Stephen Mitchell is an author and translator who has dedicated much of his life to Zen practice. Eric and Stephen have an in depth discussion about the questioning mind as well as his work of translating many famous texts, including the Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, and Rilke’s “Letters To a Young Poet”. Stephen has also co-authored many books with his wife, Byron Katie, who is a former guest on the show.
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In This Interview, Stephen Mitchell and I Discuss the Questioning Mind and…
- The parable: how reality cannot be broken into good or bad, it’s just what is.
- When authentic action that is true to yourself becomes second nature, it’s an expression of your own reality.
- His wife Katie’s words, “when we believe our thoughts, we suffer; when we question our thoughts, we don’t.”
- Suffering can end when we awaken to the truth
- Distinguishing between pain, a physical phenomenon, and suffering, a mental phenomenon
- Suffering often comes from being stuck in an imagined past or imagined future
- His translation of the Heart Sutra that is about openness rather than emptiness
- The “don’t know” or questioning mind and how it doesn’t get stuck in judgement
- Being immersed in an intense formal Zen practice for 7 years
- His Koan studies that helped him get to a state of stillness and learn to hold the questioning mind without any content.
- Defining Koan studies as an existential problem meant to catapult the student into a space of questioning.
- If you can rest in that space of not knowing, the answer will present itself to you.
- The mind’s relationship with it’s contents
- Difference between the mind and what it thinks.
- We don’t suffer because of what happens to us, but rather how we think about what happens to us.
- Self inquiry and asking yourself the question, “Is it true”?
- How he learns the language of the text he’s translating.
- His work of translating is more than just learning the meaning of words, but also the music of the words.
- When translating text, his allegiance is to the spirit of the text and not just the literal meaning of the text.
- Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: A Biblical Tale Retold is discussed in the post show conversation.
Stephen Mitchell Links:
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