Part of the chapter we read last night had to do directly with meditation technique, and we spent a fair amount of time on that. Pema suggests being mindful of the out-breath. The idea is that the in-breath is accompanied by more tension. The out-breath is where we release, and is more likely not to encourage our desire to control. Coming back to the breath over and over is a way to train the mind. Shikantaza, or “just this,” is a way of meditating that is simply open to “whatever moves,” as my teacher Sokuzan says. One sits with a straight back, a relaxed body, and just watches–the breath, the body, the sounds, the wall in front of us, and the thinking.
Shikantaza is harder and is more likely to cause a beginner confusion (am I doing it “right”?), but on the other hand, is less likely to encourage the ego to become attached to doing it “right.”
What does it mean, to “watch” thinking? The internal talk comes up even before we realize it and leaves as soon as we “see” it. Usually. Awareness is everything.The intention is simply to become aware of the rise and fall of thoughts. We’re not becoming interested in the content of the thoughts, just their arising and passing. And to become aware of the gaps between thoughts.
Pema has more to say about being gentle with ourselves as we practice. We’ll talk more about that next week.