Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Meditation, beginning and beyond

Les Johnson

If you break open a cherry tree
where are the blossoms?
Just wait for spring time
and see how they bloom
                        Ikkyu 

Meditation is a practice of, and the development of, our ability to pay attention and be aware. From its practice we dispel the social conventions and the social mystique that shape our perceptions of our world and of ourselves. We become more centred; more attentive to the here and now; more attuned to our connections. We have a happier disposition and enhanced abilities to cope.

The most important thing is to approach meditation with the right attitude, which is to be open to the experiences of the present moment. This openness to experiences of the moment is all you need to start and continue with Zen meditation. You are not required to have any prior beliefs or come to believe anything subsequently. The experiences are all you need to write your own story. This guide is to get you started. It gives only the basics but nothing more is needed.

Zen

In the Soto Zen tradition we train our attention not by stifling 'distractions' but by the gentle act of returning again and again to the focus of our attention in the here and now. We simply acknowledge the intrusive thought, feeling, image or emotion and let it be. We don't try to change it in any way and we don't go along with it. We let it be and let it go by. We are like a person working at a desk whose attention is caught by someone walking outside across the street and we simply note who they are and return our attention to what is on our desk. We do not engage with the person. We simply let them be, and let them go by. We don't judge them positively or negatively or in any other way. Similarly, we don't praise or blame ourselves for them walking by. They are what they are. We let them be without any kind of evaluative judgement.

Preparation

First time

Before you start the practice of meditating you may benefit from finding your "still point", locating your diaphragm, and scanning your spine. You need do these once only.
Stand up straight, arms hanging loose, feet two firsts apart, head looking straight ahead
Two or three fingers below your naval you will be able to detect your still point. Feel for it. It isn't a physical feature of your belly: it is your centre of gravity for your body. When you think you have found it, you have. Now, with the back of your hand feel up and down your lower back. There is a gentle curve inwards. This is how your back should be when sitting.

Now hold your breath. Just after you stop breathing you will feel a slight contraction of the muscle that runs right across your torso three or four fingers above your navel. You will feel the contraction at the front. This is your diaphragm.

Mind set

Perhaps the best start to a meditation is to acquire a particular mental set. As though you are a visitor to the place where you are planning to meditate. You don't own it or have any responsibilities for it. You don't have to think about tidying up, repairs, or anything else. You are in no hurry - even if you only have ten minutes for a quick meditation. You might imagine that you are the only passenger on a long-haul flight. You have no fear of flying and no practical concerns; everything is taken care of, you have no responsibilities. Your two heavy suitcases of past concerns and future expectations are in the hold. So, after carrying them yourself for quite a while, this provides a double liberation: from the weight of the past and the fear of the future. Unburdened, you decide that the only thing you want to do is sit and be still.

Body set

We sit in a relaxed but upright, straight, posture that gives a gentle curve to the lower back, as though we were standing. In this posture, there are no constrictions that inhibit our breathing. We use a chair or stool, or sit in a yoga position. If we sit on a chair we plant our feet on the floor, shoulder width; ideally, our thighs slope down slightly and we might add a cushion to sit on. We don't rest our back on any support. Swaying back and forth and then side to side, in gradually smaller arcs, stretches the hips and lower back and help us to locate an upright posture. When straight, we stretch our spine up, and, as we relax down, we stack one vertebra on top of the other.

Our hands rest on our lap with the back of the fingers of our more passive hand resting on the fingers of our active hand palm up. We touch thumbs at the tips. We tilt our head down as though reading a book. Our eyes are lidded but not closed (look at the floor two or three feet in front of you without focusing your eyes).

As we settle our body, we completely squeeze out a breath through our mouth and then breath in and out once deeply. From then on, we breath in and out through the nose with the mouth closed and the tip of our tongue resting broadly and lightly on the roof of our mouth, just behind the top teeth (this prevents our mouths from drying or drooling).

Our preliminaries seems a little complicated but they are part of the meditation and are a lot easier to do than driving a car and you don't have to pass a driving test. So, don't get too hung up on doing everything right. No one is watching you or judging you, including you!

Beginning

Calming Meditation

The meditative state is stillness itself. But, no matter how still you become your breathing continues, even if very very shallowly. So, we start from that constant - breathing - and move towards a deep stillness.

Breathing

We breathe in though the nose (tongue resting lightly on the roof of our mouth) by pulling our breath down to our still point and holding it there a flash. Then we push the breath out from the still point to our nose by gently contracting our belly. Of course, the air actually goes no further than our lungs but by the physical acts and imaginative effort we help our breathing to be regulated by the right muscles in the belly. Our belly rather than our chest goes up and down. We keep the chest as still as possible.
We pay attention our breathing. For example, we 'track' the in breath in three places: the nose, the chest (even though it is still), and the belly as we pull the breath down to the still spot. If you pull your breath down to the still point, your belly is raised and is ready to contract and push the breath out.

Paying attention to the sensations at these three points helps you find a rocking chair rhythm and feel. When you have an easy, gentle, rhythm, focus your attention a little more narrowly to your belly raising and falling. Take a little longer in the out breath. Squeeze steadily. Let the raising and falling be your focus. Belly rising. Belly falling. Beginners can even say these words a few times silently while breathing. Let the rhythm of your breathing settle. There is no need to control its rate; your body will find the rate it requires. Follow your breath.

Quick body scan

The next phase of our calming meditation is to quickly scan our body from head to foot, inside and out: is there a sensation? If we find there is a spot of tension, we soften that spot. 

If there are stronger sensations such as pain, we don't try to numb them or avoid them, we let them be what they are and go where they must. We ask: Size? Weight? Shape? Texture? Temperature? If a sensation doesn’t have these features, we ask can conceive of it in those ways?

Just This

When we have finished our quick body scan, we feel our whole body expand very very very slightly as we breath in and as we feel it shrink back as we breath out. We feel embodied, integrated, and alive. But, the emphasis is not thinking these things as "self-talk"; the emphasis is on the awareness of sensation. A shadow of a smile is felt at the corners of the eyes.

To consolidate, you can say the following silently: Belly rising: "I smile", Belly falling: "I relax", Belly rising: "Just", Belly falling: "This".

Expanding

Keeping awareness of your breathing and your body, feel the space above and around you. Feel the floor where you are sat. Go under the floor and down to the earth. Expand your awareness to include "feeling" the room you are in - we sort of glow. 

Keep awareness of your breath, body, and place going together for a while.

Expanding more

We expand our awareness to include our surrounding. Hear the faint sounds in the distance. We acknowledge them but don't dwell on them.  Feel the contours and shapes of the land and buildings. Feel part of it.

There is no need to keep on expanding, but you could expand to local, city, region, country, and the world. It's up to you. It's unlikely you will find the time to do all this in your short beginning sessions.

Acknowledging and labelling

At any point in a meditation, your mind may wander. Simply acknowledge the thought, feeling, emotion, picture, or sound and gently bring your attention back to your breathing - belly raising; belly falling. Focus on your belly rising and falling and the sensations of breathing until you're steady again. Belly rising. Belly falling. 

The way to acknowledge that you have been wandering, or there is an intrusion, is to label the distraction: "Hearing", "Thinking", "Musing", "Sadness", “TV” and so on. Do not blame or praise yourself.

It is very common to stray and wander and have intrusions. You typically have to return to your focus again and again. You let intrusions be what they are and merely acknowledge them without trying to change them in any way. You let them pass you by and you return to your focus.

Experiments

1.     With your eyes wide open, stare at the corner of a brick, leaf of a plant, or any other small thing. Stare - do not allow the eyes to move. At the same time stop breathing and concentrate on fixing your object. You are not thinking about the object but using it to stare at. Whilst you hold your breath, you will find that you can prevent thoughts coming into your mind. You may feel something like the stirrings of a thought but that can be kept under control. If you repeat this experiment several times, you will find that you can inhibit even the shadow of a stray thought. You have experienced non- thinking. In meditation, non-thinking isn't becoming brain dead, you are fully aware. Non-thinking is inhibiting dispersed attention and stray or wavering thoughts. It is paying attention - here and now.

2.     You can do the above experiment lying down. Whilst laid down, go on to feel the different muscular  "weights" in belly breathing laid down compared to being sat upright.

Try breathing through your nose using your belly muscles but rounding your shoulders and slouching even a tiny a bit. Now, sit upright with square shoulders. You will find that it's much easier to belly-breath when your posture is straight. The whole point of belly breathing is to breath efficiently; it brings in more oxygen with less effort. Your breath can then become extremely shallow.

3.     Learn to feel the difference between pulling your navel in and squeezing abdominal muscles with your diaphragm in opposition to them. The latter in the way in Zen, the former is the way in yoga. The differences reflect differences in purpose. In Zen, your sole purpose is to be as still as possible. In the first experiment above, the tension in the diaphragm helped to enter into non-thinking. Belly and brain are connected!

Insight Meditation

In Zen, there are two types of meditation. The first type is the calming meditation where we focus on breathing to become still in body and mind. The second type of meditation drops a pebble into this calm pool.  It is always conducted after a period of calming mediation. This type of meditation is called insight meditation where a word, phrase, sentence, poem, emotion, or image is allowed by you to be of interest. You ask: What is it? What does it really mean? What meaning can I give it?
You are not required to drop a pebble in the pool every session. But, when you do so, do it consciously and only do it after at least five, preferably ten, minutes of calming meditation. You can set an interval chime on a timer.

Examining an emotion

One common pebble to drop is an interest in fear. Facing and exploring fear is a powerful means of 'healing' it. Turn your mind to the fear and feel it. What does it actually feel like? Are there sensations? Does it have, or could you give it, a size and shape? Is there an image associated with the fear? After answering these questions, return to an awareness of your breathing/body/place and then repeat the exercise noticing any differences.

Now, focus your mind on the nature of fear. The Buddhist says we are like an artist who paints a picture of a tiger and runs away in fear. Is this so? What is fear? Meditate on the fact that fear can be dispelled through awareness. 

Examining a dialogue

After we have settled into a meditation, we might be aware that a 'big' internal dialogue has started, "What should I do about...” or "I showed them", or "I'm an idiot", or "I have to get better at...” or "I'm really good at...” "I've got so much to do, there's ... ". If so, then you can allow yourself to be interest in that dialogue. You can take that dialogue as the object upon which to focus your attention. Acknowledge the dialogue and acknowledge that you intend to meditate upon it. Then silently: "Are there specific bodily tensions I have as a result of that dialogue?". "Is the breathing more rapid? Is the jaw tense? Is the gut churning? Is the pulse increased?” And, so on. If you have had the dialogue before, ask, "Are these the same observations as the last time I had these thoughts/images/emotions?" After we identify its bodily manifestations we ask, "What does it really mean? What meaning can I give it?"

The process here is exactly the same as any other observation: We don't indulge in the egoist's praise or blame. We don't judge. We observe. The dialogue is what it is and we become aware of it without trying to change it. We stay in the observer's chair.

Discussions

The observer's chair

At any point in your meditation, if an intrusive thought, image, feeling or emotion occurs you can choose to observe it. Observation is aided by labelling a thought, image, or internal dialogue. But, do not praise or blame. Even labels hide evaluations and so we need to label with care to keep an observational stance. Drain the labels of evaluations, think of them as word tags only: “hearing”, “Wondering”, “sweetheart”, “Tingling”, and “Rehearsing”.

When we take the observer's chair, we are not the observer any more than we are the things observed, nor are we a taskmaster who returns us to the observer's chair: We shouldn't conceive ourselves as fixed in that way. We, each of us, are the set of stories that we tell ourselves; stories that change or transform by themselves with no help from the observer, the observed, or a supervising ego. 

Distractions

To say it again and in another way: distraction is not frowned upon in Soto Zen because the tolerance of distraction comes from a very deep appreciation of The Way. As the sense of a fixed essential self is said to an illusion there is no separate/deeper/essential/transcendental self/sole that is distracted. Only distraction is happening. Therefore, awareness of distraction is the only meaningful practice of present awareness possible.

Just sitting

It is in the act of imaginative effort that things change. Thinking is an act and like all other acts has Consequences. But, there is no goal that when achieved, means we stop meditation. Even enlightened Buddhas practice meditation daily. Meditation is an expression of who we are and is an act of self-cultivation and care.

When asked what they are doing, Soto masters often say "nothing just sitting". Any other answer would be misleading because it would be misunderstood. In meditation, meditate: sit. As a beginner, you don't want to get too hung up on doing everything right. With more experience and insight, you will understand that such concerns belong to your needy and fearful self and such concerns will drop away.

Openness

There is no such thing as a good sitting or a bad sitting. To apply these notions you would have to make a judgement on things already in the past; judgements that encourage either your needy and fearful self or your greedy and grasping self and thereby reframing your next sitting. But, sitting is not approached with expectations, fears, or hopes, based on past sittings. Many meditators do 20 minutes twice a day, every day, as though they were fully aware and yet still a beginner. Monks do several hours each day, every day, as though they were Buddha, and yet as a beginner. We approach sitting with openness to the experiences of the moment as they come. We just sit. Whatever comes is what it is. Be it boredom, joy, irritation, bliss, sadness, happiness, pain, frustration, sound, smell, insight, understanding or any of many things, if it comes, let it be, and let it go. We don't hang on to, or avoid, anything that comes.

Performative perspective

Meditation is commonly conceived to be instrumental. It's purpose to attain a heightened mental state. The great Zen Master, scholar, Abbot, and the second founder of the Soto School, Eihei Dogen, however, took what in modern parlance we would call a performative view of meditation. On this performative view we would say something theoretical like: Meditation is the performative expression of enlightenment and not a means of attaining it.

Just as dancing is not learning steps even if we improve our dancing by dancing, meditation is not learning to meditate and thereby attain enlightenment. We meditate to meditate. Meditation is meditation. Wholeheartedness is more important than 'learning'. The essential point of practice is not seeking something in the future (yes, this appears to contradict my opening quote). The practice brings benefits but these benefits are not to be striven for directly: they are not the objects of doing the mediation. They happen.

Meditation is transformative but practice and enlightenment are the same. Because of this, beginner's practice is the totality of their original enlightenment. Thus, the essential attitude for practice is openness to the experiences of the moment – an expression of awareness.

Deep awareness is not a capacity we acquire at all. It is already in our nature. If it were not in our nature, meditation would be like trying to “polish a tile with a rock to make a mirror”. Meditation is not like this; we are a mirror already (dust free too). Deep awareness is in our nature.

Ritual

Ritual doesn't have to involve elaborate fancy dress or decor. But, ritual has its place. Ritual does something to practitioners. It shapes them into perceiving the world and understanding themselves through repeated action. It establishes a context for experience in that certain moods, desires, emotions, mental states, and other actions come to the fore.
(Ritual may serve other purposes too.) 

Keeping it going

Daily meditation practice is recommended. But, as a beginner, or to start meditating again after a break, don't over commit. Resolve to re-read this guide each time and meditate or experiment, say three times a week, for two weeks, starting at 200 seconds. When your set time is up, don’t jump up, sit for a while and gather yourself. So, a 200 second meditation, with preparation and gathering yourself at the end, should take about 300 seconds. (Meditation timers, even free ones on your smart phone, allow you to set chimes to mark each phase and thereby free you from thinking about the clock.)

At the end of your term, make a new resolution: frequency, time, term. For each term, do no more and no less than you have resolved to do. Make your own rules but stick to them as best you can. Avoid making meditation a matter of grim resolve and determination.

This gradualist approach is to get you into a familiar routine. It is not for you to ‘work up’ to a proper ‘work out’. No, from day one your meditation is all that it needs to be. To repeat a point made earlier, openness to experiences of the moment is all you need to start and continue with Zen meditation.

Beyond

Body Awareness

Body awareness is an important part of the Zen way. This is not a shift from a focus on mind to a focus on body. It is a shift to an integration of mind and body: a sense of wholeness and connection. If you do a body scan every so often, you can rekindle its deeper body awareness in a quick body scan that is a standard part of a calming meditation.

A body scan is a worthy practice, but it is not described in any illuminating way. So, you might gain more benefit from skip reading this section and return to it only when ready to try things out.

Body scan

A deep scan takes about fifteen minutes. Start with a few minutes of calming meditation. When you are ready, focus on sensations only, some of the labels you might use are: hot, cold, tingling, numb, aching, fluttering, wet, dry, smooth, rough, painful, pleasant. Or, no sensations at all. Just acknowledge each sensation (or lack of sensation), and "go up" to it. Allow yourself to be interested in it. Even if you are experiencing pain, let it be, let it go where it goes, don't try to make it different or go away. Move up to it, as it were, rather than away from it. Focus on it. Find its boundaries, its depth, and its character. Focus intensely. Is it causing you to tense something? Soften there.
Start at the soles of your feet: In order, and slowly, feel: Each toe. Toe Nails, Balls of the feet, Arches, Heels, Ankles, inside to the bones, feel the joints. Inside and out: Calfs, Shins, Knee Joints, behind the knees. Hamstrings, Thighs, and up to the point where the legs join the hips. Feel the joints. Feel across the pelvic cradle. At each point label the sensations.

Now focus inside the pelvic cradle: Pubic bone, Genitals (inside and out), the two systems of elimination, and the one of reproduction. If you become aroused, or cold, or burn, or anything else, just let it be without trying to change it. Finish by focusing on your buttocks and then move up your spine.

Your spine often keeps emotions, slowly move up it one bit at a time right up to the base of your skull. Tail bones, lower back, waist, between the shoulder blades, shoulder hump, neck, connection to the skull. Ease back down the sides of your neck, feel the neck muscles, shoulders, shoulder muscles, and over your shoulders to your arms: triceps, biceps, elbows, inside forearms, outside forearms, wrists, hands, palms, fingers, fingernails, and fingertips. 

Your hands are near your belly: Move your attention to your belly: navel, silent spot, underneath to the systems of absorption and elimination: the large intestines, small intestines, kidneys, liver, up to the stomach, pancreas, still inside up to the Adams Apple. Out over the top and down to feel along the collarbone, the breasts, and the nipples. Inside to the sternum, follow the ribs and sense the rib cage enclosing the heart and the lungs. As you breath out, think of the rich red blood flowing from the lungs to the heart for circulation around the body. Can you feel your heart beating? Take a while to feel it. Can you feel blood pulsing around your body? Take a while.

Your lungs expel though your windpipe, nose, and sinuses; feel them. Now feel the mouth, jaw, gums, teeth, tongue, lips, cheeks, nose, eyes, eye balls, eye brows, forehead, scalp, hair, ears, inside the ears to the brain, frontal lobes, round and back down your brain stem and spinal column following the nerves that radiate all over the body, head-mouth, arms-hands, torso-stomach, torso-genitals, legs-feet.

Your heart pumps enriched blood all around the body; your nerves serve all parts too. You are wrapped in skin and pulse with the life that you can feel. You are glowing with life. Your body expands and contracts by very small degrees as you breath. Feel the pulsating glow of your whole body inside and out. Don't place your mind in one part. Your body as a whole shares your mind as a whole. With your whole body and mind, feel the place where you sit and the room in which you sit.
Body awareness is an important part of the Zen way. But, this is not a shift from a focus on mind to a focus on body. It is a shift to an integration of mind and body: a sense of wholeness and connection.

Experiments


a)     Breathing just as it comes, picture your breath as starting at the base of your spine, then as you breathe in picture the breath as travelling up your spine to the top and round the inside of your skull to your nose. As you breathe out, picture the breath moving down the centre line of your body to the pubic bone. This completes a circle. Breathing in, up the back, breathing out, down the front. Keep this going for three or four breathes. This ‘circular breathing’ is just a useful exercise and an alternative means of focusing yourself when you start a session (instead of using the three points of breathing in). It has a cleansing relaxing feel.

b)     As the skin is also quite literally an organ for breathing, we can picture our breathing as from it: on the in breath picture pulling breath in from your skin (or hands, feet, knees, elbows, back of the neck) to your still point and out from there through your skin (or hands, feet, etc). Breathing ‘through the skin’ can make you feel very attuned. This exercise in imagination is also an alternative means of focusing yourself at the start of a session

Other variants

Outdoors

Try meditating outdoors where there are trees or water or mountains. Adopt the visitor's mindset and walk around the area where you intend to sit. As you walk around, hear and see sounds and sights without internal commentary. That is, hear and see not as a newsreel running in your head. Instead, listen as though you were blind and look as though you were deaf. Then sit and start a calming meditation in which you expand your awareness to include the local. Be there.

Sound

Sit in a busy city location with an inconspicuous but upright posture whilst belly breathing. Be still and aware. Cast your eyes down and listen to the traffic as sound: sound, not noise. Sound as equal in value to music. You are John Cage: sound is always here and now and like laughter doesn't have to have any meaning. It is what it is, here and now.

Doing things in the moment

Whilst walking down the street or driving a car keep in the present thick moment and treat what you are doing as the focus of a ‘meditation’. That is, do what you are doing and label distractions and return to your focus. Now, this thick moment, is the only time in which you can realise your potential for action. Things are always done here and now, not there and then.

Experiments

1.     Imagine you have a very large lemon in your hand. Feel its weight. Heft it up and down. It has a beautiful skin, a deep waxy lemon. Get a large very sharp broad bladed knife and wooden chopping block. Place the lemon on the block and slowly cut it. Now notice, as the knife cuts through, the lemon juice starts to ooze out along the blade. When it's cut in two you can see that it is a beautiful and juicy lemon. The juice runs over your hand. Bring the lemon to your mouth to suck on it. Now what is happening in your mouth?
This is a demonstration that imaginative effort can have definite physiological effects. Knowing this helps to commit to imaginative exercises and experiments.

2.     Make real imaginative effort to adopt the traveler’s mind set before the next few meditations, and thereafter.

3.     Have you really listened as though you were blind and looked as though you were deaf?

Meditation on impermanence

In this section, the meditation needs framing before we engage in its practice.

n Zen Buddhism, a meditation on impermanence is said to bring great positive potential (karma). And, therefore, anything that reminds us of the transience of things can stir the heart. As a result, “a sensitivity to ephemera" developed. This explains the great appreciation of the cherry blossom in Japanese culture. The short-lived blossom and its falling petals are deeply evocative of the beauty and transience of life.


In some Japanese flower arrangements, they will have just one flower.  Even at a wedding, they can have just one flower on an alter. The singularity of that flower stands out.  You can be much more aware of a flower’s uniqueness, and much more aware of its ephemeral nature.  The framing of the experience highlights those qualities and thereby that single flower speaks of all things.

A whole aesthetic is part of the Zen tradition. This aesthetic is calledWabi-sabi, defined as the beauty of things "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete" and is an integral part of the Japanese culture. All things in Zen are considered as either evolving from or dissolving into a realm of potentiality. As they do this they show signs of their coming or going and these signs are considered to be beautiful. In this, beauty is an altered state of consciousness and can be seen in the budding and decay of things, or in the imperfections of things. But, these signatures of nature can be so subtle that it takes a quiet mind and a cultivated eye to discern them.

A bowl with obvious roughness, asymmetry, and other imperfections is wabi-sabi. Broken bowls may even be repaired with gold and be considered even more beautiful for having been broken.

There are seven major concepts that come together in Wabi-Sabi. These are: asymmetry, irregularity; simplicity; basic or weathered; without pretence, natural; subtle profound grace, not obvious; unbounded by convention, free; tranquillity.

Second level impermanence 

To narrow the scope of this discussion, let us take a closer look at impermanence. Things are impermanent because they are produced by causes and conditions. Things arise dependently. As conditions change at some point things dissolve into other forms. But, this is true not only of things in the sense of objects. It is true of all things in the widest sense. This includes our character and the things we do, and the thoughts we have. Once we understand this we can indeed accumulate the positive potential that builds up the mind’s openness and receptivity. And, here I am hinting at a second level of impermanence.

The second level of impermanence is at the insight level when we experience things without the filter of our conventional labels and concepts.  In ordinary discourse, we tend to give things a semblance of permanence through the conventions inherent in our concepts and labels.  It is very useful and easy to do this but we limit ourselves. For example, when we put ourselves in certain categories and create a sense of permanence that is limiting. To be able to drop behind the concepts is a desirable but radical thing to do. What you will find if you look at the relationship between your conceptions and your inner life of happiness and discontent, is that your discontents are rooted in conceptions about how things are. If you can drop behind the concepts and labels, you will have a different perception of what is actually going on. It is not that the concepts and categories are always wrong, it is that they can be limiting in ways that lead to discontent. Is that really an ugly old woman? To have the flexibility to see more fully is what we mean by dropping behind the concepts. If we are always seeing things through the filter of conventions, then we are missing really important parts of what is actually happening. Why not go out and try to see an old woman? If you think about her, you will not see her.

Zen puts a lot of emphasis on the experience of change.  You might try that in your life and in your meditation—to begin seeing that aspect in your present moment experience.  You can watch new things arise in the present—something new comes, and something that was, goes away. You can notice that things arise, things pass; suddenly things are there that were not there before, and then they are gone. Try to do this by dropping behind the concepts and labels.

When you engage in insight meditation, consider the arising factors, and the dissolving factors of any object of meditation. For example, what are the arising factors and dissolving factors of your anger?

End Notes

This guide has no other authority than it’s being my guess at what I would have liked to have read when I started meditation. It is just one way to begin to meditate in just one tradition. Nevertheless, all techniques of meditation train the attention by the returning the mind to a focus. I have chosen Soto Zen perhaps because of the greatness of its founder Dogen whose writings are a national treasure of Japan.

All roads lead to Rome but you have started your journey already and you are here, now. You need to know nothing more. You don't need several maps. You can move forward now: sit!



July 2015