An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]
You can meditate anytime anywhere. You don’t need any special conditions. Wherever you are right now is just fine. You can be in a crowded train, or waiting for a bus, or in a quiet cloister. All of these geographies are equally compatible with practice. And meditation can occur in any moment. You don’t have to wait until your mind is clearer or things are calmer (as if that might ever happen). You don’t need any props. While it can be helpful to have a setting and some accouterments for practice, these are not required.
–Make a space for practice. It can be helpful to have a dedicated place for meditation. If you don’t have an entire room, a part of a room where your meditation cushion can go can suffice. To devote some of your home’s real estate to meditation announces your commitment to this practice and facilitates it at the same time.
–You can also set up an altar, if you are inclined. On the alter can go objects that hold personal meaning for you; things that will have a favorable association with meditation practice.
–A proper cushion (usually called a zafu) can help you to get into a comfortable posture with your hips above your knees. You can put your zafu on a padded mat called a zabuton.
–As mentioned earlier, some meditation is better than no meditation. Try to sit for at least a few minutes every day. Start with ten minutes and build from there to twenty minutes, forty-five minutes or even an hour.
–A timer can help to provide some structure to your practice and relieves you worrying about how long to sit. Just set the timer beforehand for the desired number of minutes. You can also use guided meditation recordings that are a specific length.
–Sit upright in a dignified posture without being slumped or rigid so that you can breathe without restriction. Your eyes can be open our closed. Closed eyes tends to limit the mind wandering. If you practice with your eyes open, keep your gaze soft about a foot or two in front of your body.
–Place your hands palms down or up on your thighs or fold one hand on top of the other. Or, if you prefer, clasp your hands and place them in your lap.
Now that you have been set straight on what meditation is and is not, here’s how to do it:
- Start by noticing
- Don’t try to change anything
- Notice where you attention goes. It can be in any one of nine different places according to time frame and pleasantness.
|Unpleasant||Regret||“I don’t like”||Worry|
When you notice your attention in any one of these nine places, gently return your attention to something that is happening now. What is happening now?
–The activity of the moment
–What we see
–What we hear
–What we smell
–What we taste
–What we feel as sensations in the body including breathing.
So, for example, focus your attention on breathing and when your mind wanders to one of the nine places mentioned above (and it will!), gently bring it back to the sensations of breathing noticeable now.
Repeat as necessary. If you have a lot of repeats, that’s OK. Remember, there is NO way to do this practice wrong. In fact, the more you have to return attention, the more mindfulness you are developing. This is an important paradox and can be touchstone for encouraging yourself to persist.
I invite you to give yourself permission to do this practice and permission to do it imperfectly. That’s the human way. Don’t get hung up on things needing to be quiet or any particular way. The way things are is just fine so long as you can bring interest to whatever is happening now, and if you can bring fascination, even better.