Zen

The word Zen comes from the Chinese word ch’an-na, which in turn comes from the Sanskrit word dhyana. Dhyana refers to collectiveness of mind or meditative absorption in which all dualistic distinctions like I/you, subject/object, true/false are eliminated. Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that developed in China in the 6th and 7th centuries from the meeting of Dhyana Buddhism (which was brought to China by Bodhidharma) and Taoism. 

In this sense, Zen was a religion and its teachings and practices were directed towards self-realisation (kensho, satori) and lead finally to complete awakening (enlightenment). Zen teaches the practice of zazen, sitting in meditative absorption as the shortest, but also steepest way to awakeneing. 

Zen stresses the prime importance of reaching enlightenment through the means of zazen and raising awareness. It sees as useless the acts of ritual religious practices and intellectual analysis of doctrines for the attainment of liberation.  

I am sharing this information as Zen is a very popular spiritual practice which can be used alongside any religion or belief system. If you click on the ‘Zen’ tab at the bottom of the screen you will see many other posts related to Zen. 

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Personification of Adverts 

In the past, products would have been sold on the basis of utility. You would need something, the advert would have made you aware that they have what you need, then you would of gone down the shops to purchase the product. This all changed around the 1950’s when the nephew of Sigmand Freud, Edward Bernays employed his uncles psychological principles in the field of sales and marketing. Prior to these psychological shenanigans, we would almost certainly have only ever purchased what we needed, what was required to live comfortably. Now, with the ever growing consumer culture, there are millions of pounds to be made, and so the psychological principles of the advertising experts have taken on a whole new form. 

For example; before the 1950’s the sales pitch would of been something like; ‘Do you have feet? Then why not try shoes?’ What they evidently realised was that once the consumer had a pair of shoes they were no longer a viable target. That they had killed a customer. What Bernays injected into the mix was something along the lines of ‘By these shoes, they will make you feel sexy,’ then it doesn’t matter how many pairs of shoes you own, you can always purchase more. Who doesn’t want to be sexy after all? What Bernays established was the correlation between consuming a product, and getting a positive emotional response as an outcome. 

This concept has become more than popular in today’s materialistic culture. You can’t go very far without hearing someone speak about ‘retail therapy’, or ‘I know what will make you feel better… Some new shoes!’ This has all resulted from Bernays input of psychological principles to make people more susceptible to advertising. 

Now I am getting to the crux of this post. That of personification. The concepts employed in advertising in the 1950’s have already gotten old and outdated, so the companies need new ideas to lure consumers. The most popular of those, and one which comes to mind quickest is the meerkats from compare the market dot com. Fluffy, adorable, comedic meerkats. What do these have to do with insurance (car, home, travel)? Absolutely nothing. But the company has personified meerkats to gain customers. Or Brian of confused dot com. You get a free toy if you purchase insurance through this company. Surely the best and cheapest deal should be the goal of internet insurance comparison, and not the cuddliness of its personified characters. 

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Be the Change

Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

This is a wonderful maxim to keep in mind and one that I have, over time, tried to incorporate into my everyday life. For example; I try to be positive and spread that positivity to others as best I can. This means that if life is particularly trying one day, or if stresses are becoming more pronounced, I actively need to summon this positivity rather than it being a natural occurrence. 

Now is this invoked positivity any different than it being natural? I think not! Positivity is positivity, negativity is negativity. So if I was having a hard day, and being positive is not coming naturally, I would think about everything I have to be grateful for: my family, my health, my home… This process can go on indefinitely, or until one is feeling more positive than they were. And I would find (and you will to, if you tried this process of gratitude) that my outlook has become far more optimistic, which was what I wanted to achieve by thinking about everything I have to be grateful for. 

We have an innate choice that we can make each moment. Positive or negative. Optimistic or pessimistic. Heaven, or Hell. Up, down, left, right, happy, sad, black or white. Etc. Etc. Through free will, we can and must choose how we will react to external influences, and conduct ourselves. 

Again, I could say that trying to be the change I wish to see in the world is one of my reasons for sharing this blog. The sharing of beneficial information that I feel would enrich the life of the reader, especially if they made the effort to research the idea. Simple, short pieces about things which are of interest to me, and anything I think would be of interest and inspiration to others. Fragments of information, of ideas, of concepts. This would be a form of activism in regards spreading and living my change. 

For if I were not sharing, where would we hope to find information of this nature? The mainstream media? I’m not so sure. 6 corporations own 90% of all media in the US, and I am quite sure it is a similar statistic regarding the UK’s media network. The people that own the means for conveying information have an agenda which is not in conformity to the enlightenment movement.

I am not saying that all this is easy. It is much easier to sit around talking about how and why you would change things, than it is to become active and start living the change, without saying a word! We must start making decisions that will have a positive influence on our lives. We have that power, and we must use it. 

Maybe your change wouldn’t be positivity or sharing information. It might be fairness, or equality, or a particular movement that you feel strongly about. Whatever it is, if you feel passionate about it and this post only helps to stoke your fire, get active and become the change you wish to see in the world. 

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Free-Will & Imagination

Free-will and imagination are two very powerful tools that very few people train and utilise in their lives. These are the keys, (as well as hard work) that will bring everything that you have dreamed into your life. 

One of the most popular spiritual maxims in recent years is free-will. The concept that we have the right to choose what we will think. You can, and MUST choose how you will think! What’s the alternative? Let your mind run here and there wherever it likes, most often to dwell in some negative corner imagining over and over how bad things will likely work out. 

So, from the above example it is clear that we will be far better off if we can gain more control over our mind and thoughts. Pay attention to any recurring negative thoughts. Be wary of who you spend time with and if they complain endlessly. These things will develop thought patterns that are difficult to remedy. 

Similar to free-will but very different at the same time is imagination. Together, as I said above, you can change your life with these tools. Free-will gives you the freedom and choice to choose what you will imagine, and your imagination is the process of thinking about, or visualising if you have a visually active mind, what it is you would like to experience. 

An example of the power that imagination holds; An athlete was hooked up to a machine that measures physical, mental and emotional activity. The athlete, a sprinter, was instructed to imagine in vivid detail their speacalist race, the 200m. What was interesting to behold during the experiment was that by simply vividly imagining the activity of running a race, the same nerves and muscles we firing which would have if they had actually be running! This brings us to a sub-point regarding imagination. The more vivid and real you can imagine, the easier it will be for this process to work for you. 

To conclude what has been said. By bringing these thought processes together and combining their power, you can affirm again and again what you would like to bring into your life. Just think of what you would like in your life, then imagine yourself; doing, having, meeting, experiencing, enjoying, gaining, losing, whatever it is you want. If you use these tools, as well as actively seeking out and working towards them in physical reality, I am confident that it will not be long before you experience what it is that you initially imagined. 

If you have any previous experience with using your imagination and free-will for affirmation, please share your experience in the comments below. Alternatively, if you have decided that you would like to make a positive change in your life, and will do it with the help of affirmation, let us know. 

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A Fresh Start

Does your past hold a firm grip on your current situation? Does it influence your choices and actions day after day, never allowing you to make positive changes? There is a choice you can make right now, which will then take you down a diametrically opposite path to the one you have been travelling. Understand, confront and overcome the influence your past has on your mind, or continue living how you always have done! 

Often times we project ourselves back into the past when we remember things we have done, mistakes we made, options we chose. This is a falsehood. ‘You’ only exist in this present moment. You did not exist back then. Everything you have experienced, encountered, felt and seen has made you who you are today. You, as you know yourself, exist as a consequence of everything you have done up to this point. Now this may be good, or it may be bad, depending on the impressions you have received in your life. 

Luckily. None of this matters now! 

The past is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it’s called the present. 

– Master Oogway, Kung Fu Panda

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. You don’t get angry at a flower for needing to be a bud first, or a bud for needing to be a stem, or a stem a plant, or a plant a seed, prior to what it became. So you also need to forgive yourself for the perfectly reasonable need for time and transformation.

We all need to experience what we have done up to this point, and this has made us who we are today. But who we want to be tomorrow, or next month, or next year, will not manifest unless we do something different right now. Unless we get out of our comfort zone and push ourselves in the direction we want life to take us. It may be difficult, I am not disputing that, but it will be worth it! This I promise you. 

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Are You Happy?

I have considered that this post will have an impression on those who read it, and so rather than jumping right in, I thought I would ramble on for a second so that if you are interested you will continue, if not, you will scroll on. 
Are you Happy? 

Do you know the cause of your state, happiness or unhappiness? Is this cause within your control, could you change it immediately and by doing so attain happiness? 
I learnt some years ago that one has the free will to choose how to react to a situation, and have control over their mental state; happy, angry, worried, agitated, excited, content, scared, focussed, peaceful, etc. 
Look at the example of the Dalai Lama, who is still with us. Mahatma Ghandi, George Gurdjieff, Franz Bardon, who are no longer with us. Have not these men, particularly the Dalai Lama who most of us will know, developed the skill of happiness?
Is it fair to say that happiness is a skill? Or true to say that one can be better or worse at being happy? An argument to these questions is often; “how can I be happy when this is occurring in my life?”.
No one can argue that there are many things in life to be unhappy about. Terrible disasters and darkness. But is this not the same for the Dalai Lama? Yet he still seems to have found peace and happiness, even though he is experiencing the same existence as us in the 21st century. This shows us that happiness is possible.
So, the Dalai Lama is skillfull at being happy!? Has he always been this skilled or did he learn to be so? 
From what little I know about the life of the Dalai Lama, I can say that he can’t of been happy when his country was invaded and he was exiled and made to live as a refugee. Or could he have been? Could an individual be happy in these circumstances. Are there happy Syrians who now have no home to go to? If there is one, or even a family unit, and I hope and pray that there is one, who still have faith regardless of their terrible circumstances. Then it is indeed possible regardless of ones circumstances. 
It is better to be happy, than to be unhappy. If you believe this as I do, know that you have every right to be happy, regardless of what you have experienced. If not, then I am sorry if this post may have offended you. 
I read a lecture, which in turn made me think of these subjects, which in turn made me create this post. 
And when I am for some reason unhappy, usually due to circumstance and the weight of the world at times. If I so happen to hear on a radio or on any other medium of sound the great, and I imagine very happy most of the time, Bob Marley’s beautiful song…..
“Don’t worry…. About a thing. Coz every little thing. Is gonna be alright….” 
My state usually transforms pretty quickly. Put it on, Mr. Marley knew what he was taking about.

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Material Suffering

I was born November 1983. Grew up, went to school and learnt many lessons in Harrow. Living in England (you can include any of the Western countries) I have had, so to say, a kingly upbringing. 

Not kingly in the sense of Princes Harry, William and the baby royals, but kingly in what the modern western world has to offer. Every night of my life I have had a warm meal, a roof over my head, warmth and safety. Many of you reading this will have experienced the exact same, if not very similar thing. 

There are too many countries to number who do not have the luxury of these things. Many of the inhabitants of these countries still find reasons to be happy in life. 

What is the requirement for happiness? What is your requirement? 

It most certainly is not the collection of material possesions, only to replace newly acquired stuff simply because there is a new model. There has never been as much relative material wealth in the world as there is today, but yet there has never been as much depression and anxiety. 

Surely the above goes to prove that being rich and owning many possesions is not a requirement to being happy. In fact it is often a hindrance to happy days. 

Jesus tells us: ‘it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to acquire the kingdom of Heaven’. 

So what is the requirement for your happiness? Ask the question inwardly. Whatever it is you come to, ask yourself can it come of itself, or does it depend on something external; someone or something? 

This will be a personal process to each of you. In my next blog I will talk about the practice of gratitude. This can be very helpful in finding peace and happiness in all your days. Those following an Abrahamic faith (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) will be familiar with the phrase “Peace be with you” or some variation of these words. Let us look to come into the possession of this peace which all mystics have spoken of. 

My reasons for sharing this with you are twofold. Firstly, I attended a lecture where the speaker made it very clear (far clearer than I am able) that we have never had so much in life, yet we have never been so miserable and depressed. Secondly, some friends of mine recently visited El Savador to deleliver some missionary aid to some locals. Seeing the pictures they took of some of the living conditions they have to suffer, literally, a garden shed would be a welcome upgrade for many of those living in El Savador. 

Yet, among the pictures were smiling children, so pleased to have recieved a simple wooden toy. Smiling parents overjoyed at their child’s new found happiness. 

These two impressions together caused me to create this blog, so that at the very least you can be happy for what you have around you today. If we could all be grateful every day of our lives, we would be fulfilled! 

Please share your comments here on WordPress, or on Facebook or Twitter, wherever you encountered the link. Any input is appreciated. 

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