It’s also not yoga, vipassana or mindfulness meditation. These can all be helpful and can guide the body and mind to a certain stillness and flow, but Zen is not about generating a particular state experience. It’s more about becoming who we are truly are, with all our darkness and light, and responding to the world from this place. To do this well, we need two do two things. First we need to clearly know who and what we are, secondly we need to truly and deeply hear the world, it’s cries and what it is asking of us. An ancient Zen master when asked what the highest teaching of Buddhism is, replied “an appropriate response”. I can think of no clearer answer.
What does Zen practice actually look like, then? …. Well, it’s slow, handcrafted and it looks rather like you. The time required for this work is measured in decades, the effort is measured in sweat and a thousand mistakes.
How is this done? … It starts by walking into a Zen Centre and bringing the whole world with you*, connecting with an authentic Zen teacher and learning the tools of this work, that our ancestors kindly passed down to us, zazen and koans. Then we step into our life just as it is, not the way we want it to be. This is the gateway - this is Zen practice.
* Zen Master Yunmen said to the assembly, “Within heaven and earth, in the midst of the cosmos, there is one treasure, hidden in the body. Holding a lantern, it goes toward the Buddha hall.
It brings the great triple gate and puts it on the lantern.”