First question – what in G-d’s name is Zazen? In simple English, Zazen means “sitting meditation” and is a key component of Zen Buddhism… in my opinion, its pretty funky stuff.
If that sounds a little freaky – we can call it plain meditation…
If that still sounds too ‘froo froo’ for you, and overwhelming, then we wont call it anything for now 🙂
So let’s begin.
Have you ever woken up in the morning only to have seconds later To Do Lists running through your brain? “don’t forget to do…” and “ooh, I gotta do…” and “I must go and get …” Have you ever been watching a movie, reading an email, or doing one activity, only to have your brain completely distracted with something ELSE you need / want to do? And lastly have you ever found that your life is about running a race that you feel you can never win? Or worse … a race that will never end?
Well, if any of those things sound like you … and even if they only sound like you SOME of the time – well a practice of Zazen… or meditation… or more simply: a practice that can help with this “running a rat race” feeling – can be for you!
So… how do you start? Here are 5 small tips to get you started!
Part 1: Unplug
I’m not going to tell you to shut your blackberry, or laptop – or other electronics for a whole day and sit in silence… I WILL tell you to UNPLUG for 5 minutes…. You think you can do 5 minutes? I bet you can… challenge yourself J. Put your phone on silent, move away from the TV, laptop, etc… and just unplug.
Part 2: Time to Sit!
The next thing you do. Sit. That’s pretty much it. You can sit Indian style on your couch… you can sit with your feet on the floor… however you feel most comfortable. You can even lie down. (but do NOT fall asleep. IF you fall asleep during Zazen, then it’s a sign you’re not getting enough sleep. Duh) So this is how we do it. We close our eyes, and we just sit.
Part 3: BREATHE:
This is the hard / easy part. (it sounds easy, but can prove difficult) … all. You. Do. Is. Breathe. Slowly. Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth. What you want to do is concentrate on your breath… focus on the movement of your breath… in and out… in and out… eventually your mind will wander (ooh fun J) … don’t beat yourself up about it… or freak out… just slowly bring your focus back to your breath… and keep going….
Part 4: Start Small .. and build
I suggest you begin your meditation slowly… don’t try to sit and meditate for 20 minutes because YOU WILL go stir crazy. I recommend starting with a short 5 minutes…. (I use www.online-stopwatch.com and set the timer this way you wont be thinking “how long have I been sitting here?!” hehe) For now, work on getting 5 minutes… and then once you’re ready add a minute or two.
Part 5: Letting Go
Ok, when I typed out “letting go” I suddenly thought of the “Let go and Let G-d” motto of the AA meetings – but the awesome thing about Zazen, is that it really helps you let go of all these wandering thoughts that are plaguing you. They teach a fun little exercise you can do while sitting Zazen – and you have random thoughts that keep coming up. You take the thought whatever it may be – and you envision it in a bubble – you then picture yourself blowing that large bubble, filled with your thought, and let it blow into the wind… slowly… just floating away into the sky. And the concept is that you’re just letting your thoughts float away … far far away. Ok, the truth is that I’ve tried that exercise, and I found that it doesn’t really work long term (hehe) but it is kind of fun to do for a temporary situation.
What do I do when my mind starts to wander?
I say “when” your mind starts to wander – because it WILL…
Well, here’s the cool thing about meditation… in the beginning you will find your brain FILLING up with everything from your shopping list, to the bills you have to pay, to the dishes in the sink, and the laundry needing to be folded, to the fight you had with your sister last week. As random as it is, it will suddenly come popping into your brain…. HOWEVER, the more you sit and meditate – and just be still – the quieter your mind will become…
You are in essence training your mind and body to just be still… to be calm… and with that you will be able to center and ground yourself.
SO, when things are going crazy and nutty and just plain BUSSSYYYYYY, sitting for just a few minutes, can help you re-center and re-focus and ultimately BE the calm WITHIN the storm 🙂