In Zen, we often here the task of the practitioner is to silence the mind. In modern society this can be very difficult. Gone are the days we can find blocks of quiet time. We are imbedded with technology – cell phones, instant messages, wifi – all wizzing by through the air. Yet, even in this active process, can the mind become quiet and attentive? Can there be time to learn how to do such a thing? A busy mind will always be occupied, attached to something, and all of the energy of that mind gets used up thinking, rationalizing, socializing. But to achieve a still mind requires practice, that is, letting go of habitual thought processes. Where do we find time to do that between lunch, blogging, work and friends?
To me, one of the best times is in the morning, just before getting out of bed. Wake up a little earlier, stretch, and begin focusing on the breath (or Zazen, whatever you are at in your practice). In the evening, go to bed just a few minutes ahead of time, before you get too tired. That is a great way to achieve deep meditation, particularly when sitting up in bed, or lying down in a “death pose,” position. Ten minutes in the morning and the evening can make a radical difference. Increase the time if you feel you can.
Meditation before sleep, some say, can induce lucid dreaming more frequently. This has been true in my practice. During dreaming, ask yourself, “Is this real?” (if you can remember), and try to see if you can induce a lucid dream. This requires practice too, and I recommend Tibetan Buddhist practice, in particular Lojong. Habitually asking yourself throughout the day: Is this a dream? Is this real? Helps the mind learn a new habit (a useful one, unlike many other repetitive thughts), which can be carried into sleep.
We can bring mindfulness with us throughout the day, extending the meditation to include a good portion of our waking hours. How so, you might ask? Just a few minutes in the morning and evening, combined with Lojong questions: “Who am I? Is this real?” help trigger meditative and reflective states, shaking the mind free continuously throughout our day. Before you know it, you may find yourself experiencing lucid, clearer moments during your work day. Taking out the trash, suddenly that “awareness” is streaming through you. A bird sings outside and everything “simply is.”
In fact, if we begin to use Lojong daily, combined with normal sitting or lying meditation, we find ourselves neatly fitting meditation in everyday life. Some days will be harder than others, but mindfulness will begin to be with you more and more. Or maybe, mindfulness simply is, and you will begin to recognize that even amongst busy lifestyles. That’s the wonderful thing about meditation and practice to begin with; it becomes natural, like breathing. The more we do it, and the less withstrained it is, the more of a living presence it becomes in our lives. Meditation and anything we perceive from that inner stillness can illuminate the dynamic process of every day life. Meditation is a living, active thing, not stagnant, and so a meditation in harmony with life is a very healthy, insightful and eventually peaceful way for us to simply be.