How to Meditate Like a Zen Monk

By December 17, 2014 8 Comments


I’ve been intrigued by the concept of meditation ever since reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. I laughed at her description of trying to sit very quietly and letting go of all angst, worry, and to-do lists…because she couldn’t do it for a long time.

I can’t do it either. Fidget, fidget, and a million random thoughts.

I don’t know how to mediate. What am I supposed to think about? I pray all the time, but admittedly, I have a feeling I’m a tad more rushed, anxious, and distracted than a Zen monk.

This past summer I committed to getting up extra early and sitting on the floor in front of my bedroom window where the sun rises. For months it was glorious. Sun on my face. Sitting quietly, saying a prayer, and reading a spiritual passage.

It did make a big difference with how I felt both physically and emotionally. I felt calmer, more “centered” (that’s such a zen word, isn’t it?), and patient. Was this meditation?

However, in New Hampshire it becomes dark so quickly, that by October there was no sun streaming through my window at 6. Since sitting on a cold dark floor was too hard; I struggled to keep reading and feeling “centered.”

But the goal remained. Over the last few months I have read a bit about meditation and the great brain benefits. In addition, my Anatomy & Physiology class is finishing up a unit of the great brain; I needed to try meditation!

The resolve was clinched after listening to Lewis Howes’ podcast with Bill Harris, “How to Meditate Like a Zen Monk in the Fraction of the Time.” Ohhh! This one was for me! I could learn how to meditate in mere minutes and be well on my way to ZEN!

Meditation Benefits: Clarity, increased creativity, increased productivity, greater peace of mind

Being the Christmas season and all I’m feeling a bit stressed out. To say the least. If there was ever a time when I really wanted peace of mind, to really enjoy a wonderful time of year, it was right now. One of the biggest excuses I use not to meditate is I don’t want to take the time, but if meditation could help me be more productive AND peaceful at Christmas time, it was worth the extra minutes of effort.

So, after an early morning run this morning, in which it rained freezing ice pellets on me the entire time (Holiday Streakers! – another commitment!), I sat down on my living room floor with my wet clothes still on. I sat in front of the fire and the dog and the Christmas tree, plugged in my ear buds, and attempted to meditate like a zen monk. No excuses!

The free Holosync demo was 20 minutes. 20 minutes! Who has 20 minutes?

Be quiet. Listen.

It began with sounds of falling rain.

Oh, I like that…it’s raining outside. Wouldn’t it be faster to just listen to real rain? Sh!

Then a voice came on to tell me how wonderful meditation was and I too could buy a year’s subscription!

This sounds like internet marketing. Well, I’m not buying! We are saving money this year! Man I sound just like Luther Crank from Grisham’s SKIPPING CHRISTMAS. I’m as grouchy as he is too.

While the sales pitch goes on, it also says I’m hearing sound technology that will help my neural connections. Yeah, I could use more neural connections. It’s like African drum beats with rain. It’s nice. I try to block out the sales pitch and breathe all zen.

Is he going to stop talking soon? Can I really sit here for 20 minutes?

Remember that last time you tried to meditate sitting next to Gregor? That didn’t last more than five minutes before we burst out laughing. We’re so immature.

I’m cold.

Focus. THIS is your problem. You need to focus. Breathe in 1-2-3-4-5 Hold for 1-2. Exhale for 1-2-3-4-5 and Hold for 1-2.

My mind wanders to the open computer where I’m plugged in.

Don’t you dare check your email! But there’s like a million messages. Dang it, there’s a new lesson from Power of Moms about organizing your life. You still haven’t cleared your inbox. You’ve got to do that today. Today! It has to be TODAY! Breathe 1-2-3-4-5 and Hold 1-2. Close your eyes.

I swear, along with the drum beats and falling rain, this pitch goes almost fifteen minutes.

I’m cold. I should have showered first. But then I’d never start meditating. Scoot closer to the fire. There. Oh, Tenny boy, you’re a good dog. Pet doggy. I should give him a shower. Is that a tick?

I really should vacuum all those Christmas tree needles up. Paige fell into the tree this morning, knocking off ornaments and needles. She also landed on Brynne’s Christmas present – a box that is now dented.

There’s hardly anything under the tree. It looks a little…sparse. Yeah, our Christmas idea was a great one…but…do we have enough gifts? Maybe I should go to the store right now and buy some more presents, more STUFF for under there! No, no, no, you cannot do that. It will completely ruin everything we’re trying to do. Buy experiences, not things. Happy, happy, happy family.

More stuff, stuff, stuff. No. Be quiet.

Five more minutes of meditating.

I’m not doing this right. Maybe I should just quit. No, there are five more minutes of neural-engaging drum beats and a rain storm. Breathe. Feel the breath. Productivity! Clarity! Creativity!

I shouldn’t have been so snappy today with husband. Maybe I should call him, offer to go to the grocery store and buy his ingredients for the holiday brunch tomorrow. The holiday brunch. Oh my gosh, the holiday brunch is tomorrow! Okay, I’m going to get the dough ready tonight and let it rise in the fridge. Then tomorrow I’ll get up super early – really – I have to do it – no sleeping in. 5:30 I’ll get up and roll out the dough. I’ll make the frosting tonight. And then I’ll read my scriptures and meditate and write. I’m so behind. It’s fine, breathe. I’ll get ready, be really patient and nice with the kids, bring the rolls in the car and meet with Karl to talk about my teaching performance…what is my teaching performance? Am I a good teacher? Those brain packets are so long…what was I thinking? Maybe I should have just given a test. Breathe in 1-2-3-4-5- and Hold 1-2. Class is from 9:10-10. All set there, right? Then I’ll stay on campus and put the rolls in Becky’s oven – don’t forget to grab the frosting tonight! Put it out so you don’t forget. Nelson’s basketball game. Sell raffle tickets, then off to the Danbury church to see Santa and see Sam and Max play.

Don’t panic. It’s okay. You’ll get it done. Oh my gosh I have so much to do. Why didn’t you just make the stupid Christmas calendars a month ago? Enter grades, write comments for all students, work ahead for January syllabus. This house needs to be cleaned so badly. Clean, clean, clean. Send gifts in the mail this weekend! or they’re not going to get there in time. Did I get Nelson that last present? Make the granola – today! It has to be today! Carpe Diem. Send the Christmas card through Mail Chimp. Fast, easy, nice. 

Oh look, the neural drum beats have stopped. Meditation is done for the day.

Exhale. I feel so much better.


Obviously, I have some work to do.




  • Heather says:

    The difference between living a life burdened like a burro under cares and responsibilities or enjoying the time given us on this earth – full of mindful joy and gratitude – is very much like the difference between two morning gardeners. The first rises early to tend the flower patch and begins furiously to pull weeds and pinch out slugs. Swatting mosquitos and gnats, sweating and breathing in short bursts, the agitated caretaker is already thinking ahead to the task of the next day, when he will need to begin the process again on the other side of the house. “I am just one man and I am already tired. I will never get on top of this thankless duty,” he moans to himself. The second gardener arrives at the plot and begins to weed, but is arrested in his progress by the sight of a dew drop hanging from a golden yellow petal of a “weed.” With a shudder he breathes in a lung full of cool morning air. A tear tumbles over the edge of his lower eyelid. “God was here just moments ago,” he muses. “How fortunate I am that He deems me worthy to carry on the work He has begun.” With a deep sense of gratitude he continues his work, aware that he has been given a gift to envision and to create, as well as the spark of life to sustain that effort.

  • Nina says:

    I read 10% Happier this year by Dan Harris, all about his journey with meditation. I keep thinking about it, but haven’t done it. Can’t imagine fitting in one more to-do in my day, which of course means I could really use it!

  • Ha, ha, ha … Yes, I’m sure if I tried to meditate, all I would do is formulate a To-Do list in my head. For pity sake, I do that in MY SLEEP. For the past week, I have woken up at 5 am with a list in my head of things I need to do that day. Takes me a good half hour to shut out that list and fall back asleep.

  • Julia Tomiak says:

    Laughing! Laughing! The sales pitch would definitely turn me off.
    Michael Hyatt talks about his morning routine on his podcasts, and he says he just sits quietly for 15 minutes and thinks about nothing.
    15 MINUTES! Granted, he admits that he’s at a different place in his life and that those with small children do not have time for a one hour morning wake up routine that includes silence, prayer, and journaling. (one hour!!)
    But, inspired by Mr. Hyatt, on my morning walk with the dogs, I now spend the first 5 (maybe 2) minutes thinking of nothing. Clearing my head. Breathing and standing up straight. I look at the silhouettes of the bare branches against the pink sky. On the way back, I pray. It helps. I do feel better. The mind still strays, but I’m going to work harder for self-discipline.
    That’s as close to meditation as I’m going to get right now.

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