“The Path of Zorba the Buddha”
Use your mind, for a change
Some of you might know that we sell several things at CafePress, a site for tee shirts and the like. I did some updating, and then searched “Zen.” One tee shirt that came up had a slogan I loved:
Don’t Believe Everything You Think
Then, I received the following question from Karen, one of our readers:
I enjoy receiving your blog and articles. I would be interested to get your perspective on “Law of Attraction” philosophy that some life coaches use.
I wrote back:
Thanks for your note and question. Being a quasi-Zen-guy, I believe in Karma, which is actually a pretty neat cause-and-effect philosophy. Simply, what I put out there (how I think, to some extent, but crucially, what I DO) enters a Karmic feedback loop.
In other words, where I am right now (to paraphrase the Buddha) “…is a result of what I have thought [and done.]“)
If I do not like my reality [my present moment]the only thing I can do is change what I can change—the way I act (which includes how I respond to my habitual patterns of thought—the actual thought patterns do not change!)
Rather than thinking, “I am a failure,” and acting as a failure, a Zen approach would be “Here I am, as usual, thinking I am a failure. I will “feel” the emotion that arises, fully, and then I will act in such a way as to bring about a different experience.”
I kind of amuse myself over the Power of Attraction stuff. While there is some truth to all of it, most of the ‘biggies’ seem to use it to pile on money and possessions. This seems to work [typically they make money selling Power of Attraction stuff…]but seems to me a poor marker of deep and meaningful living. Nonetheless, we all attract exactly what we believe we will attract.
I didn’t want to get into a “Power of Attraction” (POA) bashing thing, as this seems counter productive. The irony here is that POA and Karma pretty much say the same thing. In other words, Karma is all about reaping what you sow—If you “put out” fear and insecurity, you’ll get more of it from others, and the world. If you act as Zorba the Buddha, (an OSHO idea–that one could be both fully engaged in the world, and fully spiritual) then the world is both a playground and a classroom.
Mine is bigger than yours!
The problem I see with people getting hooked on POA is that it tends to use “stuff” as a marker–get your thinking straight, and you’ll make money, attract houses and cars, and you’ll “be happy.”
As we endlessly say, having such markers is actually THE problem. As soon as I measure my “success” by the height of the pile of crap I surround myself with, I get caught in the addiction to stuff.
Karma and POA as a Mind Adventure
1) Watch Your Mind
Sitting Zazen (meditating) is a key practice for changing your mind. I’ve written about this extensively, so go to the online version of this article, and type “zazen” into the search box at the top of the right column. Or, read this article.
Mind-watching is all about simply noticing what’s going on up there. Most of us either ignore our thinking process (letting it happen automatically and out of consciousness—which is why we end up repeating stupid behaviours) or try to stop them. Neither of these approaches lead anywhere.
So, just watch. Notice the games, notice the aversions and attractions. Just notice. Gently.
2) Accept the Reality of Karma
Part of the “watching of mind” is noticing what you expect to happen. Listen to yourself talking to yourself–predicting the outcome of whatever you are thinking about. Because we predict it, we predispose ourselves to get that, and only that!
Karma works two ways.
First, if you act with disrespect or anger or jealousy, you will find yourself surrounded by people and situations that are what you put out there. The results you are getting—the way your life is—is the direct result of what you set in motion, 100% of the time.
If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him. ~ Buddha
Second, your mind’s main function is to filter. For example, open your ears right now, and listen to everything happening around you. You’ll likely hear stuff that you were unaware of. Your mind decided that this stuff was unimportant, so it didn’t “register” on your consciousness. Your mind also filters results, by only bringing what you expect to see into consciousness.
So, if you think, “My husband is a jerk, and he will fail again,” you will only notice his jerkiness and failures. You see only what you are looking for.
Instead, shift your expectation and your behaviour, so that the two match, and are clear and precise. Put into the world what you want to take out of it.
3) Take charge of your expectations
This was the point of the series that ended last week. I gave you exercises to do that help you to make conscious choices, that answer the question, “What do you REALLY want?”
Part of Zen Mind is a simple awareness that everything about your behaviour in the world is under your control, as are your judgements about meaning.
If you learn to focus on the step-by-step path toward your goals, you can listen to your mind babbling about failure, and doom and gloom, and have a laugh. As you bring awareness to your games, they become what they are—the fears and insecurities of your inner 6-year-old.
4) Change a habit
We are creatures of habit—far more then we realize—and habits operate on the sub-conscious level. Brain theorists suggest that habits are actually hard-wired neural pathways in our brain. Thus, a stimulus comes in, and we follow a pre-ordained path, even if we say it’s a path we would rather not follow.
The only way out is paying attention—being present. For now, pick something you want to shift. Darbella and I, several months ago, decided to work on stopping complaining. We got “Complaint Free World” wrist bands, and worked on it steadily (it takes 25 days to change a habit/rewire your brain’s neural pathway) I wrote about it in an article on cleansing. (Specifically, point 6)
After picking something, figure out what sets the thing in motion, and pledge to yourself to begin to notice when that happens. Decide in advance what the new behaviour will be, and implement it. Do this 100% of the time for 25 days. If you blow it (you will!) start the day count over again.
6) Be Zorba
OSHO had it right. He defined the problem in East/West terms. In the West, we use externals, piles, wealth and power as markers of development.
As good little Puritans, we fail to remember pleasure, sensuality, etc. These things are essential, and equate to Zorba’s insistence on deeply diving into the pleasures of life.
Start with Zorba–decide which things you want to immerse yourself in, own the experiences you want to have, and consciously choose to make them happen. Devote time to tasting, hearing, seeing, touching–drinking in the essence of life.
“How simple a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple heart.” ~ Zorba the Greek
6) Be the Buddha
We return here–to zazen–to simply sitting, with presence and verve.
In the East, the focus has been internal–on spiritual development, and on denial of self, celibacy, austerity, poverty. This is the Buddha side.
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” ~ Buddha
” Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.” ~ Buddha
Zorba the Buddha owns the best of both “worlds.” He drinks deeply from the stream of the world, imbibing life fully. He also spends his days deepening his sense of self. He calls us to live fully, to love deeply, to develop Zen Mind, and to free our hearts and spirits.
Nothing good, nothing bad, but thinking made it so. Lack, deprivation, are mind states that lead nowhere but to misery.
Instead, act in keeping with your passions, desires, and with virtue, directness and a gentle spirit.
The details will look after themselves.