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Introduction to Meditation Self-paced Course


Led by: Michael Nelson (Doshin)


This self paced course will introduce you to the Integral Zen meditation teaching framework.

We will cover concentration practice, mindfulness practice, emptiness practice, a special form of meditation developed at Integral Zen, and finally a bonus meditation to develop discipline and self awareness.

This course is five sessions of about 1 to 1.5 hours each.  


If you are registered, you can access the course link, info, videos, and materials in the my profile section of the website.


Session 1 - Introduction to Meditation

What is meditation?  Why do we do it?  This introduction will help put your practice in context and fill in the basics before we talk about the different ways of meditating.

Session 2 - Bonus meditation

In this course, we will cover four different types of meditation: shamatha, vipassana, shikantaza, and a type developed at Integral Zen.  For a beginner, this can often seem a bit overwhelming.

Sometimes, before we do any type of meditation or concentration practice, many of us need to work on some very foundational skills: discipline and self-awareness.

In this bonus meditation, we will give you an alternative to all of these types.  In this alternative, we will cultivate discipline and self-awareness by observing how we respond to being put in a situation where we have decided not to move.  

How does it make you feel?  Do you start to panic?  Do you start to rationalize why you need to move?  You will learn a great deal about yourself and develop important skills that will make you better at the other types of meditation we cover in this course.

This guided meditation, given by Daicho, is in a downloadable .mp3 form and can be downloaded here:  Integral Zen guided bonus meditation.

Session 3 - Shamatha (concentration)

This session will cover the practice of Shamatha.  

This practice is often mistaken for meditation, but it's actually a way to prepare the mind to meditate.  All of the other forms of meditation we will cover are extremely difficult or impossible without this preparatory practice. 

In Shamatha, the intention is to cultivate concentration.  

Many traditions use many things that can be used as the concentration object:  sound, images, sensations, or some use nothing.  At Integral Zen, we recommend focusing on the breath, because focusing on the breath is often effective for people who have busy minds...and busy minds are very common in the west.  

After a detailed explanation of Shamatha, there will be a short meditation and a followup with questions.

Session 4 - Vipassana (mindfulness)

This session will cover the meditation technique of Vipassana, or mindfulness.  

Vipassana is a meditation practice to cultivate awareness by observing all of the sense data entering through the senses in addition to one's thoughts.  

The practice is quite simple:  sit still and be aware of what arises.  As sensations and thoughts arise, we observe them, see where they came from, and where they go when they fall away.  

If you do this correctly, you will sometimes find yourself lost in a daydream or a thought.  This is perfectly fine.  Even experienced meditators find themselves lost in daydreams occasionally.  

When you notice you are no longer concentrating on the object, just noticed that your mind was wandering for a moment, and return to concentration on the object.

It is important to mention the most common mistake in Vipassana is believing that the goal is to get rid of thought.  This is not the case. Instead of getting rid of thought, we are observing and letting things be as they are.

After a detailed explanation of Vipassana, there will be a short meditation followed by questions.

Session 5 - Shikantaza (emptiness)

Shikantaza is a meditation technique that is extremely simple, but often just as difficult.  

This meditation technique is characterized by "not doing".  We are not focusing on something; we are not observing and noting things.  We just set our intention to do nothing, and then let it go.  

Traditionally, one receives further instructions through one-on-one sessions with a teacher.

After an explanation of Shikantaza, there will be a short meditation followed by questions.

Session 6 - Integral Zen Unified Field Meditation

In this session we will give you a taste of a meditation style created at Integral Zen.  

Session 7 - End of this Course

Now that you know what to do, all that is left to do is practice.  Keeping a regular meditation practice is the most important thing you can do. 

Here are some things you might look at next:

  • The only person at Integral Zen who is paid is Doshin.  He has put many hours into creating this course, and if you feel it was of value please consider a donation to support our efforts.  
  • We welcome feedback on the course at [email protected].
  • Please be aware we have live Dharma talks every Sunday, morning meditation sessions, saturday Chi-gong, and priests available for 1 on 1 meetings to help with your meditation practice.

Deep gratitude to you all.