This guide is a collection of tips and learnings that have helped me (and continue to help me) during the quarantine. It’s intended for mere informational and transformational purposes only.
This guide doesn’t provide medical advice. It’s not suitable for the diagnosis and treatment of any condition. Or as a substitute for consulting a medical professional.
This guide is split into three main sections:
You may want to check the table of contents (below) and jump ahead to anything that appears most relevant to you. I’d also recommend bookmarking this page and coming back to it as and when you need it. …
A stonecutter was dissatisfied with himself and his position in life.
One day, he passed a wealthy merchant’s house. Through the open gates, he saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stonecutter. He became very envious and wished he could be like the merchant.
With hard work and persistence, the stonecutter became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever imagined.
But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. …
We know peace is free and available to us in any moment.
Yet, we behave as if peace, fulfillment, happiness, satisfaction, contentment, or whatever you want to call it come at an everincreasing cost.
Like somehow these qualities belong to an existential marketplace and must constantly be bought and sold and traded for something else.
Everyone has the means to trade in this marketplace. All you need is the currency of attention.
It may be limited, but billions of trades of attention are made every moment.
Everytime someone interrupts what their relative or partner is saying to check Twitter. Everytime an afternoon walk is missed for a Zoom retreat. Everytime a bus ride is spent doomscrolling instead of enjoying the view. …
In the early 20th century, Shoma Morita, a Japanese psychiatrist and contemporary of Sigmund Freud, was struggling to see the results in patients he wanted.
Ahead of his time, Morita was trying to get to the bottom of what he called shinkeishitsu, “anxiety-based disorders”.
Having little success from he models of psychology of the time, Morita looked to the philosophy he practiced and grew up with, Zen Buddhism, and used it to help create his own.
Whereas most therapies look to diagnose and relieve patients of problematic issues and symptoms, Morita Therapy takes a radically different approach.
Rather than getting rid of problems, its focus is on building character so you can take action regardless of your symptoms, fears, emotions, wishes, or anything else that may be holding you back. …
A Zen Master called Ryokan lived a life of simplicity in a little hut at the foot of a mountain.
One evening, while he was away, a thief snuck into the hut only to find there was nothing in it to steal. Ryokan returned and found him.
“You’ve come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”
The thief was bewildered, but he took the clothes and ran away.
Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon.
“Poor fellow,” he mused, “ I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.” …
“Did you know that I can meditate for five hours every single day?”
Ahem. When I’m on retreat, once every year or so…
On those rare days, it’s not even so much that I’m even meditating. I’m just not sleeping in out of fear of embarrassment and making sure I do everything necessary to get my free lunches.
Stick me in the middle of a busy city, in a shared flat that has access to chit chat, Netflix, and chocolate, and it’s a whole other story. Most days I can barely muster twenty minutes.
This dilemma has long had me convinced it’s not my fault if I can’t meditate. …
There’s an old Zen parable about a guy hanging off a side of a cliff, clinging to a branch by nothing but his teeth.
His hands and feet are tied together, so he can’t grab onto anything. And if he let’s go, then he will certainly fall to his death.
After a while, the guy begins to tire. He can feel his teeth slipping, his jaw tiring, and his impending death coming.
At about that time, an old Zen master pops his head over the cliff’s edge, and, in classic Zen master fashion, says to the guy:
“Tell me the one true thing that can save your life.” …
I’ve been through lockdown before. Not a physical one that was enforced from the outside, but a mental one that was largely imposed by myself.
It was about four years ago when I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. CFS is described as a “complicated disorder” characterized by extreme tiredness that gets worse with physical activity and doesn’t go away with rest.
I.e. it makes you feel like you have zero energy or motivation to do anything ever again. Oh, and there’s no cure.
I spent about half a year doing very little but laying in bed and dragging my body around the house, only going out when it was absolutely necessary. Not too dissimilar to the past few months, except back then my mom did the cooking, I was really into sci-fi novels, and there was even less of a sign of an end in sight—or a sign that there would be an end at all. …
There’s no taking shortcuts in meditation. As meditation teacher John Yates says “diligence is all you need to make the fastest progress possible”.
All diligence means is doing the practice wholeheartedly rather than spending the time counting down the clock or planning or daydreaming.
Easier said than done.
First of all, diligence doesn’t mean going in there full force and trying really hard to be still and meditate.
Just like a sprout won’t grow more quickly by tugging on it, you will only get frustrated and impatient with meditation if you approach it with force.
Second, diligence is not trying to ensure your mind doesn’t wander at all and getting annoyed when you fail to keep your attention in one place. …
Two of the most basic functions of living organisms are moving towards pleasure and moving away from pain.
Even amoebas, single-cell organisms that are one of the earliest forms of life, squirm away from what they perceive as detrimental to their survival and wriggle towards what they perceive as beneficial.
Amoebas, though, are amoebas. They can’t set goals, hold down jobs, drive cars, and do all the other things that complex human organisms can do.
We can do this stuff because we have bodies and brains. …