Recently I completed a 28-day online course in Zen meditation from a Buddhist source, not that I’m thinking of becoming a Buddhist, but because I’m drawn to its spirituality, virtually absent in current secular approaches such as the wildly popular Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBDT) approaches.
I think meditation doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out affair to reap its many benefits. After all, everyday people have been doing it in varied formats across a myriad of traditions and cultures for some 2500 years.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Like playing a musical instrument or learning a new language, you can get to the rudiments fairly quickly, but doing well at it takes practice.
I struggle with my rebellious mind, as we all do with meditation, and its serpentine twists that take me anywhere and everywhere,
It helps, however, that Zen teaches me to be self-forgiving. It’s not really a matter of emptying my mind, but more of allowing it to have its say without imposing judgment or indulging it, conjuring up regrets about the past or anxieties about the future.
When I do this, meditation liberates me from the burden of my attempts to impose control. I see more objectively and don’t personalize disappointment or hurt. I know that my thoughts aren’t really me and that like the clouds, they come and go. I won’t let them chart my course.
When I meditate, I don’t sit cross-legged on a floor or on a bench, The edge of my bed does just fine in the early morning darkness, my back and neck straight, leaning slightly forward.
If my mind wanders, as it always does, I simply return to my breathing, sometimes counting my breaths.
I’m far from being where I want to be, but it’s become easier than when I began, and feeling more relaxed, I’m more eager to continue.
It’s been five weeks now and I’ve not missed a day, though for even better results, I need to do it twice daily for at least 20-minutes a session.
I like it that I can take mindfulness with me throughout my day, practicing awareness in my eating, or sensing my body rhythms; observing the details that compose those I encounter and listening to them acutely; and best of all, in a cosmos often replete with suffering, gaining an empathy for others–not just for humanity–but for the whole sentient world.
Zen informs me of the interconnectedness of all things in a temporal context; consequently, the imperative of my seizing the moment and extracting its goodness. It cautions me about the unhappiness that comes from my cravings.
Meditation has become a game-changer for me; and if it can work for me, bent over with worry in a world I can’t control, then just maybe it will work for you.