Meditate alone or in a group

meditation

I solely meditated at home by myself for the good first year or so with HeadSpace. The duration was extending, I started doing walking meditation here and there, and at the theater before the show starts for a few minuets. Then something shifted. I had a hunch that there was more to this meditation thing. So I googled “meditation NYC”, got overwhelmed by the numbers of places, and just randomly picked one of the Zen centers because…..? I’m Japanese OF COURSE.

Zen (or Chán in Chinese) is school of Mahayana Buddhism. My tiny understanding is that it emphasizes in being in service to others with open and gentle heart. And they have lots of rules and forms to follow concerning the practice itself. Usually Zen centers in NYC are open to public and have the first timer instruction lessons on certain days. Basically they tell you how to enter the room and bow with everyone together somewhat like how martial arts classes you bow and all that. Some places lend you a robe to wear. And it’s usually not guided meditation (zazen). They may have a short chanting which I don’t mind just following along. (They usually have booklet for you to look) The places I went to did 30 minuets sitting – 5 to 10 minuets walking inside- 20 to 30 minuets sitting. Or 45 minuets just sitting. You get the idea.

So I went and it was a stretch for me to sit that long. I was somehow sweating like crazy! For good or bad, I felt accountable or supported sitting next to someone (strangers) otherwise I would have given up. I felt pretty goof afterwords too with pins and needles on my feet. Haha. There is something about gathering with others to sit silently together. It makes me giggle a little but I like it still. Usually the place is very simple, minimum decoration, and beautiful in that sense. I went back for a few weeks then explored more to the different places. But there is something that felt very comfortable reminding me of home. I actually went to a week long retreat in a Zen place in Catskill but that’s for another post.

I meditate everyday

meditation

As of now, I practice about 90 min consistently everyday. It really revolves around mindfulness of body, open awareness, metta (loving-kindness), and Vedic meditation. Sometimes people have different opinions about “other” techniques, and I do have opinions too. But I would like to stay open minded and see what can be offered through different techniques. The technique is a tool. In the end with the support from the practice, I would like to be awake and show up fully for what’s coming up in life whether it’s good, bad, or neither.

I wake up and sit 20-30 min at least (of course after going to the bathroom). I may take a class or two at MNDFL in the day. I sit another one in the later afternoon for 20 min. Then sit for a few minuets before the show starts.  A part from that I come back to the body sensation over and over through out the day like a mini meditation session. Spontaneous walking metta comes in often these days.

Oh and one more thing!!! I play a monk in Miss Saigon so I get to do walking meditation on stage everyday and wish everyone there well 🙂

I’m being very flexible and open to what tools I use now, but the time I dedicate for formal sitting has been good for me. With the show schedule, I cannot go to weekend retreats or anything longer. But at the same time, I started to just stay at MNDFL for a few classes or find a half day sit event on Sundays. I have a fiance and a dog, so this is pretty darn good to me!

 

 

How I started meditation. 

meditation

I grew up in Japan with a Buddhist family but really didn’t know anything about meditation. The first encounter was in NY around 2012…. I picked up a book called Surfing the Himalayas. The book had some visualization teachniques of “blue sky” and what not. I meditated when I felt like it and it was nice. That was pretty much it. Didn’t stick much. 

It all changed in 2014 when I had a big break up with my teacher and mentor in Japan. We fought over emails and phone, didn’t not go well. It was just like I was shot in my heart and there was a huge hole left over. I really couldn’t function and started to have panick attacks, anxiety, and nightmares. It’s all a blur how I actually started meditating… Anyhow thankfully I found Mindfulness Meditation by UCLA on podcast, then HeadSpace. I started 10-15 min everyday. The rest is history. 

After about a year of practice alone everyday, I started to look into different Buddhist temples in New York City. For my surprise , there are so many! I went one of Zen centers once a week for a while and Tibetian temple. I was practicing 20 min everyday with HeadSpace. Probably at that point started therapy and some medication, anti-depression and anxiety. Medication and meditation both helped. But I got off meds after 6 months or so. It was getting expensive and the dose was going higher. I didn’t want to rely on it forever. 

What’s funny is with all that heart break that was when I had my dream come true, being on Broadway production of the King and I. The high I felt and the low I experienced were tough to deal. I have tremendous appreciation in the meditation practice.