On paper it would seem like clearing the mind of all thoughts and thinking of nothing would be easy, on the contrary it is one of the most difficult things for the mind to do. The mind by its very nature is cluttered with all kinds of thoughts constantly. Whatever the background, upbringing, education, or culture the mind has a constant flurry of thoughts at all times.
Through the process of Zuo Chan [Buddhist sitting meditation practice], the pupil can learn how to clear the mind and thus become at peace with one’s inner self. To begin such practice the student needs to find a quiet place where no one will bother them for the meditation process. It does not help to try to clear the mind of all distractions if the surroundings will interfere with such a session.
After finding a quiet and somewhat secluded place the student can sit crossed legged, resting the hands either on the lap right hand over left or left hand over right depending which position is more comfortable. The student can also have the wrists draped over the knees.
In the author’s own experience, the hands in lap position is more suitable for cold weather, and the wrist s draped over the knees for warmer weather training.
When sitting the back should be naturally straightened allowing a slight curve forward, they should tuck the chin slightly inward. This position will help for long periods of mediation by working with gravity opposed to against it. The eyes should look towards the tip of the nose [closed is also ok]. With the tip of the tongue touch the roof of the mouth.
This position will help to create a circle of qi throughout the body.
When breathing concentrate on the qi coming in from the sky through the top of the head then into the belly approximately three fingers length under the belly button. This area is known as the Dan Tian, and is the focus point of the qi within the body. The breath/qi should enter the top of the head by breathing through the nose, go down into the Dan Tian then back up into the head and out the nose.
If any certain area on the body is uncomfortable or is in pain you can send the breath air or qi to that area. The process for sending qi to a certain part of the body is simple to, in Chinese there is a saying [Yi dao qi dao] where the mind goes the qi goes. Simply imagine the exhaling breath sending the qi to the area needed.
The mind should be empty of thought, with the concertation on the breath. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, and can take a lifetime of sincere practice to master. However a little progress goes a long way and even if you are unable to clear the mind ,by simply sitting quietly in a quiet place doing nothing can help ease the mind and body, for both mental and physical benefits.
Another method used to help clear the mind of thoughts is to practice listening. With the body positioned and ready for meditation, let you mind focus softly on the sound around you. Even if it is simply a breeze or some faint noise out in the distance. See how far you can reach the hearing, try to expand it outward. Do not fixate on the sound just allow them to pass.
A Ninjutsu instructor taught this listening method of clearing the mind to the author many years ago. Though not strictly a Buddhist method, people can use it during meditation to help curb the minds restlessness.
To progress steadily in sitting meditation one should practice daily. For the beginner ten minutes a day will work sufficiently. The best tie to practice is after dinner in the evening closer to bedtime. If one feels weak, sick or unusually tired this practice can take place in the daytime as well.
If you are a male and practicing outside, you should face the sun or moon when sitting, if you are a female practicing outside you should face with your back facing the moon or sun. Both positions will help the student to absorb chi from the sun or moon depending on the time of practice.
Practicing sitting meditation has physical, mental, martial and if you believe in such spiritual benefits. As for physical benefits obtained by sitting meditation, it has been scientifically proven that meditation makes the immune systems strong. The immune system has an effect on most all areas of health. They can lower the blood pressure through deep breathing which meditation certainly covers. This process also soothes the nervous system as well.
Mentally the mind is taking a break from its busy schedule. By giving the mind a temporary vacation from thought you are helping to recharge and rest simultaneously. The mind effects the body and vice versa, there for a healthy mind helps to have a healthy body. The emotions also become more positive through the meditation process. One becomes less worried and better equipped with handling life’s pressures.
As the author’s Qi Gong [breathing and qi exercises] and Zuo Chan teacher once explained, when you can endure the pains of the body through long periods of sitting mediation you become more tolerant in life’s difficulties.
The martial training gained through sitting meditation are several. The first being able to calm the body and mind, can be used under times of stress. If a situation should arise the student can calm him/her self to think clearer and react appropriately under stress. The second is the method of sensing unseen danger.
All humans and animals alike have to a certain degree a sixth sense to sense danger. They can heighten the level greatly through practice. By not using the senses for a set amount of time during sitting meditation they thus become enhanced, and can be used to sense trouble before it happens.
Spiritual training is that which takes one beyond the daily thoughts of life. Paying bills, getting an education, exercising the body all fit within the material realm of things. To focus on something spiritual is to go beyond the body. By emptying the mind and clearing it can help the inner voice to come out.
No matter what your beliefs are, meditation can help to strengthen you belief system and help you to reach a higher level through heightened concentration, relaxation and mind body awareness.