Be Here Now with Zazen

"The practice of zazen is opening your psychological shutter and letting in your experience. It is a worthy practice with practical advantages...from just learning to be present.

If you have a persistent problem on your mind, try using zazen on it. Sit in a quiet room and keep your mind on your problem — not trying to think about — but looking at it in your mind's eye. Just be with it for a half hour to an hour. You'll be shocked. The problem will begin to unstick.

This is zazen: Just be here and experience. It is not only worthwhile in uncomfortable situations. It will enhance your life to do it often. Be in your body, wake up to your world, perceiving, being alive, being here right now.

This is a subtle practice. You and I are hardly ever just being here and experiencing. We're usually thinking about what we're going to do in the future, or trying to think of something clever to say, or remembering something that happened once, or wishing we were someplace else, or resisting something, reacting to something, pretending to be something, and so on. It's very rare we think this moment is worth experiencing.

But the moment becomes worth experiencing when we do experience it. And I'm not talking about something esoteric or fancy. Experience is just what's happening: The way you feel, what you see and hear and smell, the thoughts running through your mind — it's just your experience.

You know how you can sometimes be so absorbed in a book that you don't notice a sound or that someone walked through the room? In the same way, you can become so absorbed in what you're doing that you don't notice much of anything else other than your purposes. And for the most part, that's just fine. Being absorbed in a task is a beautiful thing. But there are times when it's worthwhile to check in — just to notice and not try to do anything about it. It only takes a moment, and it's good to do several times a day.

For one thing, it's relaxing, because when you check in on your experience, you'll usually notice is there is a muscle somewhere in your body holding tension unnecessarily. Some muscles you have to use just to sit up or hold your head erect or to do whatever you're doing at the moment, but almost always you'll find you have other muscles contracting for no purpose. And when you check in on your ongoing experience, you'll tend to notice that tension and automatically relax a little. So that feels good. But also, you just feel alive.

It's almost like we're machines the rest of the time, doing what we should be doing, and going and going and going like a solar-powered robot. When you just be here and experience, you feel the breeze and notice the weather and take in the person you're talking to — you'll stop trying to impress her and actually be with her and notice her and experience her. It's different. Like I said, it's very subtle, but there is a difference, and it's a difference that makes a difference.

Just try it. Even if you think I'm talking gibberish, try it. Right now, don't try to do anything but be where you are, experiencing what there is in your surroundings and in your body right now. As Alan Watts wrote in Tao: The Watercourse Way:

You are asked — temporarily, of course — to lay aside all your philosophical, religious, and political opinions, and to become almost like an infant, knowing nothing. Nothing, that is, except what you actually hear, see, feel, and smell. Take it that you are not going anywhere but here, and that there never was, is, or will be any other time than now. Simply be aware of what actually is without giving it names and without judging it, for you are now feeling out reality itself instead of ideas and opinions about it. There is no point in trying to suppress the babble of words and ideas that goes on in most adult brains, so if it won't stop, let it go on as it will, and listen to it as if it were the sound of traffic or the clucking of hens.

Let your ears hear whatever they want to hear; let your eyes see whatever they want to see; let your mind think whatever it wants to think; let your lungs breathe in their own rhythm. Do not expect any special result, for in this wordless and idea-less state, where can there be past or future, and where any notion of purpose? Stop, look, and listen...

When you don't know where to go, when you don't know what to think, or when you are just happy as a clam, come back to this practice. Return to right now. Look, listen, breath in, smell the air, feel your arms and legs and torso and face. Just be here and experience. It is your home base. Come home. You can rest here, and rejuvenate yourself."

Read much more in this fascinating article from youmeworks.com

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