What a beautiful day we’re having. I’ve joined my cat on the back porch to soak in the gorgeous weather and record my musings for the day.


It’s been my favorite kind of sunday – the kind short on obligation, so I’ve passed the day in a leisurely way. I picked up the house, tried a new Butternut Squash Soup recipe, and shortly I’ll be heading to the studio for my friend Stacy’s 4pm Primary practice.

Pretty tasty!

I spent the first half of the day yesterday at the Ashtanga Studio for the Zen meditation workshop. Zen Buddhist meditation is a new practice for me, and I know very little about it.

I’ve had a really positive experience with both the group and the practice, and I was happy to have an opportunity to learn more and ask questions.

Philosophically speaking, Zen meditation and yoga share some similarities. You’re turning your attention inward, cultivating awareness, and differentiating between perceived reality and the Absolute. The goal of both, to some degree, being to ease suffering by working toward equanimity of mind.

The visiting teacher spoke a little about four qualities of the mind: the making mind, the checking mind, the wanting mind and the holding mind. Each of these qualities, neither good nor bad but neutral, can be thought of as the four sides of a square. Depending on how we use them and how aware we are, we can easily trap ourselves inside this box.

I’m a novice here, so forgive my simple understanding and explanations!

The making and checking minds are more analytical, while the wanting and holding minds are emotional. Each of the minds are necessary – they work together to shape how we perceive and act. The important thing is to become aware of how we’re using them.

Yoga Sutra 1. 3 says, “with the attainment of focused mind, the inner being established itself in all its reality” (The Essence of Yoga, Bernard Bouanchaud).

This translation of the Sutras goes on to say, “Yoga affirms that it is possible to live at a higher level of consciousness where our grasp on reality is pure, total and absolute, without mental projections.” Bouanchaud is using “projections” in a psychoanalytic sense to describe how the perceiving subject often only sees the outer world and others through his/her own traits.

It reminds me of the saying that goes something like, “What you dislike in others is what you dislike in yourself.”

From the Zen talk yesterday, the quality that I’ve kept coming back to is the holding mind. It’s this quality of the mind that creates and holds onto patterns of thinking.

In my angriest, saddest or most frustrating moments, it ‘s the holding mind getting the best of me. Even with that insight, it’s just so difficult sometimes to see past your own perspective.

Of course, we can only perceive life this way – through our own direct experience of it. Yet, we’re often encouraged to try to see a situation from a broader perspective or from someone else’s point of view.

See the forest for the trees.

Walk a mile in her shoes.

(Cliches are as irritating as they are accessible, no?)

The Zen practice suggests that learning to become aware of how you’re using the holding mind (or any of the other three) will bring clarity. This waking up isn’t the most difficult part, it’s merely the first step. The true test comes when you take the lesson out of the teaching and into real life.