Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘meditation’

You times two

There are two of you within you.

There’s the you you know, the dialogue in your head, your conscious actions and feelings.

There’s a You 2, too. This is the you that’s living deep in that brain. An instinct you and subconscious you. This you helps you out by reminding your heart to keep pumping, reminding your diaphragm to expand and contract your lungs resulting in respiration.

You 2 tells you to run when you hear a very loud noise. Tells you to stay when you see the one you love. Tells you to salivate when you smell burgers cooking.

You 2 is the you that you don’t really control. You can train You 2 a little.  To recognize that a hummingbird’s buzz is not a giant wasp buzz.  To override fear in order to jump out of a perfectly good airplane if you skydive.

Most of what You 2 does is out of your control. Like the lessons on “Seeing” that which is not there. You 2 is very good at seeing what’s not there, hearing what’s not said, fearing what’s not happening, not fearing that which in fact IS happening. 

You can’t control You 2, but you can listen. When You 2 is scared, you can reassure. When You 2 calls out a warning, you can heed.

Just be careful when You 2 does what it does best, which is to make stuff up and predict the future based on experience.

Unless you’ve led a perfect life, You 2 is operating on imperfect information.

Be at peace, both of you.


You can predict the future!

Winter menagerie

Winter menagerie

People say “you can’t predict the future”. I disagree.

Folks talk about living in the moment, but you can’t stop yourself from living in the future.

Think about it. Imagine if you just started walking and didn’t think about anything except that next step, truly living in the moment. Well, suppose the next step is right off a cliff? Before you pick your foot up you’re bound to predict a certain future here, and you know what? That’s good, or we’d all be dead.

The human brain is not thinking in the proverbial now, but always in the next.

Is there ground beneath me to support my feet?

If I stand will I strike my head on a ceiling?

If I breath in now I can avoid suffocation, things like that.

Animals predict the future, too, so don’t start with that Most Highly Developed species attitude.

Think about the constant and complex physics a bobcat is dealing with chasing a zig-zagging rabbit through the snow.

Imagine a bird of prey closing on a rodent moving through thick grass.

We flat-out count on a lot of presumptive predictions of the future. Maybe this seems obvious or even silly to some, but if you grasp this idea it helps us to understand the subconscious workings of our minds.

In “Think Not-Thinking” (ACZ Archive, 3/21/11) the process of meditation is examined. Meditation is intended to quiet the mind, to reduce stress or anxiety. When effective, it can allow you to turn down the subconscious future-telling.

This is important because your brain can’t stop living in the future, can’t stop checking the to-do list and planner. Even the Most Highly Developed Species can’t turn off the engines of instinct.

So don’t beat yourself up because you feel you can’t “live in the now” all the time. Your brain is looking out for you and those depending on you, even in your sleep, every minute of every day. It’s normal for your mind to be ruminating or mulling or planning all the time, and we’re glad about it.

Otherwise, we’d all freeze and starve.

If we didn’t walk off a cliff first.

Be at peace,


Rural Zen: Autumn

October Maple

I’ve been doing this Armchair Zen blog a bit over a year-and-a-half now, and it’s been a great experience so far. As so many on WordPress, Blogspot and other blogsites, my approach to blogging was that it was a way to practice writing. Organizing the actual content for an inspirational book was the lofty goal of those heady times. This has served as more of a compositional scratchpad and journal, and has helped usher along the idea and concept.

In other ways, it’s also been a great Armchair Zen lesson of its own. Trying to live and preach a detachment from the overloaded overconnectedness of our modern world is a difficult premise to present via mass media. Also, as noted in a post, there comes with blogging a certain scent, an attraction, a quality to covet that can become something of an “intellectual intoxication”, and that is, essentially, an “audience”. While the whole idea of blogging is to share your piece with “the world”, it can be titillating to find someone liking your work and responding to it. It’s a long way from the old days, when a snail-mail submission would take months to appear in print, and anyone the least bit interested in contacting the author would have to undergo a search worthy of Livingstone to find your name and address to send you a note.

Chuy. A main character on Rural Zen.

That brings us to now.  ACZ has developed a little character of its own. A certain tone and language we can recognize as familiar. A propensity to make posts worthwhile and hopefully helpful to someone seeking the famous “path”, as well as being standalone entries that address a subject without need for the context of chronology. (That’s some sweet phrasing and I’m proud of it. Of course it just means you don’t have to read all the posts in order.)

So, I’ve been working on a secret project. Okay, I guess it’s not really secret, it just exists in a different blogosphere for purposes of trying to keep ACZ true to its roots. It’s called “Rural Zen” and is self-described as existing to “share the experiences of a life lived simply and appreciated fully.” which are credited with providing  “Much of my sense of peace…drawn from living in one of the prettiest places I know.”

Frost’s road

 Two main differences between ACZ and Rural Zen. The first is that Rural Zen is a journal, and therefore chronological. In fact, the sights, sounds and smells of the changing seasons are often the highlights of entries, as that’s how the “rural” part intersects with the “zen” part. Secondly, Rural Zen is peppered with illustrations showing the places, events and characters described in the text.

 So the new challenge is to combine the best of both. Here we have a portrait of Chuy, my tireless companion, and in Circle of Seasons we see a photo of my granddaughter Elizabeth, as well as a photo from a day of ice fishing with grandson Max. The intent, as stated, is to share the experiences of a life that supports the pursuit of the path of peace.

  It just seemed that previous posts talk about the path but never show any pictures! Maybe, in a vicarious way, others can also benefit from this life “lived simply and appreciated fully”.  Sort of a modern Walden only without the isolation or the pond. And with illustrations.

Neversink waterfall

The fall season is a sensory overload, especially for someone chasing a child-like sense of wonder. In many ways it’s the prettiest season of the temperate zone, and really the shortest. It’s also the “biggest” in a way. Changes are drastic, on a daily basis. A tree that’s green one day is orange and red and yellow the next. A tree that was orange and red and green yesterday is naked today, just sticks reaching in vain toward the sky.

Grand Gorge

Searching for Red 23

The “flowers” are from a dinosaur age. A big, yellow blossom thirty feet wide and sixty feet tall! A wall of orange stretching a tenth of a mile down a treeline carpeted with green grass, their glowing golden leaves in the millions, piled two feet deep at their feet. You can look across a valley and pick out a brilliant fire-red oak, as if it was a candle on the mantle across the room.

Everywhere, the landscape changes. Tree-covered slopes now reveal rock ledges and hidden streams. There’s a pond where two weeks ago only a forest of maples could be seen.

Autumn glow

Vast, ordered rows of corn stood seven feet tall, gold hair adorning their fruits, tassels waving in the wind, where now there are vacant fields with a lone cornstalk appearing here and there, a brown, stubbled wasteland.

Spectrum of leaves

 And so, on to the next phase of this adventure, seeking the path of peace, and seeking to share the path with others. Here’s hoping the narrative and photos of a simple and beautiful world will help to inspire, or keep you grounded, or simply bring you a little snapshot of the peaceful path.


Ultimately, the peace and beauty brought to us in this world are in the eye of the beholder. The vast cosmos is filled with wonderments of all kinds, and one of the most fascinating is the human being. They’re also often overly-complicated, and tend to over-worry about things that are far from important.

Road Seven

Take time to relax, take time to wonder, and take time to drop me a line. Share your own observations, or the things that help you to pursue the path to peace in your life. Or just say hi! Let me know if you have any thoughts on the formats, old or new!


Be at peace,



It’s not for everybody

Wonder years


We are each products of our upbringing. Our lives to this point, mostly shaped during our early childhood and wonder years, and continually built upon each day until now. (see “Ring Theory”, ACZ Archives, February 2011)

 In my line of work, that day job I have to support my life in this Techno-Monetary society, to pay for things like this blog site, we deal with a number of skills. Our jobs are half technical, half construction, half art and half people-business (sort of paraphrasing Yogi Berra). Some of the folks that try just don’t make the cut, and I tell them “it’s not for everybody”. It takes a unique set of skills and the ability to handle some difficult aspects of the job, such as frequent overnight travel.

 The same can be said of Armchair Zen, or perhaps any number or all manner of philosophies, behaviors or outlooks. Someone wrote to me once and said something to the effect of “I don’t need to practice a certain belief to feel at peace, you just get there.” Well, I won’t argue with that, because that’s their belief, but I know in my case it took many years and a lot of introspection and self-imposed amateur cognitive behavioral therapy, and I’m still not done, I’m sure. If it wasn’t for a number of triggers and some writings of sages, I may never have tried to seek the path of peace.

 Still, just like sushi or football, it’s not for everybody. It seems some people are comfortable in their anger or hostility towards the world, or they feel helpless and overwhelmed, drowning in their negativity. I can’t understand some of it, but it almost appears that they like being angry or bummed-out or suffering all the time.

 Much of that could be considered attention-seeking behavior, and some of it is clearly defensive. It seems some people like or need to be at the center of things, and they draw attention with their tales of woe, worry and angst. It seems some people have a hard, often aggressive and verbally defensive exterior, and I can’t help but think it’s a lot of hooey covering up a great deal of insecurity.

 Many times I have tried to work with someone in one of these states, pouring buckets of Armchair Zen over their heads, hoping to save them from their worries, save them from themselves, essentially. I’ve noted how often there is no suggestion that can help them, no way out of their dilemma. That’s when I say “Clearly you don’t want to consider any other options here, as it would interfere with your suffering.

 In his book Illusions, author Richard Bach wrote a bit that I have adopted and used for the past 35 years or so, to wit: “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they are yours.”

 So I’m partial to introspective philosophy, self-scrutiny, and all the rest that makes up Armchair Zen. It doesn’t mean I have to move to Tibet and give away all my worldly possessions. (Though strangely I see monks with cell phones on TV…hmm) It just seems to me that CHOOSING to think in certain ways, KNOWING why we think or feel certain things, QUESTIONING if this is the me I’d imagined for myself, and PRACTICING that which I think is in harmony with the cosmos is a smarter way to go.

 But, you know, it’s not for everybody.

 Be at peace,


I see angels

Living, breathing angel

The boy fell to his knees, his face dropped to his hands.

What was I to do, being just a mortal man?

I said “You’re at the end of your rope, son, not the end of your road.”

Sometimes we need to help a broken angel with their load.


I see angels all around me. Angels you can see.

Living, breathing angels right where they ought to be.

This whole world’s full of angels, from sea to shining sea.

It’s a world full of angels waiting for us to let them be.


A man clutched my hands as tears welled in his eyes.

I said “There are no words. We’re never ready to say goodbye.”

Most folks don’t know that sometimes angels need a hand.

He said “No one knows my pain. No one understands.”


I told him “There are angels all around you, angels you can see.

Living, breathing angels, right where they need to be.

It’s a world full of angels, from sea to shining sea,

A world full of angels waiting for you, and me.”


I see that little baby, sleeping in her bed.

See the days and weeks and months and years that lay ahead.

Her mother and her brother, and all her kith and kin,

This whole great wide world around her, all the same beneath the skin.


I see angels all around me. Angels you can see.

Living, breathing angels right where they want to be.

It’s a world full of angels, from sea to shining sea.

A world full of angels waiting for us

To set them free.

Zen in our Techno-Monetary society

Sunset Moon

It wasn’t easy choosing a name for the blog Armchair Zen, though that’s how I’ve referred to my personal philosophy for some time. Names like “Zen in the modern world” and “Everyday Zen” and the like seemed to be taken. I guess everyone has the same idea.

Mostly the idea of ACZ is to share thoughts and philosophy with those that want to seek enlightenment, peace in their daily lives, harmony with the world, nature, the cosmos and life itself. It’s not about achieving perfection or some higher plane or a place in the next life or eternity. It’s about understanding our capabilities and limitations in this life, it’s about acceptance, understanding, compassion, forgiving and letting go.

As it says in About, these things are nothing new. Applying them to today’s world is not always that easy. We live in a world I term a Techno-Monetary society. We’re surrounded by wonderful technologies from life-saving medicine, global communications, electronic entertainment, space exploration and productivity greater than mankind has ever known, bolstered by the machines and artificial intelligences of our modern world.

In ancient times and old days, individuals and whole communities were isolated, and did not have the benefit of the vast volumes of knowledge mankind has compiled since. Their lives were filled with strife, at the mercy of the elements, filled with superstitions, fears, and lack of understanding of things that seem simple to us today. The sun, the solar system, what makes rain, thunder, tornadoes. They had more time, and perhaps a greater need, to seek peace within their lives.

We are also slaves to the monetary system. In all the developed countries (probably 90% of the globe), we need to work at something to earn money for rent, taxes, clothing, food, transportation, and the list goes on. This is really not new, nor does it strictly apply to developed countries or societies. Go back a couple thousand years and we find people did not live the simple agrarian lives we might imagine. Subsistence farmers & ranchers, mountain-men and even minimalist communities of today need to barter goods or trade cash for the things they can’t make. Cooking kettles, sewing needles, broadcloth, tack supplies, sugar, salt, bacon.

Finding our personal zen and peace within our lives seems like a considerable challenge after negotiating traffic, signing in at work, talking to customers, clients or co-workers that are not seeking enlightened ways, and any number of non-zen, non-nature, non-peace-encouraging things we must do.

Still, I find my ACZ to be pervasive. It hasn’t always been that way. I was “Two Jakes” for many years, seeking solace in nature and creative expression during my precious evenings and weekends, and turning off the peace machine when going to battle with the world. After some years of concentration, practice and informal self-cognitive behavioral therapy, the zen has spread to all hours of the day.

Nowadays there are few interactions with others wherein the conscious-competence of ACZ does not rule. Filter-monitoring, managing emotions & reactions, thinking forgiveness & acceptance, seeking to navigate all situations for the best outcome of all under the guidance of enlightened thought & behavior. Spread loving compassion by being loving and compassionate. Spread forgiveness and acceptance by being forgiving and accepting. Appreciate the beauty of the world around us by opening our eyes and minds and truly seeing. It’s not always easy, but it’s always simple!

That’s really all for this post. Perhaps it’s not a lot of meat, but an encouragement to those that may be seeking the path to peace. Sure, it takes a little time and concentration, but it can be done without extensive training or effort or money or social status or massive brain power.

You don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to be beautiful, you don’t have to be perfect. Everyone is welcome.

The cosmos, and I, love each and every thing without judgement.

That includes you!

Be at peace,


Zen, me, posts, following and envy

I caught myself just now, having lost sight of my light, my zen.

I looked at another blog and was envious. The writer so prolific and skilled, 900 followers, comments and compliments enough to make one blush.  (Thomas Ross’s onlyhereonlynow, to be precise).

The thoughts crossed my mind, raced through before I could catch them like startled sheep gushing through the gap in the fence. The advice from WordPress about how to increase hits to my blog. My temptation to follow other blogs only for the selfish purpose of hoping others would see mine. (Okay, not so true. I follow blogs, presently a total of two to be honest, because I genuinely like the content or people, they seem to fit my Armchair Zen)

This is not about me. No, really. As sort of crazy and hypocritical as it seems with “I”, “me” and “mine” in the sentences.

The purpose of Armchair Zen, the blog, is to seek to help others to find the path. Not to erect a tollbooth at the entrance. Not to have followers, that may be lost on the trail without me, to boost my ego. Not for social contact.

In a strange way, not blogging, almost seems as if it should be the goal. How can I profess that others should disconnect from all the manufactured connectedness of our modern world, all the noise which fills our minds and distracts us from connecting with true self?

That’s why, in spite of advice that About should tell readers about ME, the About at this blogsite lists a number of tenets and goals of ACZ. That’s why, in spite of the fact that I own the domain, there is not a lot of effort put into exposing ACZ to “the world” or increasing readership and followship.

I like to perceive myself as akin to a lighthouse. For those that draw near I hope to show them some light so they may set their own course and avoid dashing themselves on the same rocks I have. Lighthouse does not leave the shore and go look for ships to warn.

A short look around this sparsely populated site and you will see there is no daily blog activity. Sometimes posts are one per month. One month I posted nothing at all. Sorry to tell you readers (if any), but there are things more important and pressing. I trust you guys are grownups and have no shortage of blogs to read, and can carry on without me.

When I do post something, I hope it is something of some value, however small, that holds true to the goal of helping others to seek the path, and is not something contrived, nor simply words to fill a page.


The trail beckons


Perhaps that flies in the face of conventional wisdom of the modern blogger.

Then again, the power of true Armchair Zen is not conventional. If it was, we’d all be using it and therefore ACZ would be pointless. While blogging is thoroughly modern, the wisdom of zen teachers and other sages is as old as language.

A very valuable and very few actual events and other forms of inspirations have lead me to the entrance of the path.

I’m not blazing a trail, not your wilderness guide, not the cartographer.

Just pointing out the trail marker signs.


Be at peace,



The quiet mind

Pine Point

The quiet mind is a peaceful place.

It’s easy to get your mind filled with noise, especially during the distractions of the day that occupy our senses.

Work, getting kids to school, balancing the checkbook, visiting the sick uncle.

It’s like your mind is a big factory, all the machines running, trucks driving in & out, people moving everywhere, the lunch whistle, the fire whistle.

Good to get away from it. Think “Not-Thinking”. Seek refuge whether in the woods, on the water, or within one’s own mind.

A little diddy about escaping the madness. You may note it’s a bit dated, from the 90’s. (Last century).

A Moment’s Peace


What I seek is solace, just a moment’s peace.

Need I sail to Aruba? Need I fly to Greece?

The home phone, car phone, answering machine,

Pager, email, voice mail…What does it all mean?


Does it mean I am IMPORTANT? Does it mean I “MUST BE REACHED!”?

If I cannot respond instantly, will some agreement be breached?

Will the U.N. go to war? Will the President sit & wait?

Will Saint Peter need to confirm with me before opening the gate?


I am going fishing now, with worms in a cup.

Don’t bother trying to call me.

The machine will pick up.

Happy Independence day tomorrow, for all you fellow Americans, and a belated Happy Independence day to all our Canadian neighbors to the north.

Take the time to make yourself independent from the noise of our modern world, the chatter and distraction, the hustle & bustle, the go-go-go that is most of our society.

Break yourself free from the TV and the phone and your laptop/tablet/mobile device/PDA, and all that constant manufactured connectivity.

Liberate your mind and soul to a natural state, whether it’s in the park, on the roof or in your head.

Take the time to let your mind clear, and engage in the simple wonderments of the world around us.

Connect with something real and infinitely more precious than all the rest.

Connect yourself with Real You.

Be at peace,


Day 19,359

Solstice Moon

The world recognizes yesterday as my birthday. The date on which I first breathed the air of this planet. I couldn’t help but think I am actually 3/4’s of a year older than that. My “creation date” would be around September.
What do you think the universe did to keep track of important events in the past?
How did the cosmos ever keep it all straight before humans came along and gave labels to everything, from the stars to the sea, and measured all activities in “moons”, with sundials, marking the dates of the seasons and solstices?
From here my life seems big.
Before long, in a cosmic sense, it will be as the flash of the death of a star or birth of a galaxy. As unremarkable as the events of a billion years ago.
It brings me such peace to know that all my “worries”, all my errors and shortcomings, don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy cosmos.

Be at peace.


I just don’t want to argue with you any more

Into the fray

Please show me the way to make peace with your heart.

How do I stop this thing? How do I don’t let it start?

How do I know what to say? How do I know what I said?

When do I shut my mouth and keep it all in my head?

I just don’t want to argue with you any more.

I just don’t want to quarrel with you any more.

I just don’t want to fight with you any more.

I just don’t want to argue with you any more.

Can’t see my light, can’t plot a course.

Can’t navigate through the regret and remorse.

I’m trying to rise to find a better way

but it all gets entangled in all that we say.

What if I don’t argue about it any more?

Chilled to the bone, burned from the heat.

Cold as a stone, I’m dead on my feet.

Do I laugh like a fool? Do I break down and cry?

Do I fall to my knees? Do I lay down and die?

I’m just not going to argue with you any more.

Just not going to quarrel with you any more.

No, I’m not going to fight with you any more.

I’m just not going to argue about it any more.

Just not going to argue with you any more.

I just don’t want to argue with you any more.

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