“Whether we’re seeking inner peace or global peace or a combination of the two, the way to experience it is to build on the foundation of unconditional openness to all that arises. Peace isn’t an experience free of challenges, free of rough and smooth, it’s an experience that’s expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened.”
“For Zen students the most important thing is not to be dualistic. Our ‘original mind’ includes everything within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few. If you discriminate too much, you limit yourself. If you are too demanding or too greedy, your mind is not rich and self-sufficient.…In the beginner’s mind there is no thought, ‘I have attained something.’ All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind.
When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless.
Dogen-zenji, the founder of our school, always emphasized how important it is to resume our original mind. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice.”
The most important part of a meditation practice is sitting down to meditate. Doing it right is not so important. It is only practice. The practice is watching your mind. As you watch your mind in meditation, you open yourself to possibilities. You don’t know what you will get out of it, but you sit anyway.
Meditation is good anytime of day or night. It is good to find a time in your routine to practice meditation, because if you don’t practice regularly, you rarely will decide spontaneously to meditate. If you practice regularly, you will often spontaneously meditate. You might find yourself sitting on a bus, or in a waiting room, or at your desk, or in a meeting, and you will follow your breath and practice being aware of your awareness. You may consciously focus on listening to what somebody is saying. You may focus on a spot on the floor. You may focus on your phone and act like you are getting sucked into technology, when, really you are doing the opposite. That kind of spontaneous meditation grows out of a regular practice.
Mornings and evenings are good times to practice meditation. In the morning, meditation will help you wake up. At night, it will help you go to sleep. It is convenient to attach your meditation routine to your sleeping routine, because that is the time you already dedicate to resting and letting your mind sort itself out. It is especially convenient to add meditation to your sleep routine if you experience problems sleeping. If you have an active mind, that may keep you from falling asleep, or it may wake your from your sleep. If you have problems falling asleep, meditate before bed. If you wake in the middle of the night, get up and meditate then. If you wake up early in the morning, meditate then. Try any or all of those.
Finding a regular time to sit for a set amount of time is the basis of a meditation practice. What you do when you sit, is to practice paying attention to your attention. Then, when you are not meditating, you will find yourself using the skills that you practiced.
“Stephen Hawking said that he didn’t believe in God because the big bang happened instantly and there was no time for God to create a universe, therefore God couldn’t exist. I have a different point of view. My parents were Buddhists and in Buddhism there is Nirvana, timelessness, no beginning and no end. But my parents put me in a Presbyterian church, so I went to Sunday school every week and learned about Genesis and how the universe was created in seven days. Now with the multiverse idea we can meld these two diametrically opposed paradigms together. According to string theory, big bangs are happening all the time. Even as we speak, Genesis is taking place somewhere in the cosmos. And what is the universe expanding into? Nirvana. Eleven-dimensional hyperspace is Nirvana. So you can have Buddhism and Judeo-Christian philosophy in one theory.”