Oakville Zen Meditation

#438 The game of naming; a Zen perspective March 12 23

  The naming game

               This talk is part of a series called: Practicing mindfulness on the go”

The naming or labeling game is an addiction affecting all of us all the time.

As soon as something/somebody is perceived from our eyes, ears, touch, taste smell, or just from actual experience, it is named, interpreted, analyzed,  judged, and even compared with something/somebody else. We may like it, dislike it, accept or reject it, or just remain indifferent. They may be perceived as good or bad or whatsoever the attributes we give them.

This is an automatic mental process, usually subconscious, that I call

“the naming game or the labeling game”. 

Our ongoing naming game triggers the following 3 questions:

Why are we doing it?

In a few specific situations such as working or driving, decisions have to make. 

Assessing and judging are therefore not only required but mandatory. No problem.

But, in the vast majority of cases, the game of naming/labeling is totally useless

and even, maybe detrimental if, following the immediate labeling, we become stuck in a subjective mindset, even a non-rational one.

So, who is behind this naming game?

Automatic analyzing, interpreting, judging, comparing, opinion, labeling, and naming are tools to enhance our self-identification and self-image even if no decision is made. 

We need and must have an opinion on almost everything/everybody even if we are not necessarily right, even if no decision is required.

The culprit behind this nonsense is our ego which loves to have an opinion on everything. Our Western knowledge-based education plays also a role.

Where is the Zen perspective you may ask? 

Zen philosophy and teaching are telling us to practice the opposite of the “naming game” when no decision is required.

Why that? Because our compulsory and unconscious naming/labeling is creating numerous mindsets on everything/everybody.

MInd sets make us prisoners of our own thinking. We will never awaken spiritually until this compulsory naming/judging ceases because awakening implies having an open mind rather than the mindset one being stuck with a zillion of ideas, opinions, beliefs, and judgments on whatever and whoever.

Final words:

Unless decisional, naming/labeling/judging is just food for the ego. 

During the day, be mindful when you label/name something/someone and let it go because it consumes a lot of mental energy that you may use for more practical decisional needs. 

Initially, it is not easy and this is where the practice of mindfulness on the go is important. Also, writing down your labeling game is a useful tool.

After a while, you will experience better inner mental peace, and you are no anymore

possessed by your ego-driven mindset. “An awakened mind is a beginner mind, always wide open and not frozen by the idea, opinion, and judgment all ego-driven,” said great Zen Master Suzuki. It is also called the “ don’t know mind” by other Masters.    Thank you