Ever since opening my home to meditators I’ve been wondering about what’s called ‘form.’ How, for instance, should I teach meditation to relative beginners, people who’re mainly interested in meditation as a way of dealing with stress and suffering. And what rituals, if any, should we follow? Starting with what I was familiar, I instituted rituals around entering and leaving the room (the zendo), taking our seats, serving tea, ringing bells, and so on. All along I was uncertain as to the purpose such form for a lay group, especially so since several people who regularly sit with us used to do so in formal teacher-led settings.
Three years ago I asked my monastic teachers for ways to train as a meditation instructor. As I suspected, there’s no such thing since residential Zen training aims to prepare priests and meditation is simply part of a seven-year curriculum. However, my teachers suggested I see what I might learn from Jon Kabat-Zinn and the MBSR program.
Two weeks ago (see previous posts) I finally met Jon and told him who’d sent me. Noting the absence of such familiar form as incense, bowing, chanting, statues, candles, robes, etc., I asked, “What would my teachers say if I practiced this way. What if I were to let go of the trappings of Zen?” I don’t think they’re attached to any of that, he replied … leaving me to wonder what it is that I’m attached to.
I’ll say more about the MBSR-style of meditation in future posts. For now, I’m test-driving it in my daily practice … and watch the many thoughts that come and go.
* ancora imparo — Michelangelo’s motto, “Still I am learning.”