zazen

One way to meditate without distraction

If you’re interested in meditating but can’t quite seem to do it without getting distracted, I recommend making a game of it. One game I use is, “How long can I take to count to five full breaths?”

The game itself is simple: Just before you begin to meditate, start a stopwatch on your phone. Then breathe in, and as you do so, internally say “one.” Then breathe out and internally (or externally) say “two.” Try to take these breaths as slowly as you can, with all of your focus on the current breath and current number. Keep doing this until you breathe out and say “ten,” and when that breath is finished, stop the stopwatch and see how long it took. The game is to make this time as long as possible.

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.

Understanding Zen koans in The Gateless Gate (Mumonkan) and The Blue Cliff Records

Present a sword if you meet a swordsman;
Don’t offer a poem unless you meet a poet.
When talking, tell one-third of it;
Don’t divulge the whole at once.

~ Mumon’s verse on Case 33 of the Mumonkan

One of the great things about the book, Two Zen Classics: The Gateless Gate and The Blue Cliff Records, translated by Katsuki Sekida, is that Mr. Sekida gives you information that you have no way of knowing if you’re studying Zen by yourself.

The correct mental state for Zen and mindfulness meditation

There’s a scene in the movie, The Family Man, where Nicolas Cage is sitting in a chair and trying to stay awake, because he knows that when he falls asleep his “glimpse” will be over.

The moments just before passing out are like that. Assuming that you’re not panicking, you’re vibrantly aware of everything around you — colors, smells, etc., because you don’t know if you’re just passing out or this is Game Over.

The end of a lucid dream can also be like that. You can be in the dream, know that you’re dreaming, and then know that you’re starting to wake up. You don’t want to leave, but you don’t have a choice, so you pay great attention to the environment because you know that you may never see it again.

To the best of my knowledge, all of those are also the correct mental state for Zen and mindfulness meditation. As Shunryu Suzuki says, “The true practice of meditation is to sit as if you are drinking water when you are thirsty.”

(Namaste)

Why we keep our eyes open during zazen

“If we close our eyes (during zazen), the darkness may provide us some relief from visual distraction and give us a feeling of peace and calm. But in zazen, we keep our eyes open. If we want to close our eyes because we feel distracted by what our eyes see, we need to understand that it is our minds that are distracted, not our eyes.”

Do not try to experience satori

“Do not try to experience satori. Do not try to drive away illusion. Do not hate the thoughts that arise, and do not love them, either. Above all, do not entertain them. Just practice the great sitting, here and now. If you do not continue a thought, it will not come back of its own accord.”