Tag: zazen

Meditation Experiences – Uno

This is my first (Uno) post regarding my recent meditation experiences. `It is not so much my intention to teach about meditation, but I am more interested in explaining my own journey. However, with that said there are a couple basics that you may want to consider such as the sitting position and the benefits of having some kind of seating cushion often referred to as a Zafu. There are a number of different sitting positions, but I would say most of the world uses either full lotus, half-lotus, or Burmese. These are pictured below:

Full Lotus

Note both feet are resting on the thighs, this takes a fair amount of flexibility and is not for everyone.

Half Lotus

In the half-lotus only one foot is on the thigh, this is easier than full lotus for most people.

Burmese

Another popular position and probably the easiest when first getting started.

When I started meditating I tried the full lotus position, but I’m not that flexible and was unable to get into the correct position, so I used the half-lotus position most of the time and even tried the Burmese position. One thing I like about the Burmese sitting position is that your knees are at the same level, where when sitting in half-lotus one is higher than the other. This comes in handy when you put your hands on your knees, you feel that your arms are completely balanced.

If you already meditate, you are probably saying stop you are boring me to death. Ok enough about sitting positions, just choose one that works best for you and get on with it.

Once I got serious about meditating, meaning doing it every day the question was for how long should I sit? I started out with sitting for 10 minutes, then 15, and now I am sitting 20 minutes at each session. With each successive increase in time came benefits as it seemed like the first 10 minutes or so was still a battle of fighting with my monkey mind, which was mostly focused on challenges at work. So while 10 minutes of meditation was better than nothing I didn’t really get a whole lot of benefit out of it, but when I moved to 15 and then 20 minutes things started to change. I’m speculating that I could probably get even more out of my practice if I extended the time to say 30 or 45 minutes, but I’m not there yet. Most of my meditation sessions occur fairly early in the morning after I have completed my yoga practice, which by itself takes about 30 minutes, so, all in all, I’m spending about 1 hour in the morning practicing yoga and meditation.

I have tried Zen (Zazen) meditation with your eyes open and the mudra hand position (see below). I did this for some time but was never really comfortable having my eyes open and eventually changed to meditating with my eyes closed, but I still use the mudra hand position from time to time.

When I started meditating about two months ago, I used the technique of counting breaths, which helped me drown out the monkey mind a bit, but I rarely do that now. Most of the time I will focus on just watching my breathing and trying to stay present.

If you are not currently meditating you might ask, why in the hell are you doing this? For me the answer was easy, I was very unhappy, experiencing a lot of anxiety and worry in my life, and I knew if I gave meditation a fair try I might be able to alleviate some of this angst. I will be honest I was fucking miserable and dreading each day and knew this was no way to live. In my next post, I will explain what meditation is doing for me and cover some of the benefits you can also expect during your own journey.

Namaste

 

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The way

I’m paraphrasing here, but from the book UNFU*K Yourself by Gary Bishop, he says something like “Only You Can Save Yourself”. So when I say let your practice be your salvation, it means your practice, not someone else, but you must become your own salvation. Your practice and I mean meditation and studies are the means that will lead you to find yourself.

The only way to reveal the true you, the you that is buried deep inside is through your practice. Without daily practice you continually let yourself become some manifestation of your environment and you move further away from who you really are. Either you direct your mind or the world around you will do it for you. I think this quote from the Buddha illustrates my point about why your practice is so important.

For a Buddhist, there is only the way, and the way is to practice.

Namaste

 

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Do you have Buddha nature?

The title of this blog post asks do you have Buddha nature? Well according to Buddhist philosophy we all have a Buddha nature somewhere inside us, but as you can see it took the Buddha Shakyamuni six years for it to be revealed to him. It was his revelation after six years upon becoming enlightened that all living beings are Buddha, meaning they are inherently enlightened. The Buddhist believe that through meditation or for Zen practitioners Zazen, one can strip away the layers of unconscious thinking and brainwashing that has covered up our true nature.

However my statement applied to human beings, homo sapiens if you will. The Buddha Shakyamuni stated “all living beings are Buddha”, not all human beings are Buddha. Often when one refers to the word Buddha they are referring to Siddhārtha Gautama who becomes the Buddha, but in this quote the term Buddha refers to meaning the enlightened one or a person who has attained Buddhahood. In my mind none of these definitions really fully explain what the Buddha Shakyamuni proclaimed upon enlightenment because they again bestow the term only to a human beings.

Maybe it is more precise to say that all living things are inherently enlightened or are Buddha. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines enlightened as:

“freed from ignorance and misinformation”

I like to think we all start out in life with a Buddha nature free from ignorance and misinformation, and then the brainwashing begins. As we are taught fictitious stories by our parents, society, and our formal education systems we begin to bury the Buddha nature beneath layers of thoughts about the world and most of them untrue. We are told stories that impart values such as:

  • Money is good, more money is better
  • Power is good and we should seek power over others
  • Sex is good and we should always want more
  • Success is the result of hard work and we need to work harder
  • Life is competitive and we need to grab all we can get before someone else does
  • Acquiring things is good and we should seek more
  • God is all powerful and we should worship him
  • Nationalism is important, we are better than they are
  • Praise is good, seek more, stoke the ego

Of course this goes on and on, and these stories only serve the purpose to make us subservient to a materialistic me oriented society, where the more you have the more successful your are as a person. We are always seeking more, craving for new experiences, and never knowing ourselves. It is not in our nature to live based on these stories we are told, but it becomes a matter of conditioning over time. The Buddha was not satisfied with these stories, and left the Royal Palace to seek the answers to life, ultimately finding enlightenment, then going on to teach the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to thousands of disciples.

Can we follow his example and gain enlightenment? I think the answer is a resounding YES! If in fact you believe that we all have Buddha nature buried deep inside us, then the possibility of gaining enlightenment truly exists. There is a catch here, and it is not a trivial thing. The Buddha himself spent six years meditating to gain enlightenment, which clearly points out his dedication and patience. Here is a quote I find applicable to helping you as you follow the path:

 

In a world of instant gratification, rampant materialism, and greed we are probably challenged like never before, but I take heart in seeing that many are disillusioned with the stories that have dominated society since the beginning of the Industrial Age. There seems to be a keen interest in Eastern philosophy and the practice of meditation. People are looking for meaning in their life that goes beyond the acquisition of material things. They are beginning to understand that craving begets more craving, and the cycle only leaves us more dissatisfied and disillusioned. Buddhism can show us the way out of this self imposed existence, ultimately ending the causes of suffering such as craving and ego. My advice would be start with understanding the Four Noble Truths, studying the Eightfold Path, and start meditating.

Let the process begin.

Namaste

 

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Sources:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enlightened

The Power of Zazen

In Zen Buddhism zazen means seated meditation. Without boring you to death zazen meditation is done with the eyes open and sitting in full lotus, half lotus, Burmese (legs crossed with ankles in front), or kneeling. I woke early today after somehow getting myself all worked up over my current living situation, full of anger, I decided to just getup, it was around 3:00 a.m., a couple hours earlier than usual. I was thinking about why I was so angry and feeling more upset with myself for losing control of my emotions. Now if this would have been the first time in a while it might be understandable, but this was the third time in as many days that I just exploded. I walked into my office and sat down, started up Pandora and listened to the yoga station, and began to meditate. It took me some time before I was beyond an angry state, and then other things came into my head, these thoughts lingered a while, and finally after about 20 minutes I was feeling better, and I had no thoughts. Sometimes I try to drown out other thoughts with affirmations or quotes. Here are a couple I used this morning:

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Lao Tzu

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” Bruce Lee

I repeat the Lao Tzu quote frequently during meditation, but for some reason the Bruce Lee quote was also meaningful today.

Regarding zazen itself, here is a good quote from one of the Zen Masters.

zazen_banner

It appears that my recent behavior indicates I am not as diligent with my zazen practice as I should be, and in my case it may be time to make it a twice a day habit. The power of zazen is that it can help you control your unhealthy emotions, and lead you to a calmer state of mind. There are many reasons to meditate, but if you are anxious, stressed out, angry, burning the candle at both ends, consider zazen as the way forward.

Namaste

 

The Lectures (1 Theory and Practice of Zazen)

The Lectures (1 Theory and Practice of Zazen)

In my last post I mentioned that I was reading a fascinating book called the Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau.  I mentioned the practice of zazen which is arguably a very prescriptive form of meditation. As my reading has progressed the author is covering lectures given by his master Yasuntani-roshi starting with 1 Theory and Practice of Zazen. It should be noted that even the Buddha Shakyamuni devoted himself exclusively to zazen for six years before attaining enlightenment. Now he was the Buddha so for the rest of us your time may vary, and yes for most of us could be considerably longer. However with that said there is no average time frame and one should not feel any sense of urgency as the journey is as important as the goal.

In this lecture Yasuntani-roshi goes further into some of the details around the practice of zazen; here are a few points made during the lecture:

  • Work on creating a base when sitting full lotus (see picture), half lotus, or quarter lotus sitting positions are preferred. However there are other sitting positions that will provide a good base such as the Burmese posture (see picture below) or traditional Japanese knelling posture (see picture below).
  • Notice the back must be erect and straight, the eyes open, and the hands will typically be held with the right hand underneath the thumbs touching.
  • Yasuntani-roshi recommends sitting no more than 30 – 40 minutes at a time, otherwise the mind will lose its sharpness. Beginners should start with 5 – 10 minutes until they become comfortable. I started out with about 10 minutes, and now can sit for 20 minutes or so after several weeks of gradually adding time. It was not something I did in any systematic fashion, instead it just naturally became easier to sit for longer periods of time as the frequency of sitting increased. The more you sit and meditate the more you look forward to it, and the easier it becomes to sit for longer periods of time.
Burmese sitting position
Burmese sitting position

full lotus

full lotus

 

As zazen is the key element to Zen Buddhism it is very exacting. It is worth studying to make sure you are approaching it correctly.

Japanese sitting position
Japanese sitting position

Namaste!