We are never satisfied by “doing,” by checking off the never ending to-do list, always waiting for an ideal future that never arrives, or musing on a past that is completely over. “If only X occurs, THEN I will be happy….” This part of our mind is never content, and keeps us chained to karma like a hamster on a hamster wheel that never stops and keeps getting faster. Planning and thinking are indeed important in their useful contexts, but we are only truly satisfied by BEING, by stepping off the hamster wheel, being fully present in each moment, and experiencing the beauty of life as it arises.
For me, Zen meditation, which I’ve been doing daily for nearly 7 years, has been a natural medicine for my mind’s addiction to stressful thinking. In seated Zen meditation, the basic premise of the first stages is simply learning to be present without letting your mind fly off into thoughts of worry, fear, fantasy, or the past or future. The practice is a natural stress reducer and therefore conducive to basic human happiness. For only when we are fully present are we truly happy and free of stress (which is simply thought). And, incidentally, the sages of old tell us that the present moment is the gateway into experiencing God or our own ever-present True Nature – a more ultimate form of happiness.
Yet even if you don’t believe this, learning to still your mind and train it to abide in the present moment without reverting to thought is an inexpressibly wonderful blessing for both religious and non-religious people alike. A mind habitually lost in thought is like a dirty window that stops us from fully expiriceing the beauty of this incredible universe. A stilled mind is like a clean window that enables us to enjoy the beauty around us, and also generally have more peace and less unnecessary stress.
So how is the mind stilled in the first stages of meditation? One breath at a time…By sitting in an upright posture and returning, again and again, to the breath. This type of mindfulness meditation is indeed simple, yet sometimes it can be so mysteriously difficult, for the mind initially craves thinking like an addict (they call it “monkey mind” in Zen for a reason!). Yet learning to still your mind with meditation is a blessing whose value cannot be quantified, and something anyone can learn to do with practice. The effort is worth it!
May all beings know the peace of a stilled mind, and be free from stress. Have a nice day!
- Purposes of Meditation
- Zen Meditation in Activity
- The Rest is Gravy: A Rambling
- Remembering the Goal of Life
- Freedom from Worry Part II: Zen Meditation
- Becoming a Master of Technology: Developing a Skillful Relationship with Technology from the Perspective of Spiritual Practice
- Some Thoughts on Zen Practice
- Three Reasons to go on a Meditation Retreat