Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Case for God

I came across this today, apparently an excerpt from Karen Armstrong's upcoming book - The Case for God. It was such a beautiful piece of writing, and sentiment, that I thought I'd reproduce it here: Enjoy!


From almost the very beginning, men and women have repeatedly engaged in strenuous and committed religious activity. They evolved mythologies, rituals and ethical disciplines that brought them intimations of holiness that seemed in some indescribable way to enhance and fulfil their humanity. They were not religious simply because their myths and doctrines were scientifically or historically sound, because they sought information about the cosmos, or merely because they wanted a better life in the the hereafter. They were not bludgeoned into faith by power-hungry priests or kings; indeed religion often helped people to oppose tyranny and oppression of this kind. The point of religion was to live intensely and richly here and now. Religious people are ambitious. They want lives overflowing with significance. They have always desired to integrate with their daily lives the moments of rapture and insight that came to them in dreams, in their contemplation of nature and in their intercourse with one another and with the animal world. Instead of being crushed and embittered by the sorrow of life, they sought to retain their peace and serenity in the midst of their pain.

They yearned for the courage to overcome their terror of mortality; instead of being grasping and mean-spirited, they aspired to live generously, large-heartedly and justly and to inhabit every single part of their humanity. Instead of being a mere workaday cup, they wanted, as Confucius suggested, to transform themselves in to a beautiful ritual vessel brimful of the sanctity that they were learning to see in life. Thy tried to honour the ineffable mystery then sensed in each human being and create societies that honoured the stranger, the alien, the poor and the oppressed. Of course they often failed. but overall they found that the disciplines of religion helped them to do all this. Those who applied themselves most assiduously showed that it was possible for mortal men and women to live on a higher, divine or godlike plane and thus wake up to their true selves.

One day a brahmin priest came across the Buddha sitting in contemplation under a tree and was astonished by his serenity, stillness and self-discipline. The impression of immense strength channelled creatively into an extraordinary peace reminded him of a great tusker elephant. "Are you a god, sir?" the priest asked. "Are you an angel...or a spirit?" No, the Buddha replied. He explained that he had simply revealed a new potential in human nature. It was possible to live in this world of conflict and pain at peace and in harmony with one's fellow creatures. There was no point in merely believing it; you would only discover its truth if you practices his method, systematically cutting off egotism at the root. You would then live at the peak of your capacity, activate parts of the psyche that normally lie dormant, and become fully enlightened human beings. "Remember me, " the Buddha told the curious priest, "as one who is awake."

This story of the first person that the Buddha met after his Enlightenment has always been a powerful one for me. There are so many strands here - he did not recognize him for what he was, he passed on by after the Buddha told him what he was, not knowing how to profit from the encounter ..... and on and on ....

The notion that the Buddha is one who is awake - fully and utterly awake to their experience - has also remained powerful and poignant. Not about being someone different, becoming someone different, becoming anything other than what we are, right now. But opening fully, and utterly to what is, right now, and seeing it for what it is, not lost in it, not entranced and seduced by it, but seeing it for what it is, in the fullest possible context, in detail, and it nature. Fully awake.

Karen summarizes so well the best of this inner urge that many of us feel, that seems to have become a little lost in the public eye, transfixed as it is with the words and deeds of fundamentalists.

About Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong is one of the most provocative, original thinkers on the role of religion in the modern world. Armstrong is a former Roman Catholic nun who left a British convent to pursue a degree in modern literature at Oxford.  She has written more than 20 books around the ideas of what Islam, Judaism and Christianity have in common, and around their effect on world events, including the magisterial A History of God and Holy War: The Crusades and Their Impact on Today’s World. Her latest book is The Case for God. Her meditations on personal faith and religion (she calls herself a freelance monotheist) spark discussion — especially her take on fundamentalism, which she sees in a historical context, as an outgrowth of modern culture.
In February 2008, Karen Armstrong won the TED Prize and wished for help in creating, launching and propagating the Charter for Compassion.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What To Do When the Mind Wanders Away During Meditation

Here is a very nice guide to doing Insight Meditation. You will notice how important the breath is in these teachings. The breath is the key that opens the door to the Present. As you delve deeper into this pure Mindfulness, you will experience thoughts and emotions from the past arising from your subconscious and deeper. I look at this as a cleansing of the mind one thought and emotion at a time. If you ever experience some discomfort when an unpleasant memory arises, just return your focus to your breath. Your breath is your anchor to calmness and is always right there. Practice this every day and the results will amaze you in time. Best wishes!


What To Do When the Mind Wanders Away?

In spite of your concerted effort to keep the mind on your breathing, the mind may wander away. It may go to past experiences and suddenly you may find yourself remembering places you've visited, people you met, friends not seen for a long time, a book you read long ago, the taste of food you ate yesterday, and so on. As soon as you notice that you mind is no longer on your breath, mindfully bring it back to it and anchor it there. However, in a few moments you may be caught up again thinking how to pay your bills, to make a telephone call to you friend, write a letter to someone, do your laundry, buy your groceries, go to a party, plan your next vacation, and so forth. As soon as you notice that your mind is not on your subject, bring it back mindfully. Following are some suggestions to help you gain the concentration necessary for the practice of mindfulness.

1. Counting

In a situation like this, counting may help. The purpose of counting is simply to focus the mind on the breath. Once you mind is focused on the breath, give up counting. This is a device for gaining concentration. There are numerous ways of counting. Any counting should be done mentally. Do not make any sound when you count. Following are some of the ways of counting.

a) While breathing in count "one, one, one, one..." until the lungs are full of fresh air. While breathing out count "two, two, two, two..." until the lungs are empty of fresh air. Then while breathing in again count "three, three, three, three..." until the lungs are full again and while breathing out count again "four, four, four, four..." until the lungs are empty of fresh air. Count up to ten and repeat as many times as necessary to keep the mind focused on the breath.

b) The second method of counting is counting rapidly up to ten. While counting "one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten" breathe in and again while counting "one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten" breathe out. This means in one inhaling you should count up to ten and in one exhaling you should count up to ten. Repeat this way of counting as many times as necessary to focus the mind on the breath.

c) The third method of counting is to counting secession up to ten. At this time count "one, two, three, four, five" (only up to five) while inhaling and then count "one, two, three, four, five, six" (up to six) while exhaling. Again count "one, two, three, four fire, six seven" (only up to seven) while inhaling. Then count "one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight" while exhaling. Count up to nine while inhaling and count up to ten while exhaling. Repeat this way of counting as many times as necessary to focus the mind on the breath.

d) The fourth method is to take a long breath. When the lungs are full, mentally count "one" and breath out completely until the lungs are empty of fresh air. Then count mentally "two". Take a long breath again and count "three" and breath completely out as before. When the lungs are empty of fresh air, count mentally "four". Count your breath in this manner up to ten. Then count backward from ten to one. Count again from one to ten and then ten to one.

e) The fifth method is to join inhaling and exhaling. When the lungs are empty of fresh air, count mentally "one". This time you should count both inhalation and exhalation as one. Again inhale, exhale, and mentally count "two". This way of counting should be done only up to five and repeated from five to one. Repeat this method until you breathing becomes refined and quiet.

Remember that you are not supposed to continue your counting all the time. As soon as your mind is locked at the nostrils-tip where the inhaling breath and exhaling breath touch and begin to feel that you breathing is so refined and quiet that you cannot notice inhalation and exhalation separately, you should give up counting. Counting is used only to train the mind to concentrate on one point.

2. Connecting

After inhaling do not wait to notice the brief pause before exhaling but connect the inhaling and exhaling, so you can notice both inhaling and exhaling as one continuous breath.

3. Fixing

After joining inhaling and exhaling, fix your mind on the point where you feel you inhaling and exhaling breath touching. Inhale and exhale as on single breath moving in and out touching or rubbing the rims of your nostrils.

4. Focus you mind like a carpenter

A carpenter draws a straight line on a board and that he wants to cut. Then he cuts the board with his handsaw along the straight line he drew. He does not look at the teeth of his saw as they move in and out of the board. Rather he focuses his entire attention on the line he drew so he can cut the board straight. Similarly keep your mind straight on the point where you feel the breath at the rims of your nostrils.

5. Make you mind like a gate-keeper

A gate-keeper does not take into account any detail of the people entering a house. All he does is notice people entering the house and leaving the house through the gate. Similarly, when you concentrate you should not take into account any detail of your experiences. Simply notice the feeling of your inhaling and exhaling breath as it goes in and out right at the rims of your nostrils.

As you continue your practice you mind and body becomes so light that you may feel as if you are floating in the air or on water. You may even feel that your body is springing up into the sky. When the grossness of your in-and-out breathing has ceased, subtle in-and-out breathing arises. This very subtle breath is your objective focus of the mind. This is the sign of concentration. This first appearance of a sign-object will be replaced by more and more subtle sign-object. This subtlety of the sign can be compared to the sound of a bell. When a bell is struck with a big iron rod, you hear a gross sound at first. As the sound faces away, the sound becomes very subtle. Similarly the in-and-out breath appears at first as a gross sign. As you keep paying bare attention to it, this sign becomes very subtle. But the consciousness remains totally focused on the rims of the nostrils. Other meditation objects become clearer and clearer, as the sign develops. But the breath becomes subtler and subtler as the sign develops. Because of this subtlety, you may not notice the presence of your breath. Don't get disappointed thinking that you lost your breath or that nothing is happening to your meditation practice. Don't worry. Be mindful and determined to bring your feeling of breath back to the rims of your nostrils. This is the time you should practice more vigorously, balancing your energy, faith, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom.

Farmer's simile

Suppose there is a farmer who uses buffaloes for plowing his rice field. As he is tired in the middle of the day, he unfastens his buffaloes and takes a rest under the cool shade of a tree. When he wakes up, he does not find his animals. He does not worry, but simply walks to the water place where all the animals gather for drinking in the hot mid-day and he finds his buffaloes there. Without any problem he brings them back and ties them to the yoke again and starts plowing his field.

Similarly as you continue this exercise, your breath becomes so subtle and refined that you might not be able to notice the feeling of breath at all. When this happens, do not worry. It has not disappeared. It is still where it was before-right at the nostril-tips. Take a few quick breaths and you will notice the feeling of breathing again. Continue to pay bare attention to the feeling of the touch of breath at the rims of your nostrils.

As you keep your mind focused on the rims of your nostrils, you will be able to notice the sign of the development of meditation. You will feel the pleasant sensation of sign. Different meditators feel this differently. It will be like a star, or a peg made of heartwood, or a long string, or a wreath of flowers, or a puff of smoke, or a cob-web, or a film of cloud, or a lotus flower, or the disc of the moon or the disc of the sun.

Earlier in your practice you had inhaling and exhaling as objects of meditation. Now you have the sign as the third object of meditation. When you focus your mind on this third object, your mind reaches a stage of concentration sufficient for your practice of insight meditation. This sign is strongly present at the rims of the nostrils. Master it and gain full control of it so that whenever you want, it should be available. Unite the mind with this sign which is available in the present moment and let the mind flow with every succeeding moment. As you pay bare attention to it, you will see the sign itself is changing every moment. Keep your mind with the changing moments. Also notice that your mind can be concentrated only on the present moment. This unity of the mind with the present moment is called momentary concentration. As moments are incessantly passing away one after another, the mind keeps pace with them. Changing with them, appearing and disappearing with them without clinging to any of them. If we try to stop the mind at one moment, we end up in frustration because the mind cannot be held fast. It must keep up with what is happening in the new moment. As the present moment can be found any moment, every waking moment can be made a concentrated moment.

To unite the mind with the present moment, we must find something happening in that moment. However, you cannot focus your mind on every changing moment without a certain degree of concentration to keep pace with the moment. Once you gain this degree of concentration, you can use it for focusing your attention on anything you experience--the rising and falling of your abdomen, the rising and falling of the chest area, the rising and falling of any feeling, or the rising and falling of your breath or thoughts and so on.

To make any progress in insight meditation you need this kind of momentary concentration. That is all you need for the insight meditation practice because everything in your experience lives only for one moment. When you focus this concentrated state of mind on the changes taking place in your mind and body, you will notice that your breath is the physical part and the feeling of breath, consciousness of the feeling and the consciousness of the sign are the mental parts. As you notice them you can notice that they are changing all the time. You may have various types of sensations, other than the feeling of breathing, taking place in your body. Watch them all over your body. Don't try to create any feeling which is not naturally present in any part of your body. When thought arises notice it, too. All you should notice in all these occurrences is the impermanent, unsatisfactory and selfless nature of all your experiences whether mental or physical.

As your mindfulness develops, your resentment for the change, your dislike for the unpleasant experiences, your greet for the pleasant experiences and the notion of self hood will be replaced by the deeper insight of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessness. This knowledge of reality in your experience helps you to foster a more calm, peaceful and mature attitude towards your life. You will see what you thought in the past to be permanent is changing with such an inconceivable rapidity that even your mind cannot keep up with these changes. Somehow you will be able to notice many of the changes. You will see the subtlety of impermanence and the subtlety of selflessness. This insight will show you the way to peace, happiness and give you the wisdom to handle your daily problems in life.

When the mind is united with the breath flowing all the time, we will naturally be able to focus the mind on the present moment. We can notice the feeling arising from contact of breath with the rim of our nostrils. As the earth element of the air that we breathe in and out touches the earth element of our nostrils, the mind feels the flow of air in and out. The warm feeling arises at the nostrils or any other part of the body from the contact of the heat element generated by the breathing process. The feeling of impermanence of breath arises when the earth element of flowing breath touches the nostrils. Although the water element is present in the breath, the mind cannot feel it.

Also we feel the expansion and contraction of our lungs, abdomen and low abdomen, as the fresh air is pumped in and out of the lungs. The expansion and contraction of the abdomen, lower abdomen and chest are parts of the universal rhythm. Everything in the universe has the same rhythm of expansion and contraction just like our breath and body. All of them are rising and falling. However, our primary concern is the rising and falling phenomena of the breath and minute parts of our minds and bodies.

Along with the inhaling breath, we experience a small degree of calmness. This little degree of tension-free calmness turns into tension if we don't breathe out in a few moments. As we breathe out this tension is released. After breathing out, we experience discomfort if we wait too long before having fresh brought in again. This means that every time our lings are full we must breathe out and every time our lungs are empty we must breathe in. As we breathe in, we experience a small degree of calmness, and as we breathe out, we experience a small degree of calmness. We desire calmness and relief of tension and do not like the tension and feeling resulting from the lack of breath. We wish that the calmness would stay longer and the tension disappear more quickly that it normally does. But neither will the tension go away as fast as we wish not the calmness stay as long as we wish. And again we get agitated or irritated, for we desire the calmness to return and stay longer and the tension to go away quickly and not to return again. Here we see how even a small degree of desire for permanency in an impermanent situation causes pain or unhappiness. Since there is no self-entity to control this situation, we will become more disappointed.

However, if we watch our breathing without desiring calmness and without resenting tension arising from the breathing in and out, but experience only the impermanence, the unsatisfactoriness and selflessness of our breath, our mind becomes peaceful and calm.

Also, the mind does not stay all the time with the feeling of breath. It goes to sounds, memories, emotions, perceptions, consciousness and mental formations as well. When we experience these states, we should forget about the feeling of breath and immediately focus our attention on these states--one at a time, not all of them at one time. As they fade away, we let our mind return to the breath which is the home base the mind can return to from quick or long journey to various states of mind and body. We must remember that all these mental journeys are made within the mind itself.

Every time the mind returns to the breath, it comes back with a deeper insight into impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessness. The mind becomes more insightful from the impartial and unbiased watching of these occurrences. The mind gains insight into the fact that this body, these feelings, various states of consciousness and numerous mental formations are to be used only for the purpose of gaining deeper insight into the reality of this mind/body complex.

 ~ From the book: "Mindfulness In Plain English"

    by Venerable Henepola Gunaratana

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Meditation and the Three Regulations

My last post gave specific directions for doing zazen, or Zen meditation. I highly recommend that everyone begin learning meditation using those well-defined instructions from the Zen Roshi whose teachings I continue to study. Below are instructions for Taoist meditation used in T'ai Chi Ch'uan and are for those familiar with reverse breathing and advanced chi circulation. I am posting it here to show you that there are many forms of meditation but in the end, they are All tools used to achieve the same thing, mastery of the self. Master Tseng is the last true master from Wudang Mountain where Tai Chi is believed to have originated so it is with great honor that I offer his teachings here.






Meditation and the Three Regulations

By Master Yun Xiang Tseng

Stillness is the key to open the gate to the mystical world. With stillness, the mind and body fall in love, yang and yin. The enemy of stillness is motion. How do you deal with motion in the right way? You must learn to deal with it in a philosophical way. Physical motion is the first test for everyone. You need a very wise mind to not attach to it. Once you attach to it, you are back at square one.

Wu is the character for Enlightenment or Breakthrough and has the inner radicals “heart ”on the left and “self” on the right representing the relationship between you and the cosmos.

To meditate bring the mind back to look for tranquility. Do nothing and leave nothing undone. Move into “Ting”, stop, be still, frozen, have no need to move. No one can distract you unless you want or allow yourself to be distracted. Withdraw the senses.

Regulate your body:
A. Seal your hands
B. Eyes on the tip of the nose
C. Arms rounded
D. Sit cross-legged, females with the right leg outside, males the left leg. If you must sit on a chair then sit on the front 1/2 – 1/3 of the chair with your feet shoulder width apart and facing ahead.
E. Let your armpits be empty and the belly soft
F. Wear no jewelry, no watch, be natural
G. Wear loose clothes, nothing binding

The usual pain sequence for the body to follow when you start sitting is:
1) Legs ache
2) Kidney/low back aches
3) Shoulders ache
4) Neck aches
5) Forehead aches
This is a natural sequence as the energy starts to move up. Just take it, do not attach.

Sit for 20 minutes initially and then gradually add time in 5 minute increments over 1-2 months. Be regular! Do your practice at the same time every day – for example at 11:00 pm every night. Twice a day is recommended for your meditation practice: Mornings between 5 and 7 and evenings between 11 and 1, even when you travel. Twenty minutes of good quality meditation equals 2 hours of sleep.

Regulate your mind:

Kill the self – let go of your self-concept: ego, desire, self-identity, stress and go back to the innocent stage. Desire and emotion are the leading causes of mental motion – monkey mind. The wild horse is the intention, jumping monkey is the heart.

1 replaces the 10,000

Focus on the 1.

Focus on the tip of the nose. The tip of the nose is the pole to tie the wild horse to. When you focus on the tip of the nose during meditation then you bring the consciousness to the Dan Tian. That’s called caging the monkey.

When you focus on the 1, that is the beginning stage of stillness; when you let go of the 1, that is the intermediate stage.

To achieve stillness you must practice self-cultivation of your virtue: remove the masks, be true to your heart, and seek the purity of your own heart. The goal is stillness. You must preserve the root in order to achieve stillness. Practice self-examination. The source of stress is from your own heart. You cause your own stress and you must take responsibility.

Regulate your breath:

Tu Na Gong Fu is the art of regulating the breath. In pure meditation you do not even regulate your breath. It simply falls away.
This is a basic method for regulating breath.

1. When you inhale, gently contract the anus in and up beginning with the intention just under the tip of tailbone (Wei Lu point) and leading it up the inner face of the spine, up the Du Channel, around the skull to just below the nose.

2. When you exhale, gently relax the anus. Allow the intention to lead the Qi down the front of the body to the perineum (Hui Yin point between the privates).

When beginning, practice 36 breaths or rotations and then let go of intention. Then do nothing, keep the mind in the belly, on the Dan Tian. Focus on the third eye; see and not see.

Females can focus the intention on the heart center for around 15 minutes and then bring the intention back down to the Dan Tian.

When you begin this will be a dry river. Use intention to see the path until one day water comes, and energy goes up and down by itself. After 100 days of practice you will achieve results.

Known as "Chen", Yun Xiang Tseng was trained from the age of six at the Wu Dang Mountain in China. Wu Dang Mountain is legendary for its Tai Chi, Kung Fu, healing traditions, Qigong, herb medicines, and spiritual practices. It is considered the most sacred Taoist location where revered monk Zhang San Feng came to the enlightenment of the internal martial arts. Master Chen is a 25th generation lineage of Quan Zhen Pai (Complete Reality Sect) and a 14th generation lineage of Wu Dang San Feng Pai. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Here is something that will benefit everyone who commits to doing this daily. These instructions are from a true Zen Roshi or Master and explain in simple terms how to do Zen meditation or zazen. I do this every day in concert with my Tai Chi and have reaped great benefit and joy from this Practice. Remember that it will take time for you to be able to achieve a state of mental stillness and feel your chi in your Tan Tien(Tanden) but you will get better and feel better with each passing day. Also, Always be kind to yourself when you lose your focus or balance. Even skilled Practitioners have their bad moments too so let go of an frustrations or other negative emotions or thoughts and just relax back into your meditation. Good luck and best wishes in your Practice!                                      


Humanistic Psychologist & Zen Meditation Roshi
PO BOX 44573 Kamuela, HI 96743
Office: (808) 880-1395 Email: DrB@ZenDoctor.Com



This checklist was written with the following intentions: 

1) to provide beginners with detailed instructions
and guidelines for initiating the healing form of seated meditation, and 

2) to help veteran practitioners with the refinement and deepening of their psycho-behavioral postures in meditation life practice. Within the inner and outer postural forms described here is a profound formula for practicing meditation life therapy in all activities and relationships. The checklist, therefore, should be regularly studied, consistently applied, and devotedly translated into the context of everyday life and interpersonal
relationships. This personal study, seated application and engaged behavioral translation is exactly the
endless practice and refinement of meditation life therapy itself.

Remember that all the basic psycho-behavioral postures outlined in this practice checklist represent an
"Ancient Template" for embodying truth, living integrity, nourishing health, and joyously practicing the
wisdom-compassion body that is exactly your everyday life. I urge you to investigate this "Ancient
Template" by practicing and translating these meditation postures with deepening intimacy, gentleness,
devotion, conscientiousness, and beginner's heartmind. Never assume that you have mastered or
completely understood any aspect or part of this profound and wondrous template. This is called,
“Embracing the Source of not-knowing and returning to the root of simplicity, everyday life is awakened to
the embodiment of faith, healing, vitality, peace, joy, and wonder.

1. Before you begin meditation, make a personal commitment to sit down completely. This means that
your mind/body/heart should be devotedly intent on letting go of all agendas, expectations, and concerns.
This is a time to surrender to just being seated in the precious bodily form of peace, self -compassion,
wakefulness, and breath.

2. You may employ one of several forms for seated meditation: sitting cross-legged on the floor,
kneeling while sitting back on a cushion between your heels, and one using a straight chair. If you sit
cross-legged on the floor, it is suggested that you also use a small sitting cushion or folded pillow, which
will raise your sit, bones about four to six inches from the ground. In the kneeling position, your sit bones
should be raised about the same height. If you are sitting on a chair, sit on the front half of the seat with
both feet placed flat on the ground and about a foot apart. Keep your own posture and do not lean back
on the chair. If you have back pain or are physically unable to maintain your posture, use a support
pillow between your back and the chair.

3. Make sure that your legs are comfortable and free from any tightness or restriction due to clothing
or physical position. Thus, circulation will be unimpeded and tingling and numbness will be less apt to

4. Center your spine by swaying in decreasing arcs, side to side. Scan your body for any muscular
tension or tightness. Breathe into any tension or tightness and release it gently with each exhalation of
your breath. Become as comfortable as you can. As you establish a condition of ease in the body,
remember to passionately arouse and maintain a mental quality of alert wakefulness in This Only

5. Relinquish your mental tendency to keep track of linear time, and recollect your devoted intent to
just sit and wait forever in breath and body without expectation. To wait forever means to surrender or
yield to being in your body just as you are, whether it is difficult or easy, hard or soft, heavy or light, tired
or energized.

6. Straighten and extend your spine gently according to its normal curvature. Imagine a string attached
to your head and being pulled tautly and gently from heaven. Sensing the weight of your torso on your sit
bones, gently tilt your pelvis slightly backward. Relax your belly muscles so that your abdomen protrudes
forward in a relaxed and comfortable fashion. The small of your back, above your hips, should now be
naturally curved forward toward your belly button. Do not strain this natural forward thrust of your belly
and lower spine as it will create undue tension and muscular tightness in your mid back.

7. Lifting your head toward heaven, align it with its natural resting center on your spine. The head
should not tilt forward or backward, nor lean to either side.

8. Your shoulders should be in a relaxed and natural position, neither drooping forward nor thrusting
backward. Your ears should be parallel with your shoulders; the tip of your nose should be directly over
your navel; and your chin should be slightly tucked in.

9. Your eyes should be open in a natural position for "just seeing", neither strained open nor drooping
closed. Rather than looking straight ahead, they should be lowered toward the floor at a 45-degree
angle, three to four feet in front of you. Do not concentrate them on any particular area, but allow them to
remain in an "alert open gaze", mirroring and including everything crisply before them without hindrance.
Keeping them in this relaxed, alert, and open position will help minimize blinking and drowsiness.

10. Your hands should be placed in the "cosmic mudra":

a) Right palm is up, with blade of the little finger against your lower belly just below your navel; 

b) Left hand should be placed on top of your right hand with your middle knuckles overlapping each other; 

c) Your thumbs should be slightly touching each other directly in front of your navel so that both your hands now form an oval in front of your lower abdomen. If I were to point a finger in the middle of your hand oval and touch your abdomen, I would be touching an area three inches directly below your navel. This bodily location, just under your skin and muscle is called the Tanden in Japanese or Tan Tien in Chinese and refers to your vital spiritual core or cosmic energy center.

11. Once you are comfortably seated in the bodily form of meditation, close your mouth with your lips
gently touching. Your tongue should rest comfortably against the roof of your mouth with the tip gently
against the upper front teeth. Your breathing should now continue only through your nostrils.

12. Become aware of your breathing with each inhalation and exhalation. Once you are aware of your
breathing, begin to slowly breathe into your belly. During belly breathing your chest should stay relatively
motionless while your lower abdomen seems to fill up like a balloon. This belly breathing can be difficult at
first. Don't force yourself. Just gently, try to encourage each breath into your lower belly without judging
yourself. Be patient and tender with yourself. If you find that you are creating tension in yourself, let go of
the belly breathing for the time being and continue to be aware of your current pattern of breath with each
inhalation and exhalation.

13. Follow the beginning of each inhalation with your awareness. Gently guide the inhalation with your
awareness into the lower abdominal region of the Tanden which your cosmic mudra is emphasizing. Let
your awareness pause as you reach the end point of the inhalation and then allow the exhalation to begin
naturally from the Tanden point in the lower abdomen. Follow the exhalation with your awareness until it
is complete. Then begin again.

14. Constantly recall your mindfulness to the expansion and contraction of your belly and the flow of air
passing in and out of your nostrils. If you find that your thoughts have distracted you, do not judge
yourself. Gently bring your mindfulness to the bodily sensation of just sitting and become aware of your
belly and nostril breathing. Remember, that meditation practice is called "completion without regret" when
you devotedly recall yourself to your breath in several continuos moments or when you sincerely recall
yourself to breath after having been distracted by thoughts or sleepiness. Both are equal in the eyes of
this practice. The embrace of unconditional compassion should extend to both the son/daughter who
remains home or the prodigal son/daughter who returns after being away.

15. With each breath, allow yourself to also embody the immediate experience of your impermanence.
Sense the delicate thread upon which your life hangs with each heartbeat and in each moment of
inhalation and exhalation. This sense of our immediate impermanence sustains a deep appreciation of
our life practice in this Only Moment.

16. Keep as still as possible during zazen meditation, but do so with a caring and attitude toward your
body. If you experience some physical discomfort during zazen, try to make the necessary adjustments
to settle into your "sitting form" comfortably. The adjustments might be very subtle muscular, skeletal, or
attitudinal shifts. If you need to make any gross movements or subtle physical shifts, do so in a slow and
mindful motion while still paying attention to belly breathing. For example, if your lower leg feels like it is
starting to tingle, you might first try tightening and relaxing the calve muscle. If this doesn't work then
gently and slowly extend your leg outward while still keeping your mirror gaze and belly breath
awareness. After circulation returns, you can slowly and mindfully bring your leg in and return to your
zazen form. Always be aware not to move in a heedless, careless or casual manner. Doing necessary
adjustments in this mindful way, you will not break or loose your embodied wakefulness and effortless
concentration as the wisdoming body of Applied Meditation Therapy.


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