Zen diary August: Put down your cellphone

Month by month, a little journey through the hassles of everyday life – 19 practical exercises to change and overcome our relationship with life.

Purely out of compassion, we benefit from summer by offering you a pathway that is both wise yet also a bit tricky : put down your cellphone! It’s not very easy to try this breakup when we’re under stress at work, or going back to school. But summer, with its procession of lazy naps by the lake, lie-ins and slowly sipped aperitifs as the sun goes goes down, offers ideal conditions for a short challenge.

No point denying it, it’s not easy to free oneself from the phone! It’s a cute object, reassuring, useful, plus it accompanies most of our activities, like a travelling companion. Anyway, even if Buddha ( who was after all a visionary) hasn’t said anything about it, this object also has a dark side, as so many obstacles in the way of a more zen life.

Our phones drag us away from what is real: it has a cosmic power to hypnotise and here we are often held prisoner in a virtual world, checking our notifications every two minutes. During this time “real life” is passing under our nose, without us noticing….and so the hours go by. Social networks for their part, sadly leave in their wake a host of varied emotions,depending on what we have been looking at.

On Facebook we can see cute kittens followed brutally by the famine in Yemen. And in this “other world” space it is hard to know that an impression has been made ( for real) in our heart or solar plexus. As collateral damage, there is an accumulation of daily stress and sickness. To avoid this, there is only one solution, hard but indispensible.

The turn it off technique.

This radical method that you will assimilate during the holiday,is just turn it off. Not “airplane mode” that may still leave you wanting to have a look at your photo gallery. No! Let’s go crazy:turn it right off. Black screen, so completely useless , although you could use it as a bookmark for your magazine. It’s a bit stuck up to use an 800 franc item as a bookmark. In foreign countries, the Swiss would certainly be accused of wealth snobbery… But it is just a very ostentatious sign of your new found freedom!

The key: to put down your phone, you have to get over missing it. To do this, the most direct route is this : feel its loss. Don’t try to avoid it,just go right into it and realise, open mouthed, that the feeling of missing it disappears ,just by the fact of living through it. We reconcile our emotions in the heart of the present moment.

In addition : note all the times where you still pick up the object anyway ( it’s turned off remember) but just put it down as an internal victory. Yes!


The author of this guide, Kankyo Tannier, is a Buddhist nun, but a million miles away from all the cliches about spirituality. A very active blogger on social media, she offers an interior journey full of humour, optimism and simplicity. She is also the author of two best sellers, Ma Cure de Silence, which has already been translated into 14 different languages and A La Recherche du Temps Present. Kankyo Tannier is interested in everything that helps us bring meaning to our lives : little everyday things, joyful rituals,magic moments that open the doors to the sky. Her advice is available to all,without dogma or beliefs. She subscribes to a modern spirituality, in touch with real life. Open up to the meaning of life …. But keep your feet on the ground.

Kankyo Tannier :

Website : www.dailyzen.fr

You tube channel : www.youtube.com/DailyzenFr

Her monastery : www.meditation-zen.org

Zen Diary – July : going on holiday.

July : going on holiday

When activities link up together, isn’t this the moment to un-link? Holiday time is ideal for this, and invites us to get up close to that most spiritual of practices : the art of relaxing. One piece of good news : the art of relaxation can be practised right now ( if you are not already on holiday or if you’ve used up all your leave ) and it’s free!

Taking time out like this has the advantage of creating a break in the constant unfolding of days : from the moment of rest ( from the moment when we stop) a surprise or something astonishing can spring up , which allows us to rediscover a world beyond our normal experience. God himself, from the height of his splendid perfection gave himself this wonderful space. “ On the seventh day he rested!” And thanks to that rest,that wonderful inspiration, he had the leisure to create the world….

Learn to stop

It’s not so easy to stop when everything is accelerating and distraction is the norm. To start with, the easiest practice is to sit in front of a window.. and just do nothing. Stupid? Not at all. With no goal, no idea of gain, just being present to what is here. It’s like the beginning of an adventure really, as we have no idea what might happen. Be watchful! The splendour of the present moment can rise up from nothing ( or a lost pigeon) The exercise is disconcertingly simple. Do nothing. Nothing at all. One minute of silence dedicated to watching, listening, feeling. Body and mind being directly linked, this pause has the benefit of stopping or slowing down the rhythms of the body. Think too about breathing properly and let your thoughts come and go.

The key: a practice to be learnt little by little,progressively, giving oneself the time to tame emptiness.

In addition: there’s a good chance that if this minute of rest has made you feel fantastic, you’ll be tempted to go on longer …..2,3,4, 10, 20 …minutes. And to allow this sentence of Durkheim’s to arise “ The voice of silence is that of ripening fruit.

Concentration et calligrpahie

The zen diary, june : pass an exam and stay zen.

A Zen chronicle written with the journalist François Busson for the Swiss magazine L’Illustré.

Month by month, a journey through the little worries of everyday life – practical exercises to modify our relationship to existence.

The author of this text, Kankyo Tannier, is a Zen Buddhist nun far from the clichés of spirituality. A very active blogger on social networks, she offers an inner journey of humour, optimism and simplicity. She is also the author of two bestsellers: “The gift of silence” ( Yellow Kite publisher ), already translated into 14 languages, and “In search of the present time” ( 4 translations). Kankyo Tannier is interested in everything that can give meaning to our lives: those little things of everyday life, those joyful rituals, those magical moments that open the doors of heaven. Her approach is accessible to everyone, without dogmas or beliefs. It is part of a modern spirituality, in touch with real life. Open yourself to the meaning of existence… but keep your feet on the ground.

YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/DailyzenFr ( videos in english or french with english subtitles )
Her monastery: www.meditation-zen.org/en

June : pass an exam and stay zen.

June is the month of exams and other trials for school kids. A true passage from the riverbank of adolescence across the river to adulthood. During this period, and in view of all the issues, there is a tendency for stress to mount up. A situation that their parents could have experienced during a job interview, or a request for a pay increase, or the first talks about your sister’s wedding.

Our brain is very quick to see everything in disaster mode. Each one of us is capable of envisaging one by one all the possible catastrophe scenarios, in great detail, ending up with a racing heart and a lump in the stomach. Twice the pain. But since you are so gifted at imagining the worst, why not try to anticipate the best? For this, two pathways are offered to you.

Start to direct your brain.

That is, present it with clear objectives, that are precise and measurable. For example : reflect on the ideal state of mind , emotions and body that would precede your speaking. Remember moments in your life when you have felt this ideal state. Then imagine your double entering the exam room, the boss’s office or the parish church. And then? Let your inner Steven Spielberg go to work: let him dream, put together the best scenario for D Day and embody the self assured person you have imagined.

The key : When we present something to our mind, it prepares our brain for completing the task.

In addition : anticipate the scene, not only in mental images, but also with agreeable physical sensations.

Stay in the present moment.

Fix yourself solidly on your present daily routine: that’s to say, your revision plan, the choice of concrete arguments as to why you deserve an increase , or sliding some humour into your presentation where you can laugh along with the people present. It’s an ideal moment to incarnate “for real” that key element of Buddhist wisdom: the possibility of living without projecting into the future, just being in the moment.

The key : as the future hasn’t yet arrived , the only place you can be present is right now.

In addition : take some deep breaths to anchor yourself in your body.

Drawing : Guilllaume Long. Picture : Katy-anna Gibbe, Stan Wang-Genh

 

 

A short and simple video : THE EYES, at the heart of spiritual practice

Yesterday I took advantage of a moment of sunshine in the monastery gardens to record this simple little practice. Try it, you’ll see!
And also the opportunity to share with you this idea: all the wisdom in the world seems available, through videos, books, podcasts, teachings… We have accumulated tons of knowledge. From now on, the challenge will be to return to the experience: “do” instead of “think about doing”. Embody spiritual practice instead of talking about it.
And that being said, I go to brush my horses and listen to the birds…

 

 

May : cultivate your inner garden – Zen Diary

Many scientific studies show the beneficial effects of nature on an individual. Wandering in the forest, purring with your cat, or digging a bit in the garden can halve your stress levels, and slow the frenetic pace of your thoughts, at the same time giving back the taste for contemplation.

Switzerland is an ideal place for this : unbelievable landscapes, lakes on every street corner, fountains, seagulls, dogs of all kinds of breeds, not to mention the beautiful public parks in every town centre. Swiss people are truly spoilt. And that’s as well, as the practices I suggest need a certain amount of available nature, and that , not too far away. A sympathetic thought here for all the inhabitants of the mega cities of Japan, Mexico or China, for whom the contact with nature consists of a potted plant by the coffee machine , or a bit of birdsong as their ringtone.

Walk slowly.

And preferably with a landscape before you of trees, grass, pigeons, seagulls, melting into the blue. Walk with no particular goal, relaxed, lifting your head to the sky from time to time. Discover the details of the landscape, the knots in the tree trunks, the little drops glistening off the fountains.

The key: going slowly. You’ll be helped by the famous Swiss saying. ‘ The lake isn’t on fire’ no doubt some ancient wisdom about rediscovering the art of taking your time.

In addition: observe with an amused smile all the rushing passers by and the joggers in their fluorescent active wear – the groups that you belonged to before!

Look after plants.

In certain African tribes, wisdom is measured by the capacity of an individual to take care of a plant. To water it, talk to it, look at it from all angles, finding the best place for it… Establish a special relationship with one of the inhabitants of this Earth, whether it be an oak, fig, or orchid. Try to understand how this ‘vegetal individual’ functions ; what it perceives, what vibrations it gives off, what it likes and dislikes.

The key; this capacity of entering into a relationship with a universe very different to your own, will increase your skills to empathise greatly. And by extension will increase your ability to empathise with humans.

In addition;

Without being obliged to publicly announce that you talk to plants, you can still share this practice with friends, parents, children…and give yourself regular updates on the plant life you have adopted.

Translation : Hilary Mac Rae

Illustration : Katy-Anna Gibbe

The beginning of your spiritual path, how was it ?

I was 19 years old. Life seemed strange, dangerous, like an urban jungle. Without any sense. I struggled with existential questions like “What’s the point of all this? What happens after death? Why are there so many inequalities on earth? ». And then, one day, while walking along the alleys of the Besançon municipal library (France), a title caught my eye: a monk with a bright smile lit up the cover. I devoured “The Art of Happiness” from the Dalai Lama in a few hours at a café terrace.

And the world came together : everything is connected. Everything is part of a large whole working together. Suddenly, I felt part of a whole…. And the spiritual path could have begun!

I’m looking forward to your comments now ☺️

Morning and evening, zen meditation: Zazen.

“At the monastery, every morning, every evening, the community goes to the dojo to do zazen, sitting meditation. Whether it is raining, windy or snowing, the schedule is unchanging and the body itself seems to be waiting for those moments of calm that punctuate the days.”

–> in the book The Gift of Silence, by Kankyo Tannier https://www.dailyzen.fr/en/the-gift-of-silence/#.XL4b3i3pPBI

*** Crédit photo : Stanislas Wang Genh, modèle : Maître Yoda 🐱

The zen diary – April: Secrets of waking up radiant.

The theme of this month is simple but essential: how to make waking up the morning a good experience. The first thought, the state of mind where we emerge from the embrace of sleep, the first word, the first image, all these influence how your day will unfold. You can , of course, emerge all dopey from the previous night, , grumbling like a baer, dragging your feet as far as the coffee machine, your thoughts galloping away like wild horses….

Hmm, well, it can be so, but be aware of this: all the spiritual traditions strongly advise against it. In India, where 3000 years of wisdom gaze down on us, the practitioner begins the day around 3 am with an hour of yoga practice, facing the rising sun. But it’s ok, before arriving at this ideal, you can make a start by getting back control of your thoughts. And set yourself up for a royal awakening.

Control the thought machine.

To get out of bed on the right side, it’s particularly important to be aware of the first thought on awakening. It may often manifest a certain dissatisfaction, for instance “Oh, no, not morning already!’ Or else, ‘Oh, no, I overdid it again last night….’ Or ‘OK, what have I got to do today? Oh yes, shopping list for the Co-op, then the file for Mr ..then I really need to remember Z before midday..’ And then oops, off we go, the thinking mind takes off like a rocket.

But how can we do otherwise? To get on top of the day, start by being aware of the uninterrupted chain of your thoughts on waking. Observe what your brain has chosen to think , spontaneously, only to completely forget it a moment later. Leave your mind to think, as that’s what it’s for, then get on with your day leaving your little windmill of thought idling away, in order to freely choose your mood of the day. It is in this experience of detachment that you will get the greatest reward: time slowing down, leaving you the time you really need to start the day well.

The key : to get to this point, you need to anticipate. For in the morning, after an epic night riding the clouds, you risk forgetting your good resolutions. So I advise you to use different things to help you remember : put a post – it on your bedside table, or your bathroom mirror if you are one of those people who starts to wake up in the bathroom, change your alarm tone to give you a surprise, record your voice with a nice message ‘ Come along and get up, my lovely, as you are going to have a wonderful day.’

In addition : after some days, this new spiritual practice for early morning will be established….and will reveal even more delights.

 

Translation : Hilary Mac Rae

Illustration : Guillaume Long

 

Buddhism and collapse – some avenues of relection before the end of the world…

( Thanks to Hilary Mac Rae my zen friend from New-Zealand for the translation 🙂 )

State of collapse, from the Buddhist point of view.

Unless you have lived on a desert island for the last 10 years, the news about the world isn’t brilliant. Theorists of ‘the collapse’ predict dark years for us, a sharp decline in our standard of living, without taking into account epidemics, famines, wars at the doors of rich countries, or even in their heartlands. It’s becoming aware that, whatever we do, it’s already too late. Climatologists have been saying it for years. Scientists too. For a long time, no one was listening. But now things have turned around and for some months now, the message has been gathering speed with the force of a tsunami : you and I perhaps will not live as long as we thought. You and I will probably end up lacking necessities of life. You and I will perhaps see our children, parents, pets die for lack of medicine.

The movement has begun, the signs are already there. Global warming will render many parts of the world uninhabitable. Harvests will be ruined by extreme temperatures, whilst technological solutions are not yet available. Last year in my little corner of Alsace, there wasn’t enough fodder for the animals. The locals organised a mutual aid system whilst counting on plenty of hay for this year …Fingers crossed!

How to approach this?

This article isn’t intended to convince you of the collapse. I’ll leave that to Al Gore or Jared Diamond, whose remarkable work can be found on the Web. It’s also not a question of starting a huge group depression. There too I will leave it to certain medias that are past masters in the art of inspiring collective fear, without the cathartic virtue of this method at least being proved.

None of that then : my proposition is more constructive. That is, to offer some modest pathways – from buddhism – to tame the overwhelming emotions arising from this brutal change of paradigm.

The fact of collapse – brutal or progressive, who knows – having been proposed, how should we react? Why? Is it worth the effort?

A witness statement.

When I discovered these theories about the collapse some months ago, I spent several days in an altered state. A state of shock. My body didn’t really respond : it felt swollen, as if wrapped in a corset. To avoid too much suffering ( “I’ll soon die” “ I will never make it to 80” “ There will be so much violence in society”) and the emotions which flow from this, my unconscious mind created a survival mechanism : anaesthesia. My brain meanwhile, was looking for an escape. Quick, some idea, some reflection to avoid the spiral of suffering and depression.

There are different paths, as those who have travelled them know well, and I summarise them for you.

  • I will disappear, and the majority of the human race will disappear too, but at least the Earth will be saved.” This generally pops up in people who feel close to nature. The ones who already see the grave damage caused to nature every day and are distressed. A special mention goes here to the ludicrous construction project of a highway by-pass a few kilometres away from my monastery. It will cause increased traffic, the extinction of some animal species – the great hamster – and thousands of ancient trees will be destroyed. Perhaps one day the Earth will be spared from mankind,but along with the human race, it is already proved that thousands of plants, fish , vegetables, insects and cells will perish, without having asked for it.
  • Quick! I ‘m going to buy a rifle, create a stash of necessary goods and create a self sufficient community far from the miseries of the world.” This is the second response and not a great one, it’s true and not very durable, as I quickly discovered that villages which had some reserves were the first to be attacked in time of famine. Logical approach –
  • Perhaps we will find an alternative source of energy” This is really the last chance argument. The idea that there is already a new energy source, to replace fossil fuels, and the great powers have managed to conceal its existence for purely financial reasons …hum.. A fully fledged consipracy theory. It’s difficult to believe that for long, and the hypothesis doesn’t hold water in the face of the urgency of the situation.

So after some days and weeks, this is what I came up with…

There is no external soution – we must look within.

Collapse theories all lead to the following conclusion : there is no solution. Once we are over the first shock, this started to really ring in my buddhist ears. Themes of life and death are abundant in our practice. The ancient masters advised us to ‘meditate as if your head is on fire.’ And, when the house is burning – for real- the strength of these teachings appears in all its splendour.

Live with reality, just as it is.

The Buddha’s surname wasn’t Bobby or Pat. We politely call him “ Tathagatha” a significant poetic nickname “ Thus come.” Like all people, he came into the world naked as a worm, just as is. But, unlike a lot of people, he never forgot the spontaneous joy of childhood, this original naivety, this intensity of the present.. and found it again once he grew up. Thanks to his meditaiton practice, the Buddha was able to access the capacity to see the world as it is, without judgement,interpretation, flight or rejection.

And without a doubt, this is the first -difficult- step on our inner path. To be aware of the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. To understand that our future will be very different than we imagined, that in spite of all our tears and fears, shame and depair, this is reality and we have to say “OK’” ‘OK” let’s start from here , this new perspective, these potential scarcities, this ruined earth. And once we have established this, to continue our path.

Gathering the “emotions of collapse.”

But this way is not simple. Or rather, yes, easy to formulate, but not easy to put into practice. For accepting the reality of the moment – collapse- is also having to lug on our shoulders the huge weight of emotions that go with it.

On the subject of emotions – Information No 1. They are felt in the body. Our body perceives and expresses different emotions all day long. A heart in love, beating like a drum, butterflies in the stomach, tightness in the throat before public speaking, heaviness in the stomach when mourning…

On the subject of emotions –Information no 2. It is usually our emotions that govern our actions and create our impression of the world. An example : one day, I was pleased with a piece of my writing, I shared it, I wrote more to try and recover that feeling, and thought of myself as “author, blogger, writer’ or anyone else who could – thinking about it- give birth to the pleasant feeling of writing. Another example. I feel weak and short, I buy a big SUV and get back my self confidence, thinking “ I’m really someone” when I look at my car.

In relation to these two parameters ( the emotions are a feeling and emotions rule our life choices ) the spiritual pathway proposed is as follows:

  • Re – educate yourself how to feel,the body – good and not so good – in real time. As it is. That is to say, dive into the heart of sensations.
  • Feel that these emotions, sensations, are a movement. They appear and then disappear, naturally, following the principle of the impermanence of all things.They disappear … as long as we don’t interfere deliberately , looking for an intellectual/rational/interpretive solution to the said emotion! They disappear.. so long as we remain neutral and don’t force movement.
  • Gather the fears, shame, despair, whilst leaving the emotion in the body, so it doesn’t rise to the head. That way , it can be free in its transitory nature.

This is the way that is proposed in zen meditation, and which I really appreciate the value of today. You can learn it in many places if you are interested.

Make good decisions.

Anyway, this period, this new vision of the future, perhaps invites us to change our life’s priorities. There is a rather radical exercise , well known among adepts of personal development: working on our values. It allows each person to connect to their deepest dreams ( their values) to give some meaning back to life. To cast light on our values, to light them up clearly, the person is invited to take the following position: imagine you only have 2 -3 years left to live and see where your priorities lie.

With the collapse, the exercise loses its imaginary character, and becomes the reality. We may decide, from despair, to burn everything, to cause a revolution, or to end our lives. We can rely on our fellow humans to start a new path together. We can once more take care of those near to us and look people in the eye.

Acting in this way, we connect to a new idea : that humanity can evolve, and it has taken an enormous crisis to begin to learn this.

In knowing our emotions and learning to choose our lives consciously, we take back control of the future. Instead of staying there, at the side of the road, completely helpless, we can work on a solution. Of course, it will be interior,as there is no solution for getting out of this mess. “ I can’t change the world, but I can always act on the representation of it I have made to myself , and in this way give some meaning back to my life.”

Spoken a little more clearly,the way from now on can be as follows “ Because of the collapse, my life will undoubtedly be shorter, but will be lived in the intensity of the present !”

Lala zen cat

Zen Chronicle < Buy less, live more>

I have put together a Zen calendar for 2019 for the Swiss magazine L’Illustré: one piece each month to accompany your year, to guide you along spiritual pathways for daily life.

The one for March is particularly close to my heart < Buy less, live more> as a way of giving back meaning to our lives outside of retail therapy.

An ode to voluntary cutting back, to free ourselves of excess and get used to less. Beware!! This piece is talking about a voluntary reduction, not a subtle form of cutting back, such as is imposed upon the the poorest in society. It’s pretty difficult to get used to less, to practice ‘happy sobriety’ when we already lack the necessities of life! ( Look at the present claims by the ‘gilets jaunes’ and the people who are forgotten and invisible in our consumer society.)

March – Buy less, live more.

Some words are floating around our society at present like so many little suns : cutting back, sobriety, simplicity, respect for nature. Bringing back to centre stage notions that had been put aside for thirty glorious years, in favour of the idols of consumerisim and accumulation of possessions. After having measured the value of a human being in terms of their material possessions, it looks as if the paradigm is in the process of deep change. And what if the human of the future was in fact this creature who is capable of harmonising with the rhythms of nature, to encounter their fellows with trust and arrive on tip toe in the heart of a forest, so as not to disturb the animals who live there?

A fairly mind – blowing perspective on evolution, capable of giving us back some faith in the future of the Earth. And as with all evolutions, it falls to some to set an example: we have chosen you, readers of L’Illustre, to be voluntary models (or nearly so) of this new being. To be , today, the human of the future. Do you like the idea? If so, follow the guide!

Boycott non-durable products.

The list of items produced by industrial society is long, immeasurable. All these little things made of petrol derivatives, or rare metals, which need to be gouged out of the earth’s crust by the little hands of child slaves, and their transportation huge and polluting. But of course,and you will have instantly thought this, it is almost impossible these days not to have many products made of plastic or a petroleum base. But we can also reflect deeply before acquiring an object.

The key : ask yourself before you buy something : do I really need this? How has it been made. What is its ecological footprint?

In addition : you will in future buy things with < full awareness> in terms of <enlightened sacrifice> and you will contribute to the care of the Earth.

Time to learn.

Time ( and money) saved by not shopping will allow you to do the small things that give meaning to life : learn something new, organise a dinner for neighbours , grow some plants, give some time at the SPA, read, look at the sky,make some bouquets of dried flowers etc

The key : gratitude as a new sign of wealth.

In addition: nothing else, just the simplicity of a life fully lived.

 

The author of this guide, Kankyo Tannier, is a Buddhist nun, a thousand miles removed from any spiritual cliché. An active blogger on social networks, she proposes an inner journey full of humour, optimism and simplicity. She is also the author of two best sellers : The gift of Silence, already translated into 14 languages, and In Search of the Present Moment. Kankyo Tannier is interested in anything that can give meaning to our lives: the little things of every day, rituals full of joy, magic moments that open the gateways to the sky. Her advice is available to all, with no dogma or beliefs. She subscribes to a modern spirituality, in touch with real life. Open up to the meaning of existence … but keep your feet on the ground.

Kankyo Tannier

Her website www.dailyzen.fr

YouTube channel www.youtube.com/DailyzenFr

The monastery where she lives : www.meditation-zen.org

DEEP THANKS TO HILARY MAC RAE for the translation !

 

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