A Few Good Zen

I am one of the most un-zen-ful people I know.

But maybe that’s about to change.

And maybe you can help.

Here’s the deal.  If you’ve been reading lately you know that I just had hernia surgery and that I am now restricted from pretty much any form of exercise for several weeks.  So, I thought to myself, as I was imagining laying on the couch not burning any calories, what can I do to make some good use of this time?  What am I going to do to distract myself from food?  Can improvements be made towards fitness even while my muscles are atrophying?

And just like that, I had an aha moment.  Coincidentally, not while watching Oprah, the queen of aha moments, but while watching her disciple, Dr. Oz.  And Deepak Chopra.  An idea started forming:  I can’t exercise my muscles but I CAN exercise other parts of me!

So, this typically impatient, un-laid-back, small stuff sweat-er is going to lay back and be patient and sweat over nothing more than breathing.  Meditation, here I come!

But here is where I could use some help.  What to do?  How to do it?

Yes, I turned to my dear friend the internet first.  Information overload.  And I’m not sure how long I’m gonna stick with this little experiment so I want to go in with my best chance of success and a method that is tried and true and reader approved.

So please share with me your meditation tips and techniques.  I’m a total newbie – every little idea may be the one that makes this thing click for me.

Look out, zen.  Here I come!

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75 Comments

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75 responses to “A Few Good Zen

  1. For me, it is as simple as a darkened room, some headphones, and some music I like.

  2. I have a couch that is positioned to get sunlight from the window mid-afternoon. No matter how crappy my day is, if I lay on the couch at the right time, I get 30 mins of peace and quiet with lots of sun – I drift off to sleep almost every time!

    • Karen

      I have a couch just like that! It would work better for me if my husband wasn’t home all day. He can sleep, I mean MEDITATE, through anything but not me.

  3. Check out dharmaseed.org

    Happy meditating!

  4. Sorry I have no meditation advice because frankly my mind wanders so fast I suck at it. I’ve been idle recovering from surgery a couple of times and what kept me from climbing the walls mentally was reading. Think of all the books you want to read but never have time to read; now is that time. Or meditate if you must 🙂

    • Karen

      I have a huge, and I do mean huge, stack of hardcover books. My mom gets current stuff and passes it along to me. I used to read a lot more but now I spend so much time on blogs:( But I am going to work my way through them – you are right about that being great timing.

  5. anne h

    I love to meditate except for I tend to drift off to sleep!

  6. It’s not really a meditation guide, but I use it to focus and breathe – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFvelHlN9Rw

    Also, Pema Chodron (I can’t remember which piece) gives a bit of instruction.

    Really, I’d just start with being comfortable, being still and counting breaths. Don’t make it too complicated.

    • Karen

      Thanks for the tips. Several times in the past days I was just laying here. Not meditating, but not feeling like doing anything. So I guess if I am going to do nothing I’d rather be productive about it:)

  7. i am like you i have trouble finding my zen

  8. Staring at the fire in the picture on my post this morning usually does it for me. But not for long, can’t keep my mind still.

    Can’t wait to read everyone’s ideas on this one.

    • Karen

      I can’t keep my mind still either. I guess that is why there is a chant or counting or focus on breathing or something like that. Seem sort of strange to try to NOT think.

  9. When you learn please share. I can’t shut my mind off enough to meditate, I’ve tried. Sometimes I find it hard to even pray because my mind wanders and that is stupid because I’m talking to God, think he wants to hear “did I change the toilet paper roll?, Where’s the cat?, I’m hot!, I’m cold, What’s Mike doing up so late?” I’m terrible at it. I think the Zen has left my building, in fact I’m not even sure he even stopped here and if he did maybe I thought he said “Den” not “Zen” and ran the other way.
    Take care, heal quickly but don’t over do it. Remember today it might feel okay but tomorrow because today felt better you over did it and now….holy crap you hurt. Don’t do that, take it easy. God Bless you my friend.

    • Karen

      LOL! I so used to have that problem during yoga.

      And that second part – you are so right! I was just thinking last night as I was moving better and less cautiously that it would not be a bad thing if things “hurt” for a while since that will remind me to take care. It is amazing how we use our ab muscles for almost everything, as I am finding out.

  10. Ah, here is one I am no use in helping you Karen.. so sorry. Like you, I did not & don’t do this.. if I try, I fall asleep! 🙂

    HUGS!

  11. A few years ago, I received the suggestion to listen to guided imagery. Hear me out — at first, I was SKEPTICAL, but I bought one. And that first one is the best one I’ve ever done. I still listen to it on occasion. Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0014BVZI0/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_2?pf_rd_p=1278548962&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B0014BXFV0&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1XAMXQ1EPSB6RCM9KBJN

    It’s about 35 minutes of pure bliss. You can feel the stress leave your body, I swear.

    • Karen

      I will check it out – thank you. And I so believe you. Last year when I was doing, and surprisingly enjoying yoga (before I broke a bone and never went back), I could not believe how great I felt in the few minutes at the end when the instructor lead us through relaxation. Loved it. But probably fell asleep every time!

  12. I’m with Patrick, I would read as much as possible! If left to my own devises, I will solve everyone’s life problems and call them and tell them. I get a little annoying when left to my own devices.

  13. I suck at meditating. Even when I try to empty my mind when I’m running and just concentrate on my feet and the road, I still can’t do it.

    I’m a reader, too. I’d take a trip to the library and stock up. Maybe that’s like meditating – lose yourself in someone’s story?

  14. Ewa

    I so wish I could meditate but my mind keeps racing over things I haven’t done yet (like meditation), I keep checking the clock, I just want to get up and move. Yin yoga is the closest to resting my mind and body I have come to.

  15. I guess I pray more than meditate per se. No help

  16. Meditation is such a personal thing. Some people can do it with music, others find it to be a distraction. Some people like to find “guided meditation” CD’s, others don’t like them. Some like to sit lotus-style or in another yoga-like position, others just like to sit in a comfy chair. I think the main thing is to find what fits YOU, personally.

    Find one thing to focus on – a bible verse or inspirational quote, etc. Sit in a quiet place, in a comfortable position, either with or without music. Close your eyes, and focus on that one thing. If your mind wanders, allow it to for a moment, then bring yourself back to your focus.

    It takes practice, but it’s rewarding! Good luck!

    • Karen

      Oh that makes so much sense! And makes me immediately think of how dieting is the same way – we each have to find what works for us.

  17. something I don’t do enough of, but I have done all of the things that have been suggested above and have loved it all..it can really be as simple as looking at candle flame or a fire and zoning out, mentally pushing away any ‘thinking’ that you are doing until you realize you may have had few moments of not thinking. some kinds of music does this to me. I actually have little waking dreams and images sometimes that I’m not controlling or creating ..I know that sounds weird, but this is the absolute coolest thing when it happens-like feeling like i’m flying like a hawk and ‘seeing ‘ things from that perspective. I feel like this is when I’m touched by a higher power and given a little treat. I use meditation books or devotionals–the one I’m using now is the Hazelden Meditation guide “Food for Thought” if you have a kindle download a sample…basically just a little blurb or truth or thought that you can think about for each day, relate to or journal about and gain more insight about which is what meditation is …lots of other kinds out there. good luck

  18. Lol, A few good zen. That cracked me up. I’ve always been bad at meditation because I’m too anxious and ADD-ish. But the one thing that really helped me is the guided type. I don’t want to recommend a specific one because I think you have to try and find one you like. But this has helped me tremendously. I have also enjoyed what are called self-hypnosis tapes (which seem a lot like guided imagery to me–I think very similar). They helped pull me out of a big depression last year. Good luck with your zen and your recovery.

  19. I stink at the whole meditation thing. I cheat and use a meditation CD. IT seems to work, though sometimes I do fall asleep. Oh well, it is really good sleep though…lol.

  20. I’m not sure that what I do could be called ‘meditation’, but that’s what I call it. Basically, I get quiet and still (but upright, so I don’t fall asleep) and focus on breathing in and out. I start at the number 60 (no clue why) and count backward, inhaling on the even numbers and exhaling on the odd. Somewhere along the way, I stop counting and my mind just drifts along in a calm and peaceful place until the neighbor starts his leaf blower or some other intrusion brings me back to real life.

    I also use this to fall asleep when my mind won’t shut off at night.

  21. Yeah Zen. Hope all is going well, Karen. When you first start to meditate it’s good to use guided meditation to get the hang of it. Once you’re really good at it, you can use it (without tapes) at your most stressful moments. I’d recommend it to anyone. If you have an iPod I believe there are some good guided meditations online. It’s really important that you like the voice of the person “guiding you,” otherwise it would be more of an irritant than Zen.

    I follow an 8 minute guided relaxation program and an 8 minute energizing program that I picked up from iTunes. I also use very subtle, relaxing music (no lyrics) and picture my favourite places – what you see, hear, smell, think and how you feel when you are at your favourite place – the places that make you feel calm and relaxed.

  22. Back when my anxiety disorder was a problem, I used tapes for guided imagery (usually fell asleep). Now I read as a self-soothing maneuver, and I mean read novels or short stories that take me away from life’s worries, engross me in interesting characters, fascinating plots, teach me about new subjects, etc.

    The point is to enjoy your time – stay away from contentious comment boards fer sure! (A lesson learned the hard way.)

  23. I wish I could help, Karen, but I don’t meditate. I like to think about things intensely, but that is not the same as meditation. In fact, I wasn’t quite sure what meditation really is, so I googled it and read over and over that “Meditation is the art of silencing the mind.” WTF! Now, why would I want to do that? If meditation doesn’t work for you, my suggestion is to try some logic puzzles to pass the time. Or watch some foreign movies or indies that are not necessarily entertaining but layered and complicated.

    • Karen

      Too funny! Apparently, it does great things for our BODIES! Like lowering blood pressure. I am a big puzzle fan. I got a couple new books before my surgery and have been working my way through them. The are a different distraction than reading or TV. And I don’t eat since I’m holding a pencil in my hand:)

  24. As always, I’m with Roxie. Don’t get to complicated. Probably best to sit in a comfortable place where all your parts are supported. Just close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Listen to the quiet. When (not if, when) you find your mind buzzing away, just return to focusing on your breathing. Notice that thoughts come – visualize litting them pass right on through and back out. If your head starts racing a bit (common for new and experienced meditators alike) – the breath is the best tether back to the moment. Good luck – establishing a daily practice can really change your life in subtle gentle ways.

  25. I’m not a great silent meditator. I like more of a moving meditation like Tai Chi. You might be able to add that sooner than exercise.
    As for this phase and meditation…
    If you find you’re not getting into it, maybe try chanting.
    Great meditation and I believe it creates other wonderful energetic movement.
    Good Luck!

  26. Not a clue in the world, sorry. Rake a small sand garden, is about all I can offer. LOL Good luck!

  27. I am reading the book Savor. It is by a Bhuddist monk whose name I could not begin to spell without the book in front of me. It, so far, has been a great book about mindfulness especailly with regard to eating. You should check it out.
    Lori

  28. I’m not zen either, so I can’t help, but I’m interested in the results for you. Sounds like a good idea!

  29. Hi Karen. Am wishing you happy healing. Here’s a quick idea exercising your mind and emotional state:

    Start a gratitude journal. Pick the best time of day for you – at night before bed, when you wake up, after lunch at your kitchen table – and list the five things that you are grateful for that day. Make them as big or small as you wish. As you are healing, consider making at least one at the good health you have…ie I’m grateful for my quick wit, or decent hearing, or pretty red hair, nice toes or whatever fits. Let me know if you try this!

    • I was going to say what Shira pointed out: gratitude — she has great suggestions. I think “zen” is so much about gratitude. It’s humbling. It brings the desire to help others, even if it’s just a friendly hand-written letter, email (or blog comment!).

      Off subject, can you do hand-strengthening exercises to keep them and your forearms strong? I see my father with his trumpet-fingering exercise thing all the time and thought about you (sorry if it’s a strange connection). It’s some sort of circulation, toning. Get some castanets? jk
      Wishing you well.

      • Karen

        I read a lot about gratitude on blogs. Great idea. My red hair though, not so much.

        So… hands. Yes, why not? I thing my husband might even have one of those hand strengthening things. Good ideas:)

  30. sunnydaze

    Good for you! This is really interesting to me. Check out this cool zen site that I’ve been visiting lately:

    http://zenhabits.net/start/

  31. I haven’t really practiced mediation successfully…I usually fall asleep.

    BUT Pema Chodron is one of my very favorite Budists and she has lots about meditation.

    Also? I heart your headline. What can I say? I have a soft spot for men in uniform 🙂

  32. Wish I could offer something more helpful…for me, I always come back to a good, sweaty run. By the end of it, I’ve solved the world’s problems and am at peace with whatever demons I’m battling inside (most of the time!)

  33. I actually like to go on youtube there are lots of meditation videos that speak softly and help you relax, I just sit or lie down and close my eyes and listen. It’s definitely very soothing and I love it.

  34. I think it is a great idea. I am not a mediator so no can help. Sorry. But, finding a quiet spot to read is always something that relaxes me.

  35. My best piece of meditation advice came from my acupuncturist who has since become a dear friend. I looked to her because she was very un-intimidating and I felt like I needed a lot of help because I really sucked at calming my mind. She gave me a very simple technique to try and it almost always results in me falling asleep, which I was also worried that I was doing it the wrong way because I couldn’t even stay awake, and she looked at me and gently reminded me that the point was to calm your body enough to relax and sleep wasn’t a bad thing as a result…duh.

    So, you lie someplace quiet and dark. I try this before bed to calm and clear my mind. Simply concentrate on each breath in. do this for several minutes. Then only concentrate on each exhalation in the same way. then concentrate on the in breath and exhalation and the small pause that comes between. If your mind wonders to something else, don’t worry, just come back to the breath.

    I’ve tried other methods, but this is the one that I like the most that I keep coming back to. It is simple and I can stay focused. Good luck. Be gentle with yourself.Like most things it takes some practice.

  36. I can NOT meditate. My mind races ahead of my peaceful thoughts-this is also why I am an insomniac and must take Melatonin. Sorry dude.

    Polar’s Mom
    http://www.polarspage.blogspot.com

  37. I like your attitude towards working your mind as opposed to working your body. I just wanted to say that, I am so unmeditatable (Not a real word I’m sure) I have no tips!

  38. I use guided meditation cd’s to help me sleep, relax, de -stress.

    Looks like you already got plenty of sites to check out so I won’t add to it. I find the cd’s very helpful as I would have a wondering mind if left to my own devices.

  39. Hi Karen! you’ve already heard my suggestions/ advice (John Kabat-Zinn, etc.), but I want to say something for all the folks who say they are “bad at meditating”: It’s just hard. Minds wander. That’s what they do.

    The analogy I like to use is that our minds are like the “breaking news banners” that run constantly at the bottom of CNN and other stations. The key is not to get frustrated that our minds run. A helpful way to deal when meditating is to think of distracting thoughts as clouds floating by, to say to ourselves “there goes another thought” and get back to meditating/focusing on breathing. Training our minds to focus is like potty training a puppy: it takes time, patience, and gentle repetition.

    Good luck to everybody just starting!

  40. I tagged you in a Stylish Blog Award. See my blog for details.

  41. Lots of ideas for both of us to try out. I learned TM when I was in my teens, but never managed to practice it much because I have trouble sitting still, but I do use it for times I want to calm myself like before I get my blood pressure checked or when I can’t sleep.

    I like the guided imagery idea and I am going to check out youtube. I am amazed by all the stuff there!

    I’ll keep you posted if you keep me posted …

    • Karen

      I read something last night that made me think of you. A new study showed that walnuts help reduce stress! 18 halves plus one T of walnut oil daily resulted in small changes in blood pressure and heart rate!

  42. Miz

    for me it started as simply as ONE MINUTE IN THE MORNING.
    sitting and being.
    and you know what? Ive been doing this now for over a year and its only 5 minutes long.

    for that timeperiod I can sit, be, focus, not fret and embrace the quiet.
    any longer doesnt work around here and, for now, Im ok with that.

    xo

  43. I just found your blog and can already tell I’m going to love it. I learned a few meditation ‘strategies’ over the last 12 years of developing a yoga practice. Actually, many of them came from studying Reiki and ‘playing’ with each of the energies and Reiki-ing everything around me – (if you’re into that, or crystals, visualizing the energy is quite powerful). For the less ‘whoo-hoo’ of us, one of my Yoga teachers had us just focus on a candle flame, then close our eyes and try to ‘see’ the flame until it disappeared from our mind’s eye. Finally, there’s always ‘returning to the breath’ – imagine love and light filling your entire body – visualization – on the inhale, exhaling out anything not serving you. My favorite concept of this is when ‘thoughts’ start entering our ‘monkey minds’ we recognize them as clouds, acknowledge them briefly, and let them float on by and go back to the breath. Not sure if this helps, but I hope you heal soon! Nice to meet you – Namaste.

  44. The student goes to the Zen master, “Sir, I want to learn how to meditate, I’ve never wanted to do it before. How long will it take me to learn?”

    “Five years.”

    “But what if I really apply myself and work hard to learn?”

    In that case, “Ten years!” 🙂

  45. My mind races too much for meditaion. I envy those that can do it. I usually end up falling asleep. Good luck though.

  46. ~~~Popping in from LADY BLOGGERS.

    Love your site. I shall Add it to my Blog Roll 🙂

    Thanx Ms. Zen…

  47. I’m into mindfulness meditation for around one year now, and it helped me incredibly with my enegry levels and well-being. It’s so eas because you only have to focus on your breathing and let one moment pass after another, so I can do it anywhere and anytime I want.

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