Zen, Cats, Deer, the Outdoors and Meditation

Animal Zen Masters

It’s true and if you are a careful observer, you will know this for certain.  Watch any animal in nature while being in nature yourself (without your cell phone or other tech distractions) and you will see their Zen-ness.  We can find our own animal zen nature when out in the woods or even outside our back door (woods are better!).  Here’s what I mean.  Animals in nature are still and alert — this is exactly what we humans who seek to meditate and to be more Zen-like and peaceful aim for — stillness while remaining alert!  And to be beyond our ego-personality daily stressful thinking.  Just going outside achieves a disconnect from our own mental residue that bounces off the walls.

I have a one-bedroom apartment surrounded by many lunatic humans — sorry, but you could fact check this and if you lived here, you’d know the truth of that as well.  And I also feed feral cats — kittens born just feet from my back door.  (They are as big as an adult cat now.)  I watch them and think how, in their wild animal nature, they possess what I strive for in my meditation practice:  still alertness.  They perk up at any sound that they’re not accustomed to and yet right afterward they are able to return to their former peaceful stillness again, totally letting it all go and being fully present.

Watch any animal in nature; take deer for example.  They are always alert and attentive yet are able to return to a peaceful state rather quickly after they tense up or perk up due to a perceived threat.  They are alert — not hyper-alert however.

I feel so trapped and smothered living here in this city and in an apartment complex sometimes.  This is because even the outdoors here in this apartment complex can be chaotic with barking dogs and boisterous humans.  Life.  Its what we are, life itself. Rather difficult to merge with you have an aversion to, but it’s my current path here surrounded by human animals.

I am thinking soon to have a nice long hike in the woods.  My trekking poles are always in my car and unfortunately, it’s necessary to drive 20 minutes to get to a state park.  It’s not like when I lived in the mountains. But I can’t mentally “go there” today — makes me too sad.  Anyway . . . I digress.

When we are out in nature (again, without the phones, etc.) it becomes so easy to let the trees, rocks, lakes and all of nature merge with our own energy.  And then we can forget the human self and go once again into the animal self.  We have to be aware when in a natural setting — snakes and the like, you know?  Yet in the state park that I mentioned above, the greatest predators are humans and their dogs, not wild animals.  Either way, one’s tendency in the wood is to be still and alert–or at least it’s that way for me.  And that is very meditative.

Sometimes, I just want to dash out the door and get a bit of exercise when in between writing bursts or watercolor painting.  Lately, I’ve stopped walking loops in this apartment complex (for numerous reasons not to be included here) and have chosen instead to take my walks along the highway on the bike lane.  Now there is a place to be hyper-alert like in the woods!  One must be in the present moment there too!  Traffic is whizzing by 5 feet from my shoulder.  I don’t walk on the highway every day and only for about 30 minutes all together out and back usually.  It surely isn’t a pleasant walk in the woods,  but there are dangers and the necessity to be alert and present.

I find I can be much more present in a group weight lifting class at the gym, but sometimes one just wants to walk out the door, not having the time or inclination to drive off to the gym or take 40 minutes to get to and from the state park.

Well, these are thoughts that crop up today.  Being outside is expansive and meditative states are natural.  Next time you watch a wild animal, see if it isn’t true — they are zen teachers!

 

Channeling Insight in Meditation

 

Have you ever felt like you were stripped of control yet at the same time fully awake?  This describes a deep state of meditation. It also describes a mind level in which channeling insight can occur.  There is no “doer” in this state—the self has, for the most part—dissolved.   Only the “knower” is fully functioning and there is no volitional thought.  It can feel much like being frozen and one’s identity is no longer part of the consciousness scenario.  There is a calmness in which insight arrives in this state.

Meditation, for me, is different each time.  I do not expect to reach such a deep state each and every time I sit for meditation practice.  I’ve learned to work with the right meditation and the right time and to let go of expectations of some type of progress or achievement. 

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Present Moment Proof – how you know you are there

on the edge

Energy.  That’s right.  You’ll know from the energy feel.  It’s the feel of being alive, vibrating, and we may even say its a feeling of excitement.  Life is taken to a higher level and sometimes only momentarily, longer if you’re lucky.  To understand it, we have to contrast it with the times that we are ‘not’ fully present in the moment.  And that is, for most of us, the majority of the time.  Anytime we are contemplating the past or future — try it out for yourself through simple self-awareness — the energy is dead or flat.  You’ll recognize that dead feel pretty dramatically as you compare it with moments of being fully present.  You know how it goes when you’re being fully in the “now”, right?

Time stops and a surreal feeling will likely come upon you as if you have been lifted up and out and set down somewhere else all of a sudden.  Everything feels different and appears different and maybe the heart quickens and chills happen.  And then you flow with it as if nothing else or no one else exists. 

We’ve all had those feelings.

And there are after effects. I think that it’s feeling in harmony and being in the flow of life that is an indicator that we have just been fully present and the residual of that remains with us and out-pictures as flowing with life for minutes, hours or day (s).

Then, we get shifted out of that flow by something that occurs and then our mind will attach, cling, fear, become angry or experience an aversion.  Then we’re dead in the water again or not functioning effectively,  have been pulled out of the flow and our vibe becomes dead again.  We’re not fully alive anymore.

These are my (blog) thoughts about it anyway.  I was recently reminded of this during a recent visit from my little (soon to be 2-year-old) granddaughter.  The entire time we were together was a peak experience.  She was fully present and brought me with her to that place of excitement.

I’m in that peak place during intense exercise workouts in which I am very focused as well as when I’m engaged in a creative project.  Moments of awakening that shake us out of our mundane, dead, and routine thoughts or activities, if used correctly, are gifts.

Being on the edge of life is being in the present moment and it comes with that feeling of being fully alive.

Personally,  at those times my soul, my psyche goes into a state, which in Zazen, is called shikantaza, a state of heightened concentration, patience, and alertness and this state throws me into a state of flow that lasts for hours or days.  Plans change or don’t enter into mind at all and one just becomes totally spontaneous.  In describing this recently someone replied, “Oh yes, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  Yeah, alrighty then.  LOL

I hope this post is found to be, in some way, helpful to the reader.

Home Retreat Meditations – Shikantaza

dewdropSitting Zazen and Considering the Teachings of Dogen

This is about Buddhism and meditation.  It’s Super Bowl day and there’s a jazzercise type party on the basketball courts at the gym. I grab for another kleenex. It’s also Family Gameday at my daughter’s house. And the expectorant cough medicine seems to be loosening up chest congestion. A head-chest cold causing a week of missed workouts at the gym is one thing but a forced retreat today when there are places to go, people to see and things to do . . .  darn.  A need for equanimity and another opportunity presents for practice.

So zazen on the cushion again today on and off when the body tells me to stop and rest, I do so on the meditation cushion Zazen to Shikantaza or Shamatha to Vipassana, whatever — its alert Continue reading