Monday, September 14, 2009

If You Wish to Understand...

During one of Nonin's Dharma talks at a Sesshin he said, "If you wish to understand your past, look at your present: If you wish to understand your future, look at your present."

For some reason this stuck in my head as it had a ring of truth to it. I did not give it much thought until just recently. I was thinking about what Buddha had said about how all we are is a result of our thinking. All that we are arises with our thoughts. So, I inserted 'thinking' into Nonin's quote and it reads like this:

"If you wish to understand your past, look at your present thinking: If you wish to understand your future, look at your present thinking."

As a mental health professional many of the people I see are lost and confused and want to know why their life 'sucks' and what they can do about it. They want to explore the past and find a cause or an excuse or someone to blame for their problems. Now, this does have some therapeutic value, however, if you really examine why life sucks now, take a look at what you are thinking now.

If your thinking is full of negativity, bias, jealousy, aversion, greed your life will be full of negativity, bias, jealousy, etc. Everything in your life right now is a result of your thoughts. Your life right now is a total culmination and manifestation of all that you have thought! When you examine your present thoughts you are seeing your well as your future.

So, if you want to have a better future, start thinking better thoughts. Notice how all great spiritual traditions and teachers focus on positivity, joy, love, compassion. Why? Because we become what we think about and we get what we think about. In therapy, I have my clients begin with counting their blessings and see how there life does have some great things going on...and to focus on gratitude moment by moment. For some clients, I teach them how to Gassho with thanksgiving to everything in their lives...and you know what? Their lives do begin to change.

Entering into a Dojo and recieving formal training in a traditional martial art has lots of bowing and showing signs of respect. This is why a Dojo and your martial art is also a healing art. You are healing yourself (and others) just by coming in and following the martial way. You become transformed through these actions of respect and gratitude. Notice how a Dojo usually has lots of smiling and laughing going on? It is really a happy place.

Buddha spoke of three things really. A summation of his teachings boils down to this:
1. Do good things.
2. Avoid bad things.
3. Discipline your mind.

This third thing, when it happens, helps you manage the first two. The process of disciplining the mind involves Zazen. This is the perfect vehicle for examining the self. Dogen-zenji, the founder of Soto Zen in Japan, spoke of how Zen is the process of examining the self...and is enlightenment itself.

Well, this post is getting long...maybe I will continue again on this subject. It was just running through my head so now you can have it.

Hands palm to palm,


  1. Not every Dojo is like this. There is a Dojo here in town where no one is allowed to laugh and the place has a heavy cloud over it. Many have ruined their lives in the name of service to that Dojo and that Dojo's Teacher.

    Some people may read this and wonder just what you are talking about, but it is very true.
    The first step towards healing is in realizing the wound is within, not wondering whom to blame.
    The Buddha illustrated this greatly when he said that the priority is in removing the arrow and healing the wound, not in asking from where the arrow was shot or whom did the shooting.

    In this way we seek something truly substantial, instead of wandering this way and that, we focus on the here and now and are able to do something about the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
    Does it truly matter how we got there? Only after the fact, and in doing our work in the moment we may come to understand the circumstance itself, including what lead to it, then it really does not matter.

  2. Yeah, I know those type of dojo's and teachers. I figure I just serve as a 'bad' example they can show their students...and I just laugh and laugh, cause I am having one helluva great time!