Getting right to the essence seems right . . .
Here’s a bit more of the story . . .
I always try to tell a little bit of the story of my journey in zen, always trying to get right to the essence as it might help you on your journey. So here goes . . . one footstep on the path of a thousand miles.
Our Zen monk Shinrin was with us, the Sangha, one Sunday for our zazen sit. He’d given a newspaper interview a short while ago on meditation, practice and the benefits in a stress-filled world, and brought the article with him as I’d said I would do a precis for the blog which was then on my old suzenyoga.com website. I didn’t have to read very far into the piece at all to find out his thoughts on how Zen appeals. And this is what I wanted to share with you:
“Meditation and taking time out to find a deeper meaning in life are elements of Zen that are appealing to many.” said Shinrin.
We had been talking over the past few months about how to “sell” Zen, as it’s a practice that takes discipline – I often disagree quite vocally as the appeal often outweighs the discomfort of learning to sit in a meditation posture for long periods of time! But . . . as a teacher, and a woman, I’m always disagreeing with the Monks!
And just exactly what on earth are we trying to “sell”? Zen is free . . .
The Way of Zen is so easy for many to grasp as it simply is to be true to their own nature. And people who turn to Zen satisfactorily to gain deeper meaning and fuller lives usually know that their minds need training. The peace of mind and tranquility to be gained from practice is a treasure beyond price.
As I said: “Getting right to the essence seems right.” So, here are 3 appealing elements of Zen for me, and I hope they help you.
Zen Essence #1 | Meditation
Shinrin said, when asked about the practice: “In Zen, all we do is a very simple meditative practice where we sit still and concentrate on being present to ourselves. We focus on the posture, sitting straight and still. Then there’s breathing, and how that in turn determines the state of mind. It’s all a process.”
Zen is best learned by doing Zen, meditating.
Meditation can be a quiet, inward-turning experience of sitting with yourself for certain amounts of time on a regular daily basis. The practice is Zazen: sitting in tranquility.
Zen Essence #2 | Taking time out to find a deeper meaning in life
I particularly love this quote of Shinrin’s: “Everybody comes looking for something from meditation but it’s really about what you can give rather than what you are looking for or what you are going to get.”
Life is for us . . . Existence wants to flow thro us.
It’s one of my mantras at the moment – if I think I’m giving too much, I ask myself ” . . . how can I give more?” The release that follows in the mind and the heart is amazing: reminding us that “Life is for us . . . Existence wants to flow thro us.”
Letting the thoughts go, letting your wishes arise and then letting go, as Zen Master Dogen explained: “This is the art of zazen. Zazen is the dharma gate of great rest and joy.”
Zen Essence #3 | There is no goal
There is no goal, only being . . . and that is all we are when we sit zazen, not “doing”. When we practice our meditation we are simply “being”: being at one with humanity, being our true essence. We don’t wait for realisation, we don’t aspire to anything when we just sit and let our wisdom mind be revealed because Zen “enlightenment” comes from within.
The Way of Zen means being true to your nature
It was Zen Master Lin-chi who realised that the everyday, sincere, ordinary human being lacks nothing and who helped generations of Zen practitioners discover that the Way of Zen meant being true to their nature. And this can also be done in action, by participating meditatively in any daily activity: nothing is missing.
A natural way to start
If you’d like to try some sitting practice, morning and evenings are good times for that and you could try sitting quietly for 5 minutes at a time to start with : this video uses the sound of Rainsticks which have been used meditatively since Ancient times and which connect us naturally with earth and water energies.
Take your time to build a routine with this, then if you do want to jump in there’s a deeper initiation into sitting zen meditation in my Simple Introduction to Zen Practice.