A Zafu and Zabuton (Meditation Pillows)

Last Wednesday I took part in a Zen meditation group. I am fairly new to meditation (within the last few years) and I have done pieces of it in my yoga classes or for infrequent short time spans on my own. Joining this Zen meditation was a reentry into meditation and a time for deeper practice and focus.

The Zen meditation teacher, named Lee Ann, sent me information before I attended so I could look over what Zen meditation is about. A good explanation of Zen is:

Zen … Awakening to the dynamic reality of the present moment. It is the Japanese name of a branch of Mahayana Buddhism which emphasizes the role of meditation (zazen) as a spiritual practice.

A deeper description of Zen:

The heart of the practice is the instruction, “Let it come and let it go.” Whether “it” is a thought, an emotion, a thing, or the self, we have constant opportunities in our daily life to practice. In quiet moments and in simple repetitive actions one can open awareness to the present. The awareness practice can be extended further into every part of our lives. This should be done slowly, with great patience, and without tension.

My first experience.

Lee Ann calmly and soothingly greeted me as I walked in the doors to where the meditation group was meeting. She immediately asked if I was the one she had been speaking with through e-mail (I was) and let me know that I was welcome there. She informed me that she would pull me aside during the first span of meditation so she could explain how Zen meditation was practiced.

I walked in and found my spot, I decided to use a pillow for this class time. The schedule for the night was the following:

-opening (reading a few verses about compassion)

-20 minute siting meditation (I spend 30 of it talking one on one with Lee Ann about meditation, why I was there, how to sit, and how to Zen)

-10 minute walking mediation (or bathroom break)

-20 minute sitting meditation

-10 minute tea and cookie time (in silence)

-read a compassion verse

-pull apart in groups to talk about the meditation time


The whole meditation group meet from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

How did it go?

Well…I did it! I only had the second half (20 minutes) to meditate, but I sat for that whole time. The first 20 minutes of meditation I spent with Lee Ann in order to ask questions, learn how to sit comfortably and get to know Lee Ann.

When you are sitting you are suppose to remain in the position you start in; the itches and pains and thoughts urging you to move are meant to distract and keep you busy. When starting out it is beneficial to breathe in, count 1, breathe out, count 2, breath in, count 3, and so on until you reach 10. This is a Zen method to help practice focus and stilling the body and mind. You will notice when you have lost your focus and have become distracted when you are not aware of your counting or breathes (“oops I am on number 15 start back at number 1″).

After about 10 minutes into my 20 minute meditation time (I am assuming it was 10 because I had no clock or timer to tell me how long I had actually been sitting there) my back starting to ache and I began to feel hot and uncomfortable. I had a hard time counting because all I could think about was not moving my aching back. I deviated from counting to think:

“I don’t think I can do this, is this over yet? Breathe 1, breathe out 2, ouch..should I move? I shouldn’t move, I should stay here. Agh, my back! Breathe in to the pain… I need to swallow my spit, but no one else is swallowing their spit. Does anyone else want to move?!”

I wasn’t thinking like this the whole time, despite that lump of distracted time, I think I did pretty well for my 20 minutes of meditation. When my back doesn’t ache and become overheated it’s a very pleasant experience of sitting and being present in the room, but I definitely became distracted by pain on this night.

Will I go again?

I would like to go again; or at least sit more often in order to work my way up to 40 minutes. I will say it is also a positive experience having a community and a group to connect with.  It is encouraging to have support from a group of well meaning people and a teacher when you need.


Some may ask, why take your time to sit and go through the struggle? Meditation is a beneficial practice that has proven positive impacts on our minds and bodies.  It is a calming ritual that can help you relax to release stress and a chaotic mind.

Meditation definitely takes time, it does not come from one meditation class, results  are born from a steady practice of focusing and quieting the mind. Instead of turning to doctors and pain medicine for: our suffering, our anxiety, our depression, our sadness or our pain, meditation offers a beautiful innate alternative. It can also bring focus, help you detach from the bothers of life, encourage better health and healing, or influence a better understanding of your own self.  The benefits are well worth the time whether you are practicing Zen or meditating on your own.

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