Zen 101

Friday, April 08, 2016


With respect to all,

This morning I woke at 3:00 AM.  Not unusual, as I wake at this hour on nearly a daily basis. I find waking so early to be a blessing as it offers me time in the silence of the dawn.  I practice during this time, sitting quietly either in the Zendo or outside under the stars.  I often paint during this time and sometimes, like now, write.  

We human beings live in a world that seems to travel at breakneck speeds, communicating at the speed of light across the globe and while it is wonderful to have connections with others, sometimes those very connections keep us from ourselves and from the very important task of knowing ourselves as intimately as is possible.  Not knowing ourselves can lead to all sorts of issues: automatic thoughts and the feelings arising from them, choices being made from information skewed by our beliefs and assumptions, and a mind running amok without the ability to reign it in. 

Sometimes I get caught in this whirlwind and in such circumstances am not the person I wish to be.  I frustrate easily and let everyone know it.  I forget important tasks or deliberately reshuffle them in my list of “to dos.”  And worst of all, it seems to me, allow my thoughts and frustrations to rule myself in the moment.

Zen training is training to first recognize these common occurrences and second, respond differently to them.  When we respond with compassion, for example, recognizing our shared humanity and the frailties of being human, we can let go of the judgements we make about ourselves and others.  We are human, after all, not superman or woman.  And what is the skill so necessary to employ?  Easy, it is the ability to stop.

When we stop, sit down and shut up, all manner of things emerge.  Knowledge about ourselves, reflections on how we may have hurt others, and the practice of returning home. The home of (for me in this very moment) pre-dawn silence. I encourage all of us to do this practice as often as possible.  Micro Zazen at our desks, tables, or sofas.  A few moments to just breathe and relax gently into the moment itself. These are precious opportunities to be born again. Let’s not waste them.

In the Dharma,