When I was eight years old I had the very exciting opportunity to visit Japan for the first time with my mother. I was instantly in love. The culture was so different from my up-bringing in the United States that all I could do was absorb it like a sponge. Upon returning from that trip, I set an intention to go back to school there at the soonest possible time.
Of course, at eight years old, I did have some requirements: first, I did not want to miss any actual school time with my friends and second, I was committed to staying at the same grade level as my friends even if I went back to Japan for an extended period. Looking back, those were some mighty specific requirements from a kid who had just completed fourth grade. Yet, those were my rules for myself for returning to Japan.
When I was fourteen, the opportunity presented itself to live with a Japanese host family for the summer. I’ll never forget my host “brother’s” face when he saw me moving my two suitcases in to the extra room usually kept for his grandparents. He was eight years old and he just kept repeating this phrase in Japanese: “Nani sore? Nani sore?” It wasn’t until months later that I learned he was saying, “What is that? What is that?” I guess he was trying to work it out in his mind how an American girl who spoke zero Japanese with blondish/brown hair came to be living in his home. At that point in his life, he had only seen foreigners on television and I was easily equated with a cartoon character.
I had many eye opening experiences that summer and even more the following year when I choose to stay in Japan to attend a new international school that was opening. It turned out that the school was able to ensure that I kept up with my high school counterparts in the USA and I would be able to return home the following year and keep pace with my friends in high school. It was the fulfillment of my intention made six years earlier and a dream come true.
Wayne Dyer in his book _The Sky’s The Limit_ talks about a NEZ person. To summarize, a NEZ person is one who has combined two traits and is therefore a person “who has eliminated his or her personal erroneous zones” and “is a person who is pulling his or her own strings.” NEZ stands for No Erroneous Zones. Somehow at fourteen I was a NEZ. Some in my family might tell you I was actually NEZ from my first breath.
I’ll let Wayne Dyer tell the next part…
“NEZ, Zen and Muga” from _The Sky’s The Limit” pages 24-25 (All emphasis is direct quote.)
The art of full present-moment living is rarely seen in our culture. In fact, we do not even have a common word or descriptive phrase for the art of living completely in the present. Existentialist philosophers have used Kierkegaard’s concept of immediacy to describe the state in which you are in direct contact with your present – a childlike state in which nothing interferes with your appreciation of the present moment, nothing (from regrets about your past to idealistic expectations about the future) “mediates” between you and the now in which you live. But too often this “immediacy” is associated with a childish state in which you remain unaware of the larger world around you. It is thought that when you pass from childhood to adulthood you have forever lost this “innocent” state, this childlike joy of “immediacy,” and we can never really regain it.
If we believe that we can all be “living now” and determine to look for concrete examples of how to cultivate such an art, we must turn to other cultures which have studied this matter more deeply than we have. For the person who is ready to live now, a short diversion into Zen can become a bridge to living now.
It is appropriate that NEZ happens to spell Zen backwards, because the NEZ person will attain the inner peace sought by the Zen student from exactly the opposite direction. While Zen depends on mind-to-mind instruction from master to student in order to achieve satori, “awakening” (or total present-moment awareness), NEZ approaches the same goal without relying on any master other than yourself to show you the way.”
As it turned out, I did spend time in a Buddhist monastery during my time in Japan. I also spent many hours studying courses and delving in to cultural experiences on Buddhism, Japanese Tea Ceremony, Japanese History, and Ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arranging) to name a few.
The quiet time I sat on the freezing hardwood floor of the Buddhist monastery taught me one thing for sure: I could certainly be peaceful if there were no distractions around me. That led to meditating at an early age, but mostly it led me to an inner chamber in my mind where I could literally sequester everything going on around me and “check out”. When I would return to the “real world” outside of the monastery, I found that my Zen-like state was both a peaceful and a non-peace-filled way to live.
I found that once I checked myself out of situations, I might not want to check back in. I suppressed a lot of what was going on around me and the things people said and did just bounced off of me like Teflon. Or so I thought. Looking back, I had actually learned to internalize a lot and I didn’t let it out again. That led to a lot of repressed and suppressed emotions. In short, I was not so peace-filled on the inside.
Once I regained my composure as a NEZ person and assimilated my Zen nature in to my overall way of being, I found that I could actually do both. I could be in the present moment using my breath and I could be fully present for the present moment in my awareness no matter where I was. This might seem a bit esoteric at the moment, please stay with me as I’m going somewhere with all of this meandering.
Wayne Dyer calls it two sides of the same coin and you, too, might have experienced the nature of both sides of the coin. I want you to know that this a great starting point for peace.
“NEZ, Zen and Muga”…continued…
Abraham Maslow described the Japanese Zen-based culture as far more highly evolved in the art of present-moment living than Western cultures. He used the Japanese word Muga to describe total present-moment awareness, and he has defined Muga in this way:
This [muga] is the state in which you are doing whatever you are doing with a total wholeheartedness, without thinking of anything else, without any hesitation, without any criticism or doubt or inhibition of any kind whatsoever. It is a pure and perfect and total spontaneous acting without any blocks of any kind. This is possible only when the self is transcended or forgotten.”* *Maslow, The Father Reaches of Human Nature (Viking Press, 1971), p. 243.
The Muga state is something we are striving to demonstrate on Peace Amplified. Each of the interviewees is doing what they love with total wholeheartedness. They just keep doing what they are doing and in so doing they transcend themselves. You might have even noticed that all are doing what they are doing in service to others.
When we are in service to others that is one of the surest ways to transcend ourselves.
If you are feeling blue or depressed, or “under the weather,” try serving someone else. Yes, you might initially think to yourself that you don’t have the energy or the time or the motivation, but the minute you cause yourself to get in to action for another’s benefit everything will shift. It is part of the payoff of experiencing both sides of the same coin.
For example, on the one hand you might be depressed, on the other hand you are helping someone who is depressed or lonely by going to the VA and singing Christmas carols or visiting with a Veteran who has no family nearby. One coin, two sides, double the payoff. Good for you and good for another. The payoff is peace amplified.
Actually, Wayne Dyer really sums up the opportunity for all of us to use the Muga state. In fact, anyone, anywhere, in any moment, doing anything can experience internal peace.
“NEZ, Zen, and Muga”…continued…
Achieving a Muga state in any human activity will provide you with a level of internal peace and personal satisfaction you many never have experienced before. If you can learn to concentrate all your present thought on a tennis match, a long-distance run, a sexual experience, a concert, a creative undertaking, or your life’s work, you will find yourself experiencing a joy, an ecstasy (“standing outside yourself”) that you many never have imagined possible.
Muga, total present-moment living, does not involve playing any fancy mental trick on yourself, nor does it require specialized training in Zen or any other discipline. It involves only giving up the self-defeating attitudes and behaviors that have kept you from enjoying your present moments for a few of those moments every day. The entire process of getting in to the present begins with giving up the past and the future in favor of the now, for as many of your life experiences as you possibly can.
Take a moment, just one moment today and try one of the opportunities: NEZ, Zen, or Muga. See if there’s something available for you in the present moment. Feel the feeling of being fully present. Whatever you are doing, just do it with your full self, fully engaged in it.
Let us know if you feel more peace. Let us know if the payoff is that you are peace amplified.