Changing states in meditation

While sitting in zazen we may have many kinds of experience, just as in any other period of our lives. These states of being are fluid and ever-changing. Some we may welcome, some we may wish would go away. But, with time, right effort and developing skill we can come to see these states as of equal value and importance, and worthy of equal attention and care.

Just as we experience periods of equanimity, presence, tranquillity, peace of mind, wholeness and integration, balance, unboundedness, discipline and focus; we also experience agitation, boredom, irritation, fragmentation, anxiety, disconnection, indiscipline and lack of focus. It is important not to see these experiences as being stages of development or progression. They are not steps on a ladder of achievement. They come and go as clouds pass across the sky. As we attend to them we notice how they come and go – how they gain in intensity and then dissolve. There are no clear boundaries between experiences – they merge and mingle. We are in process, and as long as we live we are in motion.

To sit and attend to each moment and be open to what arises without comment, judgement or attachment, is to experience awakening. And awakening to everyday events, thoughts, feelings and moods is to practice non-dwelling mind – attending to everything yet dwelling on nothing. As many Zen teachers say: everyday mind is Buddha mind; to sit in meditation is to be a Buddha.

By extending the method of non-reactive, non-clinging attention that we practice in meditation to other aspects of our everyday lives, we change the relationship we have with our experiences. We feel a lightening, a release from the burden of reactive habits and a growing relish for each moment – whatever it may bring. We grow calmer, less easily distracted and more attentive to our own needs and the needs of others.