Tag Archives: Buddhism

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

Summary
  1. Peter Matthiessen recounts his travels to India, Nepal and the Himalayas and his spiritual and transformative journey along the way
Key Takeaways
  1. In India, human misery seems so pervasive that one can manage to only take in stray details
  2. Shakyamuni, The Buddha, never involved himself in efforts for social change for he believed the greatest contribution one could make to mankind was self-revelation
  3. The Buddhists he encountered all had the wonderful trait of doing their work for its own sake, to do it in the most beautiful way and to their best capacity, rather than for pay or the sake of the employer
  4. Ecstasy is identity with all existence
  5. To become one with whatever one does is true realization of the way
  6. One must go oneself to know the truth – others can’t travel or do any type of work for you in one’s spiritual quest for enlightenment
  7. Through meditation, he was able to transcend his ego and intuit truth immediately.
  8. Being calm regardless of circumstances is not fatalism but a deep trust in the universe in that things will work out
  9. It is better to be true than strong
  10. The point of meditation is to train the ability of letting go and to be wholly present in the eternal now
  11. It is meaningless to try to capture and hold onto experiences and things as one can never truly express reality
What I got out of it
  1. Vivid storytelling but honestly was a bit disappointed after having heard so much about it. However, looking back there are some gems and clear insight on meditation and enlightenment

Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das

Summary
  1. Really engaging book on the importance of mindfulness and meditation and the principal tenets and practices of Buddhism. About letting go of fixed persona and becoming awake, liberated, aware
Key Takeaways
  1. Enlightenment not about becoming divine, about becoming more fully human
    1. Eliminate ignorance, to be one with all things, to be present in the now
  2. Can only find fulfillment from within
  3. Truth is found by living truly – in your own authentic way
    1. “You become a Buddha by actualizing your own original innate nature. This nature is primordially pure. This is your true nature ,your natural mind. This innate Buddha-nature doesn’t need to achieve enlightenment because it is always already perfect, from the beginningless beginning. We only have to awaken to it. There is nothing more to seek or look for.”
    2. Buddha literally means awake. Awake from what? Awaken from the dreams of delusion, confusion and suffering. Awake to all that you are and all you can be. Awake to reality, to truth, to things just as they are.”
  4. Unconditional compassion and love is at the center of us all
  5. Waking up Buddha about letting go of fixed persona and becoming awake, liberated, aware
  6. Asking right questions more important than having the right answers
  7. We are all Buddhas with potential for enlightenment – spiritual living as well as conscious dying
  8. Cultivating spirituality and awareness a full time vocation – make every moment, action, thought sacred. Practice has to be integrated into our daily lives and culture
    1. “Intrinsic awareness is the common denominator of all sentient beings. Conscious living, contemplative self-awareness, is the means to becoming all that we are. Awareness is curative. Knowing ourselves and learning to let go is the method, the most skillful means. Spirituality is a matter of self-discovery, rather than of becoming something else.”
    2. Self-transformation implies self-transcendence
    3. Spiritual necessities – pray, meditate, be aware/stay awake, bow, practice yoga, feel, chant and sing, breathe and smile, relax/enjoy/laugh/play, create/envision, let go/forgive/accept, walk/exercise/move, work/serve/contribute, listen/learn/inquire, consider/reflect, cultivate oneself/enhance competencies, cultivate contentment, cultivate flexibility, cultivate friendship and collaboration, open up/expand/include, lighten up, dream, celebrate and appreciate, give thanks, evolve, love, share/give/receive, walk softly/live gently, expand/radiate/dissolve, simplify, surrender/trust, be born anew
  9. Can only find enlightenment and truth through your own experience
  10. Death was the Buddha’s primary guru – intensifies life and alleviates boredom, procrastination, sloth
    1. Come to terms with death by destroying ego and you shall live a full and happy life
  11. All about conscious living, self-transcendence and relinquishing control
  12. We all reap exactly what we sow, there are no accidents.
  13. Every single second is a (chance) for rebirth
  14. The self is simply not what we think it is. We are a self-fulfilling prophecy of what we think and believe. Often easy to see in others but very difficult to see in self (Galilean relativity)
  15. Better to know nothing than to know what isn’t so
  16. No eternal “I” – each of us is a process in motion
  17. Seeing through the antics of our monkey-like minds is liberating
  18. Honest investigation and inquiry are the most powerful tools for enlightenment
  19. Monkey-mind is a continuous stream of delusion – thoughts and concepts are delusions, awareness is wisdom
  20. Everything is seen through the filter of our personal concerns
  21. Self-denial (like self-absorption) simply a more subtle form of egotism
  22. Aim to see the Buddha in everyone
  23. Never bottle up emotions. Rather, recognize them, experience them and release them. “Ideally we should be able to be sensitive and aware enough not only to feel life fully but also to let it go.”
  24. Om Mani Pedme Hung – the jewel is in the lotus, the wisdom and compassion we all seek are inherently within us
  25. Stillness leads to clarity
  26. The 7 Points of Mind Training
  27. How we relate to things makes all the difference
  28. Learn from all, judge no one, be kind to all, say thank you
  29. All activities should be done with one intention
  30. Determine what / who pushes your buttons and dive deep into why
  31. Ability to maintain inner joy and larger perspective are signs of a mature mind
  32. “Enlightenment feels completely comfortable, at peace and at ease in every situation and every circumstance with a sense of true inner freedom, independent of both outer circumstances and internal emotions. This requires extraordinary self-knowledge and presence of mind. It means paying close attention to how you think and how you act, and it means making an ongoing commitment to searching inward for answers. Inward. Deeper. Beneath the surface of things, not just inside yourself.”
  33. Three reasons for dissatisfaction and unhappiness (Three Poisons or Three Fires) – ignorance of the truth (see things as we would like them to be rather than how they really are), attachment (possessed by possessions, jealousy, pride, attachments define compulsions), aversion (stems from ignorance of truth and attachments and resistance to change)
  34. There is nirvanic peace in things left just as they are. That is the innermost secret refuge. If you can reach this place within yourself, then you don’t have to do or undo anything. That’s the ultimate refuge, the ultimate practice of letting go – the art of allowing things to be as they are
  35. 4 Noble Truths – Dukkha (life involves suffering, changing circumstances, flawed nature of conditioned existence), tanha (incessant, never ending thirst or attachment which causes identification with what we crave and causes suffering, one word to end craving – wisdom), nirvana exists (inconceivable inner peace, cessation of craving and clinging, the end of suffering, liberation, ever lasting freedom, fulfillment and enlightenment itself; when we realize emptiness and perfect oneness with all, the fires of duality goes out, desirelessness means lacking nothing, enlightened people have preferences but are able to be in the world but not of it), there is a tried and true path that leads away from the dissatisfaction of conditioned existence towards nirvana
  36. 5 primary hindrances – craving, ill will, sloth and torpor (spiritual laziness), restlessness, doubt
  37. The eight fold path
    1. Wisdom training – right view, right intentions
    2. Ethics training – right speech, right action, right livelihood
    3. Meditation training – right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration
  38. Essence means knowing oneself and others, what is, how things work. Wisdom is seeing the truth nature of things. Wisdom is self-knowledge, Wisdom is truth manifested as clarity of vision. Wisdom sees that light and dark are inseparable and that shadows are also light
  39. “Think of what you want, and realize that all beings want and need the same things. They are just seeking it through different ways.” (love, trust, happiness, fulfillment, the world works by reciprocation!!)
  40. Tonglen – sending and taking practice – send all your love and take other people’s difficulties – helps increase empathy
  41. Right speech
    1. Speak kindly, gently and dearly
    2. Don’t lie, be open and truthful about who you are and how you feel
    3. Speak only to help others, listen more
    4. Don’t gossip or tell tales
    5. Don’t speak harshly – no one can make us angry if we don’t already have sparks of anger inside
    6. Mantras and chanting help you attain Buddha nature
    7. Mere words are weak translations of what we really mean to say
    8. Inner solitude and noble silence is a way to empty, cleanse, heal and renew the heart and mind. This is a voluntary way to start the process of simplification and personal downsizing. The peace will help you purify your perceptions and make presence of mind more acute, clear, spacious, and even luminous. Incredible satisfaction is available when you begin experiencing the timeless truth that less can be more; that the most elegant solution is often the simplest one. Set aside one day per week/month to escape all forms of communication, spend some time alone in nature, communing with yourself
  42. Right action
    1. Life is an art form and we are the creators (Toltec = life artist)
    2. “Right” behavior is helpful rather than hurtful
    3. We develop an attitude of cherishing life when we learn to yield, to give in, to let go and soften our hearts and souls
    4. The nongrasping heart is naturally open, accepting and able to say thank you for whatever is. It is the threshold of an unconditional way of being, the supreme spiritual value
    5. Don’t steal – only use what you need, live simply, don’t grasp
    6. Give what you can (money, prayer, support, empathy, time) to all
    7. Even the briefest experience of unconditional love can be transformational
    8. Tantric practice – imagine self and partner as deities (page 211)
    9. No personal hell exists but all have hellish thoughts and experiences
    10. Inner peace, light, enlightenment helps free others too
    11. Enlightenment requires two forms of merit – from virtuous acts and from wisdom, insight, awareness and understanding
    12. Virtuous living a boon to the entire world
    13. Craving – Is there anything or anyone you crave so much that it clouds your judgment or vision?
    14. Desire only begets more desire. Desirelessness is nirvanic peace
    15. Perform random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty
    16. Must try to give what others truly need and not what easiest for us to give
    17. Meditations on Right Action (pg 228)
  43. Right Livelihood
    1. Work is love made visible
    2. Real work involves putting one’s beliefs into actions
    3. Right livelihood helps us make a life and not just a living
    4. Always do the right thing but don’t expect notice or praise
    5. Simplicity, streamlining, downsizing, lives/things key to happy life
    6. The value of anything is always the value we vest in it
    7. Happiness Quotient – balance between what we have and what we want
      1. Contentment is true wealth, wealthy is he who enjoys what he has
      2. Right livelihood is work that develops us as we develop it
    8. True vocation is knowing self and being self
    9. Meditation includes right effort, mindfulness and concentration which leads to mental discipline
    10. Awareness is the common denominator of all sentient beings. meditation is the most direct and effective way to cultivate that innate awareness; it is the essential ingredient on the path to awakening the Buddha within. We meditate in order to purify and discipline our minds
    11. Thought/intellect good servants, great tools but poor masters
      1. A disciplined mind brings happiness
    12. 4 things conducive to happiness – to be skilled, efficient, energetic, earnest and learned in whatever profession one has; to conscientiously protect one’s income and family’s means of support; to have virtuous, trustworthy and faithful friends and spiritual aspirations; to be content and to live within one’s means
    13. The whole thrust of mind-training is to be able to become naturally more loving and compassionate without expecting or hoping for anything in return
  44. Right Effort
    1. The 4 Great Efforts
      1. The effort to avoid any new unwholesome, negative thoughts or actions
      2. The effort to overcome any existing unwholesome thoughts or actions
      3. The effort to develop only good and wholesome thoughts and lead an enlightened life (generosity, virtue, patience, effort, meditation, wisdom)
      4. The effort to maintain the goodness that already exists
    2. The sole incentive to continue meditation is the confidence and inner conviction that develops though one’s own authentic experience. Meditation is not merely a program of mental gymnastics. In the art of meditation, simplicity is the key: the simple necessity of unburdening oneself of all excess baggage, and turning the searchlight inward. For everything is available within our own intangible spiritual core
    3. Trained, dynamic inner life required for effective external existence
    4. Balance between effort and effortlessness is the essence of impeccable effort and self mastery
    5. Renunciation of compulsive preoccupations and intense emotional attachments is vital
      1. “If we get even the smallest glimpse of liberation and what it means to experience freedom from want, we see where our happiness truly lies. This is the arising of inner certainty. When that occurs, we begin to renounce and give up the unfulfilling thoughts and behaviors that create negative karma. The heart of renunciation implies allowing rather than controlling.”
    6. You truly do get back far more than you give
    7. 4 Divine abodes – loving kindness and friendliness (metta); compassion and empathy, joy and rejoicing, equanimity and peace of mind
  45. Right Mindfulness
    1. Mastery of mind comes from constant awareness of thoughts and actions
    2. Simple, conscious presence of the now
    3. Every moment a miracle and when you realize that, all life becomes a meditation
    4. Knowing things as they are, as they function is enlightened wakefulness
    5. Prefer quick mediations 25x per day over 1 long session
    6. As we practice meditation, we peel away layers of our persona
    7. Train self by embracing and breathing in things you fear – simply be present, fully there, without judgment or prejudice, with whatever occurs; see difficult circumstances or happenings as learning experiences; enjoy the spectacle and watch the show as if you’re an outside observer, above the system
    8. Must prepare for death bardo – remembering the inevitability of our own mortality and impermanence of all things can be the most liberating of meditations
    9. Contemplating mortality helps us focus and prioritize – the tenuousness of life helps us to be totally awake in the present moment
    10. Dream yoga can have many great real world benefits –
    11. Pure mindfulness is relaxed, open, lucid moment to moment, present awareness. It is like a bright mirror: nonclinging, nongrasping, nonaversive, nonreactive, undistorting. It is a skill which can be learned like any other
    12. Through meditation we can enter directly into more intimate, immediate engagement with our experiences in a way that reflects simplicity and a deeper, more authentic connection to life. This is not just about being more consciously alive. It’s about being itself
    13. 4 Foundations of mediation – being aware of our bodies, aware of our feelings and emotions, aware of our thoughts and aware of events as they occur, moment by moment
    14. Paying attention and the ability to really be present pays off in so many ways, giving us enhanced satisfaction, broader vision, greater mastery and effectiveness in everything we do
    15. Meditation gives you so much mental clarity and spaciousness that it actually adds time to the day. We become more effective, more relaxed as we can more effectively deal with our feelings and develop our emotional intelligence. Meditation allows us to be more in touch with our feelings without being driven or controlled by them
    16. A mirror doesn’t pick and choose what it reflects. In this way, our natural state of mind is complete lucid awareness, being able to see things as they are, with total clarity
  46. Right Concentration
    1. Right concentration implies a unification of spiritual intentionality, focus, mental discipline, energy and attention. In right concentration, we skillfully collect and harness all of our energy so that every part of our being is integrated and focused, working together toward our goal of enlightenment. Once you have arrived at this point, concentration in this sense is not forced, restricted, or fixated but instead rests naturally where it is placed
    2. 5 T’s of Concentration – taming, training, testing, transforming, transcendence
    3. Concentration training – breath counting, awareness of breath (without counting), walking meditation, walking-breathing-synchronization meditation, standing and walking backward meditation, chewing meditation
    4. A good meditation session simply a microcosm of a well lived life (fractal!)
    5. Investigation/inquiry central to enlightenment
    6. Metaphysical fitness as important as physical fitness
    7. Concentration helps us love and be grateful for every moment without changing anything
    8. Rushen – analytical contemplations that employ the rational powers of the mind, use the well-honed, focused mind like a sharp tool to penetrate further into reality. This special self-inquiry helps us recognize the essential nature of mind. Helps us to discern the difference between what we seem to be and think ourselves to be, and our original nature, what we really are. Who or what is experiencing my present experience? Where is the experiencer, the perceiver? What is the essence or nature of this mind? Does it have a shape or form? A color? A size or weight? Who is experiencing your experience right now? And then let go of thinking. See what comes up. Sense directly
    9. Five different meditations – surround self or imagine water, fire, earth, air and space
    10. Candle meditation – pg 368
    11. Buddha light meditation – pg 369
    12. Why compare?
  47. Great reading list provided on pg 397
What I got out of it
  1. Thought this was a very actionable, interesting and profound book which helps show the benefits of mindfulness and meditation training for all aspects of your life. Highly recommend

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh

Summary
  1. Beautifully written book which strongly advocates for mindfulness in everything we do – from washing our hands to how we interact with others. Thich Nhat Hanh uses beautiful examples from both Jesus’ and Buddha’s lives to reinforce his points.
Key Takeaways
  1. Reality is free from all notions and it is our duty to transcend words and concepts and be able to encounter reality
    1. “When our beliefs are based on our own direct experience of reality and not on notions offered by others, no one can remove these beliefs from us.”
    2. “Things cannot be described by concepts and words. They can only be encountered by direct experience.”
  2. Avoid attachment to present views
  3. Meditation – stopping, calming, looking deeply
  4. Dialogue and deep listening is vital – must first have peace within before can reach deeper levels or help others
  5. Buddhists aim to be mindful in every moment. Conscious breathing helps with this practice (mindful walking, eating, cleaning, reading, breathing, etc.)
  6. Most precious gifts we can offer others is our presence
  7. Our true home is in the present moment
  8. Being fully aware and present gives you a sense of gratitude
  9. Aim to be like Buddha and Christ where your life becomes your teaching, your sermon in action
  10. Living dharma – mindfulness manifested in daily life
  11. Can’t have true love without understanding and can’t understand without true love
  12. Must begin with self – aim to live as Buddha and Jesus lived
  13. Anger is hell
  14. Our enemy is not the other person, no matter what they have done
  15. Make your life prayer in action
  16. Can come to love our enemy only by understanding him
  17. Whatever happens to the body, happens to the mind and vice versa
  18. People today tend to lack the art of deep/mindful speaking and listening though we have more means of communication than ever before
  19. Mindful breathing – ability to be aware of and manage emotions. Being able to accurately and deeply know what we are sensing allows us to deal with it early and in a positive way before it manifests as anger, frustration, etc. “If we can learn ways to touch the peace, joy and happiness that are already there, we will become healthy and strong, and a resource for others.”
  20. Only compassion and understanding on a collective level can liberate us
  21. Practice the essence over the form
  22. Don’t allow notions or concepts be obstacles to development or realizing ultimate reality
  23. A life that is too comfortable makes spiritual growth more difficult
  24. One day of mindfulness per week is essential. Set aside any day to spend with loved ones, turn away from work/email/distractions and just be
  25. Best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment
  26. The concept of interbeing (non-self) is fascinating – everything is connected and made of elements from everything else – “a flower is made of all non-flower elements.”
    1. “To take good care of yourself and to take good care of living beings and the environment is the best way to love God. This love is possible when there is the understanding that you are not separate from other beings or the environment. This understanding cannot be merely intellectual. It must be experiential, the insight gained by deep touching and deep looking in a daily life or prayer, contemplation and meditation.”
  27. The Five Wonderful Precepts of Buddhism – reverence for life, generosity, responsible sexual behavior, speaking and listening deeply and ingesting only wholesome substances
  28. The Fourth Precept – not telling the truth, exaggerating, forked tongue (saying two different things to different people/parties), filthy language
  29. Be an island unto yourself – being able to find refuge wherever you are just by turning inwards is one of the most powerful tools one can possess
  30. “God made humans so that humans can become God.”
  31. “The ultimate dimension is a state of coolness, peace and joy. It is not a state to be attained after you “die.” You can touch the ultimate dimension right now by breathing, walking and drinking your tea in mindfulness.”
  32. “When we touch one thing with deep awareness, we touch everything.”
What I got out of it
  1. Mindfulness in all that we do and interbeing (everything is interconnected and impermanent which leads to the conclusion that we are all one) are two amazing concepts which should be central to one’s daily routine, life, meditation practice

Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan

Summary
  1. Meng is an early Google-er and is known as the jolly good fellow. His ultimate goal is world peace by making the habits necessary for it accessible. Self-awareness at the center of it all
Key Takeaways
  1. Knowing yourself lies at the core of emotional intelligence, and that the best mental app for this can be found in the mind-training method called mindfulness. 
  2. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) classes at Google that Meng instituted there and that have been ongoing now for years.
  3. Along with it and much more importantly, a taste for what it is pointing to, a taste of your own deep interior resources for acting in your own best interest by realizing that your interest is best served by recognizing and nurturing the interests of others at the same time. This is what mindfulness-based emotional intelligence is all about. This is why it is so important, in so many ways, to literally and metaphorically search inside yourself. What is here to be discovered, or uncovered, is the full spectrum of who you already are as a person and the realization of how embedded you are in the multidimensional warp and woof of humanity and all life. And because mindfulness is not about getting someplace else—but rather about being fully where you already are and realizing the power of your full presence and awareness right now, in this moment—Meng’s program is really about finding rather than searching. It is about dis-covering, re-covering, and un-covering that full dimensionality of your being that is already yours and then developing and refining it through systematic cultivation and practice. From there, in combination with what you most love and with your imagination and innate creativity, it is bound to manifest in the world in any number of hopefully skillful ways, in the service of our mutual well-being and happiness.  
  4. The Search Inside Yourself curriculum rests on an ocean of meditative wisdom practices that cultivate mindfulness, loving kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, embodied presence, emotional intelligence, and many other fundamental aspects of our minds and hearts and bodies that are also available to you once you enter through this portal.  
  5. Once one has tasted the practice for oneself, the motivation is very likely to be there to extend the time of formal practice, not to achieve a special state, but to simply rest in awareness itself, outside of time altogether. This is the practice of non-doing, of openhearted presencing, of pure awareness, coextensive with and inseparable from compassion. It is not an escape from life. On the contrary, the practice of mindfulness is a gateway into the experience of interconnectedness and interdependence out of which stem emotionally intelligent actions, new ways of being, and ultimately greater happiness, clarity, wisdom, and kindness—at work and in the world.  
  6. Matthieu Ricard – became the first person known to science able to inhibit the body’s natural startle reflex—quick facial muscle spasms in response to loud, sudden noises.  
  7. Matthieu also turns out to be an expert at detecting fleeting facial expression of emotions known as microexpressions. It is possible to train people to detect and read microexpressions, but Matthieu and one other meditator, both untrained, were measured in the lab and performed two standard deviations better than the norm, outperforming all the trained professionals.  
    1. Te methods for developing such an extraordinarily capable mind are accessible even to you and me. That’s what this book is about.
  8. He learned to listen a lot better, gain control over his temper, and understand every situation better by, in his words, “learning to discern stories from reality.”  
  9. “I have completely changed in the way I react to stressors. I take the time to think through things and empathize with other people’s situations before jumping to conclusions.  
  10. You will learn how to calm your mind on demand. Your concentration and creativity will improve. You will perceive your mental and emotional processes with increasing clarity. You will discover that self-confidence is something that can arise naturally in a trained mind. You will learn to uncover your ideal future and develop the optimism and resilience necessary to thrive. You will find that you can deliberately improve empathy with practice. You will learn that social skills are highly trainable and that you can help others love you.  
  11. Search Inside Yourself works in three steps:         
    1. Attention training
    2. Self-knowledge and self-mastery         
    3. Creating useful mental habits  
  12. The idea is to train attention to create a quality of mind that is calm and clear at the same time. That quality of mind forms the foundation for emotional intelligence.  
  13. Use your trained attention to create high-resolution perception into your own cognitive and emotive processes. With that, you become able to observe your thought stream and the process of emotion with high clarity, and to do so objectively from a third-person perspective. Once you can do that, you create the type of deep self-knowledge that eventually enables self-mastery.  
  14. Imagine whenever you meet anybody, your habitual, instinctive first thought is, I wish for this person to be happy.  
  15. emotional intelligence is one of the best predictors of success at work and fulfillment in life, and it is trainable for everyone.  
  16. They define emotional intelligence as the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.  
  17. Goleman adds a very useful structure to emotional intelligence by classifying it into five domains.
    1. Self-awareness: Knowledge of one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions
    2.  Self-regulation: Management of one’s internal states, impulses, and resources
    3.  Motivation: Emotional tendencies that guide or facilitate reaching goals
    4.  Empathy: Awareness of others’ feelings, needs, and concerns        
    5. Social skills: Adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others  
  18. In the context of the work environment, emotional intelligence enables three important skill sets: stellar work performance, outstanding leadership, and the ability to create the conditions for happiness.  
  19. The top six competencies that distinguish star performers from average performers in the tech sector are (in this order):         
    1. Strong achievement drive and high achievement standards     
    2. Ability to influence         
    3. Conceptual thinking         
    4. Analytical ability         
    5. Initiative in taking on challenges          
    6. Self-confidence
  20. Ricard defines happiness as “a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind . . . not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a mood, but an optimal state of being.”  
  21. The skills that help us cultivate emotional intelligence also help us identify and develop the inner factors that contribute to our deep sense of well-being.  
  22. The aim of developing emotional intelligence is to help you optimize yourself and function at an even higher level than what you are already capable of
  23. Emotional skillfulness frees us from emotional compulsion.  
  24. The greater the neural activity in the parts of their brains associated with their pain, the greater the fire became. By using that visual display, he could get people to learn to up- or down-regulate that brain activity and, with that ability, participants reported a corresponding decrease in their levels of pain. He calls this “neuroimaging therapy.”  
  25. Self-awareness depends on being able to see ourselves objectively, and that requires the ability to examine our thoughts and emotions from a third-person perspective, not getting swept up in the emotion, not identifying with it, but just seeing it clearly and objectively.  
  26. “response flexibility,” which is a fancy name for the ability to pause before you act.  
  27. Mindfulness is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”  
  28. There is a simple technique for self-regulation called “affect labeling,” which simply means labeling feelings with words. When you label an emotion you are experiencing (for example, “I feel anger”), it somehow helps you manage that emotion.  
  29. There are two very good reasons to work with our bodies: vividness and resolution.  
  30. Every emotion has a correlate in the body
  31. a useful reason to develop a high-resolution perception of the body is to strengthen our intuition. A lot of our intuition comes from our body, and learning to listen to it can be very fruitful.  
  32. Most evenings, before we sleep, my young daughter and I sit in mindfulness together for two minutes. I like to joke that two minutes is optimal for us because that is the attention span of a child and of an engineer. For two minutes a day, we quietly enjoy being alive and being together. More fundamentally, for two minutes a day, we enjoy being. Just being.  
  33. I think mindfulness is the mind of just being. All you really need to do is to pay attention moment-to-moment without judging. It is that simple.  
  34. The creatively named Easy Way is to simply bring gentle and consistent attention to your breath for two minutes. That’s it.  
  35. Mindfulness trains two important faculties, attention and meta-attention.  
    1. Meta-attention is attention of attention, the ability to pay attention to attention itself. Huh? Simply put, meta-attention is the ability to know that your attention has wandered away.  Meta-attention is also the secret to concentration.  
  36. beginning stage, is it gets you to a state where your mind is relaxed and alert at the same time. When your attention and meta-attention both become strong, something interesting happens. Your mind becomes increasingly focused and stable, but in a way that is relaxing.
  37. You get where you need to be, and you actually enjoy the experience of getting there because it is relaxing.  
  38. When the mind becomes highly relaxed and alert at the same time, three wonderful qualities of mind naturally emerge: calmness, clarity, and happiness.  
  39. relaxed concentration (a practice known as shamatha).  Happiness is the default state of mind. So when the mind becomes calm and clear, it returns to its default, and that default is happiness. That is it. There is no magic; we are simply returning the mind to its natural 
  40. happiness is not something that you pursue; it is something you allow. Happiness is just being. That insight changed my 
  41. The process starts with an intention. Start by creating an intention, a reason for wanting to abide in mindfulness.  
  42. Every time you create an intention, you are subtly forming or reinforcing a mental habit.  
  43. become aware of your attitude toward yourself. See how you treat yourself and how often you engage in nasty gossip about yourself.  
  44. Traditional Buddhism, for example, defines four main meditation postures: sitting, standing, walking, and lying down, which seems to cover just about everything.  
  45. The best meditation posture is one that helps you remain alert and relaxed at the same time for a long period of time.  
  46. This traditional posture is sometimes called the seven-point meditation posture. In brief, the seven are: 
    1. Back straight “like an arrow”          
    2. Legs crossed in “lotus position”         
    3. Shoulders relaxed, held up and back, “like a vulture”         
    4. Chin tucked in slightly, “like an iron hook”         
    5. Eyes closed or gazing into space         
    6. Tongue held against the upper palate         
    7. Lips slightly apart, teeth not clenched  
  47. The more we are able to create space between stimulus and reaction, the more control we will have over our emotional lives.  
  48. attention is not the end goal of most meditation traditions; the true end goal is insight. The reason we create a powerful quality of attention is to be able to develop insights into the mind.  
  49. The theory is that with mindfulness meditation training, one’s brain can learn to process stimuli more efficiently,  
  50. The mind of calmness and clarity you experience while sitting in mindfulness meditation is very nice, but it only becomes life changing when you can bring up that mind on demand, in day-to-day life.  
  51. you can think of it as extending, or generalizing, mindfulness along two dimensions: one from rest to activity and the other from self to others.  
  52. All is a miracle.  
  53. pleasant experiences become even more pleasant because our attention is there to fully experience them.  
  54. the object of meditation is the task at hand rather than the breath.  
  55. A beautiful way to practice mindfulness, which is almost guaranteed to improve your social life, is to apply mindfulness toward others for the benefit of others. The idea is very simple—give your full moment-to-moment attention to another person with a nonjudgmental mind, and every time your attention wanders away, just gently bring it back.  
  56. “Listening is magic: it turns a person from an object outside, opaque or dimly threatening, into an intimate experience, and therefore into a friend. In this way, listening softens and transforms the listener.”  
  57. Our attention is the most valuable gift we can give to others.  
  58. There are three key components to mindful conversation. The first and most obvious one is mindful listening, which we have already practiced. The second is something Gary called “looping,” short for “closing the loop of communication.” Looping is simple. Let’s say there are two people involved in this conversation—Allen and Becky—and it is Allen’s turn to speak. Allen speaks for a while, and after he is done speaking, Becky (the listener) loops back by saying what she thought she heard Allen say. After that, Allen gives feedback on what he thought was missing or misrepresented in Becky’s characterization of his original monologue. And they go back and forth until Allen (the original speaker) feels satisfied that he is correctly understood by Becky (the original listener). Looping is a collaborative project in which both people work together to help Becky (the listener) fully understand Allen (the speaker). The third key component to mindful conversation is something Gary called “dipping,” or checking in with ourselves. The main reason we do not listen to others is that we get distracted by our own feelings and internal chatter,  
  59. Do not sit for so long that it becomes burdensome. Sit often, for short periods, and your mindfulness practice may soon feel like an indulgence.  
  60. Having a relaxed mind is very useful in meditation. Relaxation is the foundation of deep concentration.  
  61. Open attention is a quality of attention willing to meet any object that arrives at the mind or the senses. It is open, flexible, and inviting.  
  62. You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.  
  63. Deepening self-awareness is about developing clarity within oneself.  
  64. There are two specific qualities we like to develop—resolution and vividness
  65. Firstly, we can increase the resolution (or precision) at which we perceive our emotions, so we can see emotions the moments they arise and cease, and subtle changes in between. Secondly, we increase their brightness and contrast so we can see them more vividly than before. This combination will give us very useful high-fidelity information about our emotional life.  
  66. self-awareness goes beyond insight into one’s moment-to-moment emotional experience; it expands into a broader domain of “self,” such as understanding our own strengths and weaknesses and being able to access our own inner wisdom.  
  67. Self-awareness is the key domain of emotional intelligence that enables all the others.  
  68. There are three emotional competencies under the domain of self-awareness:  
    1. Emotional awareness: Recognizing one’s emotions and their effects     
    2. Accurate self-assessment: Knowing one’s strengths and limits         
    3. Self-confidence: A strong sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities  
  69. Self-confidence isn’t egotism. . . . When you are truly self-confident, you are flexible with regard to ego: you can pick up ego when necessary, but you can also put it down when necessary in order to learn something completely new through listening. And if you find that you can’t put ego down, at least you know that this is so. You can admit it to yourself. It takes profound self-confidence to be humble enough to recognize your own limitations without self-blame.
  70. I am able to project that confidence not because I make the effort to look confident, but because I have a sense of humor about my ego, or my own sense of self-importance.  
  71. In my experience, however, the only highly sustainable source of self-confidence comes from deep self-knowledge and blatant self-honesty.  
  72. The type of deep self-knowledge and blatant self-honesty needed for sustainable self-confidence means having nothing to hide from oneself. It comes from accurate self-assessment. If we can assess ourselves accurately, we can clearly and objectively see our greatest strengths and our biggest weaknesses. We become honest to ourselves about our most sacred aspirations and darkest desires. We learn about our deepest priorities in life, what is important to us, and what is not important that we can let go.  
  73. The first one, Body Scan, functions at the level of physiology and works best for developing emotional awareness. The second, Journaling, functions at the level of meaning and works best for developing accurate self-assessment.  
  74. The practice itself is very simple: we just systematically bring moment-to-moment non-judging attention to different parts of our bodies, starting from the top of our head and moving down to the tips of our toes (or vice versa), noticing all sensation or lack of sensation.  
  75. The exercise itself is very simple. You give yourself a certain amount of time, say, three minutes, and you are given (or you give yourself) a prompt, which for our purposes is an open-ended sentence such as “What I am feeling now is . . .” For those three minutes, write down whatever comes to mind. You may write about the prompt, or you may write about anything else that comes to mind. Try not to think about what you’re going to write—just write.  
  76. As we deepen our self-awareness, we eventually arrive at a very important key insight: we are not our emotions.  
  77. emotions are simply what you feel, not who you are.  
  78. may begin to see emotions simply as physiological phenomena. Emotions become what we experience in the body, so we go from “I am angry” to “I experience anger in my body.”  
  79. Self-regulation goes far beyond self-control. Daniel Goleman identifies five emotional competencies under the domain of self-regulation:     
    1. Self-control: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check  
    2. Trustworthiness: Maintaining standards of honesty and integrity   
    3. Conscientiousness: Taking responsibility for personal performance     
    4. Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change       
    5. Innovation: Being comfortable with novel ideas, approaches, and information  
  80. There is one commonality that underlies all these competences: choice.  
  81. Self-regulation is not about never having certain emotions. It is about becoming very skillful with them.  
  82. while we cannot stop an unwholesome thought or emotion from arising, we have the power to let it go, and the highly trained mind can let it go the moment it arises.  
  83. “The Great Way is without difficulty, just cease having preferences.”2 When the mind becomes so free that it is capable of letting go even of preferences, the Great Way is no longer difficult.  
  84. The key is to let go of two things: grasping and aversion. Grasping is when the mind desperately holds on to something and refuses to let it go. Aversion is when the mind desperately keeps something away and refuses to let it come.  
  85. The first important opportunity is the possibility of experiencing pain without suffering.  
  86. If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.  
  87. The second important opportunity is the possibility of experiencing pleasure without the aftertaste of unsatisfactoriness.  
  88. Four very helpful general principles for dealing with any distressing emotions are:  
    1. Know when you are not in pain.       
    2. Do not feel bad about feeling bad.  
    3. Do not feed the monsters.          
    4. Start every thought with kindness and humor.
  89. Mindfulness helps our thinking brain and our emotional brain communicate more clearly to each other, so they work better together.  
  90. You can think of mindfulness as increasing the power output of the regulation systems in the brain so it works even better.  
  91. The practice has five steps:          1.  Stop          2.  Breathe          3.  Notice          4.  Reflect          5.  Respond  
  92. Do not react for just one moment. This moment is known as the sacred pause.  
  93. perhaps this is an opportunity for self-discovery. For example, if you already have a mature meditation practice and something your boss says suddenly makes you feel very vulnerable (“like I’m five years old again”), you have just received valuable education on which aspects of your meditation practice you need to focus.  
  94. The final piece of the framework is creating a willingness to experience and accept the emotions—in a way, opening up the heart and mind so they become big enough to effortlessly contain any emotion, like the sky effortlessly containing any cloud.  
  95. You are the world’s top expert at figuring out what motivates you. You already know your deepest values and motivations.  
  96. three types of happiness: pleasure, passion, and higher purpose.
  97. We should be spending most of our time and energy working on higher purpose, sometimes enjoying flow, and every now and then, savoring rock-star pleasure.  
  98. If we know what we value most and what is most meaningful to us, then we know what we can work on that serves our higher purpose.  
  99. In this chapter, we will introduce three practices for motivation:         
    1. Alignment: Aligning our work with our values and higher purpose  
    2. Envisioning: Seeing the desired future for ourselves      
    3. Resilience: The ability to overcome obstacles in our path  
  100. Work of this nature has at least one of these two qualities, very often both:    
    1. The work is deeply meaningful to you     
    2. It generates a state of flow in you  
  101. The three elements of true motivation are:     
    1. Autonomy: The urge to direct our own lives  
    2. Mastery: The desire to get better and better at something that matters      
    3. Purpose: The yearning to do what we do in service of something larger than ourselves  
  102. Traditional monetary incentives work well for routine, rule-based work: jobs that do not require a lot of creativity. For the type of work that requires creativity or other cognitive skills, monetary incentives do not work well; they can even be counterproductive.  
  103. Michael Jordan says, “You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”  
  104. The basic idea is to envision, discover, and consolidate our ideal future in the mind by writing about it as if it were already true.  
  105. When I first started talking to others about my aspirations for world peace, I was pleasantly surprised how few people thought I was crazy (only two, so far). As it became more real to me, I began speaking about it with increasing confidence and, after a while, I noticed that people wanted to help me or introduce other people to me who could help me.  
  106. Nathan Myhrvold and Bill Gates, innovating involves being “confused, upset, think[ing] you’re stupid.”  
  107. friendships with “admirable people” are not half of holy life, but the whole of holy life.  
  108. Some scientists suggest that mirror neurons form the neural basis of empathy and social cognition.  
  109. empathy works by having you physiologically mimic the other person.  
  110. in many situations, the best way to make tough decisions is with kindness and empathy.  
  111. kindness is a sustainable source of happiness—
  112. Empathy helps us build trust. When we interact with empathy, we increase the likelihood that people feel seen, heard, and understood. When people feel those things, they feel safer and more likely to trust the person who understands them.  
  113. Trust is the foundation of a coaching/mentoring relationship. It is very simple: for you to work with your mentee, he must be open to you. The more he opens himself up, the more effectively you can work with him, and the more he trusts you, the more likely he is to be open. It is that simple. If there is no trust, this mentoring relationship will just be a waste of time  
  114. Practice giving people the benefit of the doubt:  
  115. Remember that trust begets trust:  
  116. it’s better to praise people for working hard than for being smart.  
  117. If you understand people and you understand the interactions between them, you will understand the whole organization. That is organizational awareness.  
  118. Maintain rich personal networks within your organization, especially with allies, mentors, and groups who will support and challenge you.  
  119. Practice reading the underlying currents of your organization. Understand how decisions are made. Are decisions made by authority or consensus? Who are most influential in making them?  
  120. Distinguish between your own self-interest, the interest of your team, and the organization’s interest—everyone  
  121. Utilize your self-awareness to better understand your role in the web of personalities and interactions. Make frequent use of empathic listening to understand how people feel about situations and about each other.  
  122. Another mental habit is being open to understanding how other people can seem reasonable, at least from their own points of view, even when you disagree with them. Having this mental habit enables you to view social interactions with more clarity and objectivity.  
  123. being liked may be the most effective way to get things done in the long term.  
  124. compassion is the happiest state ever  
  125. “Open awareness,” a state in which the mind is extremely open, calm, and clear.  2961     
  126. Compassion is a mental state endowed with a sense of concern for the suffering of others and aspiration to see that suffering relieved. Specifically, he defines compassion as having three components:    
    1. A cognitive component: “I understand you”      
    2. An affective component: “I feel for you”    
    3. A motivational component: “I want to help you”  
  127. in addition to being highly capable, also possess a paradoxical mix of two important and seemingly conflicting qualities: great ambition and personal humility. These leaders are highly ambitious, but the focus of their ambition is not themselves; instead, they are ambitious for the greater good. Because their attention is focused on the greater good, they feel no need to inflate their own egos. That makes them highly effective and inspiring.  
  128. 1.  Seeing goodness in self and others          2.  Giving goodness to all          3.  Confidence in the transformative power of self (that I can multiply goodness)  
  129. SCARF model, which stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness.  
  130. When you gain increasing mastery over something that matters to you, you activate a status reward, at least when compared against your former self.  
  131. never underestimate a person’s sense of fairness;  
  132. there are five steps to conducting a difficult conversation. Here is my brief of those steps:    
    1. Prepare by walking through the “three conversations.”  
    2. Decide whether to raise the issue.  
    3. Start from the objective “third story.”    
    4. Explore their story and yours.      
    5. Problem solve.
  133. In every conversation, there are actually three conversations going on. They are the content conversation (“What happened?”), the feelings conversation (“What emotions are involved?”), and the identity conversation (“What does this say about me?”).  
  134. impact is not the intention.  
  135. beyond the content and emotions in every difficult conversation, there are, more importantly, issues of identity.  
  136. When the brain receives insufficient data about others’ feelings, it just makes stuff up.  
  137. because e-mails seldom contain sufficient information for the brain to recognize the emotional context of the sender, the brain fabricates the missing information, often with a negative bias, and then unconsciously assumes its own fabrication to be the truth
  138. The Dalai Lama, for example, despite his busy schedule, said, “I don’t do anything.
 
What I got out of it
  1. Really good read on happiness, emotional intelligence and being successful by meshing the two

The Monk and the Philosopher by Mathieu Ricard and Jean-Francois Revel

Summary

  1. A very interesting dialogue between a father who is a philosopher and his son who is a Buddhist monk. They cover a vast array of topics from meditation to religion to morality.
Key Takeaways
  1. Direct contemplation of absolute truth, beyond all concepts. That’s wisdom in its most fundamental aspect
  2. Suffering is the result of ignorance so it is ignorance which must be dissipated
  3. The most important science is the knowledge of oneself and of reality
  4. Establish an order of priorities in your life
  5. Ricard describes Buddhism as a metaphysical tradition which is applicable in every instant and in all circumstances
  6. The “I” we use to separate ourselves from everybody and everything doesn’t exist so there is no reason to be afraid of not getting what we want or being subjected to what we don’t want
  7. Nirvana isn’t the final extinction of anything but the final knowledge of the nature of things
  8. Aim to mediate with pure awareness without any object
  9. One’s will is never something absolute
  10. The key to working on the mind is not only to identify your thoughts and feelings but also to dissolve them, to let them vanish in the mind’s own spaciousness – don’t focus on the content of the emotions but trace them to their very source
  11. Our perception of an object as desirable or undesirable doesn’t reside in the object itself, but in the way we perceive it
  12. Reality in itself exists or else we’d all perceive it the same way
  13. Make your quest for inner well-being, for being and not having, your ultimate quest
  14. What we are in the present is a result of our past
  15. Buddhism is first and foremost a science of the mind
  16. Nirvana is the very opposite of indifference towards the world. It’s a compassion and love toward all beings in their totality
  17. Monk being tortured – “my greatest fear was to lose my love and compassion toward those who were torturing me”
  18. Must forgive but not forget
  19. Nonviolence has nothing to do with weakness
  20. Evil only exists in an illusory sort of way as it is a result of our perception of things/events/people
  21. Faith becomes superstition when it goes against reason
  22. Enlightenment – discovery of the ultimate nature of both oneself and phenomena
  23. Meditating helps you become aware and attentive – spotting negative thoughts/actions is the first step to correcting it
  24. Giving should be free of any expectation of something in return, any reward, any hope of praise or gratitude
  25. Philosopher – Buddhism helps fill a gap by the desertion of Western philosophy in the area of ethics and the art of living
  26. What we all ultimately seek in life is happiness (altruism, love and compassion). Happiness necessarily implies wisdom and our own happiness is intimately linked to the happiness of others
What I got out of it
  1. Really interesting read and cool to get perspectives from a “hard” science guy and a monk, especially since that monk was once a highly trained scientists

Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty

Eleven Rings

Summary
  1. Phil Jackson recounts his time as a player and a coach and the many important leadership and coaching skills he picked up along the way
Key Takeaways
  1. A ring symbolizes love and unending connections – Native Americans considered the ring sacred and built their communities around the shape
  2. Different tribal stages – life sucks, apathetic people, focused on individual achievement and have to win (lone warriors), main focus is tribal pride and needs a strong adversary, and last stage is that life is great
  3. 11 “Rings” of Leadership
    1. Lead from the inside out – be “anti-lemming” and develop your own culture and system. Speak from the heart and be transparent
    2. Bench the ego. The more power you try to exude and force, the less resort and power you will receive
    3. Let each player discover their own destiny – don’t force your changes on people. Remember players aren’t just cogs in a machine, they are people
    4. Road to freedom is a beautiful system. Create a system where players can decide for themselves
    5. Turn the mundane into the sacred. Incorporate rituals like meditation into mundane practices and routines
    6. One breath equals one mind. Mindfulness meditation is very useful to focus ones awareness on the present moment and shut out the noise
    7. The key to success is compassion. Simplicity, patience and compassion are all vital
    8. Keep your eye on the spirit and not on the scoreboard. Process over outcome
    9. Sometimes you have to bring out the big stick
    10. When in doubt, do nothing. When the mind is allowed to relax, inspiration often follows
    11. Forget the rings – winning shouldn’t be your focus, do your best and then let the outcomes unfold
  4. Selflessness is the holy grail of basketball
  5. 3 helpful aspects of Zen Buddhism – give up control, stay in the moment, live with compassion (especially for oneself)
  6. Aims to give each player enough space to grow and an environment where they can prosper. Transparency is key
  7. Instead of firing the players up he created rituals to help quiet their minds before games
  8. Being focused on the present helps you see the unseen and hear the unheard
  9. One of the best ways to deal with anxiety is to be as prepared as possible
  10. Important to have a “pecking order” on your team which is well known and accepted
  11. The sacred is in the ordinary. Your work had to represent your passion
  12. As a leader you need to meet people where they are and show them where to go
What I got out of it
  1. Really interesting story and many of the leadership and management principles Jackson outlines can be incorporated into any leadership position. I didn’t know that Jackson had such an interest in Buddhism and quieting his player’s minds

Read Eleven Rings

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

Radical Acceptance

Summary
  1. Only by being aware of and consciously accepting your negative thoughts and feelings, will you ever be able to work through them and grow. Tara Brach shares many personal stories, guided meditations, actionable steps, etc. to help you work through any feelings of unworthiness.
Key Takeaways
  1. Radical acceptance – recognize what is true and embrace it with an open heart. The willingness and courage to experience ourselves and our life as is. It is a state of unlimited freedom
  2. Much human suffering comes from mistakenly identifying ourselves and our experiences as something separate from the rest of the world
  3. Recognize what you resist and reject – body, looks, intelligence, etc. As these traits are made conscious and accepted, they lose power over us
  4. By radically accepting, you are mindful of everything going on, every thought and not trying to pull away. It means fully feeling both joyful and painful emotions without holding back any part of it
  5. Acceptance is not resigning ourselves for better or for worse. When you completely accept yourself, you can begin making big, lasting changes
  6. Do not deny nor suppress desires. Recognize it and why you are feeling that way
  7. Take several mini pauses every day to check on your breathe and mindset. Take longer pauses (retreats, etc) throughout the year. Helps you open up completely to the experience of the moment, become conscious of it and accept it
  8. The worst part of pain is the anticipation of it
  9. Buddha’s teaching that desiring causes suffering comes from clinging to things or experiences that naturally are transient, it is not the desires themselves which inherently cause suffering
  10. Suffering comes from resisting and fighting your temptations, not the actual temptations
  11. Be very mindful that the stories you create, around fear or anything else, are just that, stories. They are not fact and can very well be completely off
  12. Attention is the most basic form of love
  13. Try not to classify others (depressed, alcoholic, etc) as this makes us blind to the actual person
  14. When we are open, honest and authentic, we open the door for others to do the same
What I got out of it
  1. The practices and steps outlined in this book will help you come to terms with any feelings of unworthiness slowly accept and get over them. A bit repetitive in her examples but I’m sure she discusses any problem situations that you have come across. Don’t resist your pain or disappointments, become aware of them, how they make you feel and accept them. Only then will you be able to get over it

Read Radical Acceptance

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Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel

Zen in the Art of Archery
Summary
  1. Eugen Herrigel was a German philosopher who moved to Japan in order to teach and learn the ways of Zen. This book describes his six year path of learning Zen through archery
Key Takeaways
  1. Herrigel describes the process and mentality required to truly master something – until it becomes an artless art with purposeless detachment
  2. The true experts are always humble as they realize how little they truly know
  3. Proper breathing is crucial and ties together any exercise as it provides rhythm and unity
  4. Must experience total failure before willing to give in, listen and accept teachings fully
  5. “You know already that you should not grieve over bad shots; learn now not to rejoice over the good ones. You must free yourself from the buffetings of pleasure and pain, and learn to rise above them in easy equanimity, to rejoice as though not you but another had shot well. This, too, you must practice unceasingly – you cannot conceive how important it is.”
  6. The master is as unselfconscious as the beginner
  7. Must get to the point where you trust yourself so completely that you know you do not need to think consciously about your art
  8. “He [the master] lives – and this is thoroughly characteristic of Zen – happily enough in the world, but ready at any time to quit it without being in the least disturbed by the thought of death.”
What I got out of it
  1. Beautiful book. The dedication and frame of mind one needs to become a true master of any art is daunting but admirable. Must read.

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Buddha Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom by Rick Hanson

Buddha Brain

Summary
  1. Buddha Brain takes ancient Buddhist practices and scientific data to show us how to strengthen our brain in order to have stronger relationships and an overall happier and more fulfilling life.
Key Takeaways
  1. Thoughts literally shape our brain. With this knowledge, be mindful of your thoughts as over time they will be ingrained
  2. If brain is cause of suffering it can also be its cure
  3. Wisdom is applied common sense. Let go of things that hurt and strengthen what brings joy
  4. When you see your body as distinct, as what defines you, that leads to suffering, fear and weakness as you take the body’s weaknesses and frailties for your own
  5. Simulating an amazing evolutionary advantage but it brings us out of the present moment – present only place where one can find true happiness and often induces negative emotions. Most emotions in real life not as intense as what we simulate and usually contains limiting or simplistic beliefs. Simulating makes you chase carrots which aren’t as good as you think they’ll be and sticks aren’t as bad
  6. First and second darts – mental and physical discomforts unavoidable (first dart) but our reactions to them often amplify the suffering (second dart). Our reactions to situations are either positive or negative cycles as it is reinforcing either way
  7. When aware that brain doesn’t know the difference between a thought and reality, you realize how important it is to control your thoughts and reactions to situations. Thoughts are reality
  8. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional
  9. Consciously look for positive experiences. Look for and let positive events sink in and savor it. Can infuse a negative memory with a positive to one to slowly uproot it
  10. Craving something, more than simply desiring it, is what leads to suffering. Can desire something without craving it to happen or play out a certain way
  11. With equanimity, things have only characteristics, not demands. Can view things as unbiased and not react in a negative way. Engaged with world but not troubled by it. Not disappointed or ecstatic with charms of life, simply see things as they are – neither good nor bad. Not reacting to reactions
  12. Aim for a mind with no preferences, free from reactions
  13. Recognize that pleasures and rewards are fleeting and often not nearly as great as what we build up in our heads
  14. Respond, don’t react
  15. Be careful about attributing intentions to others
  16. You don’t have to be the justice system. Trust that others actions, good or bad, will be rewarded or punished respectively
  17. Being mindful simply means having good control over your attention. One of the most important steps your an take to shape your thoughts, actions and brain. Best way to improve mindfulness is through meditation
  18. Try doing just one thing at a time in order to cultivate mindfulness. When washing dishes, wash dishes. Use recurring, everyday events such as going to the bathroom as reminders to be mindful
What I got out of it
  1. Dr. Rick Hanson gives a lot of pragmatic tips that you can work into your daily routine in order to be happier and learn to detach from your “self.” I think the three biggest concept are: learning to respond and not react, try to be as free from preferences as possible, and “good” events are rarely as good as we build up in our heads and “bad” events nearly never as devastating. Also, Hanson’s weekly newsletter, Just One Thing, offers some straightforward and helpful insights.

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Buddha Standard Time by Lama Surya Das

Buddha Standard Time

 

Summary
  1. Surya Das walks us through how to live completely in the now, in “Buddha Standard Time.” We have the power to manipulate time by altering how aware and mindful we are of the present moment. The practices outlined within are increasingly important in today’s hectic day and age.
Key Takeaways
  1. Buddha Standard Time – timeless time, wholly now
  2. Issue trying to solve – how to wean yourself from the addictions that sap time and energy, to clear out all the debris and distraction. You have much more time than you think. In fact, you have all the time in the world
  3. The more concentration and awareness you can achieve, the more time disappears. It’s not time that we lack in our rushed lives, but focus
  4. Do not chase the small, ephemeral things that result only in loss and suffering if you become dependent on them (social media, fame, money, etc.)
  5. Become mindful of what you pay attention to and become more intentional, objective and observant to the minutiae of your life, the transient experiences. Increases self-control and mental discipline, transforms our attitudes and shifts more towards being more responsive, thoughtful, intentional and aware
  6. Nobody can make us angry if we don’t have seeds of anger in our own heart
  7. It is not what happens to us, but how we respond that determines our character and our destiny
  8. Smiling often is a great practice – it is free and spreads love and kindness
  9. People are terrible multitaskers
  10. Master the lost art of waiting and you’ll make friends with time and grow less bored, irritated or annoyed. Read, enjoy and appreciate the people and sites around you
  11. Take time to slow down – slow cooking, slow showers, slow walking, etc. All help you get back into the moment and appreciate the world around you
  12. The Sacred Pause – practice of creating a moment to respond consciously by breathing, waiting and considering things objectively before responding
  13. True realized masters are not beyond suffering and dissatisfaction but one with it
  14. Cultivate a beginner’s or “don’t know” mind – eliminates ego and wasteful thinking
What I got out of it
  1. Really got a lot out of this book and its tips, techniques and recommendations on how to slow down, be present and mindful. It’s not time that we lack, but focus.

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