Alan Watts Presents a 15-Minute Guided Meditation: A Time-Tested Way to Stop Thinking About Thinking

The concept of emptinessshūnyatā—in Mahayana Buddhism is perhaps a subject best avoided in casual conversation. It so vexes everyone not least because of issues of translation: “emptiness,” many scholars think, hardly suffices as a substitute. In English it has a more distinctly nihilist flavor than was intended. Yet emptiness is so indispensable that it can hardly go unmentioned when the practice and purpose of meditation come up in Buddhist thought.

Leave it to Zen to put things in such succinct and down-to-earth ways: the practice of meditation is to develop “’no mind,’” says Suzuki Roshi. It is to have “no gaining idea.” The reason is to have no reason. But from the same point of view, there is a point: “the point we should make clear in our practice,” the Zen master tells us: we should “put more emphasis on big mind rather than small mind.”


If you need more clarification, you might turn to another Zen popularizer who also began to draw audiences in California in the 50s: Alan Watts. Watts came to San Francisco not with a lifetime of monastic training in Japan, but through his training as an academic, Episcopal priest, and Zen enthusiast in Britain. He is wordier, less poetic, and more essayistic in his delivery, but in discussing the purpose of meditation, you will find him saying the very same things as the Zen masters:

Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment. And therefore, if you meditate for an ulterior motive — that is to say, to improve your mind, to improve your character, to be more efficient in life — you’ve got your eye on the future and you are not meditating!

As for Suzuki’s “big mind,” Watts has his own version: “The art of meditation is a way of getting into touch with reality… our basic inseparability from the whole universe.” These are not necessarily synonyms for “emptiness,” but the idea of having no idea maybe comes close to summarizing the concept. “Not knowing,” as the koan says, “is most intimate.”

Maybe it’s hair-splitting and belabors the comparison, but Suzuki Roshi did not talk about meditation as a way to stop all thinking. This is futile, he would argue. Watts seems to suggest otherwise when he says that “we become interiorally silent and cease from the interminable chatter that goes on inside our skulls. Because you see, most of us think compulsively all the time.” Most honest people will tell you they think compulsively during meditation as well. But in his guided meditation above, Watts acknowledges just this fact.

Indeed, his matter-of-fact way of recognizing the ever-presence of thought is what makes the instructions he gives so useful, even if they are also, ultimately, pointless. Hear the original fifteen minute guided meditation at the top of the post and an edit, with some, maybe distracting, background music, just above. To let thinking recede into the background, we must engage our other senses, letting every sound and sensation come and go and the autonomous nervous system take over.

How to let go of thinking about thinking? Let Watts guide you in an exercise and see what happens. Then listen to Suzuki Roshi describe the Buddhist philosophy of emptiness. As far as meditation, or “zazen practice,” goes, he says, our zazen practice is based on… the teaching of shūnyatā or emptiness,” which is not an idea but an experience of “letting go of fixed ideas,” writes another Zen master who brought his practice to the U.S., “in order to go beyond them.”

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Alan Watts Presents a 15-Minute Guided Meditation: A Time-Tested Way to Stop Thinking About Thinking is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

6 Guided Meditation Videos to Heal Your Soul

“Meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger; and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing do the work.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

We all know the myriad benefits of meditation on the mind, body and soul. Research has shown that meditation not only changes the structure of the brain, but also helps fight diseases.

I thought of listing six guided meditation videos that will take you in a deep meditative, relaxing state. Leave all your worries behind, find a comfortable place and go on a journey to the inner landscapes of your mind. This is just a short list to get you started, find those that resonate with you.

1) 8 Hour Deep Sleep Music: Delta Waves, Sleep Meditation

This would be a great video to start with. If you are struggling to get sleep, listen to the tunes in this video. I found it extremely relaxing and calming.

2) Blissful Deep Relaxation

So often, we struggle to start meditating; either procrastinating or figuring out the right or the wrong way of meditation. I am sure you are not the only one to feel this way.

There is no right or wrong way of meditation; whatever works for you is the right way.

The key is the willingness and effort to find quiet time, and disconnecting from modern day distractions. But there are some common ways to get started, as mentioned in this article – A Layman’s Guide to Mindful Meditation

3) Tibetan Healing Sounds – Singing Bowl Meditation

The vibratory sound of musical instruments evoke deep sense of relaxation. Like the Tibetan Singing Bowls – used for centuries for healing and meditation purposes. The sound of singing bowls facilitates opening of inner doorways, and restores the normal frequencies of diseased and out-of-harmony parts of the body, mind and soul.

4) Jon Kabat Zinn Body Scan Meditation

The next video is guided meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn, who has played a huge role in the scientific exploration of the benefits of mindfulness in daily life. This one focuses on entering deeper states of physical and mental relaxation.

Don’t try hard to relax, become aware in each passing moment and accepting what is happening in your inner self. Take a long, slow deep breath in, hold it for a few seconds, and breathe out slowly. As you navigate deeper through your mind, feel the sensations in different parts of your body, give it healing if need be.

5) Meditation Music: Amazing Brain Sound, Dopamine Booster

Positive tune to alter your mood and boost the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s pleasure centers, makes you feel good and boost self confidence.

6) Extremely Powerful Third Eye Opening Binaural Beat Meditation

This meditation video uses very specific binaural beat frequencies that opens your Third Eye.

Binaural beats is a series of tones and sounds that physically affect our brain wave states. The binaural beats used in this video start out at a low frequency usually associated with meditation, astral projection and accelerated learning. The frequencies increase gradually to those associated with Third Eye opening, love, beauty, sensuality and harmony. (It is recommended to use headphones)

“Meditation is really very simple. We complicate it. We weave a web of ideas round it, what it is and what it is not. But it is none of these things. Because it is so very simple it escapes us, because our minds are so complicated, so time-worn and time-based. And this mind dictates the activity of the heart, and then the trouble begins. But meditation comes naturally, with extraordinary ease, when you walk on the sand or look out of your window or see those marvelous hills burnt by last summer’s sun.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Hope this short selection of guided meditation videos has inspired you to get started or helped you on your journey. Remember there are many ways up the mountain, the path you choose for yourself is the one that resonates with your heart. Find what works for you, and ignore the rest.

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