meditating

Gratitude helps shut down distractions during meditation

I had to get away from it for a while, so I forgot how good the book Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas is. I tend to be more interested in the science behind mindfulness and meditation (as opposed to specific religions and their rituals), and as a result, from my own practice I can confirm the last sentence in this paragraph from that book. (See the attached image.)

Depending on the day, and especially the time of day, the first 5-10 minutes of any meditation session are the hardest for me, because it takes a while to get my mind to settle down. Since I learned this practice, I do settle down more quickly.

The benefits of mantra in meditation practice

As you progress in your meditation practice, the use of mantra(s) is a powerful way to stay focused all day.

I recall reading that Ram Dass said that even when he is speaking or listening to others, that in the background his mantra is always running in his head: “Ram ... Ram ... Ram.”

In the excellent book, Practicing the Jhanas, I throughout your day that you constantly remember to bring your attention back to the Anapana spot, a spot just under your nose.

Quotes about work and Zen (practicing Zen at work)

For many years I struggled with how to combine two of my main interests, Zen and work. I have read that the Zen mind is the mind before thinking, so it seems like Zen and work must be totally unrelated. Over time I came to understand phrases like, “When working, just work.”

This article contains a collection of quotes that have been helpful to me in understanding the relationship between Zen and work. Please note that I don’t wrap each quote in double quotes, and I also try to attribute each quote to the correct author/speaker. If you’re interested in how to combine Zen and work, I hope you’ll find them helpful.

Stuff that will make you wonder about the nature of reality

When I woke up this morning I was very refreshed and my brain was quiet, so I decided to meditate. Shortly after that the room got a little busy, and then a terrific Michael Jackson song started playing. As I watched what was going on in the room and listened to the musicians and the lyrics, I realized it was a song that doesn't exist here in awakeland. Stuff like that will make you wonder about the nature of reality.

Paragliders in Hatcher Pass, Alaska

Back in 2011 I was meditating in the mountains of Hatcher Pass, Alaska — a place where you generally don’t have to worry about bears, unless you’re picking berries down in the valley — and I heard some yelling. Then I got up, came around the side of where I was, and saw the paragliders at this YouTube video.

What I know about deep meditation states

The following is a (long) discussion of some things you might run into during deep meditation.

Fake Absolute Silence

These days in meditation I spend a lot of time in a place I call “Fake Absolute Silence.” In this state you might be fooled into thinking that you’re in the real state of Absolute Silence, but that’s part of the problem — you’re still thinking. Things are definitely quiet in this state; there aren’t many thoughts, and your concentration is focused on your breathing without distraction. However, I find that I’m still very aware of my body and outside noises. But despite that, it’s generally a mentally quiet place.

Shinzen Young and meditating in the freezing cold

Introduction: After reading the following text in the book, The Science of Enlightenment, I decided to try meditating outside in sweatpants and a hoodie in the freezing cold in the evenings. It’s now my favorite form of meditation because you either do it right, or suffer the consequences.

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Several months later, as winter approached and it was getting cold and uncomfortable, the Abbot told me that if I wanted to be trained in traditional Shingon practice he would allow it — but I would have to do with the old-fashioned way. I would have to do a solo retreat for one hundred days in winter, most of the time with no source of heat, in complete silence other than occasional instruction from him, and with no meal after noon.

My training began on December 22, the day of the winter solstice. The Abbot had warned me that part of the old-fashioned way involved certain ascetic practices derived not from Buddhism, but from the shamanic tradition of Shinto, Japan’s pre-Buddhist tribal religion. One of the most common methods that tribal cultures use to obtain visions of gods or spirits is through prolonged exposure to extreme hot or cold. In India, Hindus have the five fires practice; in North America, Native Americans have the sweat lodge and the sun dance. These involve heat. The traditional Shinto shamanic practice goes in the other direction. It involves cold — squatting under freezing waterfalls in winter, standing in cold springs, dousing your body with ice water, and so forth.