Saturday, October 6, 2012

What's So Great About Silence?

It often seems there is this idea that meditation is something special. Setting up some candles, lighting some incense, putting on a robe and sitting in a dimly lit room sounds pretty warm and inviting. Maybe the room is at the perfect temperature and there is no sound to disturb us. How very peaceful.

Of course, once we are there, sitting in that nice place, the reality is different than the thought, or concept. When new to meditation, sitting thirty or forty minutes at a time can be tough. There is physical discomfort, like aching knees, backs, and necks. Sometimes the legs get numb - be careful when you stand up!

There is also a flurry of mental activity. Some thoughts that come are troubling. Some are enthralling. Sometimes we are anxious, and the thoughts are telling us what a waste of time this meditation is. There is a lot of discussion on meditation in the book.

To the point of the post - what is so great about silence? Zen is about waking up to this present moment and cutting through delusion. How do we do that? We practice. Mediation is the practice of being aware in this very moment. In our daily lives there is always a lot going on. People, relationships, television, radio, advertisements, traffic, so many distractions. When we take time to create a time and place where we can practice awareness with the least number of distractions, we are paying attention to this very moment. We are practicing for when we return to the turmoil that is life.

Here is a simple exercise. Pick something that is annoying to you. Maybe it is traffic. Suppose you find yourself reacting to traffic conditions as though you have no choice. It could be calling people names, in your mind or out loud. Maybe you even honk the horn or make gestures. Try turning the radio off and not using the phone to talk or text while you drive. Simply pay attention. Watch the thoughts as they come and go. What the thoughts of annoyance or even anger come and go. Awareness of them is often enough to stop buying into them. When distracted, the thoughts are almost unnoticed as we simply act on them. It is though we have no choice. Until we realize that we have a choice.

Does this mean I can't listen to the radio when I drive? No. It simply means pay attention. Practice. If you practice with silence, you will get better at practice. Then you bring the practice into the world of distraction. Then driving is driving. Driving while listening to music is just driving while listening to music.

Here is a little poem on meditation and settling down the mind.
Very active
 The mind
  Thoughts are
   Fast and Furious


Some thoughts go further
 Getting into details of
   other choices
   other possibilities

Breathe in
 Return to this moment
Breathe out
 Clear mind

Breathe in
 What am I?
Breathe out
 Don't know

Incense fills the room
Candles flicker
A car drives by
Fingers move the mala
  one bead at a time
 On the out breath

Meditating on a Saturday Morning