On Sunday I went to an introductory Zen workshop at the Zen Center of Orange County. I recommend it for anyone local who's interested. It was a four hour event with a break, and included an introductory lecture and discussion, some guided and unguided meditation, a mindfulness exercise of sorts, and a lot of information about possible next steps.
I found the meditation much easier than I had expected. Part of the reason I went at all was that after a year of neurofeedback, EMDR, and some other somatic therapies my brain is a lot calmer. I'd always been the guy with the constantly ringing phone in his head. A few times in my life I had tried meditation with varying amounts of dedication and knowledge, and always failed or at least felt like a failure. I could do the "Relaxation Response" in which you just relax every part of your body starting with the toes and then do it again, etc., and get some kind of detached or floaty state, but that was clearly not what any of the meditative traditions were doing. It was either a way to get to sleep or a way to relax when I couldn't.
Most of the reason I went to this workshop was to get direction and instruction on zazen (sitting meditation) and they were very helpful. Posture is very important and it's great to have someone looking at you and helping you with what you can't see about the way you're holding yourself. When I got the posture close to "right" it was much more comfortable than I thought. Some of the muscles complained about their new roles but I could do the short 15 minute sessions we had yesterday. The most difficult part was the eyes, which in this particular tradition are half-closed and unfocused, looking down at a 45 degree angle. My eyes wanted to be open or closed, not anything in between.
Part of the deal when you do the workshop, which is $60, is that you get a free month of sessions at the Center. I'm going to follow their suggested schedule of home meditation and visiting the Center this month to keep this fresh and see how it goes. I will probably continue to visit there if things work out well.
Maybe the best benefit of the year of Hell doing neurofeedback will be a brain that can handle zazen.