Moving past distraction to inner peace

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Moving past distraction to inner peace

테스트

Koike Ryunosuke

Our lives are filled with distractions, yet it is difficult to rid ourselves of distracting thoughts when they enter our minds. We think about yesterday’s failures or our worries about the future and then exaggerate these ideas, which bring us unhappiness. That, in turn, increases our regret and worry and the cycle begins again.

But for thousands of Koreans, a young Japanese monk is providing some sage wisdom about how to free themselves from the cycle. His name is Koike Ryunosuke, 33, and his book, “Practice Not Being Angry,” sold 70,000 copies in Korea just 10 days after it was released in March.

“Rid yourself of distracting thoughts by concentrating on the five senses and stay in the present moment,” Ryunosuke said. “You will feel satisfied with your life and happiness will return.”

Ryunosuke graduated from Tokyo University and currently teaches Zen Buddhism in Japan.

In his book, he teaches people to discard unnecessary thoughts through focused meditation and lays out a series of practical steps one can take to achieve peace in their daily lives.

테스트

The cover of the Korean translation version of “Practice Emptying Your Mind,” which has been a bestseller in Korea in recent months.

His Five Senses Meditation method is rooted in pre-sectarian Buddhism, which is sometimes called “original,” or in Japan “early,” Buddhism and is oriented around the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, its founder. Ryunosuke teaches that by focusing on the five senses, it is possible to overcome the distractions of daily life, which he says have only increased in the information age.

His previous book “Practice Emptying Your Mind,” appeared on bestseller lists after it was published in September and has sold over 370,000 copies.

The sales figures are unprecedented in Korea, where it is unusual for two books by a foreign author to be on the bestseller list at the same time.

In addition to record sales in Korea, both books have had an impact in Japan, where sales of both books have reached 120,000 and 300,000 copies, respectively. Through his Web site, he reached out to the victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami there and provided advice on how to overcome the anguish they felt.

The JoongAng Sunday interviewed Ryunosuke via e-mail to learn more about the book and his teachings.


Q. In your book, you teach people to meditate by focusing on the five senses in order to empty the mind. Could you describe this method in greater detail?

A. My method of meditation is not exactly new. I’ve just adapted existing methods and focus on the five senses.

When you inhale, you can feel the air come in through the nose and flow into the body through the throat. If you concentrate on the movement of the breath as it circulates through the body, you can separate yourself from distracting thoughts. My Five Senses Meditation method is rooted in pre-sectarian Buddhism, which recognizes only that which can be verified.

Could you talk more about pre-sectarian Buddhism as a religion and how it figures into your meditation practice?

I do not consider Buddhism a religion, and I do not believe in anything. I pick out the elements of Buddhism that can be used as tools to survive in this chaotic society and deliver them in a way that can be understood by contemporary people. This kind of approach makes people less dependent on religion.

If there were a basis for what I do, it would revolve around the question “Does it increase or decrease agony?” For example, if you feel anger, you should get to the root of it. Only by doing that can you rid yourself of it. Stay positive and avoid unnecessary distractions.

So do you think relying on an omnipotent God is anachronistic? What do you think about the idea that people tend to turn to religion after natural disasters such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan?

If we considered natural disasters a punishment by God or Buddha, he would be a very egoistic and violent being.

Siddhartha Gautama did not talk about God or Buddha. Regarding things that cannot be verified, like God, he said that it is best to turn inward and cultivate oneself, rather than focus on an external being. He said: “Rely on yourself, stand on your own two feet.”

On your Web site, you say that victims of the earthquake and tsunami can avoid “secondary damage” by controlling their reactions to the events. What did you mean?

In Buddhism, we react to things in this way. First, you record an event in your mind using the five senses. Then you interpret the event with your own knowledge and experiences. Based on your interpretation, you either feel pleasure or displeasure and finally your emotions kick in.

For example, you see images of the earthquake and tsunami with your eyes. Then within a split second you analyze it and conclude that the event is greater than any disaster you’ve ever seen and begin to feel pain. Finally, you become sad or anxious. If you are able to separate your reactions to real events from the actual events themselves you will begin to realize that you are the source of your own sadness and anxiety, and you can let these emotions go.

You say in your book that art, entertainment and economic prosperity have nothing to do with happiness. What did you mean?

With the belief that economic development is essential to happiness, people compete with one another, which has created a lot of unhappiness.

Everyone rushes around without thinking and their minds eventually become barren, unstable and, eventually, unhappy. This system in which people mass produce and mass consume what they want in pursuit of pleasure has reached its limit.

I wish we could produce and consume only what we need to live, instead of products that stimulate desire. These include only those things essential to living, such as food, clothing and shelter.

You say in your book that the pursuit of originality is one cause of stress in today’s world. That goes against the contemporary values of originality and individuality. How can we reconcile our desire for peace with our contemporary values?

Our obsession with originality produces a lot of stress in contemporary society. But in fact, nothing is original. Yet the media and schools teach that one cannot succeed in life without originality. This makes people try desperately to differentiate themselves from others, by buying products or doing things that no one else has, producing stress. But in reality we are not very different from each other. And in striving to be original, the concept of originality has lost its meaning.

In the realm of employment, the desire for recognition, which is why many people work, is also one of the agonies. Once people begin to pursue their passions, they start to obsess about them, which makes them less happy. Instead, people should do what they can and have to do and learn to draw happiness and fulfillment from reality.

That sounds very strange. Are you saying that we shouldn’t have any ambitions or dreams?

Not necessarily. The impetus for doing something fun or interesting comes from dopamine, a chemical found in the brain that delivers feelings of pleasure. The brain can produce dopamine based on the satisfaction that comes from having achieved something. But the pleasure does not last long. You immediately begin to feel anxious and lose serenity. So you set a new goal. When you achieve it, you search for another, repeating the cycle again and again to feel pleasure. This cycle of anxiety and relief for momentary pleasure comes from the West. But it destroys composure, objectivity and morality and ultimately leads to dissatisfaction instead of fulfillment.

In contemporary society, we have replaced real happiness with dopamine. People think they are working to be happy but in fact they are all unhappy from the effect of dopamine leaving the system.

On the contrary, if you do work that is unrelated to ambition or pride, you mind will become calm. This peaceful state comes from serotonin. When the brain produces serotonin, the mind becomes clear and the heart is stabilized. Walking, eating slowly or focusing on inhaling and exhaling the breath helps release serotonin. Simple and repetitive work like this is ideal.

In your book you say that our desire for recognition is another major source of stress. You also say that social networking services such as Twitter enlarge the ego and thereby feed that desire. Do you think these services are useless?

These services simply exploit loneliness and disturb a person’s inner balance. People try to gain recognition by posting messages on social networking services, but in most cases it is only established celebrities who are able to attract widespread attention. When people realize this, it creates anguish, frustration and a negative self-image. But because our society values recognition, people continue to seek it, and that is how the services continue to feed our desire for it.

Whenever you receive pleasure from the feeling that someone responded to a message, you are stimulated by dopamine, and dopamine is addictive. If you are exposed to an excessive amount of dopamine from frequent recognition by others, you will soon become addicted to dopamine and lose your feeling of inner peace.

For your own well-being, it would be best to quit using these services altogether. But if that is not possible, try to limit the amount of time you spend with them. Don’t get on the Internet in the mornings and at night and exercise instead or set fixed intervals between log-ins. This will lessen the addiction by giving you sufficient time to recover from the effects of dopamine and ultimately set you free.


By Yoo Joo-hyun [estyle@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [중앙선데이]

“좋아하는 일만 하면 집착 강해져 오히려 행복해질 수 없습니다”

『생각 버리기 연습』이어 신간 『화내지 않는 연습』낸 고이케 류노스케 스님

잡념 없이 살기란 쉽지 않다. 내 몸은 지금 여기, 현재를 살고 있지만 머릿속은 어제의 실패, 내일의 불안으로 끊임없이 방황한다.단조로운 현실은 자극적 망상을 부추기고, 그러다 보면 어느덧 현실의 삶은 우울하고 불행한 것이 된다.이러한 번뇌의 연결고리를 끊을 수 있는 방법을 제안하고 나선 일본의 한 젊은 스님이 화제다. ‘도쿄대를 나온 스님’으로 유명한 고이케 류노스케(小池龍之介·33)의 신간 『화내지 않는 연습』이 번역 출간 10일 만에 7만 부를 찍었다. 지난해 9월 출간된 『생각 버리기 연습』의 경우 나오자마자 베스트셀러에 진입해 37만 부를 넘어섰다(일본에서는 각각 12만 부, 30만 부를 기록 중이다). 국내 베스트셀러 순위에 한 외국인의 책이 2권이나 진입한 것은 매우 이례적이다. 그는 어떤 메시지로 현대인들의 마음을 사로잡은 것일까. “오감에 집중함으로써 잡념을 버리고 현실에 밀착하라. 삶의 충족감, 행복감을 되찾을 수 있을 것이다.” 그는 만족감을 느끼며 살기 위해서는 객관적인 자기 관찰을 통해 잡념을 버리고 자기 컨트롤을 할 수 있어야 한다고 강조했다. ‘스마트 세상’에서 과잉 정보와 복잡한 인간관계에 고민하는 현대인들이 스트레스로부터 자유로워질 수 있는 방법이란다. ‘욕망의 사념을 잠시 놓고 지금 가진 것들을 온전히 느끼라’는 휴식 같은 메시지로 치열한 경쟁과 과시욕에 지친 현대인을 위로하는 그를 e-메일로 두 차례에 걸쳐 인터뷰했다.

잡념 없이 살기란 쉽지 않다. 내 몸은 지금 여기, 현재를 살고 있지만 머릿속은 어제의 실패, 내일의 불안으로 끊임없이 방황한다.단조로운 현실은 자극적 망상을 부추기고, 그러다 보면 어느덧 현실의 삶은 우울하고 불행한 것이 된다.이러한 번뇌의 연결고리를 끊을 수 있는 방법을 제안하고 나선 일본의 한 젊은 스님이 화제다. ‘도쿄대를 나온 스님’으로 유명한 고이케 류노스케(小池龍之介·33)의 신간 『화내지 않는 연습』이 번역 출간 10일 만에 7만 부를 찍었다. 지난해 9월 출간된 『생각 버리기 연습』의 경우 나오자마자 베스트셀러에 진입해 37만 부를 넘어섰다(일본에서는 각각 12만 부, 30만 부를 기록 중이다). 국내 베스트셀러 순위에 한 외국인의 책이 2권이나 진입한 것은 매우 이례적이다. 그는 어떤 메시지로 현대인들의 마음을 사로잡은 것일까. “오감에 집중함으로써 잡념을 버리고 현실에 밀착하라. 삶의 충족감, 행복감을 되찾을 수 있을 것이다.” 그는 만족감을 느끼며 살기 위해서는 객관적인 자기 관찰을 통해 잡념을 버리고 자기 컨트롤을 할 수 있어야 한다고 강조했다. ‘스마트 세상’에서 과잉 정보와 복잡한 인간관계에 고민하는 현대인들이 스트레스로부터 자유로워질 수 있는 방법이란다. ‘욕망의 사념을 잠시 놓고 지금 가진 것들을 온전히 느끼라’는 휴식 같은 메시지로 치열한 경쟁과 과시욕에 지친 현대인을 위로하는 그를 e-메일로 두 차례에 걸쳐 인터뷰했다.


-오감집중 명상법이란 어떤 것입니까.
“제 명상법이 특별히 새로운 것은 아닙니다. 예로부터 있었던 명상법을 다소 가다듬어 신체 감각을 분명히 느낄 수 있도록 하는 것입니다. 숨을 들이쉬면 코를 거쳐 목을 통해 신체 안으로 들어가는 감각이 있지요. 그 감각을 느낌으로써 신체에 의식을 집중해 나갑니다. 호흡을 느끼는 것에 마음의 중심을 두기 때문에 잡념이 떠올라도 거기 휩쓸리지 않게 됩니다. 마음의 절반은 생각에 뺏겨도 나머지 절반은 호흡 안에 떨어져 있을 수 있으므로 마음을 사고와 격리시켜 사고를 객관시한다는 것이 기본 원리죠.” 그의 ‘오감집중 명상법’은 ‘검증할 수 있는 것 이외에는 믿지 않는다’는 원시불교 사상에 뿌리를 두고 있다. 오로지 명상하고, 명상을 통해 실감함으로써 오감으로 경험할 수 있는 현실에 마음을 밀착하고 살게 된다는 것. ‘스스로를 의지하라, 자립하라’는 석가의 가르침을 따라 타자나 어떤 가치관에 예속되지 않고 자립해서 강하게 살아나가는데 가치를 두고 있다.

-스님은 원시불교의 가르침을 따른다고 했는데, 기본으로 삼고 있는 사상은 어떤 것인가요.
“제 자신은 아무것도 신봉하지 않고, 불도를 종교로서 보지도 않습니다. 어지러운 현대에서 잘 살아가기 위한 ‘도구’로 쓸 만한 요소를 불도에서 도출해 현대인에게 전달하고 있을 뿐입니다. 그런 ‘드라이한’ 접근방식이 종교에 매달리는 의존성을 만들지 않아 좋습니다. 사상이라고 할 만한 것도 특별히 없지만, 굳이 말하자면 모든 사물을 “그것이 고통을 늘리는 것인가, 고통을 줄이는 것인가”라는 기준으로 판단해 고통을 증가시킨다면 버리고 고통을 감소시킨다면 취하는 것 정도입니다. ‘사상’보다는 실제로 즐겁게 살기 위한 ‘연습’이나 ‘실천’을 소중히 합니다. 분노가 솟으면 분노로 인해 발생하는 ‘고통’에 대해 인식하고 그것을 버립니다. 그렇게 마음을 어지럽히는 쓸데없는 것을 줄임으로써 밝고 상쾌한 마음을 최대한 유지하는 것이 전부입니다.”

-‘초월적 존재를 신봉하는 종교는 시대착오적’이란 입장인데, 이번 대지진처럼 사람은 한 치 앞도 알 수 없기 때문에 더욱 신에게 의존하려고 합니다.
“석가의 가르침에는 하나님도 부처님도 없습니다. 석가는 검증 불가능한 것에 관해서는 전부 ‘그런 것을 생각할 여유가 있다면 자기 마음을 단련하라’고 했습니다. 만일 하나님이나 부처님이 있어 자기 마음에 들지 않는 인간에 대해 벌을 내렸다면, 그는 지극히 폭력적이고 제멋대로인 번뇌투성이의 존재가 아닐까요. 자기를 믿지 않는다고 지진을 일으켜 대량 학살하는 존재가 만일 있다면 히틀러 수준의 포악한 독재자, 신이라기보다 악마겠지요. 중요한 것은 절대자라는 환상을 만들고 싶어하는 연약한 자신의 마음을 단련해 자신만을 의지해야 한다는 것입니다.”
그는 자신의 웹사이트를 통해 동일본 대지진에 대처하는 마음가짐에 대한 메시지를 전하고 있다. ‘재해를 당한 사실’과 ‘그것을 머릿속에서 슬픈 일로서 가공하는 것’ 사이에는 엄연한 차이가 있으니 ‘이미 일어난 일은 그대로 받아들이고 부정적 감정에 휩싸여 마음의 2차 피해를 보지 않도록 컨트롤해야 한다’는 논지다.


(이하 생략)

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