I was at Kamakura recently, helping my zemi advisor guide a group of people from the other side of the world explore Japanese culture. They were there to experience the zazen meditation at the Engakuji. Meditating i.e. spending at least 15 minutes in a certain position and thinking about nothing is supposed to make you think clearly — at least that’s what my classmates who are doing it on a regular basis say. I sighed at the idea of doing zazen for the 3rd time in the past 9 months, not only does the position hurt my legs after 5 minutes, but I can’t meditate.
How does one not think? I always think. My thoughts are always jumping from one thing to another very quickly. Just like Asna. Or Amanda.
The only thing that helped me go through the 15-minute session was to be aware and control my breathing patterns. 4 counts of breathing, 16 counts of exhaling, like Janice taught me. I tried to not think of anything else, although the whole process of monitoring my breathing still requires my brain to think.
After the 1st round, we took a break. the Zazen priest gave a talk about the importance of taking a break. He made an analogy: The car with the fastest accelerator and the best engine may be a great car, but if the car doesn’t have a good braking system, it will crash anyway. Something along those lines. Hence, it’s important to take a break and gain better perspective of things.
Then it hit me.
I’ve been stressing too much about the many things I’ve to do before and after I graduate that I haven’t been able to go to bed and sleep because I go to my bed and think up to the wee hours. I can’t shut down. My mind should be well-rested, being free of any classes for the whole of this month, tapi it gave me more time to think of the more things that I could do that it becomes overwhelming.
The priest shared his routine — to bathe in the dark to calm his mind and prepare it to go into sleeping mode.
So lesson from that session is, to be more effective, I have to learn to take a break, then focus.
During the 2nd round, as I was in position, I thought of the things I’ve been thinking and thought about how I could stop thinking 😆
I’ll get there.