The Importance of Doing Yoga First

Most of my early meditation education happened in the shade of a tree. But in place of lotusly postures, I was sprawled, my legs some variety of akimbo. My body was emanating wavy lines in the summer heat, and I was covered in painful yellow cartoon lightning bolts.

I had just experienced my first yoga class. My car was a mile walk up a steep hill, and I was not going to make it.

I wouldn’t meditate in a serious way until a year later when I went to university, but the first day of laying in a destroyed heap was an underline beneath the lesson I would learn over the coming months: breathing mattered. Continue reading “The Importance of Doing Yoga First”

Meditating on Sudafed

Now is the time of the year when thousands of Buddhists across the world undertake the heroic New Years resolution to meditate every day. Time to get back to business. Nothing will stand in our way. This is where my father would say something like, “You’ve made a New Year’s resolution to sit on your ass and do nothing?” Exactly. So how hard could it really be?

There are a number of traditional bad habits that I trip over. The number one bad habit is staying out late. This stumbling block is naturally reinforced by friends. (“You’re no fun!”) Even if I’ve been really good about meditation, I’ll crawl back home late past midnight and tell myself, “I’ll just meditate tomorrow.” We all know what happens tomorrow. Or rather, what doesn’t happen.

But there’s one foe that I haven’t yet learned to conquer: sickness.

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A Handy Mala

I always loose my malas. I only ever accept these as gifts, so I can never replace them when I lose them. I think these are very useful devices, and so one of the techniques I’ve used in place of a mala is by counting on my fingers.

I count the segments of the fingers instead of the actual fingers. (I know these are often called phalanges, like the bones, but I prefer segments.) With three segments to a finger (sorry, I don’t count the thumb), there are twelve to a hand, and so you can count up to 12 on one hand or 24 on both hands. This is especially useful for counting seconds of minutes.*

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Relax, Release

Thich Thiện Sơn
Ven. Thích Thiện Sơn at Chùa Phật Huệ in Frankfurt AM

Several years ago, we had the tremendous honor of hosting Venerable Thích Thiện Sơn at UCLA. Ven Thiện Sơn is the abbot of Chùa Phật Huệ, the major Vietnamese temple in Frankfurt AM. He is an accomplished meditation master, also fluent in German, Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese. (He spoke to us in Chinese through an interpreter.) Unfortunately, we did a horrible publicity job, and for such an eminent speaker, we were only able to attract about fifteen students.

On the bright side, even for the very unenlightened group of Buddhist youth that we were, he was able to pass along at least one meditation teaching that I will never forget.

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