targeting young people:
"Dont Be Maybe, Be Marlboro".
Here are some messages from Marlboro's ads: "Maybe Never Will", "A Maybe Never Reaches The Top", "A Maybe Is Never Invited", "Maybe Never Wins", "Maybe Never Fall In Love".
For Marlboro, the message is clear; being "Maybe" isn't cool. If you want to be cool make up your mind and smoke our cigarettes.
Zen practice offers a more healthy alternative for those who want to learn how to avoid becoming one of the Maybes.
By doing correct Zen practice, you will become more clear about what you really want. Also you will become more centered, which will help to achieve your goals effectively.
No amount of cigarettes will make anyone a Just Do It person, quite the opposite. It makes you a slave to cigarettes, just like being a slave to Maybe. It's time to make some choices that really help our lives.
Zen Master Seung Sahn used to teach his students: "When you are doing something just do it."It's not clear who came first with this slogan, Nike or Zen Master Seung Sahn.Nevertheless, this idea might be interesting not only for athletes or Zen students.There is still a common believe that those who can do several things at a time are more productive and multitasking is still a virtue in the professional world today.
On the other hand, various scientific research has been done on the subject proving that our brain can handle only one thing at a time. (see article from NYT and LifeHack ). Now what kind of time are we talking about ? One hour, 20 minutes or maybe a second?In Zen, time is a creation of our thinking and it's length is quite subjective.
Past is just a memory, future is a fantasy, and even when we say "now" it's already gone, so there is no way we can Just Do It in the past, future or even "now".
One Moment ( ksana in Sanskrit) lasts 1/60 of the time you need to make one finger-snap.
These days in the era of nuclear clocks our moment is even shorter : 1 /∞ time. Since this is the case we might think that in such a short time we can't do anything, not even think.
For example one human reflection takes up ninety ksanas. So, in moment, there is no thinking . No thinking means that there is no time, no space, no subject, no object and no action.
The point is not to get stuck in the moment. If we don't get stuck in the moment we can do anything
How can you not get stuck in the moment?
Posted by AnJ at 2:00 AM