Monday, December 15, 2008

Just sitting

As an alternative to mindfulness meditation, you may want to experiment with the Zen practice known as just sitting, which usually involves two phases or steps: just breathing and just sitting. When you’re adept at following your breath, you can practice becoming your breath — merging yourself completely with the flow of the inhalation and exhalation, until you, as a separate observer, disappear and only your breath remains. Now you’re no longer breathing; instead, your breath is breathing you. Like welcoming whatever arises, this practice, known as just breathing, is supremely simple but requires a quality of awareness that’s both focused and relaxed.
The next step, just sitting, involves expanding to include the whole realm of sensate experience. But instead of being aware or mindful of your experience, you “disappear,” and only your experience remains — seeing, smelling, hearing, sensing, thinking. As a Zen friend of mine put it, “When you sit, the walls of the meditation hall come down, and the whole world enters.” Ultimately, this practice takes you to the same place as mindfulness; it’s simply the Zen alternative.

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