We live busy lives, jumping from one task to another, from appointment to appointment, usually with no pause or rest between. Our minds are often occupied by what we are planning to do next, rather than on what we are actually doing. The results of this way of living are continually depleted energy reserves, a mind over burdened, and an increase in stress or anxiety. We may have recognized that this way of living is not healthy and have sought out meditation as a way to help us slow down and become more comfortable being present. However, we may discover that bringing this busy energy to daily sitting practice will result in a lot of time and energy being devoted to settling into sitting and shedding the busy energy we have accumulated.
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 refrain from judging or evaluating it. It isn't necessary to become involved in why you're feeling what you're feeling. Right now it doesn't matter. Just identify it. Then, 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, no judging, just identify what is there. No need to get involved in the "why" or the story of the emotions. Just notice them. Take a deep breath, then slowly release it, letting go of any attachment to the emotions.
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? As before we aren't judging them or getting involved with following them. Just notice the quality of them. Take a deep breath, then slowly release it, letting go of any attachment to the thoughts.
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 into 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 further reinforced by our meditation practice.
I am Do'an Prajna, a bhikṣu (fully ordained Zen Buddhist monk) and zen teacher. Here I share my thoughts and observations about living a life of compassion, attention and gratitude.