Zen Wisdom for the 21st Century
Zen only has the meaning you give it.
I decided to write a book about Zen six years ago. Before I proclaimed myself Zen or dared to proclaim I was a Master or any such label. I was just this old dude living a peaceful life.
My Zen is organic. Like ancient Chinese Taoism. The Tao reminds the student to experience “life” as it truly is. Life cannot be understood as a concept, or experienced while sequestered away in a monastery, or in front of a TV.
I contend that by living life through the actual conscious awareness of moment to moment everyday “being,” a person will organically become enlightened.
My Zen is about engaging in life to the fullest; diving headfirst into the actual living experience; embracing whatever cards you were dealt. Removing the dirt covering the diamond.
I’m an old man, a Way Shower, a dreamer; a traveler; a storyteller, a modern-day Shaman wrapped in a Zen bun. Many years ago, I was told by a most powerful Shaman medicine woman, that I was one, “You were born a Shaman. Go out there and be who you are.” It took thirty more years to figure out that I am that too.
Maybe it took moving to Mexico, to a place where nobody noticed me, to proclaim, “I’m the Highway Shaman! A Zen Master! That’s who I am!” Of course, nobody cares because everyone is locked into their belief of identity. They accept themselves as a common worker unworthy of a dignified title, or a college graduate with meaningful degree letters, or a special someone who climbed the corporate latter with an ever more meaningful title, or the upholder of the religious “truths,” who has hung in there long enough to become a bishop or rabbi or a proclaimed Zen Master.
All these people of earned title and rank are upholders of tradition. They cling to their rank out of fear of change, of losing what they’ve “earned,” their security or adoration. They rarely consider the right of an institutional authority to bestow them their rank and importance. Who is the real authority, programmed man, or God?
What about the brave Golden Age Warriors of Change who proclaim, “I am my own authority and the God of my reality?”
Zen allows you to be whoever you want to be.
I am that warrior, and after a lifetime of study and real-life experiences, my Inner Authority anoints mef a Shaman and Zen Master. And says, “So be it.” Who do you want to be?
As a Shaman, I’ve mastered working directly with Spirit Guides and have nurtured a Zen life and written two Zen books. I have no problem proclaiming, “The Highway Shaman is a Zen Master!” What the hell?
A friend asked, “Why put a label on yourself? No Zen Master calls himself a Zen Master? What Shaman would call himself a Master? Let go of the title and just be.” She’s right. I could do that, but what fun would that be?
As I see it, the Zen culture as we know it has it all backwards . . . maybe not all . . . but to me the storied Zen Master part makes no sense. That’s probably what she was referring to, the storied culture, and in that context how it doesn’t make sense for me to proclaim myself a Zen Master. Since . . . Do I have a temple? No. A Zen Center? No. Do I have accepted published teachings? No. Do I teach people how to sit and meditate? No. Do I offer riddles to solve? No. Do I have any students? No. Not one!
Do I have any attachments to having or not having any of that shit? No.
All those “Masters” out there, in their temples or Zen Centers, who have any of what I just mentioned, teachings and students, have attachments. Zen is about having No attachments. I have no attachments. I have Nothing! So, who is the Zen Master here? I only have what I make up in this moment, that I am . . . okay . . . a Zen Master.
So, fuck you if you can’t take a joke, but your mind will argue, “No Zen Master would say that.” Are you sure?
Is the authority sitting in front of “their” people gathered in a box, a church, synagogue, or temple still relevant in this emerging Golden Age? Does a sheltered life, a good memory of scripture and chants, and years of repetition make one a qualified teacher? A Zen teacher whose mind is full of information is not teaching Zen. Zen is “Mindless.”
Being mindless, I’m certainly not a qualified learned religious guy. Zen is either not a religion or the only religion. In its simple reality, Zen is just a way of Being.
A real Zen teacher is a master of fuck-ups, earning enlightenment from a million wrong turns into blind alleys, forever self-correcting. Discarding countless false desires and lies, he or she finally becomes Authentic. In this place, he or she will eventually realize that all attachment to 3D thoughts and worldly things are illusionary traps; that in the months and years to come, humanity will move beyond 3D illusion and into 5th dimension consciousness. Universal Love.
My Zen is about honoring You and engaging in life to the fullest; diving headfirst into actual living experience; embracing whatever cards we’ve been dealt. Removing the dirt covering the Diamond Spirit. Letting go of the illusion.
I wrote this Zen book to remind myself, and you, that we are already there, already multidimensional Zen Masters, and we need only remember that we’re who we’ve been searching for.
My stories, which could easily be your stories, if you were to proclaim your worthiness. I encourage that . . . . . .
Zen only has the meaning you give it.
I decided to write a book about Zen six years ago. Before I proclaimed myself Zen or dared to proclaim I was a Master or any such label. I was just this old dude in Paris.
I was sitting outside the loveliest cafe . . . it had to be Paris. Nowhere else compares. I was wearing a black beret, later realizing I was the only man in Paris who wore that sort of hat. I didn’t care. I felt French sitting at a little two-top, sipping my cafe latte, just me under my beret. It was a perfect October day, not a cloud in the blue sky; ideal weather to be outside eating a mouth-watering croissant, butter, and jam. The French locals on each side of me, with their cafe lattes, were watching other proud Parisians moving about, walking up and down the five-hundred-year-old alley. The sun was peaking over the roof-tops, no cars; cornucopia vegetable stands, bakeries which heavenly smells, chocolate shops . . . beautiful young women strolling by, smoking cigarettes – old men like me thinking about what if, of days gone by, of wine with pretty girls, making love in a room above us; in Paris. Each of my ten days were ripe with new birthing’s; juiciness in each moment, just being there; the lattes, the women, the smells, the lyrical French words; breathing in Paris, realizing . . . this is Zen. I should write a book about it! And still, you’ll wonder . . . Why Zen? After what I just wrote, my eyes cross with that question and I have to say . . . “Can’t you see? Zen is Life . . . it’s the meaning of Life.” I pause for a very long Zen moment, “What was the question?”
Zen only has the meaning you give it.
Sitting on that simple wooden chair, in front of that tiny table, in that cobblestone alley in Pairs, there was no place in the whole world I would rather be. There was nothing more I wanted, nothing I lacked, no other desires. The white aproned waiter was there at the very moment I thought him to be, “Une latte, merci,” I said in my best French accent, from Google translator. And in the next moment, there it was, my latte with art in foam. I loved being there alone. I didn’t want to be bothered by the girl, or those American tourists a couple tables down. Wearing my beret, I was French. I was living in Paris for Christ’s sake, in a fifth-floor walkup. There was no time. I could sit at that sidewalk table from dawn to dusk, and no one would tell me to leave. I owned that table, that sidewalk, that alley, that section of Paris. I was alive there, in every single moment which passed me by, until I thought, “What’s next?”
My days in Paris had no rhyme or reason to them. There was nothing I needed to find or figure out, really nothing to plan out, no one thing I really needed to see, not even the Louvre or the Seine or the Arch de Triumph. Notre Dame of course, but no hurry. Each moment I sat there I felt as though I could live and die in that alley with my cafe latte, or a glass of French Chardonnay, a cheese baguette for lunch and some grilled fish and Brussel Sprouts for dinner, more wine, the whole fucking bottle, why not? I was the only old guy on the street wearing a beret . . . in Paris . . . living each moment of each day with total sensitivity and lack of sense, nonsense, all at once. How more irrationally exciting can a life be? To be aware of, immersed in, the nonsense of life, and let it be okay.
We live in a rational world, where we strive to make sense out of everything, even while on vacation. People at leisure fill their schedule with things to do, different but the same as how they would schedule their working days. All planned out. Why? What’s the point of not doing if you bring your doing with you?
Zen is all about being, about throwing that fucking schedule out the window on the way to the airport. It’s about embracing your every opportunity to be Free. Zen dwells in a state of consciousness beyond accomplishment, beyond thinking, void of theology and religion, flipping the finger at dogma and “should be/do” philosophies. It is the acceptance and enjoyment of the natural flow of life.
This Zen moment hopefully makes no sense.
In these pages I will point you to the void and invite you to hang out there. Sit with me at that little table; the other seat is waiting. The latte is tres delicieux, very delicious, the croissant will melt in your mouth. It is this moment; I will be sharing with you. This moment, and then this moment. Always a new story to tell.
Possibly helping you to remember what you maybe never learned but should never forget.
This book is where the Master you can’t find will answer your question, “Where can I find what I never knew I’ve been looking for?” “It’s right here,” I tell you. “Put on your beret and sit with me, if you will.”
What am I to do with each moment I have?
In the early 2010’s, I lived in the Old City of Chiang Mai, Thailand. When my four years in that small studio were up, I should have left Thailand, maybe come to Mexico, but I had two more places to live; two more Zen Gardens to build.
During my years in the Old City, my favorite morning place was Cafe de Than Aaon. Chiang Mai must have the best selection of coffee cafes in Asia. Crowded places don’t necessarily make for the best office, but I would go to this particular cafe just about every morning to sit at “my” table and write for hours undisturbed. A gal would bring my latte without ordering, and my oatmeal. Here I had a free office with a street view and full service for around a dollar an hour. This is where I met Francoise, who lived in Paris. She need here book to be edited with proper English, so invited me to come visit her there, which I did in October 2015. She was a considerate hostess and although I expressed my gratitude, perhaps I was a bit inconsiderate, from her perspective. I didn’t need a mother cooking me dinner when the streets of Paris France were five flights down.
I’m not sure if expected consideration and spontaneous Zen are compatible.
I knew then, as I know now, that we only have this moment. I had ten days in Paris, maybe never to return, so I wanted to make every moment count. So, I would ask myself, “What am I to do with each moment I have here?”
Zen asks, what am I to do with each moment I have here?
In this present moment, here in Mexico, the sun is shining as always. There’s a cool breeze and upon waking, I sit at my veranda, for my Zen moment and sip my coffee. A much different ambiance than Paris, but equally Zen. I spend my time being with the plants and flowers in my yard, its nature catering to my serenity. Birds land in the nearby trees, tweeting, singing the morning songs. The leaves have their own kind of music, filling the background with their swaying sounds. Tweet, tweet, coo, swish, ahh.
Each morning upon rising, I breathe in the new day and listen. Before coffee. Before breakfast. Before doing. I begin with being. On the veranda, I welcome the warmth of the sun in the blue sky above as it takes the chill from the crisp morning air. I’m blessed watching the beautiful palms sway, the mango trees with abundant fruit, the large cacti, and the red bougainvillea in the yard. I’m happy with my newest Zen creation.
The children, down at the pool, are laughing and squealing. They don’t care who’s listening. They aren’t considerate about disturbing some old man’s solitude. They don’t even know I exist, and if they did it wouldn’t affect their enjoyment of life. They are in their own Zen world. Kids are who they are whenever and wherever they can be. They remind me it’s time to smile.
Zen is laughing children and fresh brewed coffee
Inside, while writing this chapter, I think of the people I love, and the earth I love, and the beauty of all creation I love; and the me I love. I lean back and contemplate my very existence and think to myself. “Is sitting around writing books the best use of my precious time? Is this the best place for me to be?”
Of course, it is. Why would I be anywhere else?
My inner voice reminds me to, “Enjoy this moment.” I breathe in and out, and then chuckle. “How could I possibly be anywhere else when there’s only this here and now moment?” I can leave to create another Zen ambiance, but I rather like it here.
I think about my two sons. I look at my computer and I’m reminded of the blessings of technology. I can email or Skype them; to include them in a next Zen moment. I think about the news. It’s a curse when too much of it takes me away from being in this Ahhh moment. A mind drifting away can screw up the most wonderful ambiance. I smile. I’m still Present. Sometimes being led astray in thought is fun. And then, I remember to breathe. I remember to say Ahhh.
In the moment of remembrance, I rejoice with the reward of my I Am Presence reality; remembering that each moment is precious.
Today I have decided that this is my best moment to be alive.
ZEN STORY #1
During the civil wars in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and take control. In one village, everyone fled just before the army arrived – everyone except the Zen master. Curious about this old fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of man this master was. When he wasn’t treated with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the general burst into anger. “You fool,” he shouted as he reached for his sword, “don’t you realize you are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking an eye!” But despite the threat, the master seemed unmoved. “And do you realize,” the master replied calmly, “that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?”
While walking blind, you will disappear into the “it” of what isn’t it.
To see the real it, you must stop looking for it.
To know it, you must stop questioning it.
You, the fool, must let it go. And keep walking.
You must stay lost in your not knowing it.
You not wanting it.
Until you find “it,” without seeking it.
You may find a hell to burn the isn’t it in,
But for heaven’s sake, you will purify the isn’t it.
You’ll find peace in finding it. For the Zen of “it.”
In the meantime,
Your river will flow, and it will always keep flowing,
as it will.
Your flowers will keep blooming.
With the fire of desire to keep the bloom, it, alive,
you will walk away from your illusions,
And then you, as is your nature,
will truly experience this life, as it is.
To be fully alive,
you must live it, your life, to the fullest.
Sit in meditation for a half hour every day.
It calms everything down.
Calms the busy mind and busy body.
Here’s a wonderful exercise. Next time you go to the market, after you park your car, sit on a bench outside. Check the time. Then just sit there. Don’t do anything. Don’t talk to anyone. Sit still, breathing in and breathing out, calming your thoughts, for five minutes.
The first time you do this you won’t believe how long five minutes takes. Five minutes lasts forever, while doing nothing.
Then go do your shopping. Once back outside, before you go to your car, sit for another five minutes.
Once you get in the habit of doing this several times a day, you won’t believe how refreshing it is. As a bonus you will observe how frantic people are, just going about their daily lives, rushing from here to there, not resting their engine.
You might decide you don’t want to be like those people.
Imagine you’re a car. You start your engine at 7 am and head out on the highway and keep driving until 11 pm that night. The engine is going non-stop for sixteen hours a day, day after day after day.
But you’re not a car, you’re a human. You’re on the go from 7 to 11, sitting eating, or sitting watching TV, or sitting at your desk doing your work, or walking the dog, or at the gym. Whatever you’re doing, your engine is still engaged. How long do you think even the best engine can take this punishment, day after day? Eventually it will break down. Consider turning your engine off, many times during the day.
How do you do that? Turn the key.
With Zen we accept our place in the organic flow of life.
When we step back and look at our life from a fresh perspective; from an open-minded overview of what we’re doing: our job, where we live, the stress of the struggle to “make it,” the relationships . . . we can ask, is this where I’m thriving? Is this where I’m encouraged, loved, and supported, living an altruistic life?
Altruistic is defined as unselfish, compassionate, kind, and public-spirited.
A Zen life is authentic and altruistic.
I read the story of a wealthy globetrotting high-level corporate executive, who was robbed at gunpoint in her hotel room in Nepal, and barely escaped with her life. At that moment, she realized that all her achievements, her so-called success and wealth, wasn’t making her happy. Having escaped death, she had an epiphany, a second chance; a chance to choose a new life. She immediately quit her corporate job and became a Buddhist nun in Bhutan, volunteering to help people in need. (altruistic) She wrote a book about how happy her life turned out to be.
Our #1 question should be, Am I living MY life?
I came from an educated family. My father, uncles and four brothers chose the career path. Their’s was a well thought out plan. They did what was required to get the job, get the promotions, meet the wife, accumulate stuff, and then hung in there for thirty or forty years, retiring with a bunch of money, never distributed in altruistic ways. Their lives may have worked for them, it’s none of my business.
I was born a truth seeker, which became obvious in my senior year of college. While sitting in the classroom box, I was compelled to be honest and tell the truth; that I didn’t belong in the next box they said a degree would guarantee. In the choice of options, a secure career was not what I considered a fulfilling life path.
After college, I backpacked around the world, nearly dying in the Himalayas. The miracle of my survival indicated that I was blessed, no matter what path I chose. During those months and following years, I learned about Zen; that experiences are metaphors, spiritual lessons. My journey to the unknown regions of the world, far from the comfort zone of corporate climbers, was all about learning how to flow with “my” river. If I found myself stuck in the rapids of dangerous waters, fighting the current of my questionable choice, I realized my strength; that I was quite able to self-adjust and make the next best choice. Even then I asked, “Is what I’m doing for my greater good?” The answer, even while dying, was always, “Yes.”
For the next twenty-five years, I would quit one job and choose another. Marrying a lovely woman and birthing two sons was a blessing, another river which would change its course.
That river took me to another town; meeting other people, doing other things in order to learn how to love myself. I was an artist, the future Highway Shaman. My work required alone time to create beauty.
All these changes required a great deal of Courage.
In the years to come, moving from job to job, place to place, while caught in the rapids of my river, I was often dismissed as a fool, making yet another mindless, irrational, nonsense choice. At least from my family’s point of view. “Why quit your secure job with the State, the restaurants, building houses and so on?” they’d ask. “Because my gut said, ‘time to go.’” And I did.
Standing on the cliff thirty feet above the pool, I would mindlessly jump, while all the career slaves were thinking, “what an idiot.”
Zen says, “Get out of your mind and JUMP!!!!”
I didn’t sabotage my “required destiny” of an ordinary life with a well-paying career. I simply did my life differently. I decided early on that I was free to change directions whenever my Spirit felt stuck. I decided to be okay doing whatever it was I thoroughly enjoyed doing. Being a Creator.
Zen encourages you to choose bliss.
The “road less traveled” is a journey into a realm of consciousness beyond anyone’s expectations, beyond society’s definition of success; to a place beyond obeying others’ dogma and “should be/do” philosophies. As a sovereign being I was allowed to say, “Fuck it. This is what I would rather have, over there is where I want to be. “This” is what I want to be doing with my life and these are the people I want to be doing it with.” And so be it.
Zen has no agenda.
Before I began writing this book, I had to laugh. If Zen has no agenda, what in the hell was I doing trying to give it one?
I could have titled it “How to live your life in peace and harmony without getting totally sucked into the bullshit of the world out there.” That would take some explaining. Anyway, the point is, Zen is all about living in peace, harmony, and happiness, in this Here and Now moment. A “normal life” is all about dealing with the crazy distractions which upset us.
Zen Wisdom for the 21st Century is a reminder on how to live your life in the most positive and healthy way possible.
Imagine floating down a peaceful river on a lovely sunny day, wanting to mind your own business, wanting to be away from all your problems. Suddenly an obstacle pops up, forcing you to drastically swerve to avoid the crash. You settle back down, and then another obstacle pops up, then another, one after another, ruining your peaceful day.
The obstacles are everywhere; the everyday endless drama, which controls our lives. Problems at work and at home. Problems with the wife and kids and neighbors and in-laws. Our peace of mind is distracted with politics, religion, sports, disturbing movies, unfulfilled desires, illness, the damn cat, or the rats in at attic. It all adds up. Dealing with these obstacles takes a tremendous amount of our time and energy. We feel stuck, drained, and don’t know what to do about all these frustrating obstacles, which over-shadows the happiness we seek.
A “normal life” is a constant reaction to distraction. Eventually we get fed up with the bullshit and die.
Zen is a choice around the distractive obstacles.
Choosing a “normal life,” requires submission to the constant invasion of armies of distractions, attempting to get you to submit to their force. Most people don’t realize how often they accept the raping and pillaging of their sense of happiness and well-being. They don’t have a clue on how to float around the obstacles in the river, and/or how to stand tall while facing the angry obstacles of confusing and unpleasant distractions, without blinking an eye.
If you were to read this book from cover to cover, it’s quite possible for you to move from dis-harmony and submission to real personal power; to become the Zen Master of your life.