Lifestyle & Culture

Mastering Mindful Zen Mastery


I’M THINKING of changing the name of this blog to The Daily Zen Master. Or maybe Daily Zen, or Zendroid, or Mindful Droidness or Droidfulness. (Feel free to weigh in.)

Being mindful, as opposed to mindless, is very popular these days, and after all my studying I know pretty much the same stuff as all the people claiming to be Zen masters, and there is a boatload of them, believe me. Just about anyone with time on their hands is now a “mindfulness expert.” I’ve checked many of them out, and the sad truth is that they all say the exact same things because there are only a very few things to say.  Yet each one claims to have The Answer to your anxiety, unhappiness, distress, panic, insomnia or whatever may ail you. Hey, I can do that! Here is my very first lesson, which is actually the only lesson. If you follow my instructions carefully you can save tons of money on books and tapes and candles and little statues of the Buddha.

1. Sit comfortably, either on a cushion on the floor with your legs crossed or upright on a chair with both feet on the floor. (That’s a good tip, because otherwise you might have twisted yourself into an uncomfortable position that you would try to hold for like 15 minutes, hoping to relax.)

2. Close your eyes, or keep them open. (Again, good advice,  otherwise some folks might have kept one open and one closed, which would likely be distracting.)

3. Focus your attention on your breathing. Breathe in, and then breathe out. Breathe normally, and think about the breath as it enters your body through the nostrils and exits through the mouth, or however you do it. Don’t force yourself to breathe in a special way. Keep doing it. (By the way, this is also necessary to stay alive so it’s not a complete waste of time.)

4. If a thought comes into your head, which one or two are likely to do, just acknowledge it as a thought and tell it you’ll think it later. Then go back to focusing on your breathing. If anything external arises to distract you, just recognize it as a distraction and keep thinking about your breathing. (One exception: If you smell smoke, get out of the house immediately.)

5. Do this breathing thing for as long as you can possibly stand it or until people start banging on your door. The longer you do it the better, since it means less time spent worrying about the future or regretting the past, which is what most people do most of the time.

Congratulations, you are meditating! Now do it some more later today, and then again tomorrow morning, and the day after that and the day after that. Then you can write your own book about how to be a Zen master. (But don’t think about that yet.)

—Andrea Rouda
Andrea Rouda blogs at The Daily Droid

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