When you sit quietly, and focus on your breathing, people want to know what it is you are actually doing. I hear and read a lot of answers, mostly trying to explain that you are not doing anything, that this “non-action” is good for your mind. It strengthens your mind, improves concentration, lowers blood pressure, relaxes you – all with practice. And that is all true, these are side effects of sitting quietly and trying desperately hard not to think. As you would imagine. If you’ve ever tried it, meditation is actually really bloody hard to do. Keeping your mind quiet for even 10 seconds is really hard, let a lone ten minutes. I’ve been practicing for years and some times I can’t make it more than a few minutes. Your legs start to hurt, you wonder about how long you’ve been doing it (like it was laps in a pool or something), and your mind hates it.
But none of these things is what should be focused on. Yes, breathing is important, yes acknowledging thoughts as they come in and then letting them go is important, clearing your mind etc, etc. But those are just what to do to get clear. In Zen meditation, the true goal you are looking for is to make your self expansive. To feel your self reach out to everything around you, starting small and getting big enough to encompass everything… ever. This is not about blood pressure. It is about trying to let go of your ego for just a second, which is all it takes. To think so vividly about everything else in the universe at the same time, to completely forget yourself. When this happens, and you leave it completely behind, you forget you are you. The thing about the universe, or God, or Krishna, or whatever you want to call “everything”, is that it is there. And you can imagine this: It is there, also sitting quietly behind the scenes, closing it’s eyes as tight as it can, and trying to imagine your life in every detail. It is imagining it is you, really hard. And that’s what you are. If you can relax your mind enough, that you can forget your brilliant puppet show, you might be able to open one eye and peak at the whole show. And when you do, it is the most awful, brilliant, scary, loving, amazing, terrible, and beautiful thing you will have ever seen and felt in your life.
It is also really good for blood pressure.