For the past month I’ve been practicing Zen meditation, partly because of a book I’m reading titled BUDDHISM FOR MOTHERS, and partly because of this TED talk on life-hacks that talks about how meditation can help you focus by quieting your mind. According to the TED talk, meditation makes you happier, and being happier makes you more productive. All good stuff.
Why Zen meditation?
I’ve dabbled with other meditations before: Meditation Oasis has guided meditations. I’ve done the meditations that you do after practicing yoga: focusing on a spot, or imagining the various chakras, repeating a word, focusing on the breath, meditation while doing a repetitive movement. What I’ve noticed is that my mind doesn’t stop jumping around with those meditations…I switch from strategy to strategy and I’m not consistent with one. Call me crazy, but I feel like that strategy-switching kind of defeats the purpose of meditation…which is to train your mind to focus on one thing at a time.
Whenever I’ve read about the benefits of meditation, it’s often Zen Buddhists that scientists have done studies on. If these are the people who are able to perform all those amazing feats with their minds, than they are the ones I want to study from.
Also, the phrase “Beginner’s Mind” comes up a lot with Zen Buddhism. There is something about that which sounds attractive to me. When you are a beginner, you are present and aware of the moment in a way that someone who has “seen it all before” is not.
Today I practiced Zen meditation from the instructions on this eHow article. I sat for 15 minutes. In those 15 minutes, I realized what they mean by “Beginner’s Mind.” My mind was all over the place. The meditation of counting was simple enough, but I kept having to pull my attention back to the present. I didn’t beat myself up or anything, but I kept noticing whenever I’d get distracted and pull my attention back to my counting and my breath.
Today, when I sat down to write…I noticed myself having to do the same thing. My mind keeps wanting to go on these tangents. It keeps wanting to write things (like this blog post) that don’t have anything to do with my novel. I can see that the practice of noticing that you’ve gotten distracted and pulling your attention back to what you were supposed to be working on…this works for meditation, but it also works for writing because you’re starting at square one over and over and over again.