For the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading the The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau. The book provides an insight into Zen Buddhism history, practices, and principles. This is really a wonderful book that anyone with an interest in Zen should read. I warn you that there are a number of words translated from Chinese or Japanese that you will need to look up to really understand what is being presented, but it is worth it. This means that reading the book is a fairly slow process where you may only read several pages at each sitting, needing time to digest what is being said. If you have an interest in meditation you will find some guidance in what Zen Masters call zazen, the Zen form of seated meditation. In the book they claim that zazen is not a typical form of meditation, but I’ll let you be the judge.
The goal of zazen is to suspend all judgmental thinking, letting words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them; clearing the mind if you will. It should be noted that zazen is the core discipline for Zen, and carries with it some very specific practices that help you achieve a clear mind one unencumbered by the past and future.
One of the specific practices is counting breaths to help clear the mind. I’ve been doing this because I can’t seem to stop thinking about other things, so the counting helps me block out other thoughts that want to surface as as I sit. One method is to count to 10, counting each breath as one then two, etc. The reason you limit yourself to 10 is that even counting to 10 can be a challenge as other thoughts keep coming up and disrupt the counting of your breaths.
Maybe you will find this method helpful as you try to quiet your mind. Remember the goal here is to clear your mind of the past and the future, coming to grips with being present and aware, but not thinking about anything. I know this may not make sense, but your goal should be to be present but non judgmental, just be. I will continue my reading of the Three Pillars of Zen and share the best of this book with you.