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MIND IT
By Thich Nhat Hanh

Four guided Zen meditation exercises by the France-based Vietnamese Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, excerpted from his new book The Blooming of a Lotus



Meditation

Meditation, for most of us, is a silent and calming process. Which is why the spoken instructions in guided meditation often seem disturbing. But this is a misconception. Guided meditation makes you look deeply into your mind, face your suffering and be free of its bondage.

The function of meditation is to heal and transform. The energy that is used in meditation is mindfulness. To look deeply is to use mindfulness to see the true nature of things. The given mindfulness meditations, taken from the basic dhyana sutras of Source Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism, can help you discover your true nature. These exercises work best when done with a teacher. But you can also practice them alone. Be aware of each stage when you meditate. The meditation should begin by making a 'waking-up' sound on the rim of a bell. The guide should speak out each step followed by its key image.

MEDITATE IN JOY
1. Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.
2. Breathing in, my breath grows deep. Breathing out, my breath goes slowly.
3. Aware of my body, I breathe in. Relaxing my body, I breathe out.
4. Calming my body, I breathe in. Caring for my body, I breathe out.
5. Smiling to my body, I breathe in. Easing my body, I breathe out.
6. Smiling to my body, I breathe in. Releasing the tensions in my body, I breathe out.
7. Feeling the joy of being alive, I breathe in. Feeling happy, I breathe out.
8. Dwelling in the now, I breathe in. Enjoying the present moment, I breathe out.
9. Aware of my stable posture, I breathe in. Enjoying the stability, I breathe out. "
Through this exercise, you can taste the pure joy of being that meditation brings. Those who have already been meditating can use this exercise to nourish their body and mind and continue further on the path of meditation.

The first stage is to identify the breath. If this is an in-breath, the practitioner must know that it is an in-breath and vice versa.

The second stage is to see that the in-breath is growing deeper and the out-breath has slowed down. When this happens, the practitioner feels peace in body and mind.

The third stage brings the mind home to the body with the in-breath. While breathing out, the meditator allows the muscles in the shoulders, in the arms, and then in the whole body to relax, so that a feeling of comfort is apparent in the whole body.

The fourth stage calms the functions of the body with the in-breath. With the out-breath, the meditator expresses a heartfelt compassion for all the needs of the body.

The fifth stage brings relaxation to all the facial muscles. The meditator sends the half smile to the whole body, as if it were a fresh, cool stream of water.

The sixth stage is a continuation of the fifth stage. Here the breathing helps remove all the tension that still remains in the body.

The seventh stage brings awareness of the feeling of joy when the meditator breathes in. This is the joy of being alive, of being in good health, of being able to nourish the body at the same time as the soul.

The eighth stage brings the meditator back to the present moment with the in-breath. Both the in-breath and the out-breath help the meditator be in touch with the happiness of the present.

The ninth stage steadies the meditator in his sitting position. The meditator becomes master of his body and mind.

BREATHE, CONNECT

1. Aware of my eyes, I breathe in. Aware of light, I breathe out.
2. Aware of my ears, I breathe in. Aware of sound, I breathe out.
3. Aware of my ears, I breathe in. Aware of a cry of pain, I breathe out.
4. Aware of my ears, I breathe in. Aware of singing, I breathe out.
5. Aware of my ears, I breathe in. Aware of the sound of rain, I breathe out.
6. Aware of my ears, I breathe in. Aware of laughter, I breathe out.
7. Aware of my ears, I breathe in. Aware of silence, I breathe out.
8. Aware of my skin, I breathe in. Aware of touch, I breathe out.
9. Aware of my skin, I breathe in. Aware of the sun on my skin, I breathe out.
10. Aware of my skin, I breathe in. Aware of cool water on my skin, I breathe out.
11. Aware of my skin, I breathe in. Aware of ice there, I breathe out.
12. Aware of my skin, I breathe in. Aware of touching the bark of a tree, I breathe out.
13. Aware of my skin, I breathe in. Aware of touching an earthworm, I breathe out.
14. Aware of my teeth, I breathe in. Aware of an apple, I breathe out.
15. Aware of my teeth, I breathe in. Aware of a toothache, I breathe out.
16. Aware of my teeth, I breathe in. Aware of lemon juice, I breathe out.
17. Aware of my teeth, I breathe in. Aware of the dentist's drill, I breathe out.
18. Aware of my tongue, I breathe in. Aware of the taste of orange juice, I breathe out.
19. Aware of my tongue, I breathe in. Aware of the taste of lemon, I breathe out.
20. Aware of my tongue, I breathe in. Aware of the taste of salt water, I breathe out.
21. Aware of my tongue, I breathe in. Aware of the taste of hot pepper, I breathe out.
22. Aware of my lungs, I breathe in. Aware of smell, I breathe out.
23. Aware of my lungs, I breathe in. Aware of the scent of fresh grass, I breathe out.
24. Aware of my lungs, I breathe in. Aware of the scent of roses, I breathe out.
25. Aware of my lungs, I breathe in. Aware of the smell of dung, I breathe out.
26. Aware of my lungs, I breathe in. Aware of tobacco smoke, I breathe out.
27. Aware of my lungs, I breathe in. Aware of the smell of the sea, I breathe out.
28. Aware of my liver, I breathe in. Aware of wine, I breathe out.
29. Aware of my liver, I breathe in. Aware of greasy food, I breathe out.
30. Aware of my liver, I breathe in. Aware of yellow skin caused by a sick liver, I breathe out.
31. Aware of my feet, I breathe in. Aware of shoes, I breathe out.
32. Aware of my feet, I breathe in. Aware of young grass, I breathe out.
33. Aware of my feet, I breathe in. Aware of sand on the beach, I breathe out.
34. Aware of my feet, I breathe in. Aware of a thorn, I breathe out.

This exercise helps us to be in contact with healing, wholesome and fresh things. After practicing these exercises, you can go outside and continue making connections with your six senses. The outside world will seem brighter and more beautiful.

IN TOUCH WITH FEELINGS
1. Aware of my body, I breathe in. Smiling to my body, I breathe out.
2. Experiencing the pain in my body, I breathe in. Smiling to the pain, I breathe out.
3. Recognizing that this is a physical pain, I breathe in. Knowing that this is no more than a physical pain, I breathe out.
4. Aware of the contents of my mind, I breathe in. Smiling to the contents of my mind, I breathe out.
5. Experiencing the pain in my mind, I breathe in. Smiling to pain, I breathe out.
6. Experiencing the pain of fear in me, I breathe in. Smiling to the pain of fear, I breathe out.
7. Experiencing the feeling of insecurity in me, I breathe in. Smiling to insecurity, I breathe out.
8. Experiencing the feeling of sadness in me, I breathe in. Smiling to sadness, I breathe out.
9. Experiencing the feeling of anger in me, I breathe in. Smiling to anger, I breathe out.
10. Experiencing the feeling of jealousy in me, I breathe in. Smiling to jealousy, I breathe out.
11. Experiencing the feeling of attachment in me, I breathe in. Smiling to attachment, I breathe out.
12. Experiencing the feeling of joy in me, I breathe in. Smiling to joy, I breathe out.
13. Experiencing the joy of liberty in me, I breathe in. Smiling to the joy of liberty, I breathe out.
14. Experiencing the joy of release in me, I breathe in. Smiling to the joy of release, I breathe out.
15. Experiencing the joy of abandoning in me, I breathe in. Smiling to the joy of abandoning, I breathe out.
16. Experiencing the neutral within all feelings in me, I breathe in. Smiling to the neutral within all feelings, I breathe out.

This exercise helps us be in touch with our feelings. They could be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. We must learn to recognize, acknowledge and welcome each one, and come to a deep realization of its nature. We should also acknowledge and look deeply at pleasant feelings as well as painful ones. A neutral feeling is neither pleasant nor painful. But when such feelings are recognized in mindfulness, they usually become pleasant

LOOKING DEEPLY
1. Aware of a wave on the ocean, I breathe in. Smiling to the wave, I breathe out.
2. Aware of the water in the wave, I breathe in. Smiling to the water, I breathe out.
3. Seeing the birth of a wave, I breathe in. Smiling to the birth of the wave, I breathe out.
4. Seeing the death of a wave, I breathe in. Smiling to the death of the wave, I breathe out.
5. Seeing the birthless nature of water in the wave, I breathe in. Smiling to the birthless nature of the water, I breathe out.
6. Seeing the deathless nature of water in the wave, I breathe in. Smiling to the deathless nature of the water, I breathe out.
7. Seeing the birth of my body, I breathe in. Smiling to the birth, I breathe out.
8. Seeing the death of my body, I breathe in. Smiling to the death, I breathe out.
9. Seeing the birthless nature of my body, I breathe in. Smiling to the birthless nature, I breathe out.
10. Seeing the deathless nature of my body, I breathe in. Smiling to the deathless nature, I breathe out.
11. Seeing the birthless nature of my consciousness, I breathe in. Smiling to the birthless nature, I breathe out.
12. Seeing the deathless nature of my consciousness, I breathe in. Smiling to the deathless nature, I breathe out.

The aim of this exercise is to help us look deeply into the true nature of all things. The phenomenal world seems to be marked by opposites: birth/death, one/many, defilement/purity, and so on. Mindful meditation enables us to see beyond these notions. The three seals of Buddhist teaching are impermanence, selflessness and nirvana. The reality of nirvana goes beyond all ideas of is or is not, one or many, place and no place, this and that.

This exercise uses the image of a wave and water as a metaphor for nirvana. The wave is birth and death; the water is nirvana. The wave is born and dies, rises and falls; is high and is low, comes to be and passes away, is many and is one. This is only a metaphor. Because we are able to look deeply, we discover its birthless and deathless nature and enter the world of suchness.

To practice these exercises, you can ask somebody to lead the meditation by reading out the instructions or you could record it in your own voice and play it while meditating.




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