Discovering Right Effort

It is common to bring a misplaced effort to awareness meditation.

Zazen (simply sitting), is immersing into the activity of the posture with no judgments about it nor judgments about whatever might arise in the mind. The attention and effort of awareness meditation is simply to become the posture. Full presence as posture includes noticing when the mind has wandered away. In that noticing, there is already the return to the activity of simply sitting. The breath is an anchor to bring attention to the present. Breath is always in accord with NOW, so it is a most perfect anchor.

There are two actualizations of return or presence:

Ordinary. The sensations/activity of breath-body-mind are known through intellectualizing—from the vantage point of an observer. This is not simply sitting. The assumption of an observer hinders the clarity that is presence. This type of return, however, is a worthy practice—and completely appropriate—for the opportunity of clarity can be found in right in the midst of this assumption.


Beyond ordinary. Fullness without comment. The sensations/activity of breath-body-mind are realized as wholeness (without boundary) and emptiness (without division). The sensations/activity of breath-body-mind are simply the unfolding of life in its fullness. The activity of presence is open response and full participation.

The observer can vanish. Immerse into any task fully and—though observing is included—a specific enduring observer cannot be found. Awareness itself is realized.

While meditating, if waiting or watching for enlightenment (or something special) has arisen… just notice that mental activity. With practice, the noticing itself is the shift in awareness that is realized as life unfolding NOW. Allow breath to be an anchor (or sound might be an anchor, or touch, or smell). Eventually breath (or any other sensation) is no longer known as an object, but rather the full expression of reality unmediated by the sense of ego.

Meditation—wholeheartedly attending to life here/now—is the opportunity inherent in any expression of this life. Wake up to this life unfolding, by the simple, effortless effort of noticing.

© 2013 Bev Forsman and Letters from Emptiness. If you share this material, please include direction to the original content. Thank you.

Mudra: The Authentic Seal of Awareness

This posterized photo is the hand gesture of the Buddhist practice of awareness. Shunryu Suzuki Roshi called it the cosmic mudra.

I have always understood the definition of gesture to be a motion of the hand or hands. I have resisted using the term when I demonstrate and describe the mudra during meditation instruction, because there is no movement expected once the hands are placed. Instead, I describe the mudra as a hand position.

Looking up the word gesture, I see now that its archaic definition refers to carriage corresponding to the state of mind. This discovery brings a smile, though awareness is not a state of mind. Awareness is openness; life not crimped by held assumptions.

Awareness is first, original; the base and whole of experience. Assumptions are interpretations of this direct experience.

An obsolete definition of gesture refers to the position or attitude [of the hands] especially in prayer, a tip-off to the word’s religious roots. Is Buddhism a religion? That’s a topic for a future post. Meditation is far from the popular understanding of prayer (to ask, entreat, or implore). If prayer is to live as open response (“how can I help?” rather than “please, may I have?”) then this obsolete definition brings a smile, as well. Mudra; the expression of open response.

The cosmic mudra hand gesture is stationary, but expresses the life of wholeness, openness, spontaneity, fluidity. To fill this hand gesture with awareness is authentic practice. Our peonies burst into full bloom today. To flower, to open, to respond to sunlight, is the mudra of peony. A flower does not put partial effort into its aliveness. To fulfill the life of the zazen posture—including the cosmic mudra—is the authentic seal of awareness.

© 2012 Bev Forsman and Letters from Emptiness. If you share this material, please include direction to the original content. Thank you.