An American Zen Buddhist training center in the Mountains and Rivers Order, offering Sunday programs, weekend retreats and month-long residencies.
Last weekend, my 20-year old brother and I meditated together in my studio apartment in Brooklyn. We sat down, side by side, on cushions that have seen better days. To get started, I read aloud from the "Breathing Meditation" chapter of Sharon Salzberg's Real Happiness, and then we listened to the first track of the book's accompanying CD. We crossed our legs, closed our eyes, and sat there breathing. It was my brother's first time meditating.
"I could get into that," my brother said afterwards. "I've always been hyper-aware of my thoughts, but the non-judgmental awareness is a whole other thing."
My brother would appreciate today's Daily Dharma, which offers advice on non-judgmental awareness. It comes from "The Refuge of Sitting" by Narayan Liebenson Grady:
It is important to sit with the clear intention to be present. At the same time, we need to let go of expectations. In a very real sense, what happens when we sit is none of our business. The practice is to accept whatever arises instead of trying to control our experience. What we can control is our wise effort to be present with what is.
I love that: What happens when we sit is none of our business. In my own practice, the non-judmental aspect of sitting has been more powerful than the awareness part. My concentration and focus seems to come and go. But when I can sit there and be gentle and patient with myself—especially when I notice that my concentration and focus has been broken—there is some real liberation in that. New possibilities open up.
Yesterday I received a text message from my brother saying that he'd found one of my old meditation cushions in the basement at our mother's house and asked whether he could take it back to school with him. I guess he sensed some new possibilities opening up too.
Throughout February we'll be offering videos, audio interviews, articles, and tips from well-known Buddhist teachers that will help you develop and maintain a meditation practice. If you find yourself in need of advice, "Meditation Doctor" and Zen teacher Brad Warner will be answering reader questions here all month. To further support your practice, we've put together an e-book featuring 25 carefully selected articles on meditation. Supporting and Sustaining Members can download a free copy of Tricycle Teachings: Meditation here.