Since my original post about Zhine, I've been continuing to work with the technique and as is often the case I've taken to doing a bit of experimentation with it. My experiments have involved the core technique of maintaining awareness, without actually thinking or analyzing what you are maintaining awareness of. This has been challenging on occasion, as will be evident by how I've chosen to experiment, but it's also been a good discipline tool.
My first experiment has involved focusing my awareness on an object someone else is using. For example, at a networking lunch, I choose to focus my awareness on a fork. Thus I continually maintained awareness of the fork, including not only when it wasn't being used, but also when it was being used. I was able to do this at a networking lunch, although that could be a challenge as well, because I did need to maintain enough awareness of myself to not come off as staring, or being aware of when people were addressing me. Consequently I split my mental focus so that part of me focused on the fork, while the rest of me observed the social niceties around me. I did feel I was able to focus and be aware of the fork, but I'll admit that my zhine experience wasn't as deep as it could be by virtue of needing to maintain a specific level of awareness. I've repeated this exercise a few times and each time while I've been able to achieve a meditative awareness its not as deep as when I'm alone just focusing on an object.
My second experiment involved focusing on a living creature, one of my cats actually. I sat down in the living room and chose one cat to focus on. Whatever he did, wherever he moved, I stayed focused on him, while ignoring the other cats. Maintaining Zhine with a living animal was an interesting experiment because every time I started to get interested in what he was doing, I needed to refocus on the intent of the exercise, which was simply to be aware of the cat as opposed to studying the cat. I didn't find that his movements distracted me per se, but more what he was doing. Still as I continued practicing Zhine with my cat, it gradually became easier. One interesting side effect of this was that this particular cat showed up in my dreams while I was doing Zhine.
My third experiment involved focusing on a leaf outside my window. What was challenging with this experiment was that sometimes the leaf would move and when my eyes tracked it I'd become aware of dust on the window. I'd then need to refocus on the leaf and its movement. Still this exercise has been steadily getting easier as I've continued to do it. However the leaf hasn't shown up in my dreams. I wonder if my emotional attachment to my cat is part of why he shows up in my dreams.
As always when doing Zhine at a certain point I find that the "reality" of what I am studying shifts and seems to become more real than anything else, myself included. It's as if I'm entering into a dream, which makes sense given that Zhine is supposed to help you achieve dream yoga. Nonetheless I'll admit I find this shift fascinating and I am already thinking of how I can use it for other acts of magic beyond dream work.