Ok so I still can’t believe I took a Zen Buddhist mindfulness course…? If you told me I did that a year ago I would say you’re crazy. But couldn’t be more glad I did. Super interesting, not intimidating, and surprisingly applicable to real life! Found this beautiful scenic temple 20 min outside of Kyoto where Takafumi Kawasakani (Taka) holds these courses in English a few mornings a week. He holds corporate retreats for places like Google and is generally a really cool and interesting guy.
Class started with an intro to the practice, the dispelling of myths, an explanation of “form,” a 20 min session practicing that, some breathing exercises and a cup of matcha and cookies in the garden to end. He had these high tech glasses that we wore to track our blinking/posture/breathing and focus which terrified me… but ended up being not as embarrassing as it could have been! Apparently my posture and breathing were great but focus trailed off towards the end (classic…) Highly recommend this class or something similar to anyone who’s remotely interested!
Shunkoin Temple www.shunkoin.com
Scroll down for the takeaways.
10 real-life takeaways from the course (paraphrasing from many things Taka said):
1. Throw out the stigmas you might have about it. Meditation is much more accessible than pop culture would have us think. Forget rigidity and what is “correct”- it’s a personalized practice in its truest form so treat it as such.
2. That said, there are two elements of meditation that are key: posture and breath. You should be sitting upright with lungs expanded, but doesn’t really matter how you do that- in a chair, in half lotus, whatever’s most comfortable for you. Breath should be slow and controlled, loosely a 2:1 exhale to inhale ratio.
3. Meditation isn’t limited to long 20-30 min sessions only. Just as effective if you do it in just 5 sets of controlled breath throughout your day, during stressful times or low energy moments
4. If you’re physically uncomfortable, adjust! My leg fell asleep mid 20 min session and I was too afraid to move it- Taka said that this is ridiculous and a metaphor for life- we apply all these schemas we have (confirmation bias, etc.) to dynamic situations and don’t allow ourselves to adjust.
5. Meditation is all about being flexible, not rigid. So like with my leg falling asleep … ideally I would have dropped self judgment and moved it so I wouldn’t have this ridiculously tingly leg after 20 min 🙂
6. Meditation is much like ice cream- it’s a good thing, but don’t go overboard. Don’t obsess. People who try to meditate for hours a day end up throwing off the balance in their lives and it’s counterproductive. So just incorporate it casually with taking 5 breaths here and there throughout your day!
7. Music and guided meditation isn’t really recommended, whole practice is about decreasing stimuli so just try to be in quiet.
8. Meditation helps us practice being open- we can’t possibly shut ourselves off from an increasingly globalized world. Taka used this example: Sushi in Japan for example has seafood from Vietnam, rice from China, etc etc.
9. Don’t focus as much on “clearing your mind”- rather, practice having an objective mind during meditation instead of a subjective mind. We’re the harshest critics of ourselves and others based on artificial scheme we have in our minds and it’s best to let this go and see things for what they objectively are for a brief moment.
10. A cup of green tea has almost as many benefits as pure meditation: it caffeinates you but also contains tannins which suppress stress and slows down heart rate/breathing. Other forms of caffeine don’t do this which results in a horrible crash after its peak effects.
Sorry if this is in shorthand- writing from my phone on the train to Hiroshima. Many more posts on deck this week! Loving Japan so much 🙂