What is Zen?

When I came back from my solo trip to Japan, I had a growing interest in Zen Buddhism. One of the books I picked up was Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. I found it difficult to follow as an introductory book. “What is Zen?” gives a more direct introduction to Zen Buddhism in question and answer format. Some of the thought-provoking parts for me were:

Most Western people who come to Buddhism are looking for something. That’s good. Yet looking for something stands in the way of getting what you are looking for…And what you get may not be exactly what you thought you were looking for in the beginning…

When you desperately press for some goal or aspiration, your very pressing becomes an obstacle. You are tense, you try too hard, you are impatient, you get discouraged easily, and this hampers you.

This excerpt about practicing for “no gain” reminded me my pursuit for love or a life partner. Love strikes us when we’re not looking, perhaps the act of looking is destructive because it makes us appear needy and unattractive …

Most of what makes us unhappy in our human lifetime can be avoided. I really don’t need to suffer so much over my reputation, my possessions, over whether or not somebody loves me or validates me, or whether or not I get my way and get to enjoy my preferences all the time. If I know how to appreciate what comes no matter what, I can save myself a lot of suffering.

This reminded me to appreciate everything that comes along our way in life, even hardship. Perhaps my frustration during search for love is necessary, otherwise I won’t appreciate it when I finally find it.

November 29, 2018

Make Time

Make Time is a book on productivity, it talks about how to make effective use of your time. It suggest a method that involves picking a highlight for the day, one high-priority goal. There can be different frameworks on how too choose, for instance:

  • What’s the most pressing thing I have to do today?
  • At the end of the day, which one will bring me the most satisfaction?
  • When I reflect on today, what will bring me the most joy?

There’s a lot of emphasis on being able to focus:

  • Become a morning person
  • Delete infinity pools from your phone
  • Logout from social apps
  • Clear your home screen
  • Don’t check your phone first thing in the morning
  • Use a vacation timer to turn off WiFi at night
  • Optimize your caffeine intake to avoid caffeine crash: If you wake up at 7 am
    • Have first cup between 9:30-10:30
    • Have lust cup between 1:30-2:30
  • Drink green tea
  • Do the 7 minute workout
  • Prefer Dark chocolate for sugar (but watch out, it has caffeine)

Overall, a quick, fun read with lots of ideas to try out!

November 10, 2018


Ikigai talks about world’s blue zones, where people live longer and have fewer diseases than anywhere else in the world. Places like Okinawa, Japan or Sardinia, Italy. Scientists interview centurians that live in these regions and try to find insights about longevity. Some of the recommendations are:

  • Fill your belly to 80%, stop eating before you’re full
  • Eat a wide variey of vegatables every day
  • Grains are the foundation of their diet, they rarely eat sugar.
  • Drink green tea, rich in antioxidants
  • Stay active, do lightweight exercise

Overall, the book isn’t very coherent, and talks about many different subjects and doesn’t have a single hypothesis.

November 10, 2018


sarp centel

Sarp is a software developer. He writes about technology, books and software.
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