Our Zen monk Shinrin was with us this Sunday for our sit. He’d given an interview a while ago on meditation, practice and the benefits in a stress-filled world, and brought the newspaper article with him as I’d said I would do a precis for the blog. I didn’t have to read very far into the piece at all to find out his thoughts on how Zen appeals.
“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! 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.
I’ve been thinking that through for a while and wondering how we can incorporate more Zen in our lives. Getting right to the essence seems right. So, here are 3 appealing elements of Zen.
Zen Element Number One: 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.
Zen Element Number Two: 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.” 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.
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 Element Number Three: 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.
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.
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.
Susan Ni Rahilly has reached an interesting point in her life now that she’s in her mid-sixties: as an author/publisher and Zen, Yoga and Meditation teacher she considers herself “trans-genre”—a multi-dimensional teacher inspired by Ancient roots of both Zen and Yoga. These roots reach back to Divine Feminine practices and inspire her ongoing research into our innate abilities for deep listening and intuitive practice: awakening and accelerating our Spiritual Vision as change-agents for Humanity’s future. She is also the Spoken Word Artist SuZen.