Effortless Intro to Mindfulness Meditation
Hippy-shit rating: Almost Zero (no suspension of disbelief required)
Difficulty rating: Easy as; very little training needed. Unless you can’t count to 10. (You can do that, can’t you? If not, grab a teacher and ur, one, two, many, lots, more blocks should do. I’ll meet you back here when you’re ready to go 😉 )
Hey Seekers, Hunters and Toolkit Totees!
So Yesterday in my About section ‘The How’ I talked about what became my first intro into all things Spiritual toolkit based. This morning, I decided that would make a great first blog. Over the years since that moment of finally cracking the metaphorical meditation egg I’ve had so many people come up and say things like ‘Yes but Jay, how am I going to meditate? I’m not calm/focused/zen/peaceful [etc] enough!‘ My first response is usually a hairy eyeball so hairy it gave Trug the Hairy a run for his money on ‘Who’s the hairiest? day at Neanderthal School’. The next is a snorted/laughed question ‘And you think I am?‘. The reply is usually a bashful ‘no’, because it’s in person and therefore this person either knows me or has met me.
Naturally, I am the least Zenlike person you will ever meet. I hold about 7/18 qualities of ADHD and 2/6 of the most predictive characteristics…its amazing what you get on Dyslexia assessments. Yes, I am dyslexic, and no it did not stop me getting a degree and a Master’s. Anyhoo, can we get back to the topic at hand? Cool. So the point I am actually trying to make is that if me and my monkey-mind, which goes at about a zillion thoughts a second can learn to do this phenomenal feat of focusing; you can too. Ok, I admit it did take me well over 10 years to find a way in, my monkey-mind needed assistance. That app wasn’t just salvation, it was a gateway into the realm of the Zen-people. Ok, so I’m still not Zen, but I am A LOT calmer. My husband can always tell if I’ve been too lazy to.. *ahem* not meditated enough; because I’m way more touchy in the ‘light fuse and step away’ form of emotional stability. So, without further ado, I’ll introduce the easiest form.
Think of this as the Gateway Drug into meditation…
Skip-able if you want to just get on and have a go; see the How to below.
Mindfulness meditation comes from Buddhism, but the great thing about Buddhists is they freely share their tools with anyone without demanding anyone even do so much as look at a pamphlet. They’re generally the chillest people you’ll ever meet…Zen even. Must be all that meditation. As this form of mindfulness meditation uses a Zazen technique and app, it comes from the Zen form.
“Zazen is the form of meditation at the very heart of Zen practice. In fact, Zen is known as the “meditation school” of Buddhism. Basically, zazen is the study of the self… To study the self is to forget the self, and to forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.” To be enlightened by the ten thousand things is to recognize the unity of the self and the ten thousand things. Upon his own enlightenment, Buddha was in seated meditation; Zen practice returns to the same seated meditation again and again.” Zazen Mountain Monastery https://zmm.mro.org/teachings/meditation-instructions/
Not confusing much, in that quote then? They’ve got this Zen Grandmaster, confusing quote thing going on to the max…its ur, a good job they’re Zen Grandmasters then! It’s also good job you’re learning here, where I can guide you in plain English.
I can’t promise you you’ll find yourself, but I can tell you it will help you de-stress, breathe slower and its a great way for you to learn to control your anger, panic, feelings of being overwhelmed and help you lower your blood pressure when feeling like burying someone in your garden; from the neck up. (just think about that for a second…yup, I did mean that)
How to do the meditation
Basically, Zazen is a seated meditation. If you read the background, I think you got that right?
So, find a chair or a cushion. I love my yoga bolster. Yes,I know I squash it, but it’s my bolster and I’ll meditate if I want too, meditate it I want to, meditate it I want to…are you singing along?
- Ok, sit comfortably on your cushion/bolster/chair.
- DON’T SLOUCH! Caught you didn’t I?
- Place your hands gently on your lap/knees/legs, either way up is ok at this point
- Close your eyes
- Close your mouth and breathe in and out of your nose
- Count your breaths to 10
- Start again, counting to 10
- Concentrate, bring yourself back, let that thought go and…
- Count your breaths to 10
- Watch it, you got to 12 this time, smile inwardly at yourself because it’s not as easy as you first though and..
- Go back to counting to 10 starting at 1
- Set a cup of your favourite hot beverage in front of you for when you finish. It will save you the temptation of leaping up immediately and allow you to savour that post-meditate vibe just a little longer…ahhh
Alright, there is a bit more to it than that, but this is the uber-basic version.
You can either count your in-breath, your out-breath, or both in and out and get to 10 quicker. That’s entirely up to you. Play around with it, what feels better to you? Personally I use my out-breath. But, like I said, it’s personal. The other trick is to concentrate on how each breath feels. Focus on the rise or fall of your chest, tummy, or that tickly feeling in your nose. Whatever floats your boat.
If you lose count, start again at 1. If you go over, start again at 1. If you go off on a train of thought…if you know the number you were on and it is less that 10 go back to that or… start again at 1. Laugh at yourself often, because how could something this easy be so hard?
When do you know when to stop? There’s an app for that 😉
Ok, I’ll be honest with you, I did nearly suffer a heart-attack earlier when I went to click into my beloved app Zazen Lite and my phone said ‘no, I no longer support you in this action!‘…WAAAAA!
Oh, no, scrub that; it said it no longer supported this app. Bugger. So I had to sacrifice myself upon the alter of meditation app finding just for you lot. I had to spend ages listening to the birds outside chirping while calmly and comfortably seated upon my yoga bolster, counting my out-breaths, to find that perfect app for you to go have a go with. Torture it was. You’re welcome, I knew you’d be grateful.
What makes a good Zazen Meditation app?
So, to me a good app has:
- a timer to time how long you want to do your ‘sit’ – posh Buddhist word meaning how long you want to meditate for. Look at me with the knowledge.
- You want it to chime the beginning and end audibly. Seriously, you have your eyes closed you need to hear that chime.
- To make life easy, you want a count down timer to rid yourself of those last few inevitable fidgets before the beginning chime goes; just sayin’
- Preferably, and this is what kept me hunting through all the freebie apps in the App-store this afternoon; I like a different sounding chime in 1 minute intervals which reminds my monkey-mind to go back to counting from whence it has gone off chasing bananas, or thought clouds, or more usually the things I was meditating to calm down from. Seriously, get one with the interval chime, it helps, A LOT!
- Optionally, some apps give you a soft soothing background music, or the sound of gently crashing waves upon some beautiful distant shore. I can see that being great for some people. Personally it ruins my concentration and my monkey-mind goes off into thought trains even quicker, usually instigated by that bloody music! So if you want an honest opinion, interval chime over background music every time. But again, it’s your sit, do it in a way that suits you the best
So in my hunt today for the best freebie Zarzen meditation app, I came up with four likely suspects
The one on the furthest right Zazen is built by a bunch of Buddhist monks in Ireland. It looked like they might know what they were doing, so I tried that one first. I spent ages trying to configure it, trying to decipher what they bloody meant in their Buddhist terminology and getting more and more frustrated. If the app you chose makes you fell like ‘I’m fucking about to throw the fucking phone out the fucking window…’ said tersely between clenched teeth, this is not the app for you. Calmly place the phone down where you won’t be tempted to launch it and delete the app. Meditation is supposed to calm you, not make you worse. Imagine if your favourite child or employee had walked in at that moment? They’d have ended up planted in your garden, buried from the neck up. Not good. So I investigated some more, just for you lot, and yes, my phone survived another day.
The next one I tried was the mindful one. It has the beginning and end chime. What was missing was the interval chime and the count-down, but it did have the option of the background music. The free bit gives you crashing waves. Now I’m a [bad] surfer, I love me a crashing wave. There’s nothing calmer that the crashing of waves…when you’re at the beach. Bear in mind I had nearly just launched my phone in sheer frustration in the ineptitude of Irish Buddhist Monks’ ability to build an accessible app and I was not in the mood for background noise, so I turned it off. Which, thankfully was an option. It was close, but no cigar. I really wanted that interval chime because my monkey-mind insists on asking ‘are we nearly there yet?’ like the child it is…and an interval chime helps shut it up! I was still missing the count-down timer too. Sad times.
Relief came from the third app I tried; Still. FINALLY I had found one giving me the count-down timer, the beginning chime, the end chime aaaaaand the interval chime. Halleluiah! (Sorry about that chaps, I had said this was a hippy-shit free post). Plus it was soooo easy to use and adjust, as you can see!
But still, if you want a fully adjustable Zazen meditation app, you could honestly do worse than this app. I know they are on the Apple app store, I’m not sure of availability on Android or Windows devices. If you can’t get Still, do look down the checklist and pick something with those features. Yes it might take you a few tries. But, all the ones I downloaded today were free, so it doesn’t cost you anything. Once downloaded you can be off to that place of a calmer, more peaceful you and your favourite child/employee will never know how close they were to becoming Garden ornaments, ahhhh
But Jay, what about that fourth one you mentioned?
Ok people, here’s the skinny. That one was WEIRD! It’s a yellow dot that gets bigger and smaller. It took me ages to realise you were supposed to follow it mimicking it with your breath. It’s called Zentered. It’s also fully adjustable and easy to use, but no count down timer or chimes. My guess would be this is best for people with hearing difficulties, so if you can’t hear chimes, this is the one to use. For the hearing though, this pulsating bright yellow dot is, in fact, very strange.
Finally, a word to the wise. Once you’ve downloaded your app and you can’t get the chime to work, check whether you’ve got your phone switched on silent before you launch it out of the window. Just sayin’.