Zen Practice – To Practice, We Need Some Pressure

December 27, 2012

Sometimes it can be difficult to practice meditation with mindfulness, especially with all the things that go on in our lives. Sometimes, one might feel tired after a day’s work, so at the time set aside for meditation one cannot keep from falling asleep. This happens occasionally. However, you can get up a bit earlier in the morning and practice before you go to work. Then, at noontime, you can practice during your break. It is okay to sit in a chair during your meditation.  If you have five minutes, you practice for five minutes. If you have ten minutes, you practice for ten minutes. At least, you need to have some quiet time to practice each day, either in the morning or in the evening. After you get up in the morning, you can practice. Then, in the evening you can practice again before you go to bed.

We feel tired after a day’s work, so we tend to fall asleep when we try to practice meditation. This is a normal thing. If you want to practice meditation after a day’s work, you still can do so. You can practice yoga before seated meditation, or you can do some exercises to move your body and relax your body. Then you can start meditation. If you sense that you will fall asleep after ten minutes, try moving or swaying your body to stay awake and then continue your practice. However, if you still fall asleep once, twice or even three times, my suggestion is to go hug your pillow. This is very important since we need some pressure to practice.

I used to tell my students we need thirty percent pressure when we practice. Without pressure, you can never grow. It is because you always follow the old path, but the old path is the wrong one. It is like driving a car: You try to change your path. What can you do? Hit the brakes, right? First, when you hit the brakes, heat is produced. It is the same way when you want to change the course of your daily life. Sometimes you feel uncomfortable. Some people feel uncomfortable when they practice meditation, so they quit right away. They tell themselves “this is not right.” However, you should remind yourself that change is your goal. The thought is yourself, the feeling is yourself, the emotion is yourself and the physical body is yourself. Now you try to change yourself. It is like trying to make a turn while driving: You need to hit the brakes first. Otherwise, if you drive too fast and try to make a turn, there will be the risk of danger.

If we want to change the course of our life, we need to pass thirty percent pressure. We need the ability to handle that much pressure. Some people feel pain in the body when they practice meditation. They have back pain, leg pain, and pains everywhere, but they think it is not right because the master said that meditation can heal the physical body and make the mind calm. They tell themselves, “When I practice meditation and experience pain, I feel uncomfortable and I feel a lot of emotion. This cannot be right.” Let me tell you, it is completely right! Please be sure of this! At the very beginning, we will experience some uncomfortable situations. This is very normal. For example, we all know that smoking is not a good habit. So you try to quit your smoking habit. In the very beginning, do you feel comfortable or not? You will probably have to chew gum throughout the day. You have no choice. You are trying to change the cause, which is the pattern you have created. In the very beginning, it causes problems.

We can say that we have two types of problems in life. One type of problem makes you grow up, and the other type causes you to have more problems. If you carry a defective personality, it is a problem. You carry many problems around with you, and you want to dissolve those problems, but you only make more of a mess. This kind of problem is very harmful. However, once we realize ourselves and see that we need to practice, we start doing so. In the beginning, meditation will cause some uncomfortable feelings, including in the physical body and the mind. This is something that can be overcome. Once we overcome the problem, it means we are on the right path. This is the right thing to do.

Practitioners can be deluded sometimes. They can have misconceptions. For example, one might think it is okay to lie down, listen to music or do anything one wants, as long as one is comfortable. This idea is right, but is also wrong. Yes, we need to adjust. The purpose of adjusting ourselves is to change ourselves. You’re used to listening music, and maybe your teacher told you listen to music so that your body would relax. One thing I want to point out is that many young people carry iPods all the time, and one might think their minds are very calm. Of course, that is true in a way. But without music, they become crazy, right? The same thing applies here: If you used to listen to music during practice, what will you do after the music is turned off? Is your mind still calm? It probably isn’t calm. If so, could you carry a radio or iPod all the time to make your mind calm? This is not the right thing to do.

To practice is to get rid of habitual thinking patterns. We are not trying to buy some more equipment such as a radio or speakers for us to carry and attain calmness of mind. This is not right. Sometimes, listening to music works for us. It works only on some levels, though. It does not work all the time, either. When your mind is moody and you have huge emotions, at that moment, it probably helps to listen to music. However, if your mind is calm and you try to make your mind calmer, the music probably becomes an interruption. It can disturb your mind instead. It is all relative. It is not that listening to music is always bad. It depends. Before we have calmness in mind we must go through some situations that are uncomfortable for the body. This is normal. So, you can practice in the morning. At office, if you have five minutes you can practice then. You can sit in a chair and practice. If you have ten minutes, you can still practice. If you want to practice in the evening, it is doable; it is okay. When you fall asleep, wake yourself up and try to practice again. If you still fall asleep, go to bed.