More about meditation as a practice, and how to carry it from the cushion into your life.
The best way to learn about meditation and koans is to try them.
Here are four guided meditations with koans:
- Meditation with John Tarrant Roshi: Suddenly It’s Midnight
- Meditation with John Tarrant Roshi: This Current Matter
- Meditation with Jesse Cardin Roshi: Put Out the Fire Across the River
- Meditation with Jon Joseph Roshi: Falling Into a Well
What is Meditation?
Buddhist meditation is something to do, not to believe…
It is a practice—something you do over and over again, as in “I’m practicing the guitar,” or “I’m practicing my video game.” If you practice meditation in this regular way, Buddhism has a mysterious and unpredictable healing power. By mysterious, I mean that while the effect of meditation is more or less as advertised, you are on a journey that does not reveal all its features at once, and even the destination is uncertain.
Meditation can be as complicated as you want to make it, but here’s a
move in the other direction:
- Pay attention to whatever you notice (inside or outside yourself, it doesn’t matter) without thinking it’s good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, wise or stupid, worthy or unworthy.
- Actually there’s only one step. That’s it.
- Sometimes the word “curiosity” will help you.
Meditation is not hard to learn. Getting started is as simple as sitting down and noticing how it is for you. You don’t have to sit in a certain way, although if you start to love it and want to do it more, it may help to figure out how to get comfortable so your body isn’t bothering you.
Sitting is a method for seeing what the world is like without believing your usual stories about it. When you sit you make a home for this time. You accept this moment, and such a home has no end.
A place to begin is with the body, the good horse that carries you around and which is so often neglected. You don’t assess the body, you just listen. You feel your life in your body.
If the mind needs a place to rest, then you can let it rest on the breathing. The universe opens and closes with each breath. There is no need to add any special thoughts to the universe. There is no need to try to achieve any special states of mind. You notice what you notice. If you are bored that is fine, if you are sad that is fine, if you are happy that is fine, if you are frustrated that is fine. Out breath, in breath, out breath, in breath.
For the time of the meditation nothing is required of you. There is nothing you can fail at and nothing to accomplish or achieve. You do not need to demonstrate your worth. You are worthless because you are beyond worth. Your value cannot be measured.
It is not necessary to improve yourself, your state of mind, or your skill at meditation. You are not moving from one place to another on a scale. You are throwing away the scale.
When you accept this moment–no judgment, no scale– you may find that it has no flaw. Nothing is wrong. And you may find that you too are perfect in this moment. Noticing has a healing power all by itself. For now, if you just notice, the world will lead you. The bare sense of what is happening can come as a gift.
Here is a walking meditation that we often use at PZI retreats, after our early morning sit. It’s an exercise in stopping, which in this case has nothing to do with whether you are in motion.
And as you walk, hold the following passage loosely in your mind:
In this very moment you are witnessing the creation of the universe. The world has just begun and, as yet, you know nothing about it.
All things are constantly appearing out of nothingness. As you walk through them, notice them. Let them come to you rather than going out in your thoughts to meet them. Let their names come to you, if they have names. Let them be the most simple of names–person, car, path, flower. Or give no names at all. For the moment you can rest from adding values and judgments and stories.
Even to say “woman” or “man” is to push a prior understanding onto the world. Even to say “friend” is to judge and to make other portions of life “not-friend.” There is nothing wrong with doing this; however, for the time of this meditation you have permission to live as if each thing you encounter is utterly new, and unknown.
If you find that you have moved away into fantasies and assessments, don’t make a fantasy or judgment about that. Just notice.
Just walk. Find out who you can be, who you are, when the world meets you fresh in each moment.
And when you are ready, come home.
Meditation is a project of healing, of putting ourselves and the world into harmony with the flow of life. As we integrate meditation more and more into our culture, it is coming to seem natural that the healing of our states of mind is the beginning of kindness and imagination and making a successful culture. I’m interested in the question, “What are the essentials of the meditation path as a basis for this healing—healing of both person and culture?”
To read John Tarrant’s guided exploration of meditation, attention, compassion, and healing, click here.
This is the stone
drenched with rain
that points the way.