Posts Tagged ‘Beginner’s Meditation’

don't just do something, sit there!One of the truly awesome, and at times challenging, things about meditation is there really is no instruction other than beginner’s instruction. If you are new to meditation, try to and enjoy your practice without seeking expert status – this is it!

Today’s tips are about getting to the cushion. Often we are exposed to meditation and we bring great enthusiasm to making this practice a part of our lives. However, we quickly find ourselves putting off sitting in favor of watching a little more TV or sleeping in a few minutes longer. The greatest benefits of meditation come not from a single session but rather from sitting every day.

  1. Set a reasonable length of time: Consider starting with 5 minutes. Remember our goal is to sit every day, not to be rocketed into enlightenment with that one perfect session. The first few months provide more of a challenge building a new habit than anything else. Make you ability to succeed sustainable. What length of time would it be impossible to say no to? What length of time doesn’t intimidate you at all?
  2. Link your meditation to something you do everyday. I have a friend who meditates in between showering and shaving. Another friend pulls into the parking lot at work in the morning and sits in her car. I know a guy whose life has been radically changed by meditating on the train ride into the city. Yet another friend links her meditation to waiting for her coffee to brew. The couple who started the Tuesday night meditation group I cherish, sit every evening after dinner together. I have a routine of washing the dishes and then sitting. Examine your life. Where do you see an opportunity to add some quiet time? 
  3. Make a checklist. When I challenge myself to make a new habit or to do something like my daily gratitude list, I put a checklist in a visible place. Hard to ignore a box next to a date that is waiting to be clicked off. I like to use the space next to my phone at work on a little posted note. Inconspicuous but impossible for me to miss.
  4. Ask yourself why you meditate. A powerful and motivating force for creating this new daily discipline lies in our most intimate motivations. We are attracted to meditation for different reasons; spiritual inquiry, a desire to quiet the mind, a quest for serenity, managing anger or anxiety, or coping with the loss of a loved one. These and other starting points provide for important reminders. Hard to justify watching another episode of Real Housewives when the alternative is working on an important struggle in your life. Why do you meditate? 
  5. Join a group. When I first started meditating I was lucky enough to have the support of a weekly group. This guaranteed I had at least one day a week of meditation. Even better, the support of others and the shared experience was a powerful motivator for my own daily sitting.
  6. Learn from the resistance to practice. We examine our minds when we do zazen but the opportunity to see our mind at work is available to us at all times. We can learn a lot from honestly inquiring within ourselves what these resistance points are.
  7. Just do it. Sometimes it is easier to simply let go of the struggle and just get on the cushion. Meditation is no place for debate. If we have good reasons to practice and a reasonable goal in mind, just sit there!

Good luck! May your practice and your life go well.


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I like Martine Batchelor quite a bit. I have attending a retreat she and her husband Stephen lead on my “list of things that would be awesome to do once I have more money.”


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Original: http://www.cbt-partnership.org/images/mindfulness-poster.jpg



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I can't hear you...I made a misstep at work this week. I shared some harsh words with a co-worker around a heated issue. I was shocked with myself. I’m normally very cool in confrontational situations and pretty good at defusing tension and opposition.  I said some things that were disparaging and embarrassed this women in front of others. I might have been right, but by no means acted appropriately.

When I sat last night I couldn’t get away from how obvious it was that I had done wrong. Well… I should say it took a while to sift through the angry rants I had saved up for her and the self justifying speeches. But with some calmness and clarity I could see I hadn’t acted the way I wish I had and the only thing to do was to apologize.

I spent sometime thinking of how I would speak to her. I couldn’t cop out and blame it on the tension at work and the lack of sleep. I didn’t want to say, “I’m sorry that I said this but you did xyz.” I only have control over my actions and being of sound mind and able body I shouldn’t have treated her like that.

I went in the next morning and apologized. Unfortunately, she used it as an opportunity to lay into me. I sat and listened. Engaged the points that I could constructively and reemphasized my points of apology. I was a bit nervous. No one likes confrontation and the experience was humbling, especially to have such an ungracious response to honest attempt at an apology. Several times I had to return to my breath, center myself and be present.

Eventually, a cool thing happened. She got out her piece and started to calm down. We talked about how we could move forward in a productive manner. Later in the day she reached out with some overt attempts to be friendly. I took her actions to be a genuine attempt to say we could get through this and get back to a collaborative place in our relationship.

I’m glad I have a meditation practice which gives me a chance to reflect and choose how to best respond; even in the face of having acted so unskillfully.


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eggplantZazen is a humbling practice. The longer I have practiced the more clearly I can see my mind at work. The more clearly I see my mind at work, the more ashamed I feel.

For the last few months I sit for two 35 minute periods at night. Initially it was a badge of honor. “Look at me… I can sit for so long, I’m so dedicated, I’m awesome.” But as I have slowly grown more still and aware, I can’t help but lose that pride. The “better” I get at zazen, the “worse” I realize I am at it. I move too much, I lose count of my breath too often, I entertain daydreams for long periods of time before returning, I rarely count all the way to ten.

Recently, I find myself deeply attached to the joyous and grand feelings I get when I sit. Zazen brings such intoxicating feelings of tranquility it is hard not to get attached. But the longer I examine my mind, the more I see the grasping for a trance like state rather than the clarity and awakening I intend to cultivate.

I can’t help but be ashamed. How have I practiced so diligently and failed so badly at being the perfect meditator my ego craves to be?

Silliness. With some distance, I can see the practical nature of what is happening. I am reminded of when I learned how to play the guitar. At first I played endlessly without a care in the world, barely tuning the strings. After a while I started hearing the disharmony and paid more attention to tuning the instrument. But for a long period of time I had enough of an ear to hear the out of tune strings and not enough skill to tune the whole instrument. Like the awkward growing pains of a teenager I’m struggling to more finally tune my zazen. This is my practice.

I read a poem after zazen tonight.

In this world
there are certain forms
which bring welcome thoughts to mind.
The eggplant serves as
a symbol of happiness.

 – Otagaki Rengetsu (circa 1855)

Eggplant holds a special place in my family’s story. My heart swells with fond memories of many meals spent eating eggplant parm as a family. The family dynamic is a little different now, but the love is still there, even if our tables are in four different states.

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Book Review: Finding the Still Point by Jon Daido Loori

“Finding the Still Point” is a beginner’s meditation book that falls in the great tradition of beginner’s books that should be read multiple times along one’s journey. Like Robert Aitken’s “Taking the Path of Zen” this short little book seems at first glance to be a brief primmer on Zen meditation. Read more carefully, this 98 page book glows with the loving guidance of a true Zen Master.

The book is divided into two parts. The first half is the mechanics of sitting zazen. Posture, breathing, single pointed concentration are covered with all the desired photos and explanatory descriptions. I particularly appreciated Jon Daido Loori’s quiet encouragement mixed in through the rather poetic detailing of the subtle art of zazen.

The second half of the book is a Dharma talk on The Great Way. I get a deep sense of Daido Loori, Roshi’s passion for life in reading his lessons and listening to his Dharma talks. While I never studied with him when he was alive, Daido Loori’s spirit is very much alive in the Mountains and Rivers Order. I see how this passion animated a vibrant spiritual community which is thriving even after his life.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Zen meditation. Beginner’s or “advanced” students alike.

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