Zazen - When to Meditate - Dharma Rain Zen Center
When to meditate
It is more effective to meditate regularly for shorter periods of time than
once a week for a few hours. Regardless of whether we want to or not, making
a disciplined effort to sit every day is very valuable. Consistency teaches
us to meditate in the midst of all the internal conditions we experience
in our lives. We learn how to sit when we can’t wait to meditate, how
to sit when we are angry with someone, and how to sit when we just want to
Ideally, we make time to sit a few times each day, but it is
important to meet the needs of daily life and not simply conform to a rule.
Sometimes right effort is meditating for a minute, or meditating while
lying down, or meditating for a few breaths before starting the car.
Many of us tend to have cycles in practice. We might make heroic efforts
at certain times, and then forget the practice when our attention is
caught by daily affairs. It is important not to indulge our preferences about
when and where to practice too much. This can distort our sense of ourselves
our lives. We can avoid looking at something about ourselves we really
want to see. When we cultivate zazen as a practice, the willingness to
look at the mind even when it isn’t attractive develops. This is
how we really begin to learn about ourselves.
A typical period of meditation is twenty to forty minutes long. Of course,
any meditation is helpful, but sitting for at least thirty minutes
allows more of the momentum from the day’s events to drop away. When there
is time, it is useful to push a little bit and sit longer.
mean sitting perfectly still in spite of pain; gently and quietly adjusting
one’s posture without getting up teaches the mind and the body
to sit still for longer. Gradually extending the length of sitting
allows the body
to relax into longer periods of sitting without injury or pain, and
keeps the mind from resisting too much sudden change.
Another aspect of deepening meditation is making time for sesshin (silent
retreat). These are periods of retreat when we come together as a community
and cultivate stillness and clarity together. There are different types of
over the course of the year. Some are more relaxed, with about six
sitting spread throughout a day. Others are more intense and formal,
with about ten
hours of zazen.
Having long periods set aside for sitting, especially
over a number of days, helps to develop depth in meditation, and
is an important
aspect of Zen practice.
“In this sitting meditation, zazen, everything is
at rest and you penetrate everywhere — thus it is like returning home
to sit in peace. ”