The Zen of Everything Podcast, Episode 5: Shikantaza, Grape Juice, Alzheimer’s, Mindfulness, Buddhism as Religion, and a Woman who Feels no Pain

Jundo and Kirk discuss whether shikantaza is meditation, how to get a grape juice stain out of a carpet, how to deal with Alzheimers, how mindfulness is integrating in modern society, whether Buddhism is a religion, and the interesting case of a woman who feels no pain.

Find out more at the Zen of Everything website.

The Zen of Everything Podcast, Episode 4: Good Days, Hot Weather, Ikkyu, Happiness, Politics, Anger, Appliances, and the Ugly Lama

Jundo explains why all days are good days, and Kirk laments the hot weather in Europe. They revisit Ikkyu (“that old horndog”), and discuss politics, anger, a dead appliance, and the Ugly Lama.

Check out other episodes at the Zen of Everything website, and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Overcast.

The Zen of Everything Podcast, Episode 3: Cars, Drugs, Busses, and Simple Living

Zen of everything artwork smallJundo and Kirk discuss what makes a car a car, whether gamblers and criminals should donate money to good causes, how a bus driver can help make the world better, and a book on simple living.

Listen to the latest episode of The Zen of Everything.

The Zen of Everything Podcast, Episode 2: Hot Dogs, Space Aliens, Vegetarians, Glasses, and Sitting Zazen Every Day

Zen of everything artwork smallAll things are impermanent, but this podcast has made it to its second episode. Jundo and Kirk discuss whether a hot dog is a sandwich, explore the question of being a vegetarian, whether one should wear glasses when sitting zazen, and whether one really, truly needs to sit zazen every day.

Listen to the latest episode of The Zen of Everything.

The Zen of Everything Podcast: Episode 1, Cats, Lawyers, Health, Women, and Roshis

Zen of everything artwork smallThe Zen of Everything presents a zen take on life, love, laughter, and everything else. With Jundo Cohen, a real zen master, and Kirk McElhearn, a guy who knows a bit about zen.

For the first episode of The Zen of Everything, we explain why we started this podcast, and what we plan to do. We then explore whether cats are zen masters, discuss Buddhist lawyers, talk about practicing zen with health problems, explore the idea of calling the Buddha a “she,” and explain what a roshi is.

Listen to the latest episode of The Zen of Everything.

Use the Apple Watch as a No-Frills Meditation Timer

If you meditate, and use a timer, you may use an app on a smartphone, or a small, battery-powered clock as a timer. But if you have an Apple Watch, you already have a minimalist, no-frills meditation timer built in. Here’s how to use the Apple Watch to time your meditation.

First, put the Apple Watch into Do Not Disturb mode; the last thing you want is notifications buzzing while you’re meditating. To do this, swipe up on the display to enter Glances mode, and swipe to the Settings glance. Tap the Do Not Disturb button; that’s the crescent moon. This also puts your iPhone in Do Not Disturb mode, so you won’t be bothered by it either.

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Next, launch the Timer app. In the screenshot below, it’s the orange icon to the left.

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The Timer app lets you set a time using the digital crown. Turn the crown until you’ve found the right time:

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When you’re seated and ready to start your meditation session, tap Start. The Timer app will begin counting down.

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If you need to know how much time is left in your session, you can easily see this on the watch by raising it slightly.

When the session is over, the watch will vibrate to let you know. You can then dismiss the timer.

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This doesn’t offer any features such as logging your meditation sessions, or sharing them with others. But do you really need them? All you need is something to guide you in your sitting; so you sit as long as you want. Of course, you can always sit longer, if you so desire. Just tap Dismiss, and stay still as long as you want.

Just Sitting: The Zen Practice of Shikantaza

Once or twice a day, I sit facing a wall in my home[1]. I just sit. I sit for twenty minutes, a half-hour, sometimes more. But I just sit. I sit and think not thinking; I do that by non-thinking.

This is the Zen practice of shikantaza, or “just sitting.” You sit, cross-legged if you can, and let your mind alone. When you stop thinking, you reach a point of non-thinking. It’s one of the typical paradoxes of Zen that makes your brain try and twist around those words, “not,” “non-” and “thinking” to figure out what they mean.

Unlike other forms of meditation, shikantaza doesn’t involve concentrating on an object, such as your breath or a mantra. It is “objectless meditation,” where you focus on everything you experience – thoughts, sounds, feelings – without attaching to any of them. When you get there, you know what it is.

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“Once you have adjusted your posture, take a deep breath, inhale and exhale, rock your body right and left and settle into a steady, immobile sitting position. Think not-thinking. How do you think not-thinking? Non-thinking. This in itself is the essential art of zazen.”[2]

I’ve been practicing meditation off and on for about 25 years. After following the Tibetan tradition for a while, I drifted among other forms of practice, notably Theravadan insight meditation, before settling on Zen. There are many different schools of meditation, and even in Zen, there are two main currents: Rinzai and S?t?. It is this latter, S?t? Zen, founded by Eihei D?gen in the 13th century, that feels right to me. It’s the one whose main practice is just sitting.

But you don’t need to follow any school to meditate, or sit, as we say in Zen lingo. In recent years, mindfulness, or a secular form of sitting meditation, has become mainstream, notably as a tool to reduce stress. Many studies have shown that meditation of any kind is good for the brain. Even if you don’t want to follow a path of meditation, or a particular tradition, just sitting for a few minutes every day can be a wonderful way to get back in touch with reality and recharge your brain. You can use just sitting to ground yourself, to take a few minutes away from the vortex of the world around you.

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