There are several hundred books that might teach you how to meditate. But 98% of the people who want to learn meditation can’t do it. Why? It’s actually not difficult, but I think a lot of would-be teachers make it too complicated. Let me give you a shortcut that works. Using this method, you can learn to enter the true Zen meditative state in a week or two. I guarantee it.
The primary definition of the true meditative state is stopping all thought. But the adult human conscious mind is difficult to train (to not think), especially when the training didn’t start in early childhood. I’ve found a way to get the mind to quit thinking—even if only for short periods. However, as soon as you do it for a short time you’ve broken the barrier and then all you need is practice.
Here’s what to do: Go buy a good meditation cushion so that you can sit on the floor with your spine erect and straight. Also, get a pair of sound attenuating earmuffs, you know, the over-the-ear sound cups that decrease noise by 26 dB or more. You want the ear protectors so that you can’t hear anything. My hardware store sells pretty good ones for about $20. Get in a comfortable sitting position on your cushion and put on your ear protectors.
Close your eyes. Keep your spine straight, relax every muscle that you can (without falling over), and let your breath and heartbeat gradually slow down. As your body and mind get calm, begin noticing your breath. Don’t control your breath. Let the body breathe as it wants to. Voila! Now, you are using your mind to “watch” your breath.
Continue noticing the breath with your mind and then begin listening for your heartbeat. As you get very quiet, and with the earmuffs blocking outside sound, you will soon notice that you can hear a repetitive pshhhh, pshhhh, pshhhh sound that your blood makes as it travels through the arteries into your head.
Here is where the magic begins. As you continue to use your mind to watch (that is, notice) both the breath and the heartbeat, you will find that your mind is too busy to think. Essentially, you are tricking your overactive, out-of-control mind into a kind of busy work that keeps it from thinking. The main point to this is that noticing is totally different from thinking. As soon as your mind’s attention is focused only on noticing your breath and heartbeat, you have achieved the Zen state.
Of course, as soon as you start thinking about what you are doing, the exercise no longer works. Poof! The Zen state disappears. Thinking about the magic stops the magic. But it’s not a problem. Just take a few breaths, relax, and start over. It’s a simple trick. Try it a few times every day. You’re on your way to becoming a Zen master.
With thanks to Khalil Gibran and other writers, we know the eyes of a person can tell us much about what lies within. If this isn’t something you’ve thought much about, why don’t you try it? Take the time to look deeply into the eyes of someone you love—or want to love—or just somebody you want to know better. Therein may be the key to a deeper connection. Also, that may give you information you need to decide how to manage that relationship.
When I’m listening to another person who is talking directly to me, I often take the opportunity to watch their eyes carefully. That gives me an opportunity to observe them very closely without making that person feel uncomfortable. It also adds another dimension to what they’re talking about. But most importantly, it provides a very important read-out on that person’s personality.
The most important thing I notice when I’m watching a person’s eyes is the amount of energy coming from inside. Vacant, listless eyes indicate low energy—which is usually an indicator of deeper problems. Eyes that are bright and active indicate a higher level of energy. A person with high energy generally uses that energy to create a happier, more productive life for himself. Whereas low inner energy often indicates a glass-half-empty person who is prone to being negative and unhappy.
If you’re like most people, you will choose to be friends with and spend time with a higher energy person rather one with low energy. Friendship with negative, low-energy people requires more work, and the payback is usually minimal. Overall, you’ll find that people with a high level of energy inside themselves are more popular, more creative, and more successful.
So, where am I going with this? Answer: I want you to look at yourself in the mirror. How much and what kind of energy emanates from your eyes? That might be the key to changing your whole life for the better. Now, if you can’t tell from looking at your eyes in a mirror, then come and see me. I’ll tell you in a minute or two what kind of energy you radiate—or don’t.
The bottom line: Abundant quantities of energy are inside you. If too little of it reaches your eyes—and thus the outside world, there are blocks and barriers preventing it. That indicates that you could profit greatly from what’s known as inner development.
I can make that statement with great confidence. Because, every one of my friends worries too much. For most people, it’s a habit. And it’s a bad habit.
So here’s what I recommend for my worrying friends: Make a new rule. You are allowed to worry for thirty minutes every day. Establish a time and place where you can sit down with a pad of paper and make a list of everything you need to worry about. Underneath each item, write down what you can do about it today—if anything. Finally, make a summary at the bottom of your list of the things on your worry list that you can get done today.
Following that, you have my permission to not worry the rest of that day (and night). You are allowed and encouraged to get done what you can do that day, but you don’t get to worry any more until tomorrow.
If your out-of-control thinking mind continues to indulge in its worrying habit, then increase your dedication to meditation. For after all, practicing the true meditation state (aka the Zen state) trains the noisy conscious thought machine to sit and stay. Stilling the conscious mind is the essence of inner peace.
Dying? Most people have a pathological fear of death. It’s only natural. We know the human condition is misery. A large part of human misery is based on the fear that Death is The End of Everything. How can we cope with that? Although most religions promise various flavors of paradise after this life, those beliefs often become doubts as the end of life approaches. We also fear the make-believe tenuousness of religious belief. We need a more reliable answer.
Somewhere inside of you is some real-world “magic” known as Enlightenment. That is the discovery of knowledge that comes already built into the human mind. It was there when your mama put you into this world, just waiting on you to find it. Part of that knowledge consists of memories from before you were born. Another part is some amount of forward visibility into what will happen after you leave your physical body.
That knowledge (not belief) will transform your life into a paradise. When you receive it, you will know who you really are, you will understand your true self-nature, and you will know your purpose for being here.
Apparently, we human beings have several possible pathways to receiving our enlightening knowledge. It should be apparent to most would-be seekers that the less dogmatic belief necessary for any given path, the more effective and trustworthy it should be. The path I took, the Zen path, entails no religious belief. If you want to know more about it, read the ebook I wrote titled Original Zen. And then pass it on. I’m convinced that, if our civilization lasts long enough, Zen will be a major factor in guiding the future development of humanity.
Happiness is something we all want. The desire for happiness is hard wired into the human nervous system. We all want it. But it seems to come in different forms for different people. What is it exactly?
On many occasions, I’ve noticed that I was especially “happy” and, some of those times, I’ve taken the time to go inside myself to see what was going on to create the condition. Here are some samples from just within the last month:
One: Lying on the beach in the warm sunshine, listening to waves lap on the shore. Two: Putting my book down and listening to a soft symphony playing in the background. Three: Pausing whatever I’m doing to notice my breath and heartbeat. Four: Cruising my bicycle through a path in the woods. And five: The most common instance was sitting on my meditation cushion with my mind stilled.
From forty years ago, I remember a few periods of sublime happiness after using marijuana. Another noticeable occasion (only once) was after taking a powerful pain killer following surgery. While the chemical approach to happiness is bad for many reasons, I want to be honest about the times I remember when it happened for me.
Looking back, what is the most common thread of all these experiences? I’ve tried drilling down inside myself many times to answer that question And the answer I found was simple: My mind was stilled. Bingo.
Slowing the body and mind down, and then stopping my mind from thinking produced a condition that I identify as happiness. Some people will laugh at me and say, “Well, of course, you dummy! Everybody knows that.” Other people won’t get it at all and won’t agree with me, because they have other reasons and conditions they associate with happiness.
Thus, my answer may not be for everybody. But it might work for you. From my experience, getting into the pure meditative state (however you may choose to do it) is the most common means of creating “happiness.”
One of the greatest rewards of living in a human body/mind is that we have two worlds to live in: the outer world and the inner world. The outer world, as most of us know, is the world we perceive with the five senses. It is the world that we think of as the “real” world.
The inner world is that which exists mostly inside the mind. It’s the world that many people consider the opposite of real. They discount it mostly as just imaginary—perhaps they think of it as being the opposite of real. But isn’t that unfortunate?
Isn’t the inner world the one we really live in all the time? And isn’t the outer world the one that might be partly or wholly imaginary, depending upon the time, place, and our mental state? For after all, we can’t always trust the body’s senses. And, isn’t the outer world one that we construct inside our mind based on inputs from the senses? It might all be a dream.
Regardless of which world appears to be more realistic to you, a person who lives in only one of these worlds is missing a large part of life. In our Western societies, most people view the outer world as the only real world, and pay very little attention to their own inner world. Such a person lives in what I view as a narrow, one-dimensional world. I call that person a sleeper because he has no knowledge of the spiritual being within him.
By adopting a path of inward exploration called Zen, a sleeper can discover his own self-nature, which is usually the first experience of receiving Enlightenment. And, it’s the beginning of a transition that lets the student experience this life as a paradise.
Take some time to read about Original Zen as it was taught by Bodhidharma in the 6th century B.C.E.