Tag: zen

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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An opportunity to grow

After working much of the weekend, which is a bit abnormal for me it occurred to me that I was not resentful over spending so much of my time on the job that currently pays the bills. I won’t bore you with the details, but some of the work was not even remotely interesting, but it got done anyway. I was thinking about it this morning and such a simple concept came into my mind. Is it possible that you either view all the things you need do as an obligation (negative), or as an opportunity (positive) to grow and improve?

Most of us view the things we need to do as obligations, which means there is a somewhat negative connotation in play here. Obligations weigh on our mind, cause stress, and a feeling of dread. Looking at the things you need to do in this world as obligations provide no joy, no focus, and little sense of accomplishment. You just feel like a hamster on a wheel, living a life where you dread each day as the process repeats itself again and again.

What if instead, I looked at those things I need to do as an opportunity to grow. What would my day look like then, maybe the consequences of this viewpoint would provide:

  • Growth in terms of knowledge acquired, working towards mastery.
  • If I view what I am doing as an opportunity I am more likely to stay focused in the present moment and to experience flow.
  • I am sure to be more productive since I am getting things done because I want to do them, instead of feeling obligated.
  • I will have jumped off the fucking hamster wheel, left the stupid matrix, and I will begin to find meaning and satisfaction in what I do.

Oh, I forgot to mention you might even feel a strange feeling that was buried long ago, something called happiness!

Maybe I had a flash of Satori or it could have just been the three cups of coffee. Satori is a Japanese Zen Buddhist word used to describe a temporary experience of awakening or oneness that seems to come spontaneously from within.

Seriously, if you start viewing your work as a series of opportunities for growth, you begin to live in the present and that is where the magic begins to happen.

Namaste

 

If you would like to support this blog, check out the awesome selection of eBooks at:

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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

 

Too busy to meditate?

Too busy to meditate?

There is an old Zen saying that goes something like this:

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour”

I have been guilty of going not just days, but weeks without meditating because I claim to be just too busy. Going back to the Zen saying it becomes obvious that the busier you are the more you need to meditate. The world will not stop if you sit for 20 minutes, in reality there is nothing you can do to make it all go away. Your only respite in a busy world may just be the thing that you don’t have time for. The question is can you afford not to meditate? An existence that is so busy that you cannot find 20 minutes out of the 16 waking hours, is an issue unto itself. If you are feeling like a puppet on a string, then you have yet another reason to meditate so that you can be less overwhelmed by it all. It all comes down to how much you value your piece of mind. I like to refer to a quote from Buddha:

What have I gained from meditation

So it appears it is not what you have gained but what you will lose by meditating. As I mentioned before I have fallen prey to the I’m just too busy syndrome, and vow that this must be reversed.

Now I need to go sit for a while, come join me if you can.

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!

Three Pillars of Zen and Meditating

Three Pillars of Zen and Meditating

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.

colorful meditation

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.

Namaste