Fondling the President’s Poodle

CBH COMMUNICATIONS OBAMA DOG ADOPTIONI’m going to San Francisco this weekend! See the end of this article for details!

Sometimes get emails asking if there’s some special “Zen” way of dealing with obsessive or recurring thoughts.

When I get questions like this, there’s usually no way of knowing exactly who is asking. So I don’t know if I’m corresponding with someone who is likely to try and fondle the President’s poodle in order to impress a talking rabbit named Horacio or if it’s just someone who thinks about cheese all the time and wants it to stop. I try to be cautious with my answers.

For starters, there is no special Zen mind trick to deal with recurring thoughts. I can’t give you a nice prescription like, rub the soles of your feet together, stick out your tongue and put a bag of ice on your head for 27 minutes then the thoughts will go away. If you’re looking for that kind of thing you’re better off asking a psychiatric professional.

Even so, here are three things I have learned from my practice with my own recurring obsessions. First, all thoughts are just thoughts. Second, there is no way to think your way out of any thought. And third, you don’t need to believe your own thoughts.

We tend to rank our thoughts. We tend to think some are better than others. And that’s probably true to a certain extent. But if we take this notion too far, we are liable to try to use thoughts to defeat other thoughts.

For example, let’s say you have a cheese obsession. The thought of a delicious slab of aged English cheddar occurs to you. But you don’t want that thought. So another thought occurs, “I don’t want to think about cheese,” or “I’m a failure because I thought about cheese again.” You are defining yourself to yourself as a person who thinks about cheese but doesn’t want to.

We give special attention to that second tier of judging thoughts. We imagine we can somehow defeat the thought of cheese with the thought that says we’re a bad person for thinking of cheese. But that never works. It only makes us more likely to think of cheese again later.

All thoughts are just thoughts. The thought of cheese and the thought that it’s wrong to think of cheese are exactly the same sort of process going on inside the brain. You can’t use one to stop the other. You’re just reinforcing your cheese obsession by telling yourself it’s bad to be obsessed with cheese.

But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Even that kind of thinking is OK because you don’t need to believe your own thoughts. Any of them. Not the thought that you must have cheese or the thought that you’re bad for having that thought. It’s all just energy bouncing around inside your skull. Just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Learning to let go of thoughts can be useful, but it’s not easy. “Letting go” doesn’t mean “making them disappear.” It means to allowing the thought to be there without responding to it. Don’t fight against it. Don’t manipulate it in any way. Don’t deny it. Don’t affirm it. Don’t berate yourself for having the thought. Or if you do, don’t worry about that thought either. It’s just another thought. It’s no better or more worthy than the thought you’re berating yourself for having. Just let it be. It doesn’t matter.

Shunryu Suzuki said, “Thoughts are just the secretions of your brain, like stomach acid is the secretion of your stomach.” The thing we consciously experience as thought is just the brain digesting experiences. We interrupt this process all the time and, in doing so, we cause ourselves a lot of trouble. It’s as if we were trying to consciously direct our stomach to digest that yummy cheese first and leave the vegetables for later. If you could do that it wouldn’t be healthy. It’s best to let the stomach do its thing the way it needs to. Same with the brain.

Letting go of thought is easier said than done. We’re generally not used to letting our thoughts run free. Most of us have a habit of channeling thoughts in a particular direction. We put a lot of effort into cultivating certain thoughts as ways of reinforcing who we imagine we are. We use them to build up a self that we believe is our own.

This doesn’t necessarily mean we cultivate only the thoughts we want to have. Often unwanted thoughts are an even better way to build up a sense of self. I am the one who doesn’t want to think of cheese. The more unwanted thoughts of cheese I have, the more real my sense of self becomes. We don’t consciously try to do this, but we do it anyhow.

cheeseTrying to replace bad thoughts with good thoughts might provide some temporary relief, but it doesn’t get at the root of the problem. The thought “I must stop thinking about cheese” contains within it the thought of cheese.

Trying to fight negative thoughts with positive thoughts might also provide a bit of short-term relief. But a positive thought is only positive because it’s not a negative thought. So each positive thought contains a negative thought just like a coin that has a “heads” side and a “tails” side. Even if you turn all your pennies over so that President Lincoln is showing, each one of them still has that weird shield thingy on the other side (or the Lincoln Memorial if they’re older, but you get the idea). And they’re still all worth just one cent each.

Once you start to really understand this, it becomes a little easier to let thoughts be just as they are without judging them, without loving some and hating others, without embracing some and fearing others.

For me, it was rough to get to this point. When I stopped guiding my thoughts they started to get kinda weird. It felt like I’d opened up the gates of my subconscious and now all this strange stuff I did not recognize as me was coming through. It was uncomfortable.

That’s why this process needs to be taken slowly and carefully. If you open up those gates too fast you’re likely to be overwhelmed by what comes flooding through. I found I often had to take a few steps backward in my practice in order to manage things. A few times, when things got a bit too freaky, I even stopped doing zazen for a little while until I felt ready to get back into it again.

Anyway, whatever you do, please don’t fondle the President’s poodle.

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April 7, 2016 San Francisco, California Against The Stream

April 8, 2016 San Francisco, California San Francisco Zen Center

April 22, 2016 New York, New York Interdependence Project

April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”

April 24, 2016 Rochester, New York Rochester Zen Center

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October 15-16, 2016 Munich, Germany, 2-Day Retreat

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54 Responses

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  1. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 6, 2016 at 7:42 pm |

    The mind is one of the senses, and in my experience ignorance of sense contact is at the root of continuing to think when I feel I have already thought enough.

    These are the sense organs/sense objects critical to the rhythm of thought, :

    1) the location of awareness in the three planes (vestibular organs and equalibrioception);
    2) the alignment and weight of the body, with no part left out, (proprioceptors and otoliths, proprioception and the sense of gravity);
    3) signs, characteristics, or marks of concentration (memory, recall).

    They are some of the signs, characteristics, and marks I tend to recall, in connection with concentration.

  2. AnneMH
    AnneMH April 6, 2016 at 7:52 pm |

    My fave thing you said is “you can’t think yourself out of a thought”. Ahh, having some thoughts. Some are just so dang interesting and sometimes I even get a burst of anger in these thoughts and then I get thinking about the anger, I could keep going. Mostly after a couple heaving thinking days I am just tired, so paying attention to the body sensations of being worn out by all the dang thinking.

    So then I start thinking about how to change, dang it!

  3. Dogen
    Dogen April 6, 2016 at 10:31 pm |

    Anyway, whatever you do, please don’t fondle the President’s poodle.

    More proof that humor and religion are mutually exclusive.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot April 7, 2016 at 6:59 am |

      That’s not as funny as the last one.

      1. Dogen
        Dogen April 7, 2016 at 7:14 am |

        Ah, you’re starting to accept the truth.

  4. SeanHolland
    SeanHolland April 7, 2016 at 1:00 am |

    Excellent. One of your best.
    By the way, don’t think of a giraffe. Seriously, don’t think of a giraffe.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot April 7, 2016 at 7:00 am |

      I think it’s green elephants you’re not supposed to think of.

  5. Talking Head
    Talking Head April 7, 2016 at 1:56 am |

    Brad, you write “We tend to rank our thoughts. We tend to think some are better than others. And that’s probably true to a certain extent”

    But isn’t this obvious and although “All thoughts are just thoughts” the content of the thought itself matters quite a bit? I mean the solutions and actions coming from thoughts, for example creating a cure for some horrible disease or creating beautiful pieces of art are preferred above thoughts that lead to stealing, lying, killing etc.?
    Understand that if you ‘zoom out’ your perspective enough, everything is just energy in motion but ‘zoomed in’ acting on “good” thoughts and letting go of “bad” ones can be favourable. Ranking, judging, clinging and taking action on thoughts can lead to beautiful solutions that makes us homo sapiens sapiens (and also the other side of the coin – war, destruction etc) But trying to hardly or never engage on thoughts (if this was possible at all) , I don’t know. I like thinking, I like fantasising, I like creating scenario’s, thought experiments.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot April 7, 2016 at 7:03 am |

      Like with driving a car, can you say you’re really driving if you don’t know how to use the brakes?

      1. Kyla
        Kyla April 7, 2016 at 7:54 am |

        Good analogy.

    2. Kyla
      Kyla April 7, 2016 at 7:54 am |

      I think of course there is unskilled thinking and unskilled action/reaction that comes from it and the reverse is true. I guess it is about awareness of which is which, detachment and non-reactivity to thoughts that do not lead to skilled behavior. And ultimately non-attachment to any thought, but thoughts of course are still going to happen. We couldn’t do our jobs, look after kids, plan for retirement etc. if we didn’t think.

  6. skatemurai
    skatemurai April 7, 2016 at 3:35 am |

    Cool article Brad. Could same approach be used to emotions as well?

  7. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 7, 2016 at 4:57 am |

    I thought this was a really good post…wait a minute! That means I also thought it was a really bad post… I’m going to stand this coin on its end. There, that’s better…no that’s bad because I really really thought this was a good post!

    But it doesn’t matter at all what I think, least of all to me.

    And the President can fondle his poodle all he wants. Isn’t that about all most Presidents accomplish?

  8. Nicole
    Nicole April 7, 2016 at 6:00 am |

    I’ve made a somewhat related food-experience, after a yoga retreat without caffeine, alcohol, hot spices or sugar. Afterwards my whole way of eating was different. It’s not that I wanted to live totally healthy and near-vegetarian, it’s just that fruits and vegetables were suddenly tasty and potato chips and frozen pizza weren’t. Why would you find something tasty that harms your body? I’ve found pleasure in espressos again, and a good glass of wine here and there, but even years later, my eating habits are still fundamentally different.

    The funny thing is, this isn’t anything I can control, and it has nothing to do at all with will power. The judgment has already been made before you can even start thinking rationally about what’s good and bad. You just develop an intuitive feeling for what’s useful and what’s not. And the challenge is to develop the kind of trust in yourself that it takes to follow your intuition rather than some rules of what you’re supposed to eat or not.

    I’m just realizing as I read Brad’s post, that my experience with zazen and my thoughts is not that different. Thoughts are just so subtle, so the effect is harder to recognize. It’s not that I’ve stopped thinking, quite to the contrary. But my thoughts are becoming clearer, like I intuitively know which thought is worth paying attention to, and which is just a waste. You automatically only keep what makes sense, and dump the rest. Again, no need to triage, because any conscious decision would come too late, anyway. Funny how this works. But quite fun to watch, in fact.

    1. Kyla
      Kyla April 7, 2016 at 6:41 am |

      I know what you mean Nicole. When I cut out certain foods which were purely junk food, if I tried them again years later I couldn’t see why I even enjoyed them in the first place. For a simple example take Coca Cola, I could not believe how disgustingly sweet it was until I had not touched it for years.
      Ditto what you said about thoughts. I find I am actually much more aware of WHAT I’m actually thinking rather than it all being a big blur that is running my day without me even realizing it.

    2. french-roast
      french-roast April 8, 2016 at 1:29 am |

      As usual, I am always moving against the stream, deeply sorry for that. I did a lot of those quite boring Zen retreats during which horrible (normal veggie food) strictly vegetarian food was served. Being a carnivore since time immemorial, being a cigarette smoker (I quit recently), a good red wine (perfect match with red meat) and of course an espresso lovers (french-roasted of course) those retreats were hellish in regard to the food that was served, after a few days, I simply could not eat anything at all, just the smell made me wanted to barf. I did a 7 days retreats about the same time last year, again no smoking, no coffee, no wine, no decent normal human being food, only goat food as usual. After that retreat, I simply could not eat any vegetables at all. Truly strange, all became tasteless, they simply could not be swallow. In the meantime, my wife became one of those nutty dogmatic vegan, that was the end of my delicious pork legs stew, she simply could not endure the sight of those chop pork legs on the kitchen counter top being smashed into pieces, and so out of deep compassion for her, I now buy all my meat boneless and sliced about 1 inches thick. It is only since the last two weeks that I started to eat vegetables once more, which I still do not enjoy, but at least I can swallow them. Really strange, I wonder if it has anything to do which some kind of inner mysterious spiritual evolution?

      The trick regarding ‘obsessive/compulsive’ thoughts is thinking without thinking, It is not a dulling of the mind, it it the complete opposite, it is to awaken the mind in such a way as it rest upon nothing at all. That is quite easy to accomplish on the mat while doing zazen, it is an entirely different thing in daily life. Have you ever heard of the expression ‘ suspension of disbelief?’ It comes from the English author Coleridge, he says that when we go to the theater (or movie) we tend to suspend our disbelief, and doing so we kind of get involved within the movie action, emotions, fear, tension, sadness, etc. In brief we do as if it is real and react accordingly. When the movie ends, the lights are turned on, and everybody leaves the theater, a subtle shifts happens; we come to; to our ‘normal’ disbelief state of mind in regard to the movie itself, but tend to go back in suspending our disbelief in regard to all the bullshit and garbage coming out from the mind; such as I am a this or that being within this or that situation. The good news, is that there has never been a this and/or that, nor has there ever been any situation in your entire life. It is a fake, a more or less dysfunctional fake which we take for granted as being real beyond any possible doubt. We take most of what is coming out form that gray box as ‘cash’, as if real, absolutes. Those thoughts themselves rarely stops, but our attitude towards them can change.

      1. Nicole
        Nicole April 8, 2016 at 4:06 am |

        “I did a lot of those quite boring Zen retreats during which horrible (normal veggie food) strictly vegetarian food was served.”

        Don’t blame the vegetables if your tenzo is a bad chef … our food was great, we even asked for the recipes at the end of the retreat. Maybe that’s what makes the difference. No suffering, no feeling of being deprived of anything, apart from some symptoms of withdrawal the first few days. So you’ve got the freedom to find out what you really need.

  9. Kyla
    Kyla April 7, 2016 at 6:03 am |

    I’m hungry now!! 🙂

  10. Kyla
    Kyla April 7, 2016 at 6:06 am |

    Seriously though, that was a great blog post.

  11. zenmite
    zenmite April 7, 2016 at 12:58 pm |

    I spent the first few years of zazen trying to put a stop to all thoughts. I read Dogen’s ‘think of not thinking’ & Huang Po’s ‘put a stop to conceptual thought’ literally and thought zen was about suppressing thought. I made myself pretty dull and stupid for a few years. I later called this kind of practice “idiot zen.” I eventually figured out that it wasn’t supposed to work that way. Suzuki roshi said; “To stop the mind does not mean to stop the activities of mind.” That pretty much nails it. It’s a great koan in itself, imo.

    I spent those first few years really straining and pushing for enlightenment. I was really greedy. All kinds of anger and fear welled up within me…especially fear of death. I think it took me about 12 years to find my balance…but I’m a slow learner. In zen, the greedier you are, the longer it takes.

  12. Cygni
    Cygni April 7, 2016 at 7:29 pm |
  13. Chong Do
    Chong Do April 7, 2016 at 11:17 pm |

    “Awesome accomplishments, but think of what you guys could have accomplished had you not turned off your thoughts so much.”


    That’s an interesting thought. I struggled with the same type of thinking when I first started to practice Zen. My anger and depression were going away, but I was also losing some motivation in the process. Simply put, when your self-esteem is no longer tied to your bank account and your job, 70 hour work weeks start to look pretty dumb:) Eventually, I accepted the fact that Zen practice isn’t designed for people who want/ need to take over the world. I now have a job that offers significantly less pay in exchange for better hours. I’ll never get the corner office that I was gunning for in my early twenties… but I’m okay with that.

    On another note, I don’t think the conclusion that we should draw is, “life is meaningless.” Rather, I think the lesson is that ALL of life has meaning. If Brad writes one less book in his life because of all the navel-gazing that he does on the cushion, but it helps him to be nicer to the cashier at the gas station, I think that’s a win.

    1. Dogen
      Dogen April 8, 2016 at 7:39 am |

      If ALL life is meaningful, Mr. Do, why do you need a religion like zen?

  14. Chong Do
    Chong Do April 8, 2016 at 9:45 am |

    “If ALL life is meaningful, Mr. Do, why do you need a religion like zen?”


    I recommend you check out this clip as it answers your question more effectively than I can. It’s also a bit ironic given your name:)

    If I were to put it in my own words, however, it would go something like this… Our natural inclination as humans is to chop our lives into important vs. unimportant experiences. We do this under the false assumption that if we handle the important stuff well, then that will make US more important in the grand scheme of things. It all comes down to us believing that we’re some how lacking, and we need accomplish something major in order for life to be worth living.

    However, a religion like Zen teaches us that we are all Buddhas. Therefore, our value in life is both inherent and unchanging. That is to say that the guy who drives a garbage truck is no more or less important than the guy running a fortune 500 company because they are both Buddhas. The only thing you ever need to accomplish, the only thing that is truly meaningful is whatever it is that you are doing RIGHT NOW because what ever you are doing is being done as a Buddha. Thus it has the potential to save all (or at least a few) sentient beings from suffering.

    That being said, I think what you were actually asking me was more along the lines of, “Why do we sit zazen if washing dirty dishes is just as meaningful?” To which I can only reflect back on my own experience for an answer. Zazen is what reminds me that washing dirty dishes is a meaningful activity that’s worthy of my full attention because it cuts through the thinking that says, “I should be doing something else.”

    Brad might feel differently, however, I think that is why the original Dogen ritualized almost every facet of monastic life right down to using the toilet. It was a reminder that taking a dump should be treated with the same quiet respect that we use when entering the zendo.

    1. Dogen
      Dogen April 8, 2016 at 11:14 am |

      Zazen is what reminds me that washing dirty dishes is a meaningful activity that’s worthy of my full attention

      Exactly. It’s your religion that gives it meaning. So when you say “ALL life is meaningful,” you’re lying, or rather that’s how it’s supposed to be in your religion.

      Are you familiar with the Myth of Sisyphus, Mr. Do? I’m sure your religious beliefs allow you to imagine Sisyphus as happy. But try to be honest and put your religious beliefs aside for a moment, if you can, and admit that you couldn’t be happy in Sissy’s shoes.

      1. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara April 8, 2016 at 10:04 pm |

        Religions exist to provide meaning, not happiness. ;P

        Zen just provides: “You ARE Sisyphus – now suck it up, chillax, and focus on the current moment of boulder-rolling” … That’s the meaning, once you strip off the sugar-coat.

        1. Nicole
          Nicole April 9, 2016 at 2:00 am |

          Does it? I thought Zen was about realizing that Sisyphus and his rock are one, and that Sisyphus is expressing his true nature by rolling the rock uphill over and over again. … which ultimately wouldn’t be that far away from Camus’ initial statement that one must imagine Sisyphus happy (reading happy as a synonym to not suffering).

          Not sure what religions got to do with this, though. Noone is worshipping the rock.:-)

          1. Shinchan Ohara
            Shinchan Ohara April 9, 2016 at 3:39 am |

            It all amounts to the same thing, at the moment of full on rock pushing.

          2. Bubba
            Bubba April 9, 2016 at 5:02 am |

            There’s also the moment when he loses control of the rock and it starts rolling down the hill, the moment of watching it roll down, the moment of walking downhill. All of this is imaginary. I don’t think it ever happened. I’m imagining Mr. S as a Bodhisattva perfecting paramitas within the four foundations of mindfulness. I’m imagining the day when the rock rolls down the hill because he suddenly vaporizes in a flash of rainbow.

          3. Cygni
            Cygni April 11, 2016 at 9:07 am |
    2. Cygni
      Cygni April 9, 2016 at 1:04 am |
  15. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon April 9, 2016 at 3:45 am |

    Poodle boy: Do not try to fondle the poodle. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
    Neo: What truth?
    Poodle boy: There is no poodle.

  16. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara April 9, 2016 at 4:43 am |

    ‘I experience a lack of meaning’ is just a sophisticated way to say ‘I miss my mommy/daddy/pacifier/security blanket/God’.

    ‘I find washing dishes meaningful’ equals ‘my brain is acting grownup, for now’

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara April 9, 2016 at 4:43 am |
    2. french-roast
      french-roast April 9, 2016 at 7:21 am |

      Lack of meaning happens when the larger context which ‘gave’ ‘it’ a specific meaning collapses.

      Human being until recently had in one form or the other what could be call an orienting center by which we would look/feel/sense from. That orienting center made sure that what you look from gathered which what you look at. It was ongoing, verb, granted it may have been quite naive at time, but it gave those meaning and purpose. Even the flat earth viewpoint had meaning for those who inhabited that worldview.

      Consensus, whether cultural, scientific, religious act as an orienting center (similar to a gps), out of which comes a sense of direction, purpose, meaning. Today, these consensus are collapsing, colliding, eroding all over, it is what was a more or lees stable orienting center which is now seriously shaken. These consensus by which we look from are now eroding and are being replaced by ephemeral, discontinuous, passing by, unstable, short lived centers which we look at, such as this blog, your cell phone, internet, etc. Which we now say proudly is our life. We now emphasize the short lived view, for our viewpoints are now degrading at a very fast pace. A view, our views are always passing by, having no solid ground on which to rest and having abandon what gave us some stability (even thought it was an illusion) we feel lost, we feel that life itself is meaningless.

      But life is inherently meaningful, and thus has no need for outside meaning or purpose, nor is it context dependent. The Zen way is not toward meaning and purpose, but toward the meaningful, although this meaningful might appear sometime as a complete impossibility, which it is; a miraculous meaningful impossibility.

      1. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara April 9, 2016 at 9:35 am |

        The Great Way is not meaning-full, nor meaning-less.
        Miraculous power, marvelous activity:
        I sell pointless to the interwebs.

        1. Khru 2.0
          Khru 2.0 April 9, 2016 at 7:28 pm |

          I don’t know. Maybe.

  17. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 10, 2016 at 7:26 am |

    Forget about cheese.

  18. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 10, 2016 at 7:20 pm |

    The summit of the peak of the mystic crossing
    Is not the human world;
    Outside the mind there are no things—
    Blue mountains fill the eyes.

    … Look at those Ancients; when they awaken like this, what truth is this? It won’t do just to have me tell you; you yourself must tune your spirit all day long. If you can attain fulfillment the way these people did, then someday you will let down your hand for people in the crossroads, and won’t consider it a difficult thing, either.”

    (Blue Cliff Record, 7th Case)

    French Roast: “… first concentration, then contemplation. Concentration always imply a something, a point of focus, we make use of the discriminative mind in order to accomplish this …Contemplation is the spontaneous emergence of the undifferentiated mind.”

    I would offer that the “spontaneous emergence of the undifferentiated mind” is one-pointed, that it involves the experience of a singular location in space, a singular location informed not only by each of the senses but by what is beyond the boundary of each sense as well.’

    Isn’t it just the relaxed movement of breath, after all?

    1. french-roast
      french-roast April 11, 2016 at 2:28 am |

      Are you asking for help? Sometimes after I read you, the thought ‘this guy is looking for someone to help him getting rid of his obsessive compulsive thought pattern’ comes to what you would describe as my mind. But I have no help to give, I am empty handed and cannot help anyone on the crossroad. How many years have you been caught into that same cangue?

      Great tune! Thanks.

      1. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara April 11, 2016 at 8:58 am |

        I don’t know. Maybe.

        Sometimes practice has to be just a bit like: “One same-shit; Two same-shit; Three same-shit…”, in my wayward and unreliable opinion.

  19. Andy
    Andy April 11, 2016 at 12:04 am |

    All that bragging about French food, french-roast, took me back to some gorgeous duck with cooked goat cheese in Perigueux. A febrile evening followed up by a spectacular thunderstorm.

    The French health service is pretty decent, too. Hope giving up the cigs is going well. Don’t forget to get that thyroid checked out, man. Could save you some roasting down the road.

    Yo, Mark. Thought you might like this:

    1. french-roast
      french-roast April 11, 2016 at 2:45 am |

      I had filet mignon veal with morilles mushrooms that marinated in a decent Porto for 24 hours yesterday for supper, while my gorgeous and sexy wife was eating raw carrots and some beets. I am done with cigs, for good.

      1. Andy
        Andy April 11, 2016 at 8:29 am |

        Wife and two veg? Very English. Have a sweet potato on me, Napoleon!

  20. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 11, 2016 at 9:11 am |

    Thanks, Andy. Maybe I should do wheat grass and lie in the sun.

    No, I’m just talking to myself, French Roast. Sorry to drag you into it. I start thinking stuff like “outside the mind there are no things”, and my eyes get filled up with blue-green algae. One potato, two potato, three wheat grass, run for it.

    Not of the human world, these diets.

    I do like that part about “you yourself must tune your spirit all day long.” Sort of like an electric guitar with new strings, I guess—my spirit.

    1. Andy
      Andy April 11, 2016 at 9:59 am |

      “Maybe I should do wheat grass and lie in the sun”
      “You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
      But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
      And filter and fibre your blood!”

    2. Mumbles
      Mumbles April 11, 2016 at 10:11 am |

      You’re in good company, Mark, re; “I’m just talking to myself.”

  21. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon April 11, 2016 at 3:12 pm |

    “The summit of the peak of the mystic crossing
    Is not the human world;
    Outside the mind there are no things—
    Blue mountains fill the eyes.

    … Look at those Ancients; when they awaken like this, what truth is this? It won’t do just to have me tell you; you yourself must tune your spirit all day long. If you can attain fulfillment the way these people did, then someday you will let down your hand for people in the crossroads, and won’t consider it a difficult thing, either.”

    (Blue Cliff Record, 7th Case)

    Thomas Cleary is a terrible, terrible writer and does not seem to understand Buddhism at all, at all.

  22. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 11, 2016 at 10:08 pm |

    Mumbles, ya found me out:

    “Thus there is no private thought without a corresponding public reality. “An ‘inner process,’?” as Wittgenstein put it, “stands in need of outward criteria.” To phrase it in Cartesian terms: I think, therefore I am part of a community of others.”

    GC, you have your own private idaho, and I’m looking for the corresponding public reality- help me out. Ha ha!

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