So you are ready to sit 5 minutes of meditation.
Perhaps you want to improve your concentration, or decrease work-related stress, or alleviate anxiety or make your self more compassionate. Those are certainly possible benefits.
The truth is that meditation is more than this. It is an inquiry into the great matter.
I think you know what I am talking about.
I urge you to view meditation as a powerful tool to dig deep into your own life.
“Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken. Awaken!Dogen Zenji
Take heed, do not squander your life.”
Set your timer for 5 minutes.
Remember, you are making a commitment to stick with this exercise unit the timer sounds.
Take a few moments to settle into your chosen sitting posture (here is a post on posture).
You will need a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for the duration of the sitting period.
Check your posture: back erect but not ridged. Eyes open with a soft focus looking at a point about 30-60 cm on the floor in front of you.
Relaxed mouth with the tip of your tongue resting behind upper front teeth. Hands cupped in your lap with arms relaxed.
Start your timer.
Awareness of the breath.
Become aware of your natural breathing. Experience the sensations and tides of your breath.
Inbreath: think 1.
Outbreath: think 2.
Inbreath: think 3.
If you get to 10: return to 1.
Do not try to control the rate or depth of your breath. Let it lead you. Just be aware of the sensations of your breath going in and out.
Pay particular attention to the expansion and contraction of your abdomen as you breathe. Let your breath really fill your abdomen before filling your lungs (of course it is not literally filling your abdomen, I hope. This is just a somatic metaphor to get you to breathe using your diaphragm rather than your upper chest muscles).
Awareness of thoughts.
It is likely that shortly after beginning this session you are going to have some thoughts.
Hmmm, I wonder what Im missing on Facebook.
Boy am I hungry.
My leg is already uncomfortable.
This is sooo stupid.
Once you have a first thought it quickly hooks onto another thought, and then another and off you go….planning, thinking, worrying, fantasising.
Instead…as soon as you are aware that you are off thinking about stuff, simply drop it and return to your counting again.
Inbreath: think 1.
Outbreath: think 2.
Do not try to suppress or stop your thoughts. Or get frustrated because you can’t get past 3 before getting lost in your head-life.
Meditation is not about stopping your thoughts, and it is not about following them.
Meditation is about noticing your thoughts and then returning your awareness to the breath.
Whatever your practice becomes later on, you should count your breaths from “one” to “ten,” one or two sequences, at the start of each new period of zazen. It will help you to settle down, and will serve to remind you that you are not just sitting there, but sitting with a particular practice. At best, you become one with your object in zazen, so if you merely sit with a focus, you tend to close off your potential. You and your object remain two things. Become each point, each number, in the sequence of counting. You and the count and the breath are all of a piece in this moment. Invest yourself in each number. There is only “one” in the whole universe, only “two” in the whole universe, just that single point. Everything else is dark. At first, as a beginner, you will be conscious of each step in the procedure, but eventually you will become the procedure itself. The practice will do the practice. It takes time, and for months, perhaps, you will seem to spend your time dreaming rather than counting. This is normal. Your brain secretes thoughts as your stomach secretes pepsin. Don’t condemn yourself for this normal condition.
— Aitken, Robert. Taking the Path of Zen
The instructions are simple. The practice is difficult. Above all this is a gentle process.
Be gentle with yourself.
When you have completed the 5 minutes take a few moments to compose yourself before slowly getting up.
Congratulations. Time well spent.