5:44 (Awakening): I woke up one minute before my alarm went off this morning, and I am growing more and more convinced that there really is something about sitting up and then standing up that contributes to the waking up process. I’m going to do some research on that during my internet time later today and hopefully post a wonderful article I found about the science of a good night’s sleep.
Last night’s dream was a smorgasbord of imagery. Most of the locations I recognized from my time at St. John’s College, but the layout of some of the rooms was more resemblant of my high school girlfriend’s house. The cast was populated entirely with my coworkers, but we were arranged for some of the Opening Ceremony of Reality (it’s a St. John’s party, I’ll try to explain later) complete with a slideshow of highlights from our tenure there. My contextual life experience had woven the current characters into familiar scenes from my past. How curious. Also curious was a little diorama that my brain told me was a recreation of @stoobzor’s bedroom across from her roommate’s. But again, I recognize the layout of the room’s architecture as a St. John’s College undivided double room in Murchison Hall. Lastly, I remember thinking that the room had changed so the diorama needed to be updated, but I’ve only seen @stoobzor’s room once, and that was a long time ago.
Dreams are strange.
5:55 (Second Meditation): First things first, I made sure to disable all of my alarms for distraction-free meditation. While I was sitting, I kept being bombarded by thoughts, this time about the dream I awoke from and the things I would write on this weblog about my meditative experience.
At first I was very irritated by my self-centeredness. I was annoyed by my own focus on how I would tell the story of my current activities at the expense of the activity itself. But this is normal. Thoughts will come and go, and applying value judgments to them is another form of maintaining attachment, and I’m trying to detach myself from these ideas, to let them flow naturally. Being upset about my ideas will not make them any more transient.
Shunryu Suzuki (who brought Zen to the West) says that we all possess Buddha mind already, a notion that the Buddha himself expressed many times. But we are constantly distracted from this fact. We distract ourselves from this fact. The practice of meditation is about cultivating the appropriate awareness that I am a thing in this world, a thing to which other things happen. I am no more or less special or important than any other thing, and so I owe all other things a great deal of respect and consideration. Furthermore, the distinction between myself and other things is a subjective one and purely a matter of scale.
This is where bowing comes into play. I’ve noticed the practice of bowing returning to my meditative practice even though I’ve forgotten nearly all the ritual of meditation. Without thinking about it, I bow in the direction in which I will sit before getting situated, then bow again when I begin zazen. At the end of my meditation, I bow once more before unfolding my legs and standing, where I bow a final time. I’m certain these bows indicate a kind of deference and respect towards all other things and the meditative practice itself. It is me submitting my will to whatever happens during my meditation and agreeing to abide by the circumstances. I sneezed once during my meditation yesterday and bowed by way of excuse.
I realize that many of you may never have heard the term “zafu” before and it’s hindering your pursuit of meditation. Allow me to enlighten you (no pun intended.) A zafu is the traditional seating cushion used to keep comfortable during zazen meditation. It’s basically a canvas pillow filled with kopeck or beans. There are four ways to obtain a zafu for your own practice.
1. Receive one as a gift. This is probably the best way to acquire a zafu because it means you get to indulge someone else in the pleasure of giving.
2. Use any cushion or pillow. Really, a zafu just keeps you from having to sit on the hard floor during your meditation. It’s purely a comfort thing, and you can probably make do with something you already have around the house. No use acquiring more possessions.
3. Make one yourself. The materials to make a zafu are relatively inexpensive and the process is fairly simple. A little googling should turn up a pattern.*
4. Purchase a zafu. This last option I can hardly recommend unless you really must have one and really have no other substitute or way of creating one. If you have to buy something to engage in your practice, how will you meditate when you have nothing?
6:15 (Second Run): I ran in the reverse direction, but along the same route, from the way I ran yesterday. If I keep alternating, it should keep me from getting bored and vary the workout by starting or finishing with an incline. I try to focus on my breathing when I run the same way I do when I meditate, taking as slow and deep breaths as I can and letting myself remain open to thoughts, but I notice my mind is far more susceptible to an almost hallucinatory trance-like state of imagination and introspection. I’m especially prone to reliving my dreams from the night before and interpreting them in various ways.
I try to maintain a consistent rhythm whether I’m running uphill or downhill, and this is a holdover from backpacking with my parents as a kid. My parents taught me that sometimes you’ll be hiking uphill for a long stretch, and sometimes you’ll be irking downhill, but the only way to keep from exhausting yourself is to maintain a steady even pace and not stop. I never stop to walk on my runs, because I know it will just be that much harder to get started again.
The route I’e chosen is a little more than two miles, and takes a little over twenty minutes to run. This serves several purposes. First, it gives me a natural gauge for my own progress as a runner. Right now, I can’t complete the loop within the twenty minutues on the timer, but as I improve, I should get closer and closer to running the whole course in that amount of time. Second, my run ends before I make it back home, so I’m treated to a brief “cool-down” walk at the end. I always take my headphones out and walk in silence to spare them the humidity of my sweat and re-immerse myself in the world around me.
Second Studies: I was unable to locate a good Human Resources course on iTunes U and Tropical Storm Lee took my electricity and wifi when I arrived home from work, so I’m afraid I was unable to study as planned when I got home. I’ve decided, however, to invest in a book for my human resources studies, a book called “The Ultimate Question,” the book on which the Net Promoter system was based, for those of you familiar with NPS. Whether I will find a digital or analog version of the book is yet to be determined. Tonight I will read one of Suzuki’s lectures in “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” instead.
* I intended to have several links throughout this post to helpful articles and sites, but my power was out and I had to compost this draft on my iPad. While the iPad has 3G and a great Internet connection, I did not have the ability to add hot links. I apologize.