Zen and Zennifer

Earlier this evening I met up with Jennifer Shtaway, the girl I met and traveled with the bulk of the time I was in Ecuador. Jennifer also lives in San Francisco, and this evening was the first time we caught up since our Ecuador trip.

Lately, Jennifer has been going to Zen classes at the Zen Center in Hayes Valley. She asked me to join her for the class today. Having done some light reading about Zen, I thought it would be an interesting experience.

The class was about 90 minutes long. The first 20 minutes we meditated, focusing as much we can on our breath. It reminded me of the concept of "mind waves", which I read about as I was skimming a book on Zen a number of months ago. A deficiency in the human brain is if you want it to stop thinking about something, you in the process think more about it. In this case, if you're trying to focus on your breath but are getting distracted, trying to force your brain to stop thinking about the distractions often distracts the brain even further. Instead, you should consider these distractions as a wave in your mind. Just let it go, let your brain think about it as it wishes, and then the wave will diminish and you'll eventually get back to your breath.

Anyways, I thought the twenty minute meditation session was mildly soothing. Michael, the person leading the sessions, gave a talk about being present, and that served as a reminder for me. He gave an analogy of him going to a restaurant, but having to sit in the waiting room until he gets seated. In the waiting room, all he is thinking about is when he's going to get seated, and the great times and delicious food that awaits him inside. The waiting room, on the other hand, is boring and crammed. In that state of mind, Michael was spending the bulk of his energy thinking of the future, and has to deal with the unfortunate circumstance of the present (waiting in the waiting room) to attain the better future.

The vast majority of our effort and our energy is spent thinking about what we're going to do next or what we've done in the past, and very little of it is spent on the now - on the present. In Zen, he mentioned, the focus is always on the now.

It's getting late and I need to get to bed, but I thought I'd write this to serve as a reminder for me. I am focusing on the future far more than I am focusing on the present, and finding that balance of focus between the two is something I'll try to be more deliberate about moving forward.

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