Harunobu Suzuki, A girl Collecting Chrysanthemums by a Stream
The courage to witness
Ancient contemplative practices have long understood the nature of mind as something that pushes away pain and clings to pleasure. But if you’re like most people, you probably didn’t begin yoga or meditation intent on acquiring tools to help relieve your suffering. Instead you’ve been waiting for the moment when you could balance on your head or sit without fidgeting on your meditation cushion. Then one day in a yoga class, you realize that you don’t hear your usual internal dialogue bemoaning your inherently stiff hamstrings or comparing your abilities to everyone else’s. Instead, you are aware of your breathing, and you begin to notice the subtle feelings within your body as you practice. You’ve been tuning into what’s happening as it is, in fact, happening. You have been practicing mindfulness.
These three simple tips can be practiced under everyday circumstances so that when you find yourself faced with intense situations, like grief, the skills may have already taken root.
Smoothing the breath
The breath and the mind travel in tandem. When the breath gets agitated, the mind cannot settle. By bringing attention into the breath, the mind is naturally soothed. For five minutes a day, sit quietly and simply pay attention to the path of the breath in and out of the nose as you soften the tongue and release the jaw. Allow thoughts to come and go, but continuously bring your focus back to the breath.
The body reflects our physical, emotional, and mental states. For instance, joy spontaneously lightens the step and softens the face, whereas depression can cause the shoulders and chest to collapse down. At random moments when you think of it through the course of each day, just check in with your physical state. Make note of your physical feelings and sensations and the quality of your breath. Then consider what thought or circumstance might be contributing to that experience.
When others offer you kindness, responding congenially comes easily. But when others act unhappy, angry, or distant, being kind proves more difficult. The easy path? Responding with an equally charged emotion, or simply leaving the person alone to suffer. When unpleasant situations with others arise, experiment with making no assumptions about why they behave as they do. Simply offer kind support—without the desire that your act of compassion will change the situation or benefit you.
Although meditation can be done in almost any context, practitioners usually employ a quiet, tranquil space, a meditation cushion or bench, and some kind of timing device to time the meditation session. Ideally, the more these accoutrements can be integrated the better. Thus, it is conducive to a satisfying meditation practice to have a timer or clock that is tranquil and beautiful. Using a kitchen timer or beeper watch is less than ideal. And it was with these considerations in mind that we designed our digital Zen Alarm Clock and practice timer. This unique “Zen Clock” features a long-resonating acoustic chime that brings the meditation session to a gradual close, preserving the environment of stillness while also acting as an effective time signal.
Excerpted from Natural Solutions, January 2007 by Mary Taylor
Bamboo Zen Clocks, progressive chime clock and timer
Now & Zen’s Meditation Timer Store
1638 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
Posted in Chime Alarm Clocks, intention, Japanese Inspired Zen Clocks, Meditation Timers, Meditation Tools, mindfulness practice, Now & Zen Alarm Clocks, Well-being