I just wrote this script for the very first guided mediation I’ve ever attempted to create. I’ll be recording it in the next few hours. But, since this might be an urgent need for some people, I am providing the script in written form right now.
Here it is:
Guided meditation is not part of the Zen tradition. In the Zen tradition we sit in silence. But because of the special circumstances going on right now I am providing this guided meditation.
This is not zazen. This is not a substitute for zazen.
This is intended to help people who are feeling especially stressed and anxious right now. I offer it only as a stress reduction exercise. The instructions I will be giving you for the physical posture are the instructions I give people for zazen. The guided meditation part is quite different from zazen.
It is best to sit in a position in which you can balance your spinal column unsupported. This is why the Lotus, Half Lotus, Quarter Lotus, Burmese, and Seiza postures are preferred.
Dogen describes the Lotus postures like this. “We spread a thick mat on the place where we sit, and use a round cushion on top of that. Either sit in the full lotus posture or sit in the half lotus posture. To sit in the full lotus posture, first put the right foot on the left thigh, then put the left foot on the right thigh. To sit in the half lotus posture, just press the left foot onto the right thigh.”
The Lotus Postures can be hard on your knees if you’re not used to sitting that way. A good alternative is the Burmese Posture. This is the posture I sit in.
The Burmese posture is like a Half Lotus but without one leg on top of the other. The main thing is to get both knees down on the ground, or as close as possible. If this proves too difficult you can place some extra cushions under your knees.
To sit in seiza position, put a cushion under your butt and then kneel down on it.
If you need to sit in a chair, it is best to put a cushion on the seat of the chair, such that your butt tilts forward a little bit. Don’t rest your back against the back of the chair.
If you absolutely must rest your back against the back of the chair, be very mindful that your spinal column remains straight.
You can pause this video if you need time to get situated. The physical posture is important. It’s very much part of making this work effectively.
NOTE: This article provides photos and a pretty good description of these postures.
Now that you are sitting properly, let’s begin.
For the first five minutes just sit. Don’t try to do anything but remain in the proper posture with the spine straight vertically. Personally, I have a tendency to slump forward or to let my shoulders rise due to nervous tension.
Maybe you do the same thing. Maybe you do something different. In any case, adjust your posture as you need to. During these next five minutes pay attention only to maintaining that posture.
Don’t try to stop your thoughts. But resist the urge to follow any of them. Let every thought go. As soon as you notice a thought, release it. Pay attention only to your posture. Adjust it as necessary.
Here we go. After five minutes I’ll start the guidance.
(FIVE MINUTES OF SILENCE)
You’re doing this guided meditation because, like me, the news and the rumors you’ve been hearing lately have triggered your anxiety. That’s OK. I’ve been meditating for over 35 years and the same thing is happening to me.
I’m going to try to show you what I do when my anxiety becomes too great.
First I do not try to make my anxiety stop.
Anxiety is a funny thing. Any effort to try to make it stop only makes it worse. Even noticing that this is true might tend to increase your anxiety. That’s what happened when I noticed it. I got anxious about being anxious. Which led to getting anxious about being anxious about being anxious. And so on.
But that’s also OK. It’s useful to know that this happens.
So I do not trying to make my anxiety stop. I cease any effort in that direction.
Your anxiety may take the form of words and sentences.
When this happens to me, I remind myself that I am an idiot.
Anything I might tell myself is just the ravings of someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
I regard that voice in my head the way I’d regard a guy sitting one row ahead of me on the bus, sounding off about some subject he doesn’t understand at all.
He’s annoying. I can’t avoid hearing him. And talking back to him would only make matters worse.
This is why I don’t try to replace bad thoughts with good thoughts.
I don’t try to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.
I don’t try to replace false thoughts with true thoughts.
In other words, I do not fight with that annoying voice in my head.
Sometimes old habits die hard, though. And I start fighting with that voice in my head even though I know better.
When I notice I am doing that, I let the argument drop.
Sometimes I have to do this many, many times.
That’s fine. That doesn’t mean I have failed. It’s just the way things go.
After working on this for a little while, things usually quiet down in my head. There are short gaps when no thinking occurs.
I try to resist the urge to fill those gaps of silence with more pointless noise.
Instead, I let the silent pauses in my mental chatter linger longer.
During those pauses of silence or, at least, of comparative mental quiet, I can redirect my attention away from thought.
When I first noticed I could do this, it surprised me. I had believed that thought and attention were the same thing. I had believed that paying attention to something meant thinking about it.
I was mistaken.
During these quieter times, I redirect my attention toward the silence.
I notice that the silence is bigger and more powerful than any noise I can make to cover it up.
That’s the remarkable thing about silence.
It’s always there underneath the noise.
You cannot drown out silence with noise. The nature of silence is that it can never be drowned out. The nature of silence is that it is always there.
Silence is not dead.
Silence is alive.
Silence is the basis of my existence.
Silence is more alive than I am.
And silence is never bothered by the thoughts raging in my head.
It doesn’t care about that news report I looked at just before I sat down to meditate. Or that Twitter post. Or that meme. Or what the President said, or failed to say. Or what’s going to happen next.
It doesn’t care about what might happen in the future.
It doesn’t care about what happened in the past.
Silence is always now.
And so I ask myself, “What is happening right now?”
Not right about now, as in the news of the world in the present day.
What is happening at this very second? Right here. In this place.
Not even this very second. Much shorter than that.
What is happening at this lightning flash instant?
And then I notice that nothing much is happening right now.
I am sitting still. And it’s OK.
After that, I just sit and let the silence take over.
Sometimes the noise starts up again.
And so I begin the process again.
I do not judge whether I am doing this well or doing it badly.
Why would I care about my own judgement? Why would my opinion matter? I am an idiot, after all.
I just carry on doing it.
Let’s be quiet now and enjoy the silence together.
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