Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Meditation Basics

I do zen. The sitting meditation is called zazen. Do you meditate? Is it something you've heard about but never took the time to do? You can read all about it but most importantly zen is something you experience directly.

I start my morning sitting on the edge of a cushion called a zafu. Any cushion will do. Crossing my legs to the quarter lotus position is best for me with my knees down and back straight. (I might not be sitting as straight as I should be here in the video but I was trying to be more in the frame) This is a solid grounding position for me. Half lotus would be one foot on one thigh, while the full lotus position would be both feet resting on opposite thighs. See if you can do them. The hands are placed just below the navel one on top of the other with thumbs touching. The mouth is closed and the eyes are almost shut. I consistently sit daily for 15-20 minutes, sometimes longer.

The first way to practice is to count your breath. For every in and out cycle of the breath you count as one and proceed from there. When you find your mind wandering, start over from one. Keep bringing yourself back to the breath. Don't regulate your breathing, just breath naturally from your belly and observe that. Are YOU breathing or is your breath breathing you?

Once you get good at that sort of meditation, do just like you did before but without counting your breaths. Just notice and be fully aware of your breathing as it is. When you find your mind wandering, bring your mind back to the awareness of your breath. Practice this. This is being mindful.

Now how about just sitting? It's as simple as that. Just sit and breath. As a thought comes into your head, acknowledge it and witness that but don't hold on to it or follow it further into daydreaming. Don't judge what comes into your mind. The mind has thoughts and we can take them for what they are but don't cling to them in meditation, let them come and go. After a while, thoughts slow down and the intervals between thoughts will be longer. It's like swirling around a glass of dirty water and when you stop swirling, after a while the muck settles to the bottom and above it the clear water remains.

This is how I do zazen. I recommend choosing one of these methods for each meditation period. There are so many ways to meditate though in general. Some people chant, some do yoga, gaze at a candle or do walking zen. The ego mind is concerned with the past and future. It does not live presently. Have you ever realized how often your mind thinks about the past or future? Practicing in these ways awaken you to the present moment which is always here. This is reality. This is the practice of meditation and mindfulness.

Taking meditation further into your daily activities you become those activities you do whole heartedly. This is zen in action.  Or better still, you realize you are the activity or the expression of the Universe itself and are not separate from it. This is Self-realization. Your ego consciousness gets removed from say "I'm brushing my teeth" to just "brushing." You are not separate from your activities. Zen is direct experience. No words. Experience without concepts and judgements. The more we talk about it the further we get from it.

I am in no way a Zen master but I do practice. A good portion of the music I write deals directly with this sort of experience so look into it if your interested. If you have any questions, I can try to answer them!