Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 12.42.38 PMI am in Kyoto, Japan with my wife, Hannah, teaching a personal growth workshop. Our program is designed to help individuals and couples have healthier relationships.

Interestingly, I met an old Buddhist Monk who asked me what I was doing in Kyoto. I started to answer him. He interrupted me and said, “Tell me in 99 words or less.”

This is what I said. “I have learned and am now sharing a practice of choosing my first thoughts upon awakening, resetting my emotions within 90 seconds if I upset myself and using words in a such a way that I remind myself I am creating my life. This allows me to stay focused and mostly happy, but without being manic. I do drift to sleep occasionally, I call them ‘catnaps of consciousness,’ but I am able to catch myself before I am so far gone that I get lost in my illusions of ‘not good enough’ or ‘never will’ or ‘what if.’ It’s constant effort, but very rewarding.”

Without even hesitating, the monk said, “That’s 109 words.” I started thinking about how I would cut out nine words, but he continued speaking.

He said, “What you are describing is enlightenment, or more accurately, ‘enlightening’ ourselves moment by moment. This continuous effort that you describe—that’s it! There is no destination, just this continuous process of managing our thoughts and moods. Some of us get to a place in which we delight ourselves in this very process and we stop seeking a destination.

“Then we have arrived. But only for a moment. More effort, another moment, more effort, another moment.

“This can also be described as learning to sculpt reality. This involves understanding how to shape meaning. To get good at this requires mastery. And although mastery may result in less need to manage our thoughts and moods, the need to manage never goes away.

“Many people ask me for answers, but when I describe the effort, the monotony of staying awake, ironically they fall asleep. They get bored. They are too addicted to drama. They think the drama keeps them awake, but really they are lost, as you say, in illusions.”

I asked the monk, “Why did you want me to only use 99 words?”

He said, “Because time is precious and the answer is simple. If you take too much time figuring out the answer you miss your life.”

If you want to learn more about the language of the Buddha, which has much in common with ReSpeak, click here to read another short article.

And to read part II of this article, and learn how to be present, click here.



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    Last reviewed: 17 Jul 2014

APA Reference
Anonymous. (2014). A Buddhist Monk Told Me The Answer To Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 28, 2015, from



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