[MZ] Monday Zen ~ To Meditate or Not to Meditate, That is the question.


Monday Zen

 “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh   

I am attempting to meditate again, but with much difficulty. I will admit it has been nearly a decade since I have had a regular practice of sitting.

So why now, you may ask?

Good question.

Many years ago my parents have taught me how to meditate ~ my dad was a Zen monk. Additionally, I was fortunate enough to attend a weekend retreat at Deer Park Monastery with my sister (Vietnamese Zen master and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, was at Plum Village in France at the time, but the experience there was life changing, nonetheless).

However, not too long ago, a tragedy stuck my family – my dad was killed in a car accident. For many months, I’ve lived in a fog of disjointed memories, as if I were living in a hellish dream with no sign of reprieve.

For a long time, I was angry at the world for my suffering. This anger became a breeding ground for negative thoughts that had pumped through me for a long time. You can image how this kind of anger might affect someone on a day-to-day basis.

I wholeheartedly wanted to stop this cycle, to sit and allow my mind to heal. But sitting with the negative and muddy thoughts after abandoning my practice for nearly a decade, felt like torture.

Ven. Tenzin Palmo, a Tibetan nun once noted, “When the mind calms down, it becomes clear.”

For me, there is a priceless beauty in her words. Many years ago, I too had a glimpse of peace, calm mind and of letting go.

I told myself I would sit for 5 minutes a day and honestly that was all I could give at the time.  

During my first attempt, I noticed how messy and muddy my mind was, endlessly going from one stream of thought to the next, like surfing the web and getting lost in all those myriad of information we don’t know what to do with. If you are a beginner, like me, you know what I mean.

Despite the fact that I felt “unsuccessful,” to say the least, I told myself it will take time and to go SLOW.

If you are a beginner, or have started to sit again after a long absence, here are some things I have observed and often tried to tell myself:

1. It will not be easy.

This seems obvious, but we often berate ourselves for not achieving our goal in time (whatever time that may be for you) while allowing that negative voices take over.

Start small. For me 5 minutes a day practice is enough – a goal that will not overwhelm and discourage me.  I think when we set unrealistic goals, we set ourselves up for failure.

2. Focus on the breath.

I was told by the monks at the Deer Park Monastery to focus on the breath and count to 10. For example: inhalation and exhalation is one breath and so forth. If your mind wonders start over from one and do it again.

This is a great method for a beginner, I think, because it doesn’t require a lot of training and everything you need is right there with you. If you notice your mind start to wonder, try not to judge it, but rather start the process of counting the breath over again.

3. Consistency.

It is important to create a habit of sitting, even when it is the last thing you want to do. For me, creating a healthy habit is the key to overcoming obstacles, even if it’s for 5 minutes each morning.

Do you meditate? What are some methods that have worked well for you? Do you have any insight you’d like to share on meditating?


8 thoughts on “[MZ] Monday Zen ~ To Meditate or Not to Meditate, That is the question.

  1. Hi Jinhee,
    I didn’t see an email address listed for you on your site, which is why I’m commenting instead.

    I’m the editor of thankthenow.com, and I really liked this post and I think it could be a very good fit for Thank the Now if you would be interested in letting me re-post it (with attribution to you of course).

    If you would be interested in letting me re-post it or if you have any other work that you would like to contribute, please let me know.

  2. I am a beginner, and I have had what feels like endless roadblocks between myself and reaching my goal of sitting daily. I try to approach it as something I “get” to do for myself, like a dip in a pool on a hot day. It doesn’t always work, but so far, it has worked more often than not. I really appreciate your article, Jinhee. Thank you for your insight and advice!

    • I agree, it is quite difficult to sit and just let the thoughts be as it is without judgment. I think with daily practice, or even a few times a week, it will help tremendously in the long run. Just coming back to the breath while driving helps too, or throughout the day. I try to do this when I am running around trying to get things done for the day. Also, I have a little statue that belonged to my late father – he was a Zen monk – on my window next to the sink and when things get overwhelmed for me, I focus on it and come back to my breaths. I helps a lot. Good luck with your pratice.

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