You have now learned to categorize your states of mind into essential, objective and subjective realms, and to cycle through them to live a more mindful life. This understanding can relieve you of a great amount of doubt and confusion. But is this enough? How hard is it to maintain the cycle? Can you make Presence your home by simply willing it?
After practicing this method for a short time we can see that just knowing how to do it isn’t enough. We’ve had glimpses of the underlying unity of life and we’ve seen how returning to it can break our patterns of circular thinking and mulling over old stories. But we soon see how difficult it can be to maintain our cycle of mindfulness. And, we may wish to have a deeper experience of it – to see Presence more clearly, to more fully let go of our stories, to more clearly view our current situation in Discovery. What can we do to make this easier?
One way is to establish a consistent meditation practice. Among the benefits of meditation is the buildup of an inner strength of concentration called joriki in Zen. This power of concentration allows us to keep our attention focused wherever we place it. This is the energy that we use to take the backward steps, and dedicated meditation builds it into a dynamic force strong enough to transform our life. This can make the difference between a tenuous step back from Storyland and a decisive one that leads us right to Presence.
If you haven’t meditated before, it’s best to learn from a recognized teacher who can help you avoid common pitfalls when starting out on the path. There are many facets to meditation, and an experienced teacher can help with your questions and concerns.
However, if you don’t have access to a teacher, you can use a modified form of Zen Meditation to develop your joriki.
First, settle your body in a comfortable, upright sitting position. Traditionally this is done cross–legged on a cushion on the floor, but a chair will do nicely. What’s important is to find a posture that you can sit in for a half hour or more without having to move. Be sure your back is straight and you aren’t leaning back. Second, take three long breaths, relaxing your chest and abdomen and letting the breath fall to the pit of your belly. Don’t try to control it, just let gravity gently ease it down. As this happens, you’ll find that your chest is barely moving, while your belly steadily moves in and out with the breath. Third, let gravity bring your mind down to your belly, focusing your awareness on the sensation of your breath. This way, body, breath and mind all sit together in unity.
After you have settled into this unified sitting, take the first step back and do the labeling practice you learned in the chapter on Orientation. As each object, thought or feeling enters your awareness, give it a label then let it go. Do this for two or three minutes. After you’re clearly situated in Orientation, make the sensation of your breath itself the object of awareness, labeling it “breathing” on each exhalation. Do this for three breaths then let go of the labeling while keeping your attention on your breath. Maintain a relaxed yet sharp and clear awareness of the sensation of the breath itself. In Zen we keep this attention on the breath in the belly as it moves in and out, but you may wish to “watch” the breath as it goes in and out your nose.
As you’re meditating you’ll find yourself wandering off into Storyland. As always, this is not a problem. Simply notice that you are in Storyland, then take the steps back to Presence and resume following your breath.
Begin by sitting for 5 minutes a day, at the same time each day if you can. When you find that you want to do longer periods, go ahead and increase your time in 5 minute increments. Don‘t stretch it too long, though – it’s better to finish your meditation wanting more than to force yourself to sit longer than you are ready for. Cap your meditation time at 30 minutes - after that it’s best to break up your sitting periods, perhaps doing 15-20 minutes both morning and evening.