News

Print

Introduction to Chan: How Should One Approach Daily Meditation Practice?

SHIH-FU:

You know you want to benefit from daily practice, but you don't know how to go about doing it.

First, you should have a proper mental attitude towards practice. Second, you should know and use a method.


Before you practice your method, it is important that your body and mind be relaxed. But you might not know how to relax then. In trying you might even become more tense; or you might relax so much you fall asleep. Both extremes are wrong. That's why a proper mental attitude toward practice is important.

What is this attitude? Tell yourself that the time you spend every day in practice is the most enjoyable and comfortable and pleasant of times. Since we don't spend that much time each day sitting, the time we do spend is precious. If you have this attitude, you will not feel tense or sleepy when meditating.

Do you feel meditating is an obligation or a duty, or is sitting enjoyable? If you don't find enjoyment in meditation, then it would be hard to continue to practice. If enjoyment does not come naturally to you, then try to cultivate an attitude of enjoyment. First, before you sit, remind yourself to feel happy about what you're about to do. I remember when I was a student, I used to get up early and have breakfast. There were six hours between breakfast and lunch. By eleven o'clock I was starving. My last class was from eleven to twelve. When the bell rang I was so happy knowing that it was lunch time. My body and mind were merged in this happiness. This is the kind of attitude you should cultivate for sitting.

When you sit, think of it as a time without worries. Every other time there are difficulties to think about. It's like lifting burdens off your body and mind. It should be a relief. During meditation you let everything else go.

Make sure your posture is correct. Once you have it right, forget about your body. If you worry about your body, you will not be able to relax. Then tell your mind to be free. Tell yourself that you're not going to restrict your mind in any way, thinking about this or that. Let it go, but not in a day dreamy way. At that point, watch your mind; see where it goes, but don't follow it. When you follow your thoughts you're allowing them to control you. Once you realize that you have been following wandering thoughts, they go away on their own.


When you follow wandering thoughts, you are restricting your awareness; your mind is restricted to that particular thought train. When you don't follow your wandering thoughts, your mind is free and open. Tell your mind it can go anywhere it pleases, but you will not follow it. At this time your body will be relaxed and your mind will be free because you are not restricting it in any way. This is the most enjoyable time. You have nothing to do. Both mind and body are at ease. If you have no thoughts, that's good, and let it be that way. But if thoughts arise, then notice your breath. If your breath is long and smooth, then you are comfortable. You don't even have to continue to notice your breath. If your mind is clear, just sit. But once you start to feel your body, then make sure your posture is correct.

I hope you can do this. Don't think you have to sit because you owe somebody something.


Resources

Zen Wisdom, How Should One Approach Daily Meditation Practice? p.3-5.

Books Store




| More
Back to news list