Everyday Zen – Love and Work by Charlotte Joko Beck

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My notes and reflectionseverydayzen

I first read this book on 7th July 2003. Since then, this book has had a profound influence on me. It has helped me to survive the challenges of life in this difficult world. I believe that those who are not able to read the book, will find my notes and reflections very useful.

  1. Work is just taking care of what needs to be done right now. When we practice patiently, eventually work begins to flow. We just do whatever needs to be done. If the mind drifts in any way, return it to the work. Work is the best part of Zen practice and training. No matter what the work is, it should be done with effort and total attention to what’s in front of our nose.
    I found that when I work like this, I only get energized instead of getting tired. I get all charged up and even find it difficult to sleep because of the excess energy after working more than 12 hrs. This is especially true if I’ve been doing something creative and new.
  2. The only people who live comfortably are those who learn not to dream their lives away, but to be with what’s right-here-now, no matter what it is: good, bad, nice, not nice, head-ache, being ill, being happy. It doesn’t make any difference.
  3. What is needed is a guide who will make it clear to you that the authority in your life, your true teacher, is you.
    This book has been that guide to me. I realize that my true teacher is me.
  4. Though it is true that there is no mirror, no dust covering it and so no polishing to be done – all that is an illusion. But to know that you must keep polishing the mirror to remove the dust.
    This is the process of meditation – concentrating your mind and observing keenly till you see the truth.
  5. When we’re lost in thought, when we’re dreaming, what have we lost? We’ve lost reality. Our life has escaped us.
  6. A mind that is not aware will produce illness. Anything of which we are unaware will have its fruits in our life, one way or another.
    So better start meditating and develop awareness of your sensations.
  7. When we label a thought, we step back from it, we remove our identification. If we persistently label any thought, the emotional overlay begins to drop out and we are left with an impersonal energy fragment to which we need not attach.
    Very difficult to practice, but then, do we have a choice? This is the only way to truly master our mind.
  8. There never was an ‘I’. It’s just a creation of the self-centered thoughts.
    I know it as ‘intellectual wisdom’. I need to convert it to ‘experiential wisdom’ for it to be of any real use to me.
  9. On a withered tree, a flower blooms. We need to ‘die’ to become ‘alive’.
    Consider your girlfriend – that need. The longer we practice, the more minimal this need becomes. The love becomes greater and the need less. We can’t love something we need. If we need approval, we haven’t died. If we need power, if we need to have a certain position, if it’s not okay with us to do the most menial job, we haven’t died. If we need to be seen in a particular way, we haven’t died. If we want to have things our way, we haven’t died. As we identify ourselves with less and less, we can include more and more in our lives.

    To ‘die’ here, means to lose our ego. If we lose our ego, we will not need anything. We get freedom from all desires. I can be truly happy only if I don’t have any needs, only if ‘I’ die. I must try to kill my ‘self’ so that I won’t be miserable and so that I can truly enjoy whatever little comes my way, when it comes my way, instead of losing the moment by being miserable at that time.
  10. Always try to see what life requires us to give as opposed to what we personally want to give. This tough practice is the payment exacted if we wish to encounter the ‘jewel’.
    It is very difficult to detach yourself from your situation and view your situation objectively. In my previous company TWWI (Tutors Worldwide India Pvt Ltd), ‘Objective Decision Making’ is one of our four corporate values. That is easier to practice, since there I’m supposed to be objective while dealing with others. But to be as objective in my personal situations is much tougher. When I try to do that, the conclusions are invariably much tougher to implement and almost always requires me to sacrifice my desires. Not once has such self-contemplation advised me to do anything to satisfy my desires. Always, it has advised me to sacrifice my desires and adjust to others. By practicing this, the only ‘jewel’ I seem to have encountered is the happiness of others and an end to conflicts. I suspect there is some much more valuable jewel awaiting me if I continue to practice this much longer.
  11. To have a ‘self’ means we are self-centered. Being self-centered and therefore opposing ourselves to external things, we are anxious and worried about ourselves. We bristle quickly when the external environment opposes us; we are easily upset. And being self-centered, we are often confused.
    No-self doesn’t mean disappearing off the planet or not existing. It is neither being self-centered nor other-centered, but just centered. A life of no-self is centered on no particular thing, but on all things – that is, it is non-attached – so the characteristics of a self cannot appear. We are not anxious, we are not worried, we do not bristle easily, we are not easily upset, and, most of all, our lives do not have a basic tenor of confusion. And thus, to be no-self is joy. Not only that; no-self, because it opposes nothing, is beneficial to everything.

    It is so wonderful to read about ‘no-self’. But it is so hard to remain ‘no-self’. I want to remain ‘no-self’, but I am unable to achieve that state. Of course, it’ll come with practice. I just need to work hard and practice. It will come to me one day. Life will throw up enough hardships at me to force me to reach ‘no-self’.
  12. We must learn in our guts, not just in our brain, that a life of joy is not in seeking happiness, but in experiencing and simply being the circumstances of our life as they are; not in fulfilling personal wants, but in fulfilling the needs of life; not in avoiding pain, but in being pain when it is necessary to do so.
  13. The practice of non-attachment, the growth of no-self, is the key to understanding. Finally we realize that there is no path, no way, no solution; because from the beginning our nature is the path, right here and right now. Because there is no path, our practice is to follow this no-path endlessly – and for no reward. Because no-self is everything, it needs no reward: from the no-beginning it is itself complete fulfillment.
    Very profound. What a long journey of life one has to lead, only to realize that the destination is right at the source, where we started the journey!
  14. Our goal is to expand ourselves, raise the cut-off point (when we lose our equilibrium), increase the point till which we can see the perfection in others.
    There is no need to feel depressed if we lose control of our mind and become angry or give in to temptation. What is done is done and there is no use crying over spilt milk. One should just accept that one has failed this time. One should then make a resolve to put up a better fight next time. Encourage yourself and congratulate yourself for trying and admitting and recognizing your failure. Accepting failure is the first step in the direction of embracing success. So, keep trying till you succeed. This effort is what makes life interesting and this challenge is what makes life fun!
  15. Imagine you are in a new boat and it’s foggy and another boat collides with you. Your first impulse is to be angry with the guy in the other boat. Then you realize that the other boat is empty. Your anger disappears when you realize it is baseless. All our life’s encounters and collisions are collisions with an empty boat. Our encounters with life, with other people, with events, are like being bumped by an empty boat.
    I just got to accept the reality as it is instead of expecting it to be as I want it to be and move on with my life. I can only control my self and my actions. So let me first gain complete mastery over my self, before trying to control others. I am sure even my entire lifetime will not be enough to gain complete mastery over my self!
  16. The other side of anger, if we experience its emptiness and go through it, is always compassion.
  17. We are usually living in vain hope for something or someone that will make our life easier, more pleasant.
    The joy of our life is just in totally doing and just bearing what must be borne, in just doing what has to be done. It’s not even what has to be done; it’s there to be done, so we do it.
  18. One guy was standing on his roof since the whole village was flooded. When one by one two rowboats and a helicopter came to rescue him, he said – “No, no, no! I’m praying to God! God will rescue me!” When he drowned and went to heaven, he asked – “God! Why didn’t you try to save me?” God said – “I did. I sent you two rowboats and a helicopter.”
    Similarly, we keep hankering for truth, but truth is the current moment of life, and nothing else.
  19. Desires are inexhaustible. You won’t exhaust desires by searching; you will exhaust them by experiencing that which underlies them.
    Very true. Here the ‘experiencing that which underlies them’ refers to the sensations that are produced in our body when our desires are fulfilled. Inevitably these sensations are the same kind of pleasant sensations for which we are addicted. When we keep observing these sensations with complete awareness, we will soon get bored. We will realize that these sensations are not worth so much trouble after all. When we keep our mind free from all desires and aversions, the lightness we experience and the clarity and sharpness that we experience is found to be much more enjoyable and pleasant than these bodily sensations. The pleasure and state of well-being and health we experience when we are completely free from all desires and aversions is a million times more pleasant and enjoyable than all the pleasure and joy that our current desires can ever give us upon fulfilment. Just imagine, every desire of yours – what happens after you fulfill them? How long does the pleasure last? Is the joy produced by the fulfillment of any desire everlasting and forever? You are bound to reach a stage where you get fed up of desiring new things. You will say enough is enough. That is the point when you are ready to be free and happy forever.
  20. If there is little wanting, then the relationship is strong and it will function. That’s all life is interested in. As a separate ego with your separate desires, you are of no importance to life. And all weak relationships reflect that somebody wants something for himself or herself.
  21. Until we bow down and bear the suffering of life – not opposing it, but absorbing it and being it – we cannot see what our life is. This by no means implies passivity or non-action, but action from a state of complete acceptance. When we do it, we know in our guts who we are and who everyone else is, and the barrier between ourselves and others is gone.
    When you learn to accept life as it really is, you don’t feel any suffering anymore. When you don’t have any expectations, you don’t have any disappointments either. When we just do what needs to be done without any expectations, we slowly start enjoying life.
  22. He who knows does not say, and he who says does not know.
    Hahaha! The ultimate paradox! But so true! Since I am saying all this, it is obvious I do not truly know anything yet! But I am on the right path.
  23. What is the enlightened state?
    When there is no longer any separation between myself and the circumstances of my life, whatever they maybe, that is it.

    Fairly simple. When you are enlightened, you no longer judge your circumstances as either good or bad. You just experience your circumstances without passing judgement on them. When you judge something, you automatically break your connection with the universe and isolate yourself. Instead, become a part of your circumstances and experience the moment for what it is. Develop your awareness of your circumstances so that ‘you’ don’t exist anymore.
  24. Someone who has little self-concern, who is willing to be as he or she is and everything else to be as it is, is truly loving.
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