Thursday, May 13, 2010

Easy Does It

Formal meditation practice, particularly in such an intense context as that of a long retreat, is akin to a marathon of the mind. In order to stay the course, it is important to pace oneself, and to not overly strain one's attention. One of the big realizations during last week's retreat, was how often I mistake overbearing attention for mindfulness. Andrea and Gil both drove home that point during their daily sitting instructions. 

Andrea talked about relaxed awareness, and the importance of spending time first  relaxing the body, at the beginning of sitting. Also, wandering mind can produce thoughts that can either lead to either more tension, or relaxation. When thoughts are pleasant, it is important to use the lingering ease, to cultivate relaxed awareness. 

Similarly, Gil used the term of generous awareness, suggesting an attitude of inclusivity towards whatever comes in the moment. Not forcing awareness on to things, but rather letting the breath, or other compelling experience come into, and fill the field of awareness. As important as mindfulness itself is the attitude we bring to it. 

Meditation may sometimes feel like bootcamp for the mind, but if that is all it is, not much good will come out of it. Loving kindness and softness need to be present as well! 


  1. Known for his simplicity and great asceticism, Hakuin persevered despite all obstacles. At one point his severe austerity left him with a severe illness and weakness that he termed " Zen sickness". Ultimately, he found an old mountain hermit master who taught him a meditation in which he visualized a golden lump of melting butter permeating his body, bringing softness, warmth and nourishment to heal the ravages of too much Zen practice. He was promptly cured.

    from MYSTICS, MASTERS, SAINTS and SAGES - Stories of Enlightenment by Robert Ullman and Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman. p.71

  2. Hakuin, and the Buddha also . . .

    Let us choose the Middle Way, always!