We live busy lives, usually jumping from one task to another, from appointment to appointment, usually with little space for thought between. What results is continually depleted energy reserves, a mind over burdened for lack of time for reflection or awareness of the task at hand. Bringing this energy to daily sitting practice will result in most of the sitting devoted to settling into sitting and shedding the busy energy we have accumulated, which is counter productive to the practice. Taking just a few moments prior to meditation practice to settle in will permit our practice to be more relaxed, and allow us to be more present.
Before sitting to practice, take a few moments to check in with yourself. Sit on your cushion or chair and close your eyes. Ask yourself silently, "What am I feeling in my body right this moment?' Are you feeling tired? anxious? Are there aches and pains? Places of numbness? Lightness? Is your stomach rumbling? Identify the feeling that you're experiencing, but do not judge or evaluate it. Don't become involved in why you're feeling what you're feeling. Right now it doesn't matter. Just identify it. Take a deep breath, then slowly release it, letting go of any attachment to those feelings or sensations.
Then ask yourself, "What emotions am I experiencing right this moment?" Are you feeling happy? angry? sad? Again, don't judge, just identify. No need to get involved in the why of or the story of the emotions. Just notice them. Take a deep breath, then slowly release it, letting go of any attachment to them.
Then ask yourself, "What are the quality of my thoughts right this moment?" Are they racing? busy planning things? slow, rather drowsy? calm and peaceful? Don't judge them or get involved with following them. Just notice the quality of them. Take a deep breath, then slowly release it, letting go of any attachment to them.
Taking a moment to acknowledge the feelings, emotions and quality of thoughts before actually sitting down to meditate can be a big help in transitioning from being busy and active to a more contemplative mindset. It also allows more of the time meditating on actual meditation, rather than using the quiet time to shed the energy that we have accumulated prior to sitting. Settling in to sitting practice also serves as an easy way to help us learn how to identify feelings, emotions and thoughts without being caught up by them, which is then reinforced by our meditation practice.
A blog by the Lotus Heart Zen Meditation and Study Group members