Despite an article that claims that Zen meditation is the easiest form of meditation, I’m convinced there is no easy way for some people.

I agree that for all of us type A folks, shutting out unwanted thoughts and emptying your mind is darn near impossible. In my own attempts at formal practice (the weekend sesshin at the monastery etc.) I felt tremendous guilt at not being able to clear my mind. The abbot told me, “You have monkey mind. Like a monkey hopping from branch to branch in the tree.”

But that article has a very different take on Zen meditation: “as long as you maintain the physical posture of the practice, you are doing it right, no matter what your mind is thinking.”

Actually, in my last formal meditation session, that was how I found some peace. I decided to just let my mind go where it wanted to go. Mental to do lists. The nipples on the woman across from me. The leaves moving outside the high window. I girl I knew in college who introduced me to meditation. My monkey was swinging from tree to tree very happily.

After that last session, the leader came to me and said, “I think you have finally found the way. You seemed very in tune.” Success.


As the article suggests, I read way back when Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind which was actually a new book when I bought it in 1971. It was my introduction to formal zazen, (sitting meditation).  Favorite quote: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Any classes, workshops or groups I ever meditated with always followed a version pretty close to his precepts. Focus on the body and the breath. Let the mind wander and then pull it back. Be only in this moment.

The cross-legged, straight body stance never felt comfortable to me. It always was a distraction. One group I sat with for a period used chairs and benches. Much more civilized. I was never able to “support the sky with your head”

I was okay with focusing on a point on the ground eight feet in front of me; laying my left hand, palm up, on top of my right palm, thumbs meeting to form an oval a few inches out in front of my navel.

I could pay attention to the air entering and exiting your nose. I am a right nostril breather I discovered. I still find the breath-following helpful in falling asleep some nights.


I had a number of teachers, sat with a number of groups (though I am not a “joiner’) and read other books that sometimes attracted simply by their title.  The Art of Just Sitting sounded right to me (even if its subtitle, Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Shikantaza) sounded more serious). The book was put together by John Daido Loori, who was the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery when I studied there.

You can start with 5 minutes of meditation, work up to 20 and if you get into it, you can try some of the marathon sessions of hours that people do. Never worked for me.

It is often recommended to meditate in the morning when you are rested, so that you aren’t tempted to get drowsy and nod off. Meditating late at night is peaceful but sleep-inducing. Then again, maybe you need to induce sleep. I say try meditating in bed and if you go to sleep, all the better.

This will not make you a Buddhist or Zen master. It might not change you lifestyle or attitude. Maybe, as the article’s author, Jack deTar, says “The goal is for meditation to become “no big deal,” for it to become a practice like brushing your teeth, – that is, until you realize that there is no difference between your teeth and the brush.”

Advertisements