Jason Shulman, a friend of mine and Kabbalistic healer, tells one of my very favorite stories about Zen meditation.

He had gone on sesshin, a Zen meditation retreat.

He was at a place in his daily meditation practice where he had come to believe that the goal of Zen meditation was to have no thoughts.

So he sat on his meditation cushion in the lotus position, facing a blank white wall with his hands in the correct mudra. And every time a thought arose, he would practice beating it down inside his head with a sort of mental hammer.

He struggled mightily with this task, fighting tooth and nail to stay focused so that the instant a thought even began to arise, he would be able to vanquish it with his full effort and attention.

For five days of retreat he kept this up, working harder and harder to be alert to every flickering thought so he could yank it out, throw it down and stomp it out.

Around 4 AM on the last day of the Zen retreat, his teacher called on him for dokusan, an interview.

"What practice do you do?" asked the teacher.

"Shikantaza, sitting," he said, his words heavy, as if they were weighted down.

"And how is it working?" asked the teacher.

"Teacher, I haven’t had any thoughts for the last six days," he said in a strained voice.

The Zen master observed Jason thoughtfully, aware of what he had been putting himself through for that last week of his daily Zen meditation practice.

Finally, the teacher said, "Come with me," and he took Jason into the early morning darkness outside the meditation hall.

He turned to Jason and said “Look up at these stars."

"Zen," he continued, "is about being kind to yourself."

He then turned and left Jason to relax into the beautiful morning starlight.

Author's Bio: 

Steven Sashen began meditation when he was eight years old, was one of the first biofeedback pioneers, and researched cognition and perception at Duke University. In addition to a successful career as an entrepreneur and entertainer, Steven has taught transformational techniques around the world and developed the Instant Advanced Meditation Course, which Dr. Gay Hendricks calls, "Perhaps the fastest and easiest way to relax, expand awareness, and find deep inner-peace."

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