beginner meditation, mantra, meditation, zazen, zen

The Monkey and the Mantra


Let’s talk about focus while meditating.  I have yet to meet the person who can sit down to meditate and stay focused for the entire time, every time, or even most of the time, every time. We all struggle. The important thing is that we’re not sitting there most days just daydreaming or letting the monkey mind rule…..  that little bastard gets us all the time with his bells, and shenanigans….. Oh look how Cute!…. oh, wait, where was I? Yes, staying focused…. even people who have been meditating for years or decades  get distracted. The mind tends to go in one of two directions, remembering past events or planning for the future. The monkey doesn’t like to sit still. So once upon a time the mantra was invented and has been used by Hindus, Buddhists and others for centuries. A mantra can be a sound or a word that can be repeated aloud or spoken silently over and over. In some traditions the word has a sacred or spiritual meaning, but for me, it just helps to have a sound or word that can keep me on track. A mantra that works for me is “here, now”.  Breathing in, saying a silent-“Heeeeeeerrrrrreeeeee” throughout the entire inhalation.  Breathing out- “Noooooooooowwwwwww”.  Being fully mindful of the entire breath from start to finish helps me to focus when I feel like I’m swimming upstream or being led around by that monkey.  Give it a try, it can’t hurt.  And if it does, “it doesn’t matter it’s in the past”. (The Wise Rafki in The Lion King)


beginner meditation, meditation, zazen, zen

when you first start meditating

maybe you’re looking for answers
to nagging existential questions:
who am I?, what is life all about?, what is my purpose?
or self improvement:
how can I become more centered? (whatever that means!)
or perhaps less selfish, more open, more spiritual?
and then you finally listen to your teacher, who has been saying:
“YOU” don’t exist
Wooah!, do I believe this?
No! I am definitely here with this throbbing knee in some
half-assed attempt at the half-lotus
what is she TALKING ABOUT?
if there’s no me here, then WHO is hearing these teacher’s words?
WHO is feeling this pain?
teacher: “exactly.”
wait….. one wonders, is this truly so?
am I this body?… this mind thinking about the pain in this body?

 and now the journey can begin