Buddhist meditation is simple to describe (if difficult to do). You sit down (or stand, lie or walk), bring attention to this moment (via the breath, sounds, or body sensations), and keep doing this over and over. With practice, you’ll learn to train the mind to rest in the here and now so as not be distracted by fabrications, daydreams, and thoughts about past or future. A crude but reasonable definition. To paraphrase Master Dogen, “Sitting fixedly, think of not thinking. How do you think of not thinking? By non-thinking: this is the art of sitting meditation.” How do I translate that to someone new to meditation, someone who might benefit from such an undertaking, but has no immediate interest in the subtleties of ancient Japanese practices?
Still, that’s pretty much what I’ve been studying and practicing over the last eleven years, first in monastic settings and ever since as a lay practitioner. Along the way I’ve invited others to sit with me and taught meditation in such settings as corporate classrooms, in-service workshops, conference presentations, senior centres, and weekly sitting groups at my home.
Over time I’ve let go of many of the formalities associated with Zen meditation as practiced in monasteries and teacher-led centres. My aim has been to make meditation as accessible to as many people as possible. But is it still Zen, I wonder sometimes, or more like Vipassana, which I practiced early on? Is it okay (legitimate, authentic, helpful) to teach meditation without reference (deference) to a specific branch of buddhism? Is there such thing as pure Buddhist meditation, free from ceremony, interpretations, and traditions?
p.s. Speaking with tongue in cheek, perhaps I’m becoming a slacker, “someone who shirks and dodges the real thing.” image: www.angryshirts.com