Today a coworker asked me if I meditated, saying ‘you’re just so calm all the time. I need that.’ I let her know that yes, I did meditate every evening for about 10-20 minutes.
I also made sure to be honest, there are still times when I lose my s***.
She asked if I could teach her meditation which of course I agreed to. Providing simple instructions would be safe for her. I am no teacher of course, but I know she would be safe with a simple counting breath practice.
This evening, I thought about her asking me this and upon reflection, I guess it had not really crossed my mind much. I never really had anger issues, but I am happy that I come across as calm and collected (which I’m sure is debatable depending on which of my good friends wants to comment on this one).
Meditation has given me something with nothing more than right effort; it has given me the ability to know me. Sure, I still see my ego getting in the way of things from time to time, but I guess I finally am having a slightly easier time seeing when ego creeps it’s ugly head up. I always thought I was a bit of a pain in the behind at work, but my coworker gave me a different perspective today. I guess it is making a difference.
Last night, I did my normal routine of tucking the big man in to bed then going into the office for my nightly meditation. I started and I believe about 10 minutes had gone by before I heard
Dad, are you already sitting?
Can you come in here?
So I go into his room and he asks if I can sit with him for a couple minutes. I always enjoy this. The way I saw it, I didn’t have to end my meditation, this was just an extension of it.
I kneeled down next to his bed and placed my hand on his head as I usually have when I get to do this. Instead of just my own breath to concentrate on, I also had his. I noticed the minute he fell asleep (his breathing makes an ever so slight change, I noticed that years ago), and figured I was done meditating for the night as well.
Parents, if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend a “tucking in” meditation session every once in a while.
I sit down on my cushions for my nightly meditation, tucking my feet in, straightening my back, lowering my eyelids, putting in effort to have no attachment to thoughts.
A cricket chirps loudly.
I hear the sound of my son turn another page in his book.
A cricket is keeping me company during my sit.
I hear my wife move downstairs, and a plane make its journey across the sky overhead.
I notice the rhythm of the cricket are in time with the melody of the beating in my chest, my breath in sync. The sound is quiet yet massive all at once, 10,000 Buddhas in all directions, all in sync, with nothing to be in sync with. I am not separate from this cricket. Suchness. All as it should be, nothing more, nothing less.
I decide I am finished, join my palms, and take refuge as I do every night.
On Saturday, October 6th, I marked 365 consecutive days of consistent sitting practice. Obviously, being a Buddhist, I had sat before this, but like many I know I hadn’t found I was being as consistent as I would prefer. Sure, there were times when I would sit every day, but there were also times when I would sit once a week, and, occasionally less than that. I had always found that ‘life would get too busy’ to sit on a consistent basis. I would be tired, too busy watching a TV program, working, or just plain forget. After beginning this challenge I had made for myself (I believe I had only mentioned it to my wife, and maybe in conversation with my friend Rev Danny) I found something about my previous way of thinking I was too busy; I was wrong.
Most who read this will have likely heard the old Ch’an/Zen saying “you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” In my own practice, I have found there is a lot of truth in this. This saying says a couple things to me.
One — Find the time! No matter what you are doing in life, there are always a few minutes in your day that are free to sit. Twenty minutes is great, an hour even better, but, who can’t spare 10, or even 5 minutes to sit and breath.
Two — Sitting will, more often than not, have a positive effect on everything else you do. In my own experience, having a consistent sitting practice develops many things, concentration and calmness are two that come to mind now that help in daily life. Another that I experienced was an overwhelming sense of acceptance. Not in the sense of just accepting things as they are and forgetting about them, but, the ability to accept situations in one’s life, evaluating them with whatever wisdom one can muster up, and moving through. Mindfulness.
Developing a schedule for myself to sit was key to being successful in this personal challenge. I incorporated it into a nightly routine we already had in place for my son. Most nights, as he would do his nightly reading, I would go into the office and sit. However, this was not always the case, if I was out of town, I would sit beside my bed before going to sleep. If I was at a friends home, I would find a quiet place to sit (and yes, this got interesting at times). There were even a few times when my wife and I would be out late and she would drive us home so I could sit in the car. Meditation in a moving car is a challenge to say the least, but, I’m very grateful she allowed me to do this. In summary, I didn’t allow my location to become an excuse for myself to not sit, I looked at it as a tool to work on my practice. I can always use improvement.
There is an old story that i would like to end with;
A monk, coming out of a monastery under the leadership of Rinzai, met a party of three travelling monks belonging to another Buddhist school over a river on a bridge.
One of the three ventured to question the Zen monk:
“How deep is the river of Zen?”
The Zen monk, fresh from his own interview with Rinzai, who was noted for his direct actions, lost no time in replying.
“Find out for yourself,” he said, and offered to throw the questioner from the bridge.
I’m no Zen monk, but I will offer to throw you from the bridge, into the river of daily meditation.
I would also urge you to read words from Venerable Master Hsing Yun on the topic. A great place to start is his ‘Buddhism in Every Step’ series, booklet 41 ‘Meditation’, which is available for free, or for a small donation, at http://blpusa.com/41-meditation.
(I wrote this for an upcoming edition of our Buddha’s Light Magazine, offered at Hsi Lai temple. As we are not yet launching the electronic edition, I decided to also post here. I hope you enjoy.)