What is a koan?

After my last article on mondays, I have received quite a few answers that can be summarized in:

I liked it but its not a fable

To which I answered

A koan is not a fable

einstein jovencito

As in  everything, there is a whole universe of knowledge of whose existence  we don’t even think of…and that is something great, because it gives us the opportunity to grow more and more!

Some years ago I reached out and tried to learn about Zen philosophy and its methods.

In the global mind, we have the idea that Zen is being calm, being able to remain like that against all odds and that nothing affects you.

piedras zen

“Today I’m Zen”

“You have to be Zen”

“That is a very Zen person”

Surely we have heard or used these expressions. For all of us that are not savyy in the field….we are wrong.

In the next reflections we will talk about Zen philosophy, so today we’ll stick to koan.

A kōan is a story, dialogue, question, or statement, which is used in Zen-practice to provoke the “great doubt”, and test a student’s progress in Zen practice

maestro y alumno


On the other side, a fable is a Western concept.

Fable is a literary genre. A fable is a succinct fictional story, that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized (given human qualities such as verbal communication), and that illustrates or leads to an interpretation of a moral lesson (a “moral”), which may at the end be added explicitly in a pithy maxim.



Hence, whilst the first is a tool to open your mind, the second has a role of promoting values or ideas in a simple and direct fashion.

Why are we atracted so much to fables?

That is stuff for another post!

Bonus for those who read all the way.

These are the best known Koan:

Does a falling tree make noise if nobody can hear it?

How does a one hand clap sound?

Do you find koan interesting? Did you know about them? Share in a comment.


Koan – The First Principle

When one goes to Obaku temple in Kyoto he sees carved over the gate the words “The First Principle”.

Ruedas de rezo

The letters are unusually large, and those who appreciate calligraphy always admire them as being a mastepiece.

They were drawn by Kosen two hundred years ago.

When the master drew them he did so on paper, from which the workmen made the large carving in wood.

As Kosen sketched the letters a bold pupil was with him who had made several gallons of ink for the calligraphy and who never failed to criticise his master’s work.

Pruebas caligrafía

“That is not good,” he told Kosen after his first effort.

“How is this one?”

“Poor. Worse than before,” pronounced the pupil.

Kosen patiently wrote one sheet after another until eighty-four First Principles had accumulated, still without the approval of the pupil.

Then when the young man stepped outside for a few moments, Kosen thought: “Now this is my chance to escape his keen eye,” and he wrote hurriedly, with a mind free from distraction: “The First Principle.”

Maestro caligrafia

“A masterpiece,” pronounced the pupil.


Has it ever happened to you that once you simple let go and stop worrying things simply flowed?

Reflecting – 27=9×3 strategy

27 words, 9 seconds, and three points

We live in a society focused on numbers.

dedos con números



Living up to the expectations.

Time and shifts.

It seems that only that which we can crunch into a number really matters.

And we love it…don’t we?

relojes ruedas

Actually we don’t.

We HATE it.

Then why does society focus on numbers so much?

Because they can measure it.

We can compare.

We can categorize things in “good” or “bad”.

Into “acceptable” or “unacceptable”.

But at the core of it all…

We think that they dispell uncertainty.

We have numbers, metrics, matrixes, spreadsheets, calculators, rulers…we CAN’T possible go wrong, can we?

Of course we can.

Anybody heard of an economic crisis that we’re supposed to be in?

300 629 10

And I’d say there were more than one or two “inteligent” people monitoring the situation…and probably had more than paper and pencil to figure it out and keep track.

The other day I read an interesting article (link at the bottom) about a common buzz word: elevator pitch.

Elevator pitch

Basically, the concept is that you happen to bump into somebody important/influential/rich and you have only 30 seconds to tell them about your super awesome project.

Beyond the actual 30 seconds mark, the concept is interesting.

If you’re able to explain in a well thought, articulate and convincing fashion its easier that you’ll be taken into account.

However, and this is probably the most important aspect, it forces you to soul search, de-clutter and focus on the core bare-bones of your project.

And that kind of attitude, habit and exercise is WONDERFUL, because for every word you take away, you get closer and closer to the soul our your idea.

As often, somebody went and gave it another twist…with more numbers (now you see why this post started the way it did!)


27 words, 9 seconds, and three points

Have you had experience in brushing up your projects? What is your take on the issue?

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Fables – The four candles

Once upon a time, four candles were burning.

The place was so silent that the dialogue between them could be heard.

The first said:

I am the Peace, and even with my light, people cannot manage to keep me lit.

Soon, the flame extinguished.

 velas volando

The second said:

I am Faith!

Sadly, I am not needed by people. They don’t want to know about God or their Spirit, it doesn’t make sense to continue burning.

When she finished talking, a soft wind blew her out.

 vela fe

Very quietly and sad, the third candle spoke:

I am Love!

I can’t continue burning, I am tired. People put me aside, only interested in taking care of themselves up to the point of forgetting those around them.

It too went out.

vela amor

Suddenly, a boy arrives and sees the three extinguished candles…

– What is this! You must be lit and burn until the end!

Then the fourth candle spoke:

– Fear not, my son.

While I am lit, we can re-ignite the other candles.

 vela esperanza

Then the boy took the candle of Hope and re-kindled the other candles.

 Author: unknown

May the candle of Hope never extinguish for you, for it is the light at the end of the tunnel.

Fables – The firefly and the snake

Once upon a time, there was a snake that started chasing relentlesly a beautiful firefly.


The glowing insect fled as fast as it could from the fearsome predator, but the snake didn’t give up.


It fled for a full day and the snake didn’t give up. Two days and nothing. On the third day, totally exhausted, the firefly stopped and told the sanke:

– Can I make you a couple questions?

interrogante nubes

– I’m not used to allow such a thing…but since I’m going to eat you, go ahead.

–  Do I belong to your chain of food?

– No

– Have I done you any harm?

– No

– Then, why do you want to end me?

– Because I can’t stand seing you glow.


Unknown author

Has it happened to you that someone went against you because they couldn’t stand your glow and have later acknowledged it? Leave your comment or tweet @growthhunter

Reflection – How close are you to your heart?

Long ago, a wise man asked his followers:

Why do people shout when they are angry?

pareja gritándose

They thought for some time:

– Because we lose our calm – said one – that is why we shout.

– But, why shout to a person that is right next to you? Isn’t it possible to talk quietly? – said the wise man.

Others gave their answers but none satisfied the wise man.


Finally, he explained:

When two people are upset, their hearts are very far apart. To cover that distance, they must shout in order to be heard.

The more angry they are, the louder they will have to shout in order to hear each other in this great distance.

Gran cañón

The wise men then asked:

What happens when two people are in love?

They do not shout, they speak softly.


Why? Because their hearts are very close.

The distance between them is very small.

The wise man continued, when they love even more, do you know what happens? The don’t speak, only whisper and they get even closer in their love.

In the end, they don’t even need to whisper, they simply look at each other and it is all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.


Then he said:

– When you argue, do not allow your hearts to go far away, do not speak words that will push them even further, for one day the distance will be so big they will not be able to find their way back.

Author: traditional tibet tale

Share your thoughts in the comments or in Twitter @growthhunter

Reflection – Is there an afterlife?

In the belly of a pregnant woman there were two babies. One asked the other:

2 fetos ying yang

– Do you believe in life after the birth?

– Of course I do! There HAS to be something after birth. Maybe we are here getting ready for something we will become later.

–  Nonsense! There is no life after birth! How would that life be?

– I don’t know, but probably….there will be more light than here. Maybe we will even walk on our own feet and feed through our mouths!

caminando por flores

– I can’t have any of that! Walking is impossible! And eating with the mouth? That is nonsense! The umbilical cord is how we feed. Let me tell you something: there is no life after birth!. The cord is just too short.

valla al campo

– I think that there has to be something. Maybe just a bit different from what we are used to here.

– But nobody has returned ever after birth. It is the end of life. After all, life is nothing but anxious existence in darkness that leeds nowhere.

– Well, I don’t know what it will exactly be after birth, but I’m certain we will see Mom and she will take care of us.

mujer embarazada osito

– Mom? You believe in Mom? And where is she according to you?

– Where? Everywhere! In here and through here is how we live. Without her, there would be no world as we know it.

– I don’t believe you! I have never seen Mom, hence it is logical that she doesn’t exist.

– Well….but sometimes, when we are silent, you can hear her singing o caressing our world. You know? I think that a real life awaits us out there and we are just getting ready for it…

semillas en el viento

Share your thoughts in the comments below o in Twitter @growthhunter

Fables – All you need is fear

Once upon a time there was a king with a pure heart and very interested in spiritual growth.

He was visited often by yogis and mystical masters that could provide him with advice and methods for his personal enlightment.


News reached him about a very suspicious aesthet and resolved to call him to try him.

The aesther presented himself to the monarch and the later stated:

“Proof you are an authentic aesthet or I will have you hanged!”


The yogi said:

Majesty, I promise I have very strange and supernatural visions. I see a golden bird in the sky and the daemons under the earth. I can see them right now!

“How is it possible – inquired the king –  that through these thick walls you can see what you claim in the sky and under the earth?”

The aesther answered:

“I only needed fear”

Mujer al borde

Author: traditional Indian tale

We always speak badly of fear…but it does have its uses! Have you had a situation where fear has aided you?

Please share in the comments or tweet @growthhunter

Fables – The bee and the bird

The bee was flying in its busy work, going from flower to flower, doing what it had to do without questioning anything. The field provided all it needed for its joy and enjoy.

abeja ocupada

But a terrible drought hit the land. The plants and flowers no longer grew as they did before and the field became a desolated and lifeless barren.

campo seco

The bee, not knowing what to do, went to ask for advice to a wise bird that lived close by.

“Dear Bird, tell me, Why do’nt I have flowers at will like I had before? I’m trying to understand what has happened and I can’t understand it”.

pajaro y abeja

“Instead of trying to understand, try to pay attention, dear friend. Instead of asking why,  thinking about what has happened, pay attention to what surrounds you and you will be able to act as needed, in this case, going to other more fertile lands.

Not all things are solved by thinking about them but observingwhat is happening. So stop thinking and act in whatever way you need to continue living”, said the Bird.

flor sobreviviendo

Sometimes, the absurd and inexplicable does not have a logical explanation we can understand. What is more important is that we pay attention to what is in front of you in order to find the best answer to what you need.

Have you adapted succesfully to a big change in your life? Please share in the comments below or tweet @growthhunter

Religion or Spirituality?

Alcanzando la luz

“I don’t belive in religion”

“I don’t think there is anything else”

“I’m getting enought just going through my days”

“I’m a very spiritual person”

We’ve all heard such statements and may have even shared them at some point in time.

In a society such as the western, where certain needs, rewards and attitudes are encouraged… does the religious or spiritual phenomenon have space?

What is “better, religion or spirituality?

Are they the same? What do they differ in ?

atardecer impactante

Let us start by the formal definitions:

Religion ( by Merriam-Webster)

A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

Spiritual ( also by Merriam-Webster)

Of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit

They key element that sets them appart are the practices, since we can agree that both are concerned about the well-being of the spirit.

Hence, as a consequence we could state that :

All human being has a spiritual dimension.

manos recibiendo luz

Who hasn’t felt the need to feed beyond food? Personal relationships, professional satifaction, feeling of belonging to a community…

What about religion?

Símbolos de religiones

In past times (though not so far away as we may think!), religion was one of society’s pilars.

Not pretending to analyze any particular religion, most of them share certain traits:

– They have authority figures, which decide what is adhering to the religion and what isn’t


– They profess throug ther own rites, which usually are strict and mandatory.

muslim prayer

– Their symbology is very clearly cut


– They are excluding: religions claim they are authentic and only

linea arena

This is the key element that sets them apart.

When you put together ritual practices along with the pretension of being the one and only, this draws a line that separates what belongs and what doesn’t.

On the other side, we live in an Era (for many more decades than many people think) packed with spiritual possibilities.


The most known are the so called alternative therapies: Reiki, Pranic Healing, Yoga or Bach Flowers just to name a few. Even amongst them, you can find different variations.

However, and here is where the main difference with religions shines, it is hard to find a technique or therapy that excludes other ways of doing or thinking.

For example, you’ll be hard pressed to find a reikist (reiki therpist) that claims that a yogi is wrong.

Whilst a pranic healer focuses on the kundalini energy and the coiled snake, a reikist focuses on the universal energy.


For some, the energy ascends whislt for others it descends.

This doesn’t mean that anything is in.

If these techniques and philosofies share something it is that the grow a spirituality that embraces different approaches to common goal.

They all start from their own certainties, paradigms and ways of understanding life, energy and spirit.

Even then, they accept that others can chip in, grow and broaden the opportunities.


This artile is a reflection, trying to put in words a very complicated topic and one that most people stand their ground in an intense way.

I hope that the conciliatory intention gets its way through and if it helps awakening sensibilities, cooperation and comprehension, it will have made its purpose.

Do you agree with the differences? Is there some experience you wish to share?

Leave a comment below or send a tweet @growthhunter