“A train running through your brain when you’re trying to meditate” created by the author via NightCafe

Three Simple Steps to Start a Zen Meditation Practice

Got a minute? Then you got a practice.

Gray Miller
6 min readNov 16, 2022

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“Surely you can sit still for a minute.”

That’s how I was going to start my meditation meetup last week.

It was set up by a local networking group, and I was all set to go — but it got “indefinitely rescheduled” (so much nicer than “cancelled”) at the last minute. So instead, I’m going to share with all of you what I had planned.

Soto Zen is for Badass Buddhists

OK, so that’s a little heretical (except there really aren’t zen heretics). Maybe it’s more to say that it’s inaccurate. There’s a whole lot of things attached to the idea of “badass” that don’t really show the true nature of zen practice.

But if Brad Warner can build a whole series of books about zen being “hardcore”, then I can use “badass”. Here’s why.

Soto zen meditation doesn’t use chanting. It doesn’t use special movements, it doesn’t have a guide. When you sit zazen, that’s literally all that you do.

Sit Down and Shut Up, to mention another of Brad Warner’s books. He was one of the key writers who helped me build my own zen practice, along with Charlotte Joko Beck, Cheri Huber, and others. But I’m not going to talk a lot about their books or writings, because that just lures you into the trap that many an aspiring zen practitioner falls into:

It’s easier to read about zen than it is to do it.

In fact, it’s easier to write about zen than it is to do it, sometimes. But let’s get to the point, and just do something, ok?

Let’s start with one minute. Here’s the steps:

  1. Use your phone or watch to set a timer for one minute.
  2. Just sit there until the alarm goes off.
  3. There is no three.

Really. There is no next step. And that’s the thing: we really want there to be a next step. We like to tell stories, we like to create challenges, we want to gamify things.

Nope. Sitting zazen is just sitting. And doing it for a minute often feels strange and weird and maybe even useless.

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Gray Miller

Gray is a former Marine dancer grandpa visualist who writes to help adults figure out what they want to be when they grow up.