Boundless Potential Living
Ease and well-being, no matter the challenge



Member, International Coach Federation

Tai Chi Healthways Certified Associate Instructor

Certified Instructor, Tai Chi for Arthritis

Arthritis Foundation


As a Zen teacher, Barbara Penn gives occasional "dharma talks" (talks on some aspect of Zen teachings, relevant to the needs of the listeners) to her Zen meditation groups. Some of these are collected here.

Just This PDF (PDF) from Wisdom of the East: Stories of Compassion, Inspiration, and Love, compiled by Susan Suntree, Contemporary Press/McGraw-Hill 2002

Nostalgia for God PDF

Dharma Snippets (Very Little Dharma Talks)

Why Is It So Hard to Notice?

The Vernal Equinox

Why Is It So Hard to Notice?

At first glance, this practice can seem quite easy – simple even –what’s so hard about noticing…we notice all the time, don’t we… we notice other people and how they respond to us …we notice things we like, hate about ourselves and others…we notice and most of us love, a sunset …we notice, and most of us hate, war and grief death and destruction and so what’s so hard to shift a bit and notice when we seem off from life? When we want or desire things to be different than what life has presented in a given moment?it is just noticing and we do it all the time, don’t we? So why can’t we notice 24/7 when we are off fromlife, the only real Zen practice?

A clue might be that we believe our thoughts, we believe our feeling I fell awful! I feel great! I know that to be true That’s simply the way I am, I can’t help it! We do NOT notice that these thoughts feelings, memories ideas and beliefs really aren’t sitting in the room with us, but imagined, in our heads…they don’t have solidity or substance, do they? So a p-lace to start to break the cycle that binds us in misery, mighyt be to notice that. and to feel the traces so to speak in the body from these imagined ideas...and then feel the unease or stickiness or tension in the body and stay with it until we feel it melt…and as I have said often ‘come to your senses” The real promise of this kind of noticing is nothing sort of ease and peace and joy in our life no matter what? No matter what the challenge…acute illness or surprise lottery fortune…met the same…with equanimity and grace. and so why is it so difficult for most of us most of the time? Do you know why it is for you? Can you notice 24/7 and if not, how come?

The Vernal Equinox

March 20, 2010

“Everything comes to BALANCE with the clear recognition of your true nature” Today as we sit at 1:32 TO BE EXACT, THE Vernal Equinox occurs, day/night and so forth in harmony, in balance and so we might say for us to have harmony and balance is to find the equinox of our own spinning world…so how do we do this? We have to do something that will seem very odd to our little minds: we have to turn from trying to solve our doubts and confusions by looking at our fee lings/thoughts as if they are real and solid; at our thoughts as if they are solid and instead nail down the fact that all suffering, doubts, confusion is based on self centered thoughts that arise in the little mind; on thinking. And that thinking promotes another false idea and that is that we are separate from what is - -life -. remember we have to become who we already are, which is perfect, complete, unchanging - life. We are “life” but we can’t see it because we are lost in our thoughts – in something imaginary, creating a play – all of which is not real. Have to see over and over that none of our issues, problems exist other than thoughts in the mind. And no, I am not excluding physical pain and illnesses, but they too are seen differently when the “me” moves aside. Remember that wonderful question: What is wrong with now if I am not thinking about it?

Self centered thoughts are those that revolve around “me.:” what I want; don’t want like, hate and so forth; they are thoughts about who I am , what I am, what characteristics I have. We have to start to see that thoughts, feelings, ideas, beliefs and so forth are nothing but mechanical reactions, ones of habit learned from our conditioning and further see that these thoughts could not exist unless there was something else that “held” them . This something else, this intuitively felt background” that which holds it all” is where we want to start to look. How? We have to begin to “turn” – turn away from mechanical reactions, from looking to feelings and thoughts and analysis to taking a to look inside--to and toward our(true)selves and that which we already know holds the little mind and everything else. “Turn around, look at me.” Jesus,. Sometimes we sense it when we pay 100 percent attention to anything in front of us. we are not aware of what is going to happen tomorrow or next week or what happened last year. Instead we are here with our “presence”, right now.

So a good place to start is the very basic practice of creating a little space between that which is in our heads and reality with- thought labeling -always an anchor practice, a wonderful beginning because as we stand back from our thoughtsw and connect the tension in our bodies connected to these thoughts we begin to see the unreality of all thinking…and then we can get out of our heads in the good way! and come to our senses. This starts to slow down the thoughts spinning around endlessly in our minds, and opens a little tiny space for us to begin to see that living in our heads is not living at all. Always Zen practice and any real so called spiritual practice, is about “noticing”.. noticing when we want life to be other than how it is in a particular moment…What is it I want to be different right now or change right now? Noticing that’s a thought and it takes me away (not to) from life and creates anxiety and suffering.

The continuous practice is to Notice – Feel the tension in the body created by thoughts/feeling, let go of the words…and come to your senses for example listening to sound with the entire body as if for the very first time without memory, the past or interpretation- this is what a baby does and as we heard last time, this is truly ---seeing first the kingdom of god”…which is right here now when we stop thinking about it. How many times do we do this? As many times as we need to. It took us a long time to get to where we are now and so this done diligently maybe 10,000 times will create a shift for us and start us on feeling ease in our life. Why? The “me”, the personality, is being to leave and when it goes completely, our actions derive from whatever situation appears in our life. This is really “being in the flow” life with no gap –balance – day/night; yin/yang it is always a choice and requires real determined effort and courage because we are turning away from “business as usual” and even though that “business” might make us anxious and miserable it is what we know. To do what we do not yet know or have experienced is a leap of faith and requires all we have. Is it worth it? Is your life worth it? Are the lives of the people you love, the ones you don’t know, the earth worth it?





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