Man, I am having a great week with regard to my meditation practice!
I have been reading Brad Warner's books recently (reviews to follow soon) and I have been wanting to start sitting zazen. Until now, I have been doing all my various meditations in the style I learned from several Thich Nhat Hanh books. I guess I would characterize it as Breathing Meditation, not knowing if Thay has a certain tradition he promotes. If he does, it hasn't been evident to me so far. In fact he seems to purposely advocate "whatever works" from what I have seen, being more interested in helping the masses live mindfully than to have them following a particular path.
Anyhow, I currently do 30 minutes of sitting meditation in the mornings, 3 miles of walking meditation in the evenings and any time I feel like it, I use the same style to just do very brief micro-meditations using Thay's "Breathing In, Breathing Out" style thoughts.
So, recently I decided to start devoting my morning sitting practice to trying zazen. This has been fantastic so far! Mind you, I've only done it for four days so far, but the effects have been profound. First off, the unexpected side effect is that the loss of my morning sitting "breathing" meditation has made my walking meditations significantly more rewarding. Because I miss the time in the mornings, I am relishing the time in the evenings all the more, plus I think the evening mindfulness is being heightened, in some way I can't quite put my finger on yet, by the zazen.
As for the zazen sitting I'm doing in the morning, it's been extremely interesting so far. I had been considering this for some time, but wasn't crazy about some of the stuff I read about the Soto and Rinzai Zen traditions with regard to all the protocol involved. Reading Brad Warner's books is making me realize that I could participate in zazen, and even in Soto Zen, without SO much tradition (although a good bit of it is necessary regardless).
Nothing that has happened for me this week has been earth-shattering, but it's definitely been beneficial. First off, and perhaps most exciting for me has been posture. Until now, I've had ongoing issues attaining a posture that was comfortable. I did ok, but would not go so far as to call it comfortable. I had heard Brad Warner talk about the posture (and I am paraphrasing here) being almost like "stacking" your meat and bones up or something along those lines. It made sense to me, and I made an effort when I started the week to reach a better posture with that in mind. Immediately, perhaps through dumb luck, I found a posture that I kind of just fell in to that first morning. I knew I was on to something when I had not slouched after ten minutes, and at a certain point I had the sense that I felt like a high-rise building that moves in the wind but doesn't topple. Very solidly grounded at the bottom, but flexible at the top. It's hard to explain, but for lack of a better way to explain it, I'll just say I felt extremely balanced. I stayed that way for the remainder of my sit and all of them since! Reading what I've written it kind of sounds very minor, but I was extremely happy about this. Additionally, my posture seems to have eliminated my leg discomfort at the same time. Either way, I'm happy about it!
The other development is, of course, just the zazen itself. I had also heard Brad Warner say that the thing he doesn't like about meditation in which you focus on your breathing is that it works in driving away other thoughts, but now you are just focused on one thought. You've introduced a thought to get rid of thought, so you've added to the predicament.
With this in mind, I sat zazen and let the thoughts come and go as they pleased and it has been entertaining, and interesting to say the least. Perhaps most importantly though, it has improved markedly just since Monday.
I'm really actively trying to participate in some group meditation both when I travel and locally as well. My hope is to build on what I'm doing at home, but also to share with others and help them and myself improve the practice.
I leave you with a picture from my mindful walking in my neighborhood last night. It was a beautiful evening, and I was fortunate to be walking at sunset.
PS - The Lyric that comprises the title of this post is from a song called "Lazy Man" by Brighter Shade. John Driskell Hopkins was the singer and writer of that song before he was in his current little band, the Zac Brown Band. GREAT music, check it out if you get a chance.