Thinking inside the box

Add comment September 13th, 2008 01:07am johnny

We often hear people talking about “thinking outside of the box.”  Usually what is meant by this metaphorical box is the boundaries defined by some line of thought.  By exploring new possibilities different from the previous ways of approaching something, whether it be a business or artistic pursuit, we hope to leap past the confines of the old ways using a novel approach.  Without people pushing through the boxes of convention, society would stagnate and we would never have the pioneers and leaders to inspire us and drive us to improvement.  We recognize Gandhi, Einstein, Martin Luther King, Amelia Earhart, and Bruce Lee as pioneers who have made their mark in the world; their excellence came about from their willingness to push past and eventually redefine the “box.”

The ability to think outside the box is a valuable skill and is requisite for improvements.  However, that doesn’t mean that thinking inside the box is useless or even undesireable.  The framework of the existing boxes have their own values. (more…)

By any other name

Add comment July 16th, 2008 09:57pm johnny

Mindfulness practice can at first seem like an esoteric pursuit. In truth, mindfulness involves little mysticism and has direct tie-ins with the real world. Though usually seen as a tool for Buddhist spiritual practice, mindfulness practice extends beyond the spiritual realm readily maps into experiences in the mundane world.

Mindfulness is simply bringing one’s attention to the here and now. No doubt this skill is useful for everyday life. It is quite easy to lose oneself in the fast paced world and forget to take some time to just live. Forgetting to be in the present is enough of a problem we use a cliché as a reminder to live in the moment: “stop and smell the roses.” While the origins of the phrase are nebulous, this bit of cultural wisdom embodies quintessential mindfulness principle of being conscious of the present moment. You have to slow down and be present to experience of the simple pleasure of smelling flowers. (more…)

Relativity of Wealth

Add comment June 11th, 2008 10:50pm johnny

Albert EinsteinI am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker. The example of great and pure individuals is the only thing that can lead us to noble thoughts and deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and irresistibly invites abuse. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus or Ghandi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie?

- Albert Einstein

In a supposedly advanced modern world, you’d think that we would have reached a greater level of enlightenment. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In a world that’s grown significantly richer, people too easily lose sight of the duality of money. Too little of it usually means a harsh life of poverty. On the other hand, too much of it easily leads to accumulation of material wealth for the sheer sake of being wealthy, i.e. greed and selfishness.

While we definitely need money for financial security, money itself holds no special power for bringing about positive change. In a world driven by money, there’s no doubt that wealth helps provide the capital for bringing about the advancement of humanity. Ultimately though, the most important parts of the formula for forward progress lie in something less physical and fundamentally intangible: the human mind, heart, and spirit.

Joy in Walking

Add comment May 31st, 2008 11:54pm johnny

Footprints on beachPeace is every step.
The shining red sun is my heart.
Each flower smiles with me.
How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows.
Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

As a follow up to my last post, I thought I would look at feet and stepping from a different viewpoint. The last blog post looked at our feet in terms of shoes and orthopedic health. In addition to numbing our proprioceptive abilities, shoe overuse makes us liable to just mindlessly ignore our feet. Not only do we forget how to walk properly, but we also lose the ability to just pay attention to our feet. (more…)

Feet: Well Grounded and Down to Earth

Add comment May 26th, 2008 12:45pm johnny

Statue of footIsn’t it odd how we pay so little attention to such an important part of our foundation? I am of course talking about our feet. They support us everyday and are the part of us most directly connected to the earth, yet we usually give them little heed.

Our feet were meant to be free and mobile, gripping and sensing the ground beneath us. However, this is not how our feet actually experience the world. For a myriad of reasons, we largely clad our feet in shoes. While there are certainly good reasons to wear shoes, constantly ensconcing our feet in a protective enclosure constricts and weakens our feet, dulls their proprioception, and reduces our perception of the wealth of tactile information from our soles. According to recent news, including this New York Magazine article, shoes are wrecking our feet. Shoes are designed to stabilize, protect, and make fashion statements. In other words, shoes primarily serve to immobilize our feet so we walk unnaturally, cushion them until they’re senseless, and give us consumerist driven social standing (while padding the pockets of the shoe designers). (more…)

The Best Season

Add comment May 15th, 2008 01:12pm johnny


Four Seasons

Spring comes with its many blossoms, Autumn with the moon,
Summer brings refreshing breezes, Winter the snow;
When useless concerns don’t burden the mind,
That is your best season.
* picture from
* Zen poem by 無門慧開 Wu-men Hui-kai

That was a poem shared with me which I think expresses a very Zen concept: being present and living in the moment. The translation is based loosely on that from The Light Inside the Dark and my own interpretation of the characters.

Modern life undoubtedly has brought us many great things: medical advances, high standards of living, relatively high levels of wealth, technological wonders, etc. But with that modern progress has also come an increasing drive to cram more and more into our already busy lives. Businesses constantly strive to increase productivity and output. Hordes of marketing messages bombard us, vying for our attentions through every possible media outlet. Technology has brought about innumerable means to distract ourselves and keep us constantly preoccupied. And this is even before we include the personal attentions needed for interactions with family and friends. There’s an overwhelming bounty of issues occupying our attentions and filling our minds.

All this busy-ness and preoccupation doesn’t foster personal growth or fulfillment. It’s too easy to become so overly wrapped up in all of our worries that we lose ourselves as life zooms along. If we’re not mindful, we forget how to relax and not let everything constantly wear us down. It’s good to remind ourselves that we should regularly stop and just be. The mind can easily become fettered by worries of the future, dwellings in the past, and hosts of other meaningless thoughts. You can really only experience life in the present. Letting go of all the cluttering thoughts frees the mind so that we can appreciate life in the here and now.


Add comment May 15th, 2008 11:50am johnny

welcome mat

Welcome, reader. Zenfulness is now live and launched, and so starts the beginning of my latest blogging adventure.

The first question I imagine most people having would be “what exactly is Zenfulness?” That’s a good question, and one for which I don’t have a definitive answer. The name itself is a wordplay combining Zen and mindfulness. Though Zen (or Ch’an, 禪) has special significance in my life, I don’t claim to be any great expert in it. I find the guiding principles of Zen (mindfulness, experience of the present moment, and non-attachment) provide a useful framework for approaching many subjects.

Zen concepts are particularly apt for exploring the mind. Since Zen (and Buddhism in general) are often associated with studies and training of the mind, this is not surprising. But our minds are inextricably linked to our physical bodies and the experiences of our daily lives. Given that fact, I’ll begin this blog by focusing posts on understanding and developing the mind, maintaining a fit and healthy body, and bringing a touch of Zen perspective. That focus should provide a good launching point for establishing a working definition of Zenfulness. Hopefully, some of my posts will spur your thoughts and inspire you to come up with your own Zenfulness defintion.

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