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CONTEMPORARY ZEN PRACTICE AND INQUIRY

Meditation on Breathing-Peg Syverson

This is the instruction I offered at the residential intensive for following the breathing meditation

08/31/17 09:40:pm

 The instruction I gave at the Red Corral Residential Intensive for following the breath:

There is a core practice, and please simply follow this method for the entire intensive. It is simplicity itself and the method the Buddha used and taught. The method is mindfulness of breathing. 

Now why would I say mindfulness of breathing rather than mindfulness of the breath? Because in breathing we are not talking about something discrete, packaged like little sausages: a breath in, a breath out, a gap in between. Certainly there are methods that are expressed like that. But typically this results in people struggling in various, sometimes very subtle ways, to control the breath. They may even end up out of breath or gasping like a fish. But breathing is a tidal ebb and flow, constantly in motion, and not a series of chunks, bigger or smaller, shorter or longer. 

Here's an image that came to me when I was in zazen in Chicago, and it might be helpful for you in using this method. When I was very young, living in Wisconsin, an old man used to steal into my bedroom at night and wake me up about 4:00 to go fishing. I would quietly throw on some clothes and stumble out, and we would go down to the lake, still dark, in complete silence. We would drag the little blue boat down to the water, and row out to the middle of the lake, which was calm and quiet. We sat in stillness as the sky grew pale and then rosy, the lake enveloping us in the morning mist. As we sat there in the tiny boat, the gentle swells of the water would lift us and release us, in little waves. Holding the lines, we were alert and awake, ready to act. Even so, there was nothing to do but sit in silence in the still boat and be rocked by those swells that carried us effortlessly and in complete ease. 

Let your meditation be like that, your breathing just gently rocking you like a little swell on a still lake. As we sat in silence in our little boat, from time to time a fish would leap out of the water, gleaming, flip, and disappear again below the surface of the lake. So from time to time as you sit quietly here, a phrase, a thought,  or a line may spontaneously leap into your awareness, turn over in your mind, and then slip back into the depths. 

Over and over, simply return to the method, resting in the rhythm of breathing. Nothing complicated about it, no problem if you forget. You can't lose it, you can't do this wrong. Just be patient and kind with your own mind. And awake.

When sitting, let go of all worry, planning, devising, arguing, stories, and fantasies and just rest in the spaciousness and stillness. You can abide in the boundless wisdom and compassion that surrounds you and supports you here. This is a return to your original nature. 

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