Tag Archives: Zazen

30 seconds of silliness

Take 30 seconds to be silly today. That is one lesson I learned from this month’s unpredictable wild card!

Leave it to a 9-year-old to tell me exactly what I need to do to make Zen meditation work for me. Wear a mustache attached to a pair of ridiculously over sized glow-in-the dark glasses! Of course… it’s the perfect remedy to all questions and conflicts with my meditation practice. Interjecting a bit of silliness into my goals and intentions has never hurt me before, why should I stop now?

As Agnes stated, leave it to the free minds of children that are always searching and seizing the moment for a good opportunity to have fun. I truly do feel like we could learn a lot from those younger minds if we paid attention more. I must remind myself as well that in the times in my past when I have found myself becoming stuck, stressed or too serious, I have always gravitated toward youth to help ease the overwhelming feelings or situations. Not only do young people continuously keep me on my toes and in the moment with their unpredictability but their sense of themselves and the world keeps me laughing and questioning. The two things that I believe are necessary for nurturing a balanced mind and spirit.


These photographs were taken before leaving St. Croix. I had received the wild card gift when I arrived on the island but had not read the actual wild card challenge at this point. Upon receiving the gift, I immediately thought that this would be the perfect thing to do with the glasses. (Grace and I must be on a similar wave length) During the second week of meditating, (before receiving these glasses) I was actually having difficulties with wandering thoughts and some negative thinking. I was getting a bit hung up on thinking I was “doing the meditation wrong” or not doing zazen in the “right” way. Since then my thoughts in mediation have moved away from these self-critical places. Wandering thoughts still bubble up and rise to the surface but they are much less negative or critical and I don’t struggle with them as much, I let them evaporate when they reach the surface. It’s starting to feel a bit lighter in a sense.

So thank you Grace for not letting me fall only into the “oh so serious side” of meditation. Thanks for reminding me that mediation practice does not have to be perfect or meet a certain standard that has been prescribed. It is simply a tool that will help us find what we need for ourselves. Grace’s wild card tells me that we don’t have to be always searching for some kind of bliss in the subconscious or somewhere out there in the universe and we should not expect mediation to do that for us – we do that for ourselves. The glasses as they itch on my nose while I am meditating remind me that I make my own bliss and happiness right here in the moment laughing and appreciating the rare and sometimes odd gifts that the wild cards in life bring to me.

Note: I also want to thank Cosmic Jim Naeseth, Living Chapter’s tried and true Referee and my good friend. He may not be a kid, but his mind is young and free and always inserting a bit of HUMOR in every situation that he finds himself in. This past trip to the island was for the purpose of sorting out the million details and decisions that he needed to make while building his dream house in the tropics. Thank you to Jim for letting me be a part of his sometimes serious and serendipitous adventure.  I feel lucky to be along on his journey at this point in my existential chapter.


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Chapter 4; Week 1

The awareness that time is constantly passing, we are getting older each day, and that we could die at any moment- puts an incredible amount of pressure on us to live fully every day and spend our time on this earth wisely and intentionally. The imminence of death gives significance to living. We can get caught up in the urgency to perfect ourselves, focusing on closing the gap between where we are and where we wish to be, who we are and who we wish we could be.

Perhaps the foremost experts on acceptance and patience, Buddhists have spent centuries using meditation as a tool to experience each moment with greater depth, increased awareness, and of course, to attain enlightenment (let’s just forget about this last one). The act of pausing to meditate is powerful alone and requires a reorientation towards leading a more disciplined life.

Assignment #1:  Beth and I will meditate for 15-20 minutes in the morning and at night for the whole month of September. See if you can start with 15 minutes and by the end of the month, work your way up to 20 minutes.

We will practice meditation in the Japanese Soto Zen tradition. I’ve chosen this tradition because it is incredibly minimal and simple. Beth is welcome to identify and practice another form of meditation if another tradition appeals to her more.

Some simple instruction for Zen meditation (called “zazen”) is available here, courtesy of the American Zen Association. Amy will be on-call to answer questions about meditation basics and to provide peer support as they both try to follow this new rigorous routine. (Amy has practiced zazen before but has not kept with her practice.)

What you will need:

  • A piece of floor space approximately 2.5’ by 2.5’ wide, preferably facing a flat wall or door.
  • A quiet room if possible, but work with what you’ve got!
  • Loose fitting pants/comfortable clothes.
  • A makeshift meditation cushion. For a few years I used folded sheets and towels in a stack about 6 inches tall. Your instructions will help you assemble it to the proper height.
  • A silent timer. The iphone timer function is great. Set the alarm sound to something tranquil so the bejesus is not scared out of you when you are through.

It is incredibly important to be very disciplined with this routine. There will be nights when you are “too tired,” are in a weird location, or have already passed out on a couch and woken up groggy-eyed at 2:00 am thinking, “There’s NO way I’m meditating now before I crawl into bed.”  It’s really important to get over that hump and just do it.

More involved readings for beginners are available. Beth and Amy will discuss a book for her to read throughout the month to help hone her practice. Two suggestions include:

  • Zen Meditation:  Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner
  • Vipassana Meditation:  Mindfulness in Plain English by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

True Zen consists of sitting quietly in the correct posture. It is not a special state, it is the normal state: silent, peaceful, without agitation. Zen means to put the mind at rest and to concentrate the mind and body. In zazen there is no purpose, no seeking to gain something, no special effort or imagination. It is not knowledge to be grasped by the brain. It is solely a practice, a practice which is the true gate to happiness, peace and freedom.                                                                               –Taisen Deshimaru Roshi.

Recommendation #2:  Simply make a list of the reoccurring issues that are involuntarily occupying your thoughts this week. These could be exciting things, sources of anxiety, work or financial stresses, relationship challenges, etc. You don’t have to share the list with anyone; you don’t have to work on eliminating or resolving these issues- just write them down!

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