Monday, March 02, 2009

MPOW #6 - Counting

One of the most basic meditation techniques in Zen philosophy (as related in Katsuki Sekida's Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy) is to slowly count your natural breaths. Sometimes I do this as subvocalization, sometimes I imagine seeing floating versions of the numerals. Either way, this is an important skill that teaches us both how to concentrate and how to listen patiently.

Professional career coach Marshall Goldsmith describes listening as The Skill That Separates the great from the nearly great. He poses a counting practice like the following in his writing.

Mindfulness Practice of the Week

Enter your meditation position, clear your mind, and when you're ready being this simple exercise. Count slowly to 50 without letting another thought enter your mind. If another thought enters your mind, or if you lose track of the count, begin again from 1. Repeat this through your allotted meditation time. Zen practice recommends timing this with the natural pace of your breath. Increment on each inhale and each exhale like so:

inhale... 1, exhale... 2, inhale... 3, exhale... 4, ... , inhale... 49, exhale... 50.

Notes on the MPOW

2 more advanced counting patterns are 2) count only your exhalations, letting the inhalations pass without counting them, and 3) count only your inhalations. There are other, more advanced counting techniques that I may explore in later MPOW installments.

Goldsmith sees this as an incredible practice for developing the ability to listen: "... if you can't listen to yourself (someone you presumably
like) as you count to 50, how will you ever be able to listen to
another person?

This post is dedicated to Damian Isla, my good friend and patient listener.

Comments Requested - share with me and others!
  • If you're new to meditation, please let me know how it goes.
  • If you're experienced at meditation, what works and what doesn't work?
  • For everyone, please share your experiences with this meditation. If a group of people are doing it and sharing, that will help others ride the wave.

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