Monday, August 25, 2008
A sesshin means literally "a gathering of the mind." It is a period of intensive meditation, usually done in a zendo--a meditation hall. The daily routine requires many hours of meditation a day; during a sesshin, you devote yourself almost exclusively to zazen practice, which is simply sitting to peacefully meditate. The meditation periods are interwoven with short rest breaks and meals--all performed with the same mindfulness as meditating.
I'm engaging in a Zen coffee sesshin in the zendo of my office to mindfully finish writing my book, Zen Coffee:
A Guide to Mindful Meditation. I'm going to gather the thoughts in my mind and on paper together, and while drinking my coffee, work in a meditative frame of mind, taking time
for short breaks for meals, to walk my dogs, and cuddle with my cats.
I'll also be taking a break from posting on this blog so I can focus on my book. I'm going to sit zazen at my computer, meditating on the words, writing them, and growing them into a book.
While I'm finishing my book, maybe you'd like to meditate on the koan
of meditating by coffee. This was part of my first post: You may be wondering what Zen and coffee have in common and how to meditate
by coffee. How can caffeine and calm, poured into the same coffee cup create a peaceful state of mind and help you to mindfully meditate? How can coffee jazz your mind and bring you inner peace at the same time? Well, it's a koan... that's the nature of Zen.
A koan is a Zen Buddhist riddle, used to focus the mind during meditation; it is something that has no easy answer; it may be totally illogical in nature and it appears to be a paradox. A koan is a question that must be experienced in order to be understood. Zen and coffee don't seem to mix. Or do they? It seems they'd be completely opposite
to one another, but part of the mystery of the koan is that they are
truly in harmony.
What do you suppose the koan means? How do caffeine and calm mix together in a cup of coffee? If you're one of the first ten people to solve the koan, I'll give you a free copy of my book. If you're one of the next ten after that, I'll buy you a cup of coffee. If you're still wondering what the answer is, you'll have to wait until the book comes out. But I promise you, you'll engage your mind and spirit, and that's a much better gift you can give yourself than receiving a free book.
Friday, August 15, 2008
The cute little monkey in the picture is holding a branch from a coffee tree. He, or she, has just had his/her Zen coffee by nibbling the coffee cherries. This monkey looks pretty calm, as if he/she is truly having a mindful moment. Probably doesn't have any thoughts running through his/her carefree little mind. Probably laughing at us humans who can't quiet the constant chatter in our minds.
So how do we quiet our mind so we can focus on the present moment?
By being accepting of our thoughts and being detached from them at the same time. Accept that thoughts are going to run through your mind but don't become attached to them by thinking about them. Calmly watch them come and go. Notice that you're having a thought, but don't pay attention to what the thought says. Without an audience, your thought will leave, and then another one will come running through your mind. Let the thought go, and the next one, and the next one, and so on.
Just breathe. Focus your mind on your breathing. Notice how you're breathing in and out, back and forth, inhaling and exhaling. Breathing in ... breathing out. No room for thoughts, only breathing in and out. Just breathing, being present with your breath.
Your mind will leave you alone when you don't pay any attention to it. Your monkey mind wants attention; it wants an audience; it wants you
to listen. When you simply notice that you're having a thought and don't focus on it, then the thought will wander away by itself, wondering why you're not listening, but hey--you're being mindful and breathing; you're not listening to thoughts, you're listening to your breathing. Just breathe. Just be present with your breath.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Photo by carrielynn.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
peaceful and silent, a place to quietly sit
in mindful meditation.
Zen Coffee has its own version of a zendo. It's a place in real life where you actively engage in mindfulness in and through all your activities. Take a moment or two and visit our coffee zendo with its array of coffees, espresso machines, and books on Zen and coffee.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
Coffee Lovers and Meditation Unite
I am a coffee nut. I admit it. First thing in the morning, there is nothing finer than the smell of a great coffee bean that has been ground and is finally dripping into my coffee cup. I drink it strong, dark and black, so I don’t need much. But by 1 or 2 in the afternoon, I am ready to escape the noise of my business life and find another moment to myself. Coffee helps me escape from my surroundings, and unless I am in meeting sharing conversation with someone else, I use my “coffee time” for a meditation time.
People often have a difficult time finding time for meditation so I offer a few techniques I have used over the years to get the most out of my java. (Can be performed with tea or hot chocolate too I suppose, but the question begs to be asked, “Why”?) :)
How to Meditate and Drink Coffee at the Same Time
1. Go it alone. This seems obvious but to some it may be difficult. This is not the time to chat or to call a friend to meet you. It’s already too crowded with me, myself, and I. That is why we meditate, to still some of the chatter going on inside in our own head.
2. Go it with gratitude. Before you leave your car, or your office, or your bedroom, begin to say “thank you.” Imagine the coffee, the time alone and the opportunity to enjoy silence, and start the “gratitude attitude” mindset in motion.
3. Go for an empty table. It doesn’t matter how busy it is, how many people are in line, who is talking about what on their cell phone, and how many babies are screaming. You can do this. It is about you and your coffee; that is all there is.
4. Go for the feel of it. Put your hand around the cup and feel the heat come through. What does it feel like as the heat enters your hand and begins to warm your entire body? Bring your attention to the sensation and notice. You may find yourself feeling comforted, welcomed, nurtured, or just plain sweaty. Don’t worry about what the feeling is; just pay enough attention to your hands and the cup to feel something.
5. Go for the smell. Smell the coffee and breathe in your silence. Use the aroma as a point of reference. Nothing else matters. No conversation is important. You are entering your own world of sensation and peace. Relax with it and don’t force your feeling. Simply notice what you do feel.
Time out: You may feel irritated, distracted, busy, hurried, bothered, or nothing at all. All of these and more is perfectly okay. If you practice this meditation for two weeks on a daily basis, either at home or at your favorite coffee hang out (or a new one you choose for this experiment), you will soon experience much more presence and much less distraction.
6. Go for the taste. Stop and notice the feel of the heat on your lips, your tongue, and your entire mouth. Notice the taste you often take for granted. Be present to the feeling you have as you sip your java. Have you escaped for a few moments from pressure? This is your time to quiet yourself.
7. Go for a few long breaths. Notice yourself having a sip, swallowing and then sitting back with a large, slow inhalation and slow, thoughtless exhalation. Repeat this 3 or 4 times before enjoying your next sip.
8. Go for silence. It may take you a few attempts to be able to disconnect from the noise around you, but it will take much longer to disconnect from noise inside you. That constant barrage of words, thoughts, “should of,” scolds, checklists, fantasies, etc… is a drain on your internal resources. It is time for a 10-second break from it all. So let your mind drift into space.
Here's a trick I use to help me disconnect: Focus your eyes on an object in the room or outside the room. Stare, but don’t follow any action. Simply stare. After 3 or 4 seconds, your eyes will relax. (Usually, this type of focus is accompanied by a breath that is more “releasing” than normal. You don’t need to force this breath; it just arrives on time by its own initiative.) If you stay with it, everything but your focus will go slightly blurred. And then stay, and breathe. Make it a conscious choice to remain. Your entire body will relax into the focus. You don’t need to stay all day, but 30 seconds will make a remarkable impact on your state of being.
9. Go repeat numbers 4-8. Do it as many times as you are comfortable with and finish your coffee (or not).
10. Go with gratitude. Don’t judge the effectiveness, or how it should have been any other way. Thank life for what you just felt and leave it alone, until the next time.
Please go and visit Harmony’s Golden Zen blog. She has written many wonderful posts about meditating, listening to the silence, and so much more that will help you get into your Zen.