Zen Meditation, is Not Really About Meditation

A long time ago, I wrote the post The Agenda Mentality.

Well, meditation is directly related to that. Because…

True meditation means for a person to arrive at a “no-agenda state.” So really, the goal of meditation is not meditation.

And yes, you heard me right.

Meditation is unlike anything else that we normally do everyday and all that we are taught to do. That is, almost everything we learn and do follows the mental state that can be sum up as “getting from one place to the next.”

Bu to meditate is to be completely here and now. There is no where else to go.

To be completely here and now is to realize and simply be your whole being. And that involves your body, your mind, sensation from 5 senses, your surrounding, and ultimately, everything — inside and outside of you. Your perception is wide open and accepting of whatever your senses tell you.

This is the state of being, which we are all capable of. Meditation is simply a mean for us to practice it and eventually, be in such state of being without trying – doing without doing.

To fully immerse in the experience of meditation, you cannot be doing something specifically. If you try to arrive at “using all your senses,” you have obstructed your ability to do so.

So in a way, we could qualify meditation as a practice of doing nothing. And to do nothing, it is helpful to first be able to observe and re-discover that you are doing something.

Therefore, we are provided with guidelines and steps to meditate. But keep in mind, to meditate is not to meditate, that is, to follow steps and guidelines.

The easiest way to meditate, at first, is by sitting because in sitting, you are at least not doing something physically. Something called “Za-zen.”

It will take many of us a period of time to relearn the ability to simply sit still.

So after that, we move on to the mental part. It is irrefutable that modern people are addicted to thoughts. We find our logical minds so useful that we cannot stop using it. Therefore, we are to sit and simply observe our thoughts.

And we do not try to stop thinking in meditation. If we think, we let it happen and simply notice what we are thinking. Eventually it will go away. If we try to stop thinking, we just end up thinking about trying to stop thinking which is another thought.

Beyond the mental part, we have the body. While we can watch our thoughts, we can also watch our body. We can observe all the sensations at the various parts of body. Feel where the tension is. Simply to the instruction about dealing with thoughts, we do not try to relax because trying to relax is itself an effort that causes tension. Simply pay attention.

After awhile, we will notice the intermingling relationship between our mind and body. When we think different kinds of thoughts, we cause different kinds of sensations/tension in our body. So we pay attention to both, which including the reception of our 5 senses and our surrounding is all a part of “the whole experience.”

Of course there are other techniques involved, such as lots of breathing exercises, but that is an whole other topic. One tip is for us to re-learn belly breathing (aka deep breathing) and then we can learn to focus on breathing to help practicing meditation.

Because there is one tip that is very useful, is that it is impossible for us to pay fully attention to our breathing and to be thinking at the same time.

To re-iterate, meditation is about none of the particulars described about meditation. Just that if it must be said, it is a practice of a state of being.

Learning to be here and now.

Not “another thing to do to achieve peace”. Or… well, just forget that goal-setting mindset.

And you start by rediscovering your innate awareness and letting it be free — by paying attention. Pay attention to your mind. Pay attention to your body. Pay attention to your surroundings. Pay attention to things you cannot see. Pay attention to everything.

Thus the story of a master telling a student what’s the secret of practice of zen (meditation) is “Attention, attention, attention.”

Originally posted 2013-01-08 00:45:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

To help my cash flow, I refinanced

It’s either networth or cash flow when we measure and talk about the health of our personal finance and how to improve it.

In many cases, money is risked or sacrificed to generate more cash flow through buying some sort of investment to generate monthly pay out. Vice versa is also true when asset that generates cash flow is sold for a lum sum of cash.

I recently just closed on my refinance of my condo… thank god~! This one took longer than I thought. The background story is that I bought my place in 2008 with a 10% down payment when I got lucky in a small window where banks had loosened their lending requirement. That said, I was left to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) as part of my mortgage. That’s a $200+ on top! Oh, what did I choose to put on myself… anyways, with the recent property price coming back up and mortgage rate down more than ever, I decided to refinance.


So in my case, I “sacrificed” many thousands to get myself that 20% equity to remove the PMI by going through refinance. That plus the 4% interest rate on a 30-year mortgage, I had reduced my monthly payment by more than $500. Although the “sacrificing” makes me feel sad, I think and feel that it is worth it because if I lose my current job, I have more options such as taking my time to find a job I want, doing a simpler job that means less pay, or even starting my own business. Less fixed cost to deal with is good.

A few other take away points from my refinance experience…

  1. Never expect to close with 30 days or on time because most cases… it won’t. It took me about 1.5 months for this refinance.
  2. For condo owner, know your HOA’s insurance coverage of your dwelling. Because if it already covers the reconstruction of the unit to original form, you won’t need to show prove of your OWN insurance coverage. Unfortunately, I had a young loan agent who is not familiar and that caused me some headaches with handling my home insurance coverage and potential higher premium that is not necessary.
  3. Pending sales DO NOT make direct comparables in the property price appraisal process. Only final sales do.

I was hoping my appraisal price to be higher so I can put less money down in the refinance process. Maybe if the market gets really hot next year, I can try again. BIG if. A man can feel greedy, right? Me think it’s ok as long as I don’t act too greedy.

At any rate, it’s hard for the mortgage rate to go much lower… and many real estate market has rebounded in price. That makes now a good refinance opportunity, especially if it does not cost you a lot relative to what you had saved.

Originally posted 2012-12-26 23:14:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Wu Wei – The Way of Non-Striving

Last time I talked about compromise to handle duality in reality. An improved way to contemplate this is Wu Wei.

Directly translated, Wu Wei (無為) means no action. But that completely loses the meaning and it may lead people to think it is some sort of fatalism. Wu Wei is NOT no action or simply not doing anything.

A better English interpretation for Wu Wei would be “the way of non-striving.”

The following questions are why this is very very relevant for our every day life. Ask yourself, are you struggling? Are you trying very very hard to achieve or become something? Do you feel that you deserve that something because you work very hard? And when you don’t get it, you feel sad and suffer?


The following may sound mad and completely contrary to common sense that we are taught. My realization is that when we try so hard, try too hard, often we don’t get what we want. And even if we do get what we want, we soon realize how big of a mess we have on our hands that will require much more effort to clean up than the effort we spent getting what we want.

Hence, I think it is important for us to realize Wu Wei. They always tell us to innovate and think outside the box, right? Well, here we go.

Wu Wei — the Way of Non-Striving. It is action without striving, without trying. It is more like natural action. Action that fits in the flow of situation, is appropriate to the objective reality, and harmonizes/supports/balances the many dualistic relationships we have around us.

Stop trying.

When you try, you don’t do. (you are not 100%)
When you stop trying, you simply do. (now you can be 100%)

Sound simple? It is. Is it easy? Not really. It requires much practice.

Whatever it is that you want to do, we continuously pay attention, learn, understand, practice, and repeat the process. At some point, after enough practice and repetition, you can let it go. Then you simply do.

Primarily, wu wei is recommended to be applied to living life… a life of awareness.

Some examples base on personal experience…

Like a pianist who needs to perform a piece, after much practicing, he knows exactly which keys he needs to hit and how exactly wants to hit it to convey his emotion. When he perform, he simply does it. However, if he has to think about it and tries to hit the key the way he wants, he will miss or play the note different than the original intention. Not only, he probably will lose his flow to finish the whole piece.

Same thing for a vocalist. The mere act of trying to hit a high note will disable his ability to do so because of the muscle tension that is generated from trying.

The same thing for basketball player. The talk about about play being “in a zone” or shooting “in rhythm”. Do you think the player is thinking how he wants to shoot the ball when he shoots the ball? Nope. He simply does it.

We always say we must be free. But the mere thought of that we must be free binds us to a concept which takes away the freedom.

We are always told that we must be happy. But the mere thought that we must be happy makes us try so hard to find happiness that we are not happy.

Our over zealous effort to control all things in life are nothing but self-defeating proposition. This “fighting” mentality is one such common sense that can be let go, if you sincerely want good things to happen.

One cannot ALWAYS be happy.
One cannot be perfect.
There is up and down.
People come and people go.

See things as they are and then simply react. Can you do that? Do you have doubt? Then you will keep striving.

There is nothing you can do about the problem because there is no problem. All the drama in life are all self-created. Yes, it is very real when you have created it. But can you not create it? Can you live without drama? Do you need to be excited, surprised, elevated all the time? Then it will be no end in sight. It will be a moving door.

There is not an end to strive for. That doesn’t mean you do nothing. That means whatever you do, with realization of Wu Wei, you WILL do your best… you are held back by no ideals nor desires. If you must conceptualize, it is doing for the sake of doing, for that moment of greatness. That is being in the flow. That is “playing in a zone”.

Without striving, you stop trying too hard.
You act when it is the time to act.
You don’t act when it is the time to not act.

How do you practice? For most of us… Slow down. Stop. Allow silence. Be Still. Breathe. Pay attention around you. Repeat. Thousand and thousand times.

Because of this realization, I am very wary to use terms such as “fight for”, “to defeat”, “to beat”… how we claim we need to “fight for peace”, or that “love and compassion can defeat suffering”. But there is nothing to beat. When you are aware, realize how all things are connected, you act without striving — Wu Wei. We will all simply love and be compassionate, and we simply do it because not just that it is good for us, but that things can be so much worse.

Let go of striving and you will also let go of suffering. You don’t try to let go. You simply let go. And by then, we no longer need to fight violence, no longer need to defeat suffering, no longer need to fight… we would “win” without a fight.

Additionally, in the act of fighting, attempting to defeat negativity, we validate the very negativity we want to defeat. We emphasize the negativity, and we make it an important thing in life. Is negativity what you want in your life? If not, then let go. Not saying they are not real. You decide for yourself if your pain, depression, problems are so important that you MUST fight to remove them. When you do that, are you not putting more emphasis on them instead, and with emphasis, are you not keeping them in your life?

The negativity may be very real it may take some time, but slowly, let it go bit by bit. Through practice, you simply let go. You act without striving.

But if you are a courageous soul, perhaps you just let go. That is also possible. In an instant, you would have realize Wu Wei. You ARE free. You no longer need to try to be free.

Practice, is simply living life with awareness. Observing yourself mentally and physically. Observing others around you. Observing events around you. Don’t try to see. Simply pay attention. As you learn to pay attention, the more and more you will come to see. Living in awareness becomes natural. And over time, life seems to be become easy, but keep in mind, making things easy is not the goal, the essense of Wu Wei.

If you can learn and live Wu Wei, I doubt your life will then be “that bad”.

You stop making a mess by trying too hard.
You act or not act without striving.
You simply are you.
You just be.

PS. This is kind of a sequel to The Agenda Mentality – Doing is Always a Mean to an End.

Originally posted 2009-06-09 22:38:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Can People Really Change?

Yes. I believe people can change, that it is possible for anyone to create positive change.

Then how come people seem to be unable to do so?
Even when they know for sure they want positive change…
Be it personal finance, health, relationship, or life-in-general…

I will take a crack at the answers, and I hope you are ready to read with an open mind.

Wrong Expectation

When people talk about change, they often mean that they want change without effort. They want magic pills. Everything people do, everything people want, is a matter of instant gratification. People are high on the instant gratification drug. They want something and they want it NOW. Simultaneously, they want results but they do not want to pay the price.

Obviously, they could not be more wrong, if they truly want permanent positive change. That is why you and I keep hearing people keep talking or thinking about changing this and that but never see any results. Or they tried this and that but nothing worked. Perhaps you are one of them. How can one expect to change with such expectation?

Change is difficult. Change is never easy. And nobody wants to hear that. Change involves being uncomfortable. That is why the phrase “go out of your comfort zone” exists.

The Curse of Habits

The ways one person acts and thinks are habits. Creating positive change means substituting bad habits with new ones. Old habits require discipline to get rid of. New habits require discipline to adopt. The longer you have maintained an old habit, the longer it takes you to learn and adopt a new behavior as a habit. This is the nature of habit. This is the reason why it becomes harder to change the older one is. And yes, it is possible to change even if you are mega-old.

To create permanent positive change is a constant struggle of changing habits. And it WILL take time and patience.

Doing Differently Feels “Wrong”

Change means doing differently, and doing differently is awkward. To change means having lots of awkward moments because things you have never done before naturally feels wrong (and uncomfortable) when you first try it. People are not ready to do “wrong” and be uncomfortable.

One of my favorate quote from the movie 40 year old virgin:

Andy: This doesn’t feel right.
Jay: Of course it don’t feel right! What has felt right for you doesn’t work! You need to try some wrong, dawg.

The Intractable Ego

People is obsessed and in love with being right. They will do whatever it takes to defend what they think is right. Everything else is wrong. When you let your ego dictate you like that, you will be intractable. If your ego is too strong to bend, then it is unfortunate because part of changing means admitting what you think is right is in fact wrong.

Not a fan of finding faults within yourself? Then ask yourself the question, “Do I want to be right, or do I want to be better?” What is your answer?

Options and Backdoors

People make it an option to change. I am not saying you must change. If you are happy the way you are, that is wonderful and I am happy for you. However, if you want to change, you must make the choice to change and not let it just be an option. You cannot leave yourself with backdoors to back out. You must finish what you started.

And you must not dissuade yourself with crappy excuses such as “Yes, but…”, “I am too busy” because whenever I hear people say those, it means they are not ready to do what it takes to change.


Believe it or not, when you start to change your behaviors, you make others uncomfortable. Not only that, you may find yourself having difficulty to communicate to others and to have others understand you. This turns into a certain degree of loneliness each person who is changing must face. And it is possible that you may have to find a whole new set of friends.

Additionally, if you are striving to do something extraordinary, it is certain that you will face discouragement and isolation from people you know. Because not everyone has the same goal and perception to be extraordinary, or as I would call it — greatness. So really, not everyone, not many will understand you.

If you want to change, ask yourself the following questions…
Am I ready to get uncomfortable?
Am I ready to struggle constantly?
Am I ready to do it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year?
Am I ready to be wrong?
Am I ready to go from the starting line to the finishing line without giving up?
Am I ready to be different from your peers, friends, and family?

Lastly, I think it boils down to the next few questions…
Do I want to be better?
Do I want it bad enough?
Am I ready to do whatever it takes?

Originally posted 2008-05-09 17:26:52. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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