Zen Thoughts

For Tough Times

Conversations With A Friend

Zen Thoughts - Conversations with a friend. 2 people chatting on a ridge of rocks as the sun sets.

Zen Thoughts - Introduction

Zen Thoughts were originally in the form of an email series of 50 messages spread over 2 months, but now presented here in the current format for wider access.

  • Zen Thoughts were written in the style of a conversation with a friend who was going through a tough time, the messages you see here are my responses and all based on painful personal experience.
  • The link at the end of each piece features an article which expands on the theme.
  • Zen Thoughts were written and published in sequence as presented.
  • You could read one a day, as originally intended, or you may choose to just scroll through. Either way, I hope that something here resonates with you.

If you wish to contact me you can reach me - here

You Can't Think Your Way Out Of This One

Stop thinking - you can't THINK your way out of this one - just focus all of your attention on your breathing - notice and feel the sensation of your in-breath and out-breath - focus on 10 cycles of breaths. Focus 100% on now, this present moment, right NOW.

Continue reading "You Can't Think Your Way Out Of This One"

Zen Thoughts 1

Accept This Situation

In this present moment accept what is happening and how you feel about it NOW: "I accept this situation... I accept that I am feeling....

"Continue reading "Accept This Situation"

Zen Thoughts 2

Just Ask For Help

Ask your highest self [that's the bit of you that you may not be aware of that represents your highest awareness/consciousness] for help.

[There's no need at this stage for labels or getting all hung up about 'what does this mean?'.]

Just say out loud with heartfelt and committed intention:

"Please help me?"

Pause and take 3 or 4 more breaths and focus your intention completely on the in-breath and the out-breath.

Continue reading "Just Ask For Help"

Zen Thoughts 3

Ask This Simple Question

Now, ask this simple question [nope, no need to think about it] just ask it NOW with heartfelt and committed intention:

"What should I do now?"

What comes up? What pops into your head? OK just do it. Run with that one thing and give it your whole 100% focus and attention.

It makes no difference and really doesn't matter if it is a trivial everyday thing like go for walk, listen to some music or cook some food. In fact it most likely will be something trivial and seemingly unrelated to your big mess.

Continue reading "Ask This Simple Question"

Zen Thoughts 4

Focus On The Present Moment

Just focus on the present moment NOW!

The key to this is to just focus on the present moment and focus 100% on what presents itself as requiring your attention now, in the present moment.

The rest will take care of itself in its own good time.

Well strictly speaking the more you can let go, and [yes I know it sounds cliched] go with the flow, you are allowing a far greater intelligence than your own limited thinking conscious mind to take care of things.

Continue reading "Focus On The Present Moment"

Zen Thoughts 5

Not By Accident But By Design

Suffering and struggle are inbuilt into the way the universe runs -

Focus on the intention behind your suffering and struggle and you will find that its true purpose is constructive and transformative.

Continue reading "Not By Accident But By Design"

Zen Thoughts 6

Unmask Your True Nature

Suffering and struggle unmasks the true nature of "who we really are and why we are here".

Suffering and struggle reveals the path to real and permanent personal change and transformation - IF we allow it.

Continue reading "Unmask Your True Nature"

Zen Thoughts 7

Your "Knowing-Doing Gap"

The "knowing-doing gap" - whilst it is true that you can be taught, generally you won't change, because you can't change. Any attempt at managing personal change starts with a clear understanding of your "hidden commitments" - those parts of you that don't want to change.

Continue reading "Your "Knowing-Doing Gap""

Zen Thoughts 8

Closing The Gap

How to close the gap between your intentions (those things you actually want to carry out) and what you are actually able to do?

If you can identify and deal with whatever it is that's stopping you then you will never again need help and tips on self motivation.

Continue reading "Closing The Gap"

Zen Thoughts 9

Self Improvement?

Self-improvement? Who and how do you think you are (and why)?

Self-improvement? There is no thought based self to improve!

Continue reading "Self Improvement?"

Zen Thoughts 10

Contrary To How You Feel

Contrary to how you feel, you really can let go and trust in whatever it is that you personally regard as your highest and guiding energy.

Continue reading "Contrary To How You Feel"

Zen Thoughts 11

Stop Fighting It

If you stop fighting what is happening to you and allow the change to happen - you will survive - but not by struggling to make it happen

Continue reading "Stop Fighting It"

Zen Thoughts 12

Do Less

Contrary to all of your deeply ingrained instincts, you need to do less, to think far less, step back and get your ego out of the way.

Continue reading "Do Less"

Zen Thoughts 13

Your Survival

Your survival and self motivation is grounded in mental and spiritual faculties of which you may have little prior direct experience.

Continue reading "Your Survival"

Zen Thoughts 14

The Biggest Key

The biggest key to all this is: to behave and respond in ways that may be completely alien to you by cultivating a very deep acceptance of what is.

The biggest key to all this is: acknowledging that you are not in control of circumstances.

The biggest key to all this is: - and counter cultural and counter intuitive as this sounds - to go with the flow.

Continue reading "The Biggest Key"

Zen Thoughts 15


The more you can surrender to the flow then the more you automatically become aligned to a far greater dimension of your consciousness.

Continue reading "Surrender"

Zen Thoughts 16


It is your alignment with the flow that is the dynamic that will pull you through this difficult situation.

Continue reading "Alignment"

Zen Thoughts 17

The Source Of Your Motivation

It is your alignment with the flow that is the source of your self motivation through and beyond present difficult circumstances.

Continue reading "The Source Of Your Motivation"

Zen Thoughts 18

Whether You Realise It Or Not

Whether you realise it or not, whether you accept it or not, there is always a spiritual dynamic at work in these situations...

Continue reading "Whether You Realise It Or Not"

Zen Thoughts 19

The Importance Of Choice

The most important aspect of your conscious mind is the faculty of choice and setting an intention to change the habits of your thoughts.

Continue reading "The Importance Of Choice"

Zen Thoughts 20

How To Release From Your Attachments

Gratitude releases you from your attachment and stuckness to negative feelings, and it automatically generates a positive energy within you.

Continue reading "How To Release From Your Attachments"

Zen Thoughts 21

It WILL All Come Together

Drop the "How's this gonna happen?" and trust that it will all come together.

Continue reading "It WILL All Come Together"

Zen Thoughts 22

Act On Inner Prompts

Act on inner prompts and intuitions as they arise.

This involves you in NOT thinking analytically and in NOT drawing up action lists.

Continue reading "Act On Inner Prompts"

Zen Thoughts 23

Don't Drive Yourself

Counter intuitive as this may sound, don't have detailed written lists and goals, and don't drive yourself.

Continue reading "Don't Drive Yourself"

Zen Thoughts 24

Just Do It

When you do, just do it.

Don't think about it or worry about the outcome. Just do it as soon as possible and to the best of your ability.

Continue reading "Just Do It"

Zen Thoughts 25

Go The Extra Mile

Always "go the extra mile" - add as much value as you can in your interactions with people.

Exceed their expectations.

Continue reading "Go The Extra Mile"

Zen Thoughts 26

Accept The Gestation Period

Accept the gestation period.

It may be brief but usually is longer - maybe months and often years for your goals to come to fruition.

Continue reading "Accept The Gestation Period"

Zen Thoughts 27

The Purpose Of Road Blocks

Remember that whether you like it or not life works in cycles and that does involve waiting.

You will almost certainly experience hold ups, road blocks and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. That is the nature of life.

Road blocks and seemingly insurmountable obstacles are designed to sort out the truly committed from the waverers.

Continue reading "The Purpose Of Road Blocks"

Zen Thoughts 28

Be Prepared For The Attrition Factor

The attrition factor is what wears so many people down and causes them to "throw in the towel".

Be prepared for this and accept it.

Continue reading "Be Prepared For The Attrition Factor"

Zen Thoughts 29

Can You Change Your Mind?

Can you change your mind?

Well who would you be without that thought?

The only time you suffer is when you believe a thought that argues with what is...

The pain ends when you accept the pain and drop the self that clings to it.

Continue reading "Can You Change Your Mind?"

Zen Thoughts 30

Wanting Things To Be Different...

Wanting reality to be different than it is - is hopeless.

All the stress that you feel is caused by arguing with what is.

Continue reading "Wanting Things To Be Different..."

Zen Thoughts 31

The Powers Of Your Mind

Contrary to what the self-help gurus say, the subconscious powers of your mind do NOT create everything that happens to you.

In the bigger picture scheme of things the powers of your mind are actually very limited.

Continue reading "The Powers Of Your Mind"

Zen Thoughts 32

Life Is Infinitely More Complex Than We Can Comprehend

The self-help gurus who tell you that you can have or be anything you want are lying in their overstatement of a partial truth.

The self-help gurus who tell you that you can have or be anything you want are lying because they tell you what you want to hear.

The self-help gurus who tell you that you can have or be anything you want pander to what you want to believe, it appeals to your ego.

Life is infinitely more complex than we can comprehend.

Life is inter-connected and inter dependent in ways that we do not conventionally fully appreciate.

Continue reading "Life Is Infinitely More Complex Than We Can Comprehend"

Zen Thoughts 33

The True Source Of The Powers Of Your Mind

The true source of the powers of your mind is in the transcendent or spiritual area of your mind

Beneath all the words, dogmas, statements of faith and creeds of most of the world's major religions you find a generic truth.

Generic truth? The only path to real and permanent personal change and transformation lies in the death of your self.

You encounter the greatest powers of your mind as you align yourself and your whole life with an infinitely greater plan and purpose.

Continue reading "The True Source Of The Powers Of Your Mind"

Zen Thoughts 34

How To Manage Stress

Stress related thoughts are largely about how to cope with what HAS happened and how to deal with what MIGHT happen as a consequence of what has happened.

Notice that your thoughts and emotional reactions are focused on the past and the future and not on the present moment.

This really is the pointer to one of the most powerful stress management techniques, and that is learning how to develop and maintain a present moment awareness.

Continue reading "How To Manage Stress"

Zen Thoughts 35

Mindfulness Is Natural

Present moment awareness aka "Mindfulness" is simply a series of structured mental disciplines and habits that take your natural and spontaneous occurrences of present moment awareness and brings it under your conscious control.

Mindfulness enables you to stop thinking and step out of the tyranny and treadmill of your thoughts and emotional reactions, and it also allows you to think more resourcefully when you need to.

Continue reading "Mindfulness Is Natural"

Zen Thoughts 36

What Are You Feeling Right Now?

OK what are you feeling - right now? Don't think about it. What word immediately arises? Just note it.

The point is that it doesn't matter what you feel.

The point is that you are AWARE - directly, of what you are feeling- and WITHOUT comment, evaluation or assessment.

Continue reading "What Are You Feeling Right Now?"

Zen Thoughts 37

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

What is mindfulness meditation? It is a practise that will enable you:

# To witness or observe (without narrative or analysis) the recurring or autonomic nature of your thoughts and feelings

# To watch how your very own inner "personal-map-of-reality"filters your interpretation of your experience

# To see how you become immersed in and identified with your thoughts and feelings

# To learn how to stop thinking - to turn your thoughts off - at will

Continue reading "What Is Mindfulness Meditation?"

Zen Thoughts 38

How To Practise Mindfulness?

How to practise mindfulness? The hardest aspect of how to practise mindfulness is just doing it! If you want to learn how to practise mindfulness - if you are seeking mindfulness meditation training - just be aware - be present - focus your attention, focus your mind, 100% on whatever it is that you are doing right NOW - in this present moment.

Continue reading "How To Practise Mindfulness?"

Zen Thoughts 39

Getting The Hang Of The Mindfulness Basics (1)

Getting the hang of the basics:

The best way to start the process of learning how to practise mindfulness is to undertake a sitting meditation every day for approximately 30 minutes. Or maybe 2 sessions of 15 minutes.

# Sit in silence and somewhere where you won't be interrupted. Turn your mobile phone off.

# Just sit comfortably in an upright position take several slow deep breaths and focus on your breathing in and your breathing out.

# Then just pay attention to your thoughts. Don't engage with them. Don't analyse them. Just observe them.

Continue reading "Getting The Hang Of The Mindfulness Basics (1)"

Zen Thoughts 40

Getting The Hang Of The Mindfulness Basics (2)

Getting the hang of the basics:

The best way to start the process of learning how to practise mindfulness is to undertake a sitting meditation every day for approximately 30 minutes. Or maybe 2 sessions of 15 minutes.

# If you feel yourself getting drawn into your thoughts, gently bring your attention back to your breath and focus on your in breath and your out breath for a few breaths and return to just watching your thoughts.

# Watching your thoughts is like watching clouds pass across the sky. They come into your line of vision, drift across the sky and fade away.

# Breathe...

# Do this everyday for 3 weeks.

Continue reading "Getting The Hang Of The Mindfulness Basics (2)"

Zen Thoughts 41

Getting The Hang Of The Mindfulness Basics (3)

Getting the hang of the basics:

# Notice and observe your reactions as you prepare to do your daily sitting meditation. Don't analyse this, just be aware of your reactions.

# Observe your reactions after you have finished your meditation, and again don't analyse of think about it - simply observe or witness it.

Continue reading "Getting The Hang Of The Mindfulness Basics (3)"

Zen Thoughts 42

Getting The Hang Of The Mindfulness Basics (4)

Getting the hang of the basics:

# After a few sessions of sitting meditation, take it a one small step further and just watch your thoughts during the day.

# Make it a habit to observe your reactions, your thought patterns,your recurring thoughts and differing emotional states at differenttimes throughout the day.

Continue reading "Getting The Hang Of The Mindfulness Basics (4)"

Zen Thoughts 43

Getting The Hang Of The Mindfulness Basics (5)

Getting the hang of the basics:

# When you feel yourself getting sucked into to a pattern of thoughts or emotional responses, bring your attention to your breathing and just focus on your in breath and your out breath for several breaths.

# Keep watching and observing.

# Be aware of your thoughts and feelings.

Continue reading "Getting The Hang Of The Mindfulness Basics (5)"

Zen Thoughts 44

Practising Mindfulness In Daily Life

Practising mindfulness in daily life - mindful washing the dishes!

# Start off by taking a few slow deliberate breaths, relax and rather than rushing into the task SLOW DOWN.

# Your basic method here is that you are going to slow right down and break the task of "washing the dishes" into a series of much smaller individual tasks - and here's the key to learning how to practise mindfulness - FOCUS YOUR WHOLE ATTENTION ON THE IMMEDIATE TASK IN HAND.

Continue reading "Practising Mindfulness In Daily Life"

Zen Thoughts 45

The Secret To Mindful Washing The Dishes

Mindful washing the dishes:

# The "secret" to getting the hang of mindful washing up is to treat each smallest step as though quite literally your life depended on it - so imagine you were a bomb disposal expert and you were deactivating a bomb, or imagine you were a mountaineer climbing the north face of the Eiger.

# The first time you do mindful washing up it will feel strange - but stick with it - it gets easier each time you do it.

# See how long it takes you to wash the dishes mindfully and compare that with how long it "normally" takes you to wash the dishes. You may find that slowing down and doing it mindfully takes about the same time as it always did (or just a little bit longer).

# Observe your mental state and your emotional state once you have completed mindful dish washing:-)

Continue reading "The Secret To Mindful Washing The Dishes"

Zen Thoughts 46

How To Listen Mindfully

You are listening mindfully when:

# You're not analysing or figuring it out, you're simply letting the feelings and sounds affect you.

# You feel no urgency or impatience, and you let go of beliefs and prejudices you may have about the other person.

# You stay aware of the feeling between you and the person who is speaking. If it's heading toward judgment, irritation or impatience, then you've moved out of the moment and out of deep listening. You bring your awareness back to the feeling of genuine interest in the other person.

Continue reading "How To Listen Mindfully"

Zen Thoughts 47

Are You Stuck In Seeking?

Are you stuck in seeking?

What is often overlooked is that "the state of seeking" is just exactly that - seeking.

Seeking means that we don't have it - it's over there - up there - out there - ahead of me - away from me - in the future - separate from me - anywhere in fact but HERE NOW.

The same applies to the many of us who would not view ourselves as on a spiritual quest but are nevertheless seeking self-improvement and self-development.

Aside from the realisation that ultimately there is no "self" to "improve" - and the only way to "develop" or "improve" is without the self - there is nothing of truth that we can find anywhere but NOW right here in this present moment.

Continue reading "Are You Stuck In Seeking?"

Zen Thoughts 48

You Are Enlightened NOW (And Nowhere Else)

Put simply enlightenment means to be free of the effects of the mind, to be aware, to be present-moment-aware, and unencumbered with thoughts about the past or the future - just totally present.

That's all.

We get very hung up on the idea that enlightenment - or any other expression of spiritual progress - is ahead of us, something to be attained, something to be aspired to, something that we may experience one day in the next life or subsequent lives.

We always see it as in the future - yet never the only place it can be - NOW!

Continue reading "You Are Enlightened NOW (And Nowhere Else)"

Zen Thoughts 49

Thich Nhat Hanh's 10 Rules For Life

Thich Nhat Hanh - Key Teachings

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