Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki is a rather intricate but deep view into the mindscape of what the 'Zen Mind' entails. Given that this book isn't exactly for those in the nascent stages of Zen Buddhism, it can be quite enigmatic in some spots. For years, scientists have studied how meditation affects the mind and the body. There has been some particular interest in Zen meditation practice and how it affects the brain. In a 2008 study, researchers compared 12 people who had more than three years of daily practice in Zen meditation with 12 novices who had never practiced meditation. Mindfulness, meditation, self mastery. By Charlie Ambler.
Zazen is the practice of Zen meditation. I made a short and simple guide to it here. Zazen is an all-encompassing practice because it allows you to regulate your breathing and train your mind to be calm and balanced in all situations.
Meditating regularly soon becomes a process that carries into everyday life. The old saying goes, “When eating, eat. When sitting, sit.” Meditation incites a mindfulness that allows us to focus on each and every breath, all day long.
You already breathe all day long (duh) and so soon this unconscious skill of calm breath regulation carries into every activity you do. You start to meditate all day long without even realizing it. You do the dishes, mindful of scraping every bit of dirt steadily and deliberately. You pet your cat and can enjoy the tactile experience of doing so fully.
Meditation has taught me to recognize details and to be hyper-observant. Cleaning my room becomes a playful act. So does any other chore. Interactions all become intimate and full of curiosity. This change in mindset can be overwhelming at first. How do we reconcile finally seeing the world as it is, with all its intrigue?
The meditative mind teaches us not to judge. In not judging, everything becomes interesting. It goes without saying that this makes being bored a near impossibility. Boredom is simply out of the question for the disciplined meditator. Every activity becomes a reflection of the Zen mind rather than a mere activity.
Daily Zen Meditation
Meditation allows us to rearrange the entire mental fabric of living. This makes perfect sense, since it’s been proven to change the brain chemistry of regular practitioners. The mind is able to recalibrate itself and focus on what really matters: present scenery and circumstances.
Instead of meditating to become better at your job, rid yourself of addiction, or solve some sort of problem in your life, meditate to meditate. The act of meditating every day will carry over into everything else you do. People find themselves magically quitting smoking, drinking less, fighting less and feeling less anxious after a few weeks of regular meditation. It’s not a miracle; it’s just you giving your mind some time to reflect.
I like to say that meditating is the mind’s way of looking in the mirror and cleaning itself up. Except the mind won’t do this on its own volition. Just sit in silence with your eyes closed. Focus on the breath. Give your mind a chance to correct itself. Watch your life slowly transform into something tranquil and endlessly interesting.
On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal
Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769)
What is this true meditation? It is to make everything: coughing, swallowing, waving the arms, motion, stillness, words, actions, the evil and the good, prosperity and shame, gain and loss, right and wrong, into one single koan.
Make your skirt and upper garments into the seven or nine striped monks’ robe; make your two-edged sword into your resting board or desk. Make your saddle your sitting cushion; make the mountains, rivers, and the great earth the sitting platform; make the whole universe your own personal meditation cave.
Consider the workings of yin and yang as your two meals of gruel a day; heaven, hell, pure lands, and this world as your spleen, stomach, and intestines. Thrusting forth the courageous mind derived from faith, combine it with the true practice of introspection. Then rising or staying, moving or still, 'at all times test to see whether you have lost the true meditation or have not lost it.' This is the true practice of the sages of the past and of today.
You must become aware that meditation is the thing that points out your own innate appearance. To carry on the real practice of seeing into your own nature by transcending the great matter of birth and death is by no means an easy thing to do.
Placing the essential between the two states, the active and the passive, and being in a position to be able to move in any direction, with the true principle of pure, undiluted undistracted meditation before your eyes, attain a state of mind in which, even though surrounded by crowds of people, it is as if you were alone in a field extending tens of thousands of miles.
Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769)
excerpted from Zen Master Hakuin Selected Writings edited by Philip B. Yamplosky, 1971
Hakuin is known as the reviver of Rinzai Zen. He insisted that for Zen meditation practice, the practitioner must have three basic qualities: an over-riding faith, a great doubt when facing the koans, and a strong aspiration and perserverance.
- The Zen Master Hakuin
By: Philip Yampolsky 1973
Reading Hakuin, as with many of the old works, must be approached with a soft mind balanced with a little discernment. There is within us all a natural functioning of the mind that is capable of recognition of truth.
This natural mind is capable of instant recognition before thought arises. Just as a mirror reflects without any extra thought about what is in the mirror, so we can rest in an unpressured, uncramped mind that knows instantly before intellect arises.
Many of us have ideas about 'true meditation.' Some of these ideas get in the way of true meditation and stop our sense of looking and questioning. However in the above piece several principles of practice are clearly expressed. We are encouraged to make every aspect of our life a true meditation and stop dividing the world up into important and unimportant things.
Many leave their sitting on the cushion, the assumed 'important' activity. In reality we want to cultivate the mind that ceases to divide the world and give the same care to all our activities; to practice through and through until our entire life is our meditation...
If you don’t conjure up differences,
All things are of one kind.
Seeing the things of the world evenly
Restores their genuine character.
Is Zen Meditation Mindfulness
Looking now intently,
Elana, scribe for Daily Zen