Category Archives: Zen

The Retreat – Part Two – Why Go?

A popular Zen saying tells us: “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless your too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”

In this episode I speak about the different levels of retreat. For the mind, body and soul.

By retreating from the world we can rest and recharge, gain clarity of mind, focus on whats important, develop a plan for the future and much else besides.

Please let me know if you intend to go on retreat this year, or if you have been on one recently.

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The Retreat – Prologue

This episode is a prologue to a series of four episodes about a retreat I recently went on.

For some it would be considered a retreat, whereas for others it would be seen as a short prison sentence. How do you see it?

A retreat is the act of withdrawing. A time away from the world and the rat race. A time away from technology.

Stay tuned for the coming episodes in which I will cover; location, why you would go, what I got up to, and the return to life.

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A Universal Religion


If only the entire world adopted a Universal Religion. One where we focus on the strengths of all the religions and aim to transcend the weaknesses that hold them back.

Investigating the religions of the world it is clear to see that everyone is worshipping the same principle.

If everyone were free to hold on to what they believe, what makes them happy and content. If everyone adopted this attitude there would be no hatred or religious fanaticism.

We could all coexist happily. Free from suffering.

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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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Contentment

All living beings seem to be crying out for something or other. Among mankind some pray for wealth, some for health, some for property, some for fame, some for power, some for freedom from troubles, some for food and basic necessities during life. Moreover, all want what they ask for to be on a permanent basis; nobody wants merely a temporary cure or temporary riches. Also, we want these things in full measure, and nothing which is less than full is good enough, our object being to make ourselves full in all respects.

The scriptures belonging to every religion devote thought to the question of what among all these things is really worth praying for. If we study those scriptures accessible to us, it would seem as if all of them want Param-Atman (Universal self), because it is He only who is completely full in all respects and His fullness can never decrease. All the rest are neither full nor permanent. Thus, people really seem to be wanting the Param-Atman though they do not realise this.

When one is a child, one wants toys; when one is a boy, one wants education, when ones education is over, one wants employment; when one gets employment, one wants promotion. Thus, from the beginning to the very end, there is never contentment!

Socrates said; “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”

Be contented. Even if it is a struggle to be so. Remember there are millions of others all over the world who are suffering more than you. Simply by reading this post you have some sort of device to access the internet. Others struggle from day to day for food and clean drinking water. We are all experiencing the world in our own way, and if we could find this attitude of contentment with where we find ourselves at this moment, life would be a whole lot easier..

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Practicing the Way

“Its like chopping down a huge tree of immense girth. You won’t accomplish it with one swing of your axe. If you keep chopping away at it, though, and do not let up, eventually, wether it wants to or not, it will suddenly topple down. When that time comes, you could round up everyone you could find and pay them to hold the tree up, but they wouldn’t be able to do it. It would still come crashing to the ground… But if the woodcutter stopped after one or two strokes of his axe to ask the third son of Mr. Chang, ‘Why doesn’t this tree fall?’ And after three or four more strokes stopped again to ask the fourth son of Mr. Li, ‘Why doesn’t this tree fall?’ he would never succeed in felling the tree. It is no different for someone practicing the Way.

~ Zen Master Hakuin.

This is a wonderful quote for anyone practicing ‘the Way’, or, ‘a Way’. What you soon realise after walking any path for a certain number of days, weeks, years is that nothing miraculous occurs. No life changing experiences, no inner tranquility which the books and teachers speak of, no enlightening meditations. But, as the above quote tells us so very clearly, ‘You won’t accomplish it with one swing of your axe!’

‘If you keep chopping away at it, though, and do not let up, eventually, wether it wants to or not, it will suddenly topple down.’ This sudden toppling down which Hakuin is speaking of is a most evasive thing in the Western world! We want results right now, with one swing of our axe. “I’ve been meditating for six months now. Why am I not enlightened?” Is something one may ponder as time passes us by.

Practice a Way! The Way, your Way, my Way, her Way, his Way or even their Way.. But do not practice it with thoughts about the results coming from your efforts. Do not think of felling the tree. Just continue ‘chopping away’, hour after hour, day after day, purely because you love to chop at ‘your tree’. And, ‘eventually, wether it wants to or not, it will suddenly topple down.’

This will be unmistakable.

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Strive for Freedom

“We must strive for freedom if we strive for self-knowledge. The task of self-knowledge and of further self-development is of such importance and seriousness, it demands such intensity of effort, that to attempt it any old way and amongst other things is impossible. The person who undertakes this task must put it first on his life, which is not so long that he can afford to squander it or trifles!”

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~ G. I. Gurdjieff

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