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Monday Morning Zen

Mindfulness meditation is not a technique. It's a way of being with yourself that is kind and intentional. You have to begin with yourself, with your own experience as it is. Meditation is not about imposing some other experience on yourself. It's about tuning in to the experience you're already having, about watching that in an embodied way by bringing awareness to your breath and your posture. 

I call this meditation from the inside-out. If you're shown a picture of someone sitting in full lotus, you're likely to approach meditation from the outside-in. You may imagine this is what meditation is supposed to look like and superimpose this image on yourself.

Our first instruction in our Primer class is to notice you have an intention to be still. Take an upright posture on the floor or in a chair. Bring awareness to your breath, and watch what you do for ten minutes. That's it. You might spend that whole ten minutes thinking non-stop, busy thoughts. So you'll say at the end that couldn't be meditation because you're not supposed to think in meditation. Where did you get that rule? That's not helpful. You have to begin with yourself, and if you are talking to yourself, then that's what you're doing. It's important to begin meditation with kindness and curiosity towards what you are doing moment by moment. Can you be with that for ten minutes? 

That might require more courage than you imagine. You're going to have to be with that busy voice in your head. You're going to have to be alone with yourself. So sit down and begin. Since there is no technique, you don't have to worry about doing it wrong. You will either do it, or you won't. This is meditation from the inside-out. You begin by making friends with your own experience. Do this and you're building a foundation for living a Zen-inspired life with a strong foundation of mindfulness meditation. As you proceed, we can develop further ways of working with ourselves through one-pointed attention (shamatha) and open awareness (vipassana). 

Roshi Robert Althouse ©2016

Robert Althouse

Zen Life & Meditation Center, Chicago, 38 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL, 60302