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15. December, 2015Meditation No comments

zen sitting meditation

He didn’t mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn’t matter.” 

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Over many years and different forms of meditation practice my life has been enriched. Meditation has calmed my mind and made space for me to hear the voice of Guidance. It has enabled me to sometimes reach across my boundaries and sometimes to remain firmly within them. It has mellowed my opinions and melted them down. Most important, it has given me greater understanding of myself and compassion for my flaws.

What is Zazen Meditation?

zazen practice

Recently I undertook the Zen sitting meditation practice called Zazen. Zazen means “seated meditation” and is sometimes just called ‘sitting’. In a word, that is what the practitioner does: Sit, allowing whatever bodily sensations, thoughts, or ideas that arise to come and go without getting caught up in them. This includes an itchy nose as much as thinking about the situations of our lives. The goal is to suspend our reactions to the itchy nose as well as the judgements and opinions that carry us into fantasies of thinking.

The practice consists of a relaxed and awake posture, attention to the body and mind, and natural breathing. While there are a variety of instructions about posture essentially the idea is to be at ease but fully alert. Sitting in a chair is as acceptable as a full lotus position.

Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck directed students to notice their thoughts and label them with specificity. For example, not just noticing that you are angry but going further to notice “having a thought that my boss is demanding.” Over time, the process of labeling loosens our identification with what we think.

Control Your Breathing

Breathing is about allowing the breath to come and go without controlling it. To remain present, some instructors recommend counting 10 breaths and then beginning again at 1. Other instructors suggest watching the breath or using it to keep your attention on the immediate moment.

Channeling Your Emotions and Opinions

zazen breathing

Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist nun recommends letting our reactions ‘simmer’ rather than taking too-soon action, before the right action has appeared. Zazen practice itself provides this opportunity. Whatever emotions and opinions you are harboring will show up when you ‘sit’. Angry with someone? Uncomfortable with something? Sink into your body; it will present the upset in visceral form (e.g., a queasy stomach, clenching fists). In short order, your mind will seize on the story around the upset. You catch yourself, label the thought, and go back to the immediate visceral experience of your body. And there it is, the actual experience you are having right now. Plus the opportunity to simply sit with it without reliving the experience or judging yourself and others.

how to practice zazen

Teachers will tell you, this is hard work. I am not a teacher and I say it is easy. The hard part is the commitment to meditate every single day, day after day, and if you miss a day to start up again the next day. The easy part is the meditating. It’s easy because it is never more than you can handle. If you settle in your body and find you want to jump out of your skin, you pay attention to that for as long and as best as you can. And when you cannot hold the discomfort any longer, that trickster, your mind, will whisk you away.

Once you realize you are off in fantasy land you label the thought, let it go, and settle back into your body. You do this again and again and again, building tolerance for life itself, whatever occurs.

zazen meditation benefits

Achieving a Greater Awareness

I can’t say what your experience will be. I can personally report that I’ve felt a sense of peace and patience emerge from this form of meditation that is noticeable in my life. I’ve also noticed greater awareness of what bothers me, perhaps because of a heightened visceral sense. Friends who have joined me for even 10 minutes a day have reported similar experiences.

Now, in December, we are approaching the winter solstice, a time of contraction and pulling within to rest for the coming renewal of spring. This reflective rest is appropriately silent, without words, in the way a seed incubates underground gathering energy for later growth. Zazen meditation is wordless. It is about returning to the basics of being awake, here, now. Out of this the right action for any problem we face will make itself known.

zazen meditation for beginners

Ultimately the practice is about becoming the Truth of who you are. It isn’t about becoming perfect. It is about becoming Real, being more of who you are, all the time, without concern for how you appear to others because you have learned to love yourself as you are and your shabbiness doesn’t matter anymore.

My holiday wish for you and me and everyone is to simmer well and become a bit more Real in 2016.

If you would like to learn more about the practice of Zazen I wholeheartedly recommend these books:

Living Beautifully With Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron

Everyday Zen Love and Work by Charlotte Joko Beck

If you would simply like to read more detailed instructions for Zazen, the Zen Mountain Monastery –  has detailed instructions on their website: https://zmm.mro.org/teachings/meditation-instructions/.

 

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If you’re looking for a Scottsdale healing meditation professional, contact Dr. Sandra Egli at Center of Intention to start your holistic journey. Call (480) 860-0400 today!

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Mindfulness

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