When we sit, we follow our breath. Beginning meditators are often asked to count their breath -- on the exhale -- up to ten then back to one. Lose track? Simply go back to one.
The breath is what it is, whatever it is. It eventually becomes slow and regular, never forced or artificially controlled. It is something to dispassionately and keenly observe. Breathe naturally and count. Distractions are inevitable. The sounds are nothing compared to the multimedia show within -- thoughts, memories, emotions, lights, dreams, sexual or violent fantasies, fears, cravings...
The way to handle them is to acknowledge them without identifying with them or becoming attached or straining to reject them. Just watch. Just let them be.
Accept them and watch them dissipate. In this way one does not get involved with them. Let it be, let it go, focus again on the breath.
Later, the same bare attention (free of judgment an attachment) used for distracting sounds and thoughts will work with physical discomforts as well.
- “A practitioner, having gone into seclusion in the wilderness, under the shade of a tree or the still of an empty building, sits down folding legs crosswise, holding body erect, and setting up mindfulness in the fore. Mindful one breathes in, mindful one breathes out."
Peter Coyote reads Suzuki Roshi audio book
3. Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki Roshi had this to say:
When we practice zazen, our mind always follows our breathing. When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale, the air goes to the outer world.
The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless. We say “inner world” or “outer world,” but actually there is just one whole world.
In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra. There is no you to say “I.”
Buddhist monks in zazen, Elheiji Zen Monastery, Japan (Art.com/Ursula Gahwiler)
What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all.
When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no “I,” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door. –Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
If simply sitting is too hard, play in a sandbox.
- WTF? How to do Zen (smallcricket.com)
- PDF: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (esotericonline.net)
- VDO: Suzuki Roshi Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind interview