Monday, June 24, 2024

Waking Up

Most of us are unconscious and our first job is to begin to wake up.

For example, I go walking in a beautiful field in spring. At first, I am absorbing all I see, feel and smell but then I think, “It is so great to be here..” Next comes a grasping thought--,”How can I do this more often?  I would like a house nearby.” My thoughts are now in the foreground and they continue—I am caught in them. The field and all of its colors, shapes, sounds, flowers and inhabitants, move into the background. Now I have lost my full experience of nature in the Spring. This is how our mind works most of the time. If we go through life like this we lose out on our lives as it is always in the background. We are not aware of our disconnection and loss and that is our unconsciousness.

When we wake up to the truth, we realize that attachment to endless distraction is an unsatisfactory way of living and leads to suffering. That is an important realization—and with that – developing some techniques and skills for staying more grounded , centered and present help us live a more authentic life. Meditation helps us wake up to life. We do that by stilling our thoughts and paying attention.

Basic Meditation Instruction

  • Sit on the edge of your cushion in one of the cross-legged postures (Sitting in a chair with feet flat on the floor is ok too). 
  • Keep the spine erect, shoulders down and back and chest slightly forward. The natural curve in the lower back should not be lost. 
  • Align your ears with the tops of your shoulders 
  • Close your mouth and gently touch the place where the front teeth meets the palette with the tip of your tongue 
  • Tilt the chin slightly downwards Keep the eyes slightly open and maintain an unfocused gaze at the floor in front of you 
  • Rest the left hand in the right and join the two thumbs together in the dhyana (meditation) mudra 
  • Rest your hands in your lap 

Concentrate on the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. The breathing is gentle and the out-breath is always longer than the in-breath—about twice as long e.g. 4 counts in and 8 counts out. Be mindful of the point right below the navel (Svadhisthana) where the thumbs touch the body.

On the inhale say to yourself—"Just here."  As you exhale say—"just now."   In our Zen school we say, "What am I" on the inhale and "Don't know." on the exhale.  You may want to experiment with both of these.  

Don’t think of suppressing thoughts and feelings that arise. Instead think of yourself as not engaging them. You are simply returning to the one-pointed concentration on the breath. A popular Zen teaching is to view thoughts like clouds that come and go. Like clouds, thoughts are always changing shape, moving, and dissipating.

Let go of success or failure—even if you realize once that your mind has wandered and bring it back to the breath, you are meditating. Try and do it everyday for at least 15 minutes. After a while it will grow on you and you will want to lengthen the time.


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Copyright 2012 by Trish O' Sullivan