After meditating for many years, through many forms of meditation, I prefer a most basic and simple meditation. A meditation that requires no effort. A meditation that is not a doing. It is simply sitting…aware.
In its simplicity is something very powerful, because when we sit down to meditate, often we feel we should be doing something. Instead, for a period of time, we are to do nothing at all. If we find we are trying to control or manipulate our breathing, thoughts, etc., we recognize that and cease trying to do anything.
Enlightenment is sometimes called the "Natural State" or the "Unconditioned." In Zen, you will hear references to our original face.
Returning to the "Natural State" requires no effort. Actually, anything you do will only get in the way. It is like mixing a jar of water with sand and ice. As long as you keep mixing, the contents will not be at their natural state: sand on the bottom, ice on top, and clear water in between. Anything you do will keep mixing and jumbling the contents. In the same way, this very simple meditation is to cease doing or trying to do anything.
There is an acceptance of what is as it is. Sure, things might still be mixed up at the moment (when you stop mixing), but give it some time to settle out. If there is no interference, the natural state will return. Any non-acceptance is a form of fighting the situatio, which will keep things mixed up, prolonging the return of the natural state.
It is not a form of manipulation or doing to be curious. Curiosity is of great help in this meditation. It provides fuel for awareness and helps it deepen of its own accord. You are not guiding the curiosity. It is more like being curious as to how much you can be aware of. However much or little you are aware of is fine – and acceptable – but a curiosity as to how much can I be aware of helps. This keeps awareness alive and vivid.
This kind of awareness is like that of a cat watching a mouse hole. The cat must be constantly aware, for at any time the mouse could come running out. If the cat starts dreaming of how good its catch and dinner will be, the cat’s absence of awareness of the present moment (the hole) may result in missing the mouse. Also, in the wild, the cat can not be unaware of what goes on in the surroundings, for there are predators who would make the cat their dinner.
This is a relaxed awareness. If you are trying to be aware, you may end up hopelessly unaware of the present and just trapped in thought. Like the samurai of old, they were told to be constantly on guard because an attack could occur at any time from any direction. But if you are busy trying to be aware of all this, you are easy prey as you lose awareness of the now. Such awareness cannot be forced. You just relax into it.
This is not so much intellectual as kinesthetic. How much can you feel? Are you aware of your breath? Not so much mentally aware, but do you feel it? Through the nose, down to the lungs filling the body, etc. Feel it, don’t just make a mental observance.
This is the simple and basic meditation I prefer. Just letting go of thoughts of past and future – and feeling (be aware of) however much or little you can feel and be aware of in the present. This meditation involves nothing more than just sitting with relaxed awareness…curious as to how much you can be aware of in the now.